I’m starting to think I’m a dying breed: a centrist. As best I can, I try to understand multiple perspectives and realize that the truth is far more complex than I can imagine and must exist somewhere in the middle between extremes that we’re given in the 21st century. There are lots of reasons for why political discourse has become so entrenched in particular worldviews and many people have stopped thinking for themselves and are comfortable simply parroting whatever they are told, but I’m not here to talk about those reasons.
What I am here to talk about today is the side effects of politicization, specifically the politicization of education over the last three decades or so. Here in Florida, it seems as if it is endless war waged between two sides. But my guess is that it’s happening in other states as well. And in the midst of this war of words between competing ideologies the only real collateral damage is what matters most: our kids and our future.
I read a great op-ed the other day entitled “I’m O.K. – You’re Pure Evil” that gets to the heart of this problem. We’re so unwilling to sit down and simply talk to one another that we cannot solve the challenges we face together. What’s worse is that many (if not most) of these issues only seem intractable but in reality are not. This unnecessary politicization of a precious public good–education–has only brought acrimony to both sides, but in our own way both sides probably want what’s best for our kids and our future.
How can we reconcile this issue? I believe it begins with something as simple as this acknowledgement: education has become highly and unnecessarily politicized. Let’s all take a step back and realize that we all want what’s best for children so they can grow up to be thoughtful, caring, and engaged citizens who will help their families, friends, and neighbors prosper.
Brinksmanship is no way to go about crafting educational policy or budgets, yet this is where we are in 2017 in the state of Florida. It has created a number of challenges, but I believe any and all of them can be solved if we’re all willing to sit down at a table and discuss our perspectives in a respectful manner. We might not all agree, but talking to one another is a great place to start.