Opinion

What if politics were more like schools?

Christie Kaaland, Tacoma resident and education professor.
Christie Kaaland, Tacoma resident and education professor.

Imagine turning on the national news and hearing a lead story, “Congress scores a win in the final minutes of this season’s session!” What if that lead story were followed by other reported successes, collaborative innovation and cultural happenings?

When I view online school newsletters, my response is always the same: joy. I read about innovative programs happening in the schools; I see photos of happy scholars engaged in exciting learning activities; my attention is held as I read of upcoming events, proud successes and creative classroom and school projects.

In contrast, the national nightly news exhausts me. I steel myself before viewing the lead story, but I want to know the day’s events, so the news thrums in the background while I fix dinner. Rarely do I find value in the content therein. Sometimes I even find myself talking to my computer or TV screen. Ranting, rather.

School news – from a PTA report or the school bulletin – energizes and inspires me. When I click on the Tacoma Public Schools website and read educational news, it is newsworthy and productive:

Lowell students develop nonprofit, “Charity Water” to raise money for a well in Africa.

Superintendent Carla Santorno is awarded an honorary doctorate for her contributions to our children.

Architects approve the new Browns Point Elementary School, my neighborhood school.

Educators today are charged with teaching children to be critical viewers – to evaluate what they see online and read in print, and to seek the truth, including politics, even election campaigns. But how can children today be expected to find the truth amid the mudslinging, reputation raking and combative verbiage in campaigns that rarely offer factual information?

Urged by teachers and counselors while at school, children are expected to settle their differences peacefully. All schools have passed “No Tolerance” policies for violence. Meanwhile, barnstorming political leaders along with their followers on the campaign trail display whining, wrangling and self-righteous rally behavior involving explosive violence.

Hallways of schools today display “No Bullying” posters to which children are expected to adhere. Why doesn’t Congress have a “no bullying” policy? Might such a policy offer common vision for getting more accomplished?

Teachers today celebrate cultural diversity and honor each others’ differences. They teach social responsibility that provides understanding and awareness, as well as support for communities in need and Third World countries in strife.

In history class, children are taught to learn from our historic mistakes, to become enlightened through new ideas presented through an evolving lens, to build bridges.

Meanwhile, presidential hopefuls talk of building walls to isolate our assumed superiority.

What would happen to students in school if they displayed the same mercurial mob racism, hate-speech,and sexual vulgarities we have seen in this year’s election run?

Why is Congress not held accountable for “passing” legislation the way we hold children accountable for “passing” their tests, classes and subjects?

What if politics were more like schools?

I realize that in news coverage, crises, calamity and conflict sell. But aren’t two of our most significant institutions – the legislative body and the educational system – supposed to be similar in their goals? Shouldn’t people in those institutions work synchronistically toward a common vision established on the values of democracy and decency?

Why can’t politics be more like schools?

Christie Kaaland is a Tacoma resident and a professor in the School of Education at Antioch University Seattle. She previously taught in Tacoma for many years.

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