As I was driving to Portland Community College this morning hold a break-out session on the many benefits of using service-learning as a tool for teaching rich content in college classrooms, I heard a reference to an OPB radio article that would be aired later in the day: “Learning with Less: Keeping the Spotlight on Education,” one report in a series by Rob Manning. This series is dedicated to keeping readers in touch with the highs and lows of schools dealing with a smaller budget and higher expectations for students.
Interested in reading more articles from the series, later in the day, I looked up the article, read it, and clicked on the “Learning with Less” series link to continue my reading.
Slip of the Link?
Did I immediately find myself reading a collection of Manning articles on local schools? No! Instead, I was transported immediately to a page from the NY Times and an article titled “Romney Calls 47% of Voters ‘Dependent.'” And I had to wonder, was this an accidental wrong link? Or is Manning trying to help us make bigger connections in an unsubtle way?
I, like many of you, have been following the series of videos taken at a private fundraiser where Romney seems to have revealed his honest thoughts and opinions about a wide array of national and local issues and policies. This one, in particular, was focused on those who do not pay income taxes, those who have government programs that support them in some way.
Who Is “Dependent” and Why?
I’m not here to tell anyone how to vote; in fact, my main focus these days is voter registration. But this “slip of the link” made me want to write a bit about the connection between what we see in our local education system and the bigger election that is upcoming.
Many of the kids in our public school system are part of the 47% that Romney is calling out as “dependent.” Their families may need additional help to feed family members, they may have lost a job and received unemployment benefits, etc. These students are also the ones who most often get left out of rich learning environments, who do not receive as varied or as frequent learning opportunities, and who struggle on standardized tests only to later (sometimes, sadly) become part of Portland’s horrifying dropout rate statistics.
Should we, as Romney does, write off these students or to oversimplify their situations? Or pull the support that keeps them fed and housed? This leads me to the bigger question — why are these particular students (so often students of color or students of parents who have been disenfranchized by the system in so many other ways) the ones that are “dependent”? And if the system has created barriers for these students (whether explicit or not), is it our job as a community to support those students and to help them overcome the unjust barriers that are built around them every day?
It’s very important for us to think deeply about our values and the role of the community as we face not only national elections but things like local bond measures as well in November 2012.
Please, please, please stay informed and register to vote if you haven’t already. And follow as many links and connections as you can as you seek to become well-educated about the issues you care about. They may lead you to unexpected places…