InClass

Centered: The Arizona K12 Center’s Executive Director, Dr. Kathy Wiebke, offers her education insights in this monthly column. The first time I was old enough to vote was a presidential election year. I remember the excitement that came with this rite of passage. While I took the physical act of vo

Nov 01, 2016

Centered: The Arizona K12 Center’s Executive Director, Dr. Kathy Wiebke, offers her education insights in this monthly column.


The first time I was old enough to vote was a presidential election year. I remember the excitement that came with this rite of passage. While I took the physical act of voting seriously, looking back I think I could have been a more informed citizen. Since that time, I don’t think I have missed an election and, even better, I have become much more aware of issues and agendas presented by candidates and ballot propositions.

This year I have two nieces who will vote for the first time. Just as I was, years ago, they are truly excited. I watch them in pure wonder as they talk about the issues that face our country. I marvel at their ability to think and talk through specific positions of the various candidates. They know what they want for themselves, this state, and our country.

I watched them during the primaries. While we did not agree on candidates, I was so impressed with the energy they poured into getting informed. There was a uniqueness about the threshold between them and their inaugural vote on Nov. 8.; I believe they understand the power and responsibility connected with voting.

I think back to my first presidential election and the present-day race. What is different? Why did I feel so uninformed then, and how are my nieces able to be so educated now? I think it pertains to the access of information. Social media spaces play a huge part in their development, but so do schools and teachers where ideas are challenged and critical thinking is a necessity. We have had many conversations about not believing everything you read or hear, and somewhere in the rhetoric you have to listen for facts over innuendo or what others say. As educators, we have to encourage students and peers to look at the issues and candidates with discernment, while also remembering the big picture.

Over the years I have heard many teachers say they “don’t like to get political.” I think that is a safe place where one does not have to take a stand. I think we are at a point where taking refuge is no longer acceptable. Almost every decision made in our schools stems from policy makers in our legislature.

We know the difference between right and wrong. We know what our schools and communities need. We know the type of learning environments we want for our children. We know the kind of teachers we want working alongside us. When you look at the totality of these things, they all start at the ballot box. They start when each of us votes for the candidate and propositions that will take our schools to a place that all of Arizona’s children deserve.

There is nothing greater in our democracy than the ability to vote. Let’s make sure that on Nov. 8 we all get out and do just that.

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