By Dave Palmer
There is no doubt that in order to run for office, you need money. Lots of money. Millions of dollars worth of money if you want to serve at the state and national level. Hundreds of millions if you’re shooting for the presidency. Even local elections command anywhere from tens of thousands to hundreds of thousands of dollars. It would seem that unless you can drum up the support of those who can afford to donate large sums of money to your campaign alongside those who can afford smaller sums, your chances of being elected look grim.
And therein lies the problem for our children.
It recently occurred to me that whether or not children have money in their pockets, they have a tendency to want to spend it on bubble gum, cap guns, or the latest bloodbath video game their parent will later let them play for the rest of the day. In fact, I’m going to go out on a limb and say that no child below voting age has ever wanted to send his allowance to the mayor’s political campaign. No state senator, national representative, President of the United States, or heck, any other elected official has ever received any donations from kids of school age.
This, of course, does politicians no service whatsoever. They already know they are safe from being ousted from office by anyone who is under the age of 18. Since the only other thing that seems to sway many of today’s elected officials is money, it looks like our children are out of luck.
And by out of luck, I mean out of an education. See, some politicians like to punish people who don’t help them, don’t agree with them, or who they just plain don’t like. Unfortunately for children, they fall into all three categories from the standpoint of a politician driven by campaign funds.
I mean, children can’t possibly help them stay in office through their franchise or their pocketbooks. And, politicians who are mostly concerned with whether or not their war chest is bulging at the seams don’t like that children don’t donate to their ongoing campaign. They then punish the children in the only way they can: by completely defunding their school and miring them hopelessly in high-stakes tests so it’s absolutely no fun whatsoever to go.
In grades 3 – 9, the MEAP is king. Nearly the entire month of September is used to prep for this test. All teachers are required to participate, no fun school projects until everyone’s taken it in October. In 1oth, you might get a break, but most likely ACT preparation is in order(remember when you had to spend your own money to take it?). Then, in 11th its off to the ACTs and in 12th, well, don’t ya know that it’s about time for you to decide which college to become indebted to for life.
This, of course, assumes your school district is full of kids already succeeding at school by their teacher’s standards. If you happened to be a student in a school district that was marked as priority school district (including alternative schools which have students that are notorious for absenteeism, behavior problems, and a penchant for failing classes and avoiding tests), even more tests are in order. These include the San Diego Quick Assessment, the Basic Achievement Skills Inventory (BASI), World-Class Instructional Design and Assessment (WIDA), and WIDA ACCESS Placement Test (W-APT).
Yes, those politicians can sure find money in the school’s budgets for tests, for training sessions to teach principals and educators alike how to administer the tests, for consultants to use professional development time to tell teachers how the scores on the tests will be used to rate their effectiveness in part. But, when it comes to updated technology, new textbooks, and teacher salary, well, wouldn’t ya know, the cash just dried up.
But why, you ask. Why would any politician deprive students of joy in education, occupy their school time with endless tests, and refuse to provide them tools to enhance their chances of engaging in real learning?
Simple: Because polticians driven by greenbacks want students to give up on learning, and accept the world for what it is. They want kids to think it’s normal to need a bazillion dollars to run for office so those who don’t have much cash don’t get any wise ideas about running for office. They want kids to believe that voting is driven by money, so it doesn’t really matter if you vote or not. They want them to accept the world for what it is because they want the democratic part of this democratic republic to go away.
See, these politicians feel that their ideas are best, and they don’t want anyone else to stick ideas contrary to theirs into the mix. In fact, they think that no one else but them and their wealthy friends should have a say-so.
And unless we get money out of politics, this is exactly what will happen. Only the wealthiest individuals will occupy political offices. Voters will become jaded and increasingly stop going to the polls, sick of seeing the one with the biggest war chest and the worst ideas win time and time again. And once the system fails, a new one must take it’s place.
It is up to us to make sure that the system that takes its place is one where no one has to spend extravagant sums on campaigns. One where elections are publicly funded and personal spending is limited. One where no campaign donations are necessary because election advertising will be provided for free, and each politician gets to visit each state once for up to a week. Because if we can’t get money out of democratic politics, monied politics will take the democracy out of our country through our children.