Sunday, August 14, 2011

Elected Officials, Personal Bias, and Discrimination

The last few days have been packed with drama and emotion. Here in our local county, the School Board had before them the issue of allowing homeschoolers access to public school athletic teams. My husband wrote a great blog post urging them to allow access and addressed it to the school board. A local university grad student was at the workshop where this issue was discussed and wrote and open letter to the board disassembling the arguments they offered in the workshop. For a look at the illogical, irrational and ludicrous statements offered (that the student very eloquently rebutted)and to get a feel for the tone of that meeting, be sure to read his article/blog post. It was published as a letter to the editor in Sundays paper.

I personally do not have a student in secondary school who wants to play, but as a leader in the local homeschool community as well as someone invested in the furthering of our cause everywhere, I took a personal interest. I came away from both the workshop and the actual board meeting itself irritated, aggravated, frustrated, angry, belittled, and feeling very discriminated against. I pay taxes into this local economy, just like every other law abiding citizen. My taxes entitle me to certain rights or benefits in this community. Just because I choose not to take advantage of all the benefits extended to me should not necessarily exclude me from the rest. To be excluded from benefits I pay for because I don't choose the whole package is nothing less than discrimination. Pure and simple.

If my tax dollars should open the door for those benefits, which in this case was access to public school athletics, what stands in the way? The elected officials that serve on the school board. At the Tuesday workshop meeting, there was certainly a prejudice present among certain members of the school board. The discussion, while not supposed to center around the 'merit of educational choice' but rather the equal access homeschoolers ought to have to athletics, repeatedly cast doubt on the process of homeschooling, questioned both ability and results of teachers (parents) and suggested that regardless of our tax dollars, our educational choices made us ineligible for inclusion in sports programs. There was no real logic in the vehement opposition to homeschooling and sports inclusion voiced at that meeting. While I understand that they are the 'stewards' of the public school system in Bradley County, I believe forward thinking folks should begin to recognize that there is 'more than one way to skin a cat.' The education of ones children is a highly complex and personal decision. We are blessed to live in a country where we can pursue a variety of educational options and find the perfect fit for our children and families. Public schooling isn't wrong or inferior, just different! However, the reality is that there are some on the school board and in administration who are vehemently anti-homeschool and decidedly pro-public school. As elected officials, shouldn't they be more open minded? Isn't it their duty to represent all their constituents?

That's probably what frustrated me the most...the clear personal bias that colored many remarks as well as the ultimate decision the board handed down. If we're honest, that equals nothing more that pure discrimination. I understand that everyone brings their world view to the table and we all have experiences that shape our perceptions and opinions. However, I believe that part of being an adult is being willing to take in new information as it becomes available and changing my viewpoint if the new information calls for it. In this case, new information was presented to the school board in many ways...via e-mail, by letters and phone calls and even by personal appointments with administration. Yet the personal bias many on the board held prior to these meetings was held to so tight fistedly, that some were willing to tell outright lies to defend their position. That does not show open-mindedness or even a willingness to engage in an exchange of shows a juvenile predisposition to bullying in order to get your own way. I really expected more out of my elected officials.