Friday, April 30, 2010

My Boggled Mind

I am lucky to have many friends who are crazy dreamers...people who believe they can and should make a difference in the world.  I had lunch with one of them yesterday.  Her name is Judy Jennings, and she's currently devoting every waking hour (there aren't many for sleeping these days) to the job of being elected to the Texas State Board of Education.  It's four years of unpaid work representing a 1.5 million person constituency in a district that includes 16 counties.

I don't have to ask why Judy wants to do this.  I know why.

As God herself knows...we need some difference-makers on the SBOE.  Allow me to remind you of a few currently proposed changes from the board, (just in case you missed Jon Stewart's report last month on The Daily Show):

  • Remove Thomas Jefferson from the portion of our nation's history that includes discussion of revolutionary thinkers.  
  • Take Oscar Romero out of state standards because "he doesn't have his own movie" like Ghandi and Mandela (which he actually came out in 1989 and is called, surprisingly, Romero). 
  • Remove the word "capitalism" from standards because it doesn't sound as nice as "free enterprise." 
  • Eliminate concepts of “justice” and “responsibility for the common good” from a list of characteristics of good citizenship for Grades 1-3.
This is the tip of the embarrassing iceberg.

Judy Jennings is my hero for answering the internal call many of us in Texas have heard ringing in our heads.  She is trying to become part of a solution to the problem of a narrow-minded, poorly informed, politically motivated State Board of Education.  Hooray for Judy!  Texas teachers and students deserve a change.

Here's the mind-boggling part of this story.  If Judy wants to be a real contender in this election, she needs to raise a minimum of $250,000.

$250,000 for our attention and, ultimately, our vote.  

I find that riduculously ironic as I hear reports today about concern Texas school officials have for children in our system who depend on free breakfast and lunch at school every day to eat.  What will those children do in June, July, August?

$250,000 would buy 2,300 kids a hot, well-balanced meal every single day of summer here in Austin.  By the UN World Food Program's dollars, $250,000 buys one-million meals for school children worldwide. 

If you multiply that $250K by the number of candidates in opposed races for the SBOE, the cash that's going to be spent to persuade Texans to care enough to vote will be $2-million.  Half of that money will have been spent on losing campaigns.  A.K.A. - for nothing. 

How many schools might we open in parts of the world that are terrorist-ruled and poverty-stricken because, in large part, there is no way to educate children?  By Pennies for Peace standards, $250,000 would pay 685 teachers in Afghanistan for a full year.  

How many wells might we dig in areas of the world where children spend their days walking to bacteria infested ponds for water instead of learning to read?  By Glimmer of Hope calculations, 40,000 Ethiopians could have access to clean water if someone donated $250,000. 

Instead, we will get a candidate for the Texas State Board of Education.

Don't get me wrong.  Judy Jennings is an amazing human being.  She deserves, and I hope she wins, the opportunity to serve the people of Texas in this capacity. 

I just wonder what it says about you and me that children have to go hungry, uneducated, and without clean water just so we can fast forward through ads on television, throw away stacks of candidate junk mail, and ignore 4' x 8' campaign signs cluttering every street corner between now and November. 

Try not to even think about what it costs to be elected to the state legislature or the US senate or the presidency.

We crazy dreamers could, in fact, save the world if we had our hands on that kind of money.