Archive - May 15, 2010
This morning as I was doing my regular rounds of assorted blogs, I found a blog post about an effort in Seymour by students to have school policies changed to allow the wearing of flip-flops at school. The author seemed outraged that the students would have the audacity to disapprove of school authorities’ rules. I have a very different perspective. Personally, I don’t have a strong opinion about whether or not students where flip-flops to school. However, I do think it is very important for high school students to learn the appropriate way to petition for a governmental redress of grievances; a right guaranteed us in the First Amendment.
I wrote a comment to the blog post, but the author appears to have not accepted my comment, so I am sharing it here. What do you think? What are the best ways for students to learn the proper method of challenging rules that they disagree with? Is petitioning the Board of Education appropriate? Is getting media coverage of the issue appropriate? Is civil disobedience appropriate? Should people mindlessly follow rules that others create? Are there other ideas?
Here’s my comment:
It sounds to me as if it was a very beneficial educational experience and I hope the teachers and educators are making the most of it. At least based on the article presented, I don’t see any example of students ‘bucking the law’ or administrators ‘hunching down, possibly bailing from fear of ejection’.
Instead, I see students following the law, and learning about fundamental American freedoms. The U.S. Constitution guarantees the right to petition for a governmental redress of grievances. This is what they are doing. The article describes how the petition is aimed at the appropriate governing board, the town Board of Education. The Board of Education appears to be making an appropriate consideration of the petition, balancing the desires of students with issues of safety.
While it might be more desirable if students were seeking to redress a grievance of national importance, it is good that they don’t feel that there is an issue of that importance to address. Tuition is not an issue in a public school, and while the issue of what students can wear on their feet seems minor, it may well seem to them to be about unfair treatment by the school administration. As noted in the article, students in neighboring schools have the right to wear flip-flops to school.
Yet what is important is that this is an opportunity for students to learn and experience the proper method of redressing a grievance, instead of bucking the law. How will the Board of Education respond? What other lessons can the students, as well as other citizens of our country learn? We will have to wait and see on this, but personally, independent of my view about footwear choices, I applaud the students, as well as any educators or parents that are assisting them, in exploring this fundamental American right of petition for a governmental redress of grievances.
Earlier this month, Jon Kantrowitz posted a diary on MyLeftNutmeg entitled, The Connecticut Democratic Party Platform - Can We Do Better?. The diary received five different comments. Two were about content, and three were about process. Bruce Rubenstein wrote, that people “would have better success meeting with candidates and getting them to commit to progressive issues then worrying about a document that wont be read after the Convention.” Others wrote about the workings of the platform committee and expressed the view that concerns about the platform would not be heard. All of this begs an important question, do platforms matter?
I would like to suggest that what matters might not be the platform itself, but the discussion about the platform. This discussion can take place online. It can take place in meetings with candidates, in face to face gathering, or in smoke filled backrooms. How these discussions take place says a lot about the transparency and the invitation to become involved that candidates and parties make, or fail to make.
As a person advocating greater governmental transparency, I believe a good starting point is in transparency at the party level. Back in 2004, I ran a website, platform.smartcampaigns.com. It is no longer up, but is available on archive.org. We listed as much information as we could get about delegates to the convention, as well as to the various committees, like rules, credentials and platform. We posted various copies of platforms from 2000 and 2004 and talked together online about what better platform planks would be. Various amendments that were discussed ended up being adopted by the platform committee. We can argue about whether or not it really made any difference, but I consider it part of the movement towards opening up the Democratic Party as well as the broader movement towards increased government transparency.
Can we foster such a discussion here in Connecticut as we approach our State Democratic Convention? The Platform Committee is reportedly meeting Monday evening at 6 PM at State Central. The convention starts in less than a week. It seems like we won’t have as much of a chance to open up the process and the discussion as we did at the national level in 2004, but there is still a chance.
Hopefully, members of the platform committee will report back to their constituents about the meeting and solicit more involvement in the establishing the platform, and ultimately in the discussions and activities around who our next statewide elected officials should be. Hopefully, candidates can use these discussions to invite more people to become involved with their campaigns and encourage people to look at the issues and not the personalities of the candidates. Hopefully all of this can be a step in returning our country to a government of, by and for the people.
(Cross-posted at MyLeftNutmeg.)