Change, and the Land of Steady Habits
Connecticut is known as the land of steady habits, a place where change comes slowly. So, how do we bring about change in the land of steady habits? What roles do our budgets, stimulus plans and deficit mitigation plans play in helping bring about change or thwart change? In a state with one of the largest gaps in school achievement between black and white and rich and poor and one of the largest income gaps between rich and poor, what is addressing our problems and what is making our problems get worse?
Too often, it seems, people are looking at the most immediate aspects. They claim that we have too many people working for the state, that we are paying them too high a salary, or that we are not delivering services as efficiently and effectively as possible. Perhaps we would be better off if we looked at ways to address the underlying problems.
Some people look at the disintegration of the family and point to that as an underlying problem. Yet they don’t go further and look at what can be done to make the family stronger and get family members more involved in our schools, towns and our state.
Let me suggest that the first part of the problem to address is the view that the problem is intractable. If you don’t believe you can change the system, then you probably won’t try and we end up with a cycle that just gets worse. Yet the Obama campaign, with its mantra, “Yes, We Can!” is perhaps the most important first step. People have started to believe that they can make a difference. We need to find ways of spreading this belief as an important first step.
Yes, you can make a difference. Start off by finding out who your State Representative is. Contact them. Tell them about what your concerns are. After all, they have been elected and are getting paid to represent you. If you don’t talk with them about what you think matters, they aren’t going to do as good a job as they can.
If you’ve got some time, go through the bills that they are currently considering. Tell them what you think about the bills. An easy way to do this is to look at the legislative committees and the bills that these committees are considering. I’ve written about bills the Government Administrations and Elections Committee are considering as well as bills the education committee are considering. Go out and form your own opinions.
On a local level, go to town meetings. Get involved in your local school system. I’ve often talked about the biggest effect on the success of a school system is the involvement of parents.
Yet this gets me to how our system is designed to fail. Parental involvement in schools is crucial. Citizen involvement in our government is crucial. My wife and I can juggle our schedules to drive to a school meeting or a town meeting. Yet in areas where the schools are under performing, many parents just can’t make it to meetings. If they have the flexibility to juggle their schedules, they may not have the means to get to meetings.
How many school meetings, whether they are board of education meetings or parent teacher meetings are arranged in a way that people who rely on public transportation can easily get to and from the meeting? If you want to improve our schools and our local governments, perhaps a good starting point is to improve public transportation and arrange the schedule of meetings to fit well with public transportation schedules. Lacking that, citizens should find ways to help one another to get to meetings. Perhaps we need citizen action car pools.
Yes, we are a land of steady habits, and some of these are bad habits that need to be broken. One of those bad habits is not looking at structural impediments to what could make our schools, our communities, and our state better off. What are the impediments that are preventing you or people you know from participating more fully in our schools, towns and state? What are you doing to address these impediments?
A starting point can be to start talking about them.