This morning I attended Indivisible: Conejo's September meeting which featured:
SPECIAL GUEST SPEAKERS
REP. JULIA BROWNLEY
STATE SEN. HENRY STERN
ALL POLITICS IS LOCAL:
HOW WE’LL RUN, ENGAGE & WIN IN 2018
FEATURING DISTINGUISHED PANELISTS
VENTURA COUNTY SUPERVISOR LINDA PARKS
THOUSAND OAKS MAYOR CLAUDIA BILL-DE LA PEÑA
CVUSD TRUSTEE BETSY CONNOLLY
I thought there were some great takeaways worth sharing that everyone could benefit from.
For me, the most interesting part of the panel revolved around the conversation regarding partisanship in "non partisan" local politics/positions.
It's a good reminder (and a necessary one), to remember that there are a lot of things that do unify all of us, across the spectrum, whether or not we have different ideas of how to achieve a desired outcome. Mayor Bill- De La Pena spoke to this when discussing the various council votes she had been a part of, recalling that there were many 5-0 votes, even with a board comprised of members with politics across the spectrum.
Panelists Bill-De La Pena, Trustee Connolly and Supervisor Parks were all in agreement that before looking at party affiliation, you should look at the candidate and the candidate's platform, stressing that when you ignore qualified, good candidates because of their label, you could be doing yourself and your party a disservice, falling victim to endorsing unqualified candidates. That's why it's important to do the homework on all candidates, what they stand for, what their voting records have been and evaluate if their history and campaign speeches align with what you're looking for in a candidate. It's not always as easy as checking the box "left" or "right," in some cases.
Bill-De La Pena also recalled her ability to work with both parties, as an independent, and how her ability to see and understand both sides has been a unifying factor in board votes. Trustee Connolly elaborated on this, recounting how, in 2008, she very much considered herself that peacemaker... that olive branch. However, for those who have been watching the school board district, you'll note that it is a very divided board.... the "battle lines" often drawn, so to speak. Trustee Connolly offered some perspective on this and the toll it's taken on her outlook regarding what I'm referring to as the "olive branch approach." A little less optimistic than other panelists regarding this approach, Dr. Connolly said that while important ... too much of this "getting along to get along" led to the eventual division we now see in the school board. Essentially that mindset of playing nice allowed certain board members to get away with actions and remarks that were damaging to the board — the effects of which we are seeing now, in regards to the leadership of the board and the contentious meetings and votes.
Further, Dr. Connolly expanded upon the idea that there are bad people and there are self-serving people, and those people involve themselves in politics for personal agendas, as opposed to serving the greater good/or the community as a whole... and there are times where it's appropriate to put a foot down and recognize those individuals for what they are and what damage they're capable of causing.
Throughout this discussion, it was clear that there is a talent to balancing the moments you choose to "fight," and the moments where bipartisan efforts will be effective, and it's not always a true science... with panelists sometimes learning that the hard way.
I think that stemming from this discussion, to me the clear takeaway is the importance in voting for representatives that represent all of the people they will be elected to serve, not only a defined section of people. Similarly, if you view yourself as a potential candidate for office, the balance should be something you strive to achieve, when appropriate. This doesn't mean you olive branch every issue. There are certain party line issues that will always be that: partisan. But in local politics, there appears to be a lot of opportunity for bipartisan efforts to make a difference, with the right person behind the microphone.
Of course, I'm not even touching on so many other great points from the meeting that Rep. Brownley and State Senator Stern discussed, and those that touched upon the need to support, volunteer and fundraise for our candidates... and to RUN. There are so many positions to run for. Find your passion/cause, identify how you can be involved on a county/state/federal level and get involved.
Now I've got to bake banana muffins and cookies with AB.
CVUSD school board president, Mike Dunn has got to go in 2018, and let's talk about why.
According to the CVUSD website, here is Mr. Dunn's bio:
"I am married to a special education teacher. We have two children in this school district. I am a retired firefighter from the Los Angeles City Fire Department and was assigned to a paramedic assessment engine company. I bring an important voice to the board – someone who whenever possible tries to accommodate the wishes of the parents and taxpayers. My mission is excellent public schools and promoting traditional family values without property tax increases."
Our Disneyland vacation had finally come! It felt like a month since we had been counting down. That's probably because it was a month of counting down.
AB talked and talked and talked about how she was going to see Mickey and Minnie and Donald and Daisy and love them and hug them and give them fist bumps.
We were READY.
We got our family/friends discounted tickets from an AM blog follower and new friend (THANK YOU D!) and we chose to do one park/one day to save a bit on the cost because we aren't baller status just yet. We also went with the Holiday Inn Anaheim and for a TOTAL of $92 bucks, WITH parking...and about a 13-15 minute walk to Downtown Disney, that's a damn fine price for me.
In these short eight months since Donald Trump was inaugurated as President of the United States (and before during campaign season), it's felt like a lifetime of walking backward on progress and all of the things that truly make America great.
****This pregnancy is really getting in the way of my school board meeting participation. I mean I CAN'T DRINK RIGHT NOW.
So I'm watching the live feed because those chairs were going to see to it I never stood up straight again, and writing a blog... and it's really a ridiculous thing that I even have to write about.
The TOPIC: The inclusion of a nationally recognized and award-winning book, "The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian" by author Sherman Alexie, into curriculum, as requested by the English Dept.
If you haven't heard the CVUSD school board president, Mike Dunn's opinion on a book he hasn't read in its entirety, he has made some pretty aggressive comments, describing the book as pornographic, stating that "forcing" "children" (high school students) to read this literature (approved by UACT), is "child abuse." Again, I must remind you that at this time, he hasn't been able to confirm actually having read the book, after having more than two months' time to do so.
Now, these assertions are wholly, wholly irresponsible and abhorrent. How dare our school board president accuse the dept. chairs and teachers —whom are experts in their subjects — and that form the curriculum committee, of child abuse. CHILD ABUSE.
I'm going to risk sounding like a broken record BUT, apparently it's needed:
YOUR RELIGIOUS OR PERSONAL "FAMILY VALUES" AGENDA DOESN'T GET TO DETERMINE WHAT LITERATURE IS INCORPORATED INTO OUR PUBLIC SCHOOL'S CURRICULUM.
I value your right as a parent to teach whatever your personal values are at home. I welcome your right to have the religion you have, or practice whatever set of ideals you feel important. I welcome you to practice those beliefs in a church, mosque, etc. of your choosing. However, these personal choices and personal religious choices don't have a place in influencing our public school education.
If you want a customized curriculum that caters to the idea of "innocence" you've developed for your children, you have every right to home school or choose a private school that caters to your religion. No, the public school system is not designed to act as your specific tool, to be altered to suit only your personal morals and beliefs, and those you teach to your children. That is not how public education works and it's preposterous to demand that public education be censored to fit a religious criteria.
Now, I did my due diligence. In order to understand what was so "controversial" about this book, I READ IT IN ITS ENTIRETY. Not only did I read it, I invited everyone who participates on my page to read along with me, and a lot of us participated in analysis of themes and conversation. I asked over and over and over again for those who found objection to share examples of how this book was pornographic, abusive, or inappropriate for high school children.
NOT ONE out of the 40 or so parents that participated felt this piece of literature lived up to Dunn's claims. I made sure to leave this topic open-ended throughout the book reading process and encouraged diverse viewpoints. I also reviewed countless study guides found online through school sites and shared how the themes would be discussed and handled.
And then, I took a few excerpts of reaction to the book and sent it to the entire board so they could also read that feedback.
So, I did my homework on the book.
DID YOU, MR. DUNN?
In regards to the areas of "worry" expressed: language, explicit sex, bullying, violence, etc.... I found these topics no more represented in this literature than in MANY of the current books already in place in the school curriculum. Some titles come to mind: "Romeo and Juliet," "The Lord of the Flies," "Hunger Games," "Catcher in the Rye," to name a few. A FEW.
Are we cool with these books because the author is white? YES OF COURSE WE ARE.
Should it surprise you that a group showed up tonight that identifies themselves as "Unified Conejo" represented by, from what I could visibly deduce as at least 90% white men, to decry this literature? They're worried about family values you see, and that what they teach at home, won't be mirrored in the classroom, and so, they demand this book not be included.
Y'all. Have you not been paying attention to what has been happening not only in our hometown but in our country? Last week a video went viral, that captured high school students in our district, singing and chanting racist speech and insinuating that all black people need to die.
This past weekend, a young woman was murdered by a white, domestic terrorist who ran her over with a car at a white supremacist rally while she was peacefully marching for equality. It's sweet if you think "all minorities are valued," but you've clearly been turning a blind eye to the fuckery that is happening all around, and next to you.
Diverse curriculum is invaluable. It should be quite apparent, especially now, more than ever, that we need to do right by the students in our district. We owe it to them, we have a RESPONSIBILITY to them, to expose them to guided conversation on challenging topics and themes that will help broaden their knowledge base and enhance their education.
It is not the board's job to vote to suit the religious right who backs them in campaigns. That is not what it means to be a board member in our district. I realize that Dunn has a re-election coming up in 2018, and wants to satisfy his conservative base, but IT'S UNACCEPTABLE to prevent students in the district from the opportunity to be exposed to diverse literature in order to pad their upcoming campaign runs.
And let's talk about the issue of formalizing and enhancing an opt-out policy. Where do we draw the line? Something can be found offensive in every single book ever written. What will the district do, when this circus encourages droves of conservative parents to demand multiple opt-out options on curriculum? What then? How will the teachers satisfy these requests? How can we guarantee our students receive an enriched education, if we spend our time trying to appease only the religious right? How can our teachers even handle that amount of work?
A student speaker today said it best: it is not the board's job to protect students' innocence, it is their job to educate the students.
JUST IN: THE BOOK IS APPROVED, DESPITE DUNN'S VOTE AGAINST THE BOOK. There is still concern on Mr. Andersen's part regarding opt-out policy and discussion, but he is hopeful a discussion will be had moving forward.