California Educator

October 2016

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The True Role Models C TA M E M B E R S are used to the election cycle and all that comes with it: local school board races, import- ant state ballot initiatives, joining colleagues at phone banks or on precinct walks, and doing all we can to make sure public education and our students are sup- ported in election outcomes. But this year is different. Of course, the outcomes of issues like Proposition 55 are still critically import- ant, and CTA members are still working hard to win, but the process itself this time is unlike any election that I can recall. Especially at the national level, the election has played more like bad reality television, where low character and often sordid behavior have eclipsed any serious discussion of real issues. It's gotten to the point where many parents have real concerns about what they should let their kids watch when it comes to the election. is may be the first presidential race that needs mature (or perhaps more appropriately, immature) content filtering. For many of our students, this is the first presidential election they will be old enough to follow with any real understanding. For many of our com- munity college students, it is the first election they will vote in. And what they're seeing today is not what educators prepared them for in all those government classes and in class discussions of the greatness of our demo- cratic process. It's probably leaving many of them more than a little jaded. Oh, sure, they were aware of a sometimes ugly side to American politics that is nothing new ; they undoubtedly learned in history class about a political rival named Aaron Burr who fired a fatal musket ball at that guy on the $10 bill (who had the last laugh two centuries later by becoming the hottest ticket on Broadway). Fortunately, in this cycle, the only shots that have been fired have been verbal ones. But those can hurt too, and they can leave a lasting mark on impressionable kids. What kind of role models are politicians who insult and bully their way to the top? And what lessons are they teaching the nation's students? Ironically, October is National Bullying Prevention Month. NEA, always a leading sponsor and participant, has stepped up its involvement this year because of numerous reports of bullying among kids. It's sad, but not sur- prising. When a potential president is on TV name-calling and attacking people for their height, their disabilities, their religion, their immigration status, or their ethnic heritage, and is rating a woman's appearance on a numerical scale (often to the applause of large crowds), many kids are going to take cues from that behavior. And when a candidate does that, it can be tough for educators to lead frank student discussions of the behavior without being perceived by some as having a political agenda, and not a character-building and stu- dent-protecting one. But I'm an optimist. I'm hopeful that after Nov. 8, the nation will take a long look in the mirror and decide to do better next time. I also have faith in kids. For the most part they instinctively know that bullying is wrong, and with the right guidance and role modeling, most can be taught to resist the inclination to pick on others. Finally, regardless of role models or the lack thereof in the polit- ical arena, I have enormous faith in CTA members. With you in their lives, in their schools and classrooms, fight- ing for causes like Prop. 55 and being true role models, our students have an edge up that trumps any temporary anomaly in one crazy election. Eric C. Heins C T A P R E S I D E N T @ericheins president's message Role models: Hemet Teachers Association members Denise Newberry and Randy Hantsbarger with Eric Heins. 5 October 2016

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