Over the past several months I have wondered what our children learn from watching the modern American election process. Do they gain an understanding of how strongly our forefathers felt about free people governing themselves?
Do they grasp the importance of a community coming together to discuss what the best course of action would be for everyone involved and then, after careful, logical debate, deciding as a community which way to go?
Or, as I think is the case, do our children see adults acting like children? Do they see us point fingers, sling mud and tell lies just to get our way?
I think that the modern democratic process falls far short of what it was intended to be while teaching our kids to be something other than respectful and concerned with people in the community. I think it shows them how to be narrow-minded and self-centered.
Our national and state level political arena is dominated by two parties that refuse to truly work together to find real solutions to the problems facing real people.
Each group seems to prefer attaching labels to each other and acting as if the other side is a mortal enemy to be crushed and humiliated as opposed to a group of fellow Americans with whom they should work together towards the common good of all Americans.
Worst of all, when all is said and done, the average man on the street is left out in the cold wondering if anyone even cares how he is affected by the decisions being made.
The situation often seems amplified on the local level. Personal grievances and hurt feelings from years, or even decades, ago can blind people so much that they are unable to see how their current feuds are damaging other people around them as well as the community that they claim to be a part of.
The narrow-minded, self-centered bickering of national politics almost becomes an obsession at the local level where individuals will go to their graves refusing to help one another and destroy their communities in the process.
Nowhere is this self-destructive mindset more evident than in the Climax Springs school bond issue.
In short, the issue is this: An aging school building is coming to a point where it will no longer be safe for the local kids to attend school there.
Repair costs are eating up a huge part of the school's budget every year which takes money away from the focus of educating children.
Many local residents feel that the time is right to move the students into a new, safer, more modern facility.
Seems pretty simple, right? Putting our kids in a safer environment which is more conducive to learning and can be expanded in the future seems like an easy choice.
Page 2 of 3 - This solution would keep the kids from being subjected to longer bus rides to schools farther away.
It would also allow them to continue receiving the individualized approach to teaching that is more easily achieved in a small school.
The Climax Springs school district has made available programs and opportunities to the students that are not always available in other schools while improving the quality of basic education for those kids enormously over the past five years.
Not only has this been done on a very tight budget due to the building repairs that are needed each year, but the district has even managed to improve its financial stability in the process. It would seem that this school is something to be proud of and that local residents would want to support it.
The only real catch in this whole situation is that new school buildings are not free. They cost money. Someone must invest in them or they don't get built.
What this means to the people of Climax Springs is that we must borrow the money to invest in this new school building. What has been proposed is a twenty-year loan to construct a new school building.
This would increase our property taxes for those twenty years and then, when the loan is paid off, that portion of the property tax would go away. We borrow the money. We get the job done. We pay off the loan.
This is where the simplicity dies.
This is where narrow-minded self-centeredness takes over.
Regardless of what benefit this new school building will have for the local kids, and regardless of what benefit it would have for the community, some people refuse to see this as anything but a tax increase.
They refuse to see that it is temporary. They refuse to see that two to three years of construction could help our local economy by providing jobs and additional business opportunities. They refuse to see that it might be what is best for the kids of this area and that a new school on the side of the highway could actually benefit the whole community as well.
Worst of all, they refuse to look past the word “tax” to gain an understanding that doing the right thing usually involves sacrifice.
What truly amazes me is that the residents who have voted against this school bond for selfish reasons do not even realize that their property taxes will go up anyway.
Eventually our current school building will be unable to be fixed anymore. When that happens we will be forced by the state to merge with other school districts, and every district around us already has a higher property tax rate than Climax Springs.
Page 3 of 3 - We can pay more locally now or we can pay more to another district later. Either way our taxes will go up. No vote is going to change that.
But, that's American politics. That's what we are teaching our kids with each election. “Don't look to the future. Don't look out for anyone else. Focus on getting what you want, right now, regardless of how it affects other people.”
And, sadly, it is probably a lesson they are learning well.