Elections, Squirrels, Teaching, and Shiny Things.

An old adage suggests that if one wishes to understand why something truly happens, the question“why?” must be posed at least five consecutive times.  This allows the questioner to get below surface-level influences and arrive at the root cause.  I try to live by this strategy, however, usually a shiny object or squirrel distracts me after the third why.  But, as my new adage goes, “Three why’s are better than one why.  Especially when there are rodents in the area.”


One question that has truly interested me over the years is why political party identifiers must be attached to certain positions.  Although Sheriff and Mining Inspector roles would apply in this discussion, I am obviously not talking about law enforcement or rocks with other rocks inside of them.  And for those of you who have often asked, “Why didn’t Mike run for Mining Inspector?” I think you have your answer.


This is clearly a relative concern when framed against the State Superintendent of Public Instruction.  Why is party affiliation even remotely connected to such an important position?  Some might tell you it is because of the fiscal responsibilities.  I would answer, “Squirrel!”  But, that would get us nowhere.  More specifically, I would suggest this is a weak connection. The fact that Democrats want to take all of your money to pay for contraception for the poor and Republicans want to give it all back but then blow stuff up for free, is irrelevant.  Fiscal responsibility should be a given for the role.  This is about teaching and learning, not ideology.  To suggest otherwise is an insult to the complexity of the educational process.


My assertion is that we are attempting to assign an understanding to a position that oversees an incredibly complicated process which we don’t really understand.  Most people are trying to keep their families in the black, find a new job, deal with a divorce, or be an expert in their own fields.  Or, all of the above.  They do not have the time to dedicate countless hours to understanding instructional practice, brain research, or assessment strategies.  However, they are asked to choose the person who should understand these critical components.  Clearly there is a problem here.


I work with Glen Beck disciples who are the most progressive educators I have ever seen.  I know others who think Beck has been sent to earth as a plague that God forgot to include during the whole “Moses Affair.”  One of these people does the largest unit on the importance of the Founding Fathers ever created.  I believe that this is not exclusive to my experience.  When teachers walk through the front doors of their schools, their voter registration card does not correlate to how they teach or the results that they achieve.


The point is this: Why do we set the public up to vote along party lines for a position that has little to do with a candidate’s feelings about government spending, foreign affairs, or energy policy?  On one hand, most agree that our children should be protected from shifting political winds, yet we empower the state’s top educator primarily based upon his or her party affiliation.  This, in turn, makes the role a product of a political climate.  Wise?  You tell me. 


I’m eager to hear your  oh look a shiny thing responses.  Maybe you can get through the five why’s and explain them.  It’s not looking good for me.



Mike Lee

Mike Lee

Phoenix, Arizona

I am the Director of Outreach and Engagement for The National Board for Professional Teaching Standards, and certified as a Middle Childhood Generalist in 2004. In 2012, I received my doctorate in educational leadership from Northern Arizona University, however, I began my work in education serving as a para-educator in a special education program while still an undergraduate. My passions in the field include assessment and reporting strategies, the evolving role of technology, teacher leadership, and effective professional development that permanently impacts instruction. I consider myself a professional teacher first, as well as a professionally evolving lifelong learner, who is incredibly fortunate to have the opportunity to impact the lives of children.

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