OPINION (Submitted by "Waterman") - Influencing the Influencers: Who is Behind the Decisions?

Feb 10, 2023 at 06:17 am by Waterman

Opinion Submitted by Waterman - In his January 13 piece, Laboratories of Democracy, J.C. Bowman writes, “One constant we safeguard is that schools must be responsive to parents, not philanthropists or special interest groups.” This idea, of course, was the genesis of parent-teacher organizations in every school district in the nation. Dr. Bowman goes on to correctly state that the political party that controls state government controls policy making decisions, which extends to educational policy, for better or worse. A question not addressed in Dr. Bowman’s article, however, is what exactly constitutes a special interest?

Merriam Webster defines a special interest as “a person or group seeking to influence legislative or government policy to further often narrowly defined interests.” That could be anybody; a member of the clergy, a broadcast network with the word “news” in its trade name or social media platform driven by the need to enrich its shareholders and advertisers, a politician reciprocating to his donors, even a next-door neighbor who finds comfort in surrounding himself with like-minded people. A special interest could be any entity that delivers an opinion that motivates an audience.   

So, the next question becomes, if parents are to remain the “shareholders” that govern the decisions of school boards, who is exercising the influence over parents to decide what’s right for their children? The answer in many cases would be some or all of the entities in the paragraph above, and more; friends, coworkers, relatives, bumper stickers, billboards, tattoos, anyone or anything with a charismatic message that resonates with a parent, sometimes with no other qualifier.

Two of the most valuable topics everyone should have at least basic knowledge of are journalism, where we learn the differences between factual reporting and propaganda, and logic, where we learn to differentiate between valid and invalid arguments. An interesting subtopic of the latter is logical fallacies, which have metastasized across virtually every avenue of modern communication. But the common thread between these two subjects is that what is accepted as truth is established methodically and empirically, not by emotion, hearsay or the use of logical fallacy.

Making the right decision is hard work that a lot of people are unwilling or unable to do. It involves learning and following processes. It involves validation. Sometimes it involves swallowing our pride, too, if we have to admit that we or someone we trust and admire were wrong.

A parent who makes decisions on his children’s behalf that are not based in in truth, objective observation and critical analysis rather than which influencer screams the loudest, “alternative fact” or a bandwagon mentality manifested as a reluctance to displease others or a desire to be part of a greater whole has committed an offense against his child. More importantly, a parent who denies his child a chance to learn the skills necessary to make informed and intelligent decisions has committed an offense against the larger society.

Note: Opinion Submitted by "Waterman" 

Sections: Voices