In a Democracy

For the past 25 years, I’ve been an avid student of the work of the Kettering Foundation, a nonprofit think tank that studies problems of communities, governing, politics and education.  One report, in particular, continues to strongly influence my thinking.  It is “Meaningful Chaos – How People Form Relationships with Public Concerns.”  In the introduction to this study, Kettering Foundation President David Mathews makes a powerful statement that underscores the vital importance of providing Ohio’s citizens with a voice in shaping statewide education policy for our public schools.  He states:  “In a democracy, the public can’t just wait around to be persuaded.  Democracy is more than watching infomercials.  Rather than being passive, the public has to be active in making up its collective mind.  Why?  Because in our system, citizens have to give direction to the government; it is an undelegable responsibility. (A political system in which the government directs the people is not a democracy.)  And for the public’s direction to have legitimacy, it must be authentic; that is, it must really be the public’s opinion.  To be authentic or legitimate, public opinion has to be more than a manipulated response.  It has to be formed independently by the interaction of citizens with citizens.”  The Ohio Public School Advocacy Network is being created to help generate this interaction.

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