I have been told that voting was my duty because of the black people who died for my right to vote. My . motivation for voting comes from thinking about my obligation to the current and future generations. I can’t be certain, but it seems those who died for my right to vote were thinking of making life better for future generations not necessarily martyring themselves on my behalf.
I have been told that if I don’t vote, I don’t have a right to complain about what happens in society. Honestly, I have yet to see how not voting removes my right to complain. My not voting could be a protest about what happens in society when the political process is not accessible to “regular” people; when partisan politics alienates the country; and when corporate interests remove what power my vote might have.
Speaking of the power of my vote, I have been told that my vote is my voice such that if I don’t vote I don’t have a voice. I believe voting is not that straightforward, cause-and-effect process we would like it to be. If voting were straightforward, would the electoral college exist? Would lobbyist have access to politicians? Would political ads be as prolific and profitable for the media?
It is my responsibility as a citizen to know why I am voting for a particular candidate beyond sound bites and dog whistles. It is my responsibility to reflect on my priorities and determine which candidate truly aligns with my priorities as far as it is possible. As an educator, I think it is important to help students think critically about the electoral process in this country and their participation in it.
[NOTE: This blog post is a response the a hypothetical scenario linked here.]
Pertinent factors in the Roseflower Independent School District align with the Town of Greece v. Galloway, 572 US ___ (2014) and the Lee v. Weisman 505 US 577 (1977) cases. In Lee v. Weisman, Weisman sued to halt the practice of the principal inviting clergy to offer prayers of invocation and benediction at local middle school graduation ceremonies. Similarities to the Roseflower case include a representative of a school system involved in implementing overtly religious activity at a school-sponsored event and prayer being held at a school-sponsored event as part of a generally accepted practice, but not an explicit policy. I have considered the decision of the Supreme Court and the concurring and dissenting opinions in this response to Rosewood.
In Town v Galloway, Galloway sued to end the practice of prayer at local legislative sessions predominantly led by Christian clergy from among the community to the apparent exclusion of other faiths. The Roseflower case is similar in that prayer was led by a predominantly by a Christian, prayer started a meeting of the school district’s governing body in which meeting participants were fulfilling either their roles as employees or as part of their civic duty.
As Assistant Superintendent of Human Resources, I would consult the legal counsel for the school district, particularly since Dr. Cohen is willing to file suit if necessary. I would want to know if the school district or the state has any restriction on prayer in public schools and if there had been previous issues regarding prayer in school. The personnel aspects of this situation center on the power and authority commiserate with Dr. Jordan’s position as Superintendent. The fact that her subordinates are in attendance at the administrative meetings in which these prayer moments take place can be viewed as coercive. Ostensibly, those under her authority are compelled to stand in a circle, holding hands while she leads in prayer, invoking God. There is no indication that she allows for those who are not in agreement to leave nor does she hold the prayer prior to the formal start of the meetings thereby making the prayer participation voluntary. In order to avoid these prayer moments, her subordinates would have to intentionally arrive late or overtly dissent. Dissent during the meeting could be taken as disrespect not only for her authority, but for the administrative team as well.
Once I have sought legal counsel, I would speak with Dr. Jordan about Dr. Cohen’s complaint about the prayer at the administrative meetings and at the school board meetings, making her aware of the potential for legal action. I would make her aware of the likely violation of the Establishment Clause. I also would encourage Dr. Jordan to consult with the District lawyer as well. I seek to facilitate a conversation between Dr. Jordan and Dr. Cohen to give him an opportunity to personally express his views hoping to avoid a contentious relationship. In order to facilitate a mutual agreement, I would suggest that Dr. Jordan consider making the prayer optional just prior to the start time of the administrative meeting for those who want to participate. Although it is unclear whether Dr. Jordan also started the school board meeting prayer, I would suggest the meetings begin with a centering moment in which attendees can pray, meditate or pray silently if they so choose.
It is easy to think about power as a top-down, dominance concept, particularly in the western world. The prevailing conception of power has been promoted by the male-dominated field of business. Even historically, when reflecting on the founding of America, the idea of aggressive male power is pervasive as we use the language “founding fathers”, “pioneering”, and “the conquest of native lands and peoples”. The political use of power especially brings to mind manipulation of others for one’s own purposes, the unequal distribution of resources, and the conflict that arises from that context. Power as a concept seems to be rooted in concepts of masculine aggression that influences through force. Even commercials promoting success refer to conquering the day and being the strongest.
However, Fenner (2002) posits that the lived experiences of women in leadership reflect a poststructural concept of power. The poststructural concept of power is the idea of “power with” others in relationship. It seems women in leadership positions, particularly in the context of school administration, make use of their power in ways that engender trust, use emotions, nurture growth, reciprocity and collaboration (Fenner, 2002). Women in leadership tend to use power in non-traditional ways, although we hardly see these actions as use of legitimate power. We rarely see those concepts as positive examples to be emulated.
In this current era of empowering women, the view of empowerment seems to be the more aggressive idea of power associated with masculinity. Drive, boldness, and assertiveness are elevated. Even young girls are encouraged to exert their personal power in these ways. But I wonder if framing power in this context will exclude yet other girls, and even boys and men, from recognizing their power as legitimate if it is not expressed in these traditional ways. I think we need to use caution in limiting what power looks like while we seek to progress beyond traditional male-dominated leadership stereotypes. We are still modeling ourselves after the very image we say has been damaging to our society. It is time to discover a different model for power that makes room for all the ways power is expressed regardless of gender.
Fennell, H. (2002). Letting go while holding on: Women principals’ lived experiences with power. Journal of Educational Administration, 40(2), 95-117. Retrieved from http://proxy.library.vcu.edu/loginurl=https:// search-proquest-com.proxy.library.vcu.edu/docview/220453370? accountid=14780