By February 16, 2015 Uncategorized 5 Comments

I am pleased to share the following guest post from Dr. Dan Vincent, a professor of Education at the University of Central Oklahoma in Edmond. I have known Dan for about fifteen years as a friend and former colleague from Jenks Middle School. Dan knows I always enjoy a well-written satire. I hope you enjoy this as much as I did.

Confessions of a Prideful Constituent

“I have been frustrated the last few years at what I perceived as arrogance on the part of lawmakers who feel they know what is best for my kids and what my profession is all about. As a parent and as an educator, I have written, called, visited in person, talked with friends, talked with strangers and even written to newspapers to get my views out. I have done my homework on many educational issues, many times spending hours devouring professional literature on topics. I have, however, recognized some pride in my approach and want to confess my pride, as a way of therapy. I have been told by great teachers that writing can be good for the soul. I need some good for my soul, so what follows is my confession of a prideful constituent, written to lawmakers.

I confess that I have thought I understood your work and what you do. Here a few items I’ve come to realize…

  • I confess that I believed there are easy solutions to complex problems. For example, I have felt that “Abandoning Fracking” (what I like to call A-F) would be a wonderful solution to the earthquakes I now feel regularly. This naïve, simple, “A-F” solution is likely much more complex than I understand; property values and public perception are likely huge players in this issue and I confess to not knowing all the details, even though I have perused a few university professors’ scholarly opinions on the phenomenon and on the “A-F.” We need to have solid, well-supported evidence before proceeding with “A-F.”
  • I confess that I thought you had time to “Read Sufficiently to Act” on every bill you voted on (what I like to call “RStA”). Like most uninformed constituents, I naively thought that you were able to carefully read, thoroughly research, and thoughtfully vote on every bill that has the potential to become law. I assumed you had all the resources you needed to treat every bill with the same detailed eye. I now realize that there are too many bills to RStA and not all bills are created equal; some come to you in a mess so you do your best with what you know. You can’t know everything about every Bill. You can’t be a Super-Lawmaker.
  • I confess that I hoped for a day our state would have “Total Legislative Excellence” (what I like to call TLE). I assumed that if we simply voted for the best lawmakers, that our chambers would be full of above-average politicians; that none would need any help in doing the complex job of governing our state. Sadly, I realize now that my desire for TLE is born out of my pride in thinking that it is statistically possible to have a majority of workers above average. It is, sadly impossible, especially when the compensation and job satisfaction are so low.
  • I have been frustrated at how such a seemingly simple job like yours could come to cause such anger in people. I have been to the Capitol multiple times; I have seen you speak on the issues; I have even seen the results of your voting. Pridefully, I equated this with knowing what you do day-in and day-out. I was wrong. Your job is likely much more nuanced than I realize; you don’t just show up, go into the room and talk / listen / evaluate bills. Your job is not simple and I should not assume that I understand all of your work.
  • I have been frustrated by your short work week and your shortened calendar year. You are only scheduled to be at the Capitol from February to May; many times you are not there on Fridays. I have assumed you did nothing while not at the Capitol. I confess I was wrong. Your job requires so much more than what the public sees; you do a lot more that is unseen. Again, I should not assume I understand your work.
  • I have been frustrated by your pay when compared to other states. I confess that when looking at regional averages, I am prone to reduce your work to simple numbers. Your work is much more than easy-to-compare numbers. But this one does sting, to be honest.
  • Likewise, I have felt that your salary and the state financial resources you use to do your job should be cut as deeply as you have cut others. I confess that this would solve very little, and probably would make things worse. I see the value in funding government so it works well.
  • I confess that I am selfish with my tax dollars. At one point, I wished I could take my tax dollars and only support programs I wanted, and only support lawmakers with whom I agreed—comparable to a legislative voucher. I now realize that one of the best parts of our democracy is that tax dollars are meant to support the public good, not meant to support the selfish ambitions of prideful citizens like myself.
  • I have been frustrated by the lack of responsiveness of some lawmakers—my emails have gone unanswered or my concerns pushed under the rug. I realize there are many rules and policies that are increasingly frustrating to you and I realize you probably get sick of me trying to tell you how to do your job, even though I have NEVER been in your shoes. I confess my pride in thinking I have better solutions than those who have devoted their life to it.
  • I confess that I equated public apathy in certain voting districts to your faults as a lawmaker. I thought, pridefully, that if you were a better legislator that you would have all constituents involved and interested in what you are doing. I now realize that constituents have many other things that occupy their minds and that many don’t have the luxury I have of being able to keep up and be involved. Many don’t value lawmaking like I do.
  • I confess my belief that I could learn all I needed to know about you based on how you voted, and that alone. I assumed that this simple Yes / No answer would give me enough information to make a value judgment on you as a person. Obviously, now I see things differently; I recognize that you are more than a single letter answer.
  • I confess that I generalized about all politicians based on my experiences with a relative few. I know how tempting it is to spew venom about your profession and I also realize how maddening that must be for you. You are human; you have feelings. You are probably stung by criticism, especially those based on ignorance. I know that feeling. It does hurt and it does seem unfair.

So, I confess that I am a prideful constituent. I confess that I don’t know your job as well as I thought I did. I confess that I take your work for granted; it is hard work and I do appreciate the sacrifices you make. I hope you approach this upcoming session with an equal humility, especially, and selfishly for issues dealing with my own kids and the education profession I love.

Dan Vincent

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