The elected representatives in Ohio have been considering how they can get legislation in place to let teachers know in grades K-12 that they cannot evaluate students’ work, either positively or negatively, based on what position students hold in regard to religion.
Most of us learned a long time that religion and politics are best left out of conversations at social events (Were there explosions at your recent Thanksgiving meal because someone ignored this advice?), and I would recommend that Ohio legislators drop the subject. We pay teachers to make these decisions and most of them are doing a fine job, thank you very much.
Since studying American history and government in high school and college, including graduate school, I am well aware of the ongoing debates and conflicts about states’ rights versus federal laws.
I’d like to introduce an example by referring to a topic I have been researching recently and for which I hope to find a publisher — the handling of poisonous serpents in religious ceremonies.
I have my own opinion on this matter, and I’m sure you do as well. The bottom line is that it’s none of my business or yours. I write to educate, and as I approached this topic, I did so with an open mind, and I learned enough from varied perspectives to think that I have acquired more than a teaspoonful of knowledge on the subject, as my mother would say. I’ve interviewed a physician, a game warden, a person who currently is involved in this practice, and persons who have the practice as a part of their family history. I’ve researched the subject and have learned that it is illegal in Kentucky, but not in neighboring states. I’ve talked at length with a snake catcher who does not view these snakes as the enemy and have learned that fewer than 10 people die of bites in a year in the United States.
I will always grant you your First Amendment rights to free speech — although organizations and legislators continue to tinker with that. I, of course, realize the complications and dangers at times when Americans exercise that right. I read newspapers daily and am aware of, for example, the KKK demonstration in Dayton and the issue at Syracuse University where some students exited early for Thanksgiving because of “hate speech” scribbled in various places on campus even as other students prepared a list of demands in response to these incidents.
All of us know that we are a divided, fractured nation. Most of us know that compromise is essential even as we elect representatives to address the issues of health care, employment and unemployment, poverty, gun violence, war (Just take a few minutes to research the short time periods when we have not been at war) global warming, failing infrastructures, and a host of other issues.
We know that many of our elected representatives at the state and national level get involved in inappropriate issues because they are courting a particular group of voters with deep pockets and wide influence, or they want to be promoted to a higher office by seeing how many bills they can sponsor or co-sponsor. Some are control freaks and some pride themselves on being single-issue politicians, while others seek major media attention and love to see their faces on television as they talk about subjects that demonstrate how poorly informed they are.
As tough as some of the real issues are, I, and perhaps you, want our representatives to do the work we hired them to do when we elected them to office. Read, research, deliberate, compromise, and make decisions that will move us forward as a country. We want them to help us realize what our founders knew: as a nation we are in the process of becoming what we might be. This means there is no time to be wrangling about issues that frankly are the decisions of others, not yours or mine.
A final note: What if in your place of employment you decided to spend your time in ignoring your job description while you engaged in issues that only peripherally could be considered in your wheelhouse? You’d get a swift kick in the pants as you were shoved out the door.
Vivian B. Blevins. Ph.D., a graduate of The Ohio State University, served as a community college president for 15 years in Kentucky, Texas, California and Missouri before returning to Ohio to teach telecommunication employees from around the country and students at Edison State Community College and to work with veterans. You may reach her at 937-778-3815 or firstname.lastname@example.org.