So… about that election.

The resounding message of the 2016 Presidential election is that schools are responsible for preparing a voter who is informed. We want voters who can evaluate information they’re given, who recognize substance from sensationalism, and know the difference between playing politics and being played.

That future voter requires access right now to high-quality, relevant, and relatable education, school communities that encourage diversity of thought and emphasize critical thinking and analysis, and a serious attention to character building that doesn’t include hate, bigotry, violence or abuse as acceptable identifiers, no matter one’s politics.

For the first 8 years of OPEN’s work, we focused a lot on the structure of this system of schools. We continue to build on that work by turning to what’s happening in them, and the quality of what they’re producing.

We’re talking about three things here:

First, Social and Emotional Capabilities: Supporting kids’ ability to deal with the challenges and complexities of life. In practice, this looks like increased social supports in school, more and better non-instructional staff, school environments that affirm what’s good in children and practices that treat them as equally valuable and important citizens — especially when they are at their weakest and toughest to deal with.

It means equitable access to:

  • Mental and emotional health care
  • Solution-oriented restorative justice discipline practices, and
  • A school environment that looks, feels and operates like a place for healthy development and learning.

Second, Hard Skills: Students reading, writing and computing on a level on par with their international peers and equitable access to economic and professional training that open up possibilities beyond what’s given. Students, who out of high school, are prepared for academically rigorous institutions of higher learning or well-paid skilled professions that can be pursued in different geographic markets.

It means equitable access to:

  • High quality instructors with a track record of closing skill deficiencies and achievement gaps
  • STEM programming and resources across the K-12 spectrum,
  • Vocational education for the job market of today and tomorrow, and
  • Guidance and mentorship to help students chart a real and actionable path to their future.

Third, Global Citizenry: expanding students’ understanding of space, place, identity and belonging and being able to operate in a world larger than their neighborhood or city. Creating a generation of voters who understand that they have options, and can make a choice that’s “me and,” not “me against.”

It means equitable access to:

  • Accurate teaching of global studies, history and science
  • Pedagogy embedded in lived experience,
  • Emphasizing 21st century skills including information, media, and technology skills, and
  • A curriculum that requires students to practice logic and critical analysis

OPEN is focusing on what is happening in schools: the choices that educators, students, policymakers and families make every day. And we are most concerned about what the results of those elections are.

High school freshmen who are now 14 years old will be able to vote in the NEXT ELECTION. And we have the power to impact that next voting body starting with the decisions we make today.

We want to see voters that understand they are not just voting for themselves, but for millions of others. We want young voters that are ready to participate in a world bigger than their own specific issues and wants.

I’m not saying these voters need to vote for the person you or I want them to vote for. As long as they’re walking into that booth with competencies, skills, attitudes, and ways of seeing the world that will encourage them to make a choice not just for their particular interests but a choice for what is beneficial for all Americans — including those whose experience they cannot personally identify with.

For our work, just two questions remain: In the next set of elections, what kind of voter do YOU want to show up to the polls? And what are you going to do about it?

OPEN is here to help you find those answers. Ready to get started?

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© Orleans Public Education Network, 2009 — 2017.