Well, it's that season again -- campaign season. Watching television we see one ad praising a candidate for his/her leadership followed immediately by one telling us that he/she cannot be trusted... he/she supports child abusers... he/she voted against women's rights... he/she voted to export jobs for America. You can see where I'm going with this -- if you know how the game works, you realize that both positive and negative ads are likely to be exaggerated.
However, in the land of soundbites and hyperbole, these ads work in some manner because we see them every campaign season. What is troubling is that we haven't really seen much of candidates talking about the issues, where they stand on policies, or what they will do for us if elected. It has mostly been slam after slam; a sad state of political affairs.
This high campaign season causes me to think about our responsibility to our students at Fulton-Montgomery Community College with regard to the political process. We should not attempt to sway students to vote for any particular candidate or party; however, we must encourage students to vote. Voting is a responsibility that far too many Americans ignore. Each vote counts. In one of the last election cycles a State Senate race was won by 12 votes -- that, my friends, means that each and every vote counts in these elections.
I also think that our responsibility as an institution of higher education is to encourage students to get past the soundbites and to understand the issues; try to find out where candidates stand on policies that are important to you and vote in accordance with your beliefs. Don't get sucked into the "he voted to send jobs overseas" or "she voted to take away a woman's right to choose." These issues are complex. More importantly, when making laws, there are often these little add-ons that happen so that while an elected official is voting for Veterans to get added benefits, for example, the political machine added an amendment to protect oil companies from taxation of profits. It just isn't as clear as these 30-second ads suggest.
We need to have open discussions on campus, not about each and every issue (there isn't time), but about the need to think critically regarding voting. Teaching students to look at the issues and the candidates is important, it is also difficult.
Critical thinking is one of the most difficult skills to teach when most of the students today have spent their educational experience answering multiple choice questions. We must continue to present students with the opportunities to examine issues, think about them and then express their opinions with well thought-out arguments. I know that our students are capable, I have seen them do it.
As you see the variety of attack ads on TV that make you want to move to another county, just remember that while they may have a microscopic grain of truth to them, they probably do not present the whole story, regardless of which party is sponsoring them.
Most importantly, go vote America.