Nearly half of Kansans fail simple test

Nearly half of Kansans fail simple test

August and November are coming: How will you score on this important metric?  

Although they originated with a Kentucky court case, the seven Rose Standards are well known to Kansas educators and policymakers. Cited by the Kansas Supreme Court, adopted by the Kansas State Board of Education, voted into law by the Legislature and signed by the governor, there is general agreement the standards are an excellent foundation upon which to build a system of education. There is also general agreement that the standards are difficult to measure.

Serving on the Governor’s Education Council and co-chair of the council’s metrics committee brings me more opportunity to think about how we measure school success, especially as we think about the Rose Standards.

Because one of the best measures of an education is how it is used over a lifetime, I jokingly suggested we develop an obituary/eulogy rubric. While much better ideas are being discussed, one thing for certain is we have the opportunity to measure two of the Rose Standards coming up in the next few months, both with one simple “yes/no” question.

The second Rose Standard states that a student should have “sufficient knowledge of economic, social, and political systems to enable the student to make informed choices.”

The third standard requires “sufficient understanding of governmental processes to enable the student to understand the issues that affect his or her community, state and nation.”

If those two standards are learned, the student will show mastery by voting in every election for which they are eligible. “Yes” or “No,” did you vote? It has been estimated 45 percent of eligible voters in Kansas stayed home in 2016, thus failing our simple mastery test.

In spite of the fact that four of the amendments to the U.S. Constitution deal directly with keeping paths to the ballot box open, nearly half of Kansans choose not to go. Certainly, there are those who prefer small turnout and want to make voting a privilege instead of a right, but over our nearly 250-year history, Americans have acted consistently to ensure this important right.

In 1869 the 15th Amendment prohibited the denial of voting rights based upon race. In 1920, half of the population was added to the voting roles by the 19th Amendment. In my lifetime, using poll taxes to keep people from voting was banned by the 23rd Amendment and the voting age was moved from age 21 to 18 by the 26th Amendment.

As a former government teacher, it hurts to know almost half of my former students are not exercising this important right. The two Rose Standards I was supposed to teach have not been met by even the simplest of standards.

My hurt feelings matter far less than the “Night of Terror” victims who were jailed and tortured for protesting for women’s suffrage in 1917. A movie made the Mississippi Burning victims famous by documenting how they died registering voters in the 1960’s South. Deacon Jimmie Lee Jackson was shot after attempting to register for the vote five times as depicted in the movie “Selma.”

I may have failed with my students, but maybe I can succeed with you. I am confident that school leaders are voters, so this is not a call for you to vote. This is a call to you to help your friends and neighbors understand and care about the issues enough that they go out and vote!