An important effort is wrapping up in the next week to collect signatures to amend Ohio’s Constitution. This endeavor is a nonpartisan undertaking intended to result in a fair process for drawing legislative boundaries (i.e., voting districts), replacing the highly-partisan process in effect currently.
At the present time, Congressional districts drawn through statute approved by majority in both houses and signed by Governor, and state legislative districts drawn by the Apportionment Board:
- Governor – John Kasich (R)
- Secretary of State – Jon Husted (R)
- Auditor – Dave Yost (R)
- Two state legislators – currently Senate President Niehaus (R), and Representative Budish (D)
After the 2010 elections, Republicans gained the apportionment board and majorities in the State House and Senate and drew lines that created an imbalance in districts that favored…the Republicans. Republicans like to claim that Democrats would have done the same had the tables been turned, so the elementary solution is to create a nonpartisan group of individuals to create legislative lines that keep communities together in a logical way.
Enter Voters First.
Voters First is a coalition of nonpartisan groups and people from across Ohio that was created to take the power over drawing our congressional and legislative districts out of the hands of the politicians and put it in the hands of the people. This campaign comes after a highly controversial redistricting process where Ohio’s district maps — drawn by the aforementioned politicians — received widespread criticism from citizens and editorial boards of major newspapers across Ohio for destroying competition, dividing communities, and giving one political party an unfair advantage over the other party.
The Voters First proposal will create an Independent Citizens Commission. Politicians, lobbyists and political insiders are prohibited from serving on the commission whose work will be open and will be accountable to the public. The Commission will empower voters to choose their politicians instead of politicians picking their voters.
This concept of fairness that was apparently beyond the grasp of our legislators’ comprehension is actually quite simple. In fact, it’s so elementary that we have included it in the recently adopted Social Studies standards in Ohio (2010) – for students to master by age 8!
The core standard that emphasizes these basic concepts is found under the heading of Civic Participation and Skills.
Civic participation embraces the ideal that an individual actively engages in his or her community, state or nation for the common good. Students need to practice effective communication skills including negotiation, compromise and collaboration. Skills in accessing and analyzing information are essential for citizens in a democracy.
In Pre-Kindergarten (i.e., 4-year-olds), we teach them that “Everyone has responsibilities within a group.”
Children are introduced to civic participation through group work and play which provide them with opportunities to practice cooperative behaviors. Pro-social behaviors include sharing, turn taking, helping, negotiating and listening.
We also help them to learn that “Relationships in families, schools and communities benefit from cooperative behaviors and problem-solving skills.”
Civic participation is introduced through cooperative behaviors and problem solving. Cooperative behaviors include helping, turn taking, sharing, comforting and compromising. Problem-solving skills at this level include negotiating roles in play and turn taking.
For those legislators that master those complex skills, we tackle more advanced topics in our Kindergarten classes (i.e., 5-year-olds). Every legislator child learns that “Individuals have shared responsibilities toward the achievement of common goals in homes, schools and communities.”
Each person in the home, school and community has responsibilities. When individuals share these responsibilities, group goals are more easily accomplished.
Identify responsibilities at home and in the school and community and describe how individuals share those responsibilities to achieve common goals.
Progressing to even more complicated learning, our first graders (i.e., 6-year-olds) learn that “Collaboration requires group members to respect the rights and opinions of others.”
As children work and play collaboratively, they understand the importance of fair play, good sportsmanship, respect for the rights and opinions of others, and the idea of treating others the way they want to be treated. This builds to an understanding of perspective and concern for the common good in later grades.
Collaborate in a way that demonstrates respect for the rights and opinions of others.
By this time we can begin to see the children understanding why the concept of drawing fair legislative districts is important for the common good, but we don’t let up. In the second grade (i.e., 7-year-olds) we really start to work on another important concept for our elected officials summarized by two simple statements, “Groups are accountable for choices they make and actions they take.” and “Personal accountability includes making responsible choices, taking responsibility for personal actions and respecting others.”
As students work in groups to solve a problem or complete a task, they understand that the group is accountable for choices made and actions taken. Students work collaboratively in groups to:
- Determine goals;
- Assign tasks for individuals;
- Complete assigned responsibilities; and
- Determine if goals are reached.
- Cooperation in group settings requires personal skills such as:
- Managing conflict peacefully;
- Displaying courtesy to others in the group; and
- Respecting others.
These personal skills build toward development of the social and emotional skills that students need to negotiate interactions and conflict resolutions with others.
Second-grade students understand that personal accountability includes:
- Making responsible choices;
- Taking responsibility for personal actions;
- Demonstrating self-direction in tasks within the school;
- Engaging in the community (e.g., classroom, cafeteria, playground); and
- Respecting others.
Sadly, Ohio’s informed second graders aren’t occupying the statehouse, so we don’t have responsibly drawn legislative lines.
So, Plunderbund readers, are you smarter than a 3rd-grader?
Here’s the test: Do you believe in the knowledge that we seek to impart in our third grade (8-year-old) students? We teach them that “Members of local communities have social and political responsibilities.” and “Individuals make the community a better place by solving problems in a way that promotes the common good.”
Local community members have social and political responsibilities that are important for preserving our democracy. Social and political responsibilities include respecting the rights of others, being informed about local issues, paying taxes, voting and obeying laws. An understanding of the social and political responsibilities of citizenship is very important to the concept of the common good (the interest or well-being of the whole community).
There are a variety of ways individuals help solve problems to make the community a better place for everyone including:
- Working to preserve the environment;
- Helping the homeless;
- Restoring houses in low-income areas;
- Supporting education;
- Planning community events;
- Starting a business; and
- Understanding differences.
Individuals participate effectively in the community when they exhibit citizenship traits such as: Civility;
- Respect for the rights and dignity of each person;
- Persistence in achieving goals; and
But if you feel that such knowledge still does not compel you to find a petition to sign, I’m promoting you to fourth grade so that you can learn that “Effective participants in a democratic society engage in compromise.”
A compromise is a settlement of differences in which each side makes concessions. Compromise is important in a democratic society, which seeks the common good.
So be a good student — click to find an event near you and sign a petition before it’s too late (i.e., next week).