Election Day for Ohio Issue 2, the taxpayer veto of Senate Bill 5, will finally arrive on Tuesday. Once the results are in, many smart analysts for media, political parties, unions, and think tanks will be studying the entrails to determine what we’ve learned from Senate Bill 5.
But we don’t need to wait that long to note three critical lessons that public educators should take away from these past nine months. And maybe we shouldn’t: by identifying them now, they won’t be contaminated by our reactions to Election Night.
So regardless of the outcome on November 8, I would suggest that our future survival as a profession–not just here but across the country–may depend on the intelligence with which we understand these lessons and the speed with which we apply them.
I call these the “three things that matter”:
- leadership matters;
- elections matter;
- ideas matter.
I. Leadership matters.
This campaign reminds us once again of the overwhelming importance of leadership. We’ve seen over and over again that strong local leadership can make the difference between a proactive and a reactive membership. We have seen this consistently over relatively peaceful years–in negotiations, in professional development, in legislative awareness, and in member protection. If we find it to be true in calmer times, we shouldn’t be surprised that we find it during a crisis.
Among our locals, the ones that most readily influenced this campaign were the ones that were already positioned to do so. During years of relative peace, they had organized themselves so that when war came, they were ready to fight.
Let me be clear: I don’t mean to imply that many previously sleepy locals didn’t eventually do heroic things. What I do mean to say is that locals that got a crash course in local leadership would be unwise to forget those lessons now. We will need that leadership in the years ahead, no matter what happens on Election Day.
When I talk about leadership here, I am not speaking only of the actions of elected or appointed local leaders. Voicing an opinion or asking a question at a membership meeting is leadership. So is volunteering for a task that needs to be done. So is refusing to go along with an injustice. Crises have a way of bringing rank-and-file members into both formal and informal leadership roles. We must not waste this crisis. We must find ways for members who have just now become motivated and involved to stay that way. And that is the role of elected and appointed local leaders, and it will be their unique challenge in the months and years ahead.
This crisis brought the importance of leadership into sharp focus. It might never have happened in so spectacular a fashion if we hadn’t lost an election in 2010. Which brings us to my next point: elections matter. I’ll have more on that tomorrow.