I, for one, had become increasingly disenchanted with the incredible levels of negative campaigning and, as a result, concerned for the present and future leadership of our country. As a school administrator, I see students today show a growing lack interest in politics as they witness the ugly underside of the political world. How, then, can we as educators fight this trend and continue to develop students into the public servants that our community and our country so desperately need?
The mid-term elections featured unusually negative campaigns from both sides, leaving us with a terrible taste for the world of politics and, in many cases, a serious distrust for the ultimate winners. Campaigns dug up unflattering pictures of their opponents and linked them in ads with “facts” that, upon closer examination, frequently bore little relation to the truth.
Candidates on the campaign trail often seemed only interested in completely discrediting their opponents by whatever means necessary, with little time spent discussing their ideas for bringing about positive changes in our communities and our country. Considering this type of negative campaigning, it is a wonder that anyone votes. And it’s a wonder that anyone chooses to run for office, potentially exposing themselves and their families to a public battering.
The simple reality is that negative campaigning diminishes both candidates and the entire body politic. Intelligent and talented individuals who could serve as competent leaders simply cringe at the idea of facing false accusations and prefer, instead, to protect their families and themselves.
As an educator, I know the importance of having schools develop effective leadership in students, giving them an insight into the world of civic duty and service and offering them opportunities to take on real decision making roles with real responsibilities.
Our challenge is to combat students’ growing cynicism as they witness the current state of politics in our country. Schools can do this in several ways. We can bring candidates to our campuses to talk about the issues and answer students’ questions. We can educate students to delve beneath the surface of what is reported and shown in the media in order to form their own opinions. And we can provide significant leadership opportunities to young people of all ages within the context of clearly stated expectations.
At Maui Prep, two of our school core values particularly apply: 1) Exemplifying the Highest Moral and Ethical Behavior (in our lives and in our interactions with others); and 2) Accepting and Appreciating the Differences of Others (allowing us to grow with open minds and kind souls).
In this way, we can contribute positively to the development of a new generation of civic leaders who will work together to make a positive difference in our communities and our country.