By Jack “Alex” White III, columnist ~ “Small towns, big potential”
Our elementary schools are falling apart, the school system is chronically underfunded, and personnel shortages have become a fact of life as remaining teachers and staff learn to survive underpaid (and underappreciated). Many even have to buy their own classroom supplies.
In an ideal world, parents would team up with teachers to advocate on those issues through letters, emails, speeches, organizing, and attending local meetings. Instead, the most important things seem to fall by the wayside in favor of performative fights with little real substance.
This is usually what happens in national politics, where you are more likely to hear a fiery debate about a tweet, choice of words, or the latest “he said, she said” than anything of import (like, for example, the decline of the middle class, overly powerful corporations, or housing affordability).
In the last few years, I am afraid that these distractions have made it to the local level. Even as our local population stagnates, rural newspapers falter, and local government becomes less effective, it feels like we only care about those issues which simply serve to “piss us off.”
Our school system is the perfect example. I see good people on all sides emphasizing everything BUT the fact that our schools are underfunded and falling into a state of disrepair.
Just imagine if we saw as many posts about budget shortfalls and crumbling buildings as those parroting cable news talking points (which are essentially designed to make our “blood boil”).
What if we actually followed the other two dozen school board meetings that are held every year instead of just the one or two meetings that make us mad? What if we decided to put as much energy into fighting FOR our schools as we do fighting the “culture war” in them?
What if we chose to get angry TOGETHER instead of getting angry at EACH OTHER?
It takes very little to be bitter at the world around us. It takes hard work to make it better.
Jack “Alex” White III is the Executive Director of the Rural Leadership Initiative and the District 1 Representative on the Page County Economic Development Authority — where he was reported to have been “Virginia’s youngest government official” at the time of his appointment.
Alex is a lifelong native of Page County, a graduate of Luray High School
and is currently enrolled at Harvard University.