Cynicism is one of my strongest suits. It hasn’t always served me well, but it’s become a habit that I don’t often see the benefit of breaking. So I take the skeptical view and blame the old newspaper guy who said “if your mother says she loves you, check it out.”
This time of year, for cynics, is like springtime for flowers. We blossom under the election-season onslaught of campaign flyers and candidate information.
That’s why I was surprised, in a good way, by Senator Patty Murray in a meeting that Record publisher Bill Shaw had arranged last week.
Senator Murray met with a handful of reporters and editors from Sound Publishing in the Bellevue office to talk about, among other things, her plans to fix the No Child Left Behind Act, veterans services, transportation, minimum wage law and, oddly, how government works.
She did fall into a sort of patter when she talked about transportation and minimum wages, but she fell right out of it when she talked about education and veterans, a clear sign to me that those were the things driving her.
Education is her past, present and future. She was a preschool teacher who first got into politics when state preschool funding was threatened, and now, she can’t stress enough the importance of education, specifically early childhood education.
She fired statistics at us, covering the gamut of motivations, from support for the individual to support for the nation: More than half of our Kindergarten students don’t know how to turn a page or hold a pencil; China has committed to providing early education to every child before the end of this decade; our military leaders are struggling with officer recruitment, because candidates lack the required skills.
Early childhood education is part of the bill Murray co-sponsored with Senator Lamar Alexander, and she hopes it will still be there when the bill gets out of conference, but she is pragmatic about other elements.
Ever the teacher, Murray talked briefly about conference, the place that competing bills go to get debated, compromised and ultimately, voted up or down.
“Congress hasn’t functioned that way in a long time,” Murray said, so part of her goal is to also educate, or re-educate, the public on how their government is supposed to work.
That statement, more than her passion for education, or her specific suggestions for funding transportation or for helping service men and women rejoin the community and the workforce after leaving the military, is what hooked me. Whatever her reasoning, she wanted people to understand the process, to see how their government worked, and presumably, to notice when something is no longer working, like say the No Child Left Behind policy.
Before anyone can fix the system, I think it helps to understand exactly what is broken first.
This week, we have a story on Snoqualmie’s Citizens Academy, which, I have never taken, but which, for the above reasons, I heartily recommend. I was part of a very similar program a lifetime ago when I worked on a daily newspaper and the experience was eye-opening.
I thought I knew everything I needed to know about that city — except how to navigate the south end of the lake — but the first thing I learned through that program was how wrong I was.
Naturally, by the end of the course, I thought I knew everything again.