Monday, May 23, 2011

Politics 2 - this time it's personal

Since I've returned to school I have found myself reawakened politically. I have become more openly vocal about my feelings and viewpoints. This is a big departure for me as I have had a standing rule for years now to not discuss religion (or matters of faith, if you will - but we'll get to that directly...) or politics. Why? Well, in both cases people are pretty darn entrenched in their views and debating changes nothing and just leads to pointless arguing. So I stopped.

I have some great classmates in my Master's program, and we've been having some really good conversations, and it is in these conversations my political viewpoint has really solidified. I have found that education policy is the area that most drives me to get involved in politics. Makes sense, huh?

Anyway, one of my classmates and I were having a discussion, based on my apparently liberal leanings. She mentioned that she used to be really liberal, until she had kids; then she sort of suddenly became more "conservative" (I hope I'm paraphrasing you correctly, M:)). It struck me then that parenthood had swung me the opposite direction and I had become more decidedly "liberal" since becoming a dad.

So, for a rare occasion, I'm going to talk about how I got where I am in my world view in both matters of faith and politics. I grew up in the American South, right in the buckle of the Bible Belt and can't really remember a time growing up where church was not a major part of my life. Additionally, the South was staunchly Democrat until Reagan took office. Conservative, religious Democrats were the road-map I had in forming my view.

Here it is: I'm a Christian. I make no bones about it and am proud of my faith. I have to make a distinction here, though. I am not religious. I don't go to church regularly and I don't broadcast my beliefs; I generally (present circumstance excepted) keep my relationship with God just between him and me. I've never been comfortable as an evangelist and don't feel it my role. I am happy to discuss my beliefs one on one, but will not debate the issue, nor will I belittle an other's beliefs.

My faith has led me to embrace a political view that is based on lifting people up rather than tearing them down. Individually, political affiliation has nothing to do with this and many staunchly conservative folks I know are among the most charitable and giving I have ever met. I don't identify a party affiliation and detest the fact that America has only two parties to "represent" all of us. Neither party really speaks to or for me. So, I lean liberal, socially, economically, and environmental issue-y. I don't oppose taxes as long as they're fair and are used wisely (sue me, I'm a fiscal moderate/conservative). Does any of this really matter to you? Not necessarily, and that is just fine. I just felt like I wanted to make clear who I am and where I stand.

Thanks for reading; I've been bottling it for a while now.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

The politics of me (part 1 - the blowhard)

I think I talk too much in class.

(Oh, Tobias; you're such a blowhard!)

Not in the chitter-chat side conversation way, but in class discussions. Anyone who knows me will agree that I am quite opinionated and free with the sharing of said opinions. I never intend to be "that guy," but sometimes if I have a thought I can't keep myself from throwing it out there. I really have an insecurity about it; each week as I set up in class I tell myself I'm going to hang back in the discussion and not jump in too much. I can't help myself, though, and inevitably contribute a lot (contribute makes it sound so much more positive).

My cohort is great. We are a collection of very different people and I value the ideas, suggestions, and viewpoints of my peers greatly. I don't really know if they think I go on too much in class or not, but the thought of it bothers me more than I'd like to admit.

Why do I feel compelled to give my $.02 on everything? I'm not completely certain, but I have a couple thoughts. The main reason, I think, is that I was always taught by my parents that I should speak my mind and not be afraid to express my point of view. I'm sure there have been more than a few times they've regretted that lesson, but what are you going to do? My dad, in particular, always challenged me (in a good way) to prove my point and defend my stance. The other contributors come from adulthood. In college I hung with the  Poli-Sci crowd, so EVERYTHING was a debate, and I loved every second of it. I got fairly good at it too. Then, in my professional life I worked in places where it was every man for himself and winning the point meant job security (Work is the other thing I bring up too much in class...but it is the filter through which I view my educational journey and transformation and it's how I process and relate to a lot of the information, so, meh). I've not been in a collaborative environment in a long time, and I struggle to shake off the competitive, opinion-rich culture from which I came. I'm working on it, though and I think it's getting better.

What does this have to do with politics? Well, that upbringing I mentioned also formed my political perspective. I shout my beliefs and views from the mountaintops. I don't often seek out debate on political issues; I learned a long time ago it's as pointless as watering flowers in the rain. But, when it comes up, I have no problem speaking up and defending my position.

Stay tuned for part 2 - the windmill

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Down on the farm

This week I had the chance to join Maddie's class on a field trip to Pomeroy Farm. It was a nice day, albeit a tad drizzly. The farm is a living history site and is operated just as it was in the 1920's. The kids got to practice chores typical of a farm kid and got to make wax candles in the traditional manner. It was a fun learning experience but most of all I got to spend a great day with my kiddo. Enough talk; on with the pictures!


 cute five week old cow

 feeding the goats

grinding corn for feeding chickens
 Ham and Bacon. No seriously; that's their names.
And what they'll be in the fall!
 Stupid phone camera has no zooom. That's a horse.

 Butter Churnin'

 Scenery. I could get used to a view like this.
There's a waterfall out there; it looks like a speck here.

Maddie and her hand-dipped candle.
She made it herself!

I count myself lucky to have spent the day learning and exploring with Maddie and her classmates. I was chaperone to a group of six, including her. They were great and all seemed to have fun.