The short-lived decision by the Springboro Board of Education to offer Christian nationalist courses on the Constitution was one of the first controversies in the Springboro school system that I’ve watched play out from start to finish.
I can recall the first time this issue was brought before the Board at one of the many meetings which was packed with students, teachers, parents, and the local media. One of the teachers stood up and made it quite clear that the revisionist history recommended by the Board wasn’t appropriate for our children. Jim Rigano, Vice President of the School Board, responded at the meeting and many times in the media about the importance of school choice, and reassured the public that they weren’t promoting a specific point of view so much as teaching alternatives in support of critical thinking.
Much like the other “controversial issues” that the Board has raised, the issue remained on the books until they managed to find the legal means of accomplishing their goals — in this particular case, offering the courses outside of the curriculum by offering summer courses. It wasn’t until the national media caught wind of the issue that a group of Springboro alumni decided to write an open letter calling for a Citizen Advisory Committee to help solve the issues that, as the letter described, “had the startling effect on creating a united community Springboro has perhaps never seen before.”
At this moment, the open letter on Change.org has managed to secure 445 supporters in addition to the long list of signers that appear in the original letter as published in the Dayton Daily News. While it’s unclear whether the open letter from the alumni, the amount of supporters on Change.org, or the volume of blogs that have recently been written convinced the Board to drop the Constitution courses, one thing is certain, that the influence of local residents pales in comparison to the power of social media.
The call to action in the open letter to create a Citizen Advisory Committee as per Section 9140 of the Springboro School policies is an important step towards ensuring that every member of the community is heard with regards to our education system; however, in the Age of Networked Information, the creation of another committee will do little to ensure that they’re not plugged in to the same media channels as the School Board.
What we need is a 21st Century definition of a Citizen Advisory Committee, that is accessibly only by local residents. Many examples of such a committee exist online, including Reddit and Wikipedia, but the most important aspect of such a committee is its focus on locality, being accessible only by local residents. Nextdoor is one such platform that I’ve recommended elsewhere on this blog, but the question is whether or not the Board would support such a committee in the current political climate?