Written by Mary Hartman, Dighton Herald, February 2017 – Students at DHS were given the opportunity to learn how to be persuasive with Advocacy Day on Friday, January 6, 2017 for their citizenship education.
Eight dignitaries from state government, education and the private sector were on hand to break into groups with the high school students in order to pass along tips about how to be a persuasive advocate for whatever they feel strongly about.
Randy Watson, Kansas Commissioner of Education; Rod Haxton, Publisher/Editor of the Scott County Record and the Advocate; Gary Sechrist, Leadership Services for Kansas Association of School Boards; John Polzar, Assistant Secretary/Chief Administrative Officer for Kansas Department of Labor; Sally Cauble, Kansas State Board of Education for District 5; Derek Schmidt, Kansas Attorney General; Dave Heinemann, Attorney; and Keven Ward, Consultant for the Trane Company had the opportunity to visit with all the students, share their knowledge and entertain questions as they each had their stations and students rotated through in 20 minute intervals.
Attorney General Derek Schmidt spoke with students about approaching a state legislator. He had three points he felt make a successful advocate. The first is to make sure you approach the correct person. You need to know if they can help your particular cause. The second is don’t approach with a chip on your shoulder or get defensive. Just make your point and listen to the response. It helps, Schmidt said, to remember that they are just people too and it will help your cause if you listen and try to pick up on moods that may affect the way you make your approach. He reminded students that the job of a legislator is part time and representatives do have stresses such as their jobs back home. “While you are sitting there, talking about your issue, keep that in mind. They only have a short time to get the job done they’ve come to do,” he said in urging advocates to keep their point succinct.
In the afternoon a presentation by Randy Watson was opened to the public. Members of both the school and the general public were present to hear of the exciting things happening Kansas Education.
Watson began by saying our community school should reflect Dighton values and the Commission will give local schools greater latitude in deciding what is best for our students. Although test scores are important, it shouldn’t determine what is best for each student as individuals.
Over 2000 Kansans, from business leaders to parents and everyone in between participated in questions presented by ten members of the state board of education. The results of which, Watson stressed, were not from one certain group of people, but from Kansans from all walks of life.
“We went to 20 different communities, all across Kansas, and ask them three questions,” Watson explained. From these questions, “We watched this new vision come about in 2015.” 70% of Kansans said success is not measured on a standardized test, they need to show up on time, persevere, work hard, set goals and have character. 81% of these business people, CEO’s, mom and pop stores, construction companies etc. said, “We have to hire people that don’t know how to work. You are not producing people we need.” Businesses are not seeing the same work ethic today that we had a generation ago, Watson said. “Changes have to be made in school culture.”
“In our small groups today when I asked students how many liked school, the majority said they loved it, but there was always one student that said ‘I don’t like it,’” Watson said. One said he liked to work, but didn’t like school. “I loved looking at these students today to find where their passion is.”
The study showed that students who do not participate in activities or go on to college are not treated with the same accolades as the student graduating and going on to college. This has to change. “Schools need to be re-organized around our children and not toward the system,” Watson said. Every student takes the same course of study with some electives. Graduation requirements come from the Board of Regents and are requirements to go to a four-year college. “There is nothing wrong with those who want to go to 4 years of college, but we need to accommodate those students that don’t,” Watson said. Survey participants said we need to change the system to revolve around the kid. “The majority of our kids that go to a four year college from a small Kansas town, don’t go back,” Watson said.
Giving back to others, community service, was also a desirable attribute indicated by those surveyed. The committee believes more recognition needs to be made of those attaining Eagle Scout for instance.
71% of the work force environment needs some kind of further education today. Most kids today will need a technical certificate or a college degree. Scholarships for sports are good but not a life goal Watson said. “We need to be asking, ‘what do you want to be, not where are you going to go.’” He believes we need to be helping kids find their passion.
Veteran teachers, those who began teaching prior to 2000, are going to have to train those that began teaching after 2000 how it was not to teach to the test. “We have a system that is going to have to change,” Watson said.
“No one in Topeka has the answer of your community but you have,” Watson said. “We, the state board and I, are going to give you the freedom to re-think this thing called education because you know what you want for your kids. That’s what school should be, helping every one of our kids be successful.”