Resisting the Society of “Me”

Lon Garrison, Executive Director, AASB

The following is my address to the AASB membership at the 2022 AASB Annual Conference, on November 5, 2022.

Ensuring Opportunities for all Students

As I reflected on this year’s conference theme, I thought about my previous service as a school board member and why I was so committed and passionate about the work.

I have come to realize that my greatest satisfaction as a member was not my personal accomplishments but the results of that work, with my fellow board members that created opportunities for our students to grow and succeed. To give them opportunities that make their lives better and their future communities prosper.

So, as I speak today, I want you to think about what you must do individually to commit the time and effort to advance the work of your Board and ensure opportunities for all of your students.

The success of your board as an effective governing body starts with you as an individual.

We are living in a society that is overwhelmed with the value of one’s self.  I call it the Society of ME. Somewhere over the last several decades, our society has created the paradigm that it is only “me” that matters. That I am owed some debt by this world and that my contribution is simply asserting my worth as an individual.

This is not to say that for many, society and humanity do owe them an incredible debt. We know that far too many of our fellow human beings have suffered because they were not valued as an individual or a people, and for that, I am deeply saddened and apologetic.

Nonetheless, your service as a school board member and a locally elected public servant is a way for each of you to counter this philosophy of “ME”.

Together, working with your fellow board members, you can make decisions and take actions “ensuring opportunities for all your students” if you have the will and the means.

I wanted to specifically speak to this idea of a commitment to the good of all our students because we face challenges in public education like never before. We often talk about the problems and barriers to successful public education, such as teacher, administrator, and staff shortages, old and poorly maintained facilities, mental health challenges, increasing poverty, poor nutrition, out-of-date or irrelevant curriculum, reduced or eliminated student activity opportunities…and so on.

As I think about all of the barriers and challenges I mentioned above, I have come to realize that these are simply symptoms of a culture formed by behaviors that are self-centered. We have enabled a society that puts the value of the individual above all else.

What does this have to do with your work as a school board member? I say it has everything to do with your work. Sitting on a school board, you have the power and authority to act and advocate for “all” of your students, not just a few.

As a locally elected state official, delegated the responsibility of developing and nurturing our most important and precious resource, our children. You have the capacity to begin addressing these symptoms at the root cause…creating the realization by our legislative and executive leaders that the investment and commitment to a quality public education provides a far greater and more enduring return than any PFD could ever effect.

It is up to us, we as your association, you as school boards, individual school board members, parents, community members, businesses, postsecondary education, and the many partners of public education to combat the culture and society of “Me”.

We must convince and compel our legislators, our governor, our justices, and most importantly, our own constituencies that putting the good of the whole, our students, before one’s self will allow us to “ensure Opportunities for All Students.” Not just a few.

I have a simple but fundamental request. Please prepare yourself and your board to do all you can to change the conversation from me to US. In this way, we can ensure that Alaska’s public education system can provide an excellent education for every child every day.

Thank you for your time, dedication, and passion to this important responsibility.

Lon Garrison
Executive Director, AASB