When my son registered to vote two years ago this month, he wanted to register unaffiliated. “Both parties are just corporate shills,” he said.
I had a hard time disagreeing with that point of view, but I talked him out of it with the same words my father told me thirty years earlier, when I was a new voter: “You should always join a party in a closed primary state so you can vote in a primary.”
My son listened to me, as I listened to Dad. So he was shocked when I told him that I’d gone to Town Hall this week and changed my registration from Democrat to Unaffliated in the final stage of my journey to disgust and disillusionment with the two party system.
“Welcome to my world,” he said.
At 18, I was a registered Republican. At 36, I became a Democrat. And now, as a woman of a certain age, Democratic Gov. Dannel Malloy, state Education Commissioner Stefan Pryor, Bridgeport Mayor Bill Finch, Attorney General George Jepsen, and their BFF Arne Duncan, have persuaded me to join the fastest growing voter group in both Connecticut and the country — the Unaffiliated.
As readers of my columns will know, public education is a subject of great passion for me. My grandfather was born on the Lower East Side, the first U.S. born child of Jewish immigrants from Poland. He went through the New York public school system, went to law school, became the Managing Director of United Artists and President of 20th Century Fox International. He epitomized the American Dream, and public education made it possible. Every child deserves that possibility.
I, too, owe much of my success to public schools. True, I spent five years at a private school in the United Kingdom, but for most of my education I attended public schools in Stamford. Thanks to the wonderful teachers I had at Westhill High School, I found myself just as well prepared for my undergraduate education at Duke as any of my classmates who had graduated from exclusive private schools. The fact that I obtained my bachelors degree with honors attests to that.
These days the state Department of Education judges Westhill as a failing school. Much of the time my classmates and I spent analyzing books and using critical thinking skills to write papers, is instead used for test prep and filling in Scantron bubbles. Is it any wonder that more students need remedial writing help when they enter higher education? My daughter read and analyzed a third fewer books in 10th grade honors English than I did 30 years before, hardly surprising when part of February and most of March is lost to CAPT prep and testing. With the implementation of the Common Core curriculum this will only get worse. How is this progress?
I’ve been growing disaffected with the Democratic Party for a while now, but watching Arne Duncan, Rahm Emanuel, and the Malloy administration work with anti-democratic forces and Republicans to systematically dismantle public education in this country has left me a woman without a party.
It’s not just the policy that has led me to join the Unaffiliated . . .
It’s the method.
It’s the lack of transparency.
It’s the repeated refusal or delay to comply with FOI requests.
It’s the support for mayoral control instead of a democratically elected Board of Education.
It’s the state Democratic Party and the Attorney General choosing to ignore the cesspit of corruption in Bridgeport because votes there are key to winning the 4th Congressional District.
It’s the state Board of Education and the legislature creating loopholes for Bridgeport, while students in Bridgeport continue to suffer.
It’s because a judge had to dismiss the portion of the lawsuit brought against Stefan Pryor and Paul Vallas because the state marshal hired to serve notice didn’t serve them to Commissioner Pryor correctly.
It’s because that state marshal, Charles Valentino, faces possible perjury charges for his testimony under oath related to how he served the documents. And it’s because it doesn’t smell right when that same marshal, Charles Valentino, happens to have been a member of the charter commission appointed by Mayor Bill Finch during Finch’s failed attempt to revise the Bridgeport charter to allow more mayoral control of the school board.
One of the books that has most influenced me was one I read in that 10th grade honors English class, George Orwell’s ANIMAL FARM. The reason I’ve become unaffiliated is because as I looked from one party to the other on education, “already it was impossible to say which was which.”
Sarah Darer Littman is an award-winning columnist and novelist of books for teens. Long before the financial meltdown, she worked as a securities analyst and earned her MBA in Finance from the Stern School at NYU.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Based on the dismissal of the case against Commissioner Pryor, Superior Court Judge Barbara Bellis ordered Bridgeport State’s Attorney John Smriga to look into the allegation of perjury regarding State Marshal Charles Valentino. Attorney General George Jepsen’s office reminded us that they only deal with civil matters and are not empowered to investigate criminal matters such as municipal corruption or allegations of perjury.