GARY SHIFFRIN: Get Out and Vote On Nov. 4
By Gary Shiffrin // September 10, 2014
“As election day approaches please get out and vote and make sure the day after Election Day you can say you participated in the democratic process which is reserved for only those countries who believe in freedom and liberty.”
It’s A Civic Privilege To Participate In Elections
As I reflect back on my career in education, maybe the time I felt I made the biggest difference in the lives of those I touched was when I was a teacher at Melbourne High School in the 1970s.
It is the work that takes place in the classroom where direct instruction takes place that teachers have such an influence on the young minds they embrace.
It is the relationships that are nurtured that many of our students do not have at home that keep young people from taking the wrong path.
In other words, the power of a teacher cannot be explained in just words as the sphere of influence is truly amazing!
When I was a teacher at Melbourne High School I taught social studies including such courses as Problems of Today, Civics, American Government and American History.
It was very exciting to share with my students an understanding of what took place in our rich history but more importantly what was happening today and the issues which were directing our country.
One thing I discovered was that our students, who soon would become our productive citizens and voters, did not have any idea how our government operated and what their responsibilities were as citizens of our country.
In fact in 1976, during our bicentennial, I was contacted by a former Brevard School Superintendent, Dr. B. Frank Brown, who at the time was working with the Gallup Polling Service.
He asked me to participate with my students to take a survey to determine how much they understood about our country and what it meant to be an American citizen. The results were not shocking but they had a great influence on me in regards to a new mission.
I took what was generated by the Gallup Poll and developed a Citizen Education Program for not just Melbourne High School but also the other Brevard high schools. A curriculum and new class was implemented which addressed the deficiencies that were reflected by the survey results. The course not only included classwork but the most important element was an internship that the students had to serve.
The students went out into the community and worked alongside national and state legislators, mayors, city managers, district attorneys, judges, and other individuals who could provide greater insight into how the local, state, and national government operates.
Throughout the decades I have had more positive comments from former students who expressed appreciation for having the opportunity to participate in this program as it helped to shape their involvement in the democratic process.
And so now we ready ourselves to once again elect concerned citizens for many elected offices at the local, state, and federal level. A number of these people may be incumbents that the voters will either send a message approving what they have done during their time in office or vote for their opponent indicating they might not have been happy with the person who had held office.
And a number of those running for election may be new citizens to the process who want a chance to maybe do things differently and hopefully make a difference. In any case, all those running have willingly put themselves out there to make speeches, attend rallies, participate in political forums, stand on corners with signs, and do everything they can to convince the voters that they are the right person for the position.
As I tried to show my students at Melbourne High School close to four decades ago, it is a noble thing to run for office and hopefully get elected so you can serve the people you serve.
More importantly, I tried to instill in my students the importance of voting. I told them that as American citizens it was a privilege to have the opportunity to participate in elections. At the same time, I also told them that voting was so important so that the right people were selected to do “the people’s work.”
So as election day approaches please get out and vote and make sure the day after Election Day you can say you participated in the democratic process which is reserved for only those countries who believe in freedom, liberty, and the right to hopefully elect the best person for the job.
GET OUT AND VOTE!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Gary Shiffrin retired in 2013 after a long and outstanding career with the Brevard County Public Schools that spaned 42 years, and several schools.
He was the principal of Merritt Island High for 10 years, and before that Shiffrin spent 14 years, 10 of them as principal, at Thomas Jefferson Middle School in Merritt Island. For six years, he was assistant principal at Cocoa Beach High School.
Shiffrin served at Stone Junior High School for a year just after he had left Melbourne High School, where he started his teaching duties as an educator and coach.
Also a coach and athletic director, Shiffrin served as the commissioner of the Cape Coast Conference for 23 years and was the Space Coast’s representative on the FHSAA assembly. He was inducted in the Florida High School Athletic Hall of Fame last April.
In addition to being a regular columnist, Shiffrin covers education and prep sports for Space Coast Daily.