When is someone qualified for a given office? The answer to that question is often similar to what a Supreme Court Justice said when asked to define porn. “I know it when I see it,” he famously said. That is true of “qualifications” for public office apparently as well.
The topic came up during a discussion this past weekend on Facebook. On a group page, the subject of B.J. Fletcher possibly taking on Velvet Riggins’ seat on the Dougherty County School Board was being discussed. The post was originally placed there prior to word circulating that the governor was apparently not going to appoint anyone to fill Riggins’ seat.
However, one individual made comments about Fletcher being “unqualified” to sit on the school board. Well, I’m not one to sit by. I simply said that there were members of the school board I would have classified as “unqualified” that are doing a great job, while there are others who I thought were qualified when they first ran but have been a complete train wreck on the school board.
Here’s the thing we need to keep in mind when selecting candidates. Qualifications may well be important, but they are also often used as a smokescreen by those who fear innovative ideas. Having 30 years in the educational field is all fine and good, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that you know what’s best. After all, a long tenure in the field may make one blind to novel concepts.
This isn’t a slam on any candidates currently running. I haven’t really had much opportunity to interact with them at this point, so I’m reserving my opinions for the time being. What this is a “slam” on is the idea that qualifications are essential for public office.
There are some offices which require people to meet certain criteria. The Georgia Attorney General’s office, for example, requires someone to be a lawyer. However, school board, county commission, and city commissions aren’t among those offices. There’s a good reason for that.
You see, these offices aren’t meant to be for an “elite” to manage. Those who think a school board official should have a background in education fail to see that such criteria would create an “elite”. It would be perceived as only those with degrees in education are worthy of being listened to when it comes to education in general.
The thing is, those elected positions that require certain degrees? That’s usually because those positions require putting those degrees to work. The Attorney General, for example, still works as an attorney. However, the school board isn’t directly educating children.
Qualifications have their place. Someone who’s never run for office, never run a business, and has never really done anything has no business running for governor. However, using qualifications as some kind of checklist? I’m sorry, but elitism of that sort has no place in our political process.
Especially since we need bold, innovative thinkers on our school board. It’s going to take those kinds of people to right the ship on Pine Avenue in anything approaching a reasonable timeframe. Otherwise, we will see our best and brightest be dumbed down by a system in turmoil.