When I rely too heavily on one news source too long, I tend to see everything in life through my Cable News Goggles,and it’s terrifying!  Regardless of which “lens” I choose, I walk away wondering if I need to build a bunker. Sometimes, so I can pretentiously claim to be unbiased, I flip back-and-forth between opposing news sources. This only makes things worse, and I am absolutely certain that I need a bunker, but that’s tricky in Oklahoma. How do you build a good bunker that simultaneously protects against climate change and the impending takeover of the CPC in a place with porous clay soils beneath and tornadoes above? 

Clearly, our Cable News Goggles are not always accurate or healthy lenses on the state or local level. National news feeds provide excellent, far-away perspectives, but they also offer more opinions and less helpful information. Consequently, we rarely have consistent information about COVID or the ice sheets in Antarctica, but we always know what “experts” think. Instead of news, it has become my daily affirmation that my views are not only rational and healthy but also absolutely correct. Eventually, I no longer tune in to hear what “my side” is thinking; I tune in to hear what I am supposed to think. Like driving a car through binoculars, that’s when Cable News Goggles become dangerous. We cannot confidently use faraway, partisan lenses when looking at state or local issues.

In recent years, Oklahoma seems to increasingly make local and state decisions based upon or in reaction to national politics, and education is a prime example. National Democrats fight for more money for ineffective programs, and National Republicans fight to subsidize private schools without any accountability for the public funds. Simultaneously, both suffocate schools with unproven regulations and cookie-cutter solutions that change as often as the graduating class. Advocates for smaller government want bigger class sizes schools – for other people’s kids. And advocates for bigger government want more untested programs – for other people’s kids. 

Just as Oklahomans don’t like faraway strangers telling us what to do, we don’t always want national, partisan solutions to local or state issues. Okies want Oklahoma solutions, and thankfully, most Oklahoma legislators are still Oklahomans first. Even when they are undeniably Republican or Democrat, they are first Oklahomans, and they will work together – against national narratives – to find an Oklahoma solution. We have seen that so far in this legislative session related to the complex issue of school choice. Yes, Oklahomans support school choice, but they also support Public Money, Public Rules. The money may need to follow the kids, but the rules must follow, too. 

The national cookie-cutter solutions being offered in Oklahoma today are no better than the national cookie-cutter solutions implemented in 2009 through SB2033 that brought us Common Core and other stuff. Ultimately, those did not work because they were not Oklahoma solutions. Common Core was as hastily ratified as it was hastily canceled, by mostly the same legislators. We are living through that again as some hastily adopted reforms have quickly created more problems than fixes. This is what happens when we force Oklahoma into national templates – from either side of the political spectrum. 

The issue of school choice is a truly difficult but solvable issue, as long as we take off our Cable News Goggles and look at it as Oklahomans. I applaud our Oklahoma legislators, regardless of their stance, for truly looking at this complex issue as Oklahomans first. What is needed in Gotham City may not be needed in Oklahoma; likewise, what works in a faraway state may not work here. Local Okie parents and educators know their communities and public schools best, and they are not wearing their Cable News Goggles in the classroom. Local and state issues are not nearly as terrifying as they look in our newsfeeds when we look at them as Oklahomans. Nevertheless, we should probably still build those bunkers, but we can just call them fancy tornado shelters for now. 

Tom Deighan is superintendent of Duncan Public Schools. You may email him at  deighantom@gmail.com and read past articles at www.mostlyeducational.com