Sounding Off:

Make the situation better rather than bail

April 05, 2010|By Todd Perkins

Like many Southern Californians, I spend a good deal of time in my car and generally listen to talk radio.

With statewide elections this year, political ads are airing more frequently, especially ads for gubernatorial candidates.

All candidates seem to agree that California is “broken,” but they obviously disagree on the remedies.

The debate reminded me of a cornerstone of our teaching philosophy at Mariners Christian School that could apply to today’s politics.

As part of our curriculum, we often look to institutional history and past success as points of comparison. This year, our fourth-graders studied early California history and learned of the struggles of our state’s early leaders. Those lessons of the past can surely be used today.


We also look to comparable schools in the area to assess our effectiveness and well being. As one would guess, our parents do the same thing and will make the decision to leave, if we do not measure up to other programs or to our own past glories.

We need to do the same thing in choosing political leaders. How does California compare to other states? What ideas and systems work well in other states and shouldn’t we expect our leaders to live up to those high standards?

To be sure, each candidate is seeking the support of voters to restore California to a former, better state or to at least initiate reforms that will result in a higher quality of life for all citizens.

These messages imply something we all sense about our current conditions. Namely, the understanding that a better California existed at some time in our past and a nearly universal desire to restore those conditions. I think this also speaks, indirectly, to something that is ingrained in American culture.

Americans have an almost insatiable wanderlust and desire to improve on current conditions. The same motivations that drove Europeans to a new world and Eastern colonists to the frontier still dwell within us.

We are a restless people and boundaries do not suit us. In many ways, California is the ultimate realization of this drive toward new lands, new developments and opportunities just beyond the horizon.

But what do we do when there are no new lands and we are forced to restore what we own? This is the situation we face as a state and it is not something that makes us comfortable. We also face similar situations in our institutions and homes, as we compare ourselves to conditions of the past or other benchmarks with fewer options than we’ve had before.

Too often, our nature is to leave for the next best thing, not to stay and make the situation better. As Californians choose the best path forward, I pray that we look to restore what we have rather than abandoning it for the promise of what may be over the next hill.

TODD PERKINS is interim head of Mariners Christian School in Costa Mesa.

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