Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Voting remains our shared responsibility

News column

As the world situation becomes ever more worrisome, we are reminded once again what sets us apart as one of the greatest powers on earth — our democratic system of governance and our freedoms. Neither comes without a price — and that price is the responsibility to vote. We all know voting is our right. We sometimes forget it is our duty as well, as citizens in a democracy.

Throughout history people have sacrificed their lives for the freedom to vote, and throughout our shrinking world they continue to do so in an effort to elect leaders and influence policies. Yet many in our communities continue to take that right for granted, or relinquish it all together. Statistics from the last California primary show that only 18 percent of registered voters took part in this important civic responsibility.

On Tuesday, Nov. 4, or by absentee ballot in the weeks leading up to that date, citizens will once again have the chance to make their choice among candidates for federal, state, and judicial offices, as well as school district, special district, and city offices. The ballot will also contain important state and local measures. Once again, apathy or lack of participation will be the greatest threats to the outcome.

I view elections and initiatives through the lens of what is best for children. Because they can’t vote, it is up to us to determine how best to ensure a strong, healthy promising future for this next generation.
  
Many of the candidates have very clear-cut positions on children’s issues and programs. Plus, several ballot measures and propositions will have direct impact on the children of this state and our community. Several school board seats are also up for election, with direct influence on local school districts.

Parents and adults who advocate for young people can make sure, by their vote, that government will make children a priority in policy matters. As Thomas Jefferson said, “In a democracy, agreement is not essential, but participation is.”

What kind of a nation would we become and what kind of government would we have if people no longer participated?

As we cast our votes for candidates and initiatives, we will be setting priorities for this decade and beyond.

As an educator, I am a strong supporter of school districts’ efforts to support and serve the children and young people in their charge. In this election, several school bonds will appear on the ballot, including Carpinteria, College, Montecito, Santa Maria-Bonita, and Santa Barbara City College. Some of the state propositions will also have a direct or indirect effect on school districts. I urge you to get the details of the measures that will affect your family, and cast an educated vote on the various measures.

Santa Barbara County Clerk Recorder Joseph Holland maintains an informative voting website at sbcvote.com. The California League of Women Voters also provides current voting guides at votersedge.org.

I urge all members of our community to learn the positions of various candidates and the details of the various measures, and to use that knowledge to take part in this important aspect of our democracy. Exercise your right to vote and encourage others to do so as well. It’s the price we pay for our freedoms.



Firearms at home

Radio Commentary

More than 22 million U.S. children live in homes with firearms.
  
In 43 percent of those homes, the guns are not locked up or fitted with trigger locks, according to a national survey.
  
The study, reported in the "American Journal of Public Health," analyzed gun storage practices in six thousand nine hundred households with children.

The study found that nine percent of homes keep firearms unlocked, and loaded. Those homes represent 1.7 million children.
  
Another 4 percent of the homes have guns that are unlocked and have ammunition nearby.
  
That means that about 2.6 million homes had firearms stored in a way most accessible to children.

Researchers found that many parents know guns should be locked up but there is a disconnect between knowledge and action.
  
They may think the top shelf of a closet or a sock drawer is secure. But children are notoriously curious and may find them anyway.
  
Experts say parents should look at their own firearm storage and ask pointed questions about weapons at their friends' homes as well.

This is one area where it’s not possible to be too cautious. 

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Balanced eating

Radio Commentary


Many experts feel that far too much attention is placed on the body shape. This can translate into eating disorders for young teenage women.

It is also true that being seriously overweight can cause long-term health problems that should be avoided.

Parents can help children maintain a healthy balance. If they aren’t hungry at mealtime, don’t insist they clean their plates.

Parents should also observe how their children signal true hunger.

Sometimes young people will ask for food or say they are hungry when they are merely bored, lonely, or frustrated.

Try to determine whether the child is truly hungry. If not, help him find other ways to address boredom or frustration.

It’s also important to encourage physical activity. Discourage long hours spent in front of the TV or computer. Enjoy activities with your children. They are more likely to take part if you play along with them.

Also, be a good role model. Eat healthy foods and avoid inactivity. Children with overweight parents are twice as likely to become overweight as well.

Remember, though, to strike a balance in paying attention to weight. Too much focus can backfire and cause an eating disorder.

As always, moderation is the key.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Calendar habit

Radio Commentary

Which people are the most successful in life? Sometimes we see that it is not necessarily those who are the brightest or the most highly educated or the most well-intentioned.

Sometimes success is simply a function of being well-organized and staying the course. Woody Allen made famous the quote that “80 percent of success is showing up.”

Whether a child is in school or outside the classroom, being organized before showing up is an important trait that can make a real difference.

One good way to help children get in the habit of being organized is to buy them a big calendar. It should have lots of space to write on each day. The bigger, the better.

Encourage children to write key dates on the calendar, such as birthdays, school holidays, medical appointments, and planned outings.

Have them mark the dates they have to be somewhere regularly, such as after-school sports practices or music lessons.

Next, have them add the due dates for homework assignments, especially those that will take time to complete. And be sure they write in dates for exams.

Help children get into the habit of checking the calendar every weeknight for the next day’s activities. Talk about what needs to be done to prepare. Sunday night is a good time to check on what’s happening throughout the following week and to add new things that are coming up.

In many families, a calendar has proven to be the key to helping children schedule time wisely and stay organized — a habit that proves valuable throughout life.

Friday, October 17, 2014

College visits

Radio Commentary

The search for colleges can be very stressful. Parents can help in the decision-making process by planning visits to campuses.
  
They can also help students prepare questions to ask during the visits. Here are some suggestions:

What are the strongest departments and most popular majors at the school?

What is the average class size? Is it different for freshmen?

How do I compare academically with students already attending the school? What kinds of cultural, athletic, or literary activities are offered on campus?

What kind of housing is available? How many students are members of fraternities and sororities?

What support services are available to students? General counseling? Health care? Tutoring?

Are there any overseas or exchange programs?
  
What percentage of students receive financial aid?

Do you consider this a safe campus?

What do most students do after they graduate? What kind of student is generally happiest at this college?

Selecting a college that will provide a good “fit” often rests on intangibles – a feeling students get when they walk around the campus.

But answers to these questions can help students narrow down whether a particular college might be right for them.