Virtual Voices

Politicians' promises, promises

Campaign 2008

Every time I hear a political candidate utter a sentence fragment I think of the 80's song "Promises, Promises" by the band Naked Eyes with lyrics reading, "You made me promises, promises/Knowing I'd believe/Promises, promises/You knew you'd never keep."

I live in, arguably, the worst school district in the St. Louis area (on purpose). Since nobody wants to live here you can get a fairly large old home, with character, for pretty cheap. Last night, a guy running for a seat in the Missouri House of Representatives came by promising to improve the Normandy School District (my district) because it's on the verge of loosing its accreditation. "Three cheers," I say. I actually want the state to take over so they can shut the whole thing down and start over, or turn it over to a private firm. It's so bad here that many families in the area either home school their children or place them in one of the various church schools.

His "plan" to repair this horrible district included proposals like "after-school programs," "tutoring," etc., in order to increase performance and graduation rates. However, he failed to mention two major items: (1) the school district needs all new teachers and administrators, and (2) parents need to take an active role in being involved in their children's education along with providing a stable home life. He can't fix that.

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The promise-making pontificator also said he was going to improve the neighborhood economy by bringing in better restaurants, more grocery stores, and a movie theater because gas prices are so high and "people shouldn't have to drive far to get the things they need." In this neighorhood, he means driving two miles instead of five. Wait a second, I thought those businesses weren't here because they wouldn't be profitable.

There were tons more promises. He was walking up and down my block sharing these fantasies about his magical political powers. I wanted to hand him a Bible and an economics book (Thomas Sowell's Basic Economics) so he'd learn that you can't fix education without strong families and quality teachers and you can't "bring in" businesses that are not going to be profitable. Otherwise, they would already be here like the stupid Rent-n-Roll place nearby where you can rent-to-own rims for your dumb car for 30 bucks a week!

My neighborhood is plastered with payday loan stores and fast food restaurants because those stores have strong market share here. The school district's horrible because it's grossly mismanaged, poorly staffed, and many parents aren't in good positions to help their kids learn. What would it sound like if a politician promised all the things government can't do?

Anthony Bradley
Anthony Bradley

Anthony is associate professor of theology and ethics at The King's College in New York and serves as a research fellow at the Acton Institute for the Study of Religion and Liberty. He is author of Liberating Black Theology. Follow Anthony on Twitter @drantbradley.

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