John N. Gardner Institute for Excellence in Undergraduate Education

Encourage Your Students to Make Their Wishes Known

I bet some of my readers are like me. They want this health insurance reform debate to just be over. Actually, I want more than that. I want a certain outcome of this debate. But I also want it to be over so we can move on as a country. It seems like our whole country is stalled; indecisive; just waiting for the white smoke to rise and see if we can get anything done. I hear anecdotes from all over that some of our campuses are paralyzed too. Don’t know what their budgets are. So can’t make decisions. Their legislatures won’t, can’t take action. Etc.

I think I would feel better if I knew that our students were “sounding” off. Actually, they don’t “sound off” any more with their voices. They “send off” via electronic means. That’s OK. The results could be the same. Our students had a tremendous impact on generating movement in the late 1960’s and 70’s. They helped end the war in Vietnam, for example. They made their campus cultures more open and inclusive. What difference might they make now if they let the Congressional representatives know what kind of insurance options they would like to have after they have realized their mortality and that therefore they are not going to live forever?

I would feel better if I just knew that our students were putting the pressure on their representatives to just vote this thing up or down. End the debate. Get on with it. So we could all move on. Wouldn’t you feel better if you knew they were acting like stakeholders too?

I hope you will urge them to communicate. Everybody matters in this.

-John Gardner

One Comment

  1. Thomas PaineMarch 17, 2010 at 12:12 pmReply

    FDR put it best when he stated, "The only thing we have to fear is fear itself." Far too often, today's legislators, administrators, leaders of all ilks, fear action — somehow deeming that doing nothing is best since it will allow for a more nuansced approach in the future.

    The sad thing is that this course of action actually affects the future — sometimes in more deleterious ways than if we had only done something right now. FDR also stated (when talking about his New Deal in a different speech all together) that the country needed, "Action, action, and above all else, action." We could use more of his "second rate intelligence" in many sectors of our nation's institutions today. If we cannot get it from many of our current leaders, at least we can take some solace in knowing that we can shape tomorrow's leaders at our instituions today. And part of shaping them is letting (and encouraging)them to shape us.

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