The Education First flyer that had been circulating around SLCC prior to November 4 has sparked controversy among a small portion of the student body. The Education First movement seeks to increase funding for education, but some believe their methodology for achieving this goal is immoral. A minority counter movement with this alternative perspective was initiated the same day the Education First flyer circulation ended, with its founder circulating counter-statement flyers offering an alternative perspective. This movement, known as Education Second, seeks to reform politics first and focus on increasing funding for education second.
You wouldn’t be able to tell by looking at the flyer, and I’m sure only a tiny fraction of the 33,000 Utah college students who signed it are aware of this fact, but Education First is a PAC (Political Action Committee). These are organizations that engage in the practice, routine these days but still morally questionable to many, of supporting candidates, financially and otherwise, on their journeys to get elected. The people who see this convention as questionable believe that politicians are being bribed and jerked around by their donators; being forced to sacrifice their own morals by accepting support from causes they don’t believe in so they can stay competitive in elections.
The primary methods of Education First, according to the organization’s chair, Nolan Karras, are to seek out and recruit political candidates who promise to take action to achieve more funding for education, and then lending their support to these candidates in two ways; backing their campaigns financially, and training people loyal to Education First to become delegates in local caucuses. The delegates are the ones with the power to decide which candidates are put on the ballots.
I have spoken with many different people in researching this issue, mostly students, but also people in key leadership positions such as the Chair of Education First, the SLCC Director of Student Life and Leadership, and the SLCC Student Body President. There seem to be two major perspectives in this argument, both logically sound with reasonable underlying assumptions.
On one side we have the mindset that accepts the reality of working in the political landscape that already exists as a foregone inevitability, a landscape where money is necessary and integral to political campaigns. People who are on this side of the fence tend to be highly practical and are perhaps seen as overly jaded to the more idealistic eyes found in the Education Second movement. They tend toward the notion that the political climate is the way it is because of human nature and that the psychological mechanisms of humans are not something we have much control over.
According to the alternative perspective, which offers a more long-term solution, it is in fact possible for the system to be changed and we can and should get this kind of money out of our political campaigns. These people think that by eliminating what they see as this corrupting factor, money in politics, the system will right itself and funding for education will naturally become plentiful. People with this perspective may be seen as dreamers by those who side with PACs such as Education First.
This controversy raises many interesting questions and some believe it is impossible to know for sure which side is correct. For many it all comes down to one simple question: How much faith do I have in humanity?