Wednesday, July 3, 2019

Mission and Values -By Michael Christensen,Board Member



Today’s political climate is highly charged and very divided. Even within parties there are differences that can be difficult to reconcile. In part, this is the human condition. We have always had bar room and dinner table conversations that are charged with more emotional responses and the occasional overstep that leads to apologies or long-term fractures in the relationship. But today we have a lot more voices that get a chance to be heard.

A strong opinion can now start from a Tweet building momentum from an ever greater majority that retweets and comments until opposing ideas are pushed into a back corner. Legal and moral judgments come in a 280 character declaration providing a new mantra for those in agreement. If not for a judicial system, we might see public hangings and witch trials easily resume. It also threatens our societal fabric.

Our social mores and democratic system are both exposed to the whims of technologies that can create digital riots with few or no boundaries. The benefits of changing long-held discriminations can also be leveraged to promote those same discriminations. The relative anonymity of the Internet gives vehement voice to good and bad ideas but are consistently exaggerated (or not) to get more likes and retweets with the hope that it goes viral. These extremes are now a defacto methodology of gaining media prominence.

WHRPG intends to drive meaningful dialogue through data-driven research, policy, and advocacy through meaningful research. We will create datasets that will produce insight that can change mindsets - even our own - and help Arizonans be informed about their community and the challenges it faces.

For example, in our first white paper, “Arizona’s ESA Vouchers,” we started with this question: “With Arizona public schools chronically underfunded, why is the legislature diverting funds to private schools through the ESA voucher program?” We answered that question by not just looking at the 2017 ESA voucher expansion which caused so much controversy and led to the Proposition 305 vote in November of 2018. We expanded our view to look at the history of the ESA voucher program and other school privatization programs in Arizona and across the country. This research clearly demonstrated that the ESA voucher program was not designed to address specific problems in Arizona’s school system, but to advance an ideological agenda that was hostile to public education.

Each white paper that WHRPG creates will generate actions to take with citizens, legislators and affected groups. It will also require careful review of new information to help improve the understanding of the issue beyond a point in time report. At the core of the WHRPG charter is the concept of being open to this new research and changing conditions to create better understanding, collaboration and opportunity to improve our state and the lives of every Arizonan.

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