The Problems and Potential of Change

I have been a member of Change.org since roughly mid-December. For those who aren’t familiar with the site Change.org is not in any way affiliated with Change.gov, Barack Obama’s transition website. The aim however is similar.

Change.org collects information on a number of issues all in one place. I’ll give you a rundown of a few causes they list: global warming, gay rights, immigration, education, fair trade, human trafficking, and middle east peace just to name a few. On any of the nineteen causes you can read daily blogs, start actions, join related non-profit groups, and participate in fundraising.

The potential of Change.org blows me away. Never have I come across a site that collects so many issues in such an easy to read manner. On the blogs today I could read about country of origin labeling , a plea to not forget Darling-Hammond on education policy – Oh man, I have more to say on that – and if charity really does make a difference.

The action creation aspect of Change.org is the true power of the site. Obama has pledge we are entering a new age of government; this will be an age of transparency and citizen involvement in government. Change.org is one of the first children of this new age. There are 16,887 members of the global warming cause. Imagine you write a petition for a way you wish the government to act on global warming. Then imagine that each one of those members signs your petition. That’s 16,887 letters to the president’s office, not to mention that you can send letters to your congressional reps, governor, and state legislature; it’s all as easy as clicking a few buttons. Even lazy, glass eyed, Gollums who never leave the glow of their screens can petition the government. Even your Grandma who chicken pecks the keys can petition the government.

This sort of power is mind-boggling. Just the simple fact that the site collects all the email addresses of your elected officials from state level up to the president is amazing. And the vast amount of citizens you can inform on an issue is staggering as well. This is also one of the problems.

I receive somewhere around 80 request per day. These are a combination of non-profit groups, pledges, and petitions. Many of the actions are worthwhile. Petitioners asked me to support autism awareness and visit a nature preserve this year – that’s easy seeing as there is one directly next to my home. There vast majority are either too broad – eliminate violence against women, higher educational standards for all – or too impractical – support self published authors, ask people if they have their own bags. Do people think the government isn’t setting higher education standards already? Is eliminating violence against women not a goal in this society? If I get one more save Darfur action I’m going to digitally flick the senders ear hard!

That is another problem of the site. The type of people it attracts. These people tend to be far-left progressives. They tend to propose lofty changes without any concrete way of getting there. It’s a tough place for a centrist democrat to function. I’d hate to see some of my center-right friends attempt to accomplish something through Change.org. I take that back; I challenge the centrists of the web to get on Change.org and make your causes heard. Please! I’d love it!

Back to the lesson at hand. I stick to the education and health care, though I’ve certainly support actions from all over. Let’s look at the education cause for an example of how far left this site swings. The three featured actions are a petition to completely dismantle No Child Left Behind, a petition to appoint Linda Darling-Hammond somewhere in the Department of Education, and a pledge to be responsible for our children’s entertainment habits.

NCLB is not entirely bad; it should not completely disappear. It set standards schools should have already been setting themselves. Granted NCLB went about achieving its goals in an awful way, but it can be retooled. Many members of the site decry NCLB as some sort of dragon eating our children and burning down our schools. Have they researched NCLB on their own or do they just say, “Bush bad. He make NCLB. NCLB bad!” It certainly seems that way.

Linda Linda Linda. Everyone on Change.org seems to have a boner for Linda Darling-Hammond. One almost lives in fear of saying a kind word about Arne Duncan or Michelle Rhee. For people who belong to a site entitled Change.org so many of its members are afraid change itself. You mention “school reform” and you’re likely to get sent to the gulag. School reform means tough changes, changes unpopular with the teachers union. Many of the changes Duncan and Rhee proposed got results. They turned communities around. Who cares if the teachers union doesn’t like them? The students are what matter, which people seem to forget.

Change.org has huge potential. Great things will be accomplished from this site. This is a site for all Americans, not just the progressive left. It needs those centrist voices of reason on the right and left. This is too large for one man alone to handle. I’m sending a call to all of you great moderate bloggers and blog readers out there. Join Change.org today and get your voices heard! They are desperately needed to balance this great tool. I’m sick of getting all these requests to legalize pot!

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