Santa Monica Observer - Community, Diversity, Sustainability and other Overused Words

By Nancy Kaufman
Observer Staff 

Alison Hartson Attempts to upset six term senator Diane Feinstein

37-year-old democrat helps to prevent octogenarian from returning to the Senate yet again

 

Alison Hartson, is running her campaign to unseat Senator Feinstein on people and policy over profit and politics.

Hartson, 37-years old, and national director of the Wolf-Pac group that tries to get money out of politics, wants to get the "politics out of politics" as she's vowed not to take a single dime of corporate or PAC money. Also, she does not believe in the endorsing of candidates

From public high school teacher, to builder of an intervention program for at risk youth, Alison Hartson has procured the skills to pinpoint the problems and methodically, through data based research, locate and implement the solutions for our failing educational system.

In 2008, Hartson designed the Academy, in the Garden Grove district where she taught. The program was created as an intervention to reroute second and third generation students from Mexico, who were statistically on track for not graduating and for winding up on the streets in gangs, on drugs, or in prison.

Hartson said, "In a nutshell, I used evidence based research to arrive at my program to first, instill confidence in these kids." Hartson believes that it is through confidence that motivation grows. "Once they have confidence that they are smart and just as capable, then they have desire," she said.

Hartson made a point of saying that the students "have to have the desire to learn in order to actually learn."

Hartson is part educator, part sociologist, and part educational philosopher, as she unravels her thoughts and ideas about how to create a better society for students, and for society.

One of the things Hartson emphasizes is data based research. With a background in Sociology and Psychology, Hartson was well equipped to research for her intervention program. What she found was that the best way to reach the students was to lead them to develop intrinsic motivation, which is essentially internal desire. .

"It's like an art to build an intervention program. All teachers should be learning this model of understanding the psychology."

The way Academy, the program, worked, Hartson explained, was to develop intrinsic motivation which stems from confidence. When working as a teacher in Garden Grove, Hartson actually saw results from her efforts in the intervention program she designed; she said the success rate was very successful. Some of her students went to college, including, UCLA.

Hartson admitted she had to deal with the aggressive behavior of these at risk students in her program. During her time working in the "trenches," Hartson had a desk thrown at her and she was also backed up against the wall.

Some of her students can be seen on a video in which they make testimonials of the Academy.

https://youtu.be/NT0uQRFbPbA

Hartson says that charter schools are a reaction to the symptom of the problem, which is a running theme for her.

She said charter schools will not solve the issues but are touted as:

1. Providing competition

2. Providing choice for parents and kids

3. Allowing autonomy with schools to make their own decisions

Marketing charter schools as the solution, Hartson said, only makes public schools worse. She explained that there are not enough charter schools for every kid and that studies show that more segregation has been created as a result of charters.

Hartson said that instead of moving toward charter schools, what needs to happen is to fix traditional public schools.

When asked how she proposes to solve the issues with public education she said, "Better training and support for our teachers."

She also said that although STEM programs are great but that as much as we need to focus on developing math and science programs, we also need art and music.

Not only science and math, but also the arts help to build critical thinking skills, she believes. Bottom line for Hartson is to teach students to be critical thinkers that will help to produce productive members of society and a safe community. She said that more critical thinkers will find well paying jobs that require skills, rather than alternative ways to makes money that will lead to crime.

Hartson said kids that fail and have little confidence use alternative ways to make money such as joining gangs and doing or selling drugs.

"The bigger problem is creating culture of testing rather than learning," Hartson said, when talking about how to improve education. Instead of focusing on standardized testing, Hartson suggested that "we need to look at what works in other models and apply to traditional public school."

"The more autonomy a (public) school has to make decisions for what's best in the community, the better they are for the students. "

Hartson also said, "The tests started with good intentions but it's turned into a money making monster,"

Hartson, favors school autonomy instead of the public schools being told what to do by the state or federal government, such as required standardized testing.

The idea of teaching to the test doesn't work with Hartson's model. She said, "You can't have a learning culture if you don't have a compassionate and motivated and safe culture."

What Hartson proposes, is for our society to have a paradigm shift such that instead of being reactionary, we engage in a conversation between community members, experts and the actual teachers who are in the trenches, instead of former teachers who are working for private companies like Pearson who are the ones helping with educational decisions; their job has a profit motive.

Hartson compared education with healthcare and said "Like in health care we have insurance companies that hire doctors to determine if the doctor request for a patient's procedure is permitted." The doctors are no longer practicing, she explained, and are incentivized to make money for Pharma.

Hartson sees all sectors, be it education, health care, or oil and energy in a similar way; instead of profit margins and reactionary solutions, there needs to be a way to solve the issues through a conversation between all stakeholders involved.

In education, for example, she suggested that a field study be made by a team from the Department of Education. The team would conduct an investigative study and produce a report with the problem and solution. Hartson recommends talking to professors in psychology and sociology and producing a report based on the interviews with the experts and teachers who work in the trenches, and town hall meetings.

"We have to be talking to people in the trenches. We need to be talking and not listening to the lobbyists and the CEO of corporations," Hartson said. The decisions, she believes, will have to come out of the conversations and the study. This is how she proposes we can find a solution for such issues as school safety, students' success and graduation rate.

"Rehabilitation over retribution," she said. This is also just as true for the criminal justice system as it is for education, Hartson explained.

For school safety, Hartson said, it's not about asking, "Do we arm our teachers or put metal detectors in schools. " Instead of this reactionary approach, there should be a real conversation, with teachers, students, parents, and others in the community.

For Hartson, the bottom line for our students and educational system is for kids to go on to become healthy members of society. To make this happen, public schools need autonomy to make their own decisions. Also, she said that there needs to be a way of tracking the kids so that we can know where they go after school, if they go to college, or to work. She wants real accountability in the schools, including what happens after the kids leave.

Besides education, which is certainly an area in which Hartson has a great deal of expertise, she is also an advocate of sustainability and OFF (off fossil fuels).

Hartson ended her interview by saying, "If we don't have an earth that provides for us, what does the rest matter?"

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Reader Comments
(1)

rvaghini writes:

Thank you for letting the voters know about Alison Hartson. She'll be a great Senator for our state. Hoping for a historic night!!!!

 
 
 

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