My friend Ryan Booth, who teaches our kids math at his Mathnasium center, says farewell to politics. He posted this on his Facebook page yesterday; I reprint it here with his permission:
I’ve been actively involved in politics since 1994, when I started volunteering at the state GOP headquarters. The following year, I began working for the Republican Party full time, which delayed my graduation from LSU while I went to school part time. I was on Steve Forbes’s staff in 2000 and led the Louisiana Victory ’04 effort for the GOP, which played a significant role in getting David Vitter over 50% in the primary and avoiding a runoff. I’ve been elected to the Republican State Central Committee three times, and I’m proud of my service on that body.
I’m a social conservative and got involved in politics primarily to fight for the right to life, but education has become the issue that has engaged me the most. I taught math at Huntington School in Ferriday for part of 1998, ran the Baton Rouge office of the Princeton Review in 2001-2002, lobbied the legislature on behalf of First Class Education in 2005, became a certified teacher in 2006, taught in Baton Rouge public schools for three years, and opened my first Mathnasium center in 2009.
So, I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that there aren’t many conservatives who know more than I do about education and public policy. The educational field is dominated by liberals. That’s why the conservative opposition to the Common Core standards is so incredibly disheartening. I taught math under the old standards and know how bad they are, and I am also a patriot who knows that fewer standards just give liberal teachers more control over education. Lots of conservatives pretend to care about the future of our nation, but they don’t care enough to encourage their children to become teachers, being content instead to let the educational field be dominated by anti-Christian liberals. “Get a good job and make lots of money,” they teach their kids.
I can’t pretend that this hasn’t affected me in a profound way. I know there are areas where my political work has had beneficial effects, but there are many others where I wonder. I find myself thinking a lot recently about a speech that Alan Keyes gave at the 1995 Louisiana Republican Convention. The GOP, fresh off the 1994 congressional victories, was about to enact welfare reform, but Keyes had the courage to warn the crowd that sending single mothers to work would do nothing to strengthen families, and that welfare reform would only accelerate moral dysfunction among the poor.
I look back at that and wonder: did we do the right thing? Or did we just make cultural problems worse by depriving a generation of poor kids of the little parenting that they formerly got? At the least, it feels like a hollow victory. I taught some of those kids, and their problems broke my heart, as they were largely raised on the street. I remember lots of conservatives at the time saying that “welfare queens” only had kids out of wedlock because the government would pay for them, but welfare reform certainly didn’t slow the illegitimate birth rate (so much so that even using the word “illegitimate” now feels like a rebellious act). And if I’m so uncomfortable about one of the conservative movement’s greatest accomplishments of the last 25 years, what does that say about the rest of what our movement has done?
I’m going to the Capitol tomorrow to argue for the Common Core standards, but that will be the end of all my political involvement for the foreseeable future. I will be resigning my position on the State Central Committee. A lot of you who are my political friends will likely find that I read and comment on your posts much less, and in fact I will likely hide many of you from my Facebook feed.
But I don’t want to give the wrong impression. While part of my decision to quit my political involvement has to do with disillusionment, a much bigger part of it is the higher calling that God has put on my life. Over the last few years, I have increasingly felt God pulling me into full-time ministry. Over the last few years, I’ve taught an adult Sunday school class at my church and led our Guatemala mission trips, but the call goes beyond that. In response to that call, I have applied to New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary to begin a Masters of Divinity degree in January, attending part time at first and commuting twice a week.
But I really can’t wait until January to begin my studies. For one thing, I took 18 hours of ancient Greek as an undergrad, and I can save myself six credit hours and $1000 if I can relearn that language on my own by January. But, beyond that, I am ready now to more fully devote myself to my calling, but I have a very limited amount of free time, because I still need to work over 50 hours every week at Mathnasium, and especially because we plan to open a third location in the fall. Oh, and yeah, I need time to be a good father.
So, I really need to “cast off that which hinders me,” and politics hinders me. I don’t have the time, and no tax cut ever saved anyone’s soul. I need to stay off Facebook in general, but I especially need to give up my habit of reading and commenting on political issues for a couple of hours every day. So, this is a farewell of sorts, for now. I have other work to do.
UPDATE: Readers, Ryan is a friend, and he’s a reader (and sometime commenter), on this blog. I will not publish comments that demean him.