Reaching out to DC
Welcome to our first advocacy article in the E-Voice. There are so many ways to view advocacy for our programs: the work we do in our classrooms, the outreach we do toward colleagues in our buildings, the networking of parent nights, and the public relations work we do in our districts are just part of the list. We also need—somehow—to find the time to keep reminding our top elected officials that languages and language education matter. The American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages has made this process very simple with its Capwiz system. Under the “Advocacy” tab at actfl.org you will find the link for “Take Action.”
Once there, you will find tabs for Elected Officials, Issues, Election, and Media. These are all useful in educating ourselves and being ready for the conversations we need to have with others. Likewise, at the bottom of that same page you will find more ways to stay connected and informed:
In the center of that same “Take Actions” page you will find an issue or issues highlighted as critical by ACTFL, often in conjunction with the Joint National Committee for Languages-National Council on Languages and International Studies (JNCL-NCLIS), our chief advocacy organization in Washington, D.C. After a description of the issue, you are given sample, suggested text to use in contacting the appropriate people or agencies in Washington. Sometimes this will be our Senators or the White House, sometimes—as in the case illustrated below—it will be the Secretary of Education and the Representative for your District. You have the option of printing the letter to send, but I have been assured during my visits to Washington that email is actually preferred for its speed and the convenience of the office receiving it.
When I first started using this tool regularly, I felt a twinge of guilt when I did not create my ownparagraph of personalization at the end of the letter (oh, the joys of academic guilt!). While it is always fine to add those personal touches, the most important part is to get that letter sent as soon as possible. These offices really do have staff assigned who simply tally the number of times they are contacted concerning different issues. For these issues to “matter” to those in charge, we need numbers. So, if you believe in the issue, make haste!
Scrolling farther down the same page, you find that all you must do is fill in your personal information and hit send. When I went to do the screen capture for this article, the site had indeed “remembered me” as I had requested at the bottom of the page.
As you see above, there is also an option to be added to the “Action E-List.” This way, you get these calls to action when they are fresh. Due to the nature of business in our Capitol, discussions that have been taking place for weeks and months or even years can become critical issues in a matter of days. Votes on appropriations, amendments to bills, and other legislative actions often need quick input from us, and we, as constituents, need to respond rapidly when the call comes from Capwiz in order to make our voices heard. Luckily, ACTFL has made it very easy to do so. In the months to come, Karen Fowdy and I will highlight other ways you can stay informed and get involved to help your students and your profession. If there is a topic which you would like to see addressed or if you have an advocacy concern in your own school, please email firstname.lastname@example.org. Until next time, happy promoting!