Political opposites, East Providence High School teachers share common ground in classroom
EAST PROVIDENCE — Though they reside on opposite sides of the political tracks, East Providence High School teachers and General Assembly candidates Keith Anderson and Gregg Amore have much in common when it comes to the classroom.
Mr. Anderson, in his fourth year as an EPHS Business instructor, is running as Republican opposite Democratic incumbent Lisa Tomasso in House District 29, which encompasses parts of Coventry and West Greenwich.
Mr. Amore, in his 24th year as a History teacher at EPHS, is a Democrat running against Moderate Party candidate Joe Botelho for the redistricted House 65 seat in city, which comprises most of the Kent Heights area and a sizable portion of Riverside.
"I would say we have a different outlook politically, but I think our end goals are the same," Mr. Anderson said late Wednesday afternoon, Oct. 17, at the high school.
He continued, "I think we both believe in strong education, creating a quality workforce and giving young people the tools they need to succeed when they finish school, whether that is high school, junior college or college. I think we both feel we need to create a skilled workforce in order for our economy in this state to grow. Where I think our ideas differ the most is on tax policy."
A fiscal conservative, Mr. Anderson believes reducing taxes, both corporate and personal, is the best way to spur growth. While not your typical "tax-and-spend liberal," Mr. Amore believes in a truly progressive tax policy. But in terms of education, he and his GOP counterpart basically read from the same textbook.
"I think in general our positions on education are similar. I agree with just about everything Keith said in that regard," Mr. Amore said. "Although we don't teach the same subjects, I think we believe in the same approach. We want a disciplined environment. We want our students to be serious about the subject. And we want them to take personal responsibility.
"And I believe there is no way to improve the economy in this state without a well-educated, well-trained workforce. And I agree that we differ on taxes, but on a majority of other issues we're pretty much in agreement."
Mr. Anderson and Mr. Amore both stressed even though they're both are running for office under party affiliations, they do not take their personal beliefs into the classroom setting.
"Personal politics have no place in this building. I keep my views on issues to myself. I feel that's the only way I can be an effective teacher. My job is to prepare my students for the future, not about pushing my own political agenda," Mr. Anderson explained. "I teach a business class. Obviously we discuss the economy. But my goal is to show both sides of the issues. My job is to teach kids how to think, not what to think."
Both instructors noted instances where students, not knowing the political persuasion of each, have asked on what side of certain issues they stood. To both, those anecdotes are proof they're performing their duties in the right manner.
"We're bound by such a structured curriculum, especially in today's educational environment, that there's really no time to bring personal beliefs into the classroom," Mr. Amore said. "It's tough enough to get through everything we're required to do. There's not enough space in the lessons to interject you personal views."
Mr. Anderson and Mr. Amore may not discuss their political preferences in the classroom, but their ideas are readily known to those students who are concerned with the process.
Mr. Anderson was approached by some like-minded youngsters three years ago to mentor them in a Republican Club. Later that same year, Democratic students asked Mr. Amore to do the same. Since, all have engaged in regular spirited discussions in the forms of meetings and debates.
"The kids who are drawn to politics know our views, because that's what we do in the clubs. But I would say 90-percent of our students don't know where we stand politically," Mr. Amore said.
He continued, "Keith deserves all the credit in helping grow the clubs. He was the one who the kids reached out to first and got the ball rolling. I think what the clubs do more than anything else is draw interest in the political process."
Added Mr. Anderson, "I think it's good for kids to see multiple sides of the issues. They learn how to actually hear what the other side is saying and actually learn how to speak to each other in a civilized way."
There are likely few grounds of agreement between Mr. Anderson and Mr. Amore when it comes to their opposition in the Nov. 6 election, especially as the campaign reaches its often-heated final stages.
In what is a historically right-leaning area, Mr. Anderson has been given a very strong chance to unseat Ms. Tomasso in District 29 by at least one state-wide media outlet, www.golocal.prov (http://www.golocalprov.com/politics/vulnerable-incumbents/). Mr. Amore is considered my many observers to be the favorite against Mr. Botelho is a very Democratic-leaning District 65.
"I think there are two key components in my race: the economy and what I represent," Mr. Anderson said. "I think people around the state and across the country feel this, they're sick and tired of the gridlock. They believe we're the outsiders and the politicians are the insiders. They want someone who says what they mean and means what they say. And I've lived my whole life that way. I do what I think is best. I will not pander to anybody for any reason."
In regard to his race, Mr. Amore said, "I'm in a unique position. Even if I wanted to pander, I couldn't because I've been writing about my beliefs for years. I'm a pretty known commodity. It's out there. People know what I believe in. Hopefully I can carry out who I am as a person as a representative if I'm fortunate enough to be elected."
Whether or not their relationship as counterparts and cohorts continues on Smith Hill, Mr. Anderson and Mr. Amore plan on maintaining their efforts to offer those interested students insight into the political progress and will do so in a convivial manner.
Mr. Amore concluded, "I think Keith and I genuinely like and respect each other. I think the kids see that and I think it fosters respect between them and helps improve the political dialogue. " Mr. Anderson, in a show of commonality, added simply, "I agree."