Kids ask the obvious questions. Where are we going? Are we there yet? Every parent has experienced this. Let me be a kid for a few minutes. Let me ask the American Numismatic Association a question. Where are we going? I don?t know. Do you? Does the board of governors?
I am not trying to be funny. I sit through some but not all of the public board meetings. I hear things. I see things. I ask questions from time to time. There is an obvious intent to change things, but the question is, change the ANA to what? What kind of organization are we aiming for?
We are being asked to judge bylaw changes and give the organization feedback. But how are we ANA members going to rationally judge the proposals if we do not know what the ultimate goal is supposed to be?
One kind of organization needs one kind of bylaws. Another kind of organization needs another kind of bylaws. Are we members part of a collector organization now and in the future, or is there something else in store?
The educational mission of the organization still seems to be the guiding principle, but this mission means different things to different people. Most longtime ANA members would tell you that the ANA is organized to help educate the members and offer materials to them and to member clubs to make us all better collectors.
Judging from an announcement of a new hire this week, Sharon Thomas as executive director for education, the guiding principle now seems to be changing to educating the children of the nation. The new hire announcement explicitly says she will be ?charged with expanding educational programs including public school curriculum, which uses coins as teaching tools in a variety of subjects, ranging from math and economics to art and history.?
That?s a tall order. It might even be noble, but is that what the average member thinks the ANA?s purpose should be?
Certainly Thomas has defined it this way. She is quoted as saying, ?Our goal is to broaden the ANA?s educational mission and introduce numismatics to a larger, more diverse audience.?
This shift in the definition of the educational mission has wide implications, not the least of which is on the budget, which has been chronically in deficit in recent years.
Is this new national educational mission what the members want to spend their limited funds to pursue? I don?t think so, but then, we members haven?t really had a discussion about it and come to a majority decision.
Does the board and executive director have a right to set out in this new direction? Absolutely. Is it wise? Without the discussion and involvement of the membership in setting this course, it isn?t. Even with majority support, it is reasonable to ask whether such an effort can be afforded and whether there is payback to the organization.
Payback in this case I would define as gaining new members and new revenues to support the budget. More kids educated in this way might grow up to be coin collectors. However, we will have to wait 30 years before we can make a determination. In the meantime, the organization needs to survive and pay its bills.
There has been talk the last couple of years of getting grants. The executive director reported in August that initial contacts in this area have yielded a response that ANA has too much money to be a good candidate for grants. Getting a professional educator in might help open the door to grants, but is that a door we want to see opened?
Institutions and people who give money usually attach conditions. These strings mean the ANA members will lose their control of the organization?s activities. If money is accepted, the conditions must be met. Is this what ANA members want? Is this the goal? I don?t know, but if it is, that explains many of the suggested bylaw changes.
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