“Integrity is not a conditional word. It doesn’t blow in the wind or change with the weather. It is your inner image of yourself, and if you look in there and see a man who won’t cheat, then you know he never will. Integrity is not a search for the rewards of integrity. Maybe all you ever get for it is the largest kick in the ass the world can provide. It is not supposed to be a productive asset.”
I hope everybody had themselves a wonderful Turkey day. The Weber clan took its act on the road and visited family in Chattanooga. We stayed at a wonderful AirBB in the Highland Park area and feasted on a phenomenal meal produced by Priscilla’s sister Victoria. The children got a chance to play with their cousins, which produced an 8-hour marathon Monopoly game. The first annual Weber/Brabson football game resulted in a 6-6 tie. All in all, it was a fine holiday.
On the drive down, as well as on the drive back, I reflected on the past week. A week which saw a flurry of activity on social media. The exchanges were multi-platform, including both Facebook and Twitter. Zack Barnes has an account of the Twitter exchange between board members, and a council member, in this week’s Tip Sheet, though I disagree with his analysis it is one perspective that is not without disciples.
Social media, despite being with us for nearly two decades, is still considered by many to be a fad, frivolous, and not a true indicator of the real world. As someone who can still remember a father who refused to get cable television because it was unnecessary and was something only “those” people bought, I disagree with that analysis. Social media is a legitimate communication platform. Like other communication platforms participation, or non-participation, does not by its nature make you a better or worse person. Despite countless comedian’s comments and statements from football coaches, the reality is that this is how the majority of the world chooses to communicate. Like it or not, social media is ubiquitous and it is here to stay.
Personally, I have always welcomed social media as a platform because it cuts down on the relaying of mis-truths in the shadows. In previous times, an elected official could meet with one group of constituents and tell them one story. Then turn around and meet with another and tell a completely contradictory story. Neither of the two would be the wiser.
The veracity of a narrative would be dependent on each individual participants depth of knowledge. If something sounded good, it was easily passed off as such. Now, narratives are fact-checked by large groups of individuals. Try to slip something by not rooted in fact, and odds are you’ll be called on it. In most cases, it’s led to a more transparent governance.
Now is social media a tool without fault, of course not. But what tool is? The telephone when first introduced I’m sure led to miscommunications because of the lack of ability to read facial expressions. Anybody who has ever used email can relate tales of miscommunication due to false interpretations of tone. As the use of email spread upon introduction, the rules had to be created. What was proper use? How formal or informal should language be? The proper use of emoji. To this day the rules are still being written. It should be no surprise that the rules for a younger platform are also still being created. A creation that can be fraught with missteps.
At its core, social media is another means to share ideas. Anytime people start to share ideas, it can get messy. I remember back several years ago when the Charter Wars were in full swing in Nashville. The so-called “Twitter Battles” were brutal and quickly became personal. I’d like to believe that many of us have matured since then and have realized that personally attacking someone is a not a means to enlightening them. I don’t think there is a soul that ever thought, “he just called me a charter zealot, let me take a look at his charts and data and check the soundness of his argument.”
Personally, I’ve tried to put my focus on content as opposed to intent. Too often we read a person’s ideas and think that we can deduce intent. This is the case in every subject, whether it be politics, race, religion, or education. The truth is that I haven’t walked the proverbial mile in your proverbial moccasins, so I have no real ability, save further engagement, to discern how you arrived at your position. That doesn’t mean, as School board chair Sharon Gentry has tried to state, “We can not agree with each other and neither of our of our positions is wrong.’ It means that we both need to expand our depth of research and perhaps consider our opponents experience with a little more credibility.
These days I tend to counter people’s statements via Twitter a little less often. Multiple times a day I type a response, only to erase it before sending. Or I just choose to scroll by a post and save the argument for another day. That said, I don’t believe that you can let people just make a statement that is patently false without addressing it. Like it or not, if it goes unchecked that statement becomes part of the public record as fact. When made by an elected official it carries a great deal of weight in the public narrative.
For example, when you make the assertion on social media that the refusing of accommodations on MAP testing is a result of the actions of the state, that needs to be corrected. MAP testing is administrated by the district and is completely independent of the state. Not all districts in the state utilize MAP testing. MNPS chooses to do so for several reasons. It is a useful tool for guiding instruction, used as designed and at its full capacity – which requires separate fees – it can identify areas of need for individual students. It is also useful for showing the growth of students. As a side benefit, it aligns with TNReady and it can serve as a bit of a predictor. Though keep in mind that TNReady is aligned to Tennessee standards and MAP is a nationally normed test.
So if I were to allow the initial statement to stand without comment, a false narrative takes root in the public record. That shouldn’t be acceptable to anyone. As a side note, another Twitter user, RogerJH, disagreed with some of my assertions and pointed out that the MAP literacy test is a content-driven assessment, which devalues its usefulness. He makes a solid point and one that has me thinking deeper. That’s the beauty of communicating through social media, it allows access to thoughts and ideas, that previously might never have entered the conversation. But only if you leave yourself open for reflection.
In the Tip Report, Barnes takes the school board members to task for the their Twitter disagreements giving the appearance of being dysfunctional. You know what I’m more concerned about than how board members appear? I’m more concerned that they get it right; the quality of the policy they create. If a public dust-up on social media means eventually making the policy stronger, I’m all for it. If one board member does deeper research because they were publicly embarrassed by another board member, how is that not a benefit for all of us?
In AA, we are taught to get out of our head. It’s in our head that clearly, destructive ideas can appear brilliant. We can all convince ourselves of our genius if we never talk to anyone. I’d argue that getting involved in a so-called “Twitter War” takes a great deal of courage. You are putting your experiences, your research, and your deductions out in the public sphere for evaluation. You are opening yourself up for ridicule, ostracization, and running the risk of possibly having to change your tenets of belief. No matter what the format, that is never easy.
That’s why these days I try to focus on the ideas and not the intent. Will conversations at times become heated and slip into personal? Of course, we are all imperfect beings who should be in search of progress and not perfection. I find it ironic that we will refer to education as the civil rights issue of our time, yet we’ll act shocked when people become overly passionate about it.
School board member Jill Speering gets criticized for refusing to let Reading Recovery go in spite of years of evidence that it works. Why would she let it go when the evidence produced by opponents fails to demonstrate that it is not comparatively successful to proposed replacement programming. Knowing the number of students whose lives have been changed by the program, why would you expect her to abandon her position just for appearance’s sake? The same holds true for other board members.
Would Martin Luther King suddenly take up violence because research showed that the peaceful way was not producing results fast enough and in a cost-effective manner? No, he had seen the impact of non-violent protest with his own eyes. He’d seen the impact of other strategies and had determined that while the costs and pace of non-violent protest were not always as many would prefer, it was, based on his experience, the most effective strategy available. Many of you may scoff at that analogy, but think about it, if you are going to refer to education as a civil rights issue, how are Ms. Speerings actions any different then MLK?
We have to allow for people passions whenever engaging in any form of communication about policy. An assertion was made that, “Advocacy should always have the goal of being productive. If you have a concern there are ways to advocate for & implement change EFFECTIVELY and APPROPRIATELY.” Who decides what is “effective” and “appropriate”. Going back to MLK, I would argue that during his time many thought his methods were neither. Many would have also argued that he was being disruptive versus productive. That’s why I argue that we need to focus more on “getting it right” and less on the form and appearance.
Critics say that public disagreement gives the appearance of problems and impacts funding. They act as if nobody would know about issues nobody publicly questioned. That’s ludicrous. I would much rather see the honest public conversation intent on finding the best solution. For me, people publicly working on solutions inspires more faith than people bullshitting me that none exist.
Now don’t let my plea for patience be misconstrued as an endorsement for the belittling of people and personal attacks. We may all may occasionally cross the border, but when you take up residence, we need to be called on it by all. There must never be a place for consistent uncivil behavior that would be unacceptable in our daily face to face meetings. It is on all of us to uphold that standard and again, I’ve seen improvement.
It’s funny, in the past a local education twitter battle would break out and it would escalate with both sides getting personal. The parties would storm off and go to their respective sub-groups, bemoaning the lack of humanity and the mental inferiority of their opponents. Last week I engaged with former board member Mary Pierce over policy and it got heated. Despite the escalating tension, I knew in the back of my mind that the exchange would eventually lead to one or the other of us calling.
True to form, Ms. Pierce called me before I called her. We had an equally passionate but productive personal exchange. Do we agree on policy? Not always, but we do have a deeper understanding of the others reasoning process and that can only be beneficial. Twitter Wars are merely exchanges of conflicting information, the rubber meets the road in how we utilize that information. Hence the Dewey quote at the beginning of this piece.
H.G. Hill Middle School continued a holiday tradition last week. They paired with Rise Against Hunger to package 100K meals for children in other countries. Kudos and props to all involved for demonstrating the power of community and the role public schools can play in fostering that ideal. A valuable lesson for all.
Eakin ES 2nd Grade students participated in a Ellis Island simulation that was amazing! Students had a meaningful, memorable learning experience! Boat Ride-Passports Checks- Baggage Processing-Detainment-Medical Check. Well done!
I came across a new blogger this week. Dr. Elizabeth Gregory is a Consultant Clinical Psychologist who has some thoughts on children and mental health. She argues against falling into the trap that increased therapy is the be-all-end-all strategy for children suffering from trauma-related issues.
Helping parents to talk to their children, read to their children, play with their children, show warmth to their children, listen to their children, believe in their children, give hope to their children – all in a context of doing the same for the parents themselves who didn’t receive it in their own childhoods, is far more powerful than any therapy. This doesn’t happen quickly – again it is about being alongside families in their communities and facilitating them to do things differently by providing the most basic of resources, support, consistency and encouragement.
I encourage you to read the whole piece. Hers should prove to be a powerful voice.
Peter Greene, through his blog Curmudgucation, has long been a powerful voice on education policy and his Thanksgiving piece on the 7 most powerful words in education is among his best. Greene writes,
W. Edward Demmings believed that the answers to an organizations problems could be found closest to the place where the actual work was being done. The folks who have taken the reins of leadership in the education world would do well to remember his insight. But “What can I do to help you” doesn’t just yield the most useful advice for helping schools; it breaks down the sense of isolation. Teachers are used to working in a solitary setting, and they’re used to being ignored by people who make decisions that affect the classrooms where they do their actual work. Teachers are used to being over-extended jugglers who only see the bosses long enough for them to toss in one more ball (or cement block or running chain saw) and then run away.
Which leads me into our next announcement, it is time to hear from teachers, staff members and bus drivers in the Antioch/Cane Ridge Clusters and I am asking for you to please come and share your successes and challenges. This will be your time to tell MNPS what’s on your mind so let’s pack the room! This is for you and the only way things will change if they hear from you. Fran Bush will be there as your School Board Member representing you. Please share this information with every teacher, staff member, and bus driver. Can’t wait to see you on November 29, 2018 at Antioch High School, 5:00 p.m. until 6:30 p.m.
There is a school board meeting on Tuesday. make sure you check out the agenda.
I continue to predict that teachers will see a proposed raise of 4 – 5% in the next budget. That’s not because of any outpouring of love for teachers but rather because board members Bush, Frogge,and Speering have all indicated that any proposed budget that does not include a raise should be considered a non-sequitur.
Furthermore Director Joseph needs it for his contract renewal drive, MNEA leadership needs it to remain relevant, and the Mayor needs it for re-election. Safe to say that it’ll be in the mix.
Please join Council Member Steve Glover, the Chair of Metro Council’s Education Committee, and MNPS staff for a District 2 roundtable at John Overton High School. I will be in attendance and hope you will be too.
I have never forgotten that Dr. Joseph once told a principal meeting that there “ain’t no crazy like Nashville crazy.” That makes it fun to keep track of just how high his former stomping grounds keep that bar. If anybody wants to learn what dysfunction looks like Prince George County continues to be a model.
That’s a wrap. Check out the Dad Gone Wild Facebook page. It’s a good news station. If you need to get a hold of me, the email is firstname.lastname@example.org. Keep sending me your stuff and I’ll share as much as possible. Don’t forget to answer this week’s poll questions. If you think what I write has value, please consider supporting the work through Patreon.