Bargell: Watching our words
There’s a Buddhist saying that “words have the power to both destroy and heal. When words are both true and kind, they can change our world.” What a catch, true and kind.
I have never been a judge, unless you count refereeing the sibling bouts that occur with some frequency around our house, but I’ve worked for one. My boss, who was the Judge, often cautioned us eager-to-please clerks – anxious to show off our sharp wit and ability to take apart another person’s point of view – of the intrinsic danger in failing to see all perspectives. No one gains when the words, however true, are imparted in a scathing and cynical tone. No one gains, when the words, however kind, fail to accurately reflect the truth of the situation.
We would often ask the Judge, who had been on the court for a number of years, about the “olden days” – you know, the ones before computers that allowed drafting a fifty- or hundred-page opinion. The Judge laughed, recalling how each version of those pre-historic opinions required his secretary to painstakingly type, on a manual typewriter, eight carbon copies of the documents circulated. It looked like he could still see the faces of the exasperated typists as the erased through the multiple carbon layers. Words were at a premium, selected carefully. Opinions were short, and to the point. Pontification was rare, and instead of trying to convince one another through clever writings, people were forced to communicate in person, and listen to one another. Kudos to our new superintendent, Dr. Pace and to our school board, for convening a task force to do exactly that, listen to different perspectives regarding the topic of curriculum delivery at our local schools and to consider all alternatives. Let’s not sell the process of communication down the river before the first meeting is convened.
Speaking of meetings, I did have the chance to attend the last two on the school district “equal access” topic, and more than anything I was surprised. Surprised that in a community that I have come to respect, and regard as close knit, that feelings of animosity would be so palpable. One thing I have heard multiple times is that our kids have only one shot at their education. The board, of course, is required to recognize this is true for every child that sets foot in the door of any of our schools, and I think they do. Take care not to choose up sides, or to view these people who have worked so hard for our kids as villains. They are elected to bring their differing perspectives to their volunteer positions, often with little thanks, and always with no pay.
I didn’t personally perceive the reference to Brown v. Board of Education as an affront, or an attempt to label me a bigot. I recently reread Brown – it’s one of those short opinions, and I figured it wasn’t a bad idea to try to understand the different perspectives afloat on this issue, or why it was mentioned at all. Brown was about a dad who just wanted what was best for his daughter, and in the process changed history on the prevailing view that separate but equal really is equal. It has to be viewed through a different lens these days, as absolutely no one has suggested segregating schools, nor should there be any question of the assistance the caring people in our community are willing to give to one another.
In short, lots of opinions on the topic have been shared this week. But, the best thing I’ve heard was not an opinion on a specific delivery model or method, or what’s best for ELL or advanced learners. Instead, it came in passing from a friend who said she hoped that everyone at the table would take the time to “listen, listen, listen,” with an emphasis on listen, to each other, and to the experts in the field to determine what works, and what doesn’t. When that happens I believe the words that come out of the process can be both kind and true, and can change our little world.
Cindy Bargell lives outside of Silverthorne with her husband and two daughters. She is a card-carrying PTSA member, real estate and natural resources lawyer and part-time gymnastics coach. She welcomes your comments at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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