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Friday, December 4, 2009

From the SMOB to the Community: Keep the Tone Civil

"Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen." - Ephesians 4:29, Holy Bible

There is something wrong with the tone of the debate in this county. Many groups and individuals in the community have turned their attention to "getting" the Superintendent, individual members of the school board, and MCPS rather than working towards the goal of giving all our children a world class education. The 20% of this county that make up the student population is waiting and watching the tone of our community. Consequently, as a student, some people think I am unaware of the issues facing our county. They think I'm deaf and they think I'm blind to such issues. Well I'll tell you right now, I am certainly not mute. For these groups and individuals who continue to drive the tone of the community negative, the questions remain: (1) Is this the right time to be harping at each other and (2) Is this even appropriate?

As a student in Montgomery County, there is something extremely childish about seeing grown men and women engaging in pre-teen like behavior that can only be likened to a public fight on facebook. Is MCPS perfect? No. But what system is? Everyday, hardworking teachers and administrators work to improve the system, one step at a time. No one is complacent because education itself is ongoing. But to see grown parents and leaders disrespecting the opinions of others and disregarding all the ideals that they have instilled in us is highly disconcerting, discouraging, and just plain insulting.

In our schools, in our homes, in our government, our teachers, parents, and elected officials tell us the importance of the golden rule: that to receive respect one must give it. No one is immune from this rule - not any elected official, not any community individual, not any parent. While I have been on the Board, among other things I have seen community groups attacking elected officials over matters of personality and ethos rather than the logic of their own argument. One particular group has even started to engage students in their debate. In other cases, petty personalities get in the way of getting real work done.

I believe that we are on a slippery slope here. None of this leads to the better education of our students; rather it is detrimental to our students not only in their education but in the values that we are teaching them. If a group/individual is truly committed to improving the lives of the students, then it will drop the power-plays, drop the vicious attacks on the system, drop the personal and petty, drop the non-constructive criticism, and work collaboratively with the school system and pick up the collective burden of educating the future generation and safe-guarding the prosperity of our community.

The tone of the discussion needs to change, and it needs to change now. We, the students of Montgomery County, cannot afford to have parents pitted in a battle against the School Board or to have community organizations facing off against each other. It's hard enough living our own lives in this economic crisis; we are a community and in tough times we have to stick it out together.

Now is not the time to be insulting one another and finding faults. What we need now the most is trust and respect - trust between everyone to understand the difficult decisions that the board and superintendant are making and trust that it is in the best interest of the students. What's lacking right now isn't the willingness to persevere - there's plenty of that - but the willingness to persevere together. And I believe that trust will be the binding glue that will help us get through these difficult times. Now, I am not against constructive criticism and collaboration - but I am against the recent tone of the criticism and means to justify the end. For the sake of the children, don't you think Montgomery County should be an example to the rest of this state and country?

I ask you, parents, students, elected officials, community leaders: as we push our way through tough budget times to always keep the tone civil, to listen, to compromise, and to negotiate. We don't need ad hominem, personal attacks at this time. There is no need for cyberbullying and fighting within schools. Now is the time for collaboration. Now is the time for unity. Now is the time for our community to come together. I hope that as these groups and individuals go about their daily lives, they think about the thousands of children in the system that feel the blunt of their decisions and to keep in mind the lessons that they taught their children in elementary school: to listen, to share, to negotiate, and to always keep the mission in mind. I hope we never lose sight of the most important goal of this system: to improve education for the 140,000 students in this county.

For those of you who have a hard time grasping this concept, I refer you to the words of a distinguished community member:


  1. god the silly humour needs to stop and smob needs to step up is game instead of referringt to useless cartoons

  2. You're great, Tim. "Diva"'s comment exemplifies the exact attitude that we do NOT need in this county. You are doing a fabulous job as SMOB, and I'm sure if "Diva" actually kept up with your initiatives and accomplishments thusfar, he/she would have quite a different opinion.

    Great (and necessary) post. I like the cartoon.

  3. Tim, you're doing an amazing job and just as vivalavida148 said, we really don't need these childish comments/attitudes is this county. MCPS should be honored to have you do the things that you do to make our school system better everyday.

    Keep it going, man!

  4. Hey Tim,
    Thanks for the post. It really captured the essence of the politicization of everything these days and distilled it to something as nonpolitical as conflict and strife itself.
    That said, it would help if you could provide examples. If you could update the story, it would be a lot better for it.
    Finally, trivial issue: did you mean "vicious" rather than "viscous" attacks?
    Keep up the amazing work!


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