Please Don’t Speak – #1LinerWeds

Recently, Jennie and I have been exchanging comments about speaking about current events, school policy, town political decisions and the like. I mentioned that I have some experience speaking at meetings, and that it wasn’t always good. I touched on this subject once, a long time ago, but I don’t think I spoke to it directly. I did mention that I attended a meeting of the School Superintendent’s Parent’s Advisory Committee – my wife urged me not to speak – I spoke, and within a year, I was on a double-digit list of committees.

You see, speaking isn’t the worst thing you can do at a public meeting. The worst think is agreeing to serve on a committee. You often hear people complain, “that guy always has something to say but never does anything.” That guy knows that if you agree to serve on a committee, you will be asked to serve on many, more committees. Current committee members are the seed corn of all future committees.

One of the committees I was serving on was an offshoot of the Strategic Planning Committee I was shanghaied into serving on. It was one of five or six sub-groups set up to help better define and perhaps implement the broader goals of the strategic plan. I no longer remember what our group’s task was. I do remember a passionate plea from the Superintendent to attend the School Board Budget meeting. I agreed.

That’s another of those worst things you can do, agree to something that hasn’t been fully explained. You see the “budget meeting” was a series of meetings, every Tuesday and Thursday during February.

In those eight meetings, the School Board heard representatives from the school administration and faculty describe every line item in the budget. Almost every one of those lines drew a complaint from at least one person who wanted the overall budget to be reduced. My role – if I was inclined – was to speak in favor of those items. If I did that, despite how many people spoke against the item, the board minutes would show “public opinion was mixed.”

Yes, that’s how political things work.

I spoke in response to all sorts of complaints. It wasn’t so much that I was passionate about the issue, but I was passionate about letting people with experience and a clear understanding of the facts make intelligent decisions.

The one issue that I was passionate about was the purchase of books for a Senior Advanced Literature class. The teacher had designed this class very carefully. Although the school operated on block scheduling, where most classes were 90-minute sessions during only one semester, his was a half-block 45-minute class that ran all year. His class was also during Period-8 – the last class of the day and seniors could go home if they didn’t have a Period-7 or 8 class. In other words, the kids had to want to take this class. Our daughter would one day be one of those kids.

I don’t remember the specific titles, but the woman challenging the budget item thought the “mature content” of the books was inappropriate for students. I knew the teacher from some other committee I was serving on, so I looked at the woman and said:

“I don’t know where you received your master’s degrees in education and literature, but I know where Mr. Smith received his. I think we should let him decide.”


This post is part of Linda G. Hill’s fun weekly series One-Liner Wednesday. If you have a one-liner, I’d encourage you to join in on the fun. You can follow this link to participate and to see the one-liners from the other participants.

90 thoughts on “Please Don’t Speak – #1LinerWeds

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  1. Whenever I’d attend school meetings when my son was in school, every time I’d question something, my answer would be, “That’s what we’re told to do.” or “That’s the rules.” Parental in-put was not something they readily asked for or wanted.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Later on, when a new set of administrators were planning something I thought was I’ll-conceived, I started asking hard questions at those committee meetings. That was how I finally got out of serving – they stopped asking me to attend.

      Working on those committees did give me insight into the way it all worked/didn’t work. Doing “what we were told” was a thing.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks. That’s one of our “mom squirrels.” We had two, that would come and beg for peanuts after they gave birth. Most squirrels would take a peanut and run. These girls just sat and ate them and then looked up for another.

      I was duped. The first meeting I went to was one where I thought I’d be attending the Parents Advisory Committee meeting. I didn’t know that it was the first meeting and that the parents in attendance would become the committee. It grew from there.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Meetings, meetings, and still more. That’s good of you to serve, Dan. I found it most interesting your role as a ‘plant’ for the school board budget meetings, should you ‘feel inclined’ to remark. How interesting that your input caused discussions to be reported as ‘mixed public opinion.” Hmmm…

    You are sure entitled to your opinion but to cut off another’s thoughts simply because you don’t know their background is short-sighted, and rude. Being well-educated and well-read have little to do with a college degree. That smacks of a ‘your opinion doesn’t matter’ attitude. I’m sorry to hear that. I hope it goes better next time for the opposing view speaker.

    Blue Rock Horses Frederick County, Virginia bluerockhorses.com

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    1. I’m no longer on any of these committees. It wasn’t so much as serving as a plant. Like many things in government, social media and product reviews, the negative people seem more inclined to attend. It was known that, in general, I supported the budget goals of the administration at that time. They were urging supporters to attend. The process of recording “opinions were mixed” – yeah, that’s a little shady, and it continues today.

      The woman in question was well known at these meetings. She had an agenda, and it included removing topics from the curriculum, adding topics that meshed with her beliefs and removing books from classrooms and the library. I had done verbal battle with her in the past, and I continued to speak up against her views in other meetings. People who try to press a particularly narrow mission on an institution that should have broad goals need to be challenged. Although my response was tactless, I had no desire to debate the merits of the list of books she was suggesting.

      I wanted to remind the School Board that faculty members had been hired based on their credentials, and not every decision should be subject to the will of the people. These meetings were particularly easy targets for special interests, as the parents of the students enrolled in the schools were often too busy to attend. During the 8 budget meetings, there were several times when I was the only parent in the room (they asked for a show of hands).
      .

      Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks Jennie. I am happy not to be attending these meetings today. We reached a point where the school administration was advocating a change that I felt was ill-conceived and not well planned. I was simply not invited back to the meetings on that subject. They proceeded, they failed, they scrapped the idea, but the process affected students for several years. I think changes to the way we educate children should occur slowly and only after a lot of thought.

      Liked by 1 person

        1. I was in 5th grade during an experiment in the way they taught English grammar. It was the counterpart to “New Math”. They dropped the program, but when we got to 6th grade, the teacher just assumed that we knew what every previous 6th grade class knew. Grammar wasn’t my strong suit, and that experiment didn’t help.

          Liked by 1 person

          1. Oh, brother! This is a classic example of making decisions without enough thought and planning. And of course the students suffer. Frankly, ‘missing’ a year of grammar (or math) isn’t so easy to make up.

            Liked by 1 person

            1. It’s funny. The year of “New Math” introduced me to concepts I would use throughout my career. The year of experimental grammar (Type 1 words and such) coupled with the fact that I was behind the classes when we moved into that neighborhood, haunted me forever.

              Liked by 1 person

  3. I bet you’re glad the committee and meeting days are over. The schedule you kept was a little crazy, but I understand – you open your mouth once with a “yes” and it can turn into a snowball rolling downhill. I’m only on one committee these days, one I’ve been on for years and one I enjoy. I think that’s the way it should be.

    Have a wonderful Wednesday, Dan.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I am glad those days are over, Mary. Everything within a town comes down to a budget, and for every budget item, there’s someone with an agenda. I follow the various town forums on social media, and these same people are still pushing the same ideas. I follow, but I do NOT participate – I know where that leads. If I found a committee where I thought my input would be welcome, and I thought I had something to offer, I’d sign-up again, but I fear there aren’t many such opportunities.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I thought about becoming more involved with the City of Appleton as they seem to be forward and creative planners, but not sure about that. I think I might stick with volunteering where I can pick my activity and schedule.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Years ago, I got roped into being on a Catholic grade school board committee because I was on the PTA Board. It lasted one meeting. I questioned something, and the chairman, Parish Priest, told me I needed to accept it as Canon Law. Nope, not going to happen. :-) I’ve been wary of committees ever since, and once they reel you in, it’s tough to get out. For the past twelve years, MGs have gotten way too many hours each year so I don’t go looking for more opportunities.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I also served on a Catholic grade school board, Judy and my service ended largely the same way, but, sadly, not after one meeting. I did well with one principle (Nun) and priest, but when the new ones arrived, it didn’t work. When I complained, I got the same kind of answer, followed by the same response.

      Volunteer organizations tend to ask more of the people who give, simply because they are likely to be willing to give a little more. “It won’t require much time” “we really need your…” “could you just help us get started” – I’m sure you can add to the list.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Love your one liner, Dan! I say good for you speaking up like that. Some people “think” they know best about subjects they have no experience in. Duh! No brainer there! As for the gallery, LOVED it! I laughed at the picture of MuMu …… how could you go into HER space? Really?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Amy. I never enjoyed these meetings, and I never considered running for the Boards and Commissions that held them. I give a lot of credit to the men and women who serve in those roles, because they have to deal with everyone who walks in the doors, and they have to be civil. I’m pretty sure I’d lose it.

      MuMu and I worked out an arrangement. She lets me sit below her, if I scratch her before doing any of my work.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. this is why there are so many jokes about “meetings” – whew –
    and hope your daughter enjoyed that class
    your thoughts reminded me of a movie I watched this year (while healing up that rib injury)
    it was so good – maybe you have seen it
    called Freedom Writers (2007)

    “Hilary Swank plays real-life teacher Erin Gruwell who takes on freshman English at Woodrow Wilson High School in Long Beach, California. The school is racially diverse but not well integrated, with students sticking to their own ethnic groups. Gruwell proves to be naïve and out of her element yet her dedication to finding a way to reach these troubled kids is truly inspirational and moving. In real life, a number of Gruwell’s students have themselves turned to teaching because of her.”

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Yvette. I’ll have to look for that movie. This teacher was exceptional. His effort to make the class unattractive (last period, all year) was to keep the class full of students who wanted to be there. It was an Advanced Placement class, so a lot of parents urged their kids to take it for the college credit that came with it. He didn’t want that to drive the class. They read books and discussed everything about them. The class was as much about learning how to have an intelligent discussion as it was learning about the books they read and the authors who wrote them. I’d like to take that class.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I would like to take it too – and maybe some folks reading this post – now or later – would be teachers who then get impacted to stand their ground if they have ideas for excellent enrichment opps.
        Because you never know how a post will impact someone (now or later)

        and in the movie (think you will like it) they show teacher colleagues with the “set in their ways” attitude –

        and quick story – in junior year of high school I signed up for a free class over the summer – it was SAT prep and it was the language stuff – words mostly –
        I was so excited and I took the first class – with three nerdy people (sorry – just how it was – which was fine) but then I left – and ran into a bunch of guys I need from grade school – they were there doing “summer school” from failing – and it was so awkward being there for SAT prep.
        I never went back – and as much as I love learning – I still stand behind my decision – sometimes you just gotta be who you are – and it was not cool for me to be taking classes like that and seeing my old friends forced to – so it was fine – I had a nice summer

        Liked by 1 person

        1. I understand that feeling (and I understand the need for nerdy people to focus on language).

          There are problems on both sides of the classroom. Some teachers need more support and some need to change their game a little. But, unless you have a kid in the classroom, (or you’re on a dozen committees) you really don’t know.

          Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Deborah. I find it so hard to drive by those barns without pulling over for a picture. I had to deal with that woman at numerous meetings over the years. I was so happy when our daughter graduated and the number of committees started to dwindle.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. What would Sheldon say: Bazinga! You told that woman! Good for you, Dan. I started on a few committees then got duped into more. I eased out when they turned more into social occasions (Focus, people, focus!) and less on the matters at hand. I have to say I do not miss all that mess.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks John. That was the hardest thing about going to these meetings. One Board member suggested I run for office. I told him “I’d say the same things.” He said: “you can’t do that.” I don’t understand the “experts” either.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. A lady from church approached me one Sunday and said that God told her that I would make a great committee team member for the ladies mission group. I laughed and said, “When God tells me, then I may consider doing it!” People have a way of dragging you into stuff they don’t want to do themselves. I can smell manipulation a mile away. Great post, Dan. As usual, I love all the photos.

    Liked by 2 people

  9. That is a really gorgeous photo gallery today, Dan. Wow.
    Ha. I can imagine about all the committees. An attorney I knew once asked me to serve on a board. I was hugely flattered, but figured I’d better look deeper into the idea. My boss pointed out the dozen ways they would likely take advantage of me/my time… I’m really not cut out for such things. But I’m glad you spoke your mind about the books. I don’t like it at all when too many restraints are put on what teachers can choose for their classroom. The teaching I remember mose and that has been the most valuable to me was from teachers who pushed the limits on what some people wanted them to teach. Hugs on the wing!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. “… but figured I’d better look deeper into the idea.” Wow, why did that never occur to me? This teacher had a really good plan. It sounded like a challenging and interesting class. That community members would think they should be able to censor the books bring read was crazy. These were high school seniors. That’s about as adult as it gets in education.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Janis. I should have been more clear about the fact that I had done battle with this woman before. I had some success volunteering, but I also had some experiences that really made me wonder why I ever raised my hand.

      I am sleeping a little later, 6:00 am vs 5:00. I think that’s the best I can do, I can’t remember the last time I slept until 7:00, unless I was sick.

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  10. I like your outspokenness! I also like your photographs. When I see how beautiful your part of the country is, I sympathize with your wanting to live in such a snowy place. I remember visiting my mother when she lived in upstate New York, and how beautiful the countryside views, how charming the small towns, how kind the people were.

    Liked by 1 person

        1. This stuff has been so wet and heavy, it hasn’t been easy to direct into a pile. Maddie seems to have lost interest in Mt Maddie – starting last winter, she seems more interested in sitting and watching the world go by. Each time I’ve cleared the snow, the first place she takes me is to “her porch” to check the quality of my work clearing that.

          Liked by 1 person

  11. ZING! good one Dan.

    I also like your turn of phrase: seed corn. Up here, if you are on one committee you are probably on a half-dozen more. It’s one way of being a good civic-minded citizen, but it’s also one way of burning out.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Maggie. It’s like they look at you and say “he/she volunteered once, maybe he/she will do it again.” So few people actually volunteered, but lots complained about the decisions that were made. It does tend to burn you out after a while.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. You’re welcome Laurie. I never understood why people, including many of the administrators, would try to change the curriculum, lesson plans and course objectives rather than leave those decisions to the people who studied and prepared for years to teach that particular course. My brother retired after 30 years in the classroom, and I know how hard he worked to keep his lessons interesting and valuable.

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  12. I’ve never served on a board or committee but I’ve heard their meetings can be a big waste of time. Politics tend to get in the way of just about everything sometimes. However, I’m glad that your daughter got to take that class. It sounds very interesting. Really cool pictures, too. Great post!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Some of the committees actually accomplished something of value. Unfortunately, some didn’t and some had their hard work pushed aside for political reasons. Working collectively in a political environment is not easy. For the most part, we worked hard and did our best.

      The problem with people like the woman I argued with (many times in many meetings) is that they never give up. I’m sure she’s still showing up at the budget meetings complaining about the same books.

      Liked by 1 person

  13. I’ve managed to squiggle myself back off the three church committees I got roped into and am much happier for it. I’ll volunteer as a worker bee all day long but for the love of all things holy don’t ask me to organize stuff anymore.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ha! I volunteered once to “attend” a Christian Education Committee meeting. The next thing I knew, I was the chairman and leading a Bible Study. Then, three days later, a woman I never heard of called to tell me that “the chairman of the Christian Education committee is also in charge of the Seminarian Committee” and that we were getting a seminarian and I had to go to training. I hope I’ve learned that lesson.

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  14. Good response to that naysayer. I was asked to join the PTA (a hundred years ago!) so I decided to talk to a few of the gals who were involved in it or had been. Not pretty stories. Back-stabbing, eye-gouging adult women acting like nasty 6th graders! Nope! Not for me.

    Then I was asked if I would fill in for a Sunday school teacher at our church. Wouldn’t be for long they said. She’ll be back in a few weeks they said. Sure, happy to help out. Before I knew it, my husband and I were on two committees! Washington has nothing on politics compared to the church!

    Three years later I was still teaching Sunday school, spending endless hours preparing lessons every week and spending a $$fortune$$ on supplies because, gee whiz, there was no money in the church budget!!

    Oh! The former Sunday school teacher? She never came back. She moved out west. Probably figured it was her only way out! Lol. :~)

    LOVE the first squirrel picture. Beautiful critter. Honestly Dan, it looks professional. Perhaps you could be quieter when working at your desk. Apparently it’s very distressing to the feline above! Sweet Maddie always brings a smile to my lips…….just hanging out with dad making sure dad gets his nap time in.

    Ginger

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Ginger. Sorry you got snagged into that deal, but you were probably a great teacher. I understand about church politics – you did your duty, and you learned a valuable lesson.

      It’s getting cold here, the squirrels are gathering and begging and fighting the blue jays for every peanut they can find.

      MuMu is trying very hard to train me but I’m a slow learner. Maddie is keeping me on a routine that includes sitting with her at specific times – in the morning and in the afternoon (when I used to get home from work).

      Like

  15. I was talked into serving as co-chair of our CPCU membership committee. Just one year then a new CPCU would replace me. My partner dropped after the first monthly meeting. Fast forward and it was four years later before I was relieved on my duties. I gained some skills from serving but never again. The older I get if I don’t wanna I’m not gonna. :)

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Lots of cute pictures today, Dan. That somewhat counteracts how I feel about meetings like the ones you described. In most of the churches I’ve been, if you agree to run for office, you’re in because you’re the only one. :-)

    janet

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Your statement “…you agree to run for office” is perfect. I doubt anyone ever really wants to do it. They agree, against their better judgement. Those budget meetings were the worst, but some church committee meetings came close. I’m glad you like the pictures.

      Liked by 1 person

  17. Haha, I can see it in front of me:) That’s where my graduate training was a great preparation. We as students in the first year talked about it amongst each other. – don’t in any way speak out against your prof,, buckle down in anonymity and that will get you through to get your degree.My (then) accent was a red flag anyway, so I made sure I was seen but not heard:) The degree was more important!

    Liked by 1 person

      1. I smile, but also with sadness, that I allowed the docs to control what to say or not. It was the first year that married women were allowed to this program, 2 of us. More than 75 % were male. Now, the percentages has evened out.

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  18. Well done, Dan. You know how I feel about such things. Images of Fahrenheit 451 flashing through my head and my favorite scene in Field of Dreams when Kevin Costner’s wife called out the woman on the PTA who wanted books taken out of the library. As always, your photos show the most lovely views of Hartford.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Cheryl. This was an elective course. If you didn’t like the books that were going to be read, you could simply tell your kid not to take the course. Censor your own child’s experience, not mine.

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      1. Exactly. When I was in 6th grade the religious fanatics in our neighborhood were trying to have them pull Animal Farm from the library because a duck peed on somebody or they talked about a duck peeing. Ridiculous.

        Liked by 1 person

  19. SNAP! Good job, Dan!
    Meetings are horrible. Our family calls board meetings and well, most meetings “boring meetings.”
    Your photos are delightful — I especially love the squirrel’s white belly!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks. The only thing worse than the boring nature of these meetings is the fact that the results can actually effect the town and the education of children.

      We love seeing the squirrels, especially in the snow.

      Liked by 1 person

  20. I so much wanted to like this post but WP wouldn’t let me. Committees are the lifeblood of any organization and volunteers are becoming increasingly rare. You are so right when you say that the same people seem to show up on every committee and Board. I find myself in that position right now with another seniors’ club already starting to put out ‘hints’.

    I LOVED your response to the woman and her opinion about the appropriateness of the books. There is always going to be a critic in every crowd and it makes me grind my teeth whenever I hear about a book being dropped from a curriculum because of ONE parent objecting.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Joanne. Good luck to you if you serve. It’s often a thankless job, but it may be an important one.

      This woman was always pushing a narrow agenda. She wanted to dictate what the students studied. In so many areas of life, it seems that someone/some group needs an advocate to protect them against special interests. This class was specifically offered to high school seniors – that’s about as mature an audience you’re going to find in a school system and what could be better than helping them to learn to be good critical thinkers on “mature” subjects.

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