We get a certain amount of heat here at Seattle Schools Community Blog for being "negative". We are, from time to time, accused of being whiners, complainers, gossips, and worse. I'm not looking to discuss the merits of those accusations right now - we can entertain that topic in another thread. Instead, I would like to open the discussion to the question of how this blog can be a tool for positive change in the district.
We can certainly serve as a news and information source - and we do. Newspapers, radio and television can't describe the detailed doings in the district as we can. I think we offer deeper and more comprehensive coverage than they ever could. We can also address specific questions that people have about the district - how things are supposed to work, how they actually work, and the regulatory and historical context for procedures.
The blog certainly works as a discussion space. I think that's also a positive. You may not like what some folks say or how they say it, but I have great confidence that the public discussion here is as civil and informed as any other in town. Seriously, have you read the comments that follow Seattle Times articles? I'm not going to take any heat about our discussions from people who don't hold the Seattle Times, the Stranger, or the other online media to the same standard.
While there is a positive influence that comes from just delivering information and hosting a forum, this blog also has a role as a springboard to activism. We have certainly gotten the message from some folks that activism doesn't have a positive impact. We simply disagree with those folks and we have no interest in debating that question.
It is usually when we are working in that role - as a springboard to activism - that the complaints come. I'm going to set aside, for the moment, the irony of someone complaining about complainers, and focus instead on addressing their complaint. Tell us, as best you can, how we can be "positive" while working for improvement in the District?
This is a particularly tricky puzzle when folks regard any mention of things that are wrong as being "negative". Those of you who think we're doing it wrong, please tell us the right way to do it. What is the right way to ask the District to keep commitments to students and families without sounding negative? What is the right way to ask the District to follow the law, follow their own policies, provide some accountability, be open and honest, be responsive, or to authentically engage the community without sounding negative? Should we only say "Please do this" without ever saying what is wrong with what they are doing instead?
How can we talk about what needs improvement without saying what's wrong?