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Sunday, May 20, 2012

The Power of Positive Thinking

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?

62 comments:

Anonymous said...

protagonist vs. antagonist

-Annie

Sahila said...

The Tyranny of Positive Thinking

Bright-sided - How Positive Thinking is Undermining America

by Barbara Ehrenreich

A sharp-witted knockdown of America’s love affair with positive thinking and an urgent call for a new commitment to realism

Americans are a “positive” people—cheerful, optimistic, and upbeat: this is our reputation as well as our self-image. But more than a temperament, being positive, we are told, is the key to success and prosperity.

In this utterly original take on the American frame of mind, Barbara Ehrenreich traces the strange career of our sunny outlook from its origins as a marginal nineteenth-century healing technique to its enshrinement as a dominant, almost mandatory, cultural attitude. Evangelical mega-churches preach the good news that you only have to want something to get it, because God wants to “prosper” you. The medical profession prescribes positive thinking for its presumed health benefits. Academia has made room for new departments of “positive psychology” and the “science of happiness.” Nowhere, though, has bright-siding taken firmer root than within the business community, where, as Ehrenreich shows, the refusal even to consider negative outcomes — like mortgage defaults — contributed directly to the current economic crisis.

With the mythbusting powers for which she is acclaimed, Ehrenreich exposes the downside of America’s penchant for positive thinking: On a personal level, it leads to self-blame and a morbid preoccupation with stamping out “negative” thoughts. On a national level, it’s brought us an era of irrational optimism resulting in disaster. This is Ehrenreich at her provocative best—poking holes in conventional wisdom and faux science, and ending with a call for existential clarity and courage.

Anonymous said...

How about more highlights of the good that is going on in the district? Highlight the achievements of schools, classrooms, students and teachers. And by achievement, I do NOT mean test scores.

~seaanon~

Melissa Westbrook said...

Seaanon, you must be new.

Almost every single week, I write a thread about highlights and opportunities in our schools and our city. If someone gives me a heads up on a school or education event, I generally print it.

Kathleen said...

I like the blog the way it is. It is informative and, I agree, more detailed than other media sources. Though this is the first or second time I've commented, I appreciate the fact that I have the ability to comment. It is nice to know the positives that are going on in the district, but there's no need to do anything about positives! Negatives need more discussion about how they can be corrected and since everyone has an opinion, these discussions may seem negative, when they're just (usually) a healthy exchange of ideas. Thanks for all the work you put into this resource.

Anonymous said...

Charlie asks: "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?"

I think an area where the owners and most frequent commenters on this blog could do better is to acknowledge more often that they do not represent a broad swath of parents/community members in SPS. Though I recognize that people of varying races and economic classes participate in this blog, I think it is also fair to say that most of the frequent contributors have one or more of these characteristics in common: European-American, middle class/affluent, college-educated, speakers of English as a first language. It also seems to me that relatively few people who post here are sending their children to schools in South Seattle. Many posters also seem to have children in an Advanced Learning program of some kind--APP or Spectrum.

Possessing these characteristics should not bar anyone from speaking up and being an activist, but I don't always get a sense that participants in the blog realize what a small slice of Seattle Public Schools families they may be representing. I think that this leads to a bit of an "echo chamber" effect in the discussions on the blog.

I'm also not saying "you should get some more diverse voices on the blog." That would be great, of course, but it isn't likely to happen. I'd settle for more frequent acknowledgement of which voices may be missing from the conversation.

--Everyone's not here

Melissa Westbrook said...

Everyone, I know Charlie and I have never said we (or this blog) represent "everyone". We certainly do have a wide readership; people from all corners of the district tell me this. I do know that many do not comment so yes, it can seem like many familiar faces.

I don't know how saying that we frequently would make a difference.

I wrote to every single PTA last year to introduce them to the blog and ask them to consider putting a link on their website or mentioning it in their newsletters. We have a lot of info here that can help parents. And, as well, we would like more and varied voices.

David said...

I like and appreciate this blog the way it is too.

Sunlight is the best disinfectant. This blog provides transparency and information that the press (especially the Seattle Times and KUOW) should be providing but are not.

I know it must be a lot of work. Thank you for doing it.

Eric B said...

I find it kinda funny that Charlie writes this a week or two after the Face of Evil post. Why do people think you're negative when you call the entire management of the District evil? What could you do about that?

Snarkiness aside, you could do with some more balance. I appreciate the news here. It is certainly far better and more detailed than you can get from any other source. Knowing about issues and what we'd like to change certainly takes a fair number of "what's wrong" articles. I would like to see more "what's right" articles. The positive articles Melissa mentioned are almost exclusively about good things that happen at schools. Surely, there's something good you can say about (picking two names out of the hat) Susan Enfield or Harium Martin-Morris. There must be something they have done that you agree with. It may be small, you may disagree with them on most things, but I think it would go a long way toward curing the "this is a purely negative blog" issue.

Sahila said...

@Eric.... personally, I havent seen Harium doing anything good... and to me personally, he promised a white paper from the District re BROAD influence in headquarters and he never delivered...

As for Susan Enfield - I havent seen anything good from her, that didnt originate as a backpedal from something bad she did first....

We could damn them both with faint praise, I guess...

Melissa Westbrook said...

Eric, you said:

"..when you call the entire management of the District evil?"

Did Charlie say that? I think he said the Board but if I'm wrong let me know.

I have said many good things about Enfield and Martin-Morris. That you missed that, I can't account for. But I have been clear that I believe Martin-Morris has changed over the last two years so I do have fewer good things to say about him.

I have also lost some faith in Dr. Enfield although I have thrown kudos her way.

I think sometimes it goes both ways; people read (and write) what they look for.

annie said...

Eric is very right but I don't think charlie nor melissa has the ability to take in such information as they must always be right.

Anonymous said...

People who post are sharing their own experiences with SPS. If the the result is overly negative, well then maybe the district should clean up its act.

In just the past year, the amount of lawbreaking, unethical behavior and cronyism has been breathtaking.
This blog is the messenger of reality. I look forward to the day when fairness and ethics become rooted in SPS--then the tenor of the blog will become more positive.

"Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you mad." ~Aldous Huxley

p.s.--I've noticed that the topic of "Is this blog too negative?" is a fallback for slow news days. It really is an unnecessary recurring thread, in my negative opinion.

--enough already

Eric B said...

@Melissa- You do give more credit where credit is due. The new principal thread this morning is a good example. I can't recall a similar post from Charlie, but I may have a faulty memory.

As far as whether Charlie calls the whole district management evil, go back and re-read the post. He has a photo of the entire Board on the top. He names Directors, but refers to staff only as "the school district" and "they." I don't see it as a leap to translate this to "all of them." Maybe that's not what he meant, but that's sure how it reads.

@Sahila- If you can't say anything good about a person, what incentive do they have to listen to you and try to see your side?

Eric B said...

Don't get me wrong. Dirty laundry should be brought out, and may well outweigh the clean. I'm just saying that mentioning the clean baskets is a good thing now and then.

Thanks Malissa for being professional said...

I'm with Eric on this one. Because of the sarcastic and overall negative tone of his writing, I don't give much credence to what Charlie writes.

Sahila's comments are similarly so negative I don't see much practical point in them.

Anonymous said...

Dear members of this blog,

I think there are a few things we can do to make our voices more effective, and this blog in particular a true vehicle for change. Here are a few ideas:

1. Create instant polling at the blog to allow readers to like or dislike a post.
2. Create free online polls for SPS parents to vote and present to the Board, similar to the way in which parents were mobilized by a count of over 2,000 to question the new transportation plan.
3. Create a place where deleted comments by the blog administrators can be accessed later, as this is a form of censorship that creates the impression the blog is not as democratic as it would like to appear, or as transparent as it demands of those we sometimes criticized.
4. Allow anonymity to continue as a key feature which builds confidence that people can express vies without fear of harassment.
5. Consider if the blog should ask users to affirm they are all over the age of 18, since the content of the blog can include profane language and adult matter. need better security to ensure commenters are all over the age of majority. The recent discussion about the Lafayette story is a good example. Commenters expressed outrage that children would be confused about what is going on and yet we are discussing things in the open that those same children can access without any protective filter. We can never stop minors from accessing the blog, and if that is the case, then we should be more careful about what we say and how we say it.
6. Explain to comments the guidelines uses when a thread is closed to further comment or when a post is deleted by a blog administrator. What is the governance process of such decisions, and are they made by a vote of the blog administrators?
THank you for being a good information source to the SPS community.

-Analytical One

Melissa Westbrook said...

"Maybe that's not what he meant, but that's sure how it reads."

Again, as I have said over and over, words have meaning. But readers sometimes gloss over that to what THEY believe the meaning extracted from them is. This is a perfect example. Charlie did not say the entire district management was evil. Most people do know the difference between the Board and staff.

Charlie and I are different people indeed. But this is an open forum and so you will see differing opinions.

Always right? That's quite the snark but at least "Annie", we sign our names.

disgusted said...

Democracy is messy. I'm ok with this blog-as is.

Melissa Westbrook said...

I appreciate Analytical's suggestion but a few comments:

1) we might be able to do the instant polling but I'm not sure it's useful info
2) Charlie and I are unlikely to start any polls because frankly, it's better they are parent-driven and not blog driven.
3) We only delete comments that are not signed or off-topic. I don't feel obligated to house them somewhere else for people to see. Sometimes readers repost them before they get deleted.
4)If readers can abide the rules of commenting for this blog, they don't have to comment at all. We're about as anonymous as you can get.
5) Yes, children could read this blog but asking someone to promise they are 18 is a little much. I think there is very little here that would interest children. We do not allow profane language so if I missed that somewhere let me know.
6)We have - repeatedly - explained why posts get deleted. It's not that hard to understand. As for closing a post, that's up to Charlie or me or both of us. We use our own judgment.

Anonymous said...

Baby, the fact that you have this blog open for discussion is POSITIVE in my book. It's a freedom I cherish because I know what it's like not having it.

I'm good with you reporting some news, opining your views, and keeping the discussion on track. I don't care if you're white and for all I know dig 80's music. I don't set a litmus test on how "positive" this blog has to be. My point is-- the rest is on me as a reader and user. I can participate or not and have the CHOICE to turn this blog off anytime. I can focus my read and get my news/opinions from other sources and balance it off what I read here. I don't have to believe a thing you and other commentators say or I can believe just a little.

You did your bit. My turn to do the rest. That's good enough for me.

reader

Sahila said...

@Eric.... sadly you assume they have any interest in seeing things from my, or any other parent's, side...

Harium has not done well by his constituents or the other children of the district - he's made it clear that their concerns are not his - look at his voting record - he's voted in lockstep with the ed reformer's demands...

Susan Enfield? What can I say? No skin off my nose what she thinks about me - I know already she has no interest in what I have to say...

She's mediocrity with a pleasant smile personified... she doesnt have the skills, experience or drive to do anything really good for the district and our children... and when she was going to have to compete with others for the job, she took herself out of the race, so that she wouldnt have to deal with the reality of being passed over...

No personal integrity there at all....

Anonymous said...

"Balance" like the FOX deceit of Fair and Balanced is relative to the situation at hand.

Melissa regularly posts positive news of student and teacher accomplishments. If the highly paid or the board are doing great things I'm confident she'll post kudos to them. If you're not reading happy talk from JSCE then things could be just that grim. If you can't take the bad with the good, your complaints about negativity fall flat.

There's a lot of participation here from parents who have students who are doing well, who are high achievers, who want more. Their needs should never be diminished as "elitist," however, I'd like to hear more from families with students who aren't doing well for whatever reason. We rarely hear from parents or their students who are in danger of dropping out. What do they need to do their best? How are their teachers helping them? What's going on at their schools, both good and bad?

Reform is allegedly about them the kids at risk. I want to hear about what's really going on before I hear a proxy tell me how bad it is and what they want to do about it.

Mr White

Anonymous said...

I would agree with Eric. Melissa, it wasn't a stretch and you're mincing words. The "evil" post (and revision) was juvenile at best at takes away from the important work you do.

Sahila just reads as a crazy person, but I wish you wouldn't give her so many inches of space. Perhaps she should have her own blog instead of co-opting this one? I do see you and Charlie actually trying to change things in a (usually) realistic fashion. She's more of a burn-it-all-down-and-come-to-my-cult kinda person. Side note: Sahila, you might want to look into the proper use of the ellipsis at the end of a sentence. I think there is a lifetime quota and you're over.

I think this blog is your blog, do what you want, but if you ask for feedback, don't shut down everyone who disagrees with you or offers a contrary opinion like Eric. Words DO have meaning. It could really improve it to make a few changes. It's already a powerful tool - a little more balance could make it fantastic.

-Sure I'll get flamed, but hey, you asked

Lori said...

I think that the anonymous posts, in part, create the alleged "negative vibe" because they allow people to post all sorts of outrageous and libelous comments with impunity. And, because blog commenters are a self-selected group, those types of comments can take over a thread, creating false impressions of agreement and condonation where neither exists.

I started using my first name for posts a few years ago because I wanted to hold myself to a high standard: to only write things that I am willing to be responsible for in "real life." In turn, I appreciate when others do the same because only then does the blog become a real conversation.

I know based on my years of reading this blog whose opinions I trust and whose I don't. That's a huge value to me when it comes to assessing the content here. Quite frankly, I take everything written by someone with a new or short-lived moniker with a huge grain of salt.

And that's unfortunate. This is, after all, a "community" blog, and if everyone approached it like a real community, we'd use real names and be accountable for everything we say here. We'd cut down on the rumor, innuendo, and libel, which would be a dramatic improvement, IMHO. And more people might become active participants if they felt that most of the threads had insightful, respectful comments from people that they "know," whether in real-life or just on-line.

I know many will disagree and argue that there is value in being anonymous because you can avoid retribution or harassment for your opinions. But, as in many things in life, we need to make a risk:benefit calculation. There's a risk of losing content by requiring log-in names, but the potential benefit seems worth it to me. It might be worth trying for a month or two to see what happens.

Rufus X said...

@Lori - I see where you're coming from (owning our words), but I disagree with the notion that everyone who posts must out themselves. It would be both unfair and unsafe to ask everyone to use their real name - first lot who come to mind are district personnel and those of us who are gainfully employed by entities that have taken a stand or lobbies on issues in a way that is contrary to one's personal opinions. Fear of retribution is real and should not be dismissed. Yes, we should all be able to speak our minds and own our words, but the reality is some (including my own bad self) cannot do that. Seattle can still be a pretty small town.

Lori said...

Rufus X, thanks for making me clarify. I should have chosen my words more carefully.

It's not necessarily "real" names that I'd like to see, but some sort of traceable, consistent identity that allows me (and everyone else) to "get to know" the commenter. By traceable, I mean that I can go through past posts and see what else the commenter has said on various topics.

So my ideal would be that everyone picks a name, a single name, be it real or entirely fictitious, and uses it consistently.

Sahila said...

"Sahila reads like a crazy person"...

If anyone gets labelled as a 'nut job' when you're talking about education and eduction reform, they're are in good company....

According to Joel Klein, James Merriman, DFER et al - DianeRavitch is a "deranged crackpot", Deb Meier is "idiotic", & Leonie Haimson is "unstable".

And, I do indeed have my own blog (which you would have known if you had bothered to check my profile)....

Bringing Change: Sahila-Style

Sahila said...

AND.... I co-admin an anti-ed reform Facebook page...Miseduction Nation and work with other parents, educators and community members all over the country to counter the ed deform agenda.... apparently several hundred thousand well educated people concerned about public eduction are just as "crazy" as I am...

Perhaps you ought to let go of some of your "sanity" and join us....

Syd said...

"I think it is also fair to say that most of the frequent contributors have one or more of these characteristics in common: European-American, middle class/affluent, college-educated, speakers of English as a first language. It also seems to me that relatively few people who post here are sending their children to schools in South Seattle. Many posters also seem to have children in an Advanced Learning program of some kind--APP or Spectrum. "

Those are a lot of assumptions I am going to have to agree with Melissa here. Perhaps we are seeing what we want to see.

I see a lot of people writing about SE SPS issues - some still struggling to make it work, some having moved on to different solutions. This includes Charlie.

Predominantly I see people who are facile with English...but certainly not all the time. I personally can't tell if this is poor writing skills, a belief that writing on the web allows a different standard of writing, or that the person does not have English has a first language. I don't know how one makes that assessment.

I am also not sure how you can tell what a person's heritage is - especially in a city where there is a high percentage of people who identify as mixed. Look at the picture I have posted - make a guess - who am I? I am pretty sure you will not be able to guess. Of course I have given details of my background on this blog, but really how many people read every post..besides Melissa and Charlie.

And on Charlie being always negative - I call bullshit. Most posts when Enfield onboarded were positive. Charlie really seemed to think she might be a force for good. I did not. Honestly, I was a little annoyed that he gave her so much rope.

On making the blog better: I do think being able to 'like' a post would be helpful. Like most web sites and blogs, most people are lurkers. We consume but do not contribute. Most of the time either our point has already been made or maybe we are just busy. Liking is easy. And it gives an idea of which way most people reading the blog are leaning, if an idea is popular or not. I am not sure that is even available on Blogger though.

I personally think that deleting posts for not signing is silly and somewhat detrimental to the credibility of the blog, but it is not my choice, not my dog/blog. :) The reason I think this is that useful information is wiped. As supporting evidence I reference the number of times regular users will repost an anonymous post if they think it is useful information. And I don't really understand the purpose if by simply writing a pen name one fulfills the requirement for signing. On the other hand, I don't have any problem with deleting trolls. And I see that as a call of the moderator. Keeping the conversation passionate but constructive is not easy, but it can be done.

I want more - more posts that is, but I don't see how that is possible. There are posts most days, and sometimes multiple posts. There would need to be more people as dedicated as M and C in order to have more content.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Again, the reason for not having Anonymous used is that you have multiple people and no one can follow a thread or know which Anonymous to reply to.

More posts? Something to think about but it's a blog and not a news content site like Crosscut.

Charlie Mas said...

I've read through the first 31 comments (above) and I'm not seeing much that is responsive to my question. Remember, the question was for practical advice on how we can talk about what needs improvement in the District without being negative.

seaanon suggested that we right more about the good news and the things we like. If we did that then we could continue to write about the problems without seeming negative?

Everyone's not here suggests that we go ahead and say what we don't like and how we think it should be changed, and then add something like "but I'm just one person and this is just one person's opinion and I don't speak for anyone but myself". While it is true, I'm not convinced that it will somehow make what I write seem less negative. I am, of course, just one person. My opinions are, of course, just my own. I don't speak for anyone else and I have never claimed to. This is pretty well known already and I don't think it really bears mention, let alone repetition. I'm not rejecting the suggestion entirely; I'm saying that I'm not convinced that it will make me seem any less negative.

Eric raised a valid point - and it was done with style. I did call it evil when the unaccountable abuse their license and refuse to defend those they have sworn to protect. It was a long post, not just a bumper sticker proclamation that the district administration is evil, but I can see how that might have been the takeaway. It's not like I don't know I have this problem. I do know it.

This is exactly the area where I need help and exactly why I need help. Tell me, Eric, how could I have written about that without being negative?

ArchStanton said...

I've said it before; I'd like to at least force people to use a login to post. It would cut down on the repeat spammy posts by one person using a different sig every time (you know who you are). That person is not interested in a conversation or they would use a consistent sig.

As for security/privacy; sure you need to provide an email to have a login, but it's easy to get an email address without providing identifiable information. And there's nothing wrong with posting under an alt persona if you want to create an alternate login.

Charlie Mas said...

Thank you Analytical One for your many suggestions. I'm not sure which ones can be implemented with Blogger right now. Some of them are just areas of disagreement. For example, I do not want to make the blog 18+ only. I would really love to see more student participation and that would nearly end it.

While these suggestions are worth review, they don't address the question I asked.

I'm deadly serious about this, folks. How can I write that the District broke a promise to a community without it coming off as "negative"? How can I write that the superintendent isn't following a policy (when it is her job to implement Board policies), and the Board isn't enforcing the policy (when it is their job to enforce policies) without coming off as "negative"? I'm looking for practical instruction in effective complaining.

Anonymous said...

You're starting to sound like DeBell--a victim without a cause.

--enough already

Lori said...

It's all in the wording Charlie. How about, "How can the district keep it's promises to the community?" Or, "Why is it important for the superintendent to follow board policy?" And, "Why shouldn't the board enforce X policy when it is their job to do so?

As for this blog, keep it as is. People should be able to speak their mind. As a district employee, I appreciate knowing what's going on. Seems the actual Worker Bees are always the last to know. Makes for awkward moments WAY to frequently.

Lori said...

It's all in the wording Charlie. How about, "How can the district keep it's promises to the community?" Or, "Why is it important for the superintendent to follow board policy?" And, "Why shouldn't the board enforce X policy when it is their job to do so?

As for this blog, keep it as is. People should be able to speak their mind. As a district employee, I appreciate knowing what's going on. Seems the actual Worker Bees are always the last to know. Makes for awkward moments WAY to frequently.

Anonymous said...

To Everyone's Not Here: I posted without reading your post more carefully. I agree with you but also disagree. I think Melissa is constantly reaching out. How do we drive more people here and make it a more diverse group? I want this to be a place where we're going to learn a lot more about what it's like in all Seattle schools. There are a lot of assumptions that reform groups are capitalizing on.

Any by proxy, I don't mean Melissa or Charlie et al but groups like A4E, S4C, all the groups making money like Tim Eynman while claiming they're doing a social justice gig. They keep saying the answer to achievement gaps is "quality teachers" like the teacher is a piece of furniture. No matter what happens, they're getting paid first.

Mr White

Anonymous said...

I check this blog almost daily, and would hate to see anything about it change. As the parent of a 2e student, it keeps me informed of the small details and the big picture about all that is going on in the district. I don't see it as negative (and I have had some very negative experiences in terms of how my child's disabilities have been ignored, then catastrophized, in this district, and experienced the retaliatory tactics of district legal for speaking up and making a complaint using the systems in place to supposedly help parents.

I appreciate that I can turn to this blog for the inside scoop about what is going on. I can't attend the meetings that others can, and depend on being able to come here and hear what transpired. I don't see this is a negative blog - there has just been a crapload of negative, shady, incompetent, occurrences going in (and some good things do also happen in this district and I have read about them here). Please keep it the way it is.

SPED parent (for lack of a more creative name)

Anonymous said...

The content is not the problem. I agree with bringing light to problems. The delivery is the problem. Your sarcasm and snarkiness make you appears as an annoyance as opposed to someone trying to help resolve things.

As grandma said - you catch more flies with sugar......

-annie

Someone said...

Hmmm..well I hesitate to agree with Annie given some other posts - but I do think she's right on one level - many times, it's not the content it's the tone that's off-putting. And while Charlie is certainly more guilty of this, Melissa goes there now and then too ;o)
There are troubling issues galore at SPS and they need daylighting. But posts like the "Evil" one and frankly this & the "negativity" thread - get in the way. Look - people are never going to agree with your methodology. But the issues you point out are important, seldom covered elsewhere and necessary to know about.

Stop worrying about what other people think about what you are doing and just keep doing it. Why mess with what works.

Oh and I could care less about the anonymous posts - I too agree that deleting them is rather silly, but hey, it's your blog so whatever.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Enough, why are you here then? Seriously. Charlie is asking how this blog can attract more readers and be more credible while still pointing out the serious shortcomings in the district (especially those that are on-going and systemic).

Charlie and I are not victims and we're not asking for sympathy - we're asking for input.

And there seems to be confusion over these negativity threads. For myself, I am not at all concerning what people think of me personally but I do want to help the blog.

I pointed out a tactic in my negativity thread that I think is being used to discredit this blog (and many individuals) by just putting the tag "angry" or "negative".

Charlie Mas said...

annie, can you remind me of some of the times when people got accountability from the District by being nice?

Are you suggesting that if I had just asked the board to please enforce the program placement policy that they would have done it?

dw said...

Arch said: I've said it before; I'd like to at least force people to use a login to post. It would cut down on the repeat spammy posts by one person using a different sig every time (you know who you are).

I'm very happy that no login is required. It creates too much friction. I probably wouldn't be writing this if I'd had to sign in. Unless you use one primary computer, never remove cookies, and constantly stay signed in, it's a nuisance. It's also a barrier for folks who come by just once in a while and very rarely have something to say.

Yes, it does lead to abuse now and then, but as long as it's kept to a level manageable by our admins (thanks Mel/Charlie and anyone else doing this!) I'd rather see some occasional bloat than miss the wider-net conversations.

And Syd said: I personally think that deleting posts for not signing is silly and somewhat detrimental to the credibility of the blog

I think once people wade through the consequences of NOT doing this, they change their minds. I have. Long threads where most of the comments are anonymous makes it incredibly difficult to have conversations and to get to know contributors. There are quite a number of contributors here that I only know by their initials or pseudonym, but they have cred.

I like the idea of up-voting individual posts or comments, but mostly I think the blog is working pretty well as it is. It's unfortunate it's still hosted on blogger (Wordpress is MUCH better, and has tons of neat functionality), but I don't think that's what this thread is about.

Chris S. said...

One must be careful about criticizing volunteers - they might just take their marbles and go home. I'd like to compliment M & C on their thick skins and to encourage them to keep it up.

And Charlie, unlike some, can definitely take what he dishes out.

"Sunlight is the best disinfectant" nailed it for me. Before you can effectively fix something you must know a great deal about the problem. I do see Charlie and Melissa breaking big issues down into pieces that could really be addressed.

Charlie Mas said...

I will tell you my hypothesis.

I believe that my tone has nothing to do how effective I am. I have tried being nice and I was no more effective that way. My tone isn't getting in the way of my potential effectiveness because I don't believe that I have any potential for effectiveness in the first place.

I have seen some folks with influence in the District, but none of them were ever trying to do what I'm trying to do. None of them ever sought accountability. Oh, they talk about "accountability" in the abstract, but they never seek it in real terms (for example, this policy has been violated, the Board needs to enforce it).

It is my belief that I am ignored not because I am sarcastic, harsh, or unkind. I believe that I am ignored because no one in the JSCEE is accountable to me, so no one there gives a damn what I think. I am just a member of the public and therefore inconsequential.

I will be ineffective no matter what my tone, so anyone who attributes my failure to my tone is just making excuses for the people who are being non-responsive. It gives them an easy excuse.

Anonymous said...

Sahila,

Haven't bothered to check your profile because I have no interest in what you have to say. I just wish you would post there and not so much here. It's not your blog and you are so lengthy it's irritating. You're not "commenting" - you're "posting" which would be more appropriate on your own blog.

- Sure I'll get flamed

Eric B said...

@Charlie-

Lori talked about this already, but it stands repeating. The Evil post was over the top. You could just have easily spent the same number of column inches talking about the problem of not following procedures and how that causes pervasive problems through the administration. It would have been a totally legitimate article. Like I said earlier, I have absolutely no problem at all airing out the dirty laundry. I don't see how calling the District evil accomplishes that in a way that gets people to listen.

The problem with the over the top posts is that it makes it easy for those in charge to blow you off. It's just like the people who get up in public testimony and call the Board racists. The entire Board just turns off. It doesn't matter if the person in front of the mike has the answer to life, the universe, and everything, it just isn't heard. There are times when I've wanted to tell the Board that they'd be the first up against the wall when the revolution came, but I don't, because I don't want to give them an excuse to not listen to me.

You wanted an example of when being nice got results? The petition on school start times is a good example. The community put forward a positive request (don't start earlier than 8:30), pulled together 2600 signatures in a week and a half, and got the 7:30 start time killed. While it remains to be seen if the actual start times will move to 8:30 or later, there seems to be momentum in that direction.

Another example is holding the line on the north boundary of the Ballard HS assignment area a few years ago. People went in with a positive message, spoke about what the impacts of the change would be, and got results.

Sahila said...

@Sure I'll get flamed...

seems you cant please any of the people sometimes...

I used to 'comment" and got flamed

so, I decided to just "post" information from other arenas, sources that was relevant to the topic under discussion, without comment, with very little editorialising...

seems you dont like that...

oh well, so sad, too bad...

Sahila said...

ha - I am lengthy?.... dont remember when I posted a comment that was more than a couple of paragraphs long..

and I guess you're right - important, complex issues ought to be discussed with the bare minimum number of words, characters even... maybe Melissa could institute an 140-character limit...

I post often? guess it might seem that way, seeing my avatar comes up and might be conspicuous...

On this thread, I see four posts from Eric B, four from Lori, three from Annie, seven from Melissa, four from Charlie... and this makes seven from me, three of which were straight out commentary and the other four were replies to personal attacks...

Lori said...

FWIW, there are now two people going by the name Lori on here. I only posted twice on this thread and have been calling myself Lori since 2010. I guess I may have to change that if a new Lori is going to be posting regularly too. :)

Jan said...

Charlie: I agree with you that "being nice" with the staff/management on the big issues (where they need to do something, but don't feel like it, or don't know how but don't want that exposed) is not workable. I remember the days when you DID try to ask nicely (the old Spectrum work group days) -- and my recollection is they just rolled right over you, chuckling as they went.
Where I think the problem comes is when the language becomes so inflammatory/harsh that people can no longer get into the "room" of your argument -- because they fell flat on their faces at the "door" of the language. I thought that the point you were making in the "Board is Evil" post was a really important one -- and one that is missed if we just look at any one decision individually. But I think some readers just initially rose to the defense of the Board at what they saw as "overreaching" language, and once they were in argument mode -- were not inclined to give the heart of your argument any credence. Having said all that -- there is some benefit in the "shock value" of words sometimes. But it's a two-edged sword.

Probably none of us agrees with any of the others on everything -- and I read everything you post and am glad to have your voice and your commitment. But that is my 2 cents. It might help if, when you are most ticked off (I assume these are your most ticked off moments -- maybe not), you dialed down the heat a little.

Jan said...

Sahila -- I don't always agree with you. But I have learned from your political worldview, and I consider you the queen of links. (I don't always agree with the links, either, but some have totally rocked). I suppose I can find you on YOUR blog, if I have to, but I hope you keep posting here.

On the Anonymous issue -- I once posted something on a day when the site wouldn't let me log in. I didn't sign the post, so it was just "anonymous." By the time 1 or two other Anons had put in THEIR views -- two or 3 times each, the conversation became impossible to follow. All the anonymouses were disclaiming being this or THAT anonymous, people were trying to use times to identify posts they were responding to, which meant you had to scroll back up to find the post time. It didn't work, and I felt really guilty (honest -- I don't think I had EVER left a totally anonymous post before). I think it works fine now. If people really care, they repost. If readers think an anonymous post is worth saving, they repost it. I know it must seem odd to people who run into it the first time, but once you get the hang of it, I think it works pretty well, and as intended.

Jan said...

And Sahila -- I don't recall that you are over-lengthy. Blunt maybe, but not verbose. I, on the other hand . . . .

kellie said...

I appreciate this blog for being a place where information can run free.

However, that said, I agree with Arch. I really preferred the blog before the "outing" incident that caused all the re-settings, which allowed endless anonymous comments. I think it is not a very high bar to commenting to simply sign in. You can use a moniker, you can get a new email address and make a new identity if you want.

If for no other reason, than to end the distracting conversation about deleting anonymous comments, it would make this blog more credible. Moreover, it would be a much easier to follow blog with readily identifiable comments strings.

But how does this get back to your question. There is a difference between shining a light on a problem and stirring the pot. I thinking having a moniker encourages people to be more conscious of their dialogue. A more conscious conversation is much more likely to be more productive and much more likely to remain focused on a solution.

I know that there are many posters that don't' enjoy my views and likewise there are posters with whom I have never agreed. However, I have a deep appreciation for the commenters that own their space and own their words, either with their name or their moniker.

I truly believe that dialogue between multiple points of view, creates better solutions. IMHO, endless anonymous comments are not dialogue and dilute problem solving.

This blog was critical to getting out the real information about the growth in enrollment. I am still incredibly saddened that with all the information that was collected on this blog, that the 08-09 series of closures moved forward.

I think there is a way to leverage this blog into the arena of solutions, and I think that can only happen if people own their words.

Anonymous said...

Melissa,

Charlie sounded like a victim who was in control of the situation (like DeBell during the faux micromanaging fiasco). To ask: How can I change? I know I have this personality flaw but I have no intention of changing but let's talk about it anyway--is gamey and a waste of time, in my opinion. His summation basically affirms that this was the case all along.

You both do a great public service here, and this blog requires strong personalities at the helm. Why the need for periodic pulse checks (which seem to be more like space fillers for slow news days than anything) when both of you are clearly comfortable with what you're doing (as your responses to the litany of suggestions have indicated).

By the way, thanks for offering me the door...I've been planning to move on for awhile anyway. My hope is that Mr. Banda will take this district on the ethical turn it so desperately needs.

--enough already

mirmac1 said...

enough already,

NO WAY! You cannot go anywhere! I value your insight too much.

I absolutely believe DeBell has, in public, been playing the victim while continuing to ply his evil manipulative ways behind the scenes.

Voices like ours don't have to play nice. I've always hated that $%#! saying about "attracting bees with sugar" bull*($^#!!

Be *%&^$! with you soon!

Anonymous said...

annie said earlier in these comments..."As grandma said - you catch more flies with sugar......".

Sorry, but I have chickens and I know what the flies are attracted to.

-Oompah

Lori Eileen said...

I am the "New Lori" who didn't know there was another Lori whan I signed up as a blogger recently. So, to avoid confusion, I will go by my middle name starting tomorrow,

Anonymous said...

Just wanted to add that I detest the whole idea of presenting "balance" where it doesn't exist, just for the sake of being balanced -- i.e., giving the good and the bad equal weight, or assigning responsibility/blame in falsely equivalent doses -- just so one doesn't seem "biased" (or angry and negative). HELP. We need much, much less of that in our news. (and I don't think that Melissa or Charlie would do this but I don't want them to feel like it would be popular).

--TC

Syd said...

I think it is nice to get to know people via their pseudonyms. It does take some effort to create a policy and consistently moderate comments. It is hard work, and I really appreciate the effort that M and C put into it.

But I still think deleting anonymous posts is not the right call. The real purpose to maintain a passionate community that is at the same time civil and welcoming. I don't think deleting anonymous posts is achieving the goal and it also has the deleterious effect of removing posts that are informative.

Just to put it into perspective, I have been the head of content for a large UGC site for years. I know it is hard.

Note: Maybe this not what you are going for Charlie, but I see you as a funny writer, not a cranky one.

Jan said...

enough already -- I agree with mirmac1. Hope you stay.