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Monday, September 10, 2012

Show Me How I'm Wrong


When I’m wrong I admit it. I have a pretty good record of doing so. Let’s see who else can do the same. A lot of people think that my snarky comment about the Board's plan for a proclamation for Cheryl Chow was wrong. In particular, a lot of people thought it was anti-gay or homophobic.

First, I would like to thank all of the people who have chided me for name-calling, putting people on the defensive, and using vinegar rather than honey to persuade, then called me names, tried to put me on the defensive, and wrote scathingly about me. Good coaching there. I'm learning a lot from you.

Second, I would like to thank everyone who thinks they know me well enough to make unfounded conjecture about my thoughts and feelings. Since you know me so well you don’t need me to tell you how much I love that.

Apparently people want to talk about this. I'm open to it. Let's see who else is.

I reviewed the Executive Committee agenda for this week. On the agenda was an item about a proclamation for Cheryl Chow. There was no mention on the agenda about the content of that proclamation. I think we’re safe to assume that the impetus for this proclamation is re-active rather than pro-active. The Board does not have a standard practice of issuing proclamations about former staff or board members. There is no schedule for them; it is not simply Ms Chow’s turn to be honored. No. We can safely conclude that this is in response to the recent news about her. Ms Chow has been in the news lately for two reasons: she has publicly disclosed that she has been diagnosed with a terminal disease and she has come out as gay.

At this point, can we agree that the preceding paragraph is objectively true? Am I mistaken in the facts? Does anyone want to dispute this recitation of the facts? Does anyone want to dispute my conclusion about the reactive nature of the board’s action? Does anyone interpret this recitation of the facts or this conclusion as either unimaginable or inherently mean? I don’t think so, but if we cannot agree on these points, further discussion is hopeless.

I noted the item on the Executive Committee agenda and wondered about the nature of the proclamation. The proclamation will be extraordinary. It is not part of the Board’s normal course of business. I wrote:

“I'm not sure what proclamation the Board wants to make for Cheryl Chow. Will they congratulate her for coming out? Is this going to be a practice of theirs, to congratulate people for telling the world about their sexuality?”
A lot of folks have read some surprising things into that comment. Just so folks know that I do have a connection to reality, I do not seriously believe that the Board is going to congratulate Ms Chow for coming out. I presume, as many others did, that they will honor her for her service. Still, this sparked two different attacks on me: one from those who think that I was dismissive of Ms Chow’s lifetime of service, and another from people who jumped to completely bizarre conclusion that I am a homophobe or that my snark was somehow anti-gay. Yes, it was a snarky remark – of course it was – but about the Board, not Ms Chow and certainly not about her sexuality.

I don’t think that it is an inherently bad idea to thank people for a lifetime of service while they are still around to receive the gratitude. It is a good idea. It is not, however, the District’s standard practice. If it were the District’s standard practice, then there would be several thousand other people who would be in line for those thanks ahead of Ms Chow. I’m not saying that it isn’t nice that they are doing it for her. I’m saying that it is extraordinary - which is indisputably true - and that if they are going to start doing this for people they have a long list of folks who should be likewise honored. I have looked though the past eight years of board meetings looking for a similar proclamation, but could not find one. Not one. If anyone else can find one, please point it out to me.

There was none for Roscoe Bass, not during his life nor following his death in November of 2011. His service to the community was acknowledged in superintendent and board member comments following his death, but there was no proclamation. There have been other instances of similar thanks, all given post-humously. When people are sick, the wishes are for their full and speedy recovery. There has never been such a proclamation in my memory. Not even a group one for the long-time district employees who die each year. Not to take anything away from Ms Chow, but how was her service so remarkably different and more worthy than the service of any other career educator that she alone deserves this honor?

Also, while I don’t think it is necessarily a bad idea to eulogize the living, I do find it a bit creepy. It takes a little getting used to. I’m not alone in this perspective. There was a story on the Huffington Post just last week about a man who published an obituary for his seven-year-old son who is alive. It was not generally viewed in a positive light.

That’s my view. I think it extraordinary and worthy of comment that the Board is going to single out one person in the whole history of the District for this distinction. I think it extraordinary and worthy of comment that the Board is going to eulogize a living person. Is it not? Correct me if I'm wrong. I also happen to think that it represents a distasteful favoritism that this distinction goes to Ms Chow over every other deserving person when her service to the community was not particularly more dedicated than that of thousands of others. It's that she isn't deserving of such praise and gratitude that's wrong, but that she is somehow alone in that distinction.

As for the charge of being anti-gay or homophobic, I’m not sure what to say. None of the people who made this accusation know me and they have no basis for the conclusion. The comment is not at all anti-gay so I’m not going to apologize for it or any imagined anti-gay element in it. I will be further educated if anyone can point out the anti-gay sentiment in my words, but no one has as yet. The statement was neutral about her sexuality. So there will not be an apology for making an anti-gay statement until someone can explain the anti-gay element of the statement. Is it anti-gay to even acknowledge the sexuality of a gay person when they choose to publicly discuss it?
I don’t care about Ms Chow’s sexuality. I really don’t. I don’t care about anyone’s sexuality with the exception of the one person with whom I am intimate. I take the same approach to all of it regardless of orientation: it’s none of my business and I don’t care. I find it neither good nor bad. I have no opinion about it at all. I don’t care if people are straight, kinky, bi, gay, poly, or what-have-you. I don't care how people gender identify or if they choose not to gender identify. I don’t care because it is all independent of me. I wish everyone equally well and afford everyone equal respect. I have no favoritism or bias.
As to the claims of Ms Chow’s courage, again, I’m not sure what to say. There are literally tens of thousands of out and proud gay people in Seattle. How is Ms Chow any more courageous than any of them? Given that she is retired so she doesn’t have to worry about getting fired, given that she’s a member of this city’s powerful establishment clique, and given that Seattle is perhaps the second- or third-most gay friendly city in America, what risk was she running in coming out and what courage did she show? There have been and still are a lot of openly gay public figures in Seattle. It is not such a big deal. It should not be a big deal, and people should stop making a big deal of it. If, in fact, Ms Chow had been confident that people would care as little as I do, she could have been openly gay all along. I know that a lot of anti-gay bias and violence still exists, but thousands of our friends, family, and neighbors are openly gay nonetheless. Are they all going to get a proclamation noting their courage from the School Board? I don’t think so. What distinguishes Ms Chow's courage - if anything?
None of this has to do with the well-documented fact that I think Ms Chow was a dreadful board director and an even worse board president. In four years as a board director she never cast a single vote against the staff’s recommendations. She actually scolded her board colleagues for even questioning the staff’s recommendations. She told them that they had no business second-guessing the education experts on the staff and said that by the time a motion reached the board it was already thoroughly vetted and the board should just approve it without discussion. She supported Raj Manhas' poorly conceived and haphazard plan for a second round of school closures. She blocked the disclosure of student safety information and suggested that students just follow some "safety tips". She announced at a work session that there is no APP at Garfield, which makes me wonder how she regarded the program when she was the school’s principal. As board president Ms Chow oversaw the shutdown of the policy review and revision process. Prior to her presidency the board averaged about one policy update a month. During her presidency that nearly stopped completely. As Board president Ms Chow pushed for hiring of Dr. Goodloe-Johnson as superintendent and then gave her carte blanche to run the district without oversight or accountability. Ms Chow’s influence led directly to the DeBell/Sundquist boards that totally refused to perform any of their duties and the board members who still refuse to do their duty to this day.

So, no, I don’t have a lot of respect for Ms Chow’s service on the board and I don’t find her career of service to students to be significantly different from that of hundreds of thousands of other educators. But this isn’t about her. It is about the Board. This board action is extraordinary and my comment was to call attention to the extraordinary nature of it.

I will say that, illuminating as this has been, if I had it do over I would have written something more like:

“I'm not sure why the Board wants to issue a proclamation for Cheryl Chow. Will they issue a proclamation for everyone who has a career of service?”
Because I really don’t care for this distraction.

Now, defensive as all of the foregoing has been - and I recognize it was quite a little fit - if anyone can actually explain to me how my comment was anti-gay, I am open to hearing it and considering it. If I was wrong, I will acknowledge it and apologize.

55 comments:

Um said...

Wow.

Mary Griffin said...

Charlie,
It's a good thing you've sworn off ranting for the week, because I'd hate to see what that retraction would look like.

Could you please just say you made a stupid mistake and could we just get back to dealing with education matters?

There is lots of real fodder there.

Anonymous said...

I'll just copy this here:

Anonymous said...

Let's see... Charlie wrote: I'm not sure what proclamation the Board wants to make for Cheryl Chow. Will they congratulate her for coming out? Is this going to be a practice of theirs, to congratulate people for telling the world about their sexuality?

Sure, it may not be the most sensitive comment, but it's hardly homophobic. He could have asked if the Board will start congratulating people for speaking out about their cancer. That might be insensitive too, but his point was clearly to question what else the Board might have to praise Cheryl Chow for. And I agree with him on asking that question. No matter how strongly Chow might have advocated for kids or her community, IMO she was pretty ineffective as a Board member. So; what could be the purpose of the as yet unstated proclamation? My guess is it's just a self-serving, pat-ourselves-on-the-back, feel-good move for Chow and the Board. It reminds me of the pointless Seattle City Council proclamations about the Iraq war.

Unfortunately, this created a big opportunity for all the haters to come out of the woodwork and pile on.

-Not piling on

9/10/12 11:01 AM

Po3 said...

Charlie;

Sometimes you just leave things alone. You didn't need to add any commentary to the agenda item, your not understanding this baffles me.

It's called compassion and this post where you continue to rip Cherly Chow is abusive.

Maybe it is time to take that break you mentioned last week.




Anonymous said...

There's wrong and there's being an ass. You have often said you acknowledge you can be an ass. This is one of those times, in case you yourself haven't recognized it.

NE Parent

Someone said...

Gotta echo Um.. wow

I don't think it really matters that YOU didn't see it as anti-gay - that YOU meant it as questioning the board over a rare proclamation.

What I think does matter, at least to me is that it's clear from the reaction you got that more than one reader interpreted it as disrespectful and anti-gay. Like many things in life, interpretation is in the eye of the beholder.

Are you responsible for mis-interpretation? probably not.
Are you, as one commenter said, being a Class A ass? over and over again? oh without a doubt.
But that seems to be something of a badge of honor for you so whatever.

Note to self -
1. check who wrote blog post first from now on
2. Decide if really in mood for arrogant snark today.

Unknown said...

Well, I do think Charlie used poor wording and I wish he would cop to that.

But his explanation is pretty much what I thought. The issue was the Board and not Chow. You do have to wonder why they have picked this time and this person over so many others who came before. Maybe the Board will explain in their proclamation.

(And he is entitled to his opinion about her work on the Board.)

Really said...

Because Cheryl Chow is a Seattle icon and former School Board Member who's dying of cancer? What is so confusing about this?

No matter how you word it, I don't see what your problem is with the board's proclamation. This is really grotesque.

Po3 said...

"And he is entitled to his opinion about her work on the Board."

Again - it's called compassion!

It's one of those times where one says, "Just because I can, doesn't mean I should."

Anonymous said...

Well, I don't know - Charlie's explanation makes complete sense to me, and he brings up some good questions...

- Occasional reader of this blog

hschinske said...

"Second, I would like to thank everyone who thinks they know me well enough to make unfounded conjecture about my thoughts and feelings."

The only conjectures I made were that (a) you didn't intend your statement to be homophobic and (b) you thought that was an excuse for not apologizing for it. They would appear to have been well founded from what you say above.

Do you really not see how your language reinforced common homophobic stereotypes, to the point that people actually thought you meant it that way? That was hurtful behavior. It requires an apology.

Moreover, I'm disappointed that you would put the credibility of this extremely valuable resource at risk simply out of stubbornness over what should have been a minor kerfuffle.

Helen Schinske

Anonymous said...

"But his explanation is pretty much what I thought. The issue was the Board and not Chow. You do have to wonder why they have picked this time and this person over so many others who came before.

(1) Because she is still alive now and they want to acknowledge her before she dies instead of after.

(2) Many others who came before her? Please identify who you are aware of who has been a District employee, Board member, City Council member, 50 year volunteer with kids, and whose professional jobs have always involved serving kids. Or, if you read Charlie's first comment where this must be about her being gay, because she is the first Board member to be openly gay?

(3) Because they want to wish thier former collegue well in her battle with cancer. She left the Board very recently in the grand scheme of things, has continued to work with the District through Girl Scouts, and her partner is a long time District employee.


(4) Perhaps because the City of Seattle is ALSO doing a proclomation for her.

Maybe if Charlie ATTENDED the executive committee meeting where this is to be discussed BEFORE making snarky commentary, you would have had the answer and saved the engergy.

But, the useful part is now a whole lot of people are well aware of who you really are.

-SWWS

Anonymous said...

I don't get the silly reaction! Being gay or having cancer were so NOT the point, and obvious to any but the prickliest reader. The tut-tutting response (and frankly, the over-the-top proclamation itself) is patronizing of Ms. Chow. She doesn't need either.

Charlie, keep being incisive, and keep informing us about the history of the district.

We can handle it.

Now tell us what you think of the Times' editorial!

--Big Girl Pants

Anonymous said...

As a reader of the blog with no personal acquaintance with either Charlie or Melissa, I think they have both humbled themselves sufficiently. Pretty darn close to an apology from C. and I, for one, feel more comfortable now. Ready to move on to middle school Algebra 1. What schools are doing it and at the non APP middle schools, are they putting 6 th graders in , 8 th as well as 9 th grade level classes?

I wish the AL dept would issue some info about this. I havent found anything on the SPS site, just references and links on this blog to the new Algebra 1 policy and even that is still unclear to me in regards the selection process. I do feel it is the districts job to make the placement with an appeal ,process in place aS I read has been instituted, and hopefully AL will share that with us soon.

Garage

Anonymous said...

Of course you're entitled to your opinion. I share that opinion. However, your first post was mildly offensive and at the very least, insensitive. The fact that many people pointed this out should have tipped you off and at least made you rethink your words. A vague apology would have cost you exactly nothing, and shown some class.

Your second, extraordinary post above moved you into an entire different realm. Wow is right. It says that you (contrary to your protestations) really can't ever admit you're wrong and that you're going to dig in your heels and try to prove you're right. It is churlish and juvenile and takes away from the good work this blog does. Melissa, you must see that, right?

Please take that break and come back in a few months when you can look at that post and realize that your response was way off base. A public acknowledgement of someone's service (who is dying) isn't odd. It's not a creepy obit of a dying son by a father - please - it's a simple thank you. It costs the board nothing and might please a dying woman. It's classy. Look into that. Just because you can name people who haven't gotten such treatment, doesn't mean no one should ever get it. Sometimes things are overlooked and it takes extraordinary circumstances (like someone dying) to remember to do these things. Your response was just awful.

-Just lost a lot of respect for the blog

Anonymous said...

"I'm not sure what proclamation the Board wants to make for Cheryl Chow. Will they congratulate her for coming out? Is this going to be a practice of theirs, to congratulate people for telling the world about their sexuality?

Sure, it may not be the most sensitive comment, but it's hardly homophobic"

Yes it is. You are stating that coming out is all that defines her.

I agree that it would have been smart for you to attend the Executive Committee before taking upon yourself to snark at a dying woman. You aim may have been at the Board, but that is not how it read.

That you kept going and started this thread shows that it won't do anyone any good to point out your tasteless choices. You will just retreat into stuborness. That is okay, the rest of us can move on with a litte more faith in others than one typically gets from the comment section of the paper on issues like this.

IMHO

Anonymous said...

Charlie,

Come in for dinner! Time to take that break!

-Amused

Unknown said...

She's not the first Board member to be openly gay. She never said that one time during her tenure. That's kind of the point she made in her statement - that she wished she could have been the person she is before now.

"Maybe if Charlie ATTENDED the executive committee meeting where this is to be discussed BEFORE making snarky commentary, you would have had the answer and saved the engergy."

Unfortunately it is hard to attend a meeting that hasn't happened. He was discussing the agenda for an upcoming meeting.

Moving on now.

Anonymous said...

You aim may have been at the Board, but that is not how it read.

His aim may have been at the Board, s but that is not how some people chose to read it.

Like when people get their knickers in a twist over the use of the word "niggardly".

-Not Piling On

Anonymous said...

"Unfortunately it is hard to attend a meeting that hasn't happened. He was discussing the agenda for an upcoming meeting."

Again, if he had a question as to why the the Board was doing this, he should have waited and gone to the meeting BEFORE unleashing snark.

-SWWS

Anonymous said...

Charlie, it's not a question of whether what you was wrote was right or wrong. What you wrote offended a lot of sensibilities of a lot of regular readers of this blog.

It didn't offend mine, but I'm not them, and they're not me. As you found out, many people have different thresholds than you have for this kind of thing.

No one is saying that you have to adopt their thresholds for your own, but you have to respect them, and by making it an issue of right or wrong, you're not respecting their thresholds one bit.

Quite a few people think that what you wrote is icky, and there's no rational argument against icky. Icky is not a rational response, and nothing you nor I nor the Man in the Moon might say or do will make it so.

If people have a certain threshold for icky, it's theirs, and they are entitled to it, just as you and I are entitled to ours.

The response I would make in this instance -- and believe me, I have plenty of personal experience -- is: "I apologize if you were offended." Period.

If people tell you their feelings were hurt, it's feelings, not thoughts, and there is no rational rebuttal. It does not require that your position change. Not one bit. But to double down on F--- you -- which is exactly what you're doing here -- does not help you or the blog.

-- Ivan Weiss


Syd said...

I personally don't think you rant enough, Charlie. :) Often, that's when we hear the nitty gritty.

But this is not one of those times.

This in in the "who cares" category. It is a meaningless bit of fluff. It will have no affect on changing the math curriculum (4th grader just got the first worksheet for everyday math - guess I will be tutoring again). Expanding the interventions for literacy at the high school or in fact any level is not on the agenda for this year. More healthy food in the cafeteria's? Nope.

And for those who think you should take a break - and then what? We are down to one blogger on the site. I prefer more voices - not fewer.

Jet City mom said...

Well, it looks like the Boards intent has been fulfilled.
It's quite a distraction.

Jan said...

Oh dear. I missed any ability to comment in a timely way on the first post (not being online over the weekend). But now that Charlie has explained the thought process behind his original post, I would rather comment here anyway.

Ivan -- the "I'm sorry if you were offended" response is the classic non-apology. To many, it says -- well, exCUUUUSE me! You oversensitive twit." (My interpretation, not yours, I am sure.

I think Charlie's original post was unfortunate and harsh, but I also think Charlie has a very negative view of whether Cheryl Chow's term on the board helped, or hurt, Seattle schools. I tend to agree with that view. But I also found Ms. Chow's recent public statements, acknowledging the gravity of her health situation, publicly coming out after decades of feeling that she needed to keep silent, AND making clear the cost (and hoping others don't have to pay it in their lives) was a big deal, a really big deal.

Not all families are as dispassionate about this issue as Charlie's. In many families, being gay results in shunning, shaming, disinheritance, etc. All the people in your childhood pictures, all those relatives who came to your graduations, your wedding, the ones you spent summers with, -- none of them are speaking to you now. You aren't welcome in their homes. Your thanksgivings in the future will be elsewhere. Your children will not know their aunts, uncles, cousins.

I don't pretend to know Ms. Chow's exact situation -- only that this action, to her, took a great deal of personal courage. In a world where our gay, lesbian, transgendered, etc. kids may be living in these exact situations -- I thought her statements and actions were terrific!

So, we have a woman who spent much of her life in public service (retiring fairly recently) -- with a partner who is STILL involved in Seattle's education scene. She comes from a well-known family with a long history of political and public service in Seattle, as well as one that has long been closely identified with one of Seattle's largest, most important ethnic communities. She has a terminal illness. She takes the opportunity, when making a public announcement with regard to her health, of also making a further public statement that (in my opinion) was commendable, both in terms of its courage and personal integrity AND in terms of its role modelling/support for teens in a similar situation.

continued

Jan said...

She could, I suppose, have "come out" much more quietly. To the extent they haven't already, they could have started simply appearing at small social gatherings as a "couple," and introduced themselves as such, for whatever time is left. But she didn't. She went front page Seattle Times -- and I think she did it as a public service to thousands whom she wanted to encourage and empower by her actions. Because she chose to make her announcement in such a public manner (which I thought was great), it doesn't surprise me at all that the Board has taken the position that they want to publicly respond. If she had announced this at some public gathering, people (including me) would have stood up and applauded at the end -- not because I think she was a great Board Director (I share Charlie's views on that) or because I stand and applaud every time someone in a conversation tells me they are gay -- but because that would have been the appropriate "level" of response in that situation. Here, in this situation, in this town, for this woman (whose last name is Chow -- which means something in Seattle), a big, we-don't-usually-do it-this-way, public "response" seems appropriate.

It doesn't bother me one way or another whether the Board has ever done this before. Frankly, in my 30+ years in Seattle, I cannot recall that anyone in Cheryl Chow's position has ever made the kind of announcement that she has made, under circumstances (terminal illness) anything like hers. Notwithstanding the lack of precedent -- it seems perfectly appropriate to me, regardless of whether I agreed with her board work, for the board to respond to her announcement, and her situation, in the way that they have chosen.

Anonymous said...

Recognizing Cheryl Chow, while she's still alive, and after she's come out... at a minimum, is a huge welcome mat for gay people in the city of Seattle.

It matters not one tiny bit what anyone thinks of her service, nor the venue of the recognition (and it was pretty brief.) Gay staffers, gay families, gay students are all the intended beneficiaries of this move. It says "It's OK to be gay around here. Gay teachers won't be fired for gayness."

Gee. Why would anyone cry about that? Why would they cry more when others point it out?

It's exactly the hubris that typifies Charlie's posts. How many times does he post about somebody "reading things" into his comments or "over generalizing" district problems he doesn't care about much (like teachers not caring too much for sped students).... only to call the whole system a "culture of lawlessness". It's fine for him to "read" other's intention without knowing them. It's fine for him to make simplistic generalizations. And no, I doubt anyone is trying to "set an example" or train you. Why would they?

sped Parent

Anonymous said...

@Garage - re math

In the packet for parents at Cascade (homeschool center), the middle school math info states that to complete a course for high school credit:

Algebra 1
1. Prerequisite a score of 250 or greater on MAP
2. Student must successfully complete an Algebra 1 course AND pass Algebra 1 EOC.

It does not specify Winter or Spring MAP.

Anonymous said...

If this thread doesn't qualify for the blog's "bulls**t" tag, then I don't know what does.

-please go take your break already, Charlie!

Charlie Mas said...

Okay.

I've read the comments here.

Some of them have been helpful to me to see how some people were offended by a remark I made which was not intended to create any offense.

Just to be clear. I do not think that Ms Chow's service to the community was terribly unique, but that does not mean that it is not commendable. It is. It loses no value as a result of being common.

Moreover, I do not think that Ms Chow's declaration of her sexuality is unique. Nevertheless I can see how it would be inspiring or instructive for those who are closeted or who have suffered for coming out. Her statement has value for them and I respect that. They saw my remark as dismissive of the feelings it inspired in them. That was not my intent, and I regret it. I apologize for that.

Finally, yes, Ms Chow will die. As will we all. Her death will be a tragedy just like every other death before or since. Like her service, her death does not lose any of its impact as a consequence of being commonplace. I am sorry that I wrote anything flip about someone who will soon die. I should have known better than to have done that.

I am grateful to those who have done me the kindness of showing me my fault rather than just hitting me for it.

hschinske said...

Thank you, Charlie.

Helen Schinske

mirmac1 said...

I wonder if Lynn Varner and Times have the cajones to own up to their mistake. Lord knows, they get beat up more than Charlie does....

Jan said...

Was the most recent fiasco/editorial Lynne's? I thought it was one authored by the entire editorial board.

And, while I have known Charlie to apologize and/or reconsider before (and not just here), and I have seen the Stranger admit they were wrong and apologize at least once (for a bad endorsement,) I cannot recall any recent time when the ST has done so. So, mirmac1, I trust you are not holding your breath!

Mary Griffin said...

Thank you Charlie. Back to school for all of us!

Anonymous said...

Thank you, I guess, for apologizing. I wouldn't call Ms. Chow's many years of service "common"-more like one of the few who's devoted their entire adults lives to kids, both in and out of school. But at least you get that she should be honored.

A really good way to have questioned the Board's motives might have been something like, "I don't recall ever seeing them do this before. I wonder why." Simple and inoffensive. All of this would have been avoided.

And Emeraldkitty-do you REALLY think that they're doing it to DISTRACT us?? Did the King County Council honor JP Patches to distract us too, or were they just being nice? Wow, do we have some cynics here!

Sad

Maureen said...

Thank you Charlie, for exhibiting some empathy for those of us who have a limited capacity for snark.

And thank you Jan, for, yet again, writing exactly what I might have if I had your eloquence. I'm considering just logging on and typing: Yes, what Jan said on every thread every day.

Charlie Mas said...

Jan, in particular, was very helpful. As she often is.

Anonymous said...

Regarding Algebra 1, I see how homeschooler criteria could be different as the parents are taking full responsibility for instruction. What, however, is the criteria for those who attend schools? And what about kids not at Hamilton or Washington starting grade 6 and skipping two years? Does it happen? If so, how?
i think AL wants to go in the direction of "blocking" throughout the day( the new word for grouping) and I applaud that approach. It IS complicated and some staff may resist, especially at elementary level, but it really can meet both academic and social needs of kids. Self contained works for the kids in it, but it's a political nightmare. And anybody who has a kid in self contained Spectrum or at an APP school knows that cluster-grouping in elementary schools doesn't cut it. so, in summary, I like the way things are headed and I hope AL can let us in on the plan.

Hopeful

Anonymous said...

How many of those outraged (or even just troubled) by Charlie's original post, and then by this follow up, have communicated a brief message of thanks to Cheryl Chow for her service? Have you spent more time chastising Charlie over this than you've spent acknowledging Cheryl's service/struggle/challenge?

Sue in Zen Field

Johnny Calcagno said...

I second (or third) Jan’s comments, but unfortunately I can’t let it go at that.

The biggest reason that Charlie’s words were wrong is that they were so unnecessary. What possible good could have come of them? If there was some fairness issue that he was trying to raise, was using this example the best way to do it? There are lots of proclamations. How about having the kindness and generosity of spirit to flog one that didn’t involve such a sensitive matter?

Just because our shared focus in this blog is the chaotic and often infuriating institution that is the Seattle School District, we don’t need look at *every* action through a lens of rationality and efficiency. Proclamations are intended to make people feel good. One can’t and shouldn’t put a number on them, and if one doesn’t like the waste of time or inconsistency, the nice and decent thing to do is to keep one’s mouth shut. It’s really this simple: Don’t be unnecessarily mean.

My wife likes to write and send thoughtful cards to friends and family who are going through rough times. At times I am driven a little crazy with how much time and money she spends on such activities. She calls it kin work, and for all of my frustrations with how time consuming the whole process can be, people love her cards, and the money and time she spends on them is clearly well worth it.

Finally, while I hardly ever agreed with Cheryl’s actions on the Board, I don’t think anyone can possibly defend Charlie’s statement that he does “not think that Ms Chow's service to the community was terribly unique.” That just flies in the face of the reality of her life.

Anonymous said...

Adult bully comes to mind.

Long Gone

Anonymous said...

Jan said, in response to my comment:

"Ivan -- the "I'm sorry if you were offended" response is the classic non-apology. To many, it says -- well, exCUUUUSE me! You oversensitive twit." (My interpretation, not yours, I am sure."
--
Thanks, Jan. I agree with you that "I'm sorry you were offended" is a classic non-apology. But I didn't advise Charlie to say "I'm sorry if you were offended." I advised him to say "I apologize if you were offended."

"I'm sorry" can be passive. "I apologize" is proactive. I hope you understand the distinction, and my intention.

I am satisfied by Charlie's responses, here and at the Stranger, that he gets it now, and that we can resume our normally scheduled reporting and commentary.

My own experience in local politics has taught me that people respond to emotional and visceral cues, in addition to rational and intellectual cues, and that we ignore these at our peril, as I have discovered to my own chagrin many times.

Unlike Charlie, I have no problem whatever with the Board honoring Cheryl Chow. However effective, or ineffective, she might have been, for better or for worse she had a high profile in the community, she put in her time, and whoever else the Board seeks to recognize, or not recognize, for whatever reason, is pretty damn insignificant in the big picture.

I hope that we all learned from this, and that we can move on now.

-- Ivan Weiss

hschinske said...

Ivan, it's the "if" that's the problem. You wouldn't be saying sorry if there hadn't been a problem at all -- you already know there was a problem. The "if" is a passive-aggressive way of casting doubt on whether you really need to be apologizing.

It's true that "I'm sorry" has a broader range of meanings than "I apologize," but "I apologize" can definitely be one meaning of "I'm sorry." Nothing wrong with that.

Helen Schinske

BBN said...

I totally agree with Charlie. It's about the board, not Cheryl Chow.

Charlie Mas said...

Several people have questioned the statement that Ms Chow's lifetime of service was not very unique. It's not. There are legions of people, women mostly, who have spent their entire adult lives as educators. Many of them also performed volunteer work with youth groups during their career or following. Surely you know of any number of teachers who retired after 30 years (if not 35 or more)

They may not have served on the City Council or the School Board, and they may not have been principals either. But I don't value the City Council service, the service as a principal, or the school board service over classroom service.

Cheryl Chow is 66, so she probably has about 40 years, off and on, as an educator. She has a longer record, nearly 50 years, as a volunteer with the Chinese Drill Team.

I'll say again, the fact that other people have also worked as long for children doesn't cheapen Ms Chow's service any more than her service cheapens theirs.

Jan said...

Thanks, Ivan, for pointing out the finer distinctions between "sorry" and "apologize." You are of course completely correct -- as is Helen when she notes the "conditional" that is added when we insert the "if."

I have had to learn, the hard way, not to hand out those "conditional" apologies when real "mea culpas" are warranted. For people who observe the distinctions that you point out, it can (for the reasons that Helen notes) be worse than not apologizing at all!

Um said...

I gotta say "Wow" again.

Wow.

Anonymous said...

You just can't let it go, can you, Charlie? You just have to make sure we all know that you don't think Ms. Chow deserves any kind of special recognition. I think career teachers are amazing. I know one whose kids are STILL trying to convince her to retire, and she's older than Ms. Chow. She still subs and tutors the GRANDCHILDREN of some of her early students. It blows me away.

But, I'm baffled that you don't think serving on City Council AND the School Board AND having working in the classroom AND having been a principal AND having volunteered for her entire adult life isn't something pretty unique. If you can name someone else who's done it, please do.

Of course it's not better than teaching for decades. But it's quite a bit more than the average person manages in their lifetime, and Ms. Chow is dying and they're thanking her.

Just stop. Please.

Double Wow

Charlie Mas said...

Hey, double wow, I would understand it if you were unhappy with something I wrote, but now you're unhappy with something I didn't write.

I did not write that Ms Chow's service as a volunteer, teacher, principal, city council member and school board director wasn't unique. I wrote that her lifetime of service wasn't unique.

Can you tell the difference? I hope you can, because it is exactly the same difference that you were trying to point out to me.

dw said...

I did not write that Ms Chow's service as a volunteer, teacher, principal, city council member and school board director wasn't unique. I wrote that her lifetime of service wasn't unique.

That doesn't make a lick of sense. Are you saying that Chow's path isn't unique? Because last I looked there aren't a lot of people who can claim to have been all those things in this city, much less any city.

Yeah, it'd be nice if the Board voted to give everyone with 50 years of service in district a proclamation. They really should do that. But that's not what you're saying. What you're saying is she doesn't deserve any honors for what she's done. And that's awfully callous.

If you'd just said "they're giving her a proclamation, and I wish they gave a proclamation to anyone who's served the people of this town as much as she has," I don't think you'd be getting pilloried like this. What you said, though, sounded like she didn't serve any honor based on her Board work. And that's your opinion, but do not gainsay all the other ways she's served to make your political point.

I was always taught that sometimes, if you have nothing good to say, you should just keep your mouth shut.

Anonymous said...

He is Charlie. He does not get it and never will.

Amused and a bit embarassed for him to be honest

UhHuh said...

Charlie - You don't realize that sometimes saying nothing is so much better than saying something. You will never convince us that there is anything wrong with the board acknowledging a dying colleague. You keep letting your opportunities to say nothing slip by. When you're in a hole, STOP DIGGING.

pm said...

Charlie,

Check out your posts on this blog from 2006 and see if you can tell the difference in your tone. In my opinion, you have shifted from presenting information to making broad generalizations that are often offensive.

Anonymous said...

It is better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to open one's mouth and remove all doubt. ~ Abraham Lincoln

Anonymous said...

Charlie,

I second a great many readers. Wow. Time to a) apologize and b) give it a rest.

Yana

peter p said...

I could speak at length to what is wrong with your position, but enough people have tried to show you where you are wrong. So I'll just say, Charlie, just shut up already.