"But if it is believed that these elementary schools will be better managed by...any other general authority of the government, than by the parents within each ward [district], it is a belief against all experience." --Thomas Jefferson

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

"You Don't Care About Kids!": Civil Discourse

Most people you meet care about kids.  People involved in education pride themselves on their commitment and the nobility of working with and wanting to provide a good education for the next generation.  However, when the discussion turns to specifics of policy, spending, and issues in education, the opposing sides trot out the famous line (or some variation thereof), "You don't care about kids!"  I know.  It's a common theme. Not all that original.

Stop and think for a moment.  Of all your friends and neighbors--people you know well--what percentage of them would you say don't care about kids?  If you were to extrapolate on that number, what percentage of the inhabitants of Utah don't care about kids?  For me, I don't know a SINGLE person who doesn't care about kids. I really don't.  What that means is, based on my experience, I should not ever encounter a person who doesn't care about kids.  And, honestly, I don't think that I have, to date.  Oh sure, I have met all kinds of people with whom I disagreed on all sorts of education policies.  I have met people with whom I have had passionate discussions.  But through it all, I have never doubted that they cared about kids.  I have, honestly, doubted how their positions would lead to better outcomes for kids, or, practically, how a nice-sounding idea that wasn't grounded in reality could possibly work.  But, as far as their motivation and their intent, I have yet to come across anyone in any capacity that truly wanted to do harm to or was apathetic toward the children in their purview.

That's not to say there isn't evil in the world; there is.  But, I don't know those people, and, most likely, neither do you.

A few weeks ago, a friend posed the question about the difference between conflict and contention.  A person I do not know responded that the difference was contempt.  She went on to explain that when you see someone as worth less than yourself, you treat them with contempt.  Since we shouldn't be treating people as worthless, all are valuable, especially from a religious perspective, then we should never treat people with contempt.  Even those with whom we disagree. Even those who we think are about as wrong as they could possibly be.  Error is the human condition.  We all make mistakes.  And it is that human fallibility our Founders wanted to make sure was tempered with checks and balances and a lot of public discourse.  But to have true public discourse, people need to actually talk.  And that talk must allow for different perspectives and understanding.  Impugning of motives will shut down productive discourse faster than anything.  People can be wrong, but not have bad intent.  I learned a long time ago, that disagreeing or even being angry with someone doesn't mean you have to malign their character or treat them poorly.

So, my challenge to every single person reading this blog (but most especially to those who are supporting me this election season): do not give in to contempt.  Conflict, disagreement, vigorous debate--ABSOLUTELY!  Contempt, disrespect, and the impugning of motives--REJECT IT!  You may not understand why someone does what they do, but don't assume they are doing it for malicious reasons.  Thumper's dad was right, "If you can't say somethin' nice [about someone's character or motives], don't say nothin' at all."  You haven't walked in their shoes.  So really, you have no idea what is in their heart.  Give them the benefit of the doubt.   Most likely, they are human with a different set of experiences, and, I'm pretty sure, they do care about kids.


  1. Spot on Wendy. You and Alexander Hamilton feel the same e way on the subject. In Federalist 1 he says the following regarding those who oppose ratifying the US Constitution, "So numerous indeed and so powerful are the causes which serve to give a false bias to the judgment, that we, upon many occasions, see wise and good men on the wrong as well as on the right side of questions of the first magnitude to society. This circumstance, if duly attended to, would furnish a lesson of moderation to those who are ever so much persuaded of their being in the right in any controversy. And a further reason for caution, in this respect, might be drawn from the reflection that we are not always sure that those who advocate the truth are influenced by purer principles than their antagonists. Ambition, avarice, personal animosity, party opposition, and many other motives not more laudable than these, are apt to operate as well upon those who support as those who oppose the right side of a question. Were there not even these inducements to moderation, nothing could be more ill-judged than that intolerant spirit which has, at all times, characterized political parties. For in politics, as in religion, it is equally absurd to aim at making proselytes by fire and sword. Heresies in either can rarely be cured by persecution."

    1. "Heresies in either can rarely be cured by persecution." Thank you Mr. Hamilton (and Mr. Mann)

      My mom taught me, "You can catch more bees with honey than with vinegar."

  2. Well done Wendy. As always, very insightful and spot on.