Boards deserve civility
People serve on school boards for one purpose: to help their community by providing children with a well-rounded, fact driven education, so they can be informed, empathetic and productive citizens. In the past two years, what have our school board members had to face? They have encountered a global pandemic, a political fracturing of our society and a tremendous amount of anger and incivility.
In the last year, the schools in the Chagrin Valley have remained open with in-person school due to diligence and following both science and recommended health protocols. Wearing a mask is a proven method for keeping the children and others safe. If we want our schools to remain open, in order that our children can be educated most effectively, we must proceed with a mask mandate.
There is so much angry rhetoric about the DEIJ (diversity, equity, inclusion, and justice) initiatives that many schools are discussing today. Does learning factual history or learning about different cultures create a divisive classroom environment? I emphatically say, “No!” The more our children can listen, learn and understand one another, the better prepared they will be to succeed in our multi-cultural, diverse country.
In closing, I thank all the school board members who are serving their communities in this difficult time. I urge all who wish to address their board members to do so to with civility and kindness. The current behavior recently on display does not benefit our children. They deserve better.
Use power at ballot box
Following the Inauguration last January, I had a letter to the editor published. In it I implored you, my neighbors, to “Let the institutions of our government and the people who make them up do their work. Trust that the great majority of them are skilled and well intentioned.”
The various descriptions of the recent school board meetings published recently drive home the fact that there are many of us who are not only unwilling to accept my invitation but hold it in contempt. For the rest of you, you must vote. Vote at every level from “dogcatcher to president.” Vote with this in mind. There will be many candidates for office whose primary interest is not public service or the facts necessary to inform that service but pure self-assertion, a malignant distortion of what freedom actually is.
Learning promotes understanding
Like many Americans, in the aftermath of the George Floyd killing and other incidents of police brutality, I committed to learning more about the experiences of black Americans. As a social worker, I have taken college level classes on diversity, population trends and sociology at the undergraduate and graduate level over a 40-year period. I have led classes on race and diversity. Still, I know I have much to learn. As a white woman, I cannot know how black citizens experience and feel about life in America. But I can learn by reading, listening, reframing and asking questions. I have learned a lot. I have a lot yet to learn.
I am not an expert on diversity, equity and inclusion. I know many schools and businesses are looking at ways to improve their approaches in all these areas. Without knowing the particulars of how, I know we need to make these efforts. Police brutality, mass incarceration, income inequality, Tulsa Race Riots, 4,400 lynchings, 240 years of enslaving people, red lining and post World War II GI benefits that were denied to black GIs are but a few largely unknown and unacknowledged parts of our history. Yes, there is much to be proud of about our country. But wanting to learn does not negate being a proud American.
On June 23, 2021, Army General Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, addressed a congressional hearing. Among his comments he asked, “What is wrong with understanding … the country we are here to defend? I want to understand white rage. And I am white.”
I applaud the efforts of school districts and businesses to tackle these difficult subjects. We cannot fix what we do not acknowledge. To hold up truth-telling as subversive and anti-American is a very slippery slope indeed.
I support efforts by schools and businesses to address and improve diversity, equity and inclusion.
Is half truth a whole lie?
In my opinion the statement Michael Kan made about Marc Kotora, “he voted against Liberty Ford rezoning,” is a declaration that Kotora voted against Liberty Ford. In fact, according to the CEO of Liberty Ford, Michael Herrick, Kotora was “the only Solon official who genuinely reached out to me in an attempt to keep my business in Solon after the Druker Administration dared us to leave.”
The fact is Kotora was against a rezoning issue; however, it was against the Liberty Ford property becoming more apartments and stores, not for keeping the dealership here. I’m proud of Marc Kotora for voting against the land rezoning. Many Solon residents voted against the rezoning as did I. A few years ago Marc Kotora helped us fight against proposition No. 98, a rezoning project called “The Fountain’s” so no more apartments could be built at the end of a residential neighborhood. Please vote for Marc Kotora. He’s the Ward 4 councilman who works for you and Solon, not to advance his career.
Understanding critical race theory
The most difficult part of understanding critical race theory may be the resistance humans have to re-examining long-held beliefs.
Resistance to critical race theory is rooted in the belief that America is a land of opportunity for all willing to conquer its challenges, but that belief too often is a shield used to resist expanding the pool of able participants.
It is worth asking if opportunities for success are being evenly enjoyed in America.
A casual review of earnings reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that white males earn higher wages and salaries than women or African Americans in similar occupations, who also tend to be slotted into lower paying positions.
Is this because of a difference in intellectual capacity? Is it because of educational opportunity? Or do long-held institutional restrictions limit who succeeds in our society?
Cultural barriers, at a minimum, limit occupational opportunities among members of the adult labor pool.
The essence of CRT is that culture plays a part in who succeeds in America. Anyone who disputes that doesn’t understand the role of culture in human existence, and probably chooses indifference over examining the reasons why wage earning statistics tilt in favor of white males.
Which makes me wonder. Is social dialogue better spent debating an intellectual construct, such as CRT, whose purpose is to examine social norms at the graduate school level, or by debating how to deal with historical inequities in the labor pool?
If the opponents of critical race theory don’t want to equitably share social and economic opportunities, why not be honest about your intentions? But if economic and social disparities spawn even the smallest seed of concern about the structure of our society, why not work on how to address disparities in opportunity rather than attack the messenger?
Stephen G. Thomas