If we can take anything from the world of international politics this month, it’s that rhetoric and the way we communicate has an infinite power to do harm.
For those who followed the attack ads during the U.S. midterm elections and, of course, the now infamous death threats that accompanied Obama’s attempt to bring a form of universal health care to the United States, it was shockingly clear that unspeakable violence was on the horizon.
No one would have guessed it would unfold at a seemingly innocuous meet-and-greet for Senator Gabrielle Gifford held at her neighbourhood Safeway; but the idea someone would or could be killed due to the political climate within the country was not a state secret.
In Canada, we believe we don’t tolerate violent, antagonistic rhetoric.
When Tom Flanagan, Harper’s campaign organizer, half-jokingly suggested while on live television that WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange should be assassinated, he was quickly thumbed by fellow politicians and the Canadian press who didn’t let the issue die for a week. His apology was prompt.
And yet, as individual citizens, sometimes we can still take things way too far, taking simple discussions to a level that goes well beyond the unpleasant.
While no one is making death threats over the timetable changes at Kelowna Secondary School, the level of hateful rhetoric now flying about is palpable.
What started as a failure to effectively communicate has been blown way out of proportion, no doubt causing all manner of hurt and misinformation. It’s a shame when these things occur and something we in the media see all too frequently.
Sure there are the issues like the Geoff Mantler case—the cop currently accused of kicking a man in the face while he was down on all fours—which rally vast amounts of public scrutiny because, frankly, as concerned citizens we need to pay attention when the people we pay to uphold the law appear to break it.
But when something very, very simple, like a change in the way a school day is organized, gets 500 people out to a gymnasium and then degenerates into pure misery, well, those are the days you wonder what the heck the world is coming to.
If you don’t have a child at KSS, the big change proposed by the school district is to take the school from a linear timetable to a semester system, which would bring KSS in line with every other high school in the district.
The teachers will likely have to adjust how they teach, as the classes will go from eight one-hour (or so) sessions to four two-and-a-half-hour sessions. This is likely a pretty serious inconvenience, but hey, all of us deal with inconvenience in our jobs from time to time—and they’re not publicly fighting it.
The parents, though, are another story.
It’s important to point out that neither the very angry parents who do not want any change, nor the school district, can give anyone an educational reason why one timetable is better than the other.
One would certainly hope there really isn’t much difference as every other high school in the district has been on this semester system for some time.
It’s also rather important to note the school district has given no indication that discussion on subjects like band and French couldn’t be accommodated to ensure those subjects, where it might do harm to be absent from the curriculum for half the year should the school go semester, could keep running as is.
What they did do is levy a decision to switch to a semester system far too swiftly without properly easing and hand-holding the parents into it. Yeah, I know. What is the world coming to?
Good communication would require that the school district, whether they’ve been discussing this internally since Adam and Eve first spotted the apple or not, at least talk the matter over with the parents at the school before making a decision.
Instead, they made a decision, then left an open time frame for the parents to complain. And boy, have they complained.
It doesn’t take a genius to figure out the school district really dropped the ball in the way they communicated what they wanted to do, but hey, this happens.
Life, as we should probably be teaching all the kids involved, is all about adaptation and compromise. There are times in life where each and everyone of us behaves less than absolutely perfectly.
There are big issues in education. The FSAs—big issue. Provincial school closures and demographic shifts affecting neighbourhood schools—big issue. Teachers’ pay—big issue.
Poor communication over a time timetable change? Don’t shoot the messenger here people but, really, there are some times in life when you just have to let the flames die down, stand back and ask yourself if an issue is really worth the level of anger involved.
Without an ability to adapt, change and juggle, new realities of life for all future high school students would be pretty bleak.