Teri Orr: Let’s not get an F in compassion
It is an oft-quoted expression in education – “A parent is only as happy as their least happy child.” And we have all been there and thought our child’s version of a story was the undeniable truth only to learn that the situation was seen thru a child’s eyes.
The responsibility of a parent is to learn and discern for the child, to help them come to reasonable reactions and solutions when confronted with confusing details. Perhaps things they are not yet old enough to understand including even the nuances of recess play…
Right before and during COVID we had an infusion of new folks to our community. Our community, like those around the country/planet, was trying to figure out how to keep things “normal.” Education was one of those messy complicated things that saw our teachers and administrators mixing layers of a delicate cake in how to educate and care for and support our students and navigate their stressed-out parents.
The normal ebb and flow of drop-off conversations and pick-up moments and interactions with teachers and support staff (like nurses) didn’t happen in any kind of organic way. We were all tense. And our kids felt that. So with the release this week of a sensational lawsuit, it might be tempting to react in a sensational fashion.
Put the pitchforks down. Stop collecting feathers, and don’t stir the tar pot. We have a chance, a brief window right now to stand up river and help divert the flow. Not to go into a swamp that could ruin innumerable lives…
Accusing a good man and beloved principal of a sex crime is horrific, and if we weren’t so disillusioned by other cases that appeared to be ignored by the district – from swastikas carved on desks to a lack of support for gay and transgender children – we might not be so inclined to jump on anyone and everyone associated with our schools.
So, in doing so, we need to think about a principal who has created an atmosphere of kindness and inclusion being charged with a crime that could send him to prison – to prison – for years. His life would be destroyed. Full stop.
Let that sink in. This isn’t just another story of bad judgments or missteps by the school district, because those need addressing/separating. And we need new leadership on the school board. (Please vote in November.)
What we also need to do as a community is to show the kind of compassion you would have for the small child inside us all, who was once sad/mad/ confused and said things that we couldn’t take back. We need to make certain that in our zeal and disappointment in a lot of decisions made by the corporate body of the school board, we don’t hurt the actual educators who are beloved by the parents and students.
Everyone loves a witch hunt it is said, except the witch. An old woman living alone in a forest where children disturb her quiet existence and she shoes them away… And the fantastical tales they create about poison cookies and apples become the story instead of the peace and serenity the old woman was entitled to on her own property in the woods.
Park City was just named the third best place on the planet by Time magazine which is fodder for another column another day… But really? Was this an advertorial decision or one based on someone who has traveled the world and done homework on arts and culture and is using a music event that hasn’t even happened as one of the reasons to say we are so amazing? Have you been to Banff or Doha or Paris?
Don’t drink the Kool-Aid.
We have a beautiful small town in the mountains of Utah with work to do here. Lots. Do you know what would make us world-class? Do you know what would be amazing? If we first learned the TWO sides to this story/ case and came to our own reasonable opinions about what might have happened. And then, we can become something really rare on the planet – a community worth celebrating, not for a new hotel featured in a photo in a four-color magazine, but rather for how we treated each other and a beloved principal.
When we were needed to be stand up people, did we/will we stand up? Look, I know it isn’t easy. I know as a journalist of 42 years better than most it is hell when the truth gets in the way of a good story. But this truth (or lack of it) has irrevocable consequences for a good human.
Will each of you who have taken the time to read this column once or on a regular basis look past lurid and read the lawsuit? And will you ask tough questions, first of yourself and then your own children you have always wanted to protect? Or were you so impassioned by a recess incident that you simply wanted justice at any cost? Because the real cost of this suit isn’t money that could be extracted from government bodies that feel impersonal.
The real cost of this suit is the soul of a community. Our community. And there isn’t yet an international ranking for that. It’s just something we want to feel good about without being mandated to do so, any day but especially all the Sundays in our Park…
Teri Orr is a former editor of The Park Record. She is the founder of the Park City Institute, which provides programming for the George S. and Dolores Doré Eccles Center for the Performing Arts. She has been a member of the TED community since 2007 and founded TEDxParkCity in 2009.
This is that weekend. At least, I think it might be. The one perfect fall weekend where the aspen trees are orange and yellow against the evergreens and the maples are red, and the slant of the light tells us the days are getting shorter.
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