Guest editorial: Differing opinions are important, but let’s air them with civility
Park City, a town united by its love of winter, recreation and a heightened sense of community has, in recent weeks, pushed to the brink its ability to engage in dialogue beneficial to not only the well-being of the Park City community in the aggregate, but the Park City School District, as well. In a time of nationwide political polarization, Park City residents and those engaging in the issues of the Park City community should strive to exhibit sustained levels of civility, respect and thoughtfulness, as most wish only the best for the Park City community.
Recent Park Record articles and editorials have unfolded and described the events surrounding the alleged attack on District Superintendent Dr. Jill Gildea’s district-owned residence. Initial allegations claimed a targeted attack on Dr. Gildea and her family, which to many, was disheartening and utterly unrepresentative of a generally supportive and embracing Park City community. Promisingly, this report brought about encouraging levels of empathy and calls for greater civility in how we engage with others on divisive issues. The release of the alleged attack also brought to light how we, as a community, interact with various social media platforms (primarily Nextdoor), which had been used to harass Dr. Gildea. Though it should not take a claim that a rock had been thrown through someone’s window to spark concerns and reflection, the realizations made following the news of the claim were hopeful and refreshing.
Though initially promising, the discoveries by the Summit County Sheriff’s Department, which conclusively disproved the attack on Dr. Gildea’s residence, prompted a reversion back to levels of frustration and misunderstanding that built before the first allegations. Following the revelations of the investigation, many revisited their prior actions and rhetoric regarding the Park City school board’s. However, a recognition that there was something wrong with how we handled various aspects of the issue from the beginning should allow for healthy discussion and produce a step in the right direction.
Engagement with fragile issues in our community should be carefully constructed. It is crucial that we are receptive to differing viewpoints and can acknowledge how someone else’s thinking may differ from our own and engage in level-headed exchanges of thought that seek to achieve more than merely ridiculing or attacking someone’s argument. Similarly, to persevere our ability to overcome differing opinions, it is also pivotal to understand where passion can be overridden by sheer emotion and recognize where compromise may lie.
Park City should leverage its unity, using it as a platform to encourage and exhibit civil discourse, for the betterment of the community as a whole. Differing opinions are integral to a politically engaged populous and the discussions surrounding the issues that arise in our (and any) community. However, misinformed opinions, divisive and unwelcoming rhetoric, as well as targeted verbal attacks, are not only unproductive but serve as a representation of how well we can engage with convoluted and pressing issues. Disagreement and discontent do not have to be full of anger but should be constructive and aid in pushing a narrative toward its resolution.
Today, we focus on Welcoming Schools and the ongoing debate surrounding the Park City school board’s controversial decision to purchase property for the district superintendent, issues that will eventually pass, becoming replaced by items of higher relevance or importance. If today, we as a community can engage civilly and responsibly on matters of higher salience, we, in effect, strengthen a system in which we can productively and collaboratively work through the many problems that the future undoubtedly holds.
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“I am concerned with reliance on the information coming from the ‘professional consultants’ without challenging or exploring the critical underlying assumptions driving their analyses,” writes Old Town resident David Gordon about the proposed PCMR project.