Letters to the Editor, Nov. 6-8, 2013
November 6, 2013
Thank you Park City! As I write this the election results are yet to be determined; but win or lose, Park City has been wonderful to me. Thank you for your kindness and support. Campaigns are hard work, but I haven’t found a better way to understand a town. I walked, I listened, I learned, and my admiration for Park City continues to grow. In any role, I’m proud to serve this community.
There’s been a lot of spirited discussion about preserving our ‘sense of place.’ I believe our sense of place is rooted in our community involvement—and as long as our citizens remain engaged in their schools, churches, non-profits, and local government—then we will remain connected to ‘our place.’ I feel privileged to be part of a community so involved and committed to betterment. Outside Magazine got one thing right, ‘We are the Best Town Ever!’
LivePC, GivePC: I’ve asked a lot of this community (contributions, volunteers, trust, votes ) but I’m going to ask one more thing, please give until it feels good this Friday, November 8th. Why give? Giving is an act of faith: faith in causes, faith in people, and faith in an ever-better future. Why participate in Live PC, Give PC? Because it’s fun, it’s collaborative, it’s needed, and it makes us part of something bigger. Find a cause—or two — or more — that match your passions and invest in their efforts. Stretch a little on November 8th, give more than usual, and experience the thrill.
Uproar over author is embarassing
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Student perspective: in response to being "verbally abused" by Sherman Alexie
Privilege is something that goes under the radar in a town like Park City, given that the vast majority of us are (as Sherman Alexie himself eloquently put it) "privileged shitheads" and that we are all blind, intentionally or unintentionally, to a lot of the injustices in our nation felt by those who aren’t so lucky. It really was refreshing to hear someone call us out on the things we deserve and need to get called out on, and while I deeply respect Alexie and the perspective he provides, I did feel a little underestimated. But this is not entirely his fault, not at all. The school administration and the protesting parents are who truly offended me by deliberately attempting to censor literature. A book that literally just mentions the act of masturbation ["Yep, that’s right, I admit that I masturbate"(Alexie 26)] and drops a couple swear words every few chapters does not warrant the controversy The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian spurred.
It’s embarrassing, frankly, that the mere mention of slightly sexual acts creates such an uproar in our community, especially given the fact that the handling of the subject matter indicates that the audience intended for Part-Time Indian was well below high-school level. It’s embarrassing that we had to read below our levels and in a sense underestimate ourselves simply because sex and swearing obviously don’t happen in high school and we never speak of such things or whatever logic people are using to try to declare blasphemy and smite the Holy name of Alexie. It’s embarrassing, furthermore, that parents are so deeply invested in their adolescent children’s lives that they feel the explicit need to protect them from the threat of part-time Indians. It’s embarrassing that the entire point of the book–the cumulative journey of Junior finding his sense of identity, the racial commentary and implications, the criticism of the United States’ systematic oppression of Native Americans via their societal banishment to cultural graveyards called "reservations"–was lost underneath the weight of the word "masturbation". It’s embarrassing, but it’s also ironic, considering the backlash of response was fueled by the rage of middle-to-upper-class white people.
Alexie’s work really does make me reflect on the culture I grew up on and the perpetuation of racism and classism in a supposedly equal-opportunity age. His books and his thoughts and his words all really resonated with me, especially during his presentation when he breached the barrier that confined the discussion to book-related things (for example, when he said that the nature of capitalism reflected the social structure of our nation and deemed the Internet-age to be responsible for our generation’s impending doom). And yeah, his jokes were funny and he said the F-word enough times that I was essentially immune to the dramatic effect of it by the end of the period, but I was left sort of disappointed. I appreciated him berating us for our privilege, and I appreciated him "going where no Parkite dares to go" in terms of blunt social criticism, but I was hoping for a more sound point. Something to drive all of the amusing quips and one-liners home. But I never got that. Maybe it’s because we’re a high-school audience and not "mature" enough to handle such sacrilegious talk, but I really wish we could have had an actual intellectual conversation about the inequalities that plague Park City and America as a whole.
Alexie Sherman book was inappropriate for school
This letter is in response to the editorial that appeared in The Park Record on Wednesday, October 30, regarding the Sherman Alexie book and subsequent lectures. My son attends PCHS. It was satisfying that The Park Record feels the choice of The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-time Indian for the summer reading for Park City High School was a mistake. But, I have some problems with other items that were written. I take issue with the statement: "Public schools are meant to serve a wide spectrum of constituents from widely-varying racial, religious and socioeconomic groups. Those who want to shield themselves from differing traditions should seek out private educational institutions." At issue is literature and conduct that defies decorum and decency. It’s a copout to insinuate that if a parent was offended by what happened in this situation, they should simply send their child to a private school. That is an unrealistic option for most working families, and it is elitist for The Park Record to suggest it. And why, as stated in the editorial, has this been an "unnecessary and unproductive controversy"? If the decision makers will be more careful in their whole-school summer reading choices in the future, this has been very productive. Admittedly, I did not sign the opt out form; my son did attend one of the lectures. Was it naïve of me to trust PCHS to give Mr. Alexie parameters? Furthermore, my son reported to me that Alexie stated that parents do not have a right to tell their children what they can and can’t read. Really? And, when asked about how he felt about the controversy surrounding his book, he said that it makes him laugh. Mr. Alexie, you might be laughing, but I’m not.
Sherman knows how to communicate with teens
Mr. Alexie’s choice of words when he spoke to the Park City High School students has been way overblown. I believe all of our students are mature enough not to take his remarks personally. They know all the good things they and many of their fellow students do.But, visit a reservation and see the poverty, drinking and hopelessness, and you might understand the anger Native Americans feel. Those of us who lived through the Civil Rights Era, the Black Panthers, the SLA etc. understand this anger.
I taught junior high school in California for many years, and I would have loved to have Mr. Alexie speak to my students. Would I have been thrilled about his choice of words? Absolutely not. But what a great "teachable moment" which I hope all parents and teachers took advantage of.
Let us not use this incident to criticize the Board of Education, the Superintendent, the administrators, the teachers and, most of all the Park City Education Foundation where volunteers put in hundreds of hours to enhance the education of our students. Instead, let this be a lesson to all of us in understanding the meaning of the word "tolerance".
Gerd Holmsen Aguilar
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