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Roaring or Yawning

33cscreenshotPost 4 in a weekly series.

A deaf man walks across the savannah, and spots a lion. The lion has its mouth open, and teeth exposed. It could be roaring, or it might be yawning. The sound the lion’s making is imperceptible to the man, so he’ll need some other way to be sure about the lion’s intentions.

Last week, in a post about the lack of videos to show school life to the community, I mentioned that the reasons one does not see more videos are both cultural and political. The cultural part involves relying on a single publisher with an apparent aversion to some media. Relying on the most traditional methods to get something done is a declining, yet lingering, cultural aspect of life here. Using newsprint, perhaps a website that simply imitates the most traditional styles of newsprint, is easier than doing one’s own work. Easier, and likely somehow more reassuring to older, or old-minded, policymakers. (As a self-interested matter of blogging, by contrast, nothing could have been more advantageous these last nine years than very traditional newspapers, a website that imitated that style, and policymakers who sought to live as though that were all the world. One could not have asked for better foils than those.)

Bu there’s almost certainly a political calculation, too: what if one walks outside, and encounters a lion? After all, from the point of view of Central Office, there have been lions in the past, and there might be some now. Worse, they might start roaring, and after roaring, then eating. Better to be cautious, in this way of seeing things, than to find oneself in a lion’s stomach.

I don’t know if there be political lions within the boundaries of the Whitewater Unified School District. It’s possible, but I’m not convinced (at least by the definition of lion one would derive from, let’s say, events of a decade or so ago). One would have seen more movement over the last referendum (and I, too, thought it would be closer than it was) if there were lions in the tall grass. In any event, this area doesn’t have anything like a single major political player. (That pleases me, but it would equally be true even if it didn’t please me.)

There’s so much caution, calculation, etc., in Central Office. Much of it seems designed as a roaring-lion-avoidance policy.

What if the lions (should there be any) or the many other animals of the area are not roaring at all, but yawning? Tired of a this-is how-we’ve-always-done-it approach – perhaps that’s closer to where we are as a community.

I’ll tell you a story about exhaustion. A few years ago, I attended a journalists’ banquet, not because I think of myself that way, but because I wanted to see how they thought of themselves. (By chance, I found myself seated at the guest speaker’s table, something I thought funny: the blogger had one of the best spots in the house.) But what I saw that night surprised me, too: prominent journalists, seeming tired, old, worn out. Many were my own age, but no one of similar age in my family looked so tired and uncertain as many of the invited, investigative journalists did. It was upsetting to see people this way. My father, when he was by age a generation older than most in the room were that night, was easily more focused, intense, energetic in his manner. I left the dinner concerned over what I saw: people committed to the right things, but weary, almost prematurely old.

Perhaps the challenge of this community in the next few years is not roaring, but yawning, not of energy, but of exhaustion.

Here one thinks not of a few officials, but of many within the community.

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4 comments for “Roaring or Yawning

  1. J
    02/02/2016 at 12:55 PM

    Interesting perspective. (On campus exhaustion is definitely a problem. It’s worn faculty down. Students don’t care for the administrative rah-rah anyhow. That’s show for the town.) If the bigger problem is exhaustion, what’s the answer?

  2. JOHN ADAMS
    02/02/2016 at 1:28 PM

    Go bold and creative: sleepy lions will be impressed and hungry ones (if there should be any) will be more easily managed.

    Video, about which I spoke last week, is a surrogate for actual attendance at an event; it’s imperfect, but it takes people closer to the action than even most photographs do.

    There is no outreach event that this district holds that captures more people than Science Night. Anything of that kind truly moves visitors: we (Americans) are an experimenting people, committed to science and technology. Events that invite the community to watch something happen are best; video of those events is an imperfect but powerful facsimile.

    The least valuable coverage of the district is from newspapers: dull, read only by a (mostly) aged cohort, and no defense whatever against a serious – or sad to say even a conniving – line of attack. (If there should ever be a lion around these parts, he’ll chew through the DU without burning a single calorie for the effort.)

    Seeing, touching, feeling – they revitalize the tired, restoring them to a commitment, to a cause. It takes more than an exclamation point to restore. It troubles me that communities nearby seem weary; our society is historically a dynamic one.

    Perhaps it’s this: Too much worry about fiery debates, with too little worry about people falling asleep in the audience.

  3. IN
    02/02/2016 at 3:22 PM

    Is there a special motivation for this post?

    • JOHN ADAMS
      02/02/2016 at 3:28 PM

      Yes. Announcements about spending requests are prudently framed only after a presentation of what’s happening now. Most political calculations of what’s happening now probably overestimate the lion count, but also overestimate the effectiveness of existing communications to a weary community.