Friday, June 14, 2013

Misinformation- the curse of not being involved or aware

I had a meeting Thursday at school to discuss PTA business. I picked up my mail, and a few hours later, I opened it.  Inside a thick envelope, addressed to me, not the current PTA president, was  bunch of letters of protest (regarding a situation that is over and done with and irreversible at this point in time).  I'm not unhappy about that, but I am frustrated by the misinformation that fueled this batch of letters. I spent last night, laying out the facts and coordinating information with the other people involved, but I'm a little disheartened by how, even in a small community in which all the decision makers are easily available to talk to, this turned into an emotional campaign that didn't checks it's facts.

People are always going to have a variety of opinions on topics, and that's great. The world would be very boring if we all agreed on everything. We wouldn't have any art, debate or inquiry without some curiosity and some difference of opinion. Of course, this variety of opinions and circumstances makes being an official or a leader more difficult, as I am finding.  I know that what I do will not please everyone, but I am trying to both make decisions based on what best fits the PTA's mission and what our community needs. Those decisions aren't easy, but that's why they are made by committee and in a multi-step process. The process has a set procedure, which, in this instance was followed to the letter to make certain that the community had an opportunity to comment and register protest. When we got no opposition, we finalized the decision, and moved on. Now, months later, when it's too late to change anything. In this case, had our community been more engaged and better informed, a more constructive conversation could have taken place, and I wouldn't be between the axe and the altar.

There is no substitute in life for being aware and being engaged.  This doesn't mean you have to go to every community meeting, or read the paper everyday, but it does require finding out how community issues are decided, and keeping a weather eye on that horizon.  It requires getting to know our communities, and keeping ourselves informed.  Leaders, good or bad, make decisions based on the noise they hear.  Make some, do something if your community leaders aren't serving your interests, and if need be, jump in and get involved.

As far as my PTA problem, it might be solvable by simple responding to the misinformation and listening sympathetically while not promising anything.  With bigger issues, how to inform and cut through the flow of emotions is trickier.  Nothing beats looking for more information, asking questions, and being and engaged citizen.  The more of us there are, the harder we are to manipulate into fearful masses. The more you know, the better your decisions are.

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