THE BLOGGER (UNMASKED)
Op Ed/ Sudbury Town Crier
May 19, 2011
For the past two months, I‘ve posted occasional comments in this newspaper on LS-related matters, convincing myself I had the right to do so because I had taught at the school for 35 years. That my wife’s family—the Puffers–came to Sudbury almost 400 years ago, irrationally removed any lingering doubts that I had the right throw my two cents in. Besides, I probably spent more time in the town for the past three decades than I did in my hometown of Brookline.
To my fellow “bloggers,” I was “LocalObserver.” To my former colleagues, I was “Bill.” To thousands of former students, I was pretty much just “Schechter.” It was always a memorable day what I got a “Mr.”
I made it clear in my postings I was not a Sudbury resident after thoughtlessly choosing an old posting “handle” I had used elsewhere. In my comments, I tried to steer clear of any discussions about town or school finances, or local elections, because as a non-resident that wasn’t my business. I also made clear, quite truthfully, that no one had put me up to my posting.
I was moved to add my comments to correct some outrageous distortions about LS, as well as general attacks on teachers and unions. But it soon became evident that there was another issue that needed addressing. One hardcore group of bloggers was/is habitually abusive. There is no simply other word to describe their output. They got their jollies by defaming and mocking those they opposed, and cruelty was clearly a specialty. While calling them on this behavior, I also tried to set an example of civility.
Many of those wearing the biggest blogging targets on their backs are the town’s elected representatives who have donated umpteen volunteer hours to serve on the School Committee or Board of Selectmen. It was hard to hear them characterized, basically, as liars, thieves, and scoundrels. After all, these good people were the parents of kids I taught. Then there were the attacks on the dedicated colleagues I was privileged to work with. How many I knew who selflessly gave their working lives–and more–to the high school!
As for Lincoln-Sudbury, it’s been attacked on a daily basis. My current responsibilities take me into dozens of public schools across the state. From this vantage point, as well as that of a former faculty, I can affirm what many readers already know: LS is one of the finest public schools you will find in this or any state. It compares favorably with the best private schools. Indeed, I taught private school students who had transferred to LS, and were awfully glad they did.
Think I’m exaggerating? Stand outside the school with a clipboard and ask the students what they think of the place and of their teachers. It’s unusual to find a high school so well- and affectionately-regarded by its students and alumni.
As a passionate person myself, and certified Bronx wise guy to boot, let me acknowledge the intelligence and intensity of the anti-LS “bloggers.” They’re a sharp bunch, persistent, quick with the comeback, and absolutely sincere in their rage. (And oh what rage!) But while honest debate is essential in a democratic society, there’s a price to be paid when a continuous stream of abusive comments, ad hominem attacks, caustic sarcasm, and demoralizing cynicism flows into the lifeblood of a town. No one is spared, not even students or young alumni who write in only to find their motives questioned, their integrity impugned, and their writing ridiculed. This is all at the hands of supposed adults. Didn’t we once look to adults to set a good example of civility and civic responsibility for kids? I could swear we did.
The Town Crier has provided an important service in establishing online forum where people can say whatever they think. But the option of posting anonymously has given some folks license to be vicious in ways that are just plain disturbing.
In my opinion, the Town Crier would provide an additional service in requiring bloggers to take their masks off and proudly use their names when they post. Let freedom of speech remain untrammeled, but let those who wish to contribute stand by what they say and how they say it. That’s called having the courage of your convictions, and it’s what we expect of adults.
The civic culture of a town is its greatest resource and worth fighting for–persistently and civilly. In that spirit, let me be the first to take my mask off.
All the best,
LS History Dept/1973-2008