May Superintendent’s Message

HTSD Administration

I’ve been trying to write a May letter to the community for over a week now, but haven’t been able to get it together.  Maybe, it is because I wanted to avoid discussing some things; but like the Walrus and Carpenter in Alice through the Looking Glass it is time to speak of many things…

One of the things we constantly struggle with in the age of the Internet of all things is how to use the Internet wisely and safely.  A simple example is identifying sources for research.  Despite any suggestion otherwise, neither Google nor Wikipedia can be considered primary sources.  Their results are often the product of algorithms, set up to generate types of answers.  So while some of the information may seem accurate, they may not be and they certainly don’t lend themselves to being independently verifiable.

It gets trickier after this.  Some parents will have their children’s computes set up so they can monitor them; but this becomes more and more difficult with tablets and phones.  We know some of the bad things that technology can lead to; social isolation, a growing harshness in public discourse.  We can see when some young people set up private “rooms,” invitation only sites where some children are excluded, where rumor and innuendo are the primary methods of communication.  After all, why speak to someone, why promote civil discourse when we can semi-anonymously tear down.

We struggle with this every day in our schools, communities and society.  The problem is where do our children learn these behaviors, where is the role modeling?  Fortunately, there are many of us who “get it” and work diligently to be good role models, some of us, however, don’t get it. Over the last several years I have seen this in district after district.  We rather gather in “invited” rooms on Facebook, which astounds me given what we have learned about Facebook.  We rather gather the forces, build the bonfires of rumor and innuendo, rather than pick up the phone and ask someone a question.  We rather add to the coarseness of our public discourse by assuming plots and a lack of candor rather than engage in dialogue.  We assume the other is lying or is just wrong, because, well, we are just right.

Martin Buber, the 20th Century Philosopher, identified this long before the age of the Internet, when in writing about relationships he spoke of our reducing others to the status of “it.” So rather than approach others as “you,” we intrinsically reduced their value.

I know of no easy solution other than each of us taking a good hard look at ourselves, and deciding if we represent the role model we wish our children to imitate.

-Bill Shlala