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Another Year Of Civility

When Congressman Wilson of South Carolina shouted “You lie” during President Obama’s speech the other night, it became yet another example of the coarsening of the political dialogue in the nation. What’s become of civility?

Picture, if you will, a different meeting that also convened this week, not far down the road from the chamber where Wilson achieved his You Tube infamy. We held the first School Meeting of the school year at Fairhaven, called to order by a brand new School Meeting Chair at one o’clock Wednesday afternoon in our spacious Chesapeake Room. Ninety minutes of orderly business ensued, including electing new Judicial Committee Clerks (congratulations Sarah and Rebecca) and three alternate clerks, tabling a motion to charter a Board Game Corporation, and deciding to extend the facility use agreement with the startup church that rents space from us Sunday mornings.

In each discussion, no one tried to “spin” any of the facts. Although we voting members sometimes disagree, we share a genuine desire to come to the best decision for the individuals and the school. A shouted  accusation of “you lie” would sound out of place at School Meeting, and would not be tolerated. Of course we disagree, and we try to advocate our positions. Yet the over-riding concern of discovering what’s best is constant.

The meeting was humorous at times, but never crude. The new Chair and Secretary ran the meeting with skill and fairness. No one violated our rules of decorum.  We discussed issues, and then we voted. At the adjournment, we folded up our chairs and went on with our days, one meeting further into developing a culture of dignity, equality and civility. These are the things we value, and our students embody them. Despite the remarkable reality that a dozen or so students and six adults voted on all the business of the school Wednesday (and will do so for the next forty or so Wednesdays, on hundreds of issues, some minor and some quite major), it was so respectful that the event could almost be described as boring. (In fact, many students and some staff describe it as just so.)

So here’s to civility and tedium, hallmarks of a democratic culture of honest dealing and, above all, respect.

Mark McCaig

September, 2009