PEOPLE – LANGUAGE – VISION
of 833 South Washington County Schools
I have turned this subject around and around in my mind over the past several weeks. I now have over a dozen articles written in drafts … but somehow I have yet to publish even one of them to this day. I have missed every deadline set for myself. Something was holding me back, and I think It was my approach.
As the author of a series on transparency, I have come to realize that I too need to be transparent, and I need to do that within AND outside the boundaries of this blog. I need to speak directly to the people I am writing about.
Transparency is not a solo act. Rather it is a relationship of dependency between multiple properties.
And so I need to listen more than I speak. I need to allow the school district the time and space to explain. My goal is not to assign blame or praise through this process, although admittedly that is where the sinfulness of my human nature began. I have prayed long and hard about this, and labels will not be productive here. Instead, I plan to present my research, explain through the best of my ability what that means to the people involved, and end each article of THE TRANSPARENCY SERIES with a request to the School Board and Superintendent for them to consider.
I began by writing to Superintendent Nielsen last week with a question about the Community Listening Sessions. I told her what encouraged me about the listening sessions, and I told her what discouraged me. I said,
“Please understand that, for me, this was an exercise in trust. I don’t think my saying so is a secret. I do not trust ISD#833 or the MN public school system. I WANT to be able to trust my school district. I WANT to go on with my life and enjoy the wonderful schools my kids now attend. And I do. I enjoy them so much I wish all kids could have so positive of a school experience. Public, private and home schooled.”
“I ask a lot of questions,”
I said to her.
“It’s not because I am trying to trap you. It’s because I see inconsistencies that don’t add up. Maybe you have a good explanation for an inconsistency I see, but in the absence of an answer I will fill in the blank.”
We have agreed to meet this week to discuss the issue of trust.
What does it mean to be transparent?
I think of light passing through an object such as transparencies on a light table, the design layers in Adobe, the negative film process in a dark room, the glass walls of a greenhouse, the atmosphere surrounding the earth, All of these catch light and hold it.
The Dictionary Definition
TRANSPARENCY : The state or property of a body by which it suffers rays of light to pass through it, so that objects can be distinctly seen through it; diaphaneity.
The way I interpret that is …
- There must be a barrier to pass through, to “suffer” the impact, as Noah Webster says. In it’s tangible sense, the body that “suffers” impact is the object of glass, water or air.
- The property inflicting the impact is light from an outside source. Without light the eye cannot see,
- Without the eye to see what good is light though? Sight stands separated from the light source.
- The object is the body that can distinctly be seen.
Noah Webster’s 1828 dictionary
What transparency is NOT
The opposite of transparency is opaqueness. To be transparent is to NOT be opaque in any way.
The Dictionary Definition
OPAKENESS: The quality of being impervious to light; want of transparency; opacity. (Noah Webster’s dictionary definition from the same book as pictured above.)
The way I interpret that is …
Opacity represents the degree to which the content will be hidden behind an element.
If opacity is present, does transparency still hold its state of relevance? Are there degrees of transparency AND degrees of opacity? What percent of opacity negates transparency? 50/50? Is it possible to be half transparent and half opaque?
Adobe Defines it this way:
The definition of transparency clearly says, “so that objects can be distinctly seen through it.” Therefore any degree of opacity cancels out the claim to be transparent.
Opacity can vary in degree, but transparency remains constant.
Follow my blog.
Confusion leads to chaos of the mind
Just look at how long it takes to define one word. It’s no wonder so many people want to tune out of cultural conversations and instead resort to name-calling or go into auto pilot … Let someone else worry about it … Let the “experts” do the work. Pick your political party, and your media by extension, let them summarize reality and truth for you, and then pretend to be the expert. It’s far too difficult to deal with the confusion head on, right?
Wrong. A clear definition changes everything.
The act of transparency can be expressed visually or verbally. The structure of language is meant to express intent, clarity and understanding, which is in itself an exercise in transparency. The Ten Commandments, the US Constitution, the Law … A Schools Mission Statement, it’s Policies, Procedures, and it’s Superintendent’s report … poetry, literature, short stories and plays. They are all written and expressed in words.
Confusion of a Culture
Confusion runs rampant in our culture today, and our public school culture is no exception. Our children are being raised within the walls of a public school system that would have them embrace their cultural identity as the foundation of sacred truth, then shout the validity of that influence from their classroom megaphone.
This is my opinion anyways. I recognize that I approach this subject as a parent, and that is where my understanding of the system is grounded. I have asked the Lord to guide me and keep my opinion grounded in His truth. This is a process for me though, and I cannot know everything nor can I live up to the perfection of Jesus Christ. He was the perfect teacher, and through his blood I am saved. This reality for me is never more profound than it is at this moment of Christmas tidings and good cheer. Through the writing process I find my way.
So let’s keep it simple. Instead of looking to the daily changing culture of this world, influenced by media and cell phones and technology and man-made objects, let’s look at the daily patterns that never change. What is the constant in our lives?
The natural world! The sun comes up and the sun goes down. The plants grow and the plants die.
I do love gardening! You could take ANY life circumstance and compare it to the garden. This is the genius of the Bible and why it remains so relevant today. The garden transcends all space and time because it’s basic needs for survival remain the same needs today as they were 4,000 years ago.
Transparency of a School District
I use the illustration of A GARDEN GREENHOUSE. For the purposes of this series, the greenhouse represents a school district’s function in its community, the policy and procedure it establishes to achieve that function, and its ability to communicate that process transparently out to the community.
In the greenhouse analogy, the sun is just as important to transparency as the glass house AND the plant growing inside. The sun will represent truth here, but the question is: WHAT truth does the public school system use to teach it’s little seedlings?
A garden greenhouse not only lets light in, it uses the light to create warmth before letting the light back out. The sunlight enters the greenhouse, is absorbed by the plants, and warms the greenhouse atmosphere. A greenhouse is a man-made construct that mimics God’s miraculous earth: its light source (sun), its garden (all living things), and its atmosphere (greenhouse).
The GREENHOUSE = School District
The SUN = Truth
The GREENHOUSE = 833 School District
The RAYS OF LIGHT entering = Knowledge that reaches the children
The FRAMEWORK = Tax payer Contribution to nurture its future
The GLASS = Window into school district management
The SEEDS = Students
The WATER = Teachers
The SOIL =
District’s Policy and Procedure created by School Board and Superintendent Family
The POT = Boundary that holds the student together and their ability to retain the knowledge taught by teachers
The GROWN PLANT that is transplanted into the outside garden = Graduating High School Seniors
The GARDEN outside = Community
There are many variables that affect the ability, and the perception, of a school district to be transparent. Those variable are PEOPLE, LANGUAGE and VISION. CULTURE influences all of these things, and that too needs to be considered. The subject of their transparency cannot be addressed until the subject of those variables are brought to light.
The Vision of People
The school district has a vision for where it wants to go … as do families, as do teachers, as do teachers’ unions , as do state legislators. Are they the same vision? Are they even close? Do they work together or against one another to define what IS most valuable? I want to explore that in a measurable sense, because if the vision for public school education varies so drastically from person to person, then what each person deems transparent will also vary.
Defined Roles … What is the job of a Student? the Teacher? the Parent? the School Board? the Superintendent? the MN Department of Education?
And so in the month of December I begin THE TRANSPARENCY SERIES. God only knows how long this series will take or how many articles. It is a step-by-step process.