Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Power and Consent

The hearing held last night by the Howard County delegation was so mind-boggling that I'm still trying to wrap my head around it. I did go, but left at around 9:15 because I had a sick kid at home. They had only just started to hear the education portion of the evening. I think it ran until midnight.

About that. I thought it was just a Columbia thing, but apparently not: asking people with kids to turn out for meetings and then putting off their issues until late in the evening. This needs to stop. Parents have childcare issues to juggle. Don't put everyone else first. Last night I am guessing that plenty of folks gave up and went home and did not get to have their say.

A large part of the reason that the meeting ran until midnight was that the school system trotted out two groups to testify in defense of the status quo and against the legislation. Two rather large groups who, as individuals, each had to be allotted his or her own three minutes.

Group one: students. Group two: principals. According to these folks, the Howard County School System is all sweetness and light (and don't forget world class) and the proposed legislation is going to hurl us headlong into partisan bickering and selfishness.

There's just one problem, and it's a big one. As a teacher, I've been through many a workshop on abuse. And the biggest thing I learned which helps to define abuse is what constitutes consent. If one party has substantial power over the other, has a position of authority, or a leadership role, then the other party cannot fully and freely give consent.

And, if because of this inequality in the relationship, the weaker party is influenced or compelled to perform certain behaviors, then that is, by definition, abuse.

That's what happened last night.

Students and principals should have been protected from testifying on these controversial issues on behalf of hcpss because there is no way that they could truly have been there of their own free will, because of the nature of their relationship with the school system.

While I feel sorry for the principals, I am truly outraged on behalf of the students. Putting them in this situation is educational malpractice. In my opinion, whoever orchestrated this doesn't understand the responsibilities that we bear towards our students. And isn't that what last night was really all about?

Many thanks to everyone who turned out, or followed along at home. Look for more comprehensive coverage from Amanda Yeager of the Howard County Times and Amy Aubert of ABC2 News.


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