Fears and hopes

These are the remarks that I read during public comment time at the Caledonia Community Schools board meeting this evening.

First, to the three elected in November: congratulations. To the four continuing: you have served well. Thank you.

Here is what I fear, and what I hope.

First: what I fear.

I am one of 35,000 residents in this district. You don’t have to do anything because I say so. And you don’t get to do whatever you want. You are trustees.

You don’t have to do anything because 300 or 3,000 people might stand here and say so. That would be mob rule.

The founders of this nation feared mob rule. They feared demagoguery: the power of a charismatic leader to stir up commotion. Demagogues turn citizens into mobs, and mobs tear down institutions and governments.

Three trustees were elected in November with the support of our new state rep. She identified herself with our former president, who tried to overturn the 2020 election, who urged his supporters to mob the US Capitol on January 6, 2021. She was there, cheering them on.

Last May, she stood here and accused our schools of “indoctrinating students” into the “blatant radical leftist agenda.” Then she presided over the campaigns of our three new trustees, who also accepted support from a billionaire who wants to divert funding from public education to private schools. Their campaigns featured angry slogans and fear-mongering dog whistles.

So here is my fear, based on what we saw last year: I fear that some of you might take your cues from people who dislike democracy and public education and distrust our teachers; that you might think being elected means freedom to do whatever you or your faction wants.

But you were elected by the whole people of Caledonia as trustees.

So here is what I hope.

I hope you will honor the trust we have placed in you, by focusing on four things:

  1. Our students: We trust that in every decision you will talk about the schools’ responsibility for forming our students into good citizens and leaders for our democratic republic.
  2. The Constitutions of the United States and of the State of Michigan, especially Article VIII of the latter; and the democratic and pluralist principles in these documents. Some people don’t like what Article VIII says. But you have sworn to support it. We trust you to do so.
  3. Our teachers are dedicated, trained professionals who deserve our thanks and respect. We trust that you will always talk about attracting, supporting, and retaining excellent teachers.
  4. Local facts and values. We trust you to reject input from people stirring up global culture wars. We trust you to constantly say to each other: let’s talk concretely about what we should be doing here, in our local schools, about what’s best for all our students—these precious young souls right here in Caledonia, every single one of them a beloved child of God, with all their strengths and wounds.

Disagreements are inevitable. But I hope focusing on these four things will help you think, talk, and work together in harmony.

Thank you all for your willingness to serve. I will be praying for you all.

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