What kind of a community do we want? If you read Town Square postings on school district issues, would you want to be the new superintendent of the Palo Alto Unified School District? What has happened to civility?
The recent Palo Alto Weekly article, "Immersed in Debate," highlights a parent's observation: "I feel like the community is really suffering. There's a lot of vitriol. There have been a lot of personal attacks." Web Link
Threads on Mandarin immersion are only some of the many online conversations that are ripping the fabric of our community. Recent attacks on school district personnel have been beyond the pale.
If public debate on major issues turns into a food fight on the blogs, Palo Alto will be unable to make the kind of compromises that are at the base of much good public policy. If school district and city staff members are routinely denigrated, talented civil servants will stay far away from job openings in our community.
Palo Alto is paying a price for the nasty, anonymous exchanges.
Public participation in community debate, including Town Square, is an essential part of our democracy. Public officials need citizen input as they consider how to address issues before them. Town Square offers a valuable forum for the community to express opinions and find out what others are thinking and why. But have we no standards?
In the end, we have to answer individually. Are we, in fact, undermining what we love about Palo Alto? Are we still a community that values the richness that comes from broad diversity, lively debate, good compromises and a sense of belonging.
What kind of community do we want? We all need to care.
Mandy Lowell, school board member
Carolyn Tucher, former school board member