“Because I Said So.”

How many of us grew up with that phrase?  I didn’t use it with my own children.  I didn’t want my kids to just do what I said, because I knew that one day they would be on their own, and I wouldn’t be there to tell them what to do.  I wanted them to understand why I made the rules and judgment calls I did so they could model the process.  I didn’t argue with them.  They didn’t have to agree with my reasoning; they just had to know it.  Understanding came with time and maturity.

I expected my children to question everything—even me.  I challenged their assumptions, even when I believed they had come to the right conclusion.  I wanted them to know that the why was as important as the what, that the facts mattered, regardless of whether or not I agreed with their opinions.  I still do this with my students.

I think raising our kids on that phrase has long-lasting consequences.  People make all kinds of assumptions about what’s going on in Jeffco right now, and simply by asserting their opinions, they have, as far as they’re concerned, made those opinions true “because I said so.”  If someone on their side says something, that is now true, too, “Because so-and-so said so.”

On Facebook, people try to tell me what happened at this school board meeting or that negotiation meeting which they did not attend but I did.  They read someone’s assertion about what happened, and often even the person whose account they read did not actually attend.  Still, those assumptions are more “true” than my first-hand observations.  I invite people over and over to come to any of these meetings—they’re all open to the public—but why spend hours watching actual events unfold when you can just make assumptions which are magically, somehow, more real?  It’s so much easier, and there’s never a chance one will discover one is wrong.  Board supporters get up for public comment and begin by saying, “I don’t actually know anything about this, but…” and ramble on for 10 minutes at a stretch.  (This has happened more than once and has been done by more than one group.  I’ve seen it with my own two eyes.)

Assumptions happen on both sides, of course.  I frequently correct people on my own side, even though allowing them to continue believing their mistakes makes my side seem stronger.  I just don’t happen to think misinformation makes anyone’s side stronger.  Adulterated mortar doesn’t make for a solid fortress.

No one I have encountered who has actually spoken at any length to kids from Jeffco Students for Change thinks they are pawns or “useful idiots” (a phrased used by one of my own former students, I’m ashamed to admit).  The only people who make such assertions won’t sit down and talk to any of these kids.  The only reason anyone has to believe that JCEA is behind the recall is because someone who doesn’t actually know anything about it “said so.”  There are no facts to back that up. Jeffco United, the group that is behind it, is run by two Jeffco moms and a Jeffco dad, none of whom are teachers.  Remember, just because “so-and-so says” Jeffco United is a “union front” doesn’t make it true.  Anyone who asserts such a thing cannot prove it because the proof doesn’t exist.  It’s not true.

It’s frustrating.  I have a front-row seat to this circus.  I know what gets said in public and much of what is said behind the scenes on both sides because I have heard people directly or at least confirmed with them what I have heard.  I sat in a negotiation session and heard a union negotiator argue against language proposed by the district that would make it possible for a principal to pass a problem teacher off on another school.  The union representative said, “We got rid of the dance of the lemons, and this language makes it possible again.  If a teacher is ineffective, they need to be dealt with, not passed along.”  I sat in on a private union negotiation caucus—no one there to mislead—and heard the union president say, “Remember, the most import goal is to have no teacher in a classroom that we wouldn’t want teaching our own children.”  And still, people double-down on rumors and assumptions about teachers’ unions.

But don’t take my word for it.  Talk to, listen to, and challenge folks on both sides.  Come to or watch board meetings and negotiations.  Bypass infotainment talk-radio and corporate infomercial “news” and find out for yourself.

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Paula is an author of historical fiction as well as a wife, mom, and teacher.
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