Friday, June 8, 2001
Behind the scenes
As you read this, they are out there, planning, phoning, working quietly behind the scenes. As you celebrate Flag Day, Fathers Day, graduations and the beginning of summer, they make sure that some very important occasions do not go by unnoticed. Ask yourself, how many other towns do you know that celebrate Memorial Day to the extent that Carlisle does every year? A flag ceremony, a speaker, a parade and the laying of several wreaths, all to the accompaniment of the school band, does not just happen each May. Carlisle's Celebrations Committee works hard to bring these events to life, year after year. Comprised this year of Norman Fredkin, Barbara Culkins, Howard Hensleigh, Judy Larson, Doug Stevenson, and ex officio members Father Thomas Donohoe and Rev. Woody Widrick, this committee deserves a round of applause for its efforts towards enhancing Carlisle's character.
They don't stop at Memorial Day, though. Their next endeavor is aimed at Old Home Day. The celebrations committee organizes the Most Honored Citizen award, a recognition designed to pay tribute to Carlisle residents who have made significant contributions to the town over the years. If you look at the ballot that appears in the Mosquito this week on page 15, you will see a list of names that may or may not be familiar to you. Some of their achievements might have been lost to history if not for the efforts of this committee. Their hard work pays off in a moving ceremony that is one of the highlights of Old Home Day.
And speaking of Old Home Day, where would we be without the tireless efforts of the Old Home Day committee? At home, with nothing to do on July 4, that's where. The OHD committee's bustling efforts, begun months before July, bring us a day that makes us the envy of our neighbors. Like the celebrations committee, the OHD committee asks for little praise, doing what they do out of a love for the town. We are lucky to live in a town where hardworking individuals work behind the scenes to make our holidays both meaningful and enjoyable.
Just say no -- or yes
A lot of attention is given to messages kids get from the media and from people in the limelight. Hopefully, the messages with the greatest impact are from family, church and school. Sometimes, with the best of intentions, we send one message while trying to send another. It's worth examining the message I got when I read about the sixth grade Social Dance class (Mosquito, May 4).
By most accounts, Social Dance is a wonderful program that affords kids an opportunity to learn lessons in social manners that they might not otherwise learn. Just getting the kids out of sneakers is a great accomplishment! Apparently, the classes are structured to avoid embarrassment, in a setting of inclusion. The participants are required to be courteous. The curriculum was developed around rules of etiquette -- even better. But we live in a different age than Emily Post, upon whose rules the course is based.
Take the situation described in the Mosquito article (and confirmed in a conversation with the instructor) and put it into adult modern day life. Imagine yourself (or your sister or daughter) in the following situation. You're attending your annual company dinner. It's an opportunity to spend some social time with people you see every workday. At the dinner table, there's a good conversation going and everyone is courteous and polite. So far, so good. The head of Human Resources stands up to make an announcement. She hopes everyone is having a good time, and invites everyone to dance. She adds, "By the way, the guys get to ask the ladies to dance, and ladies, you can't say no!" What? Only guys get to ask? And you can only hope that guy you've been avoiding doesn't head your way. Could you say "no thanks"? Of course, different people would react in different ways, some able to say no, whatever the repercussions, others not able to do so however uncomfortable it might make them. Some might not even see a problem.
Now imagine yourself in sixth grade. You're at Social Dance class with your classmates. The instructor announces the "boys ask, girls can't say no" rule. She emphasizes that no one's feelings should be hurt. A boy you'd really rather not dance with heads over. Now what? As an adolescent, do you have the experience to know what to do?
We do want our kids to say "no" in many different situations. Are we being clear on just what those circumstances are, or does something like this dance class send a mixed message? Sparing someone embarrassment or hurt is admirable, but not if it means one can't refuse to participate in a difficult situation. One can also remove gender and think about the larger question of saying "yes" in any situation in order not to hurt a friend's feelings. And what message is sent by the mandate that one gender asks while the other accepts?
One can certainly argue that a single experience will not change the course of a child's development. This one small instance may not carry much weight on its own. But it may be incorporated in a collection of impressions and ideas. I'm positive that these potential messages are totally unintended -- no one set out to deliberately insert them in the course. With that in mind, it may be useful to think a little about this aspect of the class. We owe it to our kids to be aware of the experiences they are having, and make sure they are getting the messages we intend.
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