Saturday, February 21, 2015

Voices of Franklin: Michael Brady on the proposed Monument Policy

Trevor Clement,
Franklin School Committee

RE: Statement regarding Franklin Public School Policy on Monuments

Dear Mr. Clement,
I am writing in response to your recent statement regarding the Franklin Public School policy on memorials. I am a Franklin resident and the father of three children, the eldest of which will be entering the school system next year. My family is in the beginning stages of the long fulfilling journey as yours was and for similar reasons, we chose Franklin as our home. 
I have been following this debate through posts and articles on blogs like Franklin Matters and groups like Friends in Franklin. I have not participated in the debate to this point because it does seem to be quite a sensitive issue, as you stated, and I don’t have a child in the system at this time. However, it won’t be long before my children are enrolled and I am very concerned by your statement. (and even more so, the spirit in which it was written.) 
I would like to start by saying that I honestly do believe your views regarding the policy are genuine and heartfelt. I would also like to say your general point that “every life matters” is certainly something I agree with. Notwithstanding, your statement contained many comments that I found troubling coming from an influential decision maker on the School Committee. 
You state that “the scope and nature of the memorials should be the same for everyone” and “everyone should be given the same honor and recognition.” This is a very naive view and absolutely should not shape policy for an institution that is so vital to preparing our children for the challenges life will certainly bring. I agree that an individual’s recognition should not be based on their “means or influence”, but to say that everyone is the same is wrong. Should a Franklin Public School student who goes on to develop a clean and renewable energy source or product be honored and recognized the same as an FPS student who chooses a life of crime? Regardless of your personal opinion, the reality is, no. While it can be difficult for a child to deal with not getting the recognition he or she feels they deserve, it is devastating for a person to believe that, no matter their accomplishments, their greatness will never be recognized. A “same for everyone” vision should be strictly applied to an individual's rights. On the other hand, a "same for everyone" vision left unchecked has the potential to crush the human spirit. I do realize that a policy regarding a monument at a public school is not going keep men like Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg from changing the world, but a systematic view that we are all the same, will. 
You wrote that “School is where we teach our children how we want the world to be.” I find this to be the most unsettling statement you made. School, particularly public school, is not meant to be an institution that promotes some individual’s view of “how the world should be.” There will never be universal agreement on world views, nor should there be. Every school policy should be rooted in preparing a child for the challenges of life and how to reach their fullest potential. Schools should prepare students to create, recognize and take the avenue of opportunity. A school that tells its students that they will all just simply get the same opportunity is not being true to its students nor is it fulfilling its obligation to the community to which it serves.
Personally, I do not agree with the current policy regarding memorials. Schools have always honored and continue to honor individuals for their scholastic achievement. Whether it's through academics, athletics, arts and music, or community involvement, schools have rightfully recognized these students as examples of what to strive for. A family who makes the most of an unbelievably tragic event by turning it into an inspiration to many people for years to come should be celebrated. To view a memorial as recognition of someone's "means and influence" is missing the point. The school system and community has failed the student who views a memorial in that manner. 
I respectfully ask you and the other Franklin School Committee members to reflect on your responsibility to the community. While this memorial policy may be insignificant in the grand scheme, the influence of your decision making is not. Please recognize and understand the purpose of your position. Review your vision and mission statement. Ask yourself if you are truly fostering students’ knowledge and cultivating each student's potential, or are you imposing your personal world view on an institution meant to promote unlimited opportunity?
Michael Brady
Franklin Resident

From the Franklin School Committee home page:

Vision Statement
The Franklin Public Schools will foster within its students the knowledge and skills to find and achieve satisfaction in life as productive global citizens.

Mission Statement
The Franklin Public Schools, in collaboration with the community, will cultivate each student's intellectual, social, emotional and physical potential through rigorous academic inquiry and informed problem solving skills within a safe, nurturing and respectful environment.

Trevor's statement can be found here (including other background links)

the proposed Kristin Graci Class of 2007 Memorial
the proposed Kristin Graci Class of 2007 Memorial

Note: If you would like to add your viewpoint to "Voices of Franklin" the guidelines can be found here

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