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Patty Kleban: The Fist Raising Parent

by on October 15, 2012 6:21 AM

One of my friends posted an inspirational quote on Facebook this week and I immediately had to share it with my friends on Facebook too. The quote, attributed to Winston Churchill, says “You have enemies? Good. That means you've stood up for something, sometime in your life.”

I couldn’t agree more.

The people who take a stand and question the status quo are the ones who ruffle feathers and who often end up making a difference.

I was contacted last week by a parent for whom I have a lot of respect and who gives of herself and her time to this community. She called me, not only because I write this column, but because I have a high school-aged son. She is part of a group of parents in our community who are worried about what some are saying is an escalating drug problem at State High. She indicated that she and others were organizing and had spoken to school administration, local police and had attempted to get local news media to investigate the issue. She said that there had been some recent incidents both in school and out of school that were raising concerns.

She asked that I help by forwarding an email and post a Facebook message urging my contacts to attend a community dialog SCASD administration had already scheduled for later in October. It seemed like a well-researched and well thought out approach to engaging the community so I happily agreed to support the grass roots effort. Although our son attends St. Joseph’s Catholic Academy in Boalsburg this year, we are certainly not immune. This issue and the pressures facing teens impact all of our kids – and our community.

More interesting than watching the same message be posted on Facebook from parents all over State College were the comments and responses that the posting generated.

For the most part, the responses were positive. Some people expressed surprise and concern to hear about the problems in the school. Many were thankful to be included in the “parent network” and reported that they planned to use the email as a conversation starter with their kids – high school age and younger. Quite a few of the responses voiced support for the decision to work with the school district. Many thought it was a great idea to encourage participation in an event that was already on the district’s schedule. The use of social media to generate interest in a local issue was pretty cool.

Somewhat surprising were the negative reactions. How can parents working with the school district be a bad thing? There were comments which questioned the accuracy of the facts or suggested that “kids will be kids.” Others said that the proximity and easy access to Penn State and the “party network” meant the drinking and drug culture at the high school were unavoidable. Additionally, I read several comments in which the efforts of the organizers were discounted merely because they had not attached their names to the email.

I had a flashback to 2006 and questions about a renovation plan for a high school. I was reminded that those who like the status quo don’t always say nice things about those who try to bring about change.

It’s the classic us versus them of human nature and not all that far from the mudslinging, personal attacks and denigration of those for whom we disagree that defines the current political campaign. When all else fails, question their efforts, call them liars and devalue their motives.

I found myself defending the parents who are stepping up to take this on. I found myself saying I can’t blame them for not wanting to put their kids or themselves in the spotlight. Doing what is right is not always easy. Depending on the issue and the side one happens to be on, taking a stand can sometimes make you - or your kid - some enemies.

Whether it be a bumper sticker, a yard sign, a t-shirt or sending an email, putting your opinions out there mean that you open yourself to criticism. However, if we don’t get involved in that which impacts our lives, our schools, our families and our community, who will?

There are lots of things going on right now that offer the concerned citizen the opportunity to get involved. The Presidential election. Local and state elections. Memorial Field. Keeping children safe from abuse. The RAM Centre. Future plans for State College Area High School. User policies for Rec Hall and other buildings at Penn State. The school board in Philipsburg.

In my view, we should all Occupy Something. It really does take a village.

It can be easier – and safer - to sit silently and hope that others take on your cause or complain when things stay the same. Thankfully, there is usually someone who gets fired up on an issue and who is willing to take a stand. We should give those people a hand not a hurdle.

The inspirational quotes on Facebook are sometimes overdone but this week I am posting one of my own.

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has. “ Margaret Meade.

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Patty Kleban is an instructor at Penn State, mother of three and a community volunteer. She is a Penn State Alumna. Readers of State College Magazine voted her Best Writer of 2010 and 2012. She and her family live in Patton Township. Her views and opinions do not necessarily reflect those of Penn State.
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