Sunday, August 26, 2007

The View From A Small Window

The other day I stumbled across a blog post written by someone who grew up in the area, moved away and contemplated coming back for a High School reunion.

Although in the end she decided not to go it did pique her interest as to what had been going on in the place she once called home.

However, this particular anniversary caused me to go online and check out some of the local newspapers to see what's been happening in "my little town"

Searching out the headlines in some our local newspapers she was dismayed to find the all too often references to drugs, crime and violence.

Amazingly it was a news piece on Durfee High School that seems to have inspired her post.

The really shocking news, however, was to read the front page headline of the latest referendum for the town of Fall River........

The mandate was that B.M.C. Durfee High School be required to provide each student with their own complete set of text books so that homework could actually be done at home.

Since WHEN was that NOT a requirement of a public school?

Up until this point I had read the blog post with some interest, tinged with a bit of regret and sadness, our area certainly faces many challenges in the areas of crime, drugs, education and our local economy. I could sympathize with someone who has been out of touch with the region for a lengthy period of time being shocked by some of the changes. However it was at this point that I started to become bothered by what I was beginning to think of as a rather jaded view.

Despite my best efforts I could not locate any news article that detailed this referendum or mandate. What I did find was a Herald News article from August 18th detailing some changes taking place at Durfee High. Amongst the changes taking place the principal mentions that the school will now have the ability to purchase additional text books, enough for each student to take home. No referendum, no mandate, and perhaps a hint on why students have been required to leave the textbooks in school.

Olsen said the schedule change also opens up some funding to allow for the purchase of additional textbooks, enough so students will be able to bring the books home after school.
“I do not want to hear some students should not have books because they won’t bring them back,” Olsen said. “That’s setting too low of an expectation.”

Like many other urban cities, Durfee High and all Fall River public schools face challenges, (too many to try to list here), but at the same time we certainly know the importance of education and have worked hard to improve our school system, which is why I found these observations so troubling.

There are larger questions: Can no one see the connection between the rise in violent crimes and drug use and the fact that students don't have books to do homework at night?

Can no one see that when you obscure the path to the achievement of dreams, you take away the hope of the poor?

Can no one see that when you take away the hope of the poor, one of the inevitable results is the increased incidence of violence?

It's too easy to look at the troubles of our schools, our city, our region and make comments and observations with out making the effort to learn the circumstances, without asking why. By not asking these question, without digging deeper the blogger is simply seeing our region through a small window. However unintentional it may be it's insulting to have someone look back at the area where they were raised and shake their head in disapproval. The reality is it's so much easier for one person to dream audacious dreams than it is to make audacious dreams come true for a whole community.

The truth is this city and this region is much the same as it has always been, filled with challenges and filled with promise. Still filled with good people who work hard and do the best they can.

I think I'm glad I didn't go "home" for my high school reunion. I think it might have broken my heart to see what has happened in my little town since I graduated from Westport High School...

It's a shame that the blogger couldn't see for herself that despite her fears that Westport is still a incredible town, still rich in tradition, with a strong pride in it's rural farming heritage, and coastal history. While it's true that the town has been infused with people looking to enjoy an upscale life, so much of Westport is still the same today as was 30 years ago.

Fall River is still a working class city with strong Portuguese ties. Although the city faces challenges unheard of 3 or 4 decades ago it is also working to meet those challenges. Small victories such as our new boardwalk, Gates of Portugal, Iwo Jima Memorial, new schools and more demonstrate that we continue to believe in our city.

The problem with looking through a small window is that you can't see much beyond the narrow view it offers.


Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Dear "Lefty,"

I deeply appreciate your comments on my reflection, which provided the "bigger picture" from the disturbing snapshot I got from cyberspace.

I am heartened to learn that education remains a priority for the school systems, despite all of the enormous obstacles and challenges which faces the Fall River-New Bedford area and all of the old NE Mill Towns.

Without providing that education, drug use will continue to be rampant and crime will continue to rise.

That's what happens anywhere whenever the hope of the poor is taken away.

Thanks for writing.

Lefty said...


This area really does have many, many challenges but newspapers tend to focus on the negative headlines that sell papers and not on the many good things that happen in a community.

Certainly, this is not Utopia, but I was deeply distressed by the negative impression you received.

I only hope in my attempts to passionately represent our community that I didn't offend.