An Appeal For Civility

by Matt Williams

In her Sunday Special to the Enterprise Nancy Peterson covers a lot of ground, but one passage of her column really resonated for me.

The blog-fest is another topic entirely. My children are students in this community and our local school district. When did it become OK to attack, belittle and debase children? They have suffered unfair personal attacks by certain bloggers and I’m not OK with that. None of us should be.

When adults run for public office, we place ourselves in the position that allows people to write anything they want about us — even lies. But please, for the protection of all our students, leave children’s names, activities, rankings and so on, out of blogs, speculation and rumor mills.

As a member of the Vanguard Editorial Board I try and read most of what gets posted here in the Vanguard each day, both the articles and the comments. Since this ongoing volleyball saga began, the closest I’ve seen anyone come to using any childrens’ names has been one single reference to “Miss Peterson” and an excerpted quote from a Davis Enterprise article in which the commenter replaced a player’s name that was included in the article with a generic term. Given the high level of engagement and strongly held feelings associated with the volleyball coaching events, let’s please all do our level best to treat the children involved in this saga with the highest possible level of civility, especially given the subjective nature of almost everything associated with this saga.

David Greenwald more often than not uses the following graphic when he writes a School Board article. The imagery is a very appropriate metaphor for all the students in DJUSD regardless of the grade they may be in. Let’s do our best to make sure that they aren’t casualties of this adult drama.

Let’s also do our level best to be sure that if there is a “blog-fest” happening, that it is not happening here in the Vanguard.

In closing, I do have one suggestion for Nancy. “It is probably best not to throw gasoline on an already raging fire.”

About The Author

Matt Williams has been a resident of Davis/El Macero since 1998. Matt is a past member of the City's Utilities Commission, as well as a former Chair of the Finance and Budget Commission (FBC), former member of the Downtown Plan Advisory Committee (DPAC), former member of the Broadband Advisory Task Force (BATF), as well as Treasurer of Davis Community Network (DCN). He is a past Treasurer of the Senior Citizens of Davis, and past member of the Finance Committee of the Davis Art Center, the Editorial Board of the Davis Vanguard, Yolo County's South Davis General Plan Citizens Advisory Committee, the Davis School District's 7-11 Committee for Nugget Fields, the Yolo County Health Council and the City of Davis Water Advisory Committee and Natural Resources Commission. His undergraduate degree is from Cornell University and his MBA is from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. He spent over 30 years planning, developing, delivering and leading bottom-line focused strategies in the management of healthcare practice, healthcare finance, and healthcare technology, as well municipal finance.

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  1. iPad Guy

    I appreciate your appeal for civility in the blog’s comments. I’d add a request for a little more objectivity in today’s introspection.

    Sorry, Matt, I think you may have missed the point made by Ms. Peterson by strictly limiting your observation to the use of a name.

    “Attacking and belittling” the child of a public figure doesn’t require using a first name or a “Miss”–everyone knows which child’s performance is being criticized and belittled when she is at the heart of the matter. Even a pseudonym wouldn’t have covered the problem here.

    While some commenters spoke to request restraint about using students’ names and performance comparisons as they happened, The Vanguard encouraged commenters who were inclined to attack a child’s effort and behavior by ignoring them.

    A quick review of the many, many repetitive Crawford-Peterson Vanguard articles and comments with a broader view will reveal that The Vanguard’s editorial hands are hardly as clean as you claim when it comes to Ms. Peterson’s lament.

    I’m not sure why you tossed in the tidbit of gratuitous advice to Ms. Peterson, but I agree that her self-interest and the public interest are not well-served by her speaking out in any way now. She definitely should be leaving the gasoline throwing to The Vanguard and the online letters to The Enterprise.

    1. Biddlin

      “The Vanguard encouraged commenters who were inclined to attack a child’s effort and behavior by ignoring them.

      A quick review of the many, many repetitive Crawford-Peterson Vanguard articles and comments with a broader view will reveal that The Vanguard’s editorial hands are hardly as clean as you claim when it comes to Ms. Peterson’s lament.”

      I must have missed something. Could you cite specifics?

        1. Matt Williams

          Thank you iPad Guy. Both my appeal to the Vanguard readers and the “gratuitous” advice to Ms. Peterson were forward looking. No matter how hard we try, we can not change the past. We can learn from past events, but they are not going to change, no matter how hard we might try. Since I was (and am) looking forward, the “my hands are clean” motivation you assign to my post may be appropriate from your “framing” but it is far, far, far from any actual motivations I may have had at midnight last night. Feel free to disagree with me if that is how you feel. Reasonable people can agree to disagree reasonably.

  2. Biddlin

    A reasonable, but I think unnecessary request. It strikes me that posters on this blog have been extremely civil in the face of considerable hubris and manipulation by the Petersons. I haven’t seen anything derogatory or threatening about anyone’s child. Having no children in school sports or any other stake in Davis, I have been amused at the way Ms Peterson has dismissed any culpability on her part for the swirling mud storm now being generated by this controversy. If I were invested in the community and schools, my feeling would likely be closer to rage.

  3. wdf1

    Matt, Last night you posted an article on teaching empathy. What happened to that article? I thought it was very good and was looking forward to reading the links this morning.

  4. Dave Hart

    I have seen very little, if any uncivil discourse throughout this entire affair. I don’t see how the Petersons’ behavior can be seen as anything but reckless especially considering the circumstances of their own child’s involvement. Even if the facts were to show that they are entirely vindicated on the facts of their complaint, they showed bad judgement in pressing it in the way they did. It may not be fair in their view that they can’t act like any other parents, but when you are elected, you are and must be held to a different standard. Maybe not fair, but that is one of the burdens of leadership. That is the whole problem with this affair and why the DJUSD spent $22,000+ on an investigation. You give up certain prerogatives or “rights” when you assume a high level of authority and responsibility. You have to suck it up for the team sometimes. That is not an uncivil comment, it’s just a hard truth.

  5. Dave Hart

    Matt, I don’t get what has been uncivil unless you are referring to the entire volleyball saga itself. It’s ugly start to finish. Why cover it at all? It can’t be written about without resulting in negative consequences or implications for everyone involved. Are you asking everyone to just stop talking about it?

    1. Matt Williams

      Dave, three thoughts based on your post. First, your “Why cover it at all?” question is one we all have to ponder. Second, Ms. Peterson, in her Sunday Enterprise article strongly asks the “blog-fest” to consider the children. Third, I honestly don’t know the answer to your final question. Part of me says “Yes” but I realize that is probably a bridge too far.

      1. Biddlin

        Sorry, I don’t understand why a person who chooses to be in public service and therefore in the public eye gets a pass for repeated bad acts, without apology or amends. That is a bridge entirely too far.

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