Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Politics 101

About until about twenty minutes ago I fully supported Jesse Scaccia for city council. He had posted some good stuff and he seemed like a better alternative to Barclay "Blow $150M on Light Rail" Winn. Then I read his blog post titled: The Case Against Homeschooling.

He has backtracked on the post saying it was satire and he respects the rights of parents to homeschool.

Now I am in a quandry.  Either, he doesn't believe what he writes (which I don't respect) or he does believe what he writes (in which case I really don't like).

Today's lesson in politics: You write it.  You own it.  Be prepared for the consequences.

You wrote:

"Homeschooling is selfish."
"Homeschooling parent/teachers are arrogant to the point of lunacy."
"Homeschooling could breed intolerance, and maybe even racism."

You can offend me.  That's OK and if you want to have a debate on the merits of homeschooling or deficit reduction or increasing taxes I am fine with that too.  But that post is insulting and demeaning to myself, my wife and a lot of my friends.

So Jesse I will not be supporting your campaign.  I can't trust someone who says they respect homeschoolers and then craps all over what they do.  


  1. Funny. We homeschool our children to avoid the entitled, unsupervised white students. I wonder if he could teach our kids math and science better than we do (parents with degrees at Johns Hopkins, Emory and the United States Naval Academy). He might want to scrub his content for linguistic merit. His post comes across as a rant, not the writing of someone degreed in English.

  2. Disappointing but not unsurprising. It's certainly not satire. Maybe he thinks if he woos enough hipsters he can do without the homeschool vote.

  3. Hey guys,

    As I said on my Facebook page, this post certainly wasn't my finest moment. I could have made the same points without being as (frankly) awful about it. The delivery was immature, and this blog, of the hundreds I've published, I feel is the worst possible representation of me as a person and now political candidate.

    @Andrea: That was definitely a rant. Not a thoughtful essay. A bitter moment from a public school teacher. As Adam can attest, sometimes we find our happy places through catharsis. That's what this was for me.

    @Adam: Here's the deal: You can either have politicians that pretend to have no opinions in order to have widespread support, or you can have real live people like me. Trust me, if you could read through 500 blog posts of the other people in the race, you'd find *something* that would make you want to write the person off completely. None of us are the second coming of JFK come to save Norfolk. We've all got our great qualities, and we've all got our warts. Unfortunately, as a writer, my warts live forever in print.

    Do I stand by *the way I said* what I said. No. It was a ranty moment when I didn't take the time needed to phrase my point in a way that was respectful of opposing view points. That was my bad, and believe me, I learned from it. Looking back over this piece I am embarrassed about it, to be perfectly honest.

    That said...

    Do I stand by the *sentiment* of what I said. For the most part, yes, I do. Speaking as an educator, the number one factor I've found that's a reliable indicator of student achievement is parent involvement. Kids with involved parents tend to be good students. When you take out a huge slice of the kids with active parents from public schools--via private schools and homeschooling--the level of student engagement is going to drop significantly. That's bad for our average student whose family isn't in a position to homeschool or afford to send the young person to private school. Is there something selfish about this, from the public school teacher's point of view? In my opinion, yes. At the same time---do I blame any parent for making the choice that is best for their child? No, of course not. It's a perfectly reasonable worldview to believe it's not your job to sacrifice your child for the greater good of the system. If confronted with the same choice, in the right (wrong) district, I can't say for sure I wouldn't do the same myself.

    This is one of those situations where I have a strong view *myself* but that's not to say I would ever impose that view upon anyone else. Personally I'm not a fan of guns, but I wouldn't vote to take the right to bear arms away from people. Personally I'm straight, but I'm not trying to take any rights away from gay people in our community. I have a great deal of respect for anyone who is so dedicated to their child that they would homeschool. More power to you all. I hope that you can see this blog for what it is, a blip in the much greater narrative of a man who is fair, honest, and who always has the well-being of the community in mind first, and the individual second.

    I'm happy to continue this dialog, online or in person. There's something sadist about coming back to and refreshing blogs that are critical of you, so I'm going to leave this conversation here unless I'm called back into it. My email address is jessescaccia@gmail.com. If you email me I'm happy to give you my phone number so we can talk face to face. I'm not pandering when I admit my mistake in delivery here on the original post, but I do think there's a greater philosophical conversation to be had.

    With respect,


  4. Jesse, I am very sorry for your revisiting a "rant" from years past. I think any of us who are strong-minded have had to face our old ghosts of ill-considered words. Being an adult stinks like that sometimes. However, the fact is you were an adult when you wrote that rant, not a developing youth, whose indiscretions and developing ideas can be understood and excused. As stated above, you wrote it, you own it. What you wrote indicates a significant level of intolerance. This was especially ironic considering the implications of intolerance you were aiming toward the homeschooling population in the article.

    I have concerns with the original "rant”, as well as additional information. First is what the article revealed about your credentials. You are self-described as a highly educated person. I should be persuaded to listen to a public school teacher/advocate with multiple degrees who is unable to express himself in a factual, well-written and grammatically correct article? I should put my children there? The article would have received a "C" grade for any of my children, and only if I were in a charitable mood.

    Additionally, the depth of your own prejudice and judgmental nature toward the thoughts and perceived motivation of those with whom you disagree is just plain scary. Frustration in the removal of a select, highly motivated and, in some instances privileged, segment from the general public school population could be understood and forgiven. But, it went much further to accuse people of arrogance, racism, narrow-mindedness... The extent of your own ignorance and sheer prejudice was breath-taking, and the fact that you were or are apparently blind to it is amazing. One could argue that true feelings are revealed in moments of frustration and anger. Do I want someone to be representing me who, in times of frustration, shows that type of thought process?

    Finally, as I followed the link on this page to your Blog page, I found the title “Keeping This F*cked Up Country Together”. It did not offend me, as I have heard (and used) the word before. It is your right and responsibility as a journalist to honestly reflect your views. Words do mean something, which is the very reason you chose this for your blog title. Using that title creates a certain identity…edgy, slightly shocking, provocative, somewhat offensive. All of these characteristics are probably appropriate for a writer and one who strives to change opinions. However, I do not find them compatible with someone who is seeking to be an effective representative of a multi-cultural population. Additionally, I do not think that we need to further degrade the level of public discourse by bringing in offensive words, even if they are only the title of a blog post The 24-hour news cycle continues to coarsen our sensibilities quite well on its own. I do not think we need another person in the fray whose very blog title is coarse, negative, and in some ways, self-aggrandizing. You cannot have it both ways. You cannot claim to be open-minded, looking for solutions, seeking conversation, and still present yourself like this on your blog.

    To summarize, I do not think I can support you for City Council. The glaring lack of journalistic excellence from a self-professed journalism expert makes me wonder what kind of expertise you would bring to the City Council chamber. The irony is just too much for me to overcome. Next, the depth of your prejudice is alarming. Any subsequent consideration for the homeschool community and apologies does not address the underlying sense of arrogance, superiority, bias and prejudice that the original post exposed. In what other areas do these prejudices exist? Finally, I would not vote for a person who willingly presents himself in coarse language, as I do not feel this shows sufficient maturity nor sensitivity to the community. I just don’t think I see a temperament or experience that is suitable for nor would likely be effective in public office.
    Jane Forehand

  5. Jane,

    Just to address one point--you seem to have your mind made up--but to judge someone's professional credentials based on one blog seems a rush to judgment. Please take a second to read some of my articles on AltDaily or in the New York Times. They paint a more full picture of my abilities than the worst blog I ever published.

    Another quick point--if you believe you have found a candidate without flaws you're buying into the marketing campaign. We are all complete people with great sides and things we're working on. At least in me you have someone with all his cards on the table, someone who can admit wrong, and someone who is willing to engage in conversation to learn where my blindspots are, and how I can grow and improve. As a general rule, I never think that I'm completely right. There are always other perspectives that need to be respected.

    I'd love to get coffee with Adam, Lydia, Jane, and anyone else interested. There is a much more complete Jesse to get to know than you can from a blog post--and there's much for me to learn about you all and your experiences. Again, my email address is jessescaccia@gmail.com. Let me know the time and place and, barring existing conflict, I'll be there.

    - Jesse

  6. Typical narcissistic/bully tactic - "call me" or, "can I talk with you privately?"
    Jesse, perhaps when/if you grow up, you can again ask to represent a diverse community. Your blog was a rant with little room for discourse. If you still insist you were voicing your opinion, then diplomacy should not be your line of work. Politics is all about being diplomatic, open to new ideas and knowing how to speak/write. You're not there.

  7. Jesse, I saw that you had asked homeschool families to open their doors to you so you could see homeschooling at work. Did you ever have the opportunity to visit a homeschooling family and/or group? If so, what did you see and learn?