All five of my regular readers have logged in to tell me their opinions of my editorial two weeks ago about local vandals. It was called, “Tell me why you do it?” My intent was to get a response from our young people about who might be destroying plants at the park and Christmas displays, and trashing the downtown area.
My five regular readers are in the minority on this one and apparently, so am I. Now I don’t mind being taken to task when I am wrong. But I think we have a bit of a communication problem on this issue of who is a vandal and who is not. (By the way, an incendiary device was exploded outside my house late Saturday night. Do you think anything I said in my editorial comment warranted that kind of attack?)
I am going to spell out what I was thinking when I laid out my questions about who is the perpetrator of the icky stuff going on in this community. Then you will be able to read what many of our young people wrote in response to my questions. Some of them show good thought and analysis, some rightly challenge me on issues that I didn’t know about (but should have researched), and some are just way below the radar … they don’t get it.
What I wanted to know was, “What makes you do the things you do?” I also acknowledged that there are “good kids out there … tell me why you DON’T do that stuff?” About a dozen addressed those questions. Everyone else danced all around the issues. But some kids also made good comments about communication. They suggest that adult groups ask them to contribute. Some indicate a willingness to talk about community issues and add their opinions. That is valuable information.
The letters are from Dorothy Rucker’s English classes at PBHS. As I said last week, sometimes it is not easy to sign your name to an editorial opinion. Many students signed their names for the assignment, but didn’t want the public to know who they are. Some didn’t want their letters in the paper at all. And that is OK.
The definition of an editorial was given to me by Bill Meyer of the Marion County Record a number of years ago. He said, “The main purpose of opinion pieces is to make the reader think … to consider all sides of an issue, and come to an opinion. Opinions are those of the writer, for the reader to consider.” That means I state my case, trying to convince you that I am right. You consider what I say and decide if I am right or wrong. It doesn’t mean that my argument is right or that your counter-argument is right.
One thing I do want to point out is in response to the many comments about PBHS students spending time last spring in the park and downtown picking up branches, painting the bowling alley façade, and sweeping sidewalks and gutters during state assessment week. The letters complain that no one thanked the kids for their efforts. I would direct you all to the March 19, 2008, issue of this newspaper. On the front page is a large color photo of Martin Hofkamp on a ladder downtown (during assessment week) getting ready to paint at Peabody Lanes. The caption under the photo tells that he is part of a group of students doing community service. There also is an editorial that week thanking the kids, staff, and administration for their help at the park and in the downtown district.
And if you will notice, Janet Post makes a big effort to bring students to the community’s attention every week in her sports columns and photos of school activities. Every week, 52 times a year. I believe that in the past week’s edition we had homecoming candidates, band members, former students, football, cross country, and volleyball team members, junior high spelling bee competitors, and sixth-grade students who wanted to express their opinions about — guess what? — vandalism in Peabody.
We want all of you to be in the paper. We want your moms to request extra copies for your grandmothers. That is what a small town paper is about. But we also want to address things in our city that are not going well. The reason for that is to seek a better way of doing things so that we survive and move on.
I have said enough. Please, if you live here, be part of the community and treat it right, no matter what your age. Thank you to all the youngsters who answered my editorial plea. Maybe your responses will help us all communicate better.
As I said two weeks ago, “Let’s see where this goes.”
(One additional note: Next week we will print the letters from PBES fifth grade students because there isn’t room this week. That will end the letters to the editor about this topic.
—Donna Bernhardt, Publisher