The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

January 7, 2014

Aggravated by dishonesty in Lewisburg

The Daily Item

— I understand the concerns of the Lewisburg borough residents who oppose the moving of the high school out to Kelly township. I also live in the borough, and my two sons graduated from the current high school (full disclosure: I was also a member of the school board, although not at the time plans for the new high school were under development). However, I find it hard not to be aggravated by the dishonesty and whiff of sour grapes in the opposition’s arguments.

First, the “perception in the community” (a phrase one paper used to describe one opposition member’s statement) that Option C — the opposition’s touted alternative to the district’s current plans — was not given a fair hearing strikes me as an expression of the paranoid style of American politics and thus not particularly accurate. This “perception” ignores the fact that all of the arguments currently put forth in support of Option C were made several years ago during a series of public meetings and were unconvincing to the parents, taxpayers, and dozens of others in attendance, not just to the school board. When participants were given the opportunity to attach stickers to any of the multiple options provided, Option C came in no better than third.

Secondly, few of the opposition’s arguments have anything to do with education, but more often pertain to the economics of the town, preventing sprawl, and concerns about infrastructure. The sole pertinent educational argument reported (students are cut off from downtown business people and courses at Bucknell) suggests the high school is being relocated to Ulan Bator, not just a few miles across Route 15.

Furthermore, this argument ignores the more fundamental educational trend of student-to-student collaboration and project-based learning, which the current structure was not designed to support. The high school’s classroom size and general layout are much better suited to the factory model of education dominant in the 1920s, when the school was built. There is a limit to how much hand-waving about “renovation” can ameliorate that limitation.

Finally, we have Trey Casimir’s tendentious exercise in confirmation bias. He describes his co-oppositionists as “angry, inflamed and upset” and as “expressing themselves emotionally.” What that language disguises, and the reporting of the same meeting makes clear, is that they were also disrespectful, contemptuous, and possibly hostile, having openly scoffed at Dr. DiRocco. Contrary to common belief, self-righteousness does not make one right, and rudeness is never convincing.

Lewisburg has been debating a new high school for at least 30 years. The district facilitated an extensive and open process for eliciting community opinion, during which Option C was deemed less desirable by the majority of the community, in addition to the board.

The fact that some segments of the community cannot accept that their opinion has been rejected is no reason to paralyze the process of designing a facility that meets students’ educational needs, rather than the largely economic concerns expressed by the oppositionists. Let’s move on.

Michael Derman,