Talking past each other, again

Geesh…it’s been a long time since I’ve written for my personal blog. The muse left me…for a bunch of reasons. But, she may be back as I felt a strong urge to write about a controversy that matters to…just about nobody.

I am a huge fan of hyper-local blogging. It’s everything local newspapers can’t be: opinionated, accidentally compelling and useful. Here in Southborough, we have two hyper-local blogs, the better of which (IMHO) is

In a demonstration of the power of hyper-local blogs, is covering St. Mark’s decision to allow a portion of its property to lie fallow, or as St. Mark’s has put it, become a “sustainable meadow.” And the comments on this blog post show that it’s as easy for whole communities to talk past each other as it is for us to do so one-on-one.

As a local who has one child who went to Southborough public schools and another currently at St. Mark’s, I’ve participated in both communities. And it’s always amazed me how completely tone deaf each side is to the other’s concerns.

For its part, St. Mark’s seems to be unaware that their “meadow” is at the exact center of town, making it highly visible to everyone. Bottom line: it’s fugly to have a partially-fallow athletic field at the intersection of the main north-south and east-west roads in town.

How could St. Mark’s slap this “meadow” right-up-side-the-head of the locals? Simple: from the perspective of St. Marks’, it’s in the “back.” It’s far away, relatively speaking, from the action on campus. St. Mark’s people don’t see the “meadow” on the way to and from classes…or to and from West…or to and from most of the other athletic fields. I am not sure how many Southborough residents have ever seen Southborough from inside St. Marks’, but I assure you, the view is very different. What’s right in the locals’ faces is on the periphery at St. Mark’s.

On the town side, the same old invective — “We pay for all their services…and they send their teachers’ kids to the public schools” — is equally tone deaf. There’s a long-standing resentment I’ve seen and heard from my experience on town committees and boards that is endemic. When we moved here in the early 1990’s, I distinctly remember the builder of my home telling me how his parents used to “wash the St. Mark’s kids’ clothes” as if Southborough was indentured to the private schools located here.

Well, we have to get over it. St. Mark’s staff pays their taxes like everyone else. And plenty of public school funding and town revenue comes from sources other than the property tax. I understand the importance of the property tax to town revenues. But it’s just red-meat propaganda to suggest that these families are getting a totally free ride for local services. The comments on would have you think that the town’s private schools are here specifically to freeload on the rest of us.

I am not calling for kumbaya. That ain’t gonna happen. Mostly, I am amused that there’s so much passion over an unmowed piece of lawn. And that it might become another excuse for us to talk past each other.





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