Friday, October 26, 2007

Trust -- but how to build it? How to earn it?

There is a new disciplinarian at Youngest Son's high school.

Well, actually, he's the one who was there during Oldest Son's tenure and some of Middle Son's too, but his successor left this Summer and the old Dean of Students was pressed into service anew.

He's tough.

The man who held the job recently was physically imposing -- you just knew, coming into his presence, that you wanted him on your side in the fray. But the new/old Dean is not.

He doesn't have to be.

When he explained the discipline policy to the parents of incoming freshmen at Back to School Night he never made a threat and he never raised his voice. But he did raise the hairs on my arm. He made it abundantly clear that the highest compliment he can pay a student is to not know who the student is at graduation. The Dean is not one for small talk, boosting self-esteem, or second chances. He will tell a misbehaving student, "Give me your ID." And the student will get a JUG. And if the student doesn't have his ID, he will get two JUGs. (A JUG is a detention -- an unpleasant after-school experience, that can be ratcheted up to an unpleasant Saturday morning experience if not served properly. My kids tell me JUG means "Justice Under God." I do not believe them. But I capitalize it anyway. Just in case.)

True story -- going back to the Dean's original tenure: His sons have all attended the school. He would drive, with his sons, to school in the morning. They live some distance away -- at least a half hour drive.

There is a uniform code at that school. Hair must not be too long -- or too short. Certain trousers only may be worn; shirts must be plain and have collars. On Mass days, ties must be worn.

One morning the Dean's son came down to breakfast wearing non-conforming pants. The Dean said not a word. They went to the car and drove to the school. The Dean said not a word. They parked the car and walked to the school. Still, the Dean said nothing.

But then they crossed the threshold and went into the school building. The Dean turned to his son and said, "Give me your ID." He gave his son a JUG.

The kids and the teachers alike at Youngest Son's school know there are rules, they know what the rules are, and they know they are enforced. There is a trust in the system... and there is, accordingly, far less work for the Dean to do than one might suppose in a school of some 700 teenage boys.

That trust is so sadly lacking in so many other areas. I've mentioned reading Second City Cop and The Capitol Fax Blog here recently. Read any entry; read the comments. There is no trust whatsoever in our political leadership in Chicago. Of course, anyone who did trust the people in charge would also believe in the Tooth Fairy and the Easter Bunny.

Take a recent example: The Chicago Tribune reported this week how a once-contaminated piece of land located along Bubbly Creek was bought by a Daley insider for $50,000 in 1998 -- and now sold, to the City, for a park -- for $1.2 million. The Sun-Times reports this morning that Mayor Daley defends the purchase -- and insists there was no "sweetheart deal." Even though Sun-Times columnist Mark Brown reported yesterday that the City forced People's Gas to clean up the site, thus enhancing its value and before making the purchase. Oh, and the property was appraised -- and the sales price determined accordingly -- as if it were residential property. Which it certainly was not. A Tribune editorial concluded yesterday, with tongue firmly in cheek, "Some folks are just lucky. What else could it be?"

Trust. You can't legislate it. You can't demand it. You can only earn it. Like the Dean of Students at Youngest Son's school.

Out of town readers may not recognize the name "Bubbly Creek." The unsavory history of the stream is hinted at in the linked news stories, but this Wikipedia entry gives it to you straight. The name is that unofficially applied to the South Fork of the Chicago River. "The South Fork became an open sewer for the Chicago stockyards, especially the Union Stock Yards. Meatpackers used fat (as lard), hides and flesh (as meat), but blood and entrails usually found their way into the nearest river. The creek received so much blood and offal that it began to bubble methane and hydrogen sulfide gas from the products of decomposition. Two heavily polluted streams that joined to create the south fork were filled in, and their courses can still be seen today in the configuration of streets and rail lines in the area. By the 1990s the only living metazoans in the creek were huge numbers of bloodworms feeding on the estimated two meters of rotting blood in the bed of the hypoxic creek."


landgirl said...

Trust. We are struggling with that oveer here,too. The government that is supposed to protect us leaked the virus that caused the foot and mouth outbreak and said that no animals throughout the UK could move. Now they say the ddevolvedd governemtn should pay for Scotland's losses because it is a local problem. The saddest of all is that when the curren tprime minister was going to cll an election, there was money in the draft budget for Scottish farmers. Then, when he decided against a generla election, the money disappeared from the budget. Sadly, they seem somehow always to get away with it.

Jean-Luc Picard said...

A JUG is a new way of putting detention!

I agree; trust can only be earned.

Jeni said...

I do like the Dean of your kid's school - sounds like a darned fair and just individual to me.
Trust in politicians though - I have become more and more jaded about virtually ANY politician the older I get and it isn't along partisan lines anymore either. We, in Pennsylvania, have had more issues surfacing over the past two years now with unethical behavior in our State House than I think I've ever seen in all my years of living here. Or maybe I'm just more attuned to it today than I was before.
And "Bubbly" River huh? There's a fairly large stream that flows near to my home -oh about 2-3 miles I suppose from here - that is known as the "Red Moshannon Creek" because the old coal mines of a century ago dumped so much mine waste residue in this creek that it turned red from the high sulfur content -also killed all the fish in the stream and is still not cleaned up enough yet to sustain life. Probably never will be -or at least not in my lifetime anyway. Sad to see how pollution can ruin things like that, isn't it?

Patti said...

Eeew, that Bubbly Creek info reminds me of Upton Sinclair's book from 100 years ago.
I guess it's supposed to.

I like that Dean at your son's school too. If Ralph is going to continue substituting, he may just need to toughen up. I'll make sure he reads that.

Sounds like you were feeling better Friday. I'll bet you took your vitamin!