The recent forum at Beye School to discuss the disturbing academic achievement gap was candid … and uncomfortable. But it should be uncomfortable. That’s the only way progress can occur?#34;especially in an elementary school district where the tendency is normally to accentuate the positive. There are plenty of positive things happening at Beye and at District 97 in general, which is why we think this district is healthy enough to handle some uncomfortable soul-searching.

In fact, one could make a case that avoidance of discomfort may well be one of the many factors perpetuating the stubbornly resistant minority student achievement gap. At the very least, being willing to hold an uncomfortable discussion, as occurred last week at Beye, is a good first step. For too long, Oak Parkers have let the fear of discussing racial issues prevent us from making the progress we need on some of our most challenging problems.

These conversations continue to be uneasy because issues that involve race are always uncomfortable. Accusations are traded and assumptions are made, often based on erroneous or insufficient information. Such accusations are challenged, and statements may be misinterpreted. People put words in one another’s mouths. Listening skills aren’t always at their best. But in the end, such conversations usually end up lancing the tensions and helping people move forward.

And there is no other direction we can afford to move on this issue.

We congratulate the Beye community for having the courage of their discomfort.

They aren’t alone. Irving School last year instituted the “Learning Community Initiative,” which attempts to broaden the discussions beyond the usual small group of dedicated PTO meeting attendees.

And this past Monday during Institute Day, Brooks Middle School held a panel discussion with former students, all African-American, who provided important feedback based on their experiences in Dist. 97.

Good steps all. Uncomfortable conversations are healthy. We just hope they don’t stop there.

Thinly disguised bias in Gay Games opposition

A number of callers and letter-writers have raised objections to Oak Park hosting several events in next July’s Gay Games festival. The opponents say they’re not anti-gay, just concerned about whether the taxpayer is footing the bill, but the exaggerated figures being floated sure smack of thinly disguised bias.

It’s hard for us to believe that any protest would have surfaced if Oak Park were hosting the Special Olympics. In fact, we doubt any complaints would have been tolerated.

In and of itself, concern over use of tax dollars is reasonable. But concern over hosting an influx of gay and lesbian visitors is not. We already have a sizable number of gay and lesbian residents and our cultural amenities and reputation for tolerance attract many gay and lesbian visitors. The local economy benefits. It will benefit even more from the influx of visitors to the Gay Games.

Last summer’s second Harry Potter book release showed that the various bodies of government are quite capable of collaborating to hold an event that welcomes large numbers of out-of-towners. This event will last longer, but that means the boon should be even greater.

Frankly, we find the opposition a little embarrassing. Being open and welcoming is central to Oak Park’s identity. As a village, we should be putting out the welcome mat, not showing our stinginess and bias.

Correction
Miguel Saucedo took issue with the description of his business, All Aboard, in Jack Crowe’s column last week [Coffee competition? I’m sticking with Java Depot, Viewpoints]. The column described the store as a “coffeeshop.” Saucedo said coffee will make up less than 10 percent of his sales, and that All Aboard will look to sell more sandwiches and salads, publications, and cold bottled beverages than coffee.

Saucedo will sell coffee and espresso-based coffee drinks. He said he purchased an espresso machine for the operation, but would not give anticipated coffee drink sales figures.

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