There's been a whole lotta hoopla over some recent decisions by the Wake County School Board. Protests. Arrests. Cries of racism. It's been ugly. Today, the flagship public radio station in the state's public affairs call-in show is discussing the issue. Most of the major players are participating, except anyone from the School Board.
Now, I reckon I know why they weren't there. But this isn't the Jerry Springer Show. Chairs won't be thrown. Ambushes won't be allowed. And as much as I'm not a huge fan of the host, he does know how to keep things civil. So the odds of fisticuffs (verbal or otherwise) are pretty slim. Why not sign up for a little discussion?
I think not being there is a big mistake. Even if they just sent their attorney, it would be better than the dreaded "So-and-so declined to participate", which always makes you sound like an ass or a scaredy-cat even if your reasons are reasonable. Letting the opposition have the floor with an intelligent audience is always a bad idea. Yes, NPR probably skews liberal and the decisions made by the board are decidedly more conservative, but if the board members believe they are in the right, then presenting their rationale to an educated audience is a win. If they stick to their talking points and don't give in to their desire to bite or bite back, it's a good opportunity.
The key is self-control. What their decision not to participate says to me is that nobody on that board thinks they can control themselves if things get a little tense. Regardless of their politics, that's not a good image you want with the public.
When asked to participate, find a way to do it. Get some training if you need it. Build talking points. Whatever. But don't miss an opportunity to set the record straight or plead your case when it's a low- to no-risk scenario like this.