• Ashley Paz

Braving Public Discourse

"Dad, Mom's quoting Brene Brown again!"

Allow me to introduce myself... again

If you have come to this website in search of who I am because of whatever the FWISD controversy du jour is, then chances are that you will find some discomfort with the contents of my blog. I am an outspoken aspiring Anti-Racist and mental health advocate with a penchant for calling bullshit when I see it.

The purpose of this post is very much to address what I see as deeply concerning and divisive behaviors in our community. I'm going to channel my inner Brene Brown and Kim Scott leadership lessons of speaking truth to bullshit and caring deeply while challenging directly. These times are hard for us all. I have shared my own personal story of managing depression while dealing with harassment, resuscitating a hundred-year-old business, navigating electoral politics, and raising a family.

Call It What It Is

Everyone has a seat at my table, and I go out of my way to ensure that you are heard. I intentionally seek out opposing viewpoints and challenge myself to question my perspective. I believe deeply that this is what has allowed me to grow as a leader and be successful in passing policies and initiatives that are making our schools better today. I consider it part of my role as an elected official to make sure that my constituents understand how they can best advocate for their needs, and that this is critical to the democratic process. With that said, there is a clear distinction between advocacy and bullying. Advocacy is using your voice to share your perspective. “Speaking truth to power.” Bullying is acting with the intent to harm, intimidate, or coerce.

Now, before I go any further I want to be clear that I do not like to use the term "bullying" when referring to interacting with members of the public. It doesn't actually get to the heart of what is going on in the vast majority of situations, but it is a term that is universally understood. So at this point, I would like to introduce a different concept.

Manipulative Insincerity vs. Obnoxious Aggression

Kim Scott, Silicon Valley leadership expert and author of the book Radical Candor does a great job of defining the conditions that break down productive dialogue and feedback from a personal and psychological perspective. In the short video below she provides a brief introduction to the main idea of her book.

Why this matters

I have a very outspoken manner of engagement. This is who I am. I am deeply convicted in my values of justice, honesty, and equity. I have experienced a dramatic shift in the way that we communicate as a society, and that shift has led to division and vitriol among family and friends. I will never not be an outspoken person. The passion and candor that I bring to my work can easily be misconstrued as "unprofessional" or "divisive". I would like to go one step farther and challenge that perspective (which I also once held) to consider that

I want it to be clear to all who read this that while the issues that I speak out on (mental health, racial justice, educational equity, transparency, governance, etc.) can be uncomfortable for many, I reject the idea that discussing them is in any way divisive. This is especially true with the conditions of caring personally, challenging directly, and civility intact. These conversations are not only important for the growth of the communities where I lead, but also for my own personal development.

I am constantly in the process of reckoning with how I have historically perceived the world while living in my own discomfort. I grew up in a rural mountainside town in Arkansas where I had basically no interaction with any people of color until I was in my teens. It has been hard for me to understand that I have privilege when I also have lived with so many disadvantages. And I understand that is the case for a lot of people who look like me. I promise that I am a better stronger person today because I have spent so much time challenging my perspective. Even if we disagree on the issues, we can agree to respect each other's basic humanity.

We can often find ourselves viewing others as problems or barriers that get in the way instead of humans with needs and feelings and wants. While I'm certainly not perfect, I try to keep humanity at the forefront of everything I do. I am always open to conversations and welcome you to join me in the brave space that exists in the brave space that we call learning and growth. Have a question? Just ask!

Let's dig in and grow together. I'm Ashley Paz and it's great to know you!