Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Back To School on The Beach

buteo jamaicensis. 'Beauty' for shortWhile finally harrowing the spent stalks of Allium schoenoprasum out by the service egress and wondering if I should excavate a five-foot pole in a buried eleven-foot concrete tube -- the rusted last remnants of the quaint monument to White Trash Heritage air clothes dryer that some well-meaning Luddite stuck in my lawn thirty years ago -- I was thinking about the new school year.
The world-famous Dartmouth High School Drum Line is hard at work banging away at it three-quarters of a mile away, a sure sign that somebody's tax dollars are being well-spent or completely frittered (your mileage may vary). Local vineyard workers shoo Cedar Waxwings from the plumping chardonnay and the red-tailed hawks are making their motion picture "desert sun noise" as they finish up the job. (It is most humbling to watch a starling explode in a confetti of feathers when run through by an anxious airborne Buteo jamaicensis.)
Which should, in some way, lead to some comment about the local political season. If there were any.
A wayward scribble in the local news catches my eye. It's time for the SouthCoast Leadership Club to frighten, misinform, and catechize another generation of possible future SouthCoast obfuscators, empty suits leaders.
It is an annual jape of whimsy for me: clicking over to the Leadership SouthCoast website and giggling at the redundancy of a bunch of also-rans deciding which people with very little flair for anything should be encouraged to have very little flair for leadership. The ones who make it through the droning localized misapprehensions of business models and clumsy Chamber of Commerce slideshows must at least get a plaque or something. I have seen one or two push a thin self-congratulatory press release or begging letter across a desk.
So, there's that.
Each of the nearly seven participants that I can name -- out of the what, dozens? -- was a SouthCoast community leader before SouthCoast Leadership Commune or whatever came about. Gazing at the weirdly-indistinct and out-of-focus photographs that the outfit sparingly distributes, I can't actually make out anyone that I recognize in this year's class. An off-islander might discern a lack of pride in their program since names of participants never accompany articles. This is not the case; SouthCoasters are just not the kind of leaders who like to get out in front of people. I am sure that each participant unashamedly displays their "Certificate of Leadershipness" on their cubicle wall or wherever they store their bag lunch. After all, in just a few years, these graduates will be the very people that other more knuckledragging locals will say "Who the hell fucked that up?" about.
I'm sure that the LeaDerShip SouthCoast mean well, because their very lackluster site says this:

Each year, Leadership SouthCoast selects a diverse group of acknowledged and aspiring leaders to participate in a thought-provoking, 10-month community leadership program consisting of 2 one-day retreats, 8 monthly full-day sessions, and a series of structured small group team-building activities. Participants are challenged by a variety of SouthCoast issues presented by leaders and experts in their fields. The program includes on-site visits, readings, discussion groups, simulations, and other developmental activities. The purpose of the program is to transform a highly motivated group of individuals into a network of leaders with knowledge and commitment that benefits their community.
(Since I was a facilitator of "team building" exercises at sea, I can assure you -- in all earnest irony -- there's just nothing more effective than "simulations" and "discussion groups" when your goal is to benefit a community that has suffered a lot at the hands of out-of-touch, abstract leadership.)
At least they participate in team projects. The very idea of a "team project" seems a bit "middle school" to my preparatory school palate, and I assume that these are intramurals since I've never seen any real-world evidence of such "initiatives." Ever. At all.
Here's one which I liked. Until I noticed that there were words that came after "executing" that were not "these idiots."
Recognizing that there is a real lack of diversity (age, ethnicity, sex, area of expertise) on the boards of local non-profits, this project focuses on creating and executing a tangible plan to recruit, train, and build the boards of organizations in Greater New Bedford.
Admitting that the "boards of local non-profits" are well known for a preponderance of hammerbags and soaks, I welcome the attempt to embetter said bankrupt forstallances. Around here, political hacks and nags are awarded seats on boards, utterly unaware of how non-profits operate.
The SouthCoast Leadership Outfit employs these dimbulbs to shine a light on local 501(c)3ity, incapacitating these eager emptyheaded future seatwarmers.
And the torch is passed to a new generation.


Anonymous said...

It's harmless. At least it lets young bank tellers and insurance reps see what different sectors of the community actually do. It's run by U of Mass and Jim Mathes, who runs S.M.I.L.E.S. mentoring program.

Leadership takes time to develop. You can't expect a class in leadership to produce FDR's and JFK's over night. Give them a chance.

Anonymous said...

Sorry, Anonymouse (from another "anonymouse"). Nope. I don't think it is harmless. It fools people into thinking they know what they are doing. Too little, too late. As non-p's in the region keep tanking on a daily basis, due to the absurd lack of understanding of how they FUNCTION, and what a Board's job IS...there is just not enough time left for that "chance."

Anonymous said...

Is this leadership class supposed to train mayors and city councilers or to train nonprofit managers? Because I don't see A*N*Y new faces in politics, but there's a ton of new nonprofits.

ThirdMate said...

I was just reminded that the first class ("SouthCoast Leadership Academy") did actually include some folks whose names were and are on official letterheads. And Michael Dukakis spoke at their "commencement."

To the various anonymi: This clown college can't even teach people what "non-profit" means. Non-profits are the FOURTH largest employment sector in the country. I wonder if the SouthCoast numbers match. Oh... SouthCoast Hospitals is the biggest employer, and they're a non-profit.

A non-profit must do two things that for-profits don't: they commit to benefit their community -- BY LAW -- and are far more meticulous with their finances since their profit goes to their mission/stakeholders, not shareholders.

Volunteer clubs like SMILES are very nice for folk with extra time and a "dedication to community commitment." Mentors, students, and conditions are safe, screened, and very controlled. Essentially PR-heavy chummy competitions to see who can put in the most hours or "help" the "most" kids so that they get the little plastic trophy at the awards dinner.

No secret that I dislike volunteer organizations like this. They cheapen the education process outright: Who's going to raise teachers' pay when retirees and busybodies can do it for free? (And that's the agenda of these clubs. Make specialized skills pedestrian, bust the unions, put in scab labor, and privatize everything. Thank you, United States Chamber of Commerce and your support of McCain/Palin'08.)

Oh, and how are the MCAS scores?