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Old 03-24-2011, 07:49 AM   #49
Location: Massachusetts
Join Date: Jun 2006
Posts: 3,192
Re: Thank you Tony Wagstaffe

On the subject of refreshing candor:

Once upon a time there was a man named John S. During his tenure as president of a large university, he accomplished many goals, bringing his university into greater prominence and helping to secure its financial future. He also displayed a marked tendency towards high-handed, autocratic behavior, even on trivial matters on which a few material concessions would have done him no harm, let alone a concession towards civility.

After some years in this position, he decided to run for governor of his state. He had no prior experience in politics, which is considered no great barrier these days as long as you have enough money, but in those days it was considered de rigeur to pay at least a few token dues before aspiring to high, eyebrows were raised. They were further raised as the general public got a real taste of what Mr. S. had been dishing out to members of the university community for some years. He had a tendency to let fly with whatever he felt like saying, and many people's reaction was to say, "This guy is a total jackass."

Then came the apologists -- the "refreshing candor" enthusiasts. I like the guy, they said. He speaks his mind. He speaks the truth as he says it, unpadded and unvarnished. And that's a good thing! This guy is honest, and I like that! Yay honesty!

At the point where it seemed like the refreshing candor crowd might prevail, a newspaper columnist pointed out the obvious. Sure, he's honest, she said. So is my four-year-old. Just like Mr. S., my four-year-old is apt to let fly with whatever she's thinking. It's unpadded and unvarnished, and it's also unconsidered. It's not thought out. And, because she's a four-year-old, I know it for what it is. When my four-year-old screeches out her opinion of my parenting style, I don't beam and say, "Oh, that's just great! What refreshing candor!" Instead, I buckle down and work to teach this child some tact.

Candor and sincerity lose their virtue when they're used as a bludgeon in the service of incivility. Four-year-olds are expected to be lacking in self-restraint. Adults must do better.
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