Joan Berzoff: Northampton — We can do better!

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Published: 06-06-2024 8:11 PM

Thirty-nine years ago, my husband and I left Boston for Northampton. We chose this small town known for its tolerance of diverse points of view, its generosity, and its progressive values.

I was thrilled to join Smith College’s faculty in the School for Social Work. We educated our two sons in the Northampton public schools and they received outstanding educations, exposed to multiple points of view. They now enjoy distinguished careers that embody the values of the town (one is the executive director of a large Texan synagogue, while the other is a liberal politician in Baltimore).

Back four decades ago, as is the case now, there were major battles over shrinking resources for the public schools. Yet, I do not recall those conflicts devolving into the level of incivility that I witnessing now.

I have great affection for our town and have never for a moment regretted the choices we made in settling here. But in the current discourse about how resources are being allocated, tribalism has taken hold in our public discourse. Attacks are being leveled against community members and community leaders which have descended into name-calling and worse.

It is always challenging to hold multiple points of view — all the more so in a world that is split and divided. Our fragile but beautiful community is now mirroring the worst of the national politics of factionalism and division. We are better than this, Northampton. We can and must work together to address and solve our problems collectively.

Joan Berzoff


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