King Solomon is reknowned for his wisdom, a gift he received from God.
In modern usage, referring to the "Wisdom of Solomon" usually isn't wisdom at all, but an excuse for indecisiveness.
That's because the best-known example of Solomon's wisdom was the story in chapter 3 of 1 Kings, in which two women were arguing over a baby. Solomon's solution was to send for a sword, and order the child be cut in half.
Now, the wisdom was that he knew the real mother would never allow her child to be killed, even if that meant giving him to the other woman; their responses confirmed the king's belief, and the real mother got the baby.
Unfortunately, too many people now refer to compromises as "splitting the baby," as if Solomon actually had the kid bisected.
Thus, Columbia County school board members probably think they displayed the wisdom of Solomon by coming down in the middle of the debate over the school calendar, when all they did is compound their own indecisiveness.
This past Tuesday, after being loaded with trinkets from schools bearing tribute during School Board Appreciation Week, no doubt the trustees were feeling pretty kingly.
When the time came to review the school calendar survey, then, the board members split the baby by agreeing to a tentative change in their already-published 2007-08 calendar.
It starts school a little more than a week later than the one already in place and eliminates the fall break. The effect is to end the first semester before Christmas, while pushing the summer a little later into August.
"I think that middle date is a nice compromise," board member Regina Buccafusco said.
The late-start folks still aren't happy, of course. Response to the survey was anemic - just 5,084 total responses, even with the easy-to-abuse electronic balloting - and Calendar A, with the latest start date, received the least support. That definitively proves they are a vocal minority.
(Oh, I know: "But more people voted for a combined A and B than for C, so that proves more people want a later start!" Nice try. More disagree with the late calendar, period.)
For that reason, among others, splitting the baby is the wrong choice. While calendar B received the most votes, it outpolled C - the calendar most like the current schedule - by just 38 votes.
But guess what? While all three calendars polled within a few percentage points of each other (with A far in the rear), only one demographic group broken out in the poll gave a majority vote to any calendar.
Respondents who identified themselves as an employee of the school system (my wife is one of them) favor calendar C by 58 percent. It's no coincidence: the present school calendar was designed by a blue-ribbon committee made up of teachers of the year.
That calendar was supported by a previous school-system poll, and then endorsed by 69 percent of 19,957 voters in a 2004 Republican straw poll.
Meanwhile, the late-start proponents made their educational priorities clear. When those polled were asked why they like a particular calendar, most late-starters cited vacations.
Wow. Educators see the importance of the classroom. Late-start proponents just want another week at the beach.
The board members have tossed a calendar preferred by those who are most tuned in to students' educational needs, one that had been supported by an actual vote. That's not splitting the baby; that's giving it to the wrong mom, and stabbing the educators in the back.
Fortunately, the board's vote was only "tentative," so there's still time for them to find a little real wisdom. The classroom is a good place to start.
(Barry L. Paschal is publisher of The Columbia County News-Times. E-mail comments to email@example.com.)
The Columbia County News-Times ©2013. All Rights Reserved.