Local Commentary

Guest Commentary: 3 Local Issues Raised in Falls Church Farewell

“Localness.” We value it, we talk about, we hope for it. A place where (too many) people know your name!

This farewell commentary raises three very local issues: our City’s sickly commercial base; being careful what you wish for; and gender bias outcomes in our schools. My thanks to the News-Press for this opportunity, an illustration of “localness.”

First: Our sickly commercial base, generating so little tax revenue. It means that our residential taxes must support our schools, police, fire fighters, snowplowers, and school crossing guards (cut in the current budget?). And landowners and businesses suffer. So, how do we get more stores here? We cannot compete with gigantic Tysons. And whatever Tysons lacks, the internet offers – from home. We have to trade on charm, but …

… Falls Church shopping is a bore, with bright spots. We have no “destination.” We neglected to put library and post office together, as Arlington did (Westover, on Washington Blvd) and therewith attract at least some quirky cafes. We couldn’t close a single block of a single street (the 100 block of North Maple) to make a public square, around which, for example, stage theaters and restaurants could cluster (and property owners grow rich). We didn’t consider sheltered walkways – away from traffic – connecting businesses and generating walk-by customers – again to prosper landowners and businesses alike. The local chamber of commerce is status quo, in good times and bad, with no evident desire for growth. City government hasn’t used what tools are available, such as special taxing districts and prime city-owned land. Ultimately, City Council has lacked vision, busy necessarily with budgets, but also busy with process and urgent trivia. And we residents haven’t held their feet to the fire.

City Council has lacked vision, busy necessarily with budgets, but also busy with process and urgent trivia. And we residents haven’t held their feet to the fire.

Second: Be careful what you wish for. Some in Falls Church wish the Falls Church Anglican would go away. The problem is not how we live out Jesus’ Second Great Commandment – to love our neighbor as ourselves, to bless those who curse us. We minister to the jobless, the homeless, the immigrant; to children, teenagers, seniors; to the sick, the hungry, the despairing; to the singles, the married, the divorced; to the newborn, the dying, the grieving. We point not to ourselves, but to the Living God and to eternity. No, the problem is that we love our gay family members and gay neighbors as we love ourselves, we in our many types of brokenness, not willing that a single precious person who wants to hear of God’s grace should forgo eternal life for clinging to any brokenness.

The National Episcopal Church does not agree. It sued for the property, lost, and appealed to the Virginia Supreme Court, which will rule in June. In New York State, the National Episcopal church won; the congregation offered to buy the property for $150,000; the National Church instead sold it for $50,000 to an Islamic group, which then painted the doors Islamic green and hired a crane to remove the cross from the steeple, for an Islamic Awareness Center; which, inter alia, presumably will teach Shari’a law regarding gays. Be careful what you wish for.Third: Gender bias outcomes in our schools. It’s surprising mothers of sons put up with this: at the two George Mason High School graduations I attended (for my beloved daughters), young women won 2/3rd to 3/4th of the honors. What happened to the young men? Are boys are less intelligent? Do we have lower expectations for boys, academically? (I doubt my daughters’ graduating classes were anomalous.)

Let’s ask differently: based on outcomes, can we venture that our schools inadvertently teach girls and boys identically, when in fact girl and boy learning styles differ hugely? To quote an authority, “A girl’s retina is built very differently from the retina of a boy. When a girl and a boy look at the same landscape, they are seeing very different images. Girls and boys hear differently as well.” (from “Why Gender Matters,” by Leonard Sax, M.S., PhD.) Dr. Sax continues, “boys and girls are innately different and we must change the environment so differences don’t become limitations.” Moms, note that word, “limitations.” And watch for good intentions to tweak awards to achieve an appearance of equal outcomes.

Two other resource books, quickly: a teachers’ guide is Michael Gurian’s “The Boys and Girls Learn Differently, Action Guide for Teachers.” A wholly different take is “Wild at Heart,” by John Eldredge.Writing to fathers, I know this: boys don’t want to grow up to be nice. Boys want to – Fight Dragons! Thus extremes of behavior are mostly male; and civilization depends on channeling that energy. To put it another way entirely, Dads: if your daughter chooses to have a family, do you want her husband to have excelled in school?


Ron Parson is a former member of the Falls Church City Council, serving on the Council from 2000-2004.