The chairman of the Board of Education on Monday voiced his support for a spoken word poetry presentation and workshop at New Canaan High School that’s generated some questions and criticism. Held last month, the presentation from Carlos Andrés Goméz was designed to help participants learn about and experience spoken word poetry, district officials have said, and most of the feedback from students and staff has been positive. Yet some viewed the presentation as political and slanted, promoting Board of Ed Chairman Brendan Hayes to say that he “spent some time looking at the situation and the poems that he put forth and presented and I didn’t see any political issues at all.”
Goméz’s presentation was designed to “focus on the issue of empathy and mutual respect and really just understanding various perspectives,” Hayes said during the Board’s regular meeting, held in the Wagner Room at New Canaan High School. “I saw an effort to teach kids and present in an impactful way what empathy means, what mutual respect means and I think that is very important for us to teach whether that’s part of this ‘emotional intelligence’ initiative specifically or not and I think it gets kids talking about their various interests and their various concerns and probably in a way they would not necessarily do had that speaker not come to school and given that presentation. So I think that is the type of thing that we should be doing.”
Though no video recording of the presentation exists—district officials said that’s because of copyright restrictions—Board of Ed member Maria Naughton said “it was a little edgy,” with poems addressing “controversial topics” such as “toxic masculinity” and racial profiling.