Cavil: cavilled, cavilling
To quibble, trick; To raise captious and frivolous objections; To find fault without good reason; To oppose by finding trivial faults.
Captious: captiously, captiousness
Apt to ensnare or perplex especially in arguments; Apt to notice and make much of unimportant faults or defects.
Reading the one, led to making sure I completely understood the other … so today’s post has two C words: cavil and captious.
I like these words because I can envision them fitting in nicely somewhere in a narrative of one of my novels or short stories. E.g., I wanted to smack him for his captious rejoinder. Or perhaps … I was tired of him cavilling every point I made. 🙂
Years ago, I delegated the district school board on relocation and boundary issues. Our community was a new one, and overpopulation at our local schools was rampant. The planning department was using outdated models of 1.5 children per household to determine the size and location of new schools. While that may seem like a reasonable number, in this particular community, with basement apartments and multiple family members residing in the same dwelling, that number was grossly under representative of the actual picture.
It was a challenging fight. I had local newspapers following the story closely, even the big city publications had their eye on the dilemma. I arranged for buses to bring parents to the meeting. I handed out flyers, knocked door-to-door collecting signatures for a petition. I spoke to everyone I could whose children were affected by these rigid, old-school practices. I went to the city. I obtained maps, and statistical data representing both past and projected future enrollment. I poured through figures. I worked out solutions. I polished my speech.
When the day came for my audience with the school board, I had four busloads of parents and their children in tow, not to mention the families that drove to the board head office to support us, including families from out of our immediate school zone. People scattered throughout the school board’s territory came in droves to lend their support. We were all fighting the same battle! We weren’t the only school whose children had been displaced and shuffled. My son attended four different schools and was subjected to four different boundary changes in five years of his elementary school life … and we NEVER moved! We lived at the same address, but the schoolboard wasn’t prepared for the influx of children and had nowhere to put them. Each change broke friendships and undermined any semblance of continuity in our children’s lives.
Back to the big day. There I am, in front of the trustees and superintendents with the support of hundreds of parents, the press in solidarity at our backs, even the school administration supported our efforts. I gave them no quarter. There was no loop hole in my arguments. There were suggestions and alternatives. I gave my all. The crowd of parents roared to their feet at the end of the presentation … and what did those elected representatives and educational leaders have to say? A captious, frivolous cavil of a response. They said, “Well, we’ve always done it this way.”
To say it was a staggering blow, is well, an understatement. The papers called it a travesty, where elected officials didn’t even bother to rise to the concerns of their constituents. The school board conceded on only one point. They changed some of their wording in their policy documents, so residents, when they looked hard enough, could read between the lines and come to the conclusion that by moving into this area, there was an understanding that their children were going to be relocated and moved about, consistently and constantly. At least this way they were being transparent.
In the end, our family stuck it out another two years in that district then moved away all together.
If someone has an objection to something I say or believe in, I’m a pretty easy going person. If they can base their opinions on balanced, reasonable, or well thought out responses, I will listen and respect their point of view, they might even sway my opinion. But, if they are going to cavil based on an outdated, ignorant view of history, or a familiar way of doing things, so as not to rock the boat, or just because they say so, well, then we have some work to do.
Check out this little nugget of wisdom:
Kalama Sutta: To the Kalamas
“Now, Kalamas, don’t go by reports, by legends, by traditions, by scripture, by logical conjecture, by inference, by analogies, by agreement through pondering views, by probability, or by the thought, ‘This contemplative is our teacher.’ When you know for yourselves that, ‘These qualities are skillful; these qualities are blameless; these qualities are praised by the wise; these qualities, when adopted & carried out, lead to welfare & to happiness’ — then you should enter & remain in them.”
What do I take away from that passage? We are meant to think for ourselves, not to take things at face value just because someone has said it, thought it, or written it, but rather contemplate the true meaning, the true resonance/essence of the words, thoughts, or opinions. Then, if we look deep within ourselves and see that when they are put into action they will lead to happiness and wellbeing, well, then you know you have something. And there’s nothing captious about that! 😀