The correct attitude in FIRST

Last night an argument ensued between me and another FIRST member from PA. I regret fighting the argument very much and wish I could take it back, but the argument still concerns me. We were arguing about what FIRST is and the man I was arguing with was against FIRST and under the impression that FIRST did not do enough ect. What concerned me most was someone in FIRST badmouthing the organization. It has always been my belief that if you are in an organization, namely FIRST, then you should always defend it and stand up for it. Stating concerns is one thing, but just badmouthing it is another. I would think it to be no different in a workplace, you shouldn’t go around telling everyone how bad the company you work for is (although everyone continues to do it, and I am just as guilty).

My point is, what are your feelings on this? I for one was very concerned for how a fellow member could be so blatantly rude about the organization that they are a part of.

Many mentors are there as a result of their kids being in the program. Thus, they look at it objectively…it’s probably good that way. They are able to provide feedback as “outsiders.” Plus, define the difference between badmouthing and criticizing? He likes the idea - but feels that there is still a lot to be fixed…I can understand that. FIRST is not complete yet! Think about how far we’ve come since its inception, and think about how much farther we still have to go…

FIRST has done amazing things.

That being said, there is room for them to improve and they are not perfect. Constructive Criticism is always good, but when people feel very strongly about something (as many people involved in FIRST do) it tends to come across very strongly.

I’ve been guilty of bad mouthing FIRST on multiple occasions, but I like to think that it’s been with good intentions. Come to think of it, I’ve had many conversations with other mentors about how FIRST could make themselves better, especially lately.

Participating in FIRST, especially FRC can be a very stressful experience. Sometimes a simple apology can go a long way and acknowledging you regret fighting can be enough to clear the air and move on.

I have been involved with FIRST for 10 years now. I often don’t agree with some of the decisions made. I am a volunteer who has spent thousands of hours and lots of my own money because I deeply believe in what FIRST hopes to accomplish.

But I don’t always agree on how to get there. And that’s ok. I don’t consider it rude. In fact I’ve had some fantastic interactions and debates over the years, some of them very heated.

This time of year often comes with burnout and disappointment, along with all the great stories. Sometimes just being a listener can be better than a debater.

Because I agree with FIRST’s goals does not mean I support every action they take. Nor should it. I disagree with many things FIRST has done and am more than willing to be vocal about them. As a member of the community it is my duty to help it grow and prosper. If I see an action that I feel is detrimental to those goals it is my duty to research it and explain this in a respectful well thought out manner.

That being said, if I were to just say, “Dean is an out of touch moron” and leave it at that I would expect to get some pretty nasty comments in reply. However, if I were to say that I feel Dean is out of touch with what is going on in the FIRST community because the teams that he regularly sees are the ones that aren’t struggling, it would form the basis for a conversation. Furthermore if I could find evidence that showed that Dean rarely spoke to mentors from struggling teams and regularly spoke to the mentors from powerhouse teams I might have a basis for this claim. *

Expressing a dissenting opinion is never wrong on its own. Expressing a dissenting opinion rudely is, however, wrong.

*This claim is mostly fictitious. I’m sure some people do believe it though.

Pardon the fragmented nature of this reply. I lack the time this morning to make it more succinct.

One can easily believe in the stated goals of FIRST without approving of every action taken by FIRST HQ.

FIRST is us. If we don’t like what FIRST is doing, it’s up to us to do something different.

There’s a difference between badmouthing and criticism.

If he’s “against FIRST”, what is he for instead?

I like making an analogy to the US for this argument. Like most Americans, I love America. I think the principles of freedom of expression, representative government, and checks and balances are wonderful and I feel lucky to have been born in such a great country. Yet just because I agree with the ideals doesn’t mean I agree with all of the actions America has taken. Slavery, nuclear warfare, extraordinary rendition are all terrible things and I’m ashamed to be in a country with that in its history. That said - I think not only is it okay to “bad mouth” America for these things, I think it would be wrong NOT to, lest history repeats itself. We need to be able to constructively look at mistakes and flaws, not blindly worship our organizations with no regard to mistakes.

It’s the same for FIRST. I love the ideals of FIRST and I’m a happy participant, but that doesn’t mean they are immune from constructive criticism. How else can one work to make an organization better?