Saturday, December 29, 2007

Summary: Hering Still Unable to Tell the Truth

Two recent editorials in the DH remind me that Hering is still struggling with honesty.

Hering on the EPA/California dustup:

Then last Wednesday, the federal Environmental Protection Agency denied the California waiver request, provoking cries of outrage from California officials and others including Oregon Governor Kulongoski.

But the EPA made the right decision. Automobiles are an international business, and the United States is better off with a uniform national standard on how car engines have to be built. It’s the federal government that should be in charge of setting standards that apply equally in all the states.

He sure does love him some law and order - especially when he can hide behind that as justification to ignore the needs of the environment. This doesn't pass the laugh test.

Or, as commenter Publicus put it: "Isn't it curious how conservatives are all for states' rights until a state does something they don't like?"

Hering advocates for the "Fair Tax" - a 23% national sales tax:

Such a proposal exists. It’s called the Fair Tax, fittingly enough. It boils down to a national sales tax collected at the point of final sale. Instead of exemptions for basics, it includes a plan to send every American a check once a year to compensate for taxing those items.

Beyond that, we all would pay at the same rate whenever we bought anything. The backers say a rate of 23 percent of sales would equal what the government gets from the income and payroll tax.

The Fair Tax proposal has been destroyed so many times I'm not going to bother (but see here for one example). It's snake oil: It sounds good at first glance (or so I am told - I thought it was poppycock from day one) but is incredibly regressive and would almost certainly cause immense economic misery. Is it any wonder that Hering and a bunch of rich white guys advocate for it?

Grover Norquist advocates for the Fair Tax. That should tell you all you need to know. He was, for the record, the guy who said he wants to shrink government "down to the size where we can drown it in the bathtub."

Note: I am aware that I probably give Hering a (very small) boost in web traffic since I tend to link to his editorials often. This does not bother me.

Still Amazed at How the Awesomeness of Apophenia; Or, the "Get Into College or Die" Crowd Strikes Again

This was great.

Specifically, this passage:

What Pew's data shows is that online participation correlates with offline participation. They are not able to show causality (and they do not try to claim that they can), but such a correlation still contradicts the ever-present myth that online activities cause a decline in offline activities. Of course, don't misread this correlation in the opposite direction either. In other words, you cannot say that if you get a group of teens involved online, they will also get involved offline. Meshing these findings with my own qualitative observations, I have a sneaking suspicion that what Pew's data is pointing to is that the hyper-motivated and/or overly scheduled teens from middle/upper class communities are extremely engaged offline and use online technologies to socialize with their friends in the interstitial times and that this cohort's content creation is primarily to support friendships rather than create for creation sake. This also makes sense because teens who have more free time tend to have less restrictions and tend to prefer offline encounters with friends to online ones. [emphasis added]

The Dumbing Down of Music [the downside of MP3s]

Seen at both BoingBoing and Slashdot (but really a Rolling Stone article), I have to offer a qualified disagreement with Cory Doctorow on this one.

Rolling Stone:

Just as cds supplanted vinyl and cassettes, MP3 and other digital-music formats are quickly replacing CDs as the most popular way to listen to music. That means more conven- ience but worse sound. To create an MP3, a computer samples the music on a CD and compresses it into a smaller file by excluding the musical information that the human ear is less likely to notice. Much of the information left out is at the very high and low ends, which is why some MP3s sound flat. Cavallo says that MP3s don't reproduce reverb well, and the lack of high-end detail makes them sound brittle. Without enough low end, he says, "you don't get the punch anymore. It decreases the punch of the kick drum and how the speaker gets pushed when the guitarist plays a power chord."

But not all digital-music files are created equal. Levitin says that most people find MP3s ripped at a rate above 224 kbps virtually indistinguishable from CDs. (iTunes sells music as either 128 or 256 kbps AAC files — AAC is slightly superior to MP3 at an equivalent bit rate. Amazon sells MP3s at 256 kbps.) Still, "it's like going to the Louvre and instead of the Mona Lisa there's a 10-megapixel image of it," he says. "I always want to listen to music the way the artists wanted me to hear it. I wouldn't look at a Kandinsky painting with sunglasses on."

Producers also now alter the way they mix albums to compensate for the limitations of MP3 sound. "You have to be aware of how people will hear music, and pretty much everyone is listening to MP3," says producer Butch Vig, a member of Garbage and the producer of Nirvana's Never- mind. "Some of the effects get lost. So you sometimes have to over-exaggerate things." Other producers believe that intensely compressed CDs make for better MP3s, since the loudness of the music will compensate for the flatness of the digital format.

Doctorow's comment on the shift:

"Designing for that, as opposed to lamenting it -- is a damned good and realistic thing to do."

In a sense, he's right, of course; people should design for the technology that's available, and the sooner the better.

On the other hand, I think the shift is indeed for the worse - and when digital music technology allows for a more complex and greater range of sound, are we going to engineer audio for that?

I hope so, but I am skeptical. And in any case, the shift to dynamic range compression, wherein everything becomes loud, is not a good one. I hope that goes away too.

In the meantime, can someone please send me a record player and a few thousand albums on vinyl so I can do some research on this very pressing topic?

The Bush Administration's Top Ten Dumbest Legal Arguments of the Year

From Slate.... how in the world did we let this happen?

My favorite:

8. The vice president's office is not a part of the executive branch.

We also learned in July that over the repeated objections of the National Archives, Vice President Dick Cheney exempted his office from Executive Order 12958, designed to safeguard classified national security information. In declining such oversight in 2004, Cheney advanced the astounding legal proposition that the Office of the Vice President is not an "entity within the executive branch" and hence is not subject to presidential executive orders. When, in January 2007, the Information Security Oversight Office asked Attorney General Alberto Gonzales to resolve the dispute, Cheney recommended the executive order be amended to abolish the Information Security Oversight Office altogether. In a new interview with Mike Isikoff at Newsweek, the director of the ISOO stated that his fight with Cheney's office was a "contributing" factor in his decision to quit after 34 years.

Go read the rest. Then call me and we'll drink until the pain goes away.

Movie Review: The Kingdom (Ideological Spoiler Alert)

I just finished (as in the credits are still rolling) watching The Kingdom.

The Kingdom is a Syriana-like exploration of the relationship between Saudi Arabia and the United States, except with a focus on terrorism instead of oil.

It's also a very good movie.

Since I interpret movies through a filter that allows forces me to look for and analyze the underlying values and ideology present (the "message," as it were), I am going to approach talking about The Kingdom in those terms.

In regards to the larger conflict between the so-called West and (and now I'm talking about reality, not the film), the simplest description is often literally "us" vs. "them." No distinctions are made, especially when referring to "them," and it is supposed to be understood that "they" are bad and should be subordinate to "us."

I absolutely despise this formulation of things. It's shallow, factually inept and dangerous. It allows for easy dehumanizing of others, making it easier to hate and kill other human beings. The fact that I feel compelled to point out that this is a bad thing does not make me optimistic about the world.

A slightly more complex understanding of allows for the existence of factions on both sides - and the more complex the understanding gets, the more realistic it gets, as it allows for each individual or group involved to become more three-dimensional, more realistic, by acknowledging the agency of the Other (at and some point, of course, the Other disappears and becomes us). And while I'm skeptical our understanding of anything ever approaches reality (thus outing myself as at least a little Platonic), it can get pretty darn close.

Anyway, back to the movie. The Kingdom tries very hard to place itself on the nuanced end of the spectrum, and it does a pretty good job.

The plot is pretty straightforward: Someone executes a complicated terror attack on American civilians living in Saudi Arabia. The FBI wants to investigate (as American civilians living abroad are the domain of the FBI); the Saudis say no, they don't want to show weakness by having American officials involved. One enterprising agent (Ronald Fleury, played by Jamie Foxx with a great deal of intensity held in check) cuts a deal with the Saudi Ambassador and he and three others get to go investigate.

Take that scenario, add a tremendous amount of political and cultural context, and away the movie goes.

Over an hour later - I don't want to give away too much - and we get a resolution, of sorts (another sign of a nuanced piece of fiction, be it on the page or the screen: you get the sense that the characters will continue living after you stop watching).

The two major questions I had as the end of the movie approached:

1) What stance would it take on the actual geopolitical situation in the Middle East? Would it revert back to an us-vs.-them shooter, or would it let the complexities of reality stand? (Reality, of course, undermines the idea that shooting people will ever lead to any kind of peace.)

2) What would the characters (especially the Westerners, who are ultimately the protagonists) learn from their experience? Where would they stand on the issue of shooting first vs. doing police work, an issue held in tension throughout the movie? (This question, of course, is very closely related to #1 as many people will draw the movie's message from the characters.)

The Kingdom answered the questions in what I thought was a pretty clever way: It had characters on both sides (a Saudi boy and Foxx) indicate that what they had learned was that it was necessary was to 'kill them all'. I hope that American audiences will understand the argument behind that moment: That 'killing them all' is the province of the most violent sect of Wahhabism, and not only is it radically different than most of Islam, it needs to be rejected as a method by America as well.

In its own way, I think The Kingdom rejects the premise of the War on Terror, though its very subtle promotion of American diplomacy is, of course, ultimately problematic as well...

U.S. Senate Candidate Steve Novick

I have not been following this race as much as I should have, I feel, but the more I hear the more I like Novick. From this profile (via Blue Oregon):

A 44-year-old attorney (he was the lead counsel on the Love Canal case), with a long track record as a liberal activist in Oregon state politics, Novick delivers a straight shot of idealism. “I was raised to believe that we can’t tolerate a society that only works for white people, rich people, or straight people,” he says to the gathering. “We should only accept a society that works for everyone.”

That's impressive for a Democrat... and a helluva lot better than Gordon Smith.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Fantastic Letter in the Democrat-Herald

My family points me to this letter on the topic of Native American mascots in schools - and particularly Lebanon. The author, Bob Zybach of Foster, Oregon, also responds to LHS student Miranda Gestrin's Young Voices column on the same topic.


As contrast, the Indian “chief” used to represent Lebanon teams is a “Native American” that apparently represents all native non-white male warring people in North America prior to the use of automobiles (ca. 1890s). How does that possibly “honor” an entire continent of thousands of tribes and nations and millions of people? The women, children, and elderly? The peacemakers among them?

Lebanon was populated by Santiam Kalapuya and Santiam Molalla during early Oregon history. Neither nation owned or used horses, or developed any particular reputation as “warriors.” They were known as peaceful people with no history of warfare or horse ownership. They wore waterproof woven cedar caps, not feathers, on their heads.

Kalapuyans were largely agrarian, raising vast amounts of labor-intensive camas, white acorns, and tarweed seed every year. Molallan men were known as highly successful elk hunters (they had dogs, but no horses), and Molallan women harvested mountain huckleberries and beargrass for trade in the summer. The so-called “Warrior” is more representative of South Dakota or Arizona, perhaps, and for a very brief period of time.

Exactly - the Lebanon mascot is not a historical representation of a specific Native American. It's a representation of what some white people thought would be a good mascot. That is a large part of why it's offensive and insulting. It's just not true. Claiming that one's intent is pure doesn't change that fact.

That was the big thing I wanted to highlight from the letter, but there was one other thing Zybach says that is worth noting:

Do any of the teachers or administrators at Lebanon High School even know the basic history of their community or of Oregon?

I have no idea how many teachers know the history of Lebanon or of Oregon. What I do know is that there's no real place in the high school curriculum for this sort of hyperlocal knowledge, and I think that gap is a holdover from a time when people learned about local history from other sources - the church, the family, etc. That is no longer the case, and I think a class, or even a section in a class, on the history of Lebanon and the local area (especially the Native tribes who once used this land) would be incredibly useful, and if done right, incredibly interesting.

Paging Mr. Winters....

Whiskey Fire on the Connection Between Troops and Liberty

Hint: There is none, crazed howls from my gun-toting extended cousins notwithstanding.

Nothing the American military is currently doing abroad has any bearing whatsoever upon the degree of liberty enjoyed by any American citizen. To suggest otherwise is absurd. Had we not invaded Iraq, would any American be any less "free," any less capable of dissent, free expression, the vote, fucking around on YouTube, whatever?


And it is no insult to the troops to suggest this. American liberty does not, practically, theoretically, or philosophically, depend upon American armed force. There are no foreign powers capable of threatening essential American liberties -- yes, there are assorted maniacs and thugs, but, well, we are under no threat of invasion.

To be blunt. I owe to no member of the American armed forces any gratitude for the exercise of my liberties as an American citizen. I respect their service but I am not in their debt in any regard. In particular, this exercise of American armed intervention in Iraq is in fact anti-democratic and injurious to American liberty, and for that reason should never have been undertaken, and needs to end.

Mmm.... the sweet smell of angry blogger in the morning. It's one I am quite familiar with.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

A Response to LT's "Movies and Education II" Post

I agree with LT that we're likely to end up in the same place, though I feel like I've been a bit misunderstood. So, some clarifications.

1. LT says:

RW takes issue with our statement that we should push our students to achieve as much as possible to get as much education as possible.

RW wants to take the view that students should be free to decide whether they want to learn or not, whether they want to go to college or not, whether they want a particular kind of job.

Yes... with qualifications. While I do think that it's a good idea for people to achieve as much as possible and get as much education (defining 'education' as something almost completely different than 'schooling'), I don't think simply telling people - students - that's what they should do is a good idea, for the simple reason that telling people what to do, even with the best of intentions, is not as good as encouraging people to discover for themselves what to do.

It might seem like a small distinction, but I think it has substantial ramifications. I always react far better when given an option as to what to do (thus retaining my sense of agency, my ability to control my own life) than simply being told exactly what I should do. I have noticed that the students I worked with are much the same way - suggesting that much of their resistance to schoolwork is not the work per se, but the lack of control they have over their own lives.

A compromise, given the nature of the education system: That students are free to have substantial choice over their own learning within some broad parameters (language arts has to stay language arts, etc). Yes, I know this runs up against state and federal standards. The standards suck.

2. Anyway, LT says this:

We do believe, however, that there is some level of reading, writing, math, and reasoning skills that all adults should obtain if they are able because these are gateway skills to virtually all jobs that produce a living wage. We think that RW probably would agree on that point as well.

And LT is right. I agree.

3. LT says:

Unlike RW, we do not think that there are students who voluntarily choose not to be educated. Instead, we think that unsuccessful students see the value of education, want to be educated, but do not believe that they can be successful in education. Given that we view this as the cause of failure, we advocate for pushing students, not letting them to choose to fail.

Maybe this is a quibble, but I want to raise that distinction again between education and schooling. I think schools - especially high schools - are not set up to deal with the whole range of people they are responsible for. As a result, lots of students don't get much in the way of education while in school. The two - the school and the student - do not see eye to eye, sometimes in some very fundamental ways (and we can debate why this is, where it comes from, and how to deal with it, but that's another post).

I guess I say the above because I see this: That students (most of them, anyway; some of them actually seem to think that learning and intelligence are bad things) want to learn and want to be learned human beings, but do not understand school as a place where that's possible.

Yeah.. LT and I are ending up in the same place, all right; we're just using different words to get there.

Though I do think there are many students who do not see the value of education - and in fact do not see the value of being in school at all. This was a huge shock to me, and I tended to respond by asking students to tell me what the point of school was as far as they knew. Some of them claimed there was no point - which is different than not knowing the point. They actively claimed that education - not school, education - was a bad thing. That was hard to swallow.

So on that point I suspect LT and I differ. I think those students have internalized a very anti-intellectual message that is floating around America (and has been for a long time, really).

Anyway, this post feels too long, so I'm stopping here. Plus, I am unhappy with the writing and revising it doesn't seem to be getting me anywhere.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Tasered While Black

A new blog actually called Tasered While Black, found via Automatic Preference.

Check out this one in particular:

November 29, 2007 TROTWOOD, Ohio -- The FBI is investigating after a Trotwood police officer used a Taser on a pregnant woman. Trotwood Public Safety Director Michael Etter said the incident happened on Nov. 18. He said the woman arrived at the police department asking to give up custody of her 1-year-old son. Etter said an officer spoke with the woman as she held onto the child outside the police department. "(He) attempted to obtain information on both the mother and the child, at which time the mother refused to give any information and became very agitated," Etter said.

Surveillance video from the police department shows the woman trying to leave with the child. The officer then grabs her coat in an effort to get her to stop.

Etter said the officer was doing what he thought was in the best interest of the boy.

The video shows the woman struggling with the officer, who then takes the child from her and gives the boy to another officer. The first officer then forces the woman down on her stomach, and he then uses a Taser on her neck.

Tasers should be outlawed. Better to err on the side of safety than on the side of control.

Lebanon Truth on Education Leads to The Big Questions

Of all the things LT has written, this is my favorite (beating out even this):

Can we change how the world views those who are educated and those who are not? No, even if we thought it was the right thing to do, we lack that power. But what we can do is tell these kids the same things that African-Americans told their kids. It isn't fair, but it is the only game in town. So we expect you to fight every inch of the way and educate yourselves to your utmost ability, every day, every way. And then we expect you to go out into that big, wonderful, scary, unfair world, make something of yourselves, whether you do it here or thousands of miles from here. But don't you ever be ashamed of where you came from. And don't you ever forget what you owe to this community. And don't you ever think that you don't have to pay it forward. [emphasis added]

1. I disagree with that first sentence, just a bit - not only can we change how the world views education, we ought to and need to. It's just that it's a much larger, and longer, struggle.

One thing we can do is teach others about the injustices of the world and allow their own moral compasses to guide their responses.

2. The above paragraph also reminds me of this top ten pet peeve regarding education: "The widespread belief among middle class parents that their child must get into a well known college or they won't be as successful in life."

While I think that's related to the perspective illustrated by LT's paragraph, I - and I cannot stress this enough - do not think the two are synonymous. In other words, LT's exhortation - to engage with the world - does not require attending college.

Also, and perhaps more importantly, it raises the question of how we define 'successful'. I've struggled with that for years, especially in relation to my peers (both defining myself against them and watching how we each define it for ourselves). A friend of mine passed on what turned out to be what I consider a very important definition a few years ago. He said that rather than ask people what they were doing for work, or if they had kids, or how much money they made, or if they went to college - all traditional measures of success - that what was important was whether or not they were happy - and I don't mean on a superficial, false-consciousness sort of level. I mean happiness in the Classic Greek Philosopher/Dead White Guy sense, happiness as the result of achieving one's definition of the good life.

This definition of happiness allows for the inclusion of a much greater part of the whole of the human experience (and it allows each person to define it for themselves, which I think is absolutely essential, messy as though it may be on the societal level). I think it's important that people - including those who happen to be students - are not saddled with a definition of happiness that is impossible to live up to (like going to college or making millions of dollars). Doing so is a recipe for unhappiness, frankly (see the rapidly increasing number of housing foreclosures and missed credit card payments).

All this, of course, is another way of saying that the process, the means, the road you take on the way to your destination - all of these are as important, if not more important, than the destination itself. Lord knows that what was important for me was not the degree in my hand (it's sitting on my bookshelf between texts gathering dust) but what I'd just spent the last five years doing (which determined who I am in no small part).

Note: Careful readers will note that I very rarely come straight out and tell people what to think/do. It just feels wrong. In this case, I will make an exception:

Anyone who is hell-bent on seeing their children succeed by any definition would do well to remember that.

3. LT's paragraph also raises the questions of what obligations we (teachers, parents, adults in general) should be placing on students. This is a very touchy question for me, since I have a pretty intense dislike of obligating others for any reason (obligating others being set in opposition to freely assuming responsibility). In fact, that might be one of the reasons I always had trouble try to enforce any sort of "make students do their work" rule or guideline when subbing: While I can endeavor to help a student see the consequences and benefits of doing/not doing their work, I cannot (and have/had no desire to) make students do anything.

However, as long as obligating others is a factor, then we could do worse than asking students to actively engage with the world around them.

It feels like there is more to say about this, but it's not coming at the moment, so I'm just going to throw this out there.

Monday, December 24, 2007

The Civic Literacy Quiz

From way back in early December, from a comment left on my blog by commenter Bernstein, comes this Civic Literacy test that Americans supposedly do so bad at.

I took the test and scored something like 46/60, for a score of 77%. I'd be more upset with myself if I thought the test was any good. It's not.

The last dozen questions or so were on the topic of the free market and economics. They were silly, with some of them being false.

But then again, I'm not surprised. Look at the mission statement of the organization that puts on the quiz:

The Intercollegiate Studies Institute (ISI) was founded in 1953 to further in successive generations of American college youth a better understanding of the economic, political, and ethical values that sustain a free and humane society.

Crap like that - and yes, it is crap - sets off all sorts of alarm bells in my head, because "free society" is often claimed to be synonymous with capitalism. (And how can a society that permits the death penalty be called 'humane'?)

Too bad the result of capitalism is most certainly not democracy. In fact, the two are just about polar opposites when it comes to values and ideology. I know it's been fashionable to rhetorically equate the two recently, but seriously.

A sample question (not chosen at random):

50) Free markets typically secure more economic prosperity than government’s centralized planning because:

Can you spot the assumption? Hint: It's the word 'more'. The questions implies an empirical claim, but provides no evidence and instead treats it like fact. And no, shouting "Soviet Union" does not count as evidence... unless you were looking for a Magical Communist Pony.

How about this one:

51) Which of the following is the best measure of production or output of an economy?

When the answer is Gross Domestic Product, I know I'm in the presence of wishful thinking. GDP is the commonly accepted answer to this question, it's true, but Robert Kennedy shredded that notion a long time ago:

The gross national product includes air pollution and advertising for cigarettes and ambulances to clear our highways of carnage. It counts special locks for our doors and jails for the people who break them. GNP includes the destruction of the redwoods and the death of Lake Superior. It grows with the production of napalm, and missiles and nuclear warheads... it does not allow for the health of our families, the quality of their education, or the joy of their play. It is indifferent to the decency of our factories and the safety of our streets alike. It does not include the beauty of our poetry or the strength of our marriages, or the intelligence of our public debate or the integrity of our public officials. It measures everything, in short, except that which makes life worthwhile.

Basically, the latter part of the test gets at how well you believe the dominant ideology of the United States, not how informed you are. There's a substantial difference.

Heck, the first part of the quiz contains a bunch of questions that are completely irrelevant to modern life, even if we include knowledge of history as a causal factor as relevant knowledge.

Recent News Stories about the LCSD, PIE, Sand Ridge, etc.

I've been lax (read: working almost full time during the last few weeks of my job) in posting about Lebanon news stories and events lately, so I'm just going to do a summary post of all the recent stuff. Commentary, of course, is included at no extra charge...

1. Sand Ridge Administrator not licensed with state

I don't really feel the need to comment a lot on this, besides to note that this sort of thing should be beyond the pale, and arguably grounds for dismissal. Or, at the least, grounds for not inviting the nice Mr. Jackson back as an administrator for Sand Ridge after this year.

And don't give me any "he didn't know" crap. He was supposedly the principal of the school last year, and he surely had a hand in hiring at least one administrator for a PIE school - both of which mean he knew better.

Then there is the Lance Ferrarro issue:

Lance Ferraro, a teacher at Sand Ridge last year, said Jackson has ignored his requests for forms required by the state of Michigan.

Ferraro returned to Michigan early this summer to care for his father who suffers from heart problems and mother who has lost both breasts to cancer.

That crosses the line from uncaring and sloppy to mean - and unprofessional (no matter Jackson's reasoning). If I'm a PIE parent.... or teacher.... I'm wondering how this happened and whether or not I'm going to face the same problem in the future.

2. Superindent Briefs Chamber of Commerce on Lebanon Education

Based on this story, I think the presentation that was given was probably pretty good. At the least, Robinson, Kelley and Zarate are trying to get the LCSD to change the way education happens in Lebanon to be more in line with the realities of the world. The fact that people seem to be interested in shooting the messenger because they don't like the message (or the style in which it's being delivered) is not good.

Kelley says it perfectly:

“We're not measuring the right things in the classroom,” Kelley told the chamber. “It's not right to stuff their heads with facts. We've got to start teaching processes.”

Amen to that. Big changes are coming down the pike in education, and Robinson and Co. are doing their best to adapt and adopt national trends and changing policy orientations to the local environment. Sometimes they are not successful, it's true - but they are trying, and rather than sabotage their efforts, I think it would be far more useful to collaborate. To steer the ship to a new course rather than sink it, in other words.

3. Lebanon blogs target charter school chairman

I thought I'd have something to say as soon as this story came out, what with it being sort of about this blog and all. I was a little surprised when I didn't.

I do have a few things to say now, however.

Put simply, I think this story should never have run. I failed to see that, as written, the story was newsworthy.

Given the subject matter, the DH could have taken two angles: Either a) that Jackson's disciplinary history was newsworthy in and of itself, in which case there was little to no reason to mention the blogs at all; or b) that the fact that said history was reported on two local blogs was newsworthy. If the latter, then the focus should have been on the blogs' revealing of the history - and the blogs certainly should have been named and/or quoted and/or linked to in the story.

So which one is it? For me, the answer is, oddly enough, tied up in the issue of anonymous sources - and Hasso Hering's stated dislike of anonymous bloggers.

Given that the headline accuses "Lebanon" bloggers of going after Jackson (which, from my perspective, is false, since I am not blogging from Lebanon - and while the reporter knows that, I know she does not always write headlines), I'd say the answer is obviously (b), that the supposed justification for the story is the take of Rhetorical Wasteland and LT. But if that's the case, how did Jennifer Moody not end up even naming the two blogs listed in the headline?

My guess is simple: Someone - probably Hering - edited any mention of the blog names or URLs out of the story. It fits too well with his calling anonymous bloggers 'cowards'.

In other words, good journalism practices (in this case, naming the sources/justifications for the story) ran square up against Hering's dislike of anonymous bloggers... and his dislike won out, to journalism's loss.

I don't blame Jennifer Moody, the story's author, for any of this; I know she possesses all the relevant information (my blog name, etc.).

I think the DH needs an ombudsperson/public editor - and yes, I am available.

Full disclosure: Moody contacted me about the story and I essentially declined to comment on the record. If that led to the way the story turned out, I am sorry... but I don't think that had anything to do with it. Surely LT was contacted and had something to say.

Spending Christmas Eve Worshipping Danah Boyd

So. Freaking. Smart.

Today's youth have information at their fingertips, but they are constantly being told that this information is inherently flawed and that they should not use it.

Wikipedia certainly has its flaws, but it's not evil. In fact, it's an ideal site for learning how to interpret information. Consider California History Standard 11.1.2 where students are supposed to learn about the cultural dynamics behind the American Revolution. The view from the American and British history textbooks is quite different, yet, the English Wikipedia entry has to resolve these two perspectives. Right now, teachers say that what's in the textbook is right and what's in Wikipedia is wrong. Imagine, instead, if teachers helped students understand why these two differed. Imagine a culture where information is collectively valued, but youth are taught the skills for interpreting it and evaluating it rather than simply being told that everything in the information ecology that they inhabit is "bad" simply because it's not in traditionally vetted sources.

This is a personal pet peeve of mine because if educators would shift their thinking about Wikipedia, so much critical thinking could take place. The key value of Wikipedia is its transparency. You can understand how a page is constructed, who is invested, what their other investments are. You can see when people disagree about content and how, in the discussion, the disagreement was resolved. None of our traditional print media makes such information available.

Somewhere, Paulo Freire is smiling; Boyd just took apart the banking model of education (the idea that the human brain is a simple storage unit for lists of facts that the teacher is responsible for transmitting) in a very accessible way. Furthermore, Boyd obviously values critical thinking, something Freire is also a bit of a fan of.

I need to re-read The Pedagogy of the Oppressed.

But only after I finishe Anne Bishop's Pillars of the World series - it is fantastic.

The Value of Inefficiency in Social Networking Technology

I have to say that Danah Boyd is rapidly becoming a must-read for me, if for no other reason than the fact that she's addressing things no one else is.

Boyd (who writes under them name zephoria at her blog apophenia):

In the physical world, architects and city planners often build inefficiencies into the system for a reason. I remember a talk by Manuel Castells where he spoke of forcing people to stand on line at regular intervals in public places, even when the activity could be made more efficient through technology. He viewed these kinds of inefficiencies as critical to the well-being of society because they provided a context for people to interact with strangers and, thus, build connections that glued the city together. This worked especially well when people could collectively complain about the people in charge - it provided a reason for social solidarity. (Think about the social solidarity built in NY when there's a brownout or a transit strike.) Physical architects must constantly struggle with maximizing efficiency versus providing room for inefficiencies because of the social good that comes from them.

I have a sneaking suspicion that tech architects never even think about the possibility of creating inefficiencies to enhance social good, but I'm not sure. Since many of you mysterious readers are passionate about social technology, let me ask you. What examples of intentional (or unintentional) inefficiencies do you see in social tech? How do users respond to these?

One of the commenters on the post gets at something good:

the inefficeincy is the social contact.

That suggests that our metric - efficiency - is insufficient for what we're trying to use it for, that it cannot take into account certain things (in this case social contact). I think this is right. It's another example of starting to measure too many things with the measuring stick of technology.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

An Australian Beatles Cover Band (The Beatnix) Covering Stairway to Heaven...

..... words fail me.

Found here.

A WGA Writer on Why He Writes

I'll watch almost anything. I always have. While other kids were out playing tag, tossing around the ball, and getting laid, I was glued to the TV. I liked it all, but sitcoms were my main drug. At least until I discovered actual drugs and then sitcoms and drugs were my drugs. I watched everything from Father Knows Best to WKRP in Cincinnati. The only time I would stop watching was when my mother would make me come upstairs for dinner. And then, so I wouldn't miss a word, I would prop up my audiocassette player against the TV and hit record. After dinner I would race down, lie on the couch, close my eyes, and listen to what I had missed. Only having the audio, I would be forced to block the scenes, design the swing sets, choose the camera angles, and edit the show in my head.

Funny stuff.


So..... I will no longer be substitute teaching when school resumes.

I got another job. (Email me if you want to know what it is.)

What does this mean?

Less posting about Lebanon, probably, because I won't be there all the time. In fact, given that the new job is full time, it might very well mean less posting, period.

That's all. I just thought you should know.


Posting will be light over the next several days.


I suppose there's a chance I'll go blog wild, but I doubt it.

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