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Category Archives: Technology

End of summer regrets and anticipations

I’m going to try to get at the root of my feelings here. I’ll have to part the complicated net of stress about various things–starting a new teaching job, not having done enough planning for the time I have left before classes start, wondering whether I will make some new friends there, if the commute will bother me much. Put aside my sense of regret at not having the time I wanted for concentrating on my two youngest children’s journey and growth, or my own projects. A sense of loss at having had to say goodbye to the school I so enjoyed working at last year.

I’ll have to brush away the awareness of my diminished energy as I age, the early signals of impending menopause. Have to put aside the sense of sadness about saying goodbye to my two oldest children as they head off to college, and the sad changes in my extended family that have begun to occur more frequently. The awareness of a need to process with my mate some of the conflicts and negative patterns that we have developed so that we can head into this new phase in the right spirit.

And now, just as I have come to place where I should start the paragraph about why I am motivated to teach after all, restoring my sense of purpose and vision, I have succeeded in disheartening myself. I have created a picture in which I am turning my back on the duties, delights and calling of my own abode to serve other families’ children in the “greater society.” And so ultimately I reveal my bias that deep down I feel that charity begins at home. But apparently I also believe if that charity is hard to muster or is not received in the way I am able to offer it, or if one has to lay up a bigger nest egg or refine marketable skills, then it’s time to go out and get a job. It’s good for a home maker to get out there and broaden her horizons, to see what she can do, to be recognized, paid for once, for her skills and service. To meet new people, try new things. And, they say, it’s good for the kids to see that you’re not just a mother, wife, home maker, domestic engineer. That you “have a life” outside raising them.

Yesterday afternoon my husband helped me put together the new cider press I bought. It sits in the living room, a handsome classic in wood and cast iron, ready to grind and juice the harvest of apples I have grown or got permission to glean.

On the floor in the kitchen sits my canning pot and two boxes of jars and lids, ready to hold sauce made from two large bowls of fresh tomatoes on the counter. Outside the basil is ready to pick and dry, the savory and onion seedlings ready to plant.

In the garage I have stored the parts of a chair I refinished and the pillows I recovered, needing a few day of labor to finish up repairs and reassemble. Also there is a laundry plunger, which I had planned to use to set up a non-electric laundry system that would get our things much cleaner than the half-hearted tumbling actions of our handsome new front loader from the big box store. My sewing and craft supplies are stored there, too, not used except in cases of necessity.

I have ideas for a writing project, a yard redo, a bicycle storage shed, an organic permaculture expansion. Somewhere I stored away my daughter’s partially finished quilt, and fabric for projects I was going to do with the kids to teach them to sew.

Out of my office window (I have to vacate in a few weeks) I see a father and small son heading past the dock on a standup paddle board. I bought one of those, too this spring, and have not yet found the time to use it. Since my foot and knee started complaining, I have been hoping to transition to more water based exercise and cycling. Last week my husband was urging me to shop for bicycles now that they are on sale, knowing mine is shot and that I’d wanted to ditch the car for a good commuter bike when I had the chance. I had to tell him it’s still not practical, since we have no bike storage, and now my job is twenty miles away up a busy route.

Outside in the boat repair yard I spy a woman sitting on her dry docked sail boat taking a break. She drove here to be by herself and decided it’s better to sit on a boat in a parking lot than wait months for the time and money to repair it and get it on the water. It’s a Sunday, and I think she expected to have privacy, to be able to feel the sea breeze, hear the lines snapping and gulls cry while she collected her thoughts, or let them go.

Let them go. Let it be. See the positive. The medicine for my soul’s illness I can find within. God is in control, and in all things he works for good for those who love him and are called according to his purpose. Look on the bright side. Stop it, in other words.

I can do that. I have this sad ability to switch off certain emotions if I decide that they are processing badly. Not sure where they go, but I can suddenly stow them away and apparently move on. It’s been good to get them out there, and maybe that’s part of the coming to terms.

On to what I hope to accomplish this year, so as to begin with the end in mind.

The teaching of math part really doesn’t grab me, I’ll have to admit. So in my math classes, other than to help the students get the grounding and practice they need, I just want to help them get along and to know that they are valuable and important, part of a community, responsible for their own success. My job is to stay a few steps ahead, come up with various ways to teach to various students, and have a management system in place that helps them pace themselves as they get the work done at school and at home.

Preparing to teach biology (two classes) and environmental science (one) are absorbing much more of my time and energy. This is where I’d like to make a long term impact. I hope to instill/nurture a sense of wonder and curiosity about life, a good understanding of how living systems work and how science works, what questions we should pursue and how, and how useful science can be to help humans make decisions about how we live personally and organize our economic, social and industrial activities on this planet. I want them to understand that technology has no merit in itself, that it is how we adapt, whether poorly or well, to the realities as we understand. I want them to see the big picture, to get a sense of the possible philosophies that can drive scientific inquiry and technological innovation. I want them to choose quality, equity, justice, love, whether they go into agriculture, nursing, journalism, or management.

And so, writing this out was helpful after all, and has sort of a happy ending, all things considered, some more than others.

 

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Fallow ground and growing things

One can rent a Simple Box, buy Old Fashioned Rice Crispy squares. Flameless candles and heatless fireplaces for ambiance, pre-ripped jeans, distressed furniture for the I-have-lived look. One can be “hosted” at a restaurant, pay for a mentor, hire a companion (or buy a responsive robot), have counseling covered by insurance. Why bother being real, putting one’s hands to work and service, putting oneself out there at all to build a community of neighbors, friends, layers of acquaintances based on various exchanges? No need even to find a youth to help with yard work–there are apps that will match you up with the local chain, complete with 1-800 number, 50% markup, and worker wages that will never add up to college tuition.

I feel the pull of that commercialized, professionalized touch-free world–I like anonymity, clear cut expectations, don’t mind being a customer account number with no obligations beyond timely payment, and if things aren’t to my liking I cut off services; nobody’s feeling get hurt when the customer is always right. I’ve beyond that generation that did community building as a matter of course, before it had a tag. I want it, but don’t lift a hand much, especially in the winter. i want it to just happen, preferably in not too messy or uncomfortable a way, or with much of a need to make sacrifices.

Sometimes I wonder what would happen if things fell apart for someone in my network–would there be enough of a protocol of caring personally for one’s neighbor? I’m ashamed to say that beyond a few basics I don’t really know what my neighbor’s current needs, challenges, fears are. Nor do I share my own with very many–not family, not friends, not church, even when I was more regularly involved. At times when I lose my way someone comes along to draw me back to the land of the living, but what if they didn’t? I wouldn’t even have the will to look through the phone book for a therapist, or make an appointment with the only therapist I remember–the one who got visibly excited when she thought most of our family was exhibiting the same symptoms as she, and maybe needed the same medication! A bit of library research ruled that out, but it was one more thing that fed my distrust of professional therapists.

Maybe it’s a personality thing. Some need to talk it out, and if they don’t want to burden a friend, might be wise  to hire someone. I think I’m more like the character in Margaret Atwood’s The Year of the Flood, who gets healing, and the strength to face her crisis, by withdrawing for a time. In the novel it’s seen as natural and called a fallow state. She just sits, sleeps, moves around a little, and doesn’t talk to or appear to hear anyone, as if she were in a waking coma, or a cocoon, waiting for no one knows what moment to come out. People help her with basic needs, let her be without avoiding her, but she is choosing by default to withdraw. Something is going on inside, a kind of reordering of memories, layers of personality, a healing and restoration that takes all her energy just then.

So I take my little breaks, not just the times out for rest, reading, writing, exercise, and time with friends, but sometimes just to zone out. I do this without the aid of mind-altering drugs or any particular meditation technique. It’s like taking a nap, but shorter, above the waters of real sleep, but refreshing. And I always, after fifteen to thirty minutes, wake suddenly with a drive to accomplish something. In fact if I don’t wait for that and try to drag myself back into my duties before the right time, I end up crashing worse. As long as I don’t let negative judgments of myself for needing that retreat, I can actually get to a kind of balance again.

Right now I get away in the pool for a few hours a week, in my empty classroom for a few hours on Saturdays, and for five minutes between staff lunch and students coming into class. All the other teachers seem to be fine hanging out until the bell, but I need that five minutes, and the quiet hour or two after school, or I don’t think I’d make it through the week.

Still, it’s been a better week than of late, I know how to plan better, have a better relationship with my co-teacher, feel more confident, relaxed and seasoned. My last period class has been transformed completely by the departure of four students, all of whom took so much of my time and energy the others lost out and I was often frazzled. I got four new students in that class whose struggles, some of which I know, some not, aren’t the kind that create disorder and distraction for others, and require from me less disciplinary management and more relational connection and intuitive communication. I can be myself, and we are all enjoying that more. There is already a growing sense of trust and community, rather than the tension and awkwardness I was told sometimes happens in these quarter transitions. Still a week to go for open enrollment, so maybe things will get more challenging.

Getting back to building community, in a sense the opening has happened for me to be proactive there through this job. I have this wonderful privilege of encouraging and challenging young people who needed this school, who convinced the folks in the main office that they wanted to be here and would be thankful for the opportunity to get off the waiting list, that trying to navigate the big high school corridors was taking them down. There they are, open, trying, needing support, but full of such interesting thoughts and carrying around talents, insights, knowledge, hopes, questions, wounds.

Today was awards day, where each staff member gets to recognize three students, and the new students got to hear, briefly, about students who had turned it around, never given up, showed exemplary kindness to others, striven for excellence. A good way to start the quarter, though some might naturally sink into feeling inadequate, as if they’d never be award-worthy.

One student, who never would have accomplished much if it weren’t for the patience and very direct support of the special ed teacher, was surprised to receive a Perseverance award. He had been constantly oppositional, complaining and resisting, using his smart phone, wearing his big earphones, off in unrelated conversations whenever he could be.  All his teachers knew that in his case, “perseverance” was a loose translation of “condescending to allow teachers to endure his prickly presence and walk on eggshells to creatively get around his defenses enough to help him get his work done so he could see a decent grade on his transcript and feel proud of himself enough to keep trying.” But he was touched–sort of partially melted, as I saw when I congratulated him later. Like he was starting to believe that other people, adults, even people in authority, might actually be on his side, and that he could accomplish something in academics. It’s hard to keep up the caring with a person like that, but I started to find the way through teasing him. Whenever I’d tell him to put away his phone, or change seats for being off task, he’d get his back up, look fierce and ask why I was picking on him. I would point out that I’d also spoken to so-and-so, and get drawn into a debate. Then once I had the sense to reply, “Because I like picking on you–it’s fun,” he actually smiled, and didn’t sass me, and from there the progress started.

Found out the teacher I am replacing while she is on leave has moved on, taken a job in another state, so next year this position should be open, at the same or possible greater hours, and then growing from there as the staff move into a new building. With natural lighting, creator spaces, a real science lab, a greenhouse, and seating on the roof!

 

 

“When you use Google services, you trust us with your information.”

Google privacy policy. Here I am again at the hurdle I have so far refused to jump, of, more aptly, the hoop I have refused to go through. Thought I could download an app from Verizon called Family Base which gives parents control over their children’s use of the internet and apps, allows them to turn access on and off, create a schedule, curfews, etc. All for the good of the children, to follow up on research that shows that too much screen time decreases their ability to concentrate, makes them read less, interferes with their sleep, and so on. The protections against cyber bullying and access to developmentally inappropriate or generally inappropriate content being a part of that, in case trust and integrity in those areas lags.

But to get the app, even for the free one month trial, I need to have and register a Google account, which means giving Google access to more information about me and everyone connected with me than I want. Always it comes down to that, and there isn’t an app to deal with it.

I share my dilemma and objections to my loved ones, who are in the living room watching a football game and the advertisements (which are now as entertaining as the game, if not more, so why bother with leaving to get a bite to eat or change over a load of laundry?). I get an annoyed look from my daughter, who suggests I drop it and get over it. My response is that smarter people than I objecting who have objected to what “everyone else” was doing had been told exactly the same thing, but they’d gone on to change the world, so why should I listen now? You can’t change the world, Mom. No, not by myself, I answer, but why not try, and see who might be interested in helping? How about coming alongside those who see the danger, and help them change the world for the better, or at least slow its slide toward chaos or bondage?

Back to the privacy policy. I’ve never read the whole thing before–never had to, before a blatant breech of privacy rights was named as part of the agreement. All in terms like, “We collect information to provide better services to all our users” and even “”like which ads you’ll find most useful [definition of ‘useful,’ please?], the people who matter most to you online [Celebrities? Candidates? Relatives? Political dissidents? Religious leaders? Thinkers, writers and activists who threaten the power of the corporations?]

Info Google lists as collectibles (some optional, but required for enhanced access to services):

  • Name, email address, phone number, credit card information
  • Google profile with name and photo (Google may use face recognition on all posted photos and analyze associated info)
  • What you look at, how often, and for how long
  • What you search for online
  • Information about your device, including unique device identifiers
  • Whom you call, when, types of calls, locations, and duration
  • Your location, by using IP address, GPS, other sensors, Wifi network and cell towers used
  • Information on how you use your computer (by means of cookies, pixel tags, etc.)
  • Detailed information on how you use your device, including apps and online sites, by complex analytics programs (Google Analytics, etc.) that accurately infer more about who you are, what you think, how you feel, what is going on in your life, and how you are likely to or can be induced to think and act in the future. This information is sold to other customers for their own purposes, leaked by hacking, and/or yielded to government intelligence agencies on demand. Also may be published for purposes of advertising services and products of Google and/or its business customers, with your photograph
  • Contents of your emails

All information collected may be processed outside the country

How to limit the collection of this info:

  • By not using the internet for searches or viewing content
  • Not sharing information with others using your electronic devices
  • Not clicking “Like”

Google concludes, in large print:

“We keep you personal information private and safe — and put you in control.”

 
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Posted by on October 11, 2015 in Culture & Society, Technology

 

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Sub notes, and a bit about screen time

Summer already, and in a state of drought [This is a post started back in May]. Already I’ve been watering–not enough rain to keep the seedlings alive until they send roots deep enough, or to bring up the worms to chew up that compost on the top. How to convince my sweetheart that now is the time to divert the gray water from our showers and kitchen sink into the vegetable garden my current challenge. He can do it, no problem, he says, but he’s a busy man, and we have so many other projects on the go. I don’t want to pester, or to be shrill, as I feIt was sounding, a little, talking to the pool manager about how I wanted my kids to get summer jobs that didn’t involve fuel consumption–yes, it’s normal, but we have to make a new normal, or we’ll all be in trouble, I proclaimed.

The other day I suggested to another teacher that it might be a good idea for school districts to trade staff around to minimize commuting distance and hence fuel combustion. And add good staff showers to the next renovation plan, so it would be easier to bike in. I asked around before Bike to School and Work Day about showers, and no one seemed to know. It would have to be one not used by students after early morning weights–too awkward.

I load the clothesline each day–sometimes I go out at night and hang as I listen to the coal trains rattle by; sometimes I’m out early in the morning hearing the birds–a pileated woodpecker knocking on the cottonwoods, robins, crows, chickadees and sparrows, and the faint rush of freeway commuters. Aromas of roses, apple blossoms with the occasional touch of sea air permeate the blankets and undershirts, puffing back out as I gather them together in my arms to place in the basket the next day.

Today was my last day subbing for a traveling high school teacher. I had all four classes, three of which require a lot of effort to keep them working. Or to clarify that it is completely their choice not to do any work, knowing they have been offered support and options. I had three sign notes to that effect. All very professional, and they seemed to appreciate being released–catch and release? I would have liked to have sent them home to work on a better plan. These are young adults, and while I recognize that the years have given me wisdom and can justify me being in a position of authority to set requirements and standards, as well as some ways of trying to help them develop a vision, a purpose for all this study, I want to honor their capacity and right to make their own choices.

One student said she had been away for several weeks because she couldn’t be bothered coming to school. I asked her why she decided to come in, and she explained that it was due to the departure of a welcome visitor at her home, a relative. I guess she felt lonesome and came for the social life. Her table mate, before this having been on the edge between marginal effort and none toward the class work, decided she was going to play cards. Did they expect this to result in an escalation, and that they would have to exert their right to self governance? I’m not into that, at their age, with my limited understanding of them personally.

This morning the instructional assistant that’s been helping with some of the students in one class came in specially to tell me that one of the students–one I had urged repeatedly to try to do the work, and who kept making excuses and evasions and claiming I was picking on him, was “special ed.” She seemed like she had been sent to tell me, after, probably, having a conversation with someone downstairs about how my interaction with that student had not gone very well the previous day. It was humbling, though I was glad to have more information–if only a label. At the end of the previous day I was aware that I’d need to be more gentle and creative with this student. Ironically, I felt that this boy’s social skills were on par or above those of the I.A. in some ways, who said almost nothing to me the whole four days, not even looking at me or answering when I said hello as she walked by me on her way in on the second day. No introduction, no sense of us being a team, in fact, a cold avoidance from the beginning. Her interaction with students she was working with (she stayed at one table the whole time, not to my knowledge offering much to the “special ed” student I had had the minor conflict with, involved a kind of “coming down to their level” which included whining, sarcasm, complaining, and bickering. It was strange, and made me wonder about her, as I assume she had skills and training, and an interest in being there. As the trainer said, kids can learn from all kinds of educators’ styles, as long as they’re consistent. So I’ll try not to judge.

The other I.A. was completely different–a tall, kind, bearded man who used a combination of goofiness and simple explanations as he circulated around helping struggling or off track students with their lab work. He kept an open line of communication with me, showed respect, and was a real sunshiny presence.

Today I finally confiscated some cell phones from students–should have earlier, maybe, but that’s a touchy thing to do as a sub. I didn’t want to physically touch the hones, so had each student wrap theirs up in scrap paper and put it in the drawer of the teacher’s desk, One had been repeatedly told over the course of the week to put her phone away, and was drawn like a magnet back to her screen again and again, oblivious to all else. She looked forlorn when it was gone–it was a case of withdrawal, I said, as I shared with her the science behind those feelings, loss of dopamine rush, as of an addict from a drug. She looked a little startled. Is no one teaching these kids the science of addiction, or that it doesn’t have to be about drugs present externally? I suppose we’re all scrambling to develop a philosophy, a policy, about something so powerful, ubiquitous, and sort out the elements of our ambivalence.

It might be a good idea to turn it over to the students themselves, this question of appropriate use of digital and/or web-based technology–let them research it, discover what the scientists have concluded, what’s being looked at, examine their own biases, teacher biases, parent biases,  try to be objective after all. I haven’t seen very much work on this, and it’s pretty important–at least as important as bullying. Maybe it’s not being addressed because it’s such a can of worms. Questions might arise such as, How does business influence students’ use of technology in the classroom? What student data is gathered by student use of district-adopted software and apps, and how is it used? How are web-based tests affecting students, and what do they measure well and not so well? Why is Microsoft eager to supply low or no-cost hardware and software to schools? And so on.

Flood ’em with information, theories, and opportunities to research and test. Put themselves in the place of an educator, a parent, a person trying to interact with them at dinner as they hold that thing in their hands. If the internet is really making them smarter, then they have to be responsible with that additional brain power, and use it to work it out on their own.

Meanwhile, I would like to use my students (among others) as subjects in an experiment of my own. I’d like to know whether there is a relationship between screen exposure and one’s ability to sit still without any direct stimulus, just to be still with one’s own thought and feelings. Somehow I feel this is an important question, and might provoke some valuable conversation about the brain. Maybe also the soul.

 

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Life on the rolling rock

Image result for planet earth line of sunrise
When the sun comes in I turn off the light. Amen. The round fruit is silently peeled and reflects soft morning light. Power usage drops suddenly as light switched are clicked off, across neighborhoods, cities, continents. A few variations due to mountains, valleys, tall buildings, heavy clouds, and people not paying attention or lacking windows. Exaggeration where solar panels feed direct into the grid.

At the utility, he holds his mug of coffee and sees it on the digital map: the drop in kilowatt usage all along the horizon of solar radiation. But soon the stoves are turned on, the computers, the hairdryers, and the solar rhythm is obscured again.

On Saturday a big storm ripped through and downed power lines, sending utility workers scurrying out with trucks loaded with chain saws and tools, and the customers tweeted from coffee shops across the county and generator powered devices that this was unacceptable–work was interrupted, kids could not go to school, entire apartment buildings had to be evacuated because of the dangerous dark. Please obscure our complete dependence we are uncomfortable with it. This is a developed country after all.

When a snow storm or hurricane cuts electricity to the outlets and water pump at the old timer’s house, his pulse quickens as he sinks into old home patterns. He does the circuit, fills the tub from the well, lights the kerosene lamp and a few candles, fries eggs and potatoes on the wood stove, and sits in the living room playing guitar as his wife knits in the firelight.

If I lived in a teepee or igloo I would get up as the sky lightened, do my work by the light of day, tidy up while I could still see and go to bed at dark. Except sometimes I would just start walking, listening, breathing in the sweet scents rising from the earth, seeing just enough by starlight.

 
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Posted by on September 3, 2015 in Beautiful Earth, Technology

 

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Please remain on the paths, refrain from touching the specimens, and do not remove any material from the site.

I had a waking dream yesterday, and it was about how the role of “teacher” is gone within a generation. Or, at least the kind of teacher commissioned by societies to train and inform the young so their parents and grandparents and older brothers and sisters can go off and build the economy. The specialized instructor such as the athletic trainer, life coach, or the ones who show us how to create hypertufa planters, they’ll always be around in some form or another, but will we really need people like us, people with content knowledge and pedagogical skills, when we’ll have individually customized educational software, virtual reality and computer adaptive testing, all funded by taxes shunted away from the public school system? When society will have been finally convinced that all along the teaching profession was a money grab by backward, rudderless or second career can’t do’s who want summers and holidays off, with cushy benefits and unionized job security on top of that?

The dream came just after my twelve year old son asked for the umpteenth time whether he could have his computer turn yet. I had turned him away with some vague excuse about the beautiful weather and his need to find some creative things to do. Same as I told my other boy years ago when he wanted to watch a video on a sunny day at the age of twelve. Boredom therapy–a waiting that would always end up in discovery and independence. But this time my community has let me down. I changed communities from the independent-minded, culturally rooted, inter generational, simple-living homeschooling community, where a lesson/play date involved swinging, climbing, digging or building forts if the weather was dry, or arts and crafts, reading, board games, or a trip to the museum if it was cold and wet. No heading down to the rec room to check out YouTube videos or joining global game forums like my son’s current school friends have as default mechanisms. And their parents are okay with that. They have organized sports for other times, after all, and isn’t that enough? Who wants a kid dragging dead branches around and messing up the landscape?

In some of the classrooms where I sub the students do all their work on laptops, or type into their phone apps (with furtive forays into online videos and social media sites, expertly timed so mostly undetectable by the “teacher”). Math is a self-teaching series of screens with tiles to drag and drop, multiple choice, immediate gratification and mentally digestible bytes. Language arts  is the reading, highlighting and cutting and pasting of textual evidence. Technology is how to use Microsoft software and write basic code. Will biology and chemistry soon be transformed also? Will there even be a vestige of the elements of natural history in all the data crunching, content-rich video lessons, and online research? How long until each school graduates the last child in the woods, the last young adult to have regularly had a moment alone with her own thoughts?

I have big plans this summer to drag out all the camping stuff we used at our woods property many years back, set up a big tent under a tarp, a place to invite family friends to just to mess around in the woods (with all the basic conveniences like a barbecue, fire pit,a plug in, rinse water, portable toilet and solar shower) try to entice some people away from their WiFi networks to enjoy the unrolling of the hours under the sky, overlooking the sea, alongside the shadows of ferns and animal homes under boulders and logs.

 

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What if most people are less well-informed than necessary for a free democratic society?

Was listening to a piece on CBC Radio “Ideas” that touched on surprising research findings several decades ago that the average American citizen wasn’t very bright, not bright enough to make informed, reasonable decisions in a democratic society. The conclusion being that manipulation was much more effective, a continuation of the techniques used to keep folks backing WWII efforts and getting men and woman addicted to smoking. In the case of the progress of democratic society, a benign manipulation along the lines of the well-informed and visionary direction chosen by the intelligent few. The invisible government, I think they called it.

Tonight as I finish up making a small dent in the housework I’ve neglected in favor of a volunteer sewing project for my daughter’s 4-H club, I sadly acknowledge that it’s still true, if not more so. I didn’t want to see it that way. For some reason all these years I’d been focusing on the immorality of corporate and government leaders in using the media to spin the news, cultivate brand loyalty rather than intelligent debate, and cultivate an image that instills confidence, rather than being informative, objective, and open to the wisdom of folks living in actual communities. Then as I considered the thought that most people just aren’t very smart, it was like turning to face another ugly truth that had been there all the time. No, it’s not a surprise. I know I’m on the continuum, aware that I so often don’t get things, don’t know enough, don’t articulate well enough, to contribute to the building of a better and more just world. Yet I’m told I’m highly literate, intellectual even, know lots about lots of things, have a good mind. Which is scary, because when I read some classic nineteenth century British or Russian novel, or Roman speech, I’m struck by the beautiful complexity of ideas, the rich vocabulary (even in translation) compared to many prize-wimnning best sellers today. I mourn the loss, wish I could emulate that style. Who can teach me? How hard must I work, and how will I find the space in my life?

What got me looking back at the idea that people just arent’ smart enough for true democracy was listening to my daughters and their friend giggling over YouTube videos in their bedroom on their smart phones. On for ten, fifteen minutes, more. I felt the sadness, the frustration at my seeming inability to pass on even what little I have of love of great literature, appreciation for good reasoning and communication in the service of humanity. I made the mistake of knocking and entering, making some comment on the stupidity of the content they were streaming in a flavor of lament. My daughters’ gaze hardened and the eyes of the guest looked surprised.

Today in the van, energized rather than fatigued, I was able to take a more positive approach with my daughters: making observations, even showing appreciation for a discerning consumption of pop culture, in order to study and consider, question and analyze, judge and discriminate, separate false from true. What online content do we create? What do we access and pay attention to, and why? How does it all affect us–differently for different people? In what direction are we being influenced to go, by whom or what force, and is it a worthy direction? What is lost? And so on.

Again that intense pull to get back into teaching. One area where I don’t feel discouraged about the “one starfish” scenario, knowing the explosive nature of education, of nurturing wisdom in even one student a year. It would be worth it. It is worth it. Proverbs 8:11: “For wisdom is far more valuable than rubies. Nothing you desire can compare with it.

 

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