Thursday, January 17, 2013

The Greatest Force in Civilization

1. We have an obligation to teach our students about the influence of the media.
In the last 24 hours, we have been inundated with news of a bizarre and almost unbelievable story of Notre Dame football star Manti Te'o's apparent hoax of having a deep relationship with a woman over the internet, who tragically died of cancer, but then somehow never existed in the first place. Yes, you are reading that correctly. If you are still reading my blog, thank you, and please consult the video above for further clarification.
I asked colleagues at school what they thought about the story and if Te'o was the victim or the perpetrator of the hoax. Most agreed that Te'o was at fault. Then I thought to myself, why do I care and why are we talking about this?
I think the story raises a larger question for us as educators about how we teach the influence of media to our students. The only reason people in America knew Te'o as an incredible football player and stand-up guy was because the media built him that way. Newspaper articles, feature stories, Sports Illustrated magazine articles and internet message boards validated his character and created a perception of yet another "heroic" sports figure. On Wednesday, that all came crashing down as the talking heads of sports radio, the bottom line of ESPN, and every media source in America chased this story throughout the day and night. 
So I ask, how do we teach our students about the influence of media?
Legendary newspaper editor William Randolf Hearst once said, "the newspaper is the greatest force in civilization." In an age where the television and the internet are the greatest forces in the universe, I think we are obligated to teach our students how to consume media and judge the accuracy of all news sources.

2. We should cherish our school's graduates when they return.
If you work in a school, you know all about the feeling I am about to describe. You see a person walking through the halls and you immediately do a "double take." You've seen the kid in the hall a hundred times, but just not in awhile. You strain yourself a bit to remember who they were and then you start to think about how many years ago they graduated. They are, of course, the former students who have returned to hang out at their Alma Matter. 
From a teacher's perspective, admittedly-a selfish one, I really like having these kids back. It helps me complete the story of who these kids were, and are. One of my former students joined me for my final class of the day last week and I found it to be a rich experience for my current students. After our lesson was over, my former student fielded questions from my current students about college academics, living away from home, and financing school. In a school full of to-be first generation college attendees, our students should have access to graduates who can tell them like it is. 

3. You are what you tweet.
As I continue to meet more people from my Twitter PLN in person, I've realized that you are what you tweet. I think this is a good thing. I think the majority of our society tends to be less genuine and more emboldened with their digital personalities. Let's face it, people say and do things behind a screen that they might not say and do in person. But I think this is changing among professionals on Twitter and it is contributing to more authentic interactions between all of us, both digitally and in person. As the great Dr. Seuss once said, "Be who you are and say what you feel-because those that mind don't matter, and those who matter don't mind." That applies to Twitter, too, right Dr.?

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