Wednesday, May 31, 2017

CURMUDGUCATION: Angry (tl;dr)

CURMUDGUCATION: Angry (tl;dr):

Angry (tl;dr)


It's important to remember that America has seen angry, agitated times before. The Civil War, when politicians became so angry they left the country and raised armies to kill each other-- that was a fairly angry time. We've had Presidential campaigns that were hugely vicious and libelous, Hell, as we've all been musically reminded, once upon a time the Vice President of the United States killed a prominent political leader in a duel.

And yet, something feels different now. My stock explanation is that while we've always had anger and viciousness as part of our public and political life, we've at least agreed that civility was the ideal, the norm to be pursued, and now we don't. I'm not sure that's true, but it feels true. We have become outrage junkies; we are sold policy and products based on the outrage it will cause. "The Secret That [fill in the blank] Doesn't Want You To Know" which translates roughly to "This will really piss those bastards off." The GOP policy position on the ground has been largely reduced to "Do things that will enrage liberals" and political coverage in the second-hand full-bias media is usually framed in terms of who will be outraged. And damn-- progressives and liberals and anti-Trump's really have to stop publishing versions of "Trump has now done something that will totally end his run!" Sorry, but 2,437th time is not a charm.

Telling truth to power is important, hugely important. But truth is not measured by how enraged you can imagine somebody being about what's been written. And when you start steering by imagined outrage rather than truth, understanding and accuracy, you are headed for the weeds. Sometimes I find Samantha Bee funny; sometimes I think maybe we've found a progressive Ann Coulter.

I was talking about this on twitter (to the extent that anybody can talk about anything on twitter) and was called out for my own contributions to incivility in the education debates. Well, sir, that's just...um... fair. But I like to think I've made a bit of a journey in this regard, and I think it tells us a little something about the shape of these debates.

When I started blogging, my defining characteristic was anger. It had been growing for a few years. Having stupid policies, anti-education and anti-student policies, inflicted on my classroom was nothing new, but I was noticing that I was increasingly losing my power to defend my students from them. The idea of national standards backed up by a national standardized test that would be enforced by making it part of student grades all seemed like self-evident educational malpractice, and yet policy makers were talking about it, taking steps to inflict it. So I went to learn more, and I fell through a door into a world where all sorts of people whose policy ideas struck me as wildly insane and rather abusive-- and who seemed absolutely uninterested in paying any attention to what actual teachers had to say.

My colleagues at school were, by and large, not interested. They complained when we were gored by the tip of the iceberg that passed by us, but they had no particular interest in finding out what the tip was attached to, or how big and wide the iceberg really was. And I was turning into the staff crank. So I turned to the outlet that has always served me in the past-- writing-- and for a number of reasons (mostly admiration of the bloggers already out there) I turned to blogging.

It did not occur to me that anybody would read my stuff. My goal was to vent, to rail about policies and articles that struck me as foolish, destructive, blind, ignorant. And so I regularly broke Rule #1. I called people names-- some of them kind of mean. I broke one of my big rules of online discourse-- I said things about people online that I never would have said to their faces.

I was angry. And the more I read, the angrier I became. Not just the anger of seeing 
CURMUDGUCATION: Angry (tl;dr):


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