Monday, January 31, 2011

When I read this on Sunday I could only shake my head. How incredibly naive...and elitist.

Don't get me wrong. I am a big proponent for people getting educated. I can sympathize with the dream of all students having the preparation and the confidence to apply and attend. Do I think that is realistic, though? No.

Who would fund all these applications? Who would pay for the remediation that would undoubtedly be needed? Who would cover the tuition? How about all the additional expenses the colleges would have if enrollment skyrocketed? HELLO.

And what about the flip side of the author's assertion (that getting an acceptance letter would boost self-esteem) about the rejection letters that would be generated? Wouldn't that make some young people feel even worse about academics?

Finally, isn't there dignity in all work and all workers? What's wrong with the trades? Most are lucrative and offer decent opportunities, even the possibility of being self-employed and owning a business. Not everyone needs (or wants) a four year liberal arts degree. In fact, I have friends and relatives who found their calling and landed in careers that were unrelated to their college degrees; in some cases higher ed was not necessary for these jobs. I'm not arguing that there are no returns to education. I know there are. And even putting aside the economic aspect, I'm sure the higher education experience benefited them, but can't people learn, and be smart, in all different ways?

If reform of high school is the subject, why bother with this simplistic (and likely expensive and ineffective) change in graduation requirements? Why not focus on curriculum or course-taking or some of the other expectations in school?

The byline says the viewpoint is the author's, not the employer's. Wow, I certainly hope so!
The Freeman had previously incorrectly reported that charges against the driver who caused the accident were unlikely. I'm relieved that the prior reporting was wrong on this point, but I think it highlights something that Bob and I were discussing earlier today.

We want more information about Egypt, but what is out there is insufficient, biased, and most likely contains lots of incorrect information. I first heard of the unrest in an email from a student who was there visiting. She wrote about the massacre at the church and said the atmosphere was tense and felt like it could explode at any moment. Then shortly afterwards at church Fr. George mentioned the violence toward Coptic Christians. Even afterwards, there was nothing much reported in the news. I know this because I was actively seeking to learn more and came up short.

That's the sense we have, on this and every issue (both trivial and significant, local and far away): television, newspapers big and small, and Internet sources are not trustworthy. "News" is a combination of omissions, outright distortions, and careless mistakes. This can be easily detected on local stories that you can quickly fact check - because you have witnessed the event. The only story you can trust is what you collect firsthand with your own senses. So naturally we turn away and disconnect.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

I don't understand this. An illegal lane change, someone is killed, and the result is not even a ticket? Does that make sense? Fiddling with the heater or the radio causes you to be a menace and that is acceptable? What if it was a cell phone (which it probably was) or just plain inattentiveness? Are those things OK too? What if she intentionally cut off the van but claimed it was innocent? Or maybe she is just a bad driver. How can the police know for sure? Isn't the result the same? She managed to sweet talk her way out of any responsibility? Or maybe she is connected in some way?

I have always believed that if you want to kill someone and get away with it, do it with your car. The only thing you have to be careful to not do: 1) be under the influence of alcohol or illegal drugs or 2) leave the scene. #1 is more critical than #2, because you can claim you thought you hit a deer or road hazard, and may be able to walk away with only a slap on the wrist (if that).

Friday, January 28, 2011

I had a really good day. Lots to reflect upon in the consulting arena.

I noticed a student wearing one of the S.O.S. buttons in last night's class. I asked her how the walk out was, and whether it was well-attended, and she said it was great, and yes, including lots of media. Here's the article about the protest. I didn't ask her whether any faculty attended, didn't want to pry. Reading the article, it appears that any faculty who were there were graduate teaching assistants. Or at least no other instructors are mentioned. GAs have their own union, and own set of rules. So maybe all faculty members who let students out of class and encouraged them to attend the protest were graduate assistants. I am not sure whether their participation raises the red flag of the Taylor Law, but I suspect it doesn't and that explains the teach-in angle. I didn't hear them marching or banging pots and pans, but I didn't venture outside at that time. I used the tunnels to get to class. I've been using them this winter in order to avoid ice. I can't afford to fall again.

I was a little tempted to use the protest as an example when I was telling the students about the critics of toleration, in particular when I mentioned conflict theory (a conflict theorist would say that the university tolerating such activism is just an "opiate of the people" and the walk out will have little influence) but I didn't. I stifled myself from using the protest as an example, even given that I always take the vanilla approach - neither endorsing nor condemning such theories. I just explain that proponents say eliminating toleration does not improve things for the disenfranchised - in fact, it makes it worse, so what are the anti-toleration theorists hoping to achieve? Still, using yesterday's activism as an example seemed mean-spirited, and as uncomfortably true as some of conflict theory's cynicism can seem at times...I am too much of an idealist myself to rain on the students' parade.

I have an old S.O.S. button, and these two other buttons that relate to my system days. The current button is larger, and yellow. I would have loved to get one for my collection, but as a non-participant, I suppose I don't deserve one. I see that UUP was more supportive of the group's agenda in the '90s. Does it seem there was always a crisis? Even in the days people now look back on with a nostalgic glow?

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

My classes this semester are awesome! I am looking forward to a semester filled with bright lights. I have 33, 30, 26 and 24 students in my classes, and 6 in the independent study (classroom observers for my consulting project).

I tried some experimental things this first week. I didn't hand out paper syllabi on the first day. Instead, I emailed them a copy the day before class, with a few links to short articles. I made a powerpoint of the important bullet points in the syllabus. I handed out pieces of drawing paper and pencils. I had them brainstorm what they hoped to learn in the class, draw their impressions, write what the drawings were about, then asked for brave souls to share their drawings and their words.

I followed that in toleration with the same ice breaker activity that I have done for the past few semesters (writing 10 things about oneself on a piece of paper; taping to shirt; I time five two minute exchanges where the students have to circulate and discuss the 10 things). That class went pretty much as expected, but in foundations, the articles were about the recent study on limited learning taking place in college. (Also this and this.) We discussed whether that is true, and whether there are flaws in the study. It went great, the students seem very engaged and interactive. I'm extremely pleased!

On Friday, I received an email from my union, UUP, with the following attachment. The attachment was not directed at me personally, it was more FYI in nature. I had not, and still have not received the original email from S.O.S. (Save Our SUNY) proposing the walk-out.

I have been provided a copy of an email (with the subject heading of: “Draft of Open Letter to the Faculty about Walk‐Out”) and an attachment that was sent to you. Although that message was not addressed to me, I want to share with you my concern that the actions proposed are likely to be construed as violating New York’s Taylor Law. Therefore, I ask that you cease and desist from engaging in this type of activity.

A public employee violates the Taylor Law prohibition against strikes by “engaging in” a strike or “condoning, instigating or causing” a strike against a public employer. Additionally, a public employee may not “authorize, approve, condone or consent” to a strike under Civil Service Law §210. A “strike” can be “any concerted stoppage of work or slowdown by public employees.”

UUP‐represented members involved in planning, instigating and causing the concerted action proposed in the January 19, 2011 Save Our SUNY (S.O.S.) notice; that is, encouraging students to walk out of their classes and have faculty instead “teach in,” may be construed as condoning, instigating or causing a strike. Penalties resulting from a strike‐finding can include disciplinary penalties under Article 19 of our collective bargaining agreement and the loss of two day’s pay for every day or part thereof that the member is found to have struck.

The Taylor Law also prohibits the bargaining agent from condoning, instigating or causing a strike. Hence, I must formally state that UUP cannot support these proposed actions and urges its members to refrain from participating in them.
I fully understand the concerns that have been raised by the actions of administrators at UAlbany, brought about by decreased funding over the past several years. UUP has raised similar concerns through many venues. And, more importantly, UUP will continue to press and advocate for appropriate funds to support the operating budget of SUNY. I invite you to join us in our organized activities to bring such concerns to the attention of our governmental officials as well as the public. UUP has organized a number of Outreach Activities at which you would be most welcome. Please feel free to contact me [deleted contact information].

Then yesterday, I noticed this poster taped to the (newly painted!) wall in the hallway near my office (I also saw it in many other places around campus). It doesn't mention S.O.S., instead the sponsor is listed as the Student Crisis Committee.

No mention of faculty on the poster. I would not have interpreted "teach-in" as code to professors. Is it? If so, is that a relic from the '60s, and that's why I didn't get it? If I didn't get it will other instructors (some are younger than I am) get it?

If it was being held where most of the (pretty minimal) activism takes place on campus (it isn't), I would walk by the protest on my way to class. Maybe I could get a picture, if the crowd was interesting. But I would not have participated, even if the union had not copied me on the cease and desist letter. It isn't in my nature. I would never withhold my contracted services. I expect students to attend class, and in fact, attendance counts for ten percent of the final grade. So I would not encourage them to walk out, and I would not excuse them from class. Class time is precious.

Luckily my class is at 1:15, hopefully the walk-out / teach-in will be over by then. Although I don't think the students in my afternoon class are the type to attend something like this. No one has asked, anyway. In fact, it has not come up at all in class. I suspect it is too early in the semester for students to risk blowing off class, especially when I just let in several on overflow. My classes are much in demand.

Would I have participated when I was a student? Yes, if I was free at noon. I would have been very motivated and excited, maybe even would have made signs or worn a button. I'd have listened to the speakers and shouted the slogans. I would not have missed class to participate, however.

I am wondering what they hope to accomplish in Campus Center 375, though. I am not sure how big that room is, or even exactly where it is. I know it is cold outside and often it is snowing, but they are mostly hearty young folks of 18-22 years. Wouldn't they get more attention if they were on the podium, in front of Campus Center?

Monday, January 24, 2011

Yesterday, I watched about half of Dateline. It's a show I never watch, because it strikes me as only one notch away from EW, and I don't care for celebrity gossip. But TV was jammed with football, I'd just come in from shoveling (we got a very small amount yesterday) and I was defrosting myself near the electric fireplace.

The segment I watched focused on a woman who was shot three times in AZ. She's doing pretty well, although she was using a wheelchair. She was the woman who brought the little girl who was killed to the event. I felt a growing discomfort as I watched, sort of like rubbernecking.

First, she seemed way too composed and happy, to the point where I wondered if she was still in shock. Or maybe on sedatives? But her mind seemed clear, so I am not sure. Then, it seemed as if it was all about her. Her interviewer focused on the girl, but the responses felt very narcissistic. When she burst into tears, it seemed contrived.

That made me feel bad - here she has been through an awful ordeal, and I was feeling negative, judging her. What I finally landed on: enough. The media really is bloodthirsty. Parasites. Disgusting. And AHs like me are wasting our day, watching their crap.

Stop it. Stop the continuous, relentless coverage.
I am cold. And for the past couple of years, I am at that point in my life where I am never cold! So in a way it is refreshing, I guess...

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

I am just about ready for tomorrow, yay. The ice on the sidewalk is still an undone task, though.

This is a disturbing article. I'm afraid it might be true.
It's still Tuesday to me! Nice three day weekend in S'ville. We left the tree up! It is just like the day we cut it, probably because the heat is turned down low. Technically, it is supposed to be up 40 days after Christmas = February 3. We still have it up in C'ton, too. That one is more dry. It was fresh cut too, but we keep the house very warm for Sophie. The livingroom is particularly toasty, so I doubt we will make it the full 40 days here.

My first day on campus will be Thursday. I still have to revise my syllabus for foundations, but toleration, the online class and the independent study are finished. I don't have copies made to hand out in class any more, instead I email attachments to students the day before class. This saves paper, but causes me to procrastinate! If I had to have copies made, I would need to be done a few days sooner.

The storm today is a shoveling nightmare. I only got about 1/4 done, will have to work on it again tomorrow. It is so heavy - it slides down the snow banks (which are high, and now slick) so there is no where to throw it - and I'm afraid the sidewalk that I clear becomes very slippery because of the light drizzle. What a winter!

Friday, January 14, 2011

Sophie will be 12 next month, and we've had her for 11 years, having adopted her in December 1999 from MHRHS when she was 10 months old. She was a fully grown young dog, about 10 pounds underweight, with almost no hair. So pitiful. I know everyone thought I was crazy to choose her. (Doesn't help that besides her heartbreaking looks, she has a grumpy disposition.) The shelter had tested her for hypothyroid, I'm sure because of her hair condition, but that wasn't the problem.

When we brought her home, the only place she had visible hair on her back were two small, symmetrical, tear-shaped patches high on her neck. It was puppy hair, and it gradually fell out. At first I thought maybe she would grow hair once her diet was good and she wasn't under stress, but that didn't happen.

She has short hair on her legs and feet, and soft fuzz on her muzzle and parts of her ears, she's had an occasional patch of thin hair here or there elsewhere on her body at times, as well as few stray hairs in other places, but her underside seems to be completely hairless, and everywhere else is practically bald. She is bald with patches of hair, not furry with bald spots. In the summer, she gets rashes from the grass, she digs at her chest and chews her legs constantly. She's terribly allergic to bee stings.

We never deeply explored it, although we took her to the vet right away after adopting her (she had kennel cough), and she has had routine exams every year and some exotic bloodwork over the years. We've gone to three vets in Sophie's lifetime, the current one (a holistic and conventional veterinarian) for the past five years. None has figured out what is wrong, although as I mentioned, we haven't really pushed the issue. I'm sure it would be a costly process to figure out, and that assumes it could be figured out and treated at all, which is not a certainty. We give her benedryl when she has an allergy flare, she eats a homemade diet and takes calcium and fish oil. She wears a coat on very cold days, and we keep her out of the sun on very hot days. She's not much for the outdoors anyway. When inside, she is usually wrapped in a blanket.

She's been otherwise (relatively) healthy, until she developed hair follicle tumors a couple years ago, and had to have surgery in November. Bassets are prone to hair follicle tumors, and I imagine Sophie is even more susceptible with her hair issues. In preparation for her surgery, our vet prescribed a supplement regime starting in August. In an effort to discourage growth of the tumors (she has many more besides the two that caused problems and had to be removed), we added some new supplements starting when she had her stitches out, so since December 1 (ironically, her "Gotcha Day" :-) she has been taking about 10 different supplements, at total of 18 pills plus some powders and liquids. (Luckily Sophie's a voracious eater and happily takes anything I give her.)

For the first time in her life, Sophie is growing hair! It is filling in very quickly, from her hindleg area and moving forward. It's almost up to her shoulders at this point. I don't think it will be a normal coat, or that she will ever grow it on her chest and underside, and on her back it is still sparse in places, but it is really coming in. I always thought if she could grow hair, she would be a Red and White Basset. Her skin has a sort of color pattern - and that is how it looked to me, that she would not be tri-color, but two colors, mainly dark brownish with a white chest. But now that some is growing, I have discovered that she is Lemon and White! Such a pretty girl!

The Honey colored hair that is coming in is very fine, like puppy hair. Just like the two little patches that she had when I adopted her. The white hair is coming in wiry, more like I would expect a hound dog's hair to be. I wonder if her alopecia was why she was dumped at the pound all those years ago? She was a cute Lemon puppy who promptly lost her fur? Maybe the product of a puppy mill or other disreputable breeder?

Armed with new information, I found this site that discusses the reasons dogs lose hair. I can't find anything exactly like Sophie's problem, but a couple of the hormonal ones sound similar. Or the dilute nature of Lemon coloring may have something to do with it. Some of the treatments I've read include melatonin, which is one of the supplements Sophie has been taking. Miraculous! Wish I had known about it sooner.

She has a cool white stripe on her back!

Thursday, January 13, 2011

This story reminded me. The news coverage of people stranded in airports really annoys me. I don't have one iota of sympathy for these whiners. Oh boo hoo. You can't go on vacation right now to someplace warm because it snowed in the winter. What a tragedy!! What a crisis! What an outrage! How dare the weather do this to you! How unfair!!
Took me less time to shovel than after the Christmas weekend storm. It was the same type of snow but it hadn't drifted, and the task was made more pleasant by no wind! So my toes were fine (I suspected two pairs of socks made my shoes too tight so I only wore the wool ones).

My classes start on the 20th, and so I have started to get ready. I am really hoping to not have to use a cane on campus this semester. As long as it isn't icy, I will be OK. Fear of falling is more of a concern than my ankle holding up. (I think.) I wonder if it would look too strange to wear a pair of ice grippers on my shoes? Would that add to my dorkiness? More than my cane?

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

If the winter continues to be a snowy one, I think I will have to find someone to shovel. It isn't the workout that bothers me, but my poor left foot. After the Christmas storm I couldn't feel my toes, and I was wearing two pairs of socks (one wool, one cotton), a plastic bag over my foot, and great shoes. Once I got inside the pain in those toes was terrible for a few minutes. Really freaked me out.

My right foot wasn't a problem, but my left foot will never be the same after the ankle sprain, and it already wasn't very good from the metatarsal arch problem that I've had since I was a teenager. I have enough trouble not falling, don't need to exascerbate my problem with frostbite. Unfortunately, the teenagers that used to live nearby have all grown up, and when we tried to hire an adult to do snow removal (as we do with the major part of lawn work), it didn't work out to be reliable enough.

But none of that matters for this storm. Today I will be doing the shoveling!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

LOL. I believe the offending comments that sparked this post were removed, although this isn't directly said. I don't like the negative tone of some blog comments either, but I am never sure how moderators draw the line, and I doubt it can be unbiased. I've been called worse too, btw. Why do I feel a Nileston News coming on?
Now, I know this is judging a book by its cover... The photos are everywhere so there probably is no need to link, but do you notice that the preferred picture being used of the guy who shot up Safeway in Arizona went from one of a nondescript, normal-looking college student to a terrifying crazed lunatic? The first time I saw the current picture accompanying the story I thought it was a mistake, or that the photo related to something else.

Whenever one of these sprees occurs, naturally we all think of the situations in our own lives where something like it could happen. The 24/7 of the parasitic media (I am so glad I don't have real cable or satellite TV) makes it seem as if these are common or likely events, when that really isn't true. But still, they make a splash when they occur, and I think awareness, or even fear, crosses our minds. It is true also that there is something riveting about it, pondering what goes through the mind of someone who would do such a thing and trying to figure out what sort of person would do it, if we have ever met anyone who fits that description.

College campuses are one place where similar incidents have happened. I've been teaching for 11 years this semester. Since 2002 I have taught about 100 students per fall and spring semester, and 30 over the summer. Have I had any weird students in my classes? Yes. Or this one, although it wasn't scary. When I was teaching the urban education classes in the mid-'00s, there was a student who failed the class more than once who kept showing up the following semester, disrupting and demanding a permission number. My memory is a little fuzzy (the classes were team taught) but I think public safety had to get involved.

I also remember a student from five years ago whom I do not seem to have written about here; she wrote disturbing, hostile things in her journal, blamed others for her own shortcomings - and she was very fond of the word "hate." She contributed to a class atmosphere that was not as successful as I'd like. I commented on her entries, tried to be soothing and discourage so easily using the hate label, without much success. I was so glad when the class was over that year!

Any upsetting incidents? Yes. Here's another, although again, not scary. And then there was this, a difficult time in my teaching, scary too, but not in this way...students were sad, felt vulnerable and wanted answers. But the crime didn't occur on campus and the perpetrator wasn't a student.

These were nothing even remotely like the crimes that make the news, or the behaviors reported in this story or in VA a couple years ago. Still, would it surprise me to hear that among the tiny handful of odd or angry students I've encountered...there was someone who had a psychotic snap? Hmm. UA did have a student who flipped out. I wasn't on campus, it was during my System years, and it wasn't on a day when I had class, but I remember it very well. Maybe not, in the case of the "hate" woman or "worst movie" guy, although I think it is a stretch. Would any of the others be violent? Not so much. If anything, self-destructive behavior is more common.

Did I do anything "official?" Yes, I did what seemed appropriate in each situation, which in most cases wasn't a lot. If it was referred out of my hands, was the student's problem addressed? I don't know, but I doubt it. But I think that if a young man went from perfectly ordinary looking to off the charts scary overnight, I just may have noticed and done something, although I know that's much easier to say than it is to do.

Thursday, January 06, 2011

Had fun yesterday - probably more than if we had been able to attend the SoS. We watched it on the Internet after we got home from Lee. I was impressed! Loved the graphics, saw some painful truths and there were even a couple of laughs. Having said that (and I hate to admit this), I (and lots of others) have become so alienated and dispirited about the entire political arena that it is going to take a big lift for me to feel differently. But then, setting the bar low may lead to an unexpected pleasant surprise. Too many people become naively infatuated with the flavor of the day -- and are wildly disappointed when achievements fall short of their rosy expectations.

Added: this irritated me when I read it in the "paper" but I forgot to look for it and link. Is he for real? Lincoln and the Gettysburg Address? A speech during the Civil War, at a battlefield opening a soldier's cemetery = NYS SoS speech circa 2011? Hey Casey, 1980 is calling. It wants its overhead projector back.
I spent the afternoon at a professional development meeting, part of my consulting. At the end, a teacher who was seated next to me mentioned Huck Finn being censored to strip out the N-word. I had noticed a story link somewhere on that subject this morning, but did not have time to read it, and so I thought there has been discussion of editing the book, not that the sanitized version will actually be published. You might say that I am a big fan of Mark Twain, almost obsessively so, in fact. I immediately reacted negatively, without thinking. Not that thinking it through would change my reaction, just that when I am in my professional role, particularly when wearing my consultant hat, I always filter what I say very carefully. She said "I can see both sides" and so I didn't elaborate much. I guess I can too, but I still am annoyed by the editing. How dare you?

When I got home, I noticed several articles and blog posts on the subject. Commentary about the editing is mixed. Many are offended, as I am. Some think it is no big deal. It strikes me that it is one more nuance of the language of cultural disrespect, which I wrote about after being called the C-word in comments. A response to the Heslep article that I wrote about is from Wagner (1996) in Tolerance and Intolerance: Gricean Intention and Doing Right by our Students: we should all lighten up until we understand speaker intentions. Twain wasn't insulting African Americans, quite the opposite, in fact. Is there a scholar who disagrees that Huck Finn is one of the most important pieces of American literature? That its impact was profound and positive? We think we know better than Twain how to engage audiences? That sanitizing his language will make his writing better? So we need to baby students and avoid challenge, because they are sensitive and stupid? Or are we just too lazy to really make an effort and teach?

It's interesting to me too that I just wrote about reading Twain's autobiography this intercession. It was the #2 bestseller recently. He continues to make the news 100 years after his death!

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Happy Birthday to Bob! He took the day off, and we are going to Lee, MA.  We'll stop by the outlets, and then have dinner at the Salmon Run Fish House, which is amazing. It isn't a fancy place, but we routinely go to fancy places. This is casual, with great food. We did the same thing for my last birthday, sans the outlets; I hate shopping, but it is something he likes. The outlets are way more tolerable than the mall or a big box, but there is great risk of buying a shirt that's appealing in the heat of the moment because it is so cheap and from a famous designer, and then getting it home and discovering you hate it, because it is a really weird color of fits just a little funny.

Anyway, this will be a fun day in a spell that is my unwind month. Once grades are done and the holidays over, I resolve (not really a New Year's resolution, since I also do it in the summer - more a semester's over resolution) to do a bunch of things that have to keep during the semester. When classes are not in session, I have to recharge my batteries. Somewhat means relaxing but most of it is turning my attention to things that are different from academic work. Teaching can be very draining - that sense of always being "on." It's necessary to replenish energy during breaks.

I always do a little more exotic cooking than usual, bake a few of my standard apple pies, try a few new recipes. In the summer, I garden like crazy. Maybe entertain a little. Read some books. This intercession, that last one involves reading Mark Twain's autobiography, which will be quite a challenge even though he is my favorite writer, because it is 663 pages of the smallest type imaginable, and I find I don't read as voraciously since I have to wear reading glasses. Also must try out my new set of acrylic paints. I have artistic impulses, but I'm not a painter of my sister's talent, never have been, never will be. So no Hudson River School landscapes for me! The next Nileston News that's brewing, perhaps? Try cartooning with a new medium? 

During every break I always resolve to write more, and I generally accomplish that goal, but this month I had hoped to pitch an idea, maybe to a market that's a reach - maybe to a comfortable one, not sure - and then work on the story since I am certain it is a winner, a sure sale. However, the big nor'easter (we got 18 inches I think, although it was hard to tell since it drifted so badly...I was shoveling forever) meant we had to come back two days early from the Christmas visit to S'ville, and that meant I had to cancel the interview I'd scheduled. I have to get busy and re-schedule it, hopefully before the break ends. Time's a wasting!

I have several consulting days lined up this month. That will divert my attention from recharging I guess, and it is in the academic arena, but the arts flavor can be very inspiring. Then, it will be back to semester's planning in no time. Time's a wasting again! Get busy on relaxing!
I was discussing my recent nasty comment at dinner with Bob, who has no patience for such foolishess. He doesn't appreciate the world of blogging, or even of the print environment, where stating opinions can cause one to be attacked. It has happened to me a few times, and he doesn't like it at all, can't see it the same way I do.

This made me think of Heslep's (1996) The Moral Presuppositions of Multicultural Education, which is a journal article I assign in toleration class. Heslep asserts that because of multicultural education’s limits on tolerance, some of its advocates have tried to restrict hate speech, politically incorrect speech, and other “linguistic modes of cultural disrespect.”

I always get a lot of appreciative laughter when I explain what this means in a real-world way. I use the ethnic example of 1940s intermarriage between a quiet, reserved family - such as my maternal side, rural upstate farmers of northern European descent, and an exhuberant, warm family, such as my paternal side, urban ethnic folks of southern European descent. Did one side view the other as cold, distant, judgmental? And the other perceive vulgar, loud aliens, because of the different body language and communication styles?

I go from that example to a more contemporary one, purely cultural - that the "F" word is almost as common as "the" for many downstate folks, while to my ears it is grating, offensive, obnoxious, lazy, along with its four letter compatriots - such as the "C" word, and the longer swear words, for instance the "C-S" word.

I close with the "N" word, a racial example, commonly hurled among friends within groups of young people of the same culture, males in particular, yet taboo when said by an outsider or even "insider outsider" - the ultimate put down, with ugly overtones that go far beyond a simple insult. The students all "get it" at this point.

According to Heslep, cultural respect is a virtue in multicultural society. Cultural disrespect is a vice because it is the opposite of cultural respect. Disrespect is also bad because it is offensive to individual members of targeted cultures; being offensive, it also is antagonizing, thereby encouraging cultural discord, another vice for multicultural education.

He argues that the use of a linguistic sign of cultural disrespect might offend members of the involved cultural group regardless of the innocent intention of the user of the sign. Such is the case with youth - sometimes they absorb elements from popular culture and don't understand the context of the words they casually use.

Then, some cultural groups have language of cultural disrespect as one of their features. Think of my "N" word example, or the swear word one. Teaching intolerance of the language of cultural disrespect might be self-defeating in that it might promote cultural disrespect. Outsiders may judge users of those linguistic signs as being offensive, when the insiders do not mean each other harm. Heslep writes that multiculturalists answer that such intolerance is simply a necessary socially therapeutic act. A multicultural society cannot exist in harmony if any of its cultural groups are inclined to speak ill of each other.

How to remedy? It is not enough for multicultural educators to instruct their students to be intolerant of linguistic signs of cultural disrespect, explains Heslep. Students must be taught discernment - how to determine what the user of a linguistic sign actually intends in using it. Both speaker and listener are important. It is one thing to be intolerant of ethnic jokes whose users intend to be culturally disrespectful in telling them; it is another to be intolerant of such jokes when their users do not mean to be culturally disrespectful. They may be innocent, or ignorant, or mean-spirited.

I was thinking about this in reference to Bob's feelings about my obnoxious commenter. I see posters on blogs, mostly anonymous although occasionally not, use that word and others like it rather casually. Lefties use it to describe women like Palin, and righties use it to describe Hillary types. Do the users intend it to be culturally offensive? Is it a purposeful, gender-based insult? I think so. Did my commenter? Oh, definitely.

So is it OK to be sensitive to the slur? Or is there something special about the medium of the Internet that waters down the offensive nature of the linguistic sign of cultural disrespect? Or is it nothing more special than simply that anonymous cowards are comfortable with invective?

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

This dude probably got tickets to the SoS, while we didn't. It seems he didn't land a job (or wasn't able to keep a job) with the TU after all, as had been reported in May. (He does get occasional mention in Cap Con though.) You may wonder why I link? Explanation here. I occasionally check in on his journalism career. I'm objectivist that way! I can't find any headlines in his blogging for Gannett that mention the governor's ethics training requirement for executive staff. Probably couldn't bring himself to type such a title. Seems to me the media could use to attend a few sessions as well.

Added: I think I know who my foul-mouthed commenter is. Wow, I do drive some guys over the deep end. Get help, you need it.
We entered the lottery for tickets to see tomorrow's State of the State, but today an email arrived saying we hadn't been selected. Oh well. It's Bob's birthday, so we'll have to plan something fun instead.

Monday, January 03, 2011

My year in review. (At least the parts of it where I took pictures.)