Trust, KoolAid, and 1000 Papercuts

This has been a provocative and challenging week for the hopes and dreams of an open and meaningful web. And while the provocations raised are by no means new, there is something in the air that feels more urgent, more in need of our attention. How timely that our Connected Courses work is focused on trust and network fluency in light of the very real, powerful, and material stories that have emerged in the past several weeks. The stories of Kathy Sierra, Anita Sarkeesian, and Julie Pagano have collided and created an opportunity to ask ourselves: what kind of world (virtual or analog) do we want to live in? And how do we protect these worlds and the people in them?

In case you have not been following these stories, all of the women have been harassed, threatened, and ridiculed. Sometimes they are not believed. Sometimes they have actual death threats levied against them. The powerful (and upsetting) stories from Kathy, Julie, and Anita (among countless others) in tech raise a hundred questions for me: How do we protect an open web and protect people who are vulnerable in an open web? Are the very “fixes” we might imagine for solving the human element of the open web antithetical to an open web? How do we move from this adolescent stage of the web to a grown up and healthy version of this space and of ourselves? And how will we ever get better at creating environments of trust and respect if the comment sections of our blogs and twitter accounts and other virtual spaces are the most vulnerable to attack? How do we honor dialogue when it has the potential to do such harm?

I have always been an advocate for open: open teaching, open web, open open open. I share resources, freely, ask my students to blog and tweet without fear, and ultimately gain even more from the generous sharing from colleagues. I’ve also carefully followed SOPA, PIPA, Net Neutrality debates, Aaron Swartz’ story, and tried to do my part to support causes dear to the open web movement. These things matter. Most of us truly believe that you must change structures and systems (institutional, platform or otherwise) if you want to effect real change. As Rafi Santo has argued, ideologies are built in to systems and we must hack them for the better.

But how do we make systems safer while still valuing an open web? How have we ever been able to account for the worst of human nature? How do we help people grow up with the web?

These issues have resonated with me even more than usual for a variety of reasons, both personally and professionally. Professionally, as I open up my classrooms to more vulnerable populations–like the amazing 8th graders my students and I are blogging with–I am hyper aware of the need to protect our students and colleagues and still create a space where their ideas matter and can be heard. I am carefully reading through the resources Mimi Ito recently shared in her blog post and considering the stories and ideas being shared by others in our Connected Course; recent posts by Kevin Hodgson and Jenny Mackness are incredibly insightful. And I am grateful to Kira and Jonathan for raising such important ideas in our work together.

I hope to take all these powerful cases and use them to imagine a world where trust and openness thrive on the web. As Sarkeesian asks at the end of her talk, when we tell our stories “trust and believe.”

Let’s discuss. And act. And be better humans.

 

 Anita Sarkeesian’s talk from the recent XOXO Festival

Overview of the Gamer Gate controversy here

Kathy Sierra’s powerful post from Tuesday: Trouble at the Koolaid Point

Julie Pagano’s original post: Death by 1000 Paper Cuts (she has since updated here with a series of posts about the Life and Times of a Tech Feminist Killjoy)

And Kevin Hodgson’s post from last week and all the great comments that follow: “When Trust Gets Breached…”

 

They why of it

Sorry I thought this was already posted.

For me the whys simply out number the the why nots. I want to teach so that I can learn more about everything but especially about how and why other people think the way they do. I want to teach for that AHA moment you see on your students faces. I want to teach cause I don’t want to be a lawyer and lastly I want to teach because I love seeing students opinion change and evolve with each new piece of information they learn.


Why teach? Because magic.

Teaching is magical...and painful, and heart breaking, and stressful and exhausting and life-changing and in some moments, absolutely frustrating. But mostly magic. There is a thing about teaching that keeps bringing you back. You can't put your fingers on it and you search for that reason while you are sitting at your desk, papers past your ears, way beyond the hours you should work for a healthy lifestyle. The magic lies in the days with the kids who don't care, whom it seems you will never reach. The same kids who run into you years later and apologize for being that kid and tell you that they never forgot that you never gave up, even when they had. For the kid who refuses to do homework, or show up who you worry about even when they are not even your own child. For the day when they finally come in and ask for help. Even if it is for a few minutes, they came in and cared about something. The magic is in the student that stares at you blankly and questions you on everything and frustrates you because you feel disrespected. You go home at night, still furious when one night you realize, he was asking all the right questions, just in all the wrong ways. And lastly, the magic is that end of the year moment when you all know it's your last day and you see the heartbreak in your students eyes when they realize they won't see you next year. It's that moment when you unexpectedly reached a kid everyone else had given up on. It's that magical moment that comes at least once a day when one of your students, if not the entire class, teaches you. And together you learn and together you grow and together you create why I teach: magic.

Why teach? Because magic.

Teaching is magical...and painful, and heart breaking, and stressful and exhausting and life-changing and in some moments, absolutely frustrating. But mostly magic.

There is a thing about teaching that keeps bringing you back. You can't put your fingers on it and you search for that reason while you are sitting at your desk, papers past your ears, way beyond the hours you should work for a healthy lifestyle.

The magic lies in the days with the kids who don't care, whom it seems you will never reach. The same kids who run into you years later and apologize for being that kid and tell you that they never forgot that you never gave up, even when they had. For the kid who refuses to do homework, or show up who you worry about even when they are not even your own child. For the day when they finally come in and ask for help. Even if it is for a few minutes, they came in and cared about something. The magic is in the student that stares at you blankly and questions you on everything and frustrates you because you feel disrespected. You go home at night, still furious when one night you realize, he was asking all the right questions, just in all the wrong ways.

And lastly, the magic is that end of the year moment when you all know it's your last day and you see the heartbreak in your students eyes when they realize they won't see you next year. It's that moment when you unexpectedly reached a kid everyone else had given up on. It's that magical moment that comes at least once a day when one of your students, if not the entire class, teaches you. And together you learn and together you grow and together you create why I teach: magic.

Why teach? Because magic.

Teaching is magical...and painful, and heart breaking, and stressful and exhausting and life-changing and in some moments, absolutely frustrating. But mostly magic.

There is a thing about teaching that keeps bringing you back. You can't put your fingers on it and you search for that reason while you are sitting at your desk, papers past your ears, way beyond the hours you should work for a healthy lifestyle.

The magic lies in the days with the kids who don't care, whom it seems you will never reach. The same kids who run into you years later and apologize for being that kid and tell you that they never forgot that you never gave up, even when they had. For the kid who refuses to do homework, or show up who you worry about even when they are not even your own child. For the day when they finally come in and ask for help. Even if it is for a few minutes, they came in and cared about something. The magic is in the student that stares at you blankly and questions you on everything and frustrates you because you feel disrespected. You go home at night, still furious when one night you realize, he was asking all the right questions, just in all the wrong ways.

And lastly, the magic is that end of the year moment when you all know it's your last day and you see the heartbreak in your students eyes when they realize they won't see you next year. It's that moment when you unexpectedly reached a kid everyone else had given up on. It's that magical moment that comes at least once a day when one of your students, if not the entire class, teaches you. And together you learn and together you grow and together you create why I teach: magic.

Why teach? Because magic.

Teaching is magical...and painful, and heart breaking, and stressful and exhausting and life-changing and in some moments, absolutely frustrating. But mostly magic.

There is a thing about teaching that keeps bringing you back. You can't put your fingers on it and you search for that reason while you are sitting at your desk, papers past your ears, way beyond the hours you should work for a healthy lifestyle.

The magic lies in the days with the kids who don't care, whom it seems you will never reach. The same kids who run into you years later and apologize for being that kid and tell you that they never forgot that you never gave up, even when they had. For the kid who refuses to do homework, or show up who you worry about even when they are not even your own child. For the day when they finally come in and ask for help. Even if it is for a few minutes, they came in and cared about something. The magic is in the student that stares at you blankly and questions you on everything and frustrates you because you feel disrespected. You go home at night, still furious when one night you realize, he was asking all the right questions, just in all the wrong ways.

And lastly, the magic is that end of the year moment when you all know it's your last day and you see the heartbreak in your students eyes when they realize they won't see you next year. It's that moment when you unexpectedly reached a kid everyone else had given up on. It's that magical moment that comes at least once a day when one of your students, if not the entire class, teaches you. And together you learn and together you grow and together you create why I teach: magic.

The answer to life, the universe, and Why Teach?

The answer to life, the universe, and everything (but “Why Teach?”) is 42.

The answer to “Why Teach?” was summed up perfectly by my friend and colleague Mark: “I teach for selfish reasons.” So do I, and my reasons aren’t much different from the ones he so articulately explained in his recent blog. Teaching is fulfilling, learning is an addiction (and you can’t have one without the other!), and both give my un-spiritual self a reason to be. I’m going to let Mark speak for me here and direct you over to his blog for further reading.

A related question that I’ve been thinking about lately is “Why literature?” Why read it, why study it, why teach it? Again, there are so many smart people out there who have voiced their opinions on why literature matters and I don’t want to just repeat them because you’re probably familiar. Reading makes you more empathetic—yep. Reading makes you smarter—indeed. Reading is good for humanity in general—if it makes you smarter and more empathetic then this must be true, so yes.

But are any of these reasons going to make you want to pick up Crime and Punishment on your days off? Probably not. Think about how much less appealing reading literature for these reasons is, then, to a teenager. Telling them that reading will make them a better person, more able to cope with the hardships of life, more understanding of people next to and far away from them, more knowledgeable about geography, history, science, philosophy, bunnies, why people hate and why people love—is like telling them they should WANT to eat vegetables because they’ll be healthier and live a longer life. What you’re asking them to do is to commit to a daunting and possibly unpleasant task for an abstract reward that *maybe* they’ll start to notice in a decade or two, assuming they’ve done a bunch of other stuff that also goes in to making a person better, smarter, or healthier. Basically, imposing even your valid reasons on a person as a way to coerce them into doing something they ordinarily wouldn’t do is a pretty ineffective approach. Alternatively, you could go with the “Or Else!” method. Eat your vegetables or you don’t get ice cream! Read Huck Finn or you fail! They would be more likely to do it, but less likely to voluntarily want to do something similar again.

People need to find their own reasons to want to read. I see it as my responsibility as a teacher to provide my students with the opportunities and the tools they need to decide for themselves why literature matters. So far, the best way I know how to do that is to give them options and to encourage creativity. In this way, students can show me Why.

And we’re back to the selfish reasons why I teach: teaching has endlessly creative potential. I can’t sing, can’t dance, can’t draw, I’m sort of good at following a recipe, I can barely crochet a scarf—I would have been a terrible guest in a 19th century drawing room. And even though my difficulties with writing have become almost phobia-like, I’m an excellent close-reader and I use that skill to inspire my teaching. In a way, classrooms are my canvas. Teaching is MY outlet for the creative energy we all have inside of us, that desire that drives a person to do a thing or to make a thing well and to be acknowledged for it.

I posted some of the wonderful work that students created in the section of Great Books I taught last semester, it’s up on the “Scholarly Pursuits” page. Spoiler Alert: we wrote a book!

TTFN