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I have moved to newlyancient.com and will be writing regularly there! Content on this domain is no longer updated, but will be maintained as an archive in its original form.

Goodbye (and good luck)

I am stopping blogging. This is a personal decision which I have reached after careful contemplation and discussion. I am a very different person from when this blog was first launched, and this blog is no longer in touch with this new person. Recent events have only highlighted this. The person I have become is no longer a person I care to be, and this whole digital persona will continue to hold me back in the future. Therefore, I am abandoning this blog.

It has been a long road to this decision, and I would like to take a moment to look back at it…

The Radio Station

I remember when I once went on a local radio station. Despite being young at the time, the one thing which intrigued me was how the show snapped together amid the hectic mess. Papers were flying everywhere and everyone went a mile-a-minute, but there sat the host: munching on donuts, with a clear and steady voice broadcasting out over the airwaves. Hearing his voice, one would think the world was a safe place–even when he was talking about yet another car bomb in a place I could not pronounce. When I first started blogging, that was what I wanted. I wanted to be the one who people listened to, steady but also static. I wanted to be powerful, but I didn’t know what I wanted to do with that power. I saw commenters as adoring fans rather than opportunities for conversation.

Eventually, I encountered the problem with being on a radio station: it always seemed the same. I didn’t listen to new voices, but just kept “on message.” I played the same hit songs, instead of new Indie albums. A steady voice became a monotone voice. I wrote about what would bring me traffic instead of what deserved traffic. Tired of the quest for one more listener, I left the station.

The Barber Shop

One of my favorite comic strips is Curtis, where an African-American boy walks into a barber shop and is greeted by a name which is always a little different from his own. The barber never gets his name right, but always engages Curtis in conversations about what is going on in the world. Nothing revolutionary is ever said, but the same ideas (often heard on the radio) are rehashed. Despite calling Curtis by the wrong name, the barber is always willing to invite Curtis into the community. I have found many people in the blogosphere equally inviting: despite not knowing my real name, I have been invited to share my ideas and become a part of the community. I was given a voice, which is something for which I am very thankful. Unfortunately, what I eventually came to realize was that I rarely talked about new ideas: in an effort to be accepted, I settled into groupthink. I continued to rehash the same thoughts over and over, because that is the best way to build community. Though I loved the community, my haircut was done and I eventually had to step out of that homogeneous group.

The Pet Store

As a child, a pet store was a wonderful place: it was filled with animals waiting to be loved. In my early months of blogging, this is what I saw the blogosphere as: many diverse faces just waiting to be met. I wanted to make a difference for these people, just as I wanted to give a young dog a home. Over time, I grew more cynical of the potential for change. I became the adult in a pet store: instead of seeing loving faces, I saw the potential problems. I saw the shedding, the walks which would be needed, the expenses of caring. Yet, just as a parent lets their young son bring home that dog, I resigned myself to it and stepped out of the pet store ready to continue down the road.

The Gas Station

In my small town, we still have a local gas station where a man comes out to wipe your windshield. I hear people complain about the price of gas (and rightly so), yet our country is still not ready to give up this unsustainable resource – it is the demon we love to hate. In many ways, I have treated the blogosphere in a similarly unsustainable way. I continued to pump feed after feed into my RSS reader, knowing full well that there is a limit to how much I can consume before the well of my attention runs dry. Yet, I continued to pump feeds in because I loved what everyone was writing or felt some obligation to them. I knew this could not be sustained, but I didn’t wish to toss out the old even as I explored the new. My blogging habits were unsustainable, because the demands on my attention were limitless but my attention is not. I reached peak demand, after which I simply had so much information coming at me that I couldn’t really focus on the important thoughts. Thus, I decided to leave my car behind and bike down to the harbor.

The Harbor

I have decided to leave this shore and set sail for the unknown. Like the parting scene in The Lord of the Rings, I am filled with both sorrow and joy. I am sorrowful that I must make this difficult decision and leave my friends and peers behind. Furthermore, I am very thankful for the support I have received from all members of the community.   In my heart, I know this is the right decision. Some day, our paths may cross again – on another shore, when I’m an older, wiser person. Until that day, I sail for foreign shores.

Goodbye, and good luck.

Sunset

Modern Ageism

Institution

The problem with our society is that ageism has been institutionalized. It is what makes personal assaults like this on students socially acceptable, since we aren’t really full people, are we? It limits out freedom of speech, since we can’t be expected to say anything intelligent. It lets us get away with ‘murder’ because we can’t be considered fully responsible for our actions. I think it is reasonable for certain restrictions to be placed upon people based upon their scientifically proven development and maturity. Unfortunately, the law and society draws a hard line in the sand, universally, which is based upon fear instead of fact.

Most neurologists agree: the brain is not fully developed during adolescent years. Adolescents, and to a greater extent children, lack full intelligence and emotional maturity. However, most research puts the brain peak at sometime in an individual’s 20s–not at 18. I do not disagree with this, but the problem is that this science is not reflected in society and the law. This research yields two conclusions:

  1. The brain does not develop at an equal speed for everyone. Some people achieve intellectual or emotional maturity well before their 18th birthday. Others never do.
  2. The age of 18 is not a critical milestone in the average individual’s brain development.
Brain

Unfortunately, these points are not taken into account within the frameworks of the law and society. In the eyes of the law (and thus society), everyone is an adult when they reach the age of 18 (though they can lose that status if proven to be severely deficient). If the age of majority isn’t based upon science, then it must be based on tradition, right? Wrong. Before the 26th amendment, the age was at 21 (which is still reflected in drinking laws). In other societies, it has been lower (around 13 or 14). Therefore, tradition doesn’t play a large role in why the line should be drawn at 18.

Put simply, the line is drawn at 18 because of fear. Society is always afraid of the next generation. Some day, we will be taking your jobs and stealing the upper hand. Naturally, those with the power (read: voters and politicians), would like to keep that age as high as possible so as to delay their eventual loss of power. The problem with this approach is that it ignores the merits of an individual in favor of a simple rule. (On another note, the powers are perfectly happy to use labor lower than 18 both domestically and in the military.)

Obviously, I am not going to change society with a blog post. However, that’s not my goal: my goal is to get you to stop standing behind the paltry defense of irrational laws which legislate the value of vast swaths of people. Instead, I ask you to judge people based upon their individual merits, intelligence, and maturity.

Of course, a natural argument against that is that you as a teacher are entrusted with the well-being of your students. While that is true, it does not apply online since almost none of your students are online.

To me, I think the contract between a teacher and student is a sacred one. (By association, the parents as well) In exchange for the teacher’s time and expertise, the student offers himself to be open to learning from that pool of knowledge, and trusts the teacher. Coming with this, the student (and his parents), expect that the teacher will always have the best interests of the student at heart. Where the teacher loses sight of that, even if he thinks he is doing the “right” think, for whatever reason, that contract has been breached and the teacher is at fault. Keating broke this pact, and dire consequences ensued.

Most importantly, this contract supersedes age: even if your student is 52, it still applies. However, when not engaged in a student/teacher relationship, simply asses an individual based upon their personal merits. No matter how hard it may be, try to put assumptions based upon age aside and see a person for who they are.

Naturally, this brings up some moral and legal conflicts which Christian summarizes quite well:

Intellect aside, our ability to engage in serious/sincere conversations inside our classrooms and inside the blogosphere demands that we accept the roles of a) legal and b) moral implications. With regards to a “student” that is under the age of 18, the courts and society both demand that adults must play by different roles than children (using the legal sense of the word, not a pejorative sense of it). Arthus — intelligence, computer/coding/digital knowledge and blogging ‘personality’ aside — you desire for ‘peer’ status with legally adult bloggers (etc) holds ground in terms of common decency, respect, and our collective interest in ‘learning’. On the other hand, once you get into moral and legal realms, it begins to fade in terms of legitimacy (not because you or someone else lacks ability, but because society and the courts deem it as such). Because of that, any adult who acts in a formal or informal way in the blogosphere must still behave in a way that a child is not required to. Consider your ability to make mistakes when it comes to blogger discourse/debate to be more protected than that of an adult who is working beside you or in opposition to you.
Constitution

As discussed, society and the law do create higher standards for “adults” than for teens. The way that society and the law can be completely avoided is simple: ignore them. Rather, act in such a manner that society and the law would never have reason to question you. To do so, treat everyone (online) as though they were morally and legally a child. What that means:

  1. No cyber-bullying.
  2. No creepy stuff. You know that guy. Don’t be him.
  3. Respect people’s boundaries. If someone chooses to remain anonymous, leave it at that, whether they are an adult or a teen.

If you hold yourself and others (including youth) to a high standard, then society has no reason to question you and your motives. Achieve equality through raising the standards for everyone. (To be clear, the student/teacher relationship will always supersede this when someone is actually your student.)

Just as I expect adults to follow these guidelines, I hold myself to them as well. If students want to be treated equally, we must accept equal responsibility.

  1. Photo by Elephi Pelephi on Flickr
  2. Photo by Mikey G Ottawa on Flickr
  3. Photo by Thorne Enterprises on Flickr

McCain is an “illiterate”

Republican Presidential hopeful John McCain has admitted he is web illiterate:

When questioned on his use of computers, McCain has confessed that he does not know how to use the web and relies entirely on his staff and wife to use the computer:

They go on for me. I am learning to get online myself, and I will have that down fairly soon, getting on myself. I don’t expect to be a great communicator, I don’t expect to set up my own blog, but I am becoming computer literate to the point where I can get the information that I need - including going to my daughter’s blog first, before anything else.

I find it quite alarming that a man who hopes to become the next President of the United States doesn’t even know have a basic understanding of the Internet. For those of you who don’t think this matters, it does: the next President will be making key decisions which will affect the future of the web. I project that privacy, wiretapping, and net neutrality will all be critical issues in the next term. Not to mention issues of educational technology funding and filtering schools. I don’t expect our President to be a code jedi, but at the very least he should be able to go online by himself. Even Bush uses ‘the Google.’ And honestly, how hard is it? Plug in a wire and click the little fox:

“It’s just amazing,” Jamal Simmons, a strategist with the Obama campaign, told The Daily Telegraph. “It’s very hard to even think about someone who doesn’t know how to use the internet. It’s like, ‘Really?’ My five-year-old niece can use the internet. She knows how to go to nickelodeon.com and play her games.”

Of course, there are those who exploit comedy gold where they find it: this time with a candidate so out of touch with the average American that he doesn’t even understand the most popular form of communication among young Americans:

No matter how much people want to emphasize McCain’s long experience, that only make this issue worse. When looking for a web-savvy candidate I don’t look for a candidate who still thinks about media en masse, I want a candidate who gets it (like Obama, who carries a Blackberry). Frankly, I don’t care if he is aware of the net, if he can’t even use it himself:

“You don’t necessarily have to use a computer to understand how it shapes the country. John McCain is aware of the Internet. This is a man who has a very long history of understanding on a range of issues.” ~Mark Soohoo, deputy director of Mr McCain’s e-campaign

I leave you with this parting thought: what if a major candidate admitted he was (literally) illiterate and depended upon his staff to read for him simply because he has never bothered to learn how?