Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Net Nastiness & Societal Spill-Over

Recently I offered a few thoughts in the comment section at Reason.com - a typically thoughtful magazine with an online presence and a libertarian bent.

Another commenter wrote that I was "obviously a blithering idiot" for choosing to be a public school teacher. Hey, I've been called a lot worse, but this comment wasn't made in isolation; rather, it's part of a pattern where armchair Internet critics tend to 1. Attack their opponent in a highly personal fashion and 2. Then maybe - maybe - address the actual issue at hand.

So what ... is this just the nature of the Net? Or are there actual, important cultural spill-overs we should stop to think about?

We love to launch anti-bully campaigns (forgetting, much of the time, that many of us were in fact bullies in school). But we adults then turn around and bully each other.

My wife saw an all-out brawl in Walmart between two adult women the other day. Such events are so routine in our increasingly coarse culture that she almost forgot to even mention the fight to me. What used to be shocking is now the "new normal," to borrow a political phrase.

So where does this leave our kids? Confused as all hell, that's where. They get their butts whooped for getting suspended after a fight at school, then witness mom or dad attacking someone in the grocery store parking lot the next week.

Human dignity. Respect. Kindness. Love. Altruism. Quiet strength.

A colleague of mine is fond of saying you cannot teach barbarians. If you can't hear the pounding at the gates you need your ears checked.

I plan to, again, teach the above values as a cornerstone of my class, and build curriculum around it. I am not trying to force values on anyone. I never preach political views to my students. But I cannot ignore my moral obligation to share with them what I know to be the foundation of a good, meaningful life.

I see no reason why I cannot drill content, foster high-level analytic thinking, grow strong writers, and plant the seeds of universal values - values we once all at least agreed upon.

This is why I am here, this is what I do. It keeps me honest, even as I teach the kids what honesty is. Yes, I'm a blithering idiot. You don't have to be an anonymous Internet tough guy to make that observation.

But I'm also quite sure I'm exactly where I'm supposed to be. Here's to another great year, with an incredible staff, in a fantastic community. Thank you for this opportunity to teach your children.

No comments:

Post a Comment