Sunday, August 24, 2014

A Eulogy for Deaf Ears

Freedom was a very big deal here, in this unique historical experiment known as America.

It's gone now, and no one seems to care.

I wish I were only being dramatic, but a few dozen times a week I am reminded of just how far down the rabbit hole we've gone, in terms of giving up our freedom. It's a hole greased with Crisco - you can't easily climb back out. Human nature and history offer clear guidance on this issue: Once power is gained and centralized, it is almost never (willingly) relinquished.

We Americans gave up power, piece by piece, in the name of security, technological advancement, the collective good, and most bizarrely to me ... the convenience of social media.

Facebook wants me to install a new instant messenger - in fact I have to, in order to access messages with my phone. And it only wants access to all of my text messages and phone records in exchange. I've asked several people who use this mandatory Facebook phone app about this privacy issue, and they all collectively shrug.

It's the same shrug we all offered when we found out that nothing we do online is private, and we have zero expectation of privacy in any of our online transactions or communications.

This is the same Facebook who conducts twisted psychological experiments on us. In order to receive my Masters in Education, the most laborious part of the program was getting approval from Walsh University's ethics board - to conduct my thesis-related experiment.

I had my students eat cupcakes, and write essays using a cupcake method as a guide. I judged their learning before, and after, exposure to the "cupcake method" of writing I use.  The university ethics board wanted to be absolutely certain that I'd considered every conceivable angle for potentially harming students, so I jumped through weeks of hoop after hoop while seeking approval.

Facebook takes care of all that pesky permission garbage when you click "yes" to sign up. Convenient, huh.

What prompted this post wasn't Facebook's massive data collection efforts, but a video I caught on CNN. Yes, it's edited for dramatics, but unlike the mess currently still not sorted out in Ferguson, the police dash cam offers some objective facts while documenting a heartbreaking incident.  Watch the small child walk out of the car with his hands up, scared to death and concerned for his handcuffed mother - then watch the arrogant police chief defend this dramatic, guns-drawn traffic stop.

Then tell me we are free.

Just make sure to tell me via email, Facebook or cell phone ... so the government can store our correspondence as part of the war on terror.

I'm trying to pinpoint just when the police went from helping us, to routinely scaring law abiding families half to death.

A spot of good news related to the issue of police brutalizing citizens: President Obama is reviewing the practice of the federal government handing out military weaponry to local police departments. Still yet to come: Obama's review of his own power to personally decide who lives and dies via drone strike.

I have a special classroom focus this year: Teaching my kids to become powerful communicators has taken on a new sense of urgency and importance for me.  My students need to develop their own strong, confident voices - so they can speak up when necessary, and help decide if this whole freedom thing is maybe worth resuscitating after all.