Note: Some strong language is used in this video, and may be offensive.
This may be the current medium of choice among young adults, and it’s one I thoroughly endorse in format. However, examining the draw of listening/watching, the speed of discourse, and the power of convincing others of a point of view when packaged visually can be dangerous.
Ask your second students which videos offend them, and why. We’re in the midst of embroiled discussions about gender and race (and zombies) currently, and you may find out some very interesting things. Be prepared to keep an open mind.
Google “Mermaid sightings” and see how many YouTube and other sites pop up. Animal Planet produced a faux-documentary in 2013 about mermaids. It looks authentic, the voiceover serious and documentary-ish, but the CGI is just off enough to provide the right balance of fantasy-immersion and pragmatic reality.
It’s quaint, but I couldn’t help shake the distress that these fake-umentaries could damage instruction and credibility. And that worry has come to light. I still want to believe in the IDEA of mermaids, (I love mermaids and mermaid lore); however, it is dangerous to make a documentary that many might believe is factual. Currently, in our post-truth era, an Orwellian allusion that’s in itself is too precious and misdirecting, our futures depend on getting it right. And I marvel and am horrified by how many believe they are right, credible, honest, and intelligent when they are so very blind.
But I can’t look away, I can’t stop questioning, researching, and thinking.
“Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more;
Or close the wall up with our English dead!
In peace there’s nothing so becomes a man
As modest stillness and humility:
But when the blast of war blows in our ears,
Then imitate the action of the tiger.”
My burning question is how do we tackle the rhetoric of conspiracy theories?
Example: my same relative posted about how CNN is fake news, etc. and his followers posted many actual cases of times CNN has made editorial blunders. So that leads me down one rabbit hole after another. His source, Fox, has had more editorial errors and by many standards, lacks journalistic credibility or standards. No one mentioned Fox’s mistakes. So, check off Point #1: Tunnel Vision.
But yet this just happened: http://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/crime/kent-shooting-victim-says-he-was-told-go-back-to-your-own-country/
I responded back something about the inauguration photos. You know the ones — Obama’s and Trump’s, side by side. And that’s when the legion of lies began officially.
My relative responded back, “Oh, you were there? Cool!”
No. But another relative was.
And what if I wasn’t? What a bizarre argument.
I know its intent: the intent is to make me doubt myself, and not question the thousands of things he believes in but has never seen with his own eyes.
Is this the knowledge argument?
The maddening thing, the thing I shake my fist at the gods and shake my head in disbelief is their arrogance (Point #2: Arrogance and hubris) in redirecting any belief. The lack of conceding any point. So no dialogue is possible.
For every scientific and social construct, they have a rebuttal. (Point #3: Dart-throw but offer no solutions)
I’ve never seen a mermaid. I’m fairly certain they don’t exist. Perhaps they came from the desire of sailors seeing mirages in the water, fearful of women and drowning in the deep, mixing the two together to create a narrative that the siren song defends them from all accountability and responsibility of keeping their own stuff together. It’s always convenient to blame falling off a boat on a fish-woman. Point #4: Blame others. I have never touched a blue whale, either, but unlike mermaids, am pretty sure they exist. There are photographs, scientists, animal lovers, artists, whaling hunts, etc. and whole industries based on whaling throughout history. I did step on a whaling boat in Mystic, Connecticut once. It’s no longer seaworthy or in use, but I didn’t question whether or not it was once used to hunt whales. But by my relative’s logic, since I wasn’t physically at the inauguration (he wasn’t either), my conclusion is invalid. Point #5: Thinking conclusions and evidence are the same things. They’re not. The evidence is the two crowd sizes differed in numbers. That does not mean I think anything. He assumed I did.
But here is where I will leave this, for now, until I need to go to the breach, once more: it is a waste of time to talk to someone on their own echo chamber. Every point made, every piece of evidence, every possible conclusion or theory will be met with some fallacious argumentative rhetoric which to them, sounds pithy and intelligent.
They are croaking toads, and nothing more, belching out lies and fear to seek attention. And that is my ad hominem misstep. I am in the process of trying to not care, not give this oxygen, so if I think of people as nothing more than croaking toads that helps, temporarily. The futility of trying to change anyone’s mind who’s over the age of 25 upsets me. It’s become too dangerous and weird. The enormity of they don’t know what they don’t know is too burdensome at times. But I’m about to go drink coffee and watch the latest episode of Saturday Night Live: laughter and caffeine heals a lot of wounds.
The five-paragraph essay is likened to learning the foundations of structure and organization critical to being able to write other organized pieces. There may be merit to this, however learning how to write something no one reads anymore may only serve to rust and crumble authenticity.
Might I offer some suggestions, or additions to the five-paragraph essay, especially for secondary students?
Consider these sites/links as mentor texts as well as powerful places to publish essays. Use examples of the essays written here and challenge students to compare their essays to these.
Some close reading/close writing ideas:
Read for anecdotes: these may be strewn throughout the piece, or used in the beginning to provide humanity and context.
Read for truth (personal truths), opinions (things that strive to persuade) and facts (quantifiable data)
Read for thesis (claims)– but more importantly, read for ‘what question the writer is ‘answering’ — identify what prompted the piece, and what happened before and what might happen after is critical to consider the context of any essay.
Identify where the author broke away from the standard “five paragraph essay” and where she may have taken some key pieces for organization — how does it begin? How is it concluded? What points are made in the middle?
In the conclusions: analyze how the conclusion stacks up with leaving the reader with the desired outcome, whatever that may be. Does the conclusion provide wisdom, more questions, a summation of ideas? How? Why or why not?
These sites allow for curation and dialogue. Challenge students to find pieces that bounce against one another, the claims and counter-claims of 21st-century discussions. We are not sitting around dinner tables anymore, we are sitting in a web of ideas, and sometimes we are the prey: in this day and age, it is critical to not gloss over what is fake news, but to empower our students to consider and weigh the entire issues at stake. It is a monumental task but may mean life or death. Hyperbole? Not when others are reading conspiracy theories and threatening lives. Even if this isn’t factual–consider that some do believe it, and act accordingly.
Throwing this out there: I need a writing group. I need the accountability and presence of other ideas. I am wondering if my lack of writing with any regularity, except for this blog, is a result of no structure, the end of PSWP, and not finding another NWP. Writing Workshop works. It is an exceptional means to help students grow as readers and writers. I’ve tried to sell colleagues on it, and because they haven’t been to the mountaintop and met with gurus of enlightenment like my friends Holly Stein and Kim Norton, they don’t believe me.
So I just have to make sure it fits with my students, and keep proving it, time and again.
Our school is trying to do many things in a hurry to get students at grade level: PLC work is the big focus, and for math and ELA, the district provides rough ‘frameworks’ but at least for the ELA group, they’re never done, or if they are, there is a conflict or confusion between the PLC created Common Formative Assessments and the district created ones. These are not mutually exclusive, but nor does this jive with the spirit of a PLC, and that is to be agile and responsive to student needs in an intentional means. Assessments that might be best for students at one middle school in the district may not be what’s most needed for ours.
Along with the PLC work, the administration wants us to focus on our grading practices, and the discussion is open and collaborative. It has always been my personal policy not to mark things down for being ‘late.’ Convoluted systems and make-up work tangles up the process, so I make it simple: there is a due date, and the assignment will ‘close’ a week afterward. It’s marked zero and missing to affect grades because if it’s not, the student isn’t aware it’s missing. These are middle school kids, remember. Once it’s done, I give it full credit. If it’s an assignment that is rubric based, they have time to redo it for a better grade. Assessments for our PLC and district are scored accordingly, but marked as “no count.”
Recently Ethical ELA posted an article about flexibility and student learning:
The writer used my favorite quote that I use as my tagline, and this–this is a fantastic idea:
What will you do with your one precious life? They reflected on their values, dreamed about what, who, and where they wanted to be, took a career quiz, read biographies, explored opportunities in high school, looked into part-time jobs, explored colleges, searched apartments, created a budget, read about philanthropic options, developed mottos, wrote a speech to synthesize the research in the voice of their future self (see an example below), and created a slideshow with images to support the content (e.g., Slides, A Life as an Artist, also see below). I set up a schedule for three students to be “guest speakers” each Friday through January, February, and March.
I may start off with my ‘ambassador of the table’ and then move to the guest speaker idea.
Before the break, the well-laid plans included a quick version of Greek mythology, then onto Box of Destiny! Ah, well. Add three snow days, a studio teacher workshop for the ELA department, the ‘no immigrants’ protest day, things did not go as planned. Do they ever? So, instead of the full-blown BoD presentations, I asked them to focus on just the story of their character from first-person perspective. Developmentally, this shift is very difficult for some students, and that makes it all the more valuable. Many had their stories done, many had them started, and many couldn’t get out of the starting gate, with all the scaffolds available. We did a modified writing workshop protocol on Friday, and I took the papers home to write feedback for one and all. Between my hand-written and typed feedback in Canvas, I hope to see some growth for the next project.
Life is not linear, that’s for sure. Maybe that’s why whenever I watch a Marzano or other expert they always use a math example, not an ELA or social studies one, because reading, writing, and history are messy indeed. But that’s okay: I know other experts to draw from, including my own knowledge and experience. If you want to come to the mountaintop with me, I’ll take you there.
Years ago I read The Life of Pi by Yann Martel. I didn’t have anyone to share my thoughts about it with, until later a friend casually mentioned she hated it. It never occurred to me until that moment that someone I loved wouldn’t love the book, too, or at least find some worthwhile metaphor. Those little moments, when we don’t connect with someone we love, are odd…but it happens. Life would be unbearably boring if we all thought and believed the same things. The thing that nags at me, though, is when we realize someone we love believes or has a different opinion, we often awkwardly dismiss the moment, and don’t ask their point of view or perspective. It’s like we’re trying to be polite and not come off as challenging or argumentative. (Because especially us ladies…oh boy do we ever get in a pickle when we state our opinions…)
But these are not discussions about literary preferences, or who prefers microbrews to martinis. Some have a chemical hatred of cilantro, while others find its presence the only thing that matters. (I am the latter.) This is about something that cuts, and has cut us all, much more deeply, and perhaps left some scars. There is no denying in our nation’s point in history we are in deep, deep trouble, and not necessarily all because of who’s in office. We hate each other now, and if we don’t hate, we are suspicious to a terrifying degree.
If corrective facts only make matters worse, what can we do to convince people of the error of their beliefs? From my experience, 1. keep emotions out of the exchange, 2. discuss, don’t attack (no ad hominem and no ad Hitlerum), 3. listen carefully and try to articulate the other position accurately, 4. show respect, 5. acknowledge that you understand why someone might hold that opinion, and 6. try to show how changing facts does not necessarily mean changing worldviews. These strategies may not always work to change people’s minds, but now that the nation has just been put through a political fact-check wringer, they may help reduce unnecessary divisiveness.
Numbers 1 and 2 are where the wheels came off my bus, so to speak. And, in fairness, I am wondering if I’m now experiencing my own media saturation, or “availability bias,” jumping at every shadow — because there are so many now–
Rothschild blamed politicians for overstating the terrorist risk. Media saturation is also to blame. Having ready access to images of every atrocity known to mankind makes us prone to what behavioral scientists call “availability bias,” the tendency to give weight to what comes to mind most easily. The blanket coverage of the Sept. 11th attacks successfully seared the images of terrorism on our brains; shootings, which happen every day and—with the exception of a few mass shootings—are largely ignored, have less of an effect.
We are all jumping at shadows, but unfortunately, many of those shadows have weapons.
It is one thing when strangers have unfounded beliefs, but a whole ‘another issue when it’s a relative or close friend.
And that is when I lost my stuff.Calling Obama a “fascist” is so distorted and wrong– and I had the painful anagnorisis** that not only was my relative living in some distortion field that so many of his race, gender, background, and beliefs led him to.
“‘Hope and Change’ is over.” ***
Taking a pause here: I stand by the Politifact article:
It does what I wish all students and citizens would do: take a step-by-step analysis and provide CONTEXT AND COUNTERARGUMENTS. Yes, big all-caps. Without context no discussion is possible.
In this entire post, there is one nugget I want my relative, and others, to take away–and this is discourse 101.
Do your own damn homework.
Analyze the facts, truths, and opinions in a piece. Facts are quantifiable data: truths are personal beliefs, and opinions are positions. Sometimes truths and opinions can get a little muddy. Anecdotal evidence is not facts.
Annotate the sources and statements, and find three credible resources that support and refute the claims. And consider: how is it being supported? To what gain? And how is it being refuted, a “because I told you so?” statement or other findings?
A credible resource: finding and curating credible resources does not mean that the source can’t be argued or debated. It can be an opinion piece that uses data and facts to support claims. Often reading what is NOT there is the critical piece.
About this time I turned off notifications, so I didn’t see his comments asking if I had read the EO: in truth, I had read some of the highlights from various news sources, including his preferred sources.
As acting attorney general, Ms. Yates picked the fight of her life on Monday when she ordered the Justice Department not to defend President Trump’s executive order blocking refugees and restricting immigration to the United States. Ms. Yates became convinced, based on the president’s own statements, that he had intended to unlawfully single out Muslims, senior officials said.
“We have comments from the president about what this is supposed to do,” Ms. Yates said in one meeting on Monday, according to two people involved in the discussions. She later added, “The intent was clear from the face of it.”
And here is John Green, who somehow manages to do the smart, calm thing, and provide a piece about this EO:
Little, little men, with little little hands are capable of changing who we are, who we want to be, and all the laws of the land may not be able to stop them.
What is my conclusion in all this? Am I feeling more heartsick and discouraged, or calmer, with clarity? Yes, the latter. I am not going to engage in these pointless battles. If the person on the other end wants to reach clarity and purpose, understand that we can disagree, but have to do so with facts and strong listening skills. (My “grow up” comment does not fit this category.)
So yes, that is the president’s press secretary rationalizing why it was important to our national security and safety to handcuff a five-year-old. Most of the things happening now come from their own mouths, on tape. They can try to gaslight us all they want, but we are not the same 20th century generation– we are far worse, and far better. It’s about understanding the onslaught of information, and not allowing their lies to stand. It isn’t fake news. If anyone wonders why most Americans are fighting so hard to end his time in office before he and his ilk destroy the Constitution, maybe you’ll join us, too, once you see for yourself.
But I won’t hold my breath: I’ll breathe and keep working to make things right.
*Not sure how The Daily Beast stacks up. To research later.