Sunday, November 20, 2016

The social media are rewiring our minds. Are they worth it?

I know the headline looks weird with the verb "are"; but I always try to use "media" as plural with my students, to stress that there are a number of ways reality is mediated to us, usually filtered through a profit motive. 

I digress already and I haven't even begun!

I was surfing the online news, one of the media I use to waste time -- I mean, entertain myself. [Long ago in Latin class,  I learned "entertain" comes from "inter" (between) and "tenere" (to hold).  Hence, whatever holds your attention between times spent on important stuff is "enter-tainment."]

Ironically (since I'm blogging) the article that caught my attention, one of the New York Times' top hits today, was about the risks of social media. It's an op-ed by Cal Newport, a millennial computer scientist. First, he disputes social media's importance to your career. That part isn't something I see a lot of, at least in the teaching ranks -- a felt need to maintain an online brand.

But more importantly for all of us, he discusses how he is not on social media (including blogging) because of what it does to your mind.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

A Sprinkling of Follow-Up on Salt and a Sense of Mission

I want to follow up just briefly on my last post. I was talking about a mission statement I've had close in mind for a couple of weeks: to "be an agent of salt and light." It comes from my religious tradition, the words of Jesus of Nazareth. By accident yesterday I read about salt in the ancient world.

It was a fertilizer! (And still is, in some places, such as the Philippines, where it helps grow coconuts, of all things.)

So as salt of the earth (literally "salt for the soil"), if this were your mission, you would go about "promoting the life and flourishing of others" (Anthony R, Bradley).

If we were to translate Rabbi Jesus' words into modern usage, we might say, "Be manure for the garden." That's kind of a crappy image (see what I did there?), but if you garden, you know just what good some natural fertilizer mixed into the soil does.

I wish you well in the coming week as you go about promoting life and assisting the mental and moral flourishing of children and young adults!

Thursday, November 10, 2016

These two quotes can ease pain and give you purpose.

Sometimes I screw up. Often I do ok. Occasionally I do something very right. Yesterday (post-election day), by God's grace, I think I did good. I resisted mansplaining the election results to my progressive facebook friends in pain. 

(Please understand, this would not have been to downplay their pain. I wanted to help people understand how the other side could choose as it did. I live in a very blue-collar town.) 

Rest easy: I’m not going to attempt any such explaining here either.

But I do want to share a couple words from my religion that help me. If you’re of a different faith, I hope you have similar helps. I’m not trying to convert anybody here, believe me.