Monday, September 26, 2011

Words Have Meaning

I say that often here - words have meaning.   I bring this up because I have noticed over the last week or so some wording being used here that is pointed at the person and not the argument.   It both hurts this blog and the argument when that happens.  

There is also some unsaid (but implied) arguments that aren't really helpful.

I noticed things like:
  • someone saying he/she is open-minded (and implying that others aren't).  Opposing ed reform doesn't mean you aren't open-minded to new ideas in education.   For example, I think most everyone here would agree that technology - both in teaching and learning - is and is going to be, a larger part of the education picture.  That's a new idea that has gotten stronger and stronger.  
  • I especially dislike the implication that if you aren't for new trends in education, you are for the status quo.  That is a weak and tired argument and not a worthy one.
  • someone saying that someone hates someone else.  C'mon, that's a little junior high.  You can be unhappy or dislike someone's work performance without hating them.  Hate is a big word that should be used for people who really deserve it.  
  • Using words like "hater" - again, a little junior high.  You can dislike something or someone without being a hater if you can explain your position in a rational manner.   A hater is someone who hates someone else for an irrational or petty reason.
  • a lot of far-reaching leaps from simple statements.  Just because a reader says that he/she isn't sure how someone else knows something is a far cry from that same reader believing that someone else is dumb or stupid.   And yet I'm seeing a lot of striking back when a simple question gets asked.  If you want to know what someone means, please ask and don't assume you know. 
So Charlie and I will go on trying to barely moderate comments.  (We only get rid of anonymous ones or those that are crude or hurtful.)  But we're all bright people.  Let's keep the comments and discussions on the topic itself and not directed at a person.  It's fine to disagree.  It's fine to think that person's argument is full of holes.  But it drives people away who might otherwise want to read this blog if it is not focused on topics and not people.

I'm not saying that Charlie and I don't sometimes stray ourselves.  We all do but we can all try harder to moderate ourselves so that some good and useful ideas and actions come out of this blog. 

I would also ask that if you post, that you do not post again immediately afterwards (unless it is a correction).   Multiple posts are fine but allow others to chime in as well.

Last, let's try to stay on topic.  Again, I can be as guilty as the next person but it really is better to stick with the topic at hand.  There are other ways to introduce a new topic including contacting us to request a new thread or at the Friday Open Thread.  To that end, we'll be trying a Tuesday Open Thread to see if we catch more new topics as they come up during the week. 

30 comments:

Thanks said...

I would like to second the thought that writers stick to issues, not the motives of the poster. Or assumptions about a poster's race, economic status or geographic location. It feeds into stereotypes and is petty and pointless to the issue being discussed. If people want to say where they live or their race, that should be spontaneous, not brought out by accusatory language. Race or geography within the district are great topics to discuss, I don't like it when folks poster assumptions about others.

Keep up the great work Melissa.

anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
RosieReader said...

I agree with Melissa and Thanks. I also hope this means that we will stop dismissing/discounting/disrespecting people using on allegedly funny permutations of "Broad" or "reform" and stick to challenging folks on issues, not on middle-school-ish word games.

anonymous said...

And "bullshit" in the tag line.

Foxtrot

seattle citizen said...

I hear the moderators, and will try to be more on point and less frustrated and touchy. I will try to tell myself that public education as we know it isn't under attack, and just take seven deep breaths before hitting "publish."
I agree that I, at least, sometimes get dismissive. I don't TRY to be. Honestly.
I will make sure all my references to Reform and the Broad Foundation are not funny. I will stick to the issues they represent.
I'm sorry if I was ever middle-schoolish, but am glad to be reminded that some of us sometimes are. THAT is the spirit of civility: Reminding others of their middle-schoolishness that they might mend their ways. Thank you! Unless it is meant dismissively, which I'm sure it wasn't.

Anonymous said...

Yes, it would be nice to see editorial content that relies on facts and doesn't resort to name-calling, although there are certainly publications that do that as a matter of course.

It would also be nice not to see anyone who doesn't buy into all the anti-reform points lock, stock and barrel dismissed out of hand and the sniping names given to board members, district staff and even the super.

Somehow despite all of that this blog gets taken seriously, but I think it could actually become THE source for not just discussion of the district's problems but a free exchange of news and ideas if it was less disrespectful to the "opposition"

--WV says "plese"

Anonymous said...

I agree with Foxtrot. In the spirit of change, I think it is time to grow up and remove "bullshit" in your tag lines. Very middle school..

-Over the drama

Anonymous said...

Jeez.. just looked at the old posts.. do you think that "BS" is really more mature than "bullshit"???

-- embarassed

seattle citizen said...

Wouldn't it be nice if there was no "opposition."

No "THEY are opposed to change!" or "THEY are opposed to teachers!" or "THEY are opposed to charters!"
or "THEY are opposed to alts!"

I mean, aren't we all here for the students?

Why am I frustrated with those I generalize (unfairly sometimes, no doubt, as "reformers"?

Why are they frustrated with educators?

Why are educators and reformers duking it out, instead of BOTH asking parents/guardians/citizens: "What's up with you?! Step up for your children!"

Educators might be frustrated with reformers because the reformers are in "business" to reform; they aren't the parent/guardians. Reformers might be frustrated with educators because reformers believe some things (poverty, etc) will always be with us (it will, unfortunately) and educators should pick up the slack.

Educators might be frustrated at being asked to pick up the slack because there are more and more "issues" they are being asked to deal with, and with less and less support.

I believe the best common ground is the community school model. Not necessarily a charter (he repeats) but any and all schools: The community school model actively calls on all parties - parent/guardians, educators, students, community - to step up: lend a hand and get a hand.

THAT is our common ground. As it should be. I'm afraid that if communities don't rally around the issues students have, ALL students: high achieving, low achieving, poor, rich, Black, White, Hispanic...If the community doesn't rally 'round, well, those that believe they are speaking for students from outside ("reform") and those that feel they are speaking from students from inside (educators) will just continue to war with each other out of frustration.

Where is the rallying point to bring, no, FORCE the community to step up? We need tutors, doctors, opthamologists, mentors,donors of books and book bags...where do we meet to get that work done?

anonymous said...

Just for curiosity why would you call someone out for, and frown on the use of the word hater but not call any attention at all to the constant and continued name calling of board director Steve "the tool" Sundquist? Or a teacher calling TFA recruits scabs, or Melissa referring to the Potter debacle as Pottergate? Or several posters referring to reform as deform, and calling race to the top
"Race to nowhere"? That seems just as juvenile to me. Yet you read these things day after day with zero moderation.

You can't apply this code of conduct to only certain posts or posters. Either everyone abides by the code or don't have a code at all.

Just sayin'

seattle citizen said...

Just sayin',

My feeling on reading this thread was that it was a plea for all of us to try to be more civil. I don't think anyone here is innocent of being mean; maybe we can move forward with a bit more civility.
I'm game.
Of course, we were asked to do this a couple of years ago, and we did for awhile, but things get out of hand: it's human nature to be passionate, and also, perhaps, to be snide or dismissive occasionally.

I know in my case I'm not trying to actively HATE someone; I just get wrapped up in my ideas and blast away. Maybe sometimes it's arrogant or mean; I don't mean it that way, I just get argumentative.

That said, "words have meaning" but the meaning isn't always clear: One person might take my words as a personal attack when I was merely venting. It's a problem with this venue: If we all were face-to-face around a table, where a) expressions are seen, and b) we are all humans, in the flesh, I feel we wouldn't be having the misunderstandings we sometimes do.

But I will, for my part, try to be more aware of the human being on the other side of the comment section, and see them whole instead of as just their words.

Nick Esparza said...

Just do your public a favor and out whoever is supervision negative. And hypercritical. People only act like this when they can comfortably hide behind anonymity. And since you want to be treated as a journalist, you should be able to.behave like one, and not whine whenever you and your views are criticized. You Madeleine yourself a public figure, it comes with the territory . Furthermore, I have been dissollusioned with your one sided reporting which, when questioned, you turn into the victim. It would be helpful. To have. Some political pushback when tfa arrives, instead of screaming that the sky is falling when it arrives. These happen to be my open criticisms of this blog and the admininostrators' political acumen.

nice girl said...

Hmmm.. I'm conflicted about this idea. I was born and raised in the Northwest where, above all, one is supposed to be nice and polite and wait for everyone else to go through the stop sign before you do. My husband is from the East Coast, where, I have noticed, people seem to speak their minds quite directly (a generalization, yes, but pattern I have found to be true in my experience). And yes, sometimes that comes off as personal or mean, but you know what -- they know it's really not. It's really quite refreshing because it's actual real, raw discourse. Lots of times they kiss and make up at the end but they end up truly understanding where each other stands rather than worrying about being so polite that no one knows the truth or the level of passion one is feeling. And this even goes for family members. So I am learning that Seattle nice is not necessarily the way to honestly communicate. Sometimes you're mad, and sometimes you really are mad at the person for a statement they made or for dissing the teaching profession or something like that. Is there really anything that wrong with being honest about being angry with that? Is there really anything that wrong with making fun of the Broad Foundation, for instance? I have never seen anything on this blog that I think is over the line, hateful, dangerous. It's just people speaking their minds and hearts. I would hate to see Seattle nice take away the true and honest passion I find on this blog. We can all take it, I think.

SolvayGirl said...

Nick...getting Melissa's name right would have made your case a bit better.

Jan said...

Lots of good ideas for being more civil and trying to keep the conversation "fair" enough that it attracts multiple points of view. Thanks, Melissa, for the post, and thanks, commenters, for the feedback.

Personally, though, I hope that some of the "strong voices" stay in the conversation and continue to argue their positions -- even if they are more strident than I might be. I have learned a great deal, over time, by thinking over the views of Sahila, Dan, and Seattle Citizen -- and Charlie at his most piqued. Somewhere between "Seattle nice" and "churlish" I hope there is a line that allows opinions (that I disagre with) that push me to examine my assumptions and conclusions) -- but that don't (I hope) jump down the throats of those who hold different views from frequent posters.

anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
seattle citizen said...

I'm from New York...

anonymous said...

I am from the East coast and totally agree with nice girl. We are very vocal, and loud people and we have very thick skin! We can both dish it out, and take it, without feelings getting hurt.

The only problem I have is with the double standard of calling some comments or people out, and not others, including the moderators.

Unless something is truly uncivil, or threatening, I'd say let it ride. No need to censor.

Just sayin'

seattle citizen said...

Yeah, just sayin', now that you mention it I don't call some people out, particularly those I have been "in conversation" with for awhile and generally agree with. I SHOULD be "very vocal" and "loud" with these, too.

Things have just become so entrenched into an "us vs them" sort of thing, and I'm as guilty of that as "the reformers," I suppose.

Point taken. But things ARE polarized: educators ("old dinosaur union slackers") ARE, as group, under a sort of attack by what I consider to be pretty well-organized attack - well-funded, well-connected, able to manipulate media and public opinion...

THAT'S why I want to get out of that paradigm - it's become too solidified into that us vs them.

Sahila said...

If it looks like BS, smells like BS, and cakes your boots as you're marching through the paddock, then chances are it is BS...

take a look around you folks... there's lots of BS around in SPS, and right now, in this country, the streets are pretty much flowing in it...

why is it not OK to call it for what it is? Bullshit...

the reason there's so much of it is because its been un-PC to call people on it... what goes unchallenged, tends to multiply exponentially, if you havent noticed....

or are you all OK with being treated like fools? which is what the BSers are doing...

I thought it was the best day of my time as a public education advocate here in the US, when Melissa finally came out and called it for what it was - BS - and had the guts to add it to the tags list...

Melissa Westbrook said...

Just Sayin', you must have miss my comment a long time ago asking people not to call Steve (or any other staff or board member) names.

Okay, what should we call the situation with Mr. Potter? It's pretty standard for newspapers/media to give names to situations and I went old school and called it Pottergate. If you have a better name to easily reference it, let me know.

anonymous said...

I actually don't mind you calling the scandal Pottergate at all, nor do I mind the word hater. What does bug me and I stated it above is the double standard. Either there are rules or there aren't. Whats good for the goose is good for the gander.

Just sayin'

emeraldkity said...

Well- I am a native Puget Sounder & am of the " more flies w honey" communication style. I don't understand fighting against something rather than moving toward something else. ( I realize you can do both at same time- but it is not easy to see what " activists" are actually doing, I think.)

I am interested in education in this community but I also am involved in other aspects of community life- many which seem more productive and positive. ( and so they occupy more of my time & energy)

The language / name calling seems very sophomoric & defeatist. ( which is distracting from issue at hand IMO)

I appreciate the opportunity to clarify the focus of the blog-as I think it could be a source of info to the broader ( no pun intended) community.

Another Nice Girl said...

Please please keep the bullshit tag. Just had to say that. It's not like you put it on every post or anything. And sometimes you have to call it like you see it. I thought it was very refreshing when you started putting it on certain posts.

Melissa Westbrook said...

"I don't understand fighting against something rather than moving toward something else."

Can't it be both?

It's funny because I was talking with Susan Enfield and I said that I would really love to spend more time on things I care about seeing happen but there's a lot on the radar that you can't just ignore.

You could just work on things you care about but meanwhile, things you might not want to see happen come along.

I actually do have something I believe is positive that I will asking for input about (or I was but it's hard to gauge this crowd and the reaction).

Anonymous said...

you all should read diaries on dailykos devoted to what is called "meta".

for decades, hundreds of millions of americans have been working harder, and are less able to replace their job, the more they make at that job. they are at greater risk of losing everything they've saved from getting a health problem. their retirements have been handed over to casino operators. now their ladder of opportunity is having the rungs pulled out to insure those at the top stay at the top.

how many viewers of 'this old house' type programs would not watch if the costs of the renovations were discussed, and, if it were pointed out that over 90% of us couldn't afford that quaint bungalow and all that brickwork?

I'd love to chat school politics, except I have to make sure the help is

Polishing My Rolls

Tired of bullshit said...

I'm OK with the Pottergate tag, but absolutely hate the bullshit tag. What some see as bullshit, others think is fine. Using the tag automatically makes it difficult to have intelligent discourse on the topic. (It means that if you disagree with Melissa, you support bullshit).

Melissa Westbrook said...

Tired, no, it does not mean you support BS. It means that I think it is BS. Again, people are making inferences that aren't there.

mirmac1 said...

I've always favored "bogosity":

Bogosity
From "BOgus" (fake, false, faux)+ "-OSITY" (humorous suffix, ):

1. The quality of something that is manifestly false (or bogus)

2. Something contrived, or patently false, designed to project a pleasing image or message through the media (newspapers, TV news, etc).

3. A polite way to say "bullshit," when the situation calls for something a little milder.

Can be measured with a bogometer. Everyone's bogometer is different. My 2 cents.

WV: you must think I'm mentic

Anonymous said...

Melissa, you are the boss of the blog, so you can (and should) write whatever you want.

Ditto for Charlie.

Without anchors, this blog will not be worth the bullshit it stands up against.

--love you but don't always like you