Editorial License

Rob Hammerton, music educator etc.

No Comment (or, Words Create Realities, Part 3)

Here’s the problem: in this country, right now, in 2011, we cannot solve any problems. Here’s a large part of why.

Step 1: A CNN.com opinion piece is posted, in defense of the Wisconsin public employee unions’ fight to preserve their right to collective bargaining (and thus basically their unions’ very existence). In sumamry, it emphasizes that Wisconsin teachers unions have already said to Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, in essence, we’ll take the pay cuts or the money reductions or whatever. This is not, as the Governor has insisted, about the money, so can everybody please cease to paint the teachers as massively wealthy moneygrubbers when it is a provable assertion that the vast majority are not. [Those who are massively wealthy have probably been teaching for a ridiculous amount of time to get there. Please don’t challenge me on this: I know my way around a public-school teacher pay scale table. -Ed.]

Step 2: Many comments flow in, pro and con. Some are well-written (on each side), some are not (on each side). Some feature things like punctuation, spelling and grammar; some don’t. (I don’t know… I think if you’re commenting on an education story, you should at least be required to prove you passed a sixth grade Language Arts class.)

Step 3: One of the comments (with spotty punctuation etc. but with a good heart and good intentions) is from an Army vet with a screen name “Dennis25” and it says this:

The teaching profession is an honorable one to be sure. They are under paid for what they are held responsible for, students, and educating them to the best of their ability. Yes, this country of ours blew Billions $ on wars in the middle east. The costs are and continue to be enormous to all. We all know that. Even myself a retired US Army veteran know that.

However, back to the complaints levied against the Teachers in Wisconsin and around the country. You’re wrong. Just think what future our country would have if these brave and dedicated women and men did not do their jobs. We’d be just a bad off as the third world countries the US and others have always helped throughout our history.

“Our children are our future. They are the future leaders, husbands, wives and parents of future mechanics, doctors, dentists, teachers of all fields, a scientist with a cure for some disease. The point being, those that lay blame on a segment of our society for having it too easy don’t have a clue. Try volunteering at your local school in a troubled area ? Or maybe you in live in a place where all is beautiful and calm. Be thankful because in our society all is not equal or fair. As long as there are folks that want to divide us trouble is all that comes from those voices. The only one’s that lose are our children, their parents (if they have one or both or a mentor that cares enough to give of his or her time to help improve that child’s life.) Life is hard enough for all of us. A Uncle of mine said to his classes every beginning term of the new year, if you think I am going to be tough on you in English class, try life.

“Our teachers are the front line of our Nations educational system. We ask so much of them and to do it will little or no extra’s. There self worth is what they do with the resources and intelligence they bring to their classrooms every day even when there are dark clouds hanging over them. Give them a break. We need them. A house divided will not stand. However, a house united can do anything it puts it’s collective mind together, all things are possible, from upscale neighborhoods to the inner cities which can be life threatening to all, students and teachers alike.

“/s/ A retired US Army veteran from Northern CA”

Step 4: Someone with a screen name of “Jim” posts what he clearly believes is a witty (though miserably punctuated) reply to this comment:

Dennis, I remember you, you were kicked out under the dont ask, dont tell policy. How ya do’in sweetheart?”

(A short pause while I force down the urge to track down this feller.)

I know all about this country’s vaunted free-speech tradition. It’s what makes us different than the dictatorships in the world. I can express an opinion without fear of being sent “To The Big House!” Heck, I have this blog thing going here. The very poster child of freedom of expression. I’m fortunate, I think: the vast majority of the comments that have come my way have been supportive; a few have been constructively critical; not one, thankfully, has been abusive – at least out of all the comments that got through the spam filter. And this week I Facebook-posted a link to an article about yet another “curious” bill that has been advanced in one of our state legislatures, and that post drew a series of thoughtful comments from my Friends which turned into a fairly enlightening debate and made me proud to call those people Friends.

But this is exceptionally rare. It’s the ol’ Spiderman mantra: with great power comes great responsibility. And clearly, there are way too many people out there who, tempted by the great power and utter anonymity of comment sections, abandon all pretense of being grownups. Some post before thinking; some think before posting, which could easily be a worse case.

So, all right, kids (he says, adopting his best dangerous “I’m the teacher and I have put up with this nonsense for just about as long as I can stand it and I can’t stands it no more” tone): if we can’t handle the responsibility of comment sections, maybe we should just take away that toy for a while.

Free speech advocates would wail at the prospect of abolishing comment sections entirely. As a former journalism major, I would think long and hard before I advocated such a position (even though a number of newspapers have disabled their comment functions lately). But oh, is it a tempting thought.


February 25, 2011 - Posted by | Internet | , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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