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#IWSG–Why do people ‘Shoot the messenger’?

05 Feb

writers groupThis post is for Alex Cavanaugh’s Insecure Writers Support Group (click the link for details on what that means and how to join. You will also find a list of bloggers signed up to the challenge that are worth checking out like Kate and Rebecca who inspired me to begin). The first Wednesday of every month, we all post our thoughts, fears or words of encouragement for fellow writers.

This month’s insecurity: What if I write something people don’t like?

I know intellectually that doesn’t matter, but emotionally, it gnaws at me like a rat, at night, when I can’t brush it away. Truly, I want a diversity of opinion because through that, I grow. If I say something and you disagree, I hope you trust me enough to share your thoughts so I can mix them into my ideas and come out with a better understanding of the entire mess. It’s part of a democracy. We encourage freedom of speech, a wide gamut of opinions, a loud and sometimes messy discussion. In this people-centric form of government, innovation comes from a divergence of opinion.

In fact, this works well on non-emotional writerly topics like grammar rules, how to tell a good mystery, and passive vs. active voice. But for many topics (global warming for example–is anyone calm, reasoned, erudite, informed, open-minded on this topic?), a tipping point is reached where conversation becomes soaked with emotion and people lose their heads. Suddenly, what could be an intellectual growth opportunity for all stakeholders starts not with ‘Show me your evidence’ or ‘What makes you think that?’ but ‘Are you really that stupid?’ or ‘Anyone with a brain knows…’

Here’s my story–and why this topic is on my mind: Education is going through radical changes based on a set of standards adopted by 45 of the 50 states called Common Core. If you have children, you know what I mean. When those changes were theoretic, conversation was polite, educated, fact-based. Now that Common Core is in the classroom, many teachers are frightened at the vastness of the change and (IMHO) frightened for their ability to succeed. They’ve passed from a calm analysis of facts to harridan screaming. As a teacher, I have posted many articles about Common Core on my education blog Ask a Tech Teacher. All have been well received until that tipping point where theory met practical and teachers found themselves well outside their comfort zone in its application to their classroom. My last post, I got slammed with comments about how stupid I was, that I didn’t know what I was talking about (one of the milder ones: ‘…have you ever thought about the students and not you?’). I had to chide my readers, remind them this isn’t how we teach children to engage in a constructive disagreement–teachers should follow the same speaking and listening rules.

The interesting part is that supporters–and there are far more of those than detractors–were silent. This, we as writers understand. It is much more likely that people with an emotional axe to grind will comment on our published books than those who like it. Yikes–those Amazon comments have been the ruination of my day more than once!

In high school, when I first met this Shakespearean phrase in Antony and Cleopatra, I thought it ridiculous. Who would do that? Surely, that barbaric response died with the maturing of civilization. Now, once again (I often use Shakespeare’s words ‘Me thinks he doth protest too much’), I am reminded how smart this ancient writer continues to be.

More IWSG articles:

Am I good enough? Does it matter?–#IWSG

Fear of Saying Dumb Things Scares Me to Death

#IWSG–The World is Changing–Can I keep up

Will I Find Employment if I’m an Older Job Hunter?


Jacqui Murray is the author of the popular Building a Midshipman, the story of her daughter’s journey from high school to United States Naval Academy. She is webmaster for six blogs, an Amazon Vine Voice book reviewer, a columnist for Examiner.com and TeachHUB, Editorial Review Board member for Journal for Computing Teachers, monthly contributor to Today’s Author and a freelance journalist on tech ed topics. In her free time, she is editor of technology training books for how to integrate technology in education. Currently, she’s editing a techno-thriller that should be out to publishers next summer.

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Jacqui Murray is the author of the popular Building a Midshipman, the story of her daughter’s journey from high school to United States Naval Academy, and the thriller, To Hunt a Sub. She is also the author/editor of over a hundred books on integrating tech into education, adjunct professor of technology in education, webmaster for four blogs, an Amazon Vine Voice book reviewer, a columnist for TeachHUB, monthly contributor to Today’s Author and a freelance journalist on tech ed topics. You can find her books at her publisher’s website, Structured Learning. The sequel to To Hunt a Sub, Twenty-four Days, will be out this summer. Jacqui Murray has been teaching K-8 technology for 15 years. She is the editor/author of over a hundred tech ed resources including a K-8 technology curriculum, K-8 keyboard curriculum, K-8 Digital Citizenship curriculum. She is an adjunct professor in tech ed, CSG Master Teacher, webmaster for four blogs, an Amazon Vine Voice book reviewer, Editorial Review Board member for Journal for Computing Teachers, CAEP reviewer, CSTA presentation reviewer, freelance journalist on tech ed topics, and a weekly contributor to TeachHUB. You can find her resources at Structured Learning.


 
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  1. dc pardeeNo Gravatar

    February 5, 2014 at 9:13 am

    I understand how you feel! Being in the minority here in OC for most of my life, I chafe at the challenge of having a civilized conversation about topics that threaten people’s world view. Their brain inspires them to defend their perception to retain some sense of sanity, it seems.

    Although I don’t have a clear understanding of how Common Core affects or intimidates teachers, I know how disrupting dramatic change can be in the education world. I attempted to engage teachers in tech education back in the 80’s, since we could see it was essential for the future…they drug their heals. Fortunately, the administration and parents persevered, and the students dove in with enthusiasm.

    I also applaud your willingness to take on this subject. Hang in there…and keep the conversation going!

     
    • Jacqui MurrayNo Gravatar

      February 5, 2014 at 9:53 am

      Gee, I think we’ve had a few of those. I appreciated (continue to appreciate) the ability to speak to someone civilly about difficult topics. I often quote our conversations in chats with other friends as an example of alternative thinking (I mean that in a positive way).

      I think that disruption you allude to is the biggest problem with Common Core–it’s such a massive change. If it can get through the next few years, I believe it will dramatically improve education. Time will tell.

       
 
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