Am I as smart as a 9 year old? (That’s a rhetorical question)

I’ve been considering the whole blog thing for quite a while now. Back in 2003, before blogs where so easy to create, I started writing editorials. Every time my students had an essay due, I would follow my own instructions and produce a 500ish word essay. At the time, modeling was one of those “best practices.” I still have those essays saved and I realize 1) I’m glad I’m no longer a student; 2) writing only 500 words is hard, and 3) the issues rarely change. For those who remember, 2003 was a budget cut year in Texas. My editorials focused on why cutting education budgets was a short term solution, why charter schools weren’t the answer, and why comparing state budgets to family budgets was silly. (Someday maybe I’ll post my editorial comparing Rick Perry–yes, kids, our anti-government governor was in charge even back then–to the Yul Brynner’s Pharoah.) As we head into our next legislative session, we’ve still got Perry, political fallacies, and looming budget cuts.

I was finally pushed to create a blog, though, after a colleague sent me Clay Shirky’s TED Talk–Open Source Democracy.

Shirky begins his talk with a reference to a 9 year old girl who blogged about her school lunch. The administration ordered her to remove the blog, and, as you might imagine, people protested. Shirky’s message was relatively simple: the flow of information is changing the nature of democracy. It seems no accident that as blogs, twitter, and other social media sites explode our presidential election expenditures will exceed a billion dollars this year. A billion dollars!

The candidates might argue they are simply trying to explain their message (or, in negative adds, attack the opponent) but what we are really seeing is an attempt to counter the open flow of information. The chatter is enormous, overwhelming even, and Obama and Romney have to write, video tape, visit, and spend just to be heard above the chatter and, most importantly, try to direct the chatter. Quite frankly, this election will be decided based on who gets linked, re-tweeted, blogged, facebooked the most. It’s not a media stream: these guys are trying to create a veritable flood. Whoever doesn’t drown can go vote.

And that returns us to the 9 year old girl whose blog included a hair count. Writing is about recognizing an audience and articulating ideas effectively. The 500 word essay, the old-school research project still has it’s place in the world, but 9 year old kids using a camera and a blog page can sometimes say some important stuff. As we teach and educate, we have to face this new reality. We have to read and watch the medium to understand the message. Like the 2003 Texas Legislature, I’m plowing old ground, going back to school for a while. Just because modeling didn’t work 9 years ago doesn’t mean it can’t work now. Jeez, if a 9 year old girl can create a blog (and get the hair our her school lunches), shouldn’t I be able to throw my voice into the electronic chatter?

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About John Wegner
John Wegner is a Professor of English where he also serves as the Dean of the Freshman College. He and Lana, his wife, have been married over 25 years. They are the parents of two great sons who (so far) haven't ever needed bail money.

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Things I Read

And Things I Learned

Washington Monthly

Do I contradict myself? / Very well then I contradict myself, / (I am large, I contain multitudes.)

Joanne Jacobs

Thinking and Linking by Joanne Jacobs

Inside Higher Ed

Do I contradict myself? / Very well then I contradict myself, / (I am large, I contain multitudes.)

FiveThirtyEight

Do I contradict myself? / Very well then I contradict myself, / (I am large, I contain multitudes.)

Balloon Juice

Do I contradict myself? / Very well then I contradict myself, / (I am large, I contain multitudes.)

Scott Adams' Blog

Do I contradict myself? / Very well then I contradict myself, / (I am large, I contain multitudes.)

The Full Feed from HuffingtonPost.com

Do I contradict myself? / Very well then I contradict myself, / (I am large, I contain multitudes.)

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