This week I spent my morning writing time working on the second chapter of my book, “On and Off The Trail.” I’ve decided to ditch Medium after learning there is a paywall, and I’m not actually down with (wait for it) the medium. The paywall doesn’t offend me insomuch as the whole experience of the app, the repetition of the articles that I see once I’ve read a few articles, and the formulaic algorithm of showing me the same authors. It feels a bit like a hipster’s coffee shop: aesthetically pleasing but devoid of real character with sub-par coffee and horrible service.
I’m also happy to pay to support platforms because I know nothing is free in this world we live in today. Even if my novel-like-collection-of-essays was freely available, somebody somewhere would have to pay for the medium with which I share my work. If you don’t know that or if you don’t quite understand this, and you still have a paycheck in today’s economy, I would suggest spending some of that shelter-in-place time reading up on what it takes to sustain something that is freely available.
I can sum up it up for you in one question. I can trace it back to the primary question you need to ask: Who supports the supporters?
Today I’m going to use a bit of the paycheck I’m so fucking lucky to have right now to support WordPress and create a new domain for a book that I’m not sure I’ll ever publish. Sure, you might say, you can always self-publish. True. So true. I’m just not in love with the idea of sacrificing the trees to print the paper of a self-published book. I like the idea of a bookstore with employees who make a nice little life selling books. Maybe someday. And why bother with an eBook when I have this space?
Ah, yes, I hear some of you saying, “Doesn’t what you do for a living make the book obsolete?” This is my favorite accusation, by the way. It exposes all ye who fear the digital space.
No, it doesn’t.
I believe in books. I love books. In fact, I wish people read more books, so that maybe we’d have a president who is a book nerd and not a fucked up reality television star. I’d love it if people gave up an hour of watching The Idiot Box to read. What I don’t believe in is a greedy market that doesn’t give a rat’s ass whether students are actually learning or not because of ridiculous words like “tradition” and “big publisher” and “departmental decision” and “district-wide votes.” Even the phrase “academic freedom” is deeply troubling to me these days.
Quick quiz. Ready? Let’s play is it 2012 or 2020. Ready?
In 2012/2020 it is a common practice for a faculty member to not log-in to an online class more than once a week.
In 2012/2020 you can find a faculty member who uses a publisher’s platform to automate all the grading of their assessments.
In 2012/2020, a faculty member may not log-in to a class until Week 3 of an eight week class and will not get fired. In fact, she’ll get hired back the following term.
How did you do? Answer all three 2020 because you’re empathetic that faculty are really struggling right now with life and its woes because of This World? Good for you. Truly lovely. I applaud you for seeing the good in the world. You’re amazing.
But you’re wrong.
This is was my common experience in 2012 when I was an LMS Admin. These are the things I wish I could unlearn about education. If you think this current moment is the start of problems with education, then I invite you to spend a bit of that time of yours reading.
And still be empathetic towards the good faculty of 2020. I’ve cited the practice of a minority who should not be employed as teachers. There are so many–so many–who are doing amazing work in horrible times.
One of these teachers said to me this week: My job feels like it has doubled.
I have a well-deep reservoir of anger for people who are continuing to parse words like “remote” and “online” and “distance” and “correspondence” when everyone should be using that energy to figure out how best to help these students. This generation of students where a global pandemic and economic collapse has disrupted their lives. Their dreams. Their everyday lives.
Now is not the time for semantic debates, my dear ones. You’ll have time to write those papers another time. I hope. Take note of the unemployment rates and be thankful. Feel free to laugh here, but I am truly working on not being so snarky.
Now is the time is to sort how you can make sure that students see the value in lifelong education. Lifelong learning is really ma jam, y’all. With a college education. In a structured learning environment in a world that lacks very little structure right now. Whatever it takes.
This is the cultural moment to see education as a very simple survival tactic–a way of seeing learning as hope. A way of seeing education as caring. Kindness.
Whether it’s remote, on paper, by phone, at a distance, by correspondence, by television, or by any means necessary. I have to see hope in this moment.
Deep breath. I don’t want to talk about this today, and I am trying to practice patience and kindness towards people in crisis, but y’all, if you didn’t already know that education is in crisis, you better fucking ask somebody.
In the meantime, read my book!
Why not? [steps off soapbox, waves arm like a magician, flashes a smile, invokes marketing voice]
This week I also finished reading Untamed by Glennon Doyle, and I have to admit, she’s not really my cup of tea, but I find her work fascinating because she has pissed off so many women and scored herself one of the most badass football players–athletes–in modern history–as her partner. I think this is her best book yet, and I feel such empathy and sadness for people who are not getting celebrate new books, concerts, arts, and all the magical things of society right now.
I have to admit that I really like her conversational style of writing, and her fuck-you-I-don’t-care-if-you-like-this attitude. Her writing about sobriety resonates with me at times up until the point she starts to talk about motherhood.
Here’s a quote from her that I love and it made me laugh so hard this week.
She’s on Oprah’s couch, at the the alter of Harpo Industries that can make you a best-seller for the rest of your life, and she’s being asked about something that she wrote that she no longer believes. A lie that she told herself to survive. A position that she has left behind because she realized she was wrong and got smarter. I respect that in a person. I love when people live with mistakes, admit, and talk about what they learned. It’s brave. When Oprah asked her to go into detail about something she wrote and no longer believes, she said something I wish I had made up.
I especially respect somebody who has the quick with to say:
“I think this sort of thing is why Jesus only wrote in sand” (p.92).