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Forgiving Conversations

By Roy D. Follendore III

Copyright (c) 2001 by RDFollendoreIII

July 25, 2001

The Noise to Knowledge website is being visited by many people around the our planet.  I can see them on the statistics.  Like a public garden some of these visitors stop at the gate and go away.  Others venture in and turn around.  Still others like to introduce themselves ramble around and really enjoy the flowers.  Some communicate. 

Those that write and communicate badly are the ones that disturb me.  They often start out with "explain this or explain that."  This is not stated as a request, it is a demand and it is without context.  It is as though the sender were giving an exam or a sergeant was barking orders to a recruit off of a bus.  I choose not to respond to most of these strangers  who make these rude demands without introductions or explaining something about the circumstance of their "request".  Perhaps this is a response to that fact I don't feel it is my place to engage these people about how they should properly communicate.  Perhaps I have come to feel that too many people that should not have access to technology, do have access.  This morning I got to thinking about this.   

With technology it is just too easy to demand answers to questions from others without respecting the effort in the reply.  I know that the big problem with me is that when I do answer, I tend to answer completely and promptly, and that takes a great deal of my time, thought and energy.  Unfortunately this leads to the potentially false conclusion that people that do not put any effort in their question do not deserve the effort of a reply.  The philosophy sometimes governs my interactions.

There is an example of this going on every day with the phone at my home.  I have had teenagers for some time now and my wife and I taught our children the proper way  to speak on the phone. 

Dial...ring ring 

 "Hello, is this Jason's home?"  "My name is Tommy,  and I am friends with Jason."  "Is Jason available and may I speak with him?" "Thank you."  

 I know for certain my kids know how to do this, but I am not sure if they make any attempt at properly communicating.  I also know is that is not what other kids do when they call at our  home.  

The phone rings, more often than not at the worst of times.  I run to reach it, and pick it up only to hear.  "Hay, watts up"  

Then there is this huge pause...  

At this point I might know that it is either a some strange freak or one of my kids friends.  It is a Mexican standoff.  

I wait and make them take the next move to be sure.  "Is your son there?"  

I pause just long enough to make it just as uncomfortable for the caller as it is for me.   

"Excuse me but who are you and with whom do you wish to speak?"  

They either explain at that moment or they don't know what to say.  At that point if the person continues to be rude I might tell them that I will take a message or try to call back.  If it is a spurious nutcase or a telemarketer that won't let me get a word in edgewise, I reach over push my rude button.  It is one of those ingenious technical devices that rudely breaks in to explain that I don't take such phone calls so take me off your calling list.  It is an ultimate weapon and I don't like to use it but I also do  try to make sure callers get the attention they deserve.    

All of this is antidotal but it brings up the underlying point of my writing today.  

It is time that we come to terms with this a huge gap between technological communication and common sense activities such as technological courtesy.  Ethics and courtesy apparently are obviously not being taught in the school system.  Maybe it is because the teachers are ignorant to the fact that such things are important.  Maybe it is because they are herded around school buildings all day and never get a chance to take "ownership" of their surroundings.  I have read that there was a time when the concept of "being civilized" was a part of being educated.  If that time existed, think I may have missed most of this in my formal childhood education too.  None the less, I do appreciate the importance today.   

It is time for the local school systems begin with the basic ideal of introducing quality rather than the quantity of their education.   I can't tell you how many kids that I have seen that could talk the talk but could not walk the walk.  Throwing technology at kids does not educate them about use, it simply teaches them technical jargon.  As it is, kids are constantly crammed with data and information and they are not allowed the time to absorb knowledge.  This is a failure of our philosophy and not theirs, for it is not enough for mankind to know that which is to be known, man must also know how to properly use what is known.  As a Professor I do not take any great pride in saying we are being educationally irresponsible for only taking our responsibilities half way, since this is only the wisdom common sense, not educational rocket science.  

It is no wonder that our young adults can't communicate properly through technology and don't understand the importance of writing a brief introductory explanation in an email.  Teachers spend more time evaluating testing scores, than educating minds so they are rushed to educate.  The glass roof of learning in education is to be  found within the statistical norm.  Test statistics are being used to determine what is and is not important to people under the false assumption that they predict the quality of their live.  The truth is that statistics are just easier than students to directly point to and manipulate.  The technology that provides us with the means to do this appears to be basis for justifying our commitment and this is a dangerous thing.    

The guidance of our next generation of thinkers and leaders is far too important for us to continue to leave to quantitative  statistical systems brought to us through technology.  Like Global Warming, there is evidence of systemic educational failure but little consensus.  We know that students do not retain most of what they are taught  but more importantly we also know that they can not creatively apply what they are expected to know.  Beyond this, we can not agree what should be known.  

There are fundamental questions that are not being adequately answered.

The perfect world of absolute knowledge does not exist independently of man, so why try to teach knowledge that way?  Education is a communication and exploration process based on creative trust so why isn't it be taught that way?  Conventional testing does not measure the creative capacity to learn and only motivated performance measures that capability, so why is it being misrepresented?  If High School SAT test scores are not predictors of college performance, what exactly are they?  What kinds of people are making the decisions about the questions that are going to be on the tests and what are their agendas?  

If we are to produce productive students and not widgets, somebody important in education evidently forgot that a score is a quantity not a quality.  I think the most important people are the parents.  

If educators can't recognize these problems and address them, then why should the kids tell you who they are and what they want when you answer your phone.  

Maybe I need to find a way to be more forgiving.




Copyright (c) 2001-2007 RDFollendoreIII All Rights Reserved