June 17, 2010

Educational value of blogging

Michael Cooke continues the debate begun in Rob Should Fight Poverty?!Thanks Rob for reading what I had to say and taking it seriously enough to blog about.

Really it's not about making you wrong. It's about a way of looking at life if you are bold enough to take responsibility to make a difference. I respect your commitment to justice, I just want you to look from concrete results.

There's value in blogging, but yes, it's hard to measure. I would argue much of the value is to the person writing the blog, it helps them clarify their thinking and gives them reason to keep learning and staying on top of a topic.

But blogging has a problem when it comes to making a difference. The greatest difference possible with political writing, is to influence a person that disagrees with you to question their certainty in their opposition. It's called 'cognitive dissonance'. But the opportunity to accomplish this with a blog is rare--people follow blogs with points of view they already agree with, unfortunately.

Some of your protestations are silly, teachers, for example, see immediate results as children grasp new concepts and develop new capacities.

So what you are doing already is well and good. While I agree racist cartoons are entirely wrong, I believe to focus too much attention on demonizing stereotypes diminishes more serious issues. Gay protests in the streets concern laws, the most serious issues possible, and letter writing is used to challenge anti-gay stereotypes.
My response:

I intentionally referred to educators, not teachers. The term includes librarians, researchers, pundits, and authors--i.e., people who generally don't see the results of their educational efforts. So talking about the immediate gratification of a classroom situation is a dodge.

Besides, a teacher sees 150 or whatever students per year (30 students per class x five classes). I get several thousand readers per day. Between comments and e-mails, I easily could find 150 cases per year of people saying they learned from me.

And that doesn't all the lurkers who don't say anything. Or the people who share my postings with others. Or the people who find old postings via Google. The educational value is constant and cumulative.

I refer you again to the teacher who said she'd share a posting with her class. Fans and followers may agree with me, but the issue is how they use the information they glean. Every well-informed follower is someone who can educate people in person, write letters, or march in protests. Just as I might do if I had infinite time and resources.

In short, the pass-along value of my work is potentially immense. Educators contribute to society through their students and so do I. Each person whom I educate is a foot soldier for my views.

Writing educates me too

As you noted, writing is also a great tool for one's intellectual development. I freely admit that I don't have any formal training in Native studies. I trained myself by thinking, analyzing, and writing about the issues.

Because of this self-training, I was introduced to the Indian gaming field, where I've toiled for the last decade. I've earned a living working part-time on the PECHANGA.net news site. In short, my writing has made my career. Without it I wouldn't be fighting poverty on some Indian reservation; I'd be back at a defense company making killer planes and bombs.

As for your other arguments, I thought you said protests don't work. Now you're advocating protests to change laws? Okay, but changing corporate practices is an equally valid goal. Business and government are both huge parts of the "system" that affects Indian country.

In short, if you've flip-flopped on the the effectiveness of protests, we're halfway there. Now we merely have to agree on which things are worth protesting.

Finally, I've already made the case for the harm of Native stereotyping. Your opinion that stereotypes disappear organically, without criticism or protest, is just that: your opinion. When you come up with some evidence to bolster this opinion, feel free to provide it.

Education: good or not?

Back to the point of this posting. I made the case that education is a fundamental part of social change. Your response was basically: Well, education is fine, but it's beside the point.

Wrong. Education is the point. You dodged the issue before; now address it.

Forget about whether you consider me or my blogging educational. Millions of like-minded people are fighting poverty, crime, and injustice through education. Do you understand and respect the benefits of their work? Do you agree that information is power? Quit bobbing and weaving and answer the questions.

For more on Native protests, see Conservatives Hope Minorities Will Forget and The Right Way to Teach About Indians. For more on Native protests, see Rockin' the Eagle Rock Protest and Natives Lead Arizona Law Protests.

Below:  A Native teacher who fights poverty and injustice through education.

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