All day today, whenever I had a moment where I would drift into a momentary daydream, I was getting into pretend, or as I like to say, practice, arguments with people. The primary topic was an issue that surfaced in a New York Times article from Corey Kilgannon (Teenagers Misbehaving, for All Online to Watch).
The imaginary arguments in my head notwithstanding, articles like this one draw attention to a very easy issue to be alarmed at, and when I read pieces like this I can’t help but think that inevitably readers are writing off youth culture and signing up to permanently block sites like YouTube or Photobucket from their town’s school district. Quotes like this one form Dr. Adesman point out the fundamental difference between traditional student mayhem and today’s version:
“Teens have been doing inappropriate things for a long time, but now they think they can become celebrities by doing it,” said Dr. Andrew Adesman, chief of developmental and behavioral pediatrics at Schneider Children’s Hospital at Long Island Jewish Medical Center.
The technology has trickled down into the hands of students, whereas in past years it was primarily in the hands of journalists, or at best, the random witness to a crime. The shock I remember at the first glance of the Rodney King video would hardly register today. Why? Is it that violence has risen to a new level of ubiquity?
“Teens always do crazy stuff, but it’s just that much more intense and fun when you can post it,” said Nathaniel Visneaskous, 18, of Deer Park. “When you live in a boring town, what else is there to do?”
This is when the argument in my head went viral. When students are making statements like this, the role of the educational community becomes apparent. We need to teach them that their story on the web is one that they create. These videos, their MySpace pages, whatever they connect themselves to is the story they are writing. As quickly as we make judgments regarding the information we deem as worthy of our attention, we can do the same to individuals in that sphere. We are clickable now, and our reputation will be directly linked to what is available about us on the web.
The fence-plowing pioneer in the article, Adam Schleichkorn, in a classic bit of hucksterism, used his unexpected notoriety to bolster his commercial interests. If this is true that the video was not a staged event, but rather a serendipitous one, then we can applaud Schleichkorn for his savvy. We can teach this type of literacy.
This area of heated confrontation between students, school administrations, town officials, and inevitably police, is full of teachable moments. Finding the time to have the conversations with the students regarding their content needs to be a priority, or articles like this one will only continue to populate the front pages of newspapers, and the grocery aisles of towns across the country.
Regarding the argument I staged in my mind regarding this, I found a quote from James Montier in a recent Fast Company article (Prophet Among Pinstripes)
You should look for all the evidence that goes against your view…Most people are not inclined to sit down with people who disagree with them.