Sep 22

Kurt Vonnegut, Facebook and the Teaching Life


SLA Ultimate

SLA Ultimate

 “Listen: Billy Pilgrim has come unstuck in time.”

— Kurt Vonnegut, Slaughterhouse Five

Slaughterhouse Five was one of my favorite books when I was younger – and it probably deserves a re-read now – and I was always struck by the idea of being able to live and relive the moments of one’s life at all moments of one’s life as the Tralfamadorians do, seeing life across four dimensions rather than three.

I am starting to think we all have become unstuck in time.

The other day, I posted a photo of the SLA Ultimate Frisbee team warming up before our first game of the year. Within an hour or two, there were “likes” and comments from former players, folks I used to coach against, former students and, of course, members of the current SLA community. What is incredible about that is that it connects the generations of my coaching and teaching life in some really amazing ways.

The teaching life is a strange one… as educators, we have these incredibly powerful relationships with kids at a moment in time in their lives and then they go on their way… and we do that over and over again. And over time – at least for me – it becomes harder to remember who overlapped with whom in the time they spent with you, especially because the time line is less important than the time spent.

And now, with Facebook, the teaching life overlaps more. Former students interact with current students with comments on photos like, “I remember 6:30 am…” and such.

My teaching life has become unstuck in time, and all of the students of my life can interact regardless of the moment in time we were teacher and student.

What a wonderful evolution of the teaching life.

Sep 25

Politics on Facebook

So someone found my blog via a search for “Politics on Facebook.” I was really saddened by what I found when I searched on that phrase. Most of the articles were about keeping politics off of Facebook or unfriending the people who post their politics online.

That’s frustrating to me.

I’m frustrated because it bothers me that people are writing article after article about how to keep political views off of Facebook when that’s exactly what should be on Facebook. Because behind those articles is, I imagine, one of the following sentiments:

  • “I don’t want to see opinions that are different from mine.”
  • “I don’t want to be bothered by politics when I’m goofing around on Facebook.”
  • “I’m just sick of politics.”

Back in 1998, David Shenk wrote Data Smog about how people could use the internet to create a powerful information filter so that a person never saw ideas other than the ones they already agreed with. This year, Eli Pariser The Filter Bubble, talking about how the way data is parsed on the internet is actually changing what information is being delivered to us. Those are powerfully dangerous trends that we see every day in the increasingly acrimonious and polarized political arena. Our politicians and, worse, our media are mirroring us, not looking to listen or build bridges or find common ground. That cannot be good for us as a nation.

Into that fray comes Facebook… where one may have to deal with the fact that their third-grade soccer teammate is now a huge Tea Party supporter or a died-in-the-wool liberal Obama fan. And I say that’s a good thing. But only if we seize the opportunity for what it is. It is a chance to talk and listen – a chance to argue to learn, not just argue to win. When old friends actually have to deal with each other’s differences and still find ways to reconcile themselves to the friendship, that has to be good for us as a nation.

So I say, keep politics on Facebook. Let’s learn to listen to one another. Let’s learn to debate and discuss with people who believe in ideas different from our own. And let’s remember that spending time discussing what we think and how we feel about the direction our nation is taking should be time well-spent.

After all, it has to be more important that Farmville, right?