Episode 8 tackles mental health of students in schools, and poses a challenge to our viewers!
Episode 8 tackles mental health of students in schools, and poses a challenge to our viewers!
I’m 3/8 Dutch, 3/8 English, 1/8 Prussian, 1/8 French Canadian.
Great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great grandpa Thomas emigrated from Southampton, Hampshire, England to Springfield, Massachusetts. His son Thomas II moves from Roxbury, Massachusetts to Southampton, New York, where he was the progenitor of the “Northern” line of the Reeves family in America. In terms of direct blood line, my family was here 150 years before America was America, so I think we get to at least weigh in on the subject of America and immigration. And yanno what? As the family genealogist, I’m gonna go ahead and claim a little seat at the table on the subject of this particular history trip!
Great-great-great-great-great grandpa Jacobus Rima, Sr. emigrated from Rheinland-Pfalz in Prussia (Germany) to Rome, New York at the end of the 18th century, right about the time America was becoming America. He stayed forever, as did his descendants, including me.
Great-great-great grandpa Abram A. Fisher came to Wayne County, New York from Holland right around the turn of the 20th century. Again, the United States opened its arms and doors, and helped found a family that thrives to this day in and around Red Creek and Lyons.
Great-Great-great grandpa Jacob C. Buckler emigrated around the turn of the century as well, also from Holland (or more accurately, Zeeland), settling in East Williamson in Wayne County.
Yet again… without immigration, my family doesn’t exist.
I have nine Revolutionary War compatriots in my direct bloodlines. My family has served in every branch of the armed forces, and in every sphere of public service: education, healthcare, fire fighting, police, sanitation, construction and transportation, and more. It’s true, I’m proud of my people, but the far more important point here is that we are America. From literally a century before there WAS an America, we’ve been a come-together troupe of everyday working-class people who have come from all parts of the greater globe, coming here to try to make a go of it and make things better for their progeny.
And they did. I’m proof of that. As are many of you.
I don’t show my papers.
I don’t prove my whereabouts.
I don’t go through checkpoints.
I don’t have to pledge my allegiance.
And I don’t, because this country doesn’t belong to me, and it sure as hell doesn’t belong to anyone else. It’s all of ours, an ongoing experiment in assembling common cause through a loose coalition of cooperation. It had never been done, a secular, godless constitutional representative democracy. It was kind of a cool idea: Come together, you do you, I’ll do me, and we can totally disagree about everything, but we’ll use reason and logic, dialectic and debate, legislation and jurisprudence, to make our laws together. No divine right of kings. No totalitarian edicts. No papers. No proof of allegiance. No fealty to the crown.
Just plain old freedom, bare and naked and unembellished. Working class liberty.
The next time you consider, even for a moment, saying “yeah, but those [insert a way of labeling people here] are [insert generalization here],” remember that you are that person. You’re them, to someone in power. You’re that group, to someone who doesn’t like your group.
Even leaving aside the staggering white privilege, ethnocentrism, and ignorance of structural violence it takes to say something stupid like “Muslims are more dangerous” or some variation of “brown people are scary,” even the non-ethnic logic of shutting the doors fails, when there are cities anxious for entry-level labor and an influx of stable roots-sinking families into their post-industrial economies. I mean, if you’re gonna make a stand, try holding up a couple of neurons in the process.
Please don’t tell me, “yeah, but this is different.” No, it’s not. Every generation has had to face the things they’ve had to face. Yes, technology has changed. Globalization and telecommunications and even ordinance has changed. Sure has. Yup. And? So what? Nobody is saying “let’s let everybody who wants have a bazooka,” except the NRA, which is an entirely different argument that we should probably frickin’ tackle, but this isn’t about bad people doing bad things. It’s about saying an entire sector of humankind is predisposed to doing bad things, despite the facts saying otherwise. (No matter what nonsense un-facty-non-facts certain pundits want you to gobble up because people seem chronically incapable of independently fact-checking the things they read. I mean, seriously, at least Google this stuff…)
Are there practical concerns? Sure. Am I saying “no order at the border?” No, I’m not. We have refugee, asylum, immigration, and naturalization processes, but those processes do not and should not include police state action to cleanse the incoming of undesirable-ness amid the bigoted fad of the month.
Reasonable security is reasonable to reasonable people.
But it says “give me your huddled masses yearning to breathe free” on the Colossus. It does’t say “the way is shut.”
I hate to rant, but… oh, who am I kidding. No, I don’t.
Racism is racism, ethnocentrism is ethnocentrism, and I’m getting pretty darned tired of some of these fizzled-out non-starters in the news and on social media.
I’m gearing up for the Virginia Society for Technology in Education Conference again this year, held this time around at The Hotel Roanoke in Roanoke, Virginia.
I’m especially delighted to be participating in a joint book signing with fellow educational revolutionary (and all ’round stellar dude) Dr. Rob Furman, whose new book is Technology, Reading & Digital Literacy: Strategies to Engage the Reluctant Reader, winner of the 2015 PASCD Outstanding Research and Publication Award. As you might know by now – teehee – my book, Insurrection: A Teacher Revolution in Defense of Children, is available now from Information Age Publishing.
Rob and I will have copies of our book and will be available to sign them and discuss our work on Sunday, December 6, at 3:15 PM, following our 2:00 session entitled “Relevance in the Revolutionized School: What Really Matters?” (If you missed our first episode on this subject, click here to check it out on YouTube.)
This year, I’m not presenting nearly as much as I have in years past. (Last year in Virginia Beach I presented, spoke, or facilitated TWELVE TIMES in three days. Are you kidding me? I need a break!)
Here are my events if you want to catch up with me. Each event links to the corresponding Sched entry, so you can add it to your Sched!
It looks like I OWN the Wilson suite on Tuesday, LOL…
I’m hoping – fingers crossed! – that my colleague Dawn Moulen and I will have tied a bow on and pushed play on our first book together, and my second education book, “Paperless Research Writing: Effective Digital Scaffolding of Academic Writing using the Moulen-Reeves Model,” which we anticipate will be available by the time VSTE rolls around!
Shaping up to be an exciting few days in Roanoke. I look forward to seeing you all there!
Episode 7 tackles (no pun intended) the physical assault of a student in South Carolina after she refused to volunteer her cell phone and stand up. The brutalization of children at the hands of adults for noncompliance is nearing epidemic proportions.
Rob and Keith are really, really frustrated with the antiquated idea of “compliance” as a desirable and central idea in schools.
If you have not seen the video of Officer Ben Fields assaulting the student in South Carolina, the original student-filmed video is available on YouTube by clicking here. (Warning: the footage is violent and may be disturbing.) According to recent reports, the officer has been terminated for his conduct in this incident.
Rob referenced “CPI,” which is the Crisis Prevention Institute, and I referenced Helping Hands, which is actually “Handle With Care,” another training group. These are organizations that work with healthcare providers and educators to safely and non-physically intervene and de-escalate situations, but also include the safe and un-harming restraint of individuals in crisis. If a child has a serious mental health issue, for example, it may be part of being a good “Mama Bear” to put your hands on a child to prevent, for example, self-harm, but there are healthy, loving, non-violent but physically-restraining ways to do this.
As a bonus track, here’s KDR riffing on the stupidity of school rules that presume homogeneity despite the neurobiological reality of student individualism.
As an extra track, I wanted to be sure to address the racist element I cannot help but see every time I turn around.
KDR references the latest RadioLab episode on Musical Language, available online here.
Adult control of children is not a precept of education. Child freedom, however, is a fundamental precept of teaching and learning. Schools should not assimilate children into a culture of command and control, or demand children conform to traditional adult-imposed expectations of obedience. Instead, schools should consistently empower children and give them the same extraordinary latitude that we would allow any person (regardless of age), while providing age-appropriate scaffolding to protect them and help them make good decisions.
My litmus test for a “rule” is simple: Does it really matter?
“Take your hat off” is a stupid rule in 2015. It’s not a matter of expressing respect aligned to a value shared throughout our culture, and pretending that it is indicates that said pretender is out of touch. “Well, I think it matters,” I hear as a rejoinder. Awesome.
Your personal feelings don’t trump the rights of children or the need for the school to be minimalist in its imposition of behavioral mandates, lest the school culture descend into a system of coercion.
Take an extreme example in the recent assault of a student by a school resource officer in South Carolina. A child who refused to comply with verbal instructions to stand up was tackled to the ground while still in her desk and manhandled like a piece of luggage. Beyond the obvious egregious violation of her personal and physical right to be free from harm at the hands of a violent adult, this situation is troubling to me because of how it started.
She was using her cell phone.
I don’t know how many times I have to say this, but I’m going to keep saying it: stop trying to take these devices away from children. Mandating that a child fork over a personal electronic device is a stupid rule. It’s a stupid rule because it perpetuates teacher-centered, “pay attention to me” teaching methodology. It’s a stupid rule because it says “that device can’t help you learn.” It’s a stupid rule because it says “what I’m doing is so important there’s no possible reason for you not to pay attention to me.” It’s a stupid rule because it says “what I’m doing matters no matter if you don’t think so.”
This latter point is often a point of contention with colleagues. Students don’t learn things that aren’t relevant to them. If the material isn’t relevant, the problem is the design of the instruction, not the child. If we aren’t reaching a kid, engaging a kid, making the material interesting to and relevant to a kid, then I believe fervently and with all my heart that it is incumbent upon us, as educators, to address that with passion, seriousness, and thoughtfulness.
You cannot mandate a kid into learning.
You cannot demand a kid into caring.
You cannot order a kid into wanting.
The fundamental misperception of children as empty vessels who are too incapable, stupid, or ignorant to live their own lives is at the root of the vast majority of problems with the American public school, as I write extensively in “Insurrection: A Teacher Revolution in Defense of Children.” Mandating that a child “pay attention” presupposes a tremendous number of pedagogical, neurological, psychological, social, emotional, and individual things about that child and the situation at hand. The idea that every single kid will benefit and learn equally from a specific teacher-led task is absurd and runs contrary to what serious educators understand about children, and yet that is precisely the structure around which the majority of our classrooms are structured.
If a child “checks out” and wants to sit quietly and doodle on the phone, I must ask: Who cares?
I don’t presuppose, in the above scenario, that the child is ignorant or lazy. I want to ask more questions: Does the kid have skill mastery? Is the kid able to acquire skill mastery through another means? Is this typical behavior or a momentary outlier like we all have as people? What assessment vehicle is giving me meaningful information about understanding the child and the child’s learning situation? Has the child been afforded alternative opportunities and have those opportunities catered to the student’s individual learning modality?
The rejoinder that this is somehow “spoonfeeding” or “babying” is silly. Don’t you, as an adult, have certain things you do and don’t like? Certain ways you learn well and certain ways you don’t? Certain subjects that fascinate you and certain subjects that bore the crap out of you? Aren’t there certain skills that you developed in the context of other things that you do want to do, that you didn’t develop as a student when they were taught in a vacuum?
I was never a particularly adept mathematician and had no real passion for the subject, but when it comes to the analysis of student data relevant to a question I want answered or making sure my Star Trek Online starship is putting out maximum damage per second against the Romulans, you can rest assured I will invest extraordinary time and energy in developing my skills. This is a human universal: We only learn things that are relevant to us. We only care about things that matter to us. This may seem tautological but it’s an important truism about student socioemotional and learning behaviors. As the adults in the situation, our responsibility is not to command respect and demand compliance, but to meaningfully go to where the students are, and develop learning situations that deeply, relevantly, seriously meet the individual needs of each individual child.
Consequently, imposing rules like “put that away” and “take that off” and “sit up straight” and such punitive nonsense is just a waste of our time. Letting that young lady sit quietly and use her phone would have been preferable in every single way to violently assaulting her and causing a massive disruption.
That’s what’s disruptive here: The adult behavior, not the child’s behavior.
Of course, I accept that this fundamental shift from an ideology of coercing to a pedagogy of providing will mean a near-complete redesign of the American public school system.
Hence, the book, and the insurrection to overthrow the status quo and truly revolutionize teaching. Until then, however, we can and must do better, and stop imposing nonsensical and sometimes tyrannical micromanagement upon children in the name of protecting them.
Mama Bear, out.
Capriciously labeling, ranking, and categorizing people is a nightmare for adults and for children. The powerful negative feelings, thoughts, and psychosocial phenomena associated with being told who you are, being told what you are (or are not) worth, and being publicly branded can lead to anxiety, depression, and even suicide. Doing such a thing once is bad enough, but doing it all the time is downright despicable. I am disgusted as both a person and as a professional educator by ideology that idolizes concrete judgment, self-centered importance without regard for others, regards inductive reasoning as supreme, and fervently believes in the worth of some people and the worthlessness of others. Broadly, this embodies Objectivism, a philosophy madly embraced by the far right and rejected by serious academics and scholars of philosophy, and in short, I find it unhealthy, inhumane, and dangerous, and wherever I detect situations in my work with children and with teachers that involves painting with broad brushes, corralling children into predefined pens, and otherwise treating human beings like statistics or objects, I fight it.
Consequently, you can imagine my wrath and scorn when my colleague Rachel forwarded me Caitlin Dewey’s article from the Post describing Peeple, a new app that lets anyone in the world rank you. As she describes it, it’s basically “Yelp for people”
This is, in short, one of the worst ideas I’ve ever heard in my time in education and educational technology.
Firstly, let’s get the big one out of the way: It is not your place to judge me. You might in fact judge me, and you have a right to form private internal judgments me, but it is not your role in society, and certainly it is not your place to publicly proclaim your assessment of me as a person from a throne of authority, and Peeple seeks to coronate any idiot who registers.
Has Peeple learned nothing from Lulu (as Caitlin points out) or RateMyTeacher or other platforms that spike briefly for prurient Mean Girls social terrorism, and then fade to rant-fests and mud-slinging?
From the educator’s perspective, I’m alarmed and infuriated by the brazen ignorance of the founders. One of them as quoted in the article called herself “empathetic” and indicated she wanted to “spread love and positivity” and “operate with thoughtfulness.” There is nothing prosocial, empathetic, loving, or positive about providing a nearly-unfettered platform for shame.
Shaming is a neuropsychologically-destructive act, and Peeple creates a condition for slander and vengeance and meanness as well as unfounded aggrandizement and egoism, by allowing individuals to utilize an oversimplified integer-based evaluation method, rooted in nothing more than baseless evidence-free opinion, to judge others. And yes, I indict it for the same reasons I indict grading in schools that is rooted in similar garbage data.
An example: I know a person who says that person respects me tremendously as an educator. I also know that person loathes me as a person because of our deep disagreement on sociology and politics. In Peeple, that person can claim to know me professionally, and then excoriate me for something that 1. has nothing to do with my work as an educator insofar as my duties are concerned, 2. does in fact have everything to do with my work as an educator insofar as those who agree with me on matters of children, individualism, and pedagogy are concerned, and 3. is absolutely, positively none of anyone else’s business. The conversations I’ve had with that person were had with that person, not in a public forum. Public debate and chatting are different things, with different standards of decorum and format. Peeple does not make any effort to distinguish these phenomena, and rightly so: It’s not for anyone else to say who I am, what I do, or how I do it, based on anything but their own perspective, and that perspective is ONLY valid for that person.
Sycophants and egoists, predators and shamers, scapegoaters and sociopaths, you’ve found yet another pile of grist to grind in Peeple, but I’ll thank you all to leave my grainy goodness out of your mill. I will not be participating in such psychopathy.
I just received word from my publisher, George Johnson at IAP, that “Insurrection: A Teacher Revolution in Defense of Children,” should be in distribution channels within two weeks. After years of work and nearly a year of editing and reading and proofing, the project is nearly done.
But the work? The work is just beginning. We have much ahead of us, brothers and sisters, my beloved revolutionaries. Get ready! Reload this page and click the splash graphic to sign up for the mailing list, and I’ll send you the links the moment the book is available. Get ready!
For those for whom educational technology is a job, they show up to work every day, do what is necessary for the necessary amount of time, and go home. They’ll plug things in and clean things up and cable things together, format and configure and image. People on the edtech job will show teachers that they can change the color of their SmartBoard pens and give them mice when they want them and answer questions about what a document camera can do, and in every other way help give teachers what teachers think they want, what administrators believe they want, and generally help to support the teacher in pursuing teaching the way they want to with the maximum possible ease. That is the definition of facilitation: Educational technologists who are doing the job are facilitators. They facilitate teaching and learning, in the context of the school, which by definition concerned with ensuring that teachers are comfortable.
I often hear “job” contrasted with “calling.” Usually I object to the idea that teaching or things like it are “callings,” because it implies invocation, but in the case of this post, I genuinely was invoked to become an educational technologist. Dr. Jan Streich (a rockstar transformation agent in Virginian edtech circles) once saw my work teaching adaptive instruments for use in elementary special education settings to teachers at an inservice day, and suggested I would be a good professional developer. It is not absurd, then, to suggest that I became a music educator because of my desire, but I was “called” to become an educational technologist, just as I was later “called” to become an teacher leader. (It seems many of my music teacher-turned-educational technologist friends, of which there are many, experienced similar situations, lending further counterpoint to my original language objection.) However, in this case, I think I’ll simply state that for people who think their work is broader than “a job,” educational technology is “a field” of education.
For those for whom educational technology is a field, it is change agency incarnate.
It is disruptive by nature. It is futuristic by nature. That is to say, we are futurists: We have a responsibility not to see things as they are or to pursue only that which is immediate possible – though we do do those things, as we encompass “the job” as well – but primarily we are change agents tasked with a macroanalysis of the condition and nature of teaching and learning using every conceivable and, this most critically, yet-to-be-conceived resources. We are holistic by nature, we in the field, and believe that our daily responsibilities extend not only beyond the walls of our schools and into our neighboring schools and the schools of our neighbors, but our school districts, our states, the nation, the world, and the future endeavors of our species on this planet when it comes to learning about ourselves, about the world, how both of those things work, and how we interact.
In that pursuit, we will constantly question absolutely everything, not just including the things over which we have the most influence that is the local, but especially those things. The things that are right in front of us are the easy things because we do have influence. The things that make us uncomfortable, that challenge us, that run contrary to our expectations and experiences, are the things that lie at the event horizon of positive transformation and growth. We have an ethical imperative to question our leaders, our institutions, and the way things have been done. This is not to say we require all things to change, but we do require that all things be eligible for change. We have a professional duty, a professional responsibility to children, to teachers, to education, but to learning and epistemology writ large to question if there is a better way to do everything that we do in schools. Administratively, organizationally, materially, in terms of communication, organization, structure, from furnishings and seating to wall color and lighting, from imaging and communications to storage and expression, from creation of sound to editing of video, to the three dimensional immersive replication of virtual environments using technology we have not yet invented.
That is our charge. We are the embodiment of change agency and futurism in the public schools, and it is an extraordinary field that is not fanciful even though it embraces fantasy. It is not farcical even though it embraces absurdity. And it is not unrealistic even though it ponders exactly that.
We are qualified, degreed, credentialed, certified school administrators and teachers who are rooted n the classroom with a deep and abiding love of children and learning, and who have a professional and moral calling to find ways that we can and should do better, as people charged with doing what’s best for children using absolutely everything at our disposal.
I don’t expect everyone in educational technology or educational leadership to be as passionate about this as I am, but I have seen first-hand, over and over again, the tremendous good for children and learning that can be achieved through broadening the scope of potential change. Instead of educational technology serving as a single beaker of “technology oil” that is left on the shelf and taken up when convenient or expected, let educational technology be upended and poured over and into every part of teaching and learning, infusing and transforming elements we may never have known could benefit from the futurist’s analysis, the dreamer’s visions, and the child advocate’s optics.
The field of educational technology is, to me, much broader than a job. It is a way of seeing education with the broadest possibility.
In mid-March 2015, I bought a 1989 Jeep YJ (“Wrangler”) from a great guy named Ken. Built in Canada, the vehicle spent the first twenty years of its life taking on only 23,000 miles, mildly used on the island of Nantucket. In 2009, sold to its second-ever owner, Ken, the YJ lived another 32K in Georgia. When this vehicle came to my attention – or more accurately my brother’s attention, who brought it to mine – it had 55,000 original miles on it, and was up for auction on eBay.
I put in my bid at my “no higher” rate, and was having dinner in Pittsburgh when the moment rolled around, and amid some nervousness and a feeling of panic, I was amazed: I bought a Jeep.
I was on a plane not long after that, a one-way ticket down to Atlanta.
I was nervous on the flight. I kept thinking, “am I mad? What have I done… There are so many reasons why should be obviously stupid to me…” I’d never done anything like this, and I certainly didn’t know what to expect.
We landed in driving rain. Atlanta looked bleak, and it was surprisingly cold.
I had Ken’s number, and texted to locate him. We had had a couple of conversations, and it all seemed to be going just fine. I followed his instructions, and there, off at the end of the pickup area… I saw it.
I got in, and Ken and I circled around and chatted for several minutes, trying to find a place to inspect the vehicle. We couldn’t find the cell phone waiting area (because it was closed), and so we kept hopping out, taking a peek, and getting chased off by the police. I got a glance under the hood. I kept looking around on the interior, smelling unfamiliar fuel fumes, and it was really setting in that this was an old vehicle. I mean, this was a 27-year-old workhorse of a sport utility vehicle that put the utility first. I was frightened, apprehensive, and uncomfortable, but there was something really special about this thing. I don’t know why, but getting the hood up, and seeing the bones chugging away, looking at the gray primer and bleak sky hardly reflected in the windshield, I just felt like I had to take him home. Not out of pressure: I was prepared to say “I’ll eat the deposit and take the one-star buyer rating, but I can’t do this.” I knew I could walk away if I had to, but I’ve been around cars for a long time, growing up in an automotive family, and I’d done my homework. I was prepared, knew what to look for, and was at least confident enough to know this was what I’d paid for.
Although the oil cap was missing. Ken was obviously mortified; he’d just checked the oil back at home before coming out, and had left the cap in his garage. Well, at least I knew my first order of business in the project!
A handshake, a check handed over, Ken left at the airport to be picked up… and off I went. I GPSed to the nearest AutoZone… Miles and miles away. Far too far. So I GPSed to the nearest Advanced Auto. Right around the corner! This, more than anything else, began a string of very positive experiences with Advance; it’s nothing against AutoZone. It’s just that Advance always seems to be where I need ’em, and to have what I need. I spend $2.99 on a new oil cap, my first Jeep part, buttoned him up, and off I went.
Quirky didn’t begin to describe this thing as I got on the road. Firstly, what is up with the plastic nautical flag placards? Those aren’t stickers; they’re big honking plastic things adhered to the left side of the cowl. For the record, they spell “VYM.” Perhaps having been on Nantucket for 20 years, it’s “(Something) Yacht Marina?” Iono, but quirky quirk quirk.
No paint on the hood, showing body work on the sides, a caved in back right corner, I started to learn the quirks right away. The left turn signal didn’t work. The horn didn’t work. The engine had vacuum leaks for days, giving a very loud “TUK TUK TUK” chugging sound as you accelerated, and the big old 4.2L inline six dogged something awful. 55 MPH was a stretch, and that made the drive home from Atlanta to Arlington quite a journey.
The hard top was badly secured, with the windshield rail screws dropping out into my lap ever few miles unless I reached up and manually tightened them. The gauge clusters were almost entirely useless, including the non-functional fuel gauge. Fortunately from my motorcycle days, I could track mileage with an odometer, and I low-balled the fuel consumption rate (with the engine inefficiency I banked on 12 MPG to be super-safe) and estimated accordingly, stopping for fuel every 120 miles, not being able to determine visually if the tank was the 10 or 15 gallon, as I’d researched that they looked the same.
My first order of business was to get the major mechanical work done, or so I thought. I did a little tinkering, but didn’t want to get too invested until I’d had a professional look at the beast down to the bones. I found who I thought was “my guy” as a mechanic, who did a new cap, rotor, and plugs, and did a complete fluid swap. It was apparent that the transfer cases and transmission had never been serviced. However, between geographic inconvenience, a lack of communication, and portents pointing toward a less-than-ideal match, I really needed somebody more on my page. I resolved to look for a new mechanic, but first, it was time to hit the beach.
I had resolved to do a significant amount of work while at the beach. My brother was supportive; I suppose it showed that I was pretty apprehensive about diving into something so new. I was terrified I was going to screw this thing up, but I kept reminding myself of a phrase a colleague shared: “Jeeps are like big kid Legos. Don’t worry about it.”
And so, I dove in.
While at the beach, I tore down the entire windshield and dashboard. I did my own electrical work, and rewired the entire dashboard, including the tachometer and speedometer (including a new mechanical cable I had overnighted so I could finish the project), water temp gauge, fuel gauge (yay!), replacement clock to match the original cluster pattern, oil pressure gauge, and voltmeter, and replaced the headlamp and dimmer switch assemblies, along with LED replacement lights for all dash indicators (though I couldn’t get two of them to work; I later fixed those), a new steering wheel, new front dash speakers, repaired the courtesy lights, completely rewired and rebuilt the stereo and wiring harness, cleaned up the antenna connection, cleaned up the heat/air hardware, and got some of the work started on the new seatbelts, though the more I got into the tub, the more I realized how significantly-frozen some of the nuts and bolts had become from Georgia sweltering.
There was a significant pause in my work on what my nephew had deemed “KeefaJeepa,” but who I called MegaMan. (MegaMan blue is my favorite color, because it’s my inner 12 year old’s favorite color. It was my favorite video game when I was a kid.) I’d really turned a corner at the beach, feeling very strong affinity toward this beast I was getting to know inside and out, but the drive home was an adventure.
I experienced, for the first time, what I now know is called “Death Wobble,” or DW. DW is the result of misalignment of the drivetrain and steering apparatus, and the Jeep “Wranglers” are especially prone to this phenomenon, so much so that this “shake the teeth out of your head” shimmying has its own name. I limped home from North Carolina at about 45 MPH, terrified of shaking Mega to pieces. It was time to find that new mechanic I’d dreamed of, someone trustworthy, someone responsive someone who knew carbureted machines, someone who would honestly tell me “no way, dude” if there was no hope, someone who would estimate honestly and not take advantage of me.
Someone like Mr. Kim.
Research, reference, and ridiculously shadily driving by the shop a couple of times led me to go in for an estimate over at Skyline in Arlington. Wow. I felt listened-to, I felt informed, and I felt I’d gotten an honest estimate of what it’d take. I told him I wanted it done right, not quickly and to keep it for as long as it took.
Almost three weeks later, the phone rang.
MegaMan was powered up! It had taken a massive amount of effort to drill out the engine bolts to get the exhaust manifold out, but once resolved, a new gasket, new lines, full brakes front and back, fixed the broken sway bar link, replaced the sway bar itself, got the failing pieces of suspension swapped out (getting parts took a little while, adding to the time), got the brake line leak resolved, buttoned up the distribution valve that I hadn’t been able to fix myself at the beach… Like a new machine! Finally, this hefty, torquey, strong-willed 4.2L was sounding, acting, and driving like the machine it was built to be.
What a transformation!
With the major mechanicals done, I turned to my friend George, who has rapidly become my “shadetree mechanic,” a phrase I’d never heard before this year, but as apt a coinage as ever there was! George, an engineer by trade, has automotive skill and mechanical expertise that just blows my mind. He knows tools and how to use them like nobody I’ve ever seen. (Just the other day, he had the entire front of his wife’s car apart in the driveway in a way that looked to me like it’d never go back together, but in 20 minutes, he had the thing back together and purring. Amazing.)
George has helped me immeasurably; there’s just no way to describe how far away from “done” I’d be without him. Our first major project together was helping to get the old hardware for the tumble-forward flip-up back seat out. There was no back seat when I bought it, and I knew I wanted to be able to take my nieces and nephew out on the beach the next time we were there together, so properly, safely securing the kiddos was a must-do.
I learned more about how to deal with screwed up bolts than I ever thought I would!
I went with Corbeau for the back seat, and I anticipate swapping the front ones out someday for matching stuff. I also went with black vinyl, to match the current interior. I really want a classic, OEM-for-the-most-part look, without sacrificing modern conveniences or logical upgrades.
You’ll notice the outdoor speakers just sort of sitting there. Yeah, as a former professional musician, that isn’t gonna work. But don’t you fret, sports fans.
After George helped me with a few more things, it was time to bite the bullet and get MegaMan repainted. I’d done as much as I felt comfortable doing before paint, but to get the big stuff done next, including swapping the hard top for a soft top, I needed to have the paint done.
I went with Colm out at Maaco-Fairfax, and this guy is awesome. He was fun, conversational, straight forward, and heck, he even helps local schools by painting their electric cars and such! He gave me a totally fair estimate, did spectacular work, and even let me use his garage to re-trim and re-outfit the vehicle, as I did a bunch of the prep work myself. His garage guys were kind as well.
I wanted the paint back to OEM, keeping that Spinnaker Blue Metallic HQ6/BJ it came in, and Colm came through with flying… well, color!
It is at this point that MegaMan really came to life, I think.
With fresh paint and enthusiasm in my heart, I tackled the rest of the major project work, including the soft top. Again, without Shadetree George, no way would I have been able to get the windshield brackets un-messed-up or the mirrors installed. He made remarkably quick work of it, and helped me correct some geometry problems with the top mounting hardware with skill I totally lack, as well as helping me get the speaker bar installed.
And that, my friends, brings us to today. From pickup to paintjob to peachy person, I’m ecstatic to be “done” with the major parts of this project.
This morning, I celebrated by adding the vinyl Jeep emblem, commemorating the end of the major part of this journey. MegaMan has his namesaske on the side, what my mother called “a touch of whimsy,” and a very happy inner 12 year old’s bearhug of happiness.
All things told, the list of work to date roughly includes:
But by “done,” I guess I don’t mean “done,” because there are a few things left to do, not the least of which is get quicker at putting the soft top down… and back up in case of rain! But my to-do list still includes:
Down the line, I can see driving lights, the headlight relay hack to get max power to the lamps and an HID conversion kit. I’d also like to get OEM style wheels, put a 2″ lift on it, and get up to 32 or 33 inch tires for a little more capability. I’m not going to rock climb the thing, and once inspected and properly licensed, he’ll be my daily driver, but I do like the idea of having just a bit more height and footing.
All in all, for a now-56,000 original mile 1989 YJ 4.2L as pretty as he is, I’m really, really happy, and have done it all under budget. I cannot thank enough the loved ones, friends, and service providers who have helped me through so far.
Welcome back, MegaMan. You’re better than ever.
This is an absurd rant. I know that. But hey… what are blogs for on a Friday? (Though this has been slowly building in draft form for a while, ’cause I get peeved by this stuff.)
You’ll read why, in the next few pages, why I caveat this: Read at your own peril. If you don’t like it when I get controversial, remember: On a PC, click the X in the upper right hand corner. On a Mac, hold “Command” and press “Q” to quit.
Nobody is making you read anything online, ever. Here goes.
When my brothers and I get together, we tend to laugh and spar, usually in that order. We’re loquacious. As Jed Barltet said in The West Wing, “In my family if you use one word when you could use ten, you’re not trying hard enough.” Our conversational style can be admittedly-offputting, because we tend to pounce on each other: Logical fallacies are immediately dismantled, suggestions to the contrary of prevailing sentiment are critiqued, and hyperbolic emotional reactions are generally excoriated. We enjoy debate and even more than that, we enjoy storytelling. My father says, half-jokingly, “never let the truth stand in the way of a good story.”
We are unsurprisingly “loud.”
Now, I don’t mean we get bawdy-lit and sing tavern songs at funerals, but we do tend to be energetic and the decibel level may creep above “inside voice” from time to time. Being from New York, we also are very comfortable with what Spock called “colorful metaphors.” I believe it was Chris Kluwe who observed that a well-made argument laced with profanity is an especially effective form of communication.
Let us say that you are dining next to us, and you are dissatisfied with us. You have a litany of options available to you:
I must underscore that we are not being rude idiots in this scenario. Were we to cross into that territory, I might finally (and I do mean finally, as in as a last resort) add politely asking us if we might keep it down a bit.
But I don’t like that last option. I don’t like it one bit, and I don’t do it to other people. Why? Because it is not my place to tell others how to behave when they are not hurting anyone, and emphatic verbal conversation is not a cause for conflict.
You understand, then, why I think the musclebound vicious-tongued member of the social propriety police who physically threatened assault at a restaurant not long ago was well out of bounds. He had a litany of options at his disposal, but instead of solving his own problem for himself and concerning himself with his world, he decided to alter ours.
You understand, then, why I think a man making somewhat-flailing “keep it down” hand gestures at us across a restaurant and telling us to watch our language would trouble me. He had a litany of options at his disposal, but instead of solving his own problem for himself and concerning himself with his world, he decided he’d take control of ours.
This very phenomenon just happened to me again while out with a colleague and friend of mine at a local establishment, when we were vehemently debating the fact that cost-benefit was not a valid consideration when discussing the matter of the death penalty. (I am in Hitchens’ tradition a staunch opponent of human sacrifice.) A nearby gentleman decided to take issue with the one factoid he overheard out of context – that all American citizens enlist by choice, because we do not have compulsory service, and I was deeply challenging my friend’s suggestion that some people “have no choice” but to enlist – and call me out as a jerk for disrespecting the military. (Which, as I just stated, I was not only NOT doing, but actually illustrating what must be viewed as a positive fact about anyone who has enlisted, because they chose to do so.) This uninvited interjection was not only fallacious and silly in fact, but absurdly and ignorantly presented.
Hey. You. Random stranger: Mind your own beeswax, Ramona.
Part of embracing diversity is recognizing that socially-normative behaviors are relative, and there are things that matter and things that don’t, and a group of five people laughing and conversing in a restaurant or a bar who are maybe slightly-louder than the people around them is not a cause for taking a social stand. It deadens the effectiveness and meaning of interpersonal intervention.
I am entitled, by virtue of being an individual human being, to my opinions, thoughts, and beliefs. I am similarly entitled to expressions of those beliefs, and to the consequences that come from those expressions. As a public employee, there are more consequences for me than for, say, a self-employed private citizen, and there are fewer protections for me than for others, like whistleblowers and journalists. (I recognize that right now, both of those groups are under siege by those who would deny them their rights, and I empathize.)
I am, as a citizen of the United States, entitled to freedoms of speech, expression, and assembly. I am allowed to be loud. I am allowed to offend you, and you are allowed to offend me. While there are Constitutional limitations on intentionally antagonizing someone to incite incident (the Chaplinsky doctrine established in 1942, or the “Clear and Present Danger” doctrine of Schenck from 1919), generally expressions of honest belief in discourse are afforded near-absolute protections. (At least, they ought to be, Constitutionally.) If I laugh at a joke you don’t find funny, espouse beliefs contrary or troubling to you, or get a little loud talking to my friends, in short…
I am colossally troubled by a so-low bar of protestation against expression that strangers come up to me in public and tell me and those I’m with who enjoy spicy discource to keep it down.
You may remove yourself if you find me distasteful. You are not the proprietor; you are a peer. If the proprietor asks us to keep it down, that’s one thing, but being a bully is being a bully. Your dining experience is no more important than mine. If you’d like to meaningfully join the conversation, you may find yourself one of the many lovely strangers I’ve met and with whom I’ve passionately conversed over the years, so long as you bring real contributions and substantive additions to that conversation, and don’t barrel in like Donkey Kong hurling barrels. Otherwise, keep it to yourself. You are not the police of me.
There is, of course, however – and you had to see this coming – conditions under which one DOES intervene. I daresay there are situations that COMPEL us to intervene:
If I shouted a racial slur. If I whispered a homophobic epithet. If I commented in a deeply sexist way. When one engages in bigotry, I think it’s open season. I’d have no problem expressing my deep disapproval to the party sitting next to me if I heard someone use the word f_ggot or n_gger. I would confront (and have confronted) such a person, because that’s person didn’t make a statement of controversy; that person made a statement of conflict. If someone is spouting denigrating racial epithets about people of color, whispered or shouted, I’ll help you in speaking to that person about being deeply offensive. There’s a psychosocial awareness, however, that says there are times, places, and manners of expression that make sense, and those that don’t. Body-tackling that person at a fine dining establishment? Not okay. Expressing deep disapproval verbally? Sure, I can buy that, because that’s not protected belief; discrimination on the basis of race is bigotry; our society says so.
That is my rule: If I say something bigoted, go ahead and say something to me. Otherwise, stick a cork in it. If you say something bigoted, I’m going to say something to you. Otherwise, I’m going to mind my own business. I might leave. I might flee. I have done so. But I’m absolutely not going to come over and tell you you’re wrong and to shut up and pipe down.
Doing so is authoritarian and totalitarian, and I do not approve of authoritarianism or totalitarianism.
If you’re quietly expressing your deep conviction in Jesus Christ as your personal lord and savior, I have NO right to confront you. You’re not engaging in hate speech. Now, you come proselytize me at my table, different story, but no way would I come over to your table and speak to you about your conduct. That’s ridiculous.
Why would anyone think it’s okay to come to my table, and speak to me about having a conversation, simply because they don’t like its nature? That’s not okay. That person is rightly entitled, however, to change THEIR behavior: Stop listening. Move tables. Leave the restaurant. Speak to a manager. All sorts of options open up, available to anyone. You don’t get to decide you’re the “Me Police” just because you don’t care for me.
Being a little loud is a freedom. Being a bigot stands against freedom. I think that’s an easy distinction, and I don’t care if you agree with me or not in this particular instance… because this is my blog, where I get to say how I feel and what I think. If you want to share your feelings, start your own blog. If you don’t like what I have to say, unsubscribe and don’t visit and read this.
This all brings me to analogize the point: Short of correcting social injustice… Mind your own beeswax, Ramona.
Welcome to social media.
Firstly, there is a distinction: You choose to engage with me in social media. If you don’t want to engage, don’t connect. Social media consumption is voluntary. But, on to more analysis:
For me, Twitter, like my blog, is my “professional” restaurant. Yes, I espouse radical ideas there and foment rebellion, but that’s part of who I am and the work that I do, and when you come to MY Twitter space, you’re getting a table at MY restaurant. This is my little cafe of revolutionaries. I do not shy away from my fervent advocacy for egalitarianism, my strident opposition to bigotry and the infringement upon others’ rights, and my utter disapproval of many aspects of corporate reform and standardized testing profiteering. Don’t like that sort of thing? Don’t follow. Don’t visit. Don’t read. Don’t pull up a chair. I’m not sending you messages; Twitter is an on-demand platform. You see what you choose to see, so if I bother you, choose not to see me.
You can get up and leave. You can be re-sat. And you can talk to the manager, and because this is a professional “restaurant,” I will certainly engage with you accordingly.
Facebook, however, is my rumpus room. It’s private, my house, a place friends and family gather. It’s bedecked with pictures of my nieces and nephew, complaints about ragweed, things I find funny, recipes and football gripes and, yes, sometimes screaming about things that annoy me. I leave my dirty laundry out sometimes. I try to keep it cleaned up, but sometimes, because this is my space, I’m messy.
Do not come into my house and tell me how to hang my shirts.
You don’t get to speak to the “manager” here, because this isn’t a “restaurant.” This is my private space, and I say what goes, with impunity, and owe no explanations.
I do not have the same sociopolitical, philosophical, metaphysical, ontological, pedagogical, and epistemological views as the vast majority of the people I know, like, and love. My beliefs are my own, and arrived at through critique and analysis, reflection and experience, and I feel no meaningful compulsion or motivation to conform to normative expectations, beyond the fearful inner child that just wants to be loved and accepted. However, being authentically me is more important to the health of my inner child than seeking immediate inclusion for the sake of inclusion, and so I do that instead, whenever I can. I try. I recognize that my attitudes and orientations are often the minority view, and sometimes, a minority of one.
So what? I am an individual.
I do not require that everyone I’m friends with on Facebook feel, act, or believe similarly to me. I like diversity. I like dissent. I enjoy debate. I like contrary opinions. But, because this it is not MY space, I also don’t feel obliged to give all parties equal voice. You control your space, I control mine.
If you come into my space, you’ll read my ideas. If you choose to engage me in my space, on my wall or in my messages, you’re engaging me on my territory. I didn’t solicit your input; you reached out to me.
Similarly, if I go onto your wall, into your space, that’s yours, and you have every right to espouse your beliefs there, free and unfettered. I don’t feel entitled to give my counterarguments in YOUR space, though if I choose to, and you let me, we might well debate meaningfully. I think this happens all the time. But ultimately, you have the tools to hide, delete, and control what happens on your wall because it’s YOURS.
In short, my wall is MY WALL, and your wall is YOUR WALL.
If I were to post something that bothers you, and you’re deeply troubled by it, just as if you were sitting at the table at the restaurant, you have a number of entirely viable options to defend yourself against being offended. Instead of moving tables, speaking to a manager, not listening, or leaving, you could:
However, what would possess you to tell me I don’t have a right to say what I want in my space? What in the world would make you think that it is inappropriate for me to speak controversially or loudly or passionately about whatever I want in my space? My Facebook account is sealed tighter than a drum. If you’re friends with me, it’s because we agreed to be friends, and that means we agreed to be in each others’ spaces using the settings we choose for ourselves to moderate our Facebook experiences. Nobody made you be friends with me. Nobody forced you to read anything. Nobody demands your presence. I don’t.
I have never complained about being unfriended.
I find instructing me on how to make you comfortable in my space to be arrogance tantamount to bullying. Let’s take a recent example.
If you’re not familiar with my position on adult-on-child violence, it’s clear: no adult should ever intentionally harm a child, in any way, for any reason, without exception. No spanking, no hitting, no withholding bathroom privileges as punishment, no forcible starvation, no neglect, no psychological warfare, period. Ever. Nurturing a child does not require you to toughen them up, smack them around, or physically harm them. The research is compelling and concrete, the examples of ineffectiveness replete, the socially-cyclical nature of violence easily observable, and while I don’t expect to convince everyone because so many people are products of that cycle, I have ZERO TOLERANCE for excuse-making and apologies for adult-on-child violence. I simply don’t tolerate it. Call it a quirk, call it fervor, call it whatever, but that’s the score.
If you post something that lauds, approves of, or supports adult-on-child violence, we’re done. If I see someone who posts something about hitting children, I unsubscribe from the thread or from their feed altogether or even unfriend them. You see, I know that my Facebook status with a person is not analogous to my interpersonal relationship with them. I can unfriend you because I like kicking around Facebook to laugh and rant, and still think you’re brilliant, intellectual, insightful, worthwhile, and wonderful.
But you know what really frosts my cupcakes? Telling me that I ought to keep my opinions to myself on my own wall. It’s my wall. Mine. Not yours, mine. Not everybody’s, mine. It’s mine. You can do ALL of those things above to control how you experience me, and if you choose not to, I’m going to be annoyed.
Leave the bar. Move down a few seats. Go engage in your own conversation. You do you.
I don’t blow people up on their own walls. I might engage with someone on a topic about which I disagree, but if I do that, I know FULL WELL that I’m asking for it. What I usually end up doing is when I reach my saturation point with the debate, I unsubscribe from the thread, and it dies. I move on, forget about it, and we all roll merrily along.
I like controversy, and I can have controversy without conflict. I like debate, and I can have debate without denigrating you. What I DON’T do is private message you, summarily blast you on your wall, or excoriate you publicly for espousing a belief about which I disagree.
I recently commented, after a very frustrating day, that if people on my newsfeed reposted the video of that woman in Baltimore beating the crap out of her kid in the street, they should not be surprised if I unfriend, block, or unsubscribe from them, because people by now should know how deeply passionate I am that adult-on-child violence is an epidemic in this country, and any glorification of or justification for it is, to me, loathsome. Because I’ve had problems with this in the past, I gave fair warning to my social media connections that I was in no mood. (This is, after all, Facebook. This isn’t a professional environment; I was chatting with my “usual peeps.”)
Why on EARTH would you think the appropriate thing to do after someone comes home from a long day, plops down at the table with a sigh, and expresses how exhausted of X they are, is to pour that person a gigantic heaping bowl of X?
That’s antagonizing me, and I’m going to react unhappily, as anyone would. Don’t like my comment? Unsubscribe. Think adult-on-child violence is so awesome that you just HAVE to shout about how awesome this mother beating up her kid is? Hey, baby, go right ahead! But when you want to talk to me the next day, and find yourself unfriended, that’s the price you pay. I’m me. If you want to be connected to me socially, you’re connected to THE REAL ME, not to the version of me that’s convenient for you or to the piece of me that you care for.
As Arthur says in “First Knight,” “I cannot love a person in slices.”
Don’t like my post? Unsubscribe. Unfriend. Disconnect. Take responsibility for YOUR social experience, instead of correcting mine. Isn’t that the responsible thing to do? Isn’t that the ONLY thing that’s APPROPRIATE to do? It’s not as if you said something horribly racist or advocated for specific action to abuse kids. You just approved of a woman significantly disapproving of her son joining in a mob scene. (I think such an attitude is deeply misguided and fails to recognize larger socioeconomic issues, but again, this is Facebook, land of Bub and The Oatmeal and Kardashian Butt Memes. C’mon.)
As I absolutely believe you have a right to post and say anything you want, and would never infringe upon your right to do so, isn’t the only appropriate, adult thing to do to handle the situation myself?
A friend I dearly love blew me up for my comment that I vehemently disapproved of the circulating mother-hitting-child meme, and that friend suggested that I had a responsibility not to post controversial things if I didn’t want to be yelled at or chastised.
Dude, that’s messed up.
I accept that there are consequences for one’s actions, especially in public fora, and I certainly confess that sometimes I get quite peeved (that’s the understatement of the century) about things like being violent toward children, majoritarianism that abuses the minority, corporate reform in education, bigotry and homophobia, animal cruelty, and anything about the New England Patriots (not really), but I have two choices:
I can mind my business, and remove myself from the situation, or
Respond with the full preparation to engage in meaningful debate.
What is not, ever, in my mind, a viable option, is the condemnation of others for espousing their own beliefs on their own wall. I did not solicit your input; you are invited to by virtue of being my Facebook friend, but you were not specifically invited to comment. Unless you were, in which case, that’s another story entirely.
Bottom line is that I do believe people have responsibilities to be mindful when they post things, but my expressing a very rational belief – like, I disapprove of being violent to children, for any reason, and have no desire to see that crap on my newsfeed, so don’t be offended if I step out – is being mindful.
I am not everyone’s cup of tea. I did not ask to be, set out to be, or state that I was. Just unfriend me, and move on with your life. It is nobody’s place to put me in mine, any more than it is mine to put you in yours. There’s meaningful debate, and then there’s whatever the other thing is.
In short, I think the bar for intervention in another person’s affairs should be set quite high, and for me, bigotry and the harm of children are just about the only things that clear the hurdle. Debate loudly, speak passionately, laugh boisterously, embrace each other, fan the flames of fervent discourse, and be ferocious and strident at at times, and enjoy the fact that the Constitution of the United States of America guarantees your right to do so.
I have the same rights as you. And I recognize you do have the right to call me a jerk in a public place. Do so at your own peril if it’s just because you don’t like my volume or agree with the substance of my material argument… because I’m not the guy that says “oh, sorry,” and shuts up and sits back down.
Mind your own beeswax, Ramona.