A Huge Tesla Fan Chats with his Pragmatic Wife about the Brand and their Test Drive

http://jeffmyrick.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/07/Tesla-conversation-7_8_15-9.06-PM.m4a   My wife is very wise, but also very cautious.  She tolerates my rabid interest in Tesla but would certainly not consider such a purchase even if we could afford it.  In this audio blog post, she and I talk through how she went from not interested to very interested in Tesla’s challenge to think differently about...

Some Thoughts on Richard Linklater’s “Boyhood”

Some Thoughts on Richard Linklater’s “Boyhood”

Oh, the power of film. I say that often, but it truly is my favorite genre. Its power to encourage empathy is, in my opinion, unparalleled. And that makes it such a powerful tool for inviting people to think differently, as I often say of the Arts in general. The film first spoke to me as an educator. As an elementary student, Mason was disruptive, seemingly disrespectful, and sometimes non-compliant. As a teacher, having taught middle school for several years, I know how frustrating that student…that boy…can be. How many times have I said to myself, “why can’t he just do what the other more cooperative students are doing?” Or “Why can’t he just be more like the girls?” The Washington Post recently carried a piece by Jennifer Fink about her frustrations related to her son’s experiences in school. Yes, I know there are two sides to this story. Yes, I know there are fair expectations for boys to behave respectfully. I also know that we as educators are not doing all we can do to explore innovative options for engaging boys in a classroom setting. The film then spoke to me as…a boy. First, a disclaimer. For whatever reason, I was wired in such a way that I was able to follow the rules and comply with the requests of most people in leadership over me. Plenty of boys are able to be people pleasers. However, plenty are not. Yet, they are not dissimilar to the people pleasers; just wired differently. They are not all “bad” kids or even completely disrespectful. We’ve not even touched on the aftershocks of a negative home life. I often hear interviews with thought leaders, comedians, CEOs, entertainers, etc. for whom school was a terrible experience because they were unable to comply with the system. What do we as educators do with this? I am a huge fan (perhaps even an addict) of order. I don’t do chaos. In a large setting like a choral rehearsal there are positive things about that. However, in education more broadly, I admit that I struggle to differentiate and meet the needs of seemingly disrespectful boys. There are teacher leaders who excel in this area. I would ask that you find ways to share your craft knowledge with the rest of the field. Lately I’ve been interested in work related to providing innovative leadership options for teachers who remain in the classroom. Here’s a great example. Get on social media and engage on the topic of boys in the classroom. I thought it was interesting that Linklater decided to explore the fact that most boys are at some point called “gay” or “faggot.” He chose to make Mason a boy whose sister was a better athlete than he was. He then chose to make Mason’s primary interest the Arts, specifically photography. Interestingly though, he gave us no contextual reason to conclude that Mason was actually gay. Completely independent of sexual preference or gender identity, most boys have been on the receiving end of one of these labels simply by being in a setting where they were somehow less masculine than others in the room at the time. In the South especially, if a boy is not an athlete or is interested in the Arts, the likelihood that he will be labeled as “gay” at some point is extremely high. As powerful as Linklater’s work is in Boyhood, there are cultural limitations to this kind of work. It would be impossible to tell such a story in a way that would resonate across a variety of cultural lines. So much of what made the film work was dependent upon keeping some of the following categories consistent: socioeconomic status, race, religious affiliation, educational setting, geography, gender roles, and parental dynamics. These things vary greatly across cultural lines, even within the United States. However, the complexities of boyhood and manhood are no less apparent across a variety of cultures. Is it possible that Linklater’s work could inspire similarly honest work in other cultural contexts? “I just thought there would be more.” Mason’s mother delivered this line toward the end of the film and it was pow-er-ful. This line represented all the remaining ways the film impacted me: as a human, a father, and a husband. Husband I loved the irony that Mason’s father, originally introduced as kind of a loser, ended up being somewhat of a hero while the two husbands, originally introduced as heroes, ended up being complete losers. Do with that what you will.   The person you marry is not the same person you’ll be with ten years later. Marriage is a journey...

Facebook Reluctance and Diversity

Facebook Reluctance and Diversity

I have been reluctant to join Facebook for quite a while. I have from afar watched divisive rants and hateful things I want no part of. However, I do enjoy engaging people. One of the things I am passionate about is engaging those on opposite sides of an issue with civility and collegiality. Interestingly, in my first week as a Facebooker, there are folks who have either accepted a friend request or extended a friend request who are all across a variety of spectra. As a veteran, I am happy to have defended the right to express an opinion, but my stance is that divisive and hateful discourse is not productive. What I know is that from 4th – 12th grades in Jackson Public Schools (MS), friends with a variety of skin shades surrounded me. I remember working on projects with, being taught by, getting in trouble with, and serving in leadership roles with friends whose lives at home were completely different than mine. We did not always hang out together outside of school, attend the same churches, celebrate holidays the same way, or even view the world the same way. But we were dear friends.  I remember engaging conversations, innovative solutions, shared struggles, and really cool performance experiences. Yes, there were tense moments, but I do not remember relationships ending because of them. I’m sure some did and I doubt all of my peers share my perspective. However, because of those experiences, I am rarely uncomfortable around people unlike myself. Those years, especially the ones at Forest Hill High School, are still having a profound impact on how I view the world at 40 years old. It has been such a sweet thing this week to watch those faces pop up on Facebook. I cannot tell you how many times in my professional life I have referenced my wonderful high school experience. Some of the folks I most respect and admire look nothing like me and a few do not even share my worldview. So, in the tense atmosphere of extreme partisanship and polarity that we’re in currently, I badly want to encourage civility. I know it’s more complicated than that, but if you share my desire to be a part of the solution, please join me in looking for and sharing ways that diverse groups of people are collaborating well. And by the way, diversity is more than skin color. How many folks do you know who live on a month-to-month budget that are really tight with folks who are wealthy? Socioeconomic diversity can be equally complicated; just rarely as hateful. Please feel free to share an article, a quick observation, etc. It does not have to be lengthy or time-consuming. For example, in the past, I’ve shared a comment as simple as this one after a visit to Atlanta: “Just spent a weekend in Atlanta…diverse groups of people left and right. Love it!” As an educator, I am about to exit the eye of the hurricane into January, but I will try to send periodic reminders through social media to be on the lookout for things to share. I’ll conclude by saying that I am no one’s judge; nor do I believe I am better or superior in thought. I’ve made some royal mistakes that I do not plan to share on Facebook. I stand in judgment of no one. Only One has that job...

My Take on “The R Word”

My Take on “The R Word”

Neda Ulaby of NPR produced an interesting story on the use of profanity in cable TV shows.  The story is enjoyable if for nothing other than the creative way they choose to refer to the top two words most censored:  s*** and f***.  Beyond that, the story examines the liberties cable TV shows have to use s***, but not f***.  And not because of an FCC guideline; rather because “It’s just basically people in suits making up the rules,” says Kurt Sutter, creator of Sons of Anarchy on FX.  It’s a great story, but instead of spending time on the wild west of nighttime cable drama, I’ll use this as a segue toward a related topic.  In the same interview, Sutter said he is also not allowed to use the word retard.  I want to explore why this might be off limits for cable. My son has Down syndrome.  At least once a week, someone around me uses the word retarded.  Every time this happens, I cringe.  Many of these people are caring, loving and dear to me.  They know my son and would never say anything to hurt him or me.  So why does this happen and why am I offended? The only thing I can figure out is that their use of the term never lines up with its definition.  I hear uses like this: “You are so retarded!” “That meeting was so retarded!” “That show is so retarded!” In these contexts, they’re saying something is ridiculous, stupid, or wasteful; but retarded means none of those things.  Retarded means delayed and when referencing a person, it usually means that they have a cognitive or mental delay.  But what I hear is “You are so stupid, like [my son]” or “That meeting was such a waste, like [my son].”  I’m embarrassed for putting words in their mouths because I know that’s not what they mean.  But I also know what they don’t mean.  They don’t mean delayed because most likely the person, the meeting and the show were not delayed, or slow.  They’re referencing the behavior associated with someone who is intellectually disabled.  It’s the only logical explanation.  My son will likely exhibit this kind of behavior well into his adult life.  That’s why I’m offended. I’m not the type to rest my feelings on my sleeve, nor am I easily offended.  Further, I’m turned off by the overly defensive nature of folks who are offended by the smallest things.  And here I am…offended by something said by good people who care about me.  And my son. Why would they say this?  Don’t they understand that it’s a hurtful thing to hear?  The answer is no.  They don’t.  They can’t possibly or else they wouldn’t say it. This is why I haven’t said anything.  I think they would be embarrassed and mortified at how their choice of words has affected me.  And that’s why I’m writing.  I want to make the point that saying retarded is offensive, because I’m convinced that most do not know they are saying something offensive.  I would want to know. And no, I do not think its use should land someone in prison, get a student suspended, or be banned altogether (like that’s possible).  On the web, it’s easy to find entire websites dedicated to the end of “the R word.”  That’s not at all where I’m coming from.  I sometimes say things that would offend certain people.  However, when I’m aware, I don’t say them around the people they’ll offend.  For example, profanity is very effective when used in the right context.  However, when used in the wrong context, the offense caused might overshadow the point being made.  I have come to realize that most of the people who say retarded simply do not know it is offensive.  I’m writing to inform those people. For all of you who use the term with the knowledge of how offensive it is…by all means, keep it up.  For all of you who use the term directly to or around a person who is intellectually disabled for the purpose of being hurtful…by all means, keep it up.  You are the subject of an entirely different post.  I’m not writing this for your benefit.  I’m writing this for people who have no idea the word is hurtful.  I’ve heard this point made:  “If you outlaw retarded, people will just use another word to offend that was previously associated with the disabled in a clinical and non-offensive way.  That’s what mean people have always done.”  This is true.  As the songwriter said, “all you are is mean.”  And you have the right...

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