Thursday, December 18, 2014

If I had become a licensed teacher, could I have gotten around my own "conflict of interest"? I just wanted to see "critical thinking"

I’ll follow up again the issue of the failure of my substitute teaching experience. 

Had I stayed on course, and eventually gotten licensure and become a regular math teacher in high school, could I have dealt with my “conflict of interest” problem?

Again, one of the main concerns was that if students (whom I would have the “power” to grade) had found my “opinions” about other people  embedded in my materials (like the older movie reviews, where I sometimes made juicy remarks about the appearance of actors), that could have shown “prejudice” against students in certain groups. 

In the days before modern social media (and Facebook wasn’t really public until about 2007, and MySpace had come along around 2004), the main Internet experience was indeed finding specific web pages (including mine, which included copies of chapters of my book) from search engines.  You could, for example, search an actor’s name in combination with the word “gay”, or even "hairy chest". I often found such searches on my site's Urchin logs. 

I can certainly understand, particularly with how matters were at the time, a belief that it is inappropriate for a teacher to engage in “gratuitous” online behavior, however legal and innocent and not actually pornographic in the usual sense, that could “divide” people or make some people believe they might be less “worthy” in the speaker’s eyes.  I had thought at the time that people with the power to make decisions about others (whether subordinates, students, or even customers to be underwritten for insurance or loans) should not speak in searchable public modes without supervision or gatekeepers.  That’s where I drew the line.  I did not have the authority to grade students, so I thought I was OK.  This became the “blogging policy” on my “” site.  There had been a lot of talk about employer blogging policies in the 2002-2003 period, especially after Heather Armstrong stirred up the world with her “dooce” site after getting fired for blogging about work.
Social media came along, with the idea that content could be restricted to whitelists, and such content usually didn’t get indexed by search engines, so in my worldview, it wasn’t “published” in the same sense  Of course, whitelisted content often “leaks” and gets repeated by others – and that became the “Dr. Phil Problem” in the 2006-2008 period. 

Social media also made it impossible to lead “double lives”, partly because of Facebook’s “real name” policy, so in time, people became expected to use their entire social media and Internet presence for their employer’s purpose.  I could not have done today what I did fifteen years ago while still working.

And what’s even more interesting is that, in 1997, I did a corporate transfer (within ReliaStar, later to become ING and now Voya) to the Minneapolis location in order to get away from a conflict regarding the company’s selling to military officers, and my publication of a book and Internet materials on the military gay ban (“don’t ask don’t tell”).  (I have more history on Wordpress here  ).
Getting back to teaching, what had been in the back of my mind was to set up an engine to record and collate “opposing viewpoints”, as I had explained here Feb. 29, 2012.  The idea was to get others to make the points I had started them making, and then let the public see the results.  This would be very good for teachings students “critical thinking”.  And the opinions are no longer necessarily mine, so there is no “conflict” or presumption of prejudice.  This sort if approach might be particularly effective with issues like the military gay ban (with its unusual personal sensitiveness, and potential to affect civilian areas, even like dorm life, as had been the case in my life and as would be again, as at Rutgers in 2010, tragically), or with issues like Internet free speech and “barrier to entry”.
I could have worked with Wikipedia.  Of course, that’s usually doesn’t result in public attention for one’s views, and at least there is supervision and gatekeeping (more now at Wikipedia than used to be). If Wikipedia had actually set up an "opposing viewpoints" database, there would no longer exist a legitimate reason for me to set myself up as a sentinel.  I could have been expected to resume "real life", however socially disadvantaged I felt. It all depends on what postulates you make about individual sovereignty, versus the need to belong to a group that faces external challenges. 
And I could have continued working offline on my novel, screenplays and music. In 2004, remember, I had entered Project Greenlight II with a sci-fi screenplay.  That presented no conflict.  

Even so, in the 2004-2005 period, before I got into today’s blogging platforms and social media, there was reason to think I might be able to thread my writing career with teaching after all.

Update: Dec. 31

Here's a pitch for Wikipedia "Keep It Free", from Jack Andraka, link.  I do make a regular monthly donation with a bank.  Wikipedia has become more concerned recently that running the site at a sufficiently professional level, as a non-profit, does take money.  

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