You seem to be confused

We’ve now discussed the Tistadt Audio Meltdown (sounds like the successor to Big Audio Dynamite, don’t it? (oops I think that dates me somewhat)) a few times and I was inclined to let it go.

Till I read Marc Fisher’s column about it in the print edition today.

And now I feel like maybe I’m not ready to let it go, primarily because this tweaks one of my hot button points: people confusing technology issues with societal ones. It perturbs me that Fischer claims that student Devraj Kori “knows no boundaries” because he dared to share an abusive and rude message from a school employee with others, but that’s not what sets me off. What makes me nuts is the quotes from another school employee, Ron McClain, director of the Parkmont School in the District.

It used to be you could have an inappropriate or rude conversation with someone, and it would stay private. There’s a much fuzzier line between public and private now. This is a case where the technology has outpaced our ability to cope with its effects. As parents, we’re way behind.

If there’s an age gap here it’s not the one Fisher and McClain seem to think. I don’t know Fisher’s age but McClain’s bio says he graduated from Harvard a year after I was born, probably putting him about 20-25 years older than me. So here’s your proof this has nothing to do with a “wired age,” folks, since my mom told me very clearly how to deal with the effects of a technology that prevents you from having an “inappropriate or rude conversation with someone” without other people finding out and hearing it:

Don’t say things that you’re not willing to have other people hear.

If Mr or Mrs Tistadt, Marc Fisher, Ron McClain, or any of the rest of you have a concern that something impolite you say to someone else – no matter how much “above” that person you might think you are – then you can exert complete and total control over that disbursal by not saying it at all.

Just to beat the deceased equine marginally more, here’s another quote from Ron McClain.

At home and at work, McClain says, he sees “boundaries dissolving. I send my kid a text message, and I expect an answer at the end of the day, but I hear right back, while he’s in English class. I didn’t mean for that to happen, but for kids, that’s how they converse.”

Again, this is not remotely new. You and I had classmates who passed notes in class, albeit on paper, and maybe we passed a few of our own. Or we sat there and doodled, or whispered if we could get away with it, or read a magazine or any of a million other ways that kids have fucked off in class since time began.

If you think that’s inappropriate, Mr McClain – and I sure do – then maybe you should have a conversation with your kids teacher about why s/he doesn’t prevent kids from using phones in class. Or you should, oh I dunno, BE A PARENT and sanction your kid for texting in class. After all, you have pretty damned conclusive proof he did it – check your inbox.

Did I mention that none of this had anything to do with technology?

2 Comments so far

  1. Tiff (unregistered) on January 24th, 2008 @ 3:37 pm

    I wouldn’t call it a technology problem. Societal problem is closer, but mostly it’s just a Moron Problem.

    I just don’t understand how people can get all upset that the kid posted the audio on the Internet. People, she left the message in HIS voicemail. How does she think she has any expectation of privacy when she KNOWS she’s being recorded by someone who has no incentive to keep it quiet?

    If it’s recorded, it’s not private. If it can be replayed, it will be. It’s not inherently different than if he had just left the message on his phone and passed it around to all his friends. How anyone can get that far in life without learning that you should only say in voicemail what you wouldn’t mind having played, on speakerphone, in a crowded office is just beyond me.

  2. thruhike98 (unregistered) on February 12th, 2008 @ 8:46 pm

    Well said Don.

    Ron McClain misses the point with his comment, "It used to be you could have an inappropriate or rude conversation with someone, and it would stay private. … This is a case where the technology has outpaced our ability to cope with its effects."

    What effects? Getting caught being rude, by people other than children who will not have any recourse? Before this technology, they were able to cope with being inappropriate to one person, but now it is harder when others start finding out?

    He fails to grasp that it is the "inappropriate or rude" conversation that should not happen in the first place. It is only more easily documented now. Are these the type of adults to whom we entrust our children?!?!

    How about something like this, Mr McClain, "These technological advances are like someone holding up a mirror to us and showing us that, as adults, we need to do better than to have conversations we know are rude or inappropriate."

    I am also disappointed by the official who said something to the effect of "there will be no apology coming from this family," based on the fact that his wife was "provoked" by the student’s message. This teaches students that if someone upsets you, you have a free pass to behave outside social norms.

    These three are batting 1000 on the failure-to-have-a-clue scale.

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