To Degree or Not to Degree: A Rant

(NOTE: Yes I appreciate the irony of this post immediately following one about critical thinking and argumentation. I said this was a rant, and I meant it.)

So I’m watching a stream today. I LOVE this stream. The person who does it is one of my favorite people on the planet. He’s smart, funny, kind, generous, etc. Today he said something on his stream which sparked a conversation with his more than 300 viewers that upset me. Now granted, he didn’t say it to be offensive, and he isn’t feeling well, but the conversation bothered me. A lot.

Let me start by saying that I have told my daughter numerous times that she doesn’t have to go to college if she doesn’t have to. I realize that in a time where people are convinced that the smartest and most successful go to college this is not a normal thing to say. However, I think it is important that she follow her dreams, loves what she does, and doesn’t let the creativity get smooshed out of her. The below video is my favorite TED Talk describing and speaking to exactly what I mean (Thank you, Ken Robinson. You’re an inspiration).

apple vs orangesThat being said. THAT BEING SAID… just because there are those who are educators, academics, therapists, doctors, and others our society considers “the most educated”, who get things wrong, are socially awkward, or like to one-up everyone, doesn’t mean that ALL of us are like that. Yes, D is for degree, so you don’t have to pay a ton of attention to get a piece of paper, nor do you have to learn all that much. Yes, there are tons of people who get degrees and then go work at Taco Bell for the rest of their lives. Yes, there are people who pay tons of money for 30+ years after school getting a degree in something they HATE cause their parents expected them to. And on and on. But in this conversation I saw people effectively defecate on education as a whole; the higher the degree the harder they raged against it. Only one other person bothered to say that he went to school for himself and he loved it… that social smarts and common sense are not the same as book smarts. I absolutely agree.

My opinion, which I expressed in chat but which I’m sure no one saw (hence my frustrated post here) is that a degree is not always just a piece of paper, just as those who do not have degrees are not always idiots. But, by ripping on those who have chosen academics as their path, regardless of the reason, these people are lowering themselves to the place those that degrade them live. You are no better. It is a choice. There is no “right” choice. There is only a “right for you” choice. People without degrees one-up others too. People without degrees can, and will, correct a statement with an inaccurate remark that is maddening. So what you’re effectively telling me is that if I have a degree, I can’t be human? Isn’t that the attitude you’re fighting? I’m not perfect, but I’m not claiming to be.

All I’m saying is I LOVE learning. I am STOKED to get my PhD because it will allow me to do the thing I want to do; teach graduate school. And WHY do I want to teach graduate school? To avoid, as much as possible, those who do not WANT to be in school. Here, the atmosphere is peaceful, we disagree without contempt (for the most part), and while we have the assholes who make everyone furious with their pompous nature, THEY’RE EVERYWHERE. And I’m okay with that. I like a little bit of pompous with my cereal.

Also, to the one in chat who said that he ragequit college because his English teacher told him that ’empirical evidence’ is NOT just something you can observe with your five senses, she’s right. Good grief.

On Being a ‘Ginger’

Social norms come in all shapes and sizes. They change based on where you are, who you’re with, your culture, the weather, and sometimes they exist only because people THINK they do. Philosophers have been arguing morality and the breaking of social norms and values since the beginning of the ancient occupation. But what makes us take offense? Yesterday, I talked about harassment being in the eyes of the beholder, so how do we avoid offending and harassing if that is not, in fact, our intent? I’m not sure- though there is a lot of research other there- that there is a definitive answer. But what I do know is Abraham Lincoln made a good point when he said,

“You can please some of the people some of the time all of the people some of the time some of the people all of the time but you can never please all of the people all of the time.”

So why am I even concerned with this? One of my dear friends commented on my last blog, saying that he thought by the title it was going to be a call against all of those who call redheads ‘gingers’, and the discrimination that is cast our way. It occurred to me that a term that I think of as a compliment (the term ‘ginger’ is used as a means of denoting a red head with a fiery personality and spunk, in my group of friends), is actually used as an insult in some places. It got me thinking about the term, about being a red head, and about how interesting it is that perception varies so vastly. Also, I wanted him to know that I appreciate and value the differences in our perceptions.

“Cultural reactions have varied from ridicule to admiration; many common stereotypes exist regarding redheads and they are often portrayed as fiery-tempered.” (Red head, 2012)

Certainly, in England they have a more historically negative connotation for the term ‘ginger’, as red hair is most common in Scotland and Ireland (and most of us know the struggles there). Here in the US, it seems the biggest reason people are likely to find the term ‘ginger’ offensive is if they’ve in some way been exposed to the episode of South Park where they poke fun at prejudice in general using ‘gingers’ as the trait being discriminated against. Little did South Park writers know that  people wouldn’t get the irony they were going for (Ginger kids, 2012). Admittedly, it is hard to believe (not to mention be okay with) people supporting ‘Kick the Ginger Day’ (on FB the group apparently had over 5,000 supporters at one point). Nicely done, people. And, of course, if you grow up with red hair, you have undoubtedly been called ‘carrot top’ or some other ridiculous name (carrots are roots, people… they’re tops are GREEN). In some ways, the negative perception of the “mutation” in pigment is perpetuated by theatre and movies as well (Red head, 2012).

Then again, blondes and brunettes have various jokes made about them due to the color of their hair too. There is research that suggests that men perceive blondes as being less intelligent than brunettes, and redheads as being more temperamental than both blondes and brunettes (Weir & Fine-Davis, 1989).

Click the picture to check out this annual redhead day! SWEET!

No surprise there. In medieval times, they apparently thought redheads were over sexed (is there such a thing) and  morally degenerate. That explains the no soul thing, I suppose. However, in other cultures red hair is revered (apparently Muhammad was thought to have been a red head… score one BIG one for us!)

However you perceive the word ‘ginger’, I guess the point is to make sure you aren’t calling someone a ‘ginger’ who doesn’t want to be called by that name. Intention matters, and if you’re being cruel to someone, any word can become a derogatory one; keep it in mind. As for me, and I hope my friend forgives me for this, I’m going to keep calling my little rants ‘Ginger Rage’. I am proud of the fact that I am feisty, temperamental, and don’t have to dye my hair to have an excuse for it all. I take pride in my heritage (I’m Irish), in my excess of pheomelanin, and although “I have a thing for redheads” gets old as a pick up line, there’s a part of me that can’t blame them. We have the peacock thing happening… we’re pretty incredible, what can I say?

References: 

Ginger kids. (2012, September). In Wikipedia. Retrieved from: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ginger_Kids

Red hair. (2012, September). In Wikipedia. Retrieved from: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Red_hair#Beliefs_about_temperament

Weir, S., & Fine-Davis, M. (1989). “Dumb blonde” and “temperamental redhead”: The effect of hair colour on some attributed personality characteristics of women. The Irish Journal of Psychology, 10(1), 11-19. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/617608718?accountid=10868

Ginger Rage: Cyber Bullying

The Rant…

Today I remembered just how maddening being bullied can be. Being bullied doesn’t have to be physical violence or blatantly offensive names; anything that belittles, embarrasses, or purposefully hurts in any way counts. So when someone uses Facebook comments to try to turn friends against you, it counts. So here is my take on it: social media is, among other things, a way for people to communicate in a safe environment. There are those who are socially inhibited or inept who find some measure of relief through the disinhibition being behind the computer screen affords. There are those who play games as a means of escaping the havoc of their offline lives, and experiences brief respite. Creepers, trolls, flamers, and stalkers make any situation- media or not- unsafe and downright frightening. In my example (my day… it was no bueno), when I find out that someone is attempting to turn my best friend against me, by using words (that were NOT meant for her) against me, I become afraid to say anything; to express myself. What’s more, I can’t see what is being said, or how much I’m exposing myself when it’s done with cyber stalking. So, rather than hiding, like so many others, I’m doing something about it. I’m giving her all the fodder she needs. There is a level of maturity that comes with being responsible technology users. While having freedom of speech is a right, it is also a privilege. Just because we have it, doesn’t mean we should abuse it or use it to hurt others. Just because you THINK there are no consequences to your actions, doesn’t mean there aren’t; you never know when it’s going to come back to bite you in the ass. So many of our pop culture favorites speak to this: Spider-man, “With great power, comes great responsibility,” the force in Star Wars, Thor and the abuse of his power on Asgard before his daddy reamed him… the list goes on. Just cause you can, doesn’t mean you should.

What we can do, however, is speak out against it. In the links below, I’m including a small variety of media which give examples of cyber bullying (from sexual harassment in video games to in school bullying), point to resources for prevention, and some research on the subject. Remember when you’re reading these links, that I’m in no way saying I agree with any of the bullying, regardless of whether I agree with the values or opinions of those who are being attacked. Bottom line: attacking is attacking is attacking. NO ONE DESERVES IT! Also, this is, by no means, an exhaustive list so be sure to check for yourself for more info. I hate to think Darwin’s survival of the fittest is at work with bullies too… but sometimes it’s really hard to endure being the good guy; so let’s stand together.

The Solution…

Feminist Blogger Is a Victim of a Vicious Videogame Retaliation

Ill Doctrine: All These Sexist Gamer Dudes Are Some Shook Ones

Cyberbullying: What School Administrators (And Parents) Can Do

Don’t Stand By: Stand Up Campaign

Cyberbullying Research Center

Cyberbully Movie (by ABC Family)

Desperately Seeking Future

This is the portion of the show where we contemplate what our dream social technology would do. I’m not great at dreaming big (the hazard of being a realist). I am, however, great at explaining why I like what I like; we start there.

First and foremost, my favorite social media is Google; all of it. The reason being that there are so many ways to connect, types of uses, and useful media all under one roof. That being said, Google doesn’t work under one application (at least on my phone), so moving from one to the other can be challenging. Google, as a company, seems to be mindful of ways in which the internet COULD be used better, rather than just coming up with more options for current use (although Google+ did kinda do that).

I love Skype because it allows me to see and hear friends who are far away (same reason I enjoy Google Hangouts). I like Twitter because it allows me to connect with people I don’t otherwise know via networking and like-minded communities. Most of my new friends come from Twitter. Twitter, for the record, is also where my secret venting account is. Control over who sees you ginger rage is good. Facebook allows me to keep contact with friends from long ago, keep up on current events (because that’s where they get posted… sadly), and keep in (distant) touch with family that is, well… family. StumbleUpon and Pinterest allow me to explore sites and places on the interwebs that I would likely never find on my own, as well as connect with people who are like minded. Foursquare feeds my competitive side while I’m out doing chores I would be doing otherwise, helps me connect with people in my community who frequent similar places, and gives great access to great tips and discounts. I love texting because it allows me to have instant access to my friends and let’s me word things deliberately. Email gives me a similar outlet, but I tend to use it more formally, and typically when I don’t need an immediate response. I love Pandora because it let’s me discover new music for when I’m studying or gaming, as well as let’s me customize a playlist of music I don’t necessarily own. Dropbox allows me to share things that I don’t want everyone else to see. Gaming let’s me socialize, achieve, and escape. And I love the skills I develop from gaming as well. Finally, WordPress, of course, gives me a place to share my passion, as nerdy as they tend to be. 😉

So, now that I’ve nearly exhausted my list of social technologies I love already, what can be better? Having them all in one place. While the cell phone is nearly that (and allows for immediate and mobile access to boot), I’m talking about an all in one, open source (Apple and Microsoft give me a headache with their exclusivity and partnering), simply designed but fully customizable, social technology that allows for all of my contacts, venting, exploring, connecting,  sharing, etc.

Oh… and here’s the kicker; the reason it’s a dream: I want it to be ad free. No sponsors begging me to allow them to control all of my doohickies… none of that.  I know it’s a lot to ask. But this is MY dream, right?

OOH! And since we ARE dreaming… I want it all to be in an AR contact lens that allows me to drive and still wear my vision correcting lenses. 🙂

Twitter Rant Pt 3 (I had nothing to do with this)

Twitter: The Rant (aka Part II)

Don't mind if I do!

As promised, as there is a break in classes and this is long overdue, I will rant a bit about why I don’t tweet nearly as much as I used to.

First, let me say that there is a time and a place for Twitter. People who use Twitter, tend to do so in order to appraise others of their daily goings on, share information with colleagues or other like-minded individuals, or get the latest scoop on whatever their favorite subject/celeb has to offer. I’m not going to site the resources again (see my first post about Twitter for those), but the point is that there is a time and a place. It is useful.

However, one of the big draws to Twitter is that you can use the internet and social networking to connect to a community (whether it’s geogratphical or topical). The kicker, though, is that people aren’t interested in being a part of a community when they aren’t appreciated, treated fairly, or contributing rather substantially in one way or another. The key here for me, personally, is the former.

I don’t want to be a part of a community that doesn’t value it’s members enough to protect them from each other. A community where one person makes a bad choice and is completely shunned. And another person makes the same choice, but is charismatic, and is cheered as a hero. A community where someone who is honest, and kind, and supportive is dismissed because the person who hurt him is revered. I can not be a part of such a community; I WON’T.

Although Twitter is literally populated with millions of users, in reality, it’s a tiny world where those who know you are GOING to find you whether you want them to read what you’re saying or not. Thank goodness for permissions.

The bottom line for me: If I’m supposed to be able to say whatever is on my mind, and feel safe, I need to know that what I say isn’t going to be used against me in my “IRL” social life. I need to know that I’m not inadvertently giving people fuel for their evil doings. I need to know that when I show up to a “tweetup”, I won’t be subjected to liars, swindlers, and people of an otherwise ill reputed nature. The obvious answer is to stop tweeting; and I have. Or… have I?