Why write a blog? Until a few months ago, I never read blogs. In our talk show culture, where everyone has something to say about everything, blogging seemed to me like just another venue for people to share every thought that crosses their mind.
We have turned into a talk-show culture. Now, not only do the television and radio talk shows want to know what each one of us thinks, so does the news. I turn on CNN and see "iReports," sent in by viewers; on public radio I hear requests for listeners to join their "Public Insight Network" because "they want to know what I think!" On every issue, we are bombarded with the perspectives and lives of "real," "average" people. When every individual is told that their perspectives are equally important and valuable, on every topic, we start to feel an inflated sense of confidence in our own ideas.
Ironically, the more I learn, the more I realize how little I actually know. As I learn more about a subject, I see the complexity of the issue, and the various ways of looking at it and the complicated histories involved that I was previously ignorant of. That is what I expect of the media. If I want to know what my neighbors think, I can ask them myself.
I can't help thinking this has some bearing on the apparent desire people have to elect a President and Vice President that they think are like them. "just average folks". Pollsters tell us who we would most like to go bowling with, watch a football game with, or have a beer with.
But I am not looking for a new bowling partner and I don't want a President who is just "average." I want someone who is brilliant! There is a critical difference between being able to understand the issues facing average folks, and being just an average folk. I want a President that can connect to the experiences of diverse peoples, and can draw upon that understanding to develop informed responses. I want to see candidates who are humble; who know they don't know everything about everything. In short, I want someone willing to stop and blink.
As a college teacher, I see it as my goal to empower students to become better thinkers; I don't simply lecture students, but encourage them to develop their own views on the subject. In essence, a class is like a semester long blink. Over the past decade I have observed more and more students feeling that their views and opnions are all equally valid, no matter how little they know about the subject. As I see it, my role is to guide students in learning as much as they can about the subject, challenging them to understand the issue at a deeper level, and leave more informed, so that they can then better express their opinions and views. Even if their views have not changed by the end of the course, they will understand why others see it differently, and they will be better able to support their own position. They will be better able to support their views based on research, evidence, history, and a broad understanding of how others see the issue, not simply because it is their personal opinion. This is what teaching is about.
In the classroom, in the media, and on the campaign trail, we need more learning and teaching, and less preaching. We need role models that are humble enough to stop and blink.
That brings me back to my initial question. Why blog? I have found my answer. While some blogs may simply be a tool for some folks who think they know it all to share it all with the rest of us, the great potential of blogging is that it can play that role so sorely missing in the media today--it can be a forum for educated discussion, to contribute to a broader dialogue where we can all learn from each other and come away better informed and with better answers...A space where we can all stop and blink.