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Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Corrupting the Youth: Blogger Speaks to Deuel HS Journalism Class

In another sign of the erosion of our public school system, the Deuel High School Journalism class recently invited a certain well-known East River blogger to discuss propaganda. Fortunately, journalism and speech teacher Samantha Walder then invited me to repair the damage done to young minds.

Kidding aside, Mrs. Walder invited me to Clear Lake yesterday to talk about blogging with her eager journalism students. Deuel's journalists this year are all girls—the journalism class is offered the same hour as shop.

The Deuel HS Journalism class, intrepid reporters for the Birdwatcher, pay rapt attention.

In addition to learning traditional reporting and print layout, the Deuel HS journalists have been churning out an online version of the Deuel School District news since January 2009. Their blogging platform of choice: Blogger. Oh yeah.

Don't worry, parents: Mrs. Walder (right) was on hand to provide adult supervision.

An encouraging sign that Deuel HS is teaching media literacy right: their open wireless network. I was able to log into the network with my trusty little netbook and browse all sorts of webpages during my presentation, including my own blog. Some school districts have blocked the Madville Times and Blogger sites in general, much to their detriment. Not Deuel. The journalism students there have accessed and studied the Madville Times and other blogs in class. Exposing students to a wide range of online content won't damage their brains; to the contrary, it will make them smarter, more discriminating consumers and producers (conducers!) of online media.

Surely I was making an important point here.

I opened with a little history of my involvement with blogging, then spent the bulk of the hour answering student questions. They kept me going all period, asking about my favorite topics, motivations for writing, commenters, and other blog details.

Trickiest question: one girl asked if I thought Orson Scott Card had influenced the development of the World Wide Web with his incorporation of something very much like blogging into the plot of Ender's Game. How's that for a curve ball? I suggested Card might have been picking up on previous ideas like Vannevar Bush's famous memex. I couldn't think of the name on the spot, but I also mentioned the forgotten inventor of the hyperlink, Belgian inventor Paul Otlet.

The biggest point I wanted to make (and I might have amidst the excitable torrent of techno-journalistic observations that flowed forth) was that blogging has been a great learning tool for me. Blogging has focused my attention on South Dakota politics and history. Blogging has also expanded my social network and my definition of community. As I said to the Deuel journalism students, my neighbors aren't just the people here on the western shore of Lake Herman or around Lake County. When I say neighbor, I think of the kids in that Clear Lake classroom, their blogging teacher Mrs. Walder, the guys on Sunday's blog hunt, and everyone else in South Dakota... even that Noem lady.

And to top it off, one of the girls brought chocolate cupcakes. That's what education needs: more cupcakes! That, and more blogging, more authentic, public use of the Web like the online news produced by Samantha Walder's students on the Deuel Birdwatcher.


  1. Just remember what happened to Socrates...

  2. What happened to Socrates? and thanks for coming :)


  3. and also I saw your story about Carthage, my picture was actually taken in Lake Carthage :) so I thought it was interesting that your posted about that!

  4. Sorry about that question. When you said that the internet came to be in 1991 I had to say something. It wasn't one of the five questions I had written down to ask, but I asked it because I thought it was an interesting question to ask.

    Lena Peterson
    Deuel High School

  5. Socrates is always on my mind, Father Tim! Briana, Socrates was a great Greek philosopher who walked around Athens teaching the young people to ask their elders really tough questions. This got on the elders' nerves. The elders put Socrates on trial for corrupting the youth, found him guilty (in part because Socrates didn't hire a good defense attorney!), and sentenced him to death by drinking hemlock.

    And Lena, in the spirit of Socrates, you never have to apologize for asking a tricky question! Thanks for asking... and thank you all for inviting me!

    [Lake Carthage—and then I drove by it today on the way to judge interp in Huron! Coincidences abound!]

  6. Man, you come off as a quintessential professor (QP) in that photo! Heck of a lot better-dressed than Robert Reich when he appears on CNBC. I might not agree with you on all the issues (or even on a majority of them), but you'd command my respect onstage!

  7. Thanks, Stan! Perhaps Berkeley profs are just naturally more rumply. Of course, Reich probably has tenure... ;-)


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