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Wiley Wandering

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October 29, 2010

Diversity and Bullying: Just Another Version of the Chicken and Egg Question?

So, which came first, the chicken or the egg? After you consider that, then answer this, which occurs first, bullying because of our ignorance on how to respond to differences, or inconsideration of differences that contributes to bullying?

Today Kristie Gonyea and I facilitated the second of three presentations at Peru Central School. As a result of a series of different bullying incidents (which often are connected to inadequate preparation of students/parents with diversity & social justice) that have occurred around the North Country, the Peru administration decided to accept some assistance and provided us access to the middle school students to create a conversation about diversity, social justice and bullying.

The 8th grade students were amazing! Quiet when they needed to respect a voice, vocal when a question was put to them, we were pleasantly surprised by the energy, focus, and consideration they gave the subject matter.

I told my son I was going to write a blog about the rewarding experience I had today with his classmates. I told him I would link it to my Facebook account so that his friends could see it.

If any middle school students actually read this blog, my questions to them are:

1. What was the most personal thing that you got from the diversity/bullying session today?
2. If you were to describe to your parents what you experienced today, how would you describe it?
3. Why was it important for you to have a session on bullying/diversity?
4. Do you think the bullying/diversity session will make a difference with your classmates, and why/why not?
5. Do you think all students would benefit from more diversity sessions like the one you had today? Why/why not?
6. Do you think your parents would benefit from participating in a session on bullying/diversity?

My questions to adult readers of this blog are:

1. Do you think it is possible for a middle school student to truly process (significantly grow/mature) from a message that challenges them to respect “everyone,” no matter how different the person appears to be?
2. Do you think it is possible for a middle school student to become a leader when they’ve never really thought about leading before?
3. Do you think it is possible for a middle school student to tune out the dysfunctional messages that their parents, siblings, friends, etc., constantly expose them to and hold on to the positive messages?
4. Do you think it would be helpful/beneficial to find a way to include middle school student’s parents in these conversations about diversity & social justice, and bullying?
5. Why is it that we emphasize, promote, and fund sports and academics, but have so little emphasis on the development of our character through respect/consideration of our differences?

I am really curious as to how students and parents might process a session like this. What do you think?

October 9, 2010

"I’m Just Saying!!!!" Oh Yeah... What Exactly?

Have you noticed recently how the saying “I’m just saying” has propagated throughout pop culture communication? It was actually just a few months ago that an extremely lovely woman friend of mine first said it to me in a way that made me focus on it. Since then, I hear it everywhere. Even on my way home today from Burlington, Vermont I heard hip-hop artist The Dream in his song “Love King” give this advice to a woman he was interested in: “N….a” keep playin, change where you layin, I’m just saying.” While the advice seems admirable, it does appear to benefit him to give it, so once again there is more weight to the "I'm just saying," than meets the eye. Someone answer this for me: has this saying been around for years and I just didn’t notice it, or did it actually just expand throughout our vernacular?

What does it really mean? Does it give people a pass to say anything they want to say? Is it similar to “I’m just joking?” Hmmm? Well, when people say I’m just joking, it often is following an insensitive statement that they aimed at someone and they are trying to mitigate the extent of the damage by rationalizing it away as meaningless. Could it be that these two statements are something akin to first cousins, or even siblings?

So what type of statement is “I’m just saying” punctuating?

I heard a woman tell another woman that she saw her man whispering in another woman’s ear, and punctuated telling on him with “I’m just saying.”

My daughter recently criticized my attire as not effectively matching with “I’m just saying.”

An educator I know recently criticized both a school superintendent and principal’s seeming indifference to the struggles of the underrepresented students they are supposed to care about with an “I’m just saying.” (Fortunately these two administrators were from two different districts, and yes, I'm just saying.)

I was watching a news show and thought I heard one of the contributors take a pot shot at the Tea Parties, saying something about a hidden agenda, then attempting to walk away from it with an “I’m just saying.”

And I think it was on MSNBC the other night that I heard wannabe congressman and so-called politician Ben Quayle (son of the seldom decried best Vice President ever) declaring that President Obama was the worst president in U.S. history, something that the extremely rationale, never over the top congresswoman Michelle Bachmann has also articulated. I actually couldn’t believe that neither of them accentuated their claims with an “I’m just saying.” I mean, really, though on some level, I’m just saying…

Interestingly enough, is it truly “just” to say “I’m just saying,” somehow exonerating oneself from the weight of owning a statement that arguably is quite unjust?

So, what is it that she and he, you and I, all of us are “just saying?”