Update: Kathy Sierra has a post attending to the deficits of "blog conversations" compared to face-to-face conversations
Blog conversations aren't like face to face conversations.
But Dick's response wasn't actually to what Janet, at the art of getting by wrote--her personal story--Dick's post reflected on his own experiences as a teacher of profoundly and severely disabled high school students, particularly to the lack of commitment on the part of his co-workers. He also sees the teaching profession as a whole in danger of becoming "de-professionalized" -- something you don't do as a career, but part of a portfolio approach to work.
If I am sending a behaviorally challenged child of mine to school, I want teachers who are willing to stick with him. I want experience and dedication. I want someone who can inspire confidence.
But then I saw this post which attacked my post about shock treatment in schools. Naturally, I got angry. Call me crazy, but I always get angry when people write about me like they know me, especially without coming to me first. I know, it happens to every blogger from time to time. Still, I don't know if I should feel flattered or feel sick.
Janet had the presupposition that Dick was even thinking of her, personally, as he wrote his post. Naturally, it upset her.
One of the differences between blogging and face to face communications is that in blogging, there are fewer chances to check our presuppositions. In the words of Sharon Ellison, there are fewer chances to ask open-ended, open-hearted questions.
I don't think this was a case of blog incivility. I think this was a case of bollixed communications.
For those who haven't read it, Tilly provides a taxonomy of reason-giving. We emply four kinds of explanations, he says: conventions (social formulae), stories (common sense narratives), codes (legal formulae) and technical accounts (specialized stories). And we get into trouble when we use one kind of reason in a context where another is necessary. What's fun about Tilly's argument is that it provides a way of understanding all kinds of problematic social interactions.
I think one of the things that happened here is that Dick was writing more of a technical account, while Janet's was really a common-sense narrative.
In another post, Lisa Fischler (Letters from Lisa) writes about how she came to the kind of teaching strategies she uses (it's an excellent post and I commend it all to you). She is writing about the episode in her life when she was teaching in a behavior-based program for children with severe autism. This approach (ABA) is very highly detailed and structured, requires compliance, and uses positive reinforcers such as food or privileges to reward the target behavior. At the same time, she was enrolled in a while going to a progressive graduate education progam
where people were very uncomfortable with the idea of ever “making” a child do something he really didn’t want to do. It was all about politics and human rights and how to avoid oppressing kids inadvertently, not in the least by imposing our own social and cultural values. This school saw kids as geniuses whom we had to try to avoid messing up, if possible. We’d sit in class and discuss how if you fill a room with blocks and dolls and fun experiences to try, kids would figure out what they wanted to explore and then go do it, drawing all kinds of nifty conclusions from it in ways that we adults were just too rigid and fuzzy to imagine. Then I’d raise my hand and say, “Yeah, um, I have this kid in my class who sits in the corner and flicks his fingers in front of his eyes for hours on end unless someone makes him stop,” and my classmates just couldn’t believe it. They’d say, “What if you give him a ball to play with?” as if the reason he’s choosing to sit there and flick his fingers is that he doesn’t have any toys nearby. That would certainly fit in neatly with the politics of deprivation, but is not really all that applicable to people with autism. I had kids who liked toys, kids who were afraid of them (especially toys they’d never seen before) and kids who really would rather be doing what they were doing before they were interrupted.
Lisa and her classmates were another example of talking past each other. Lisa lays out the presuppositions pretty clearly.
Rules of Thumb for Blog Civility
Us and Them: Rules for Blog Conversations
How To Disagree Without Being Disagreeable
Miller's Law ("In order to understand what another person is saying, you must assume that it is true, and try to imagine what it could be true of.")
Praxis101 Rules for Blog Conversations