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Posts Tagged ‘facebook’

Coming Out

From a friend I learned that someone from formertown posted on facebook about being an atheist. To give a little context, formertown was founded in the 19th century as a religious community, today most of the community are employed by the church or schools. It doesn’t surprise me that there are a few atheists mixed in, but one never knows who they might be. I felt incredibly isolated in formertown because I didn’t know if discussing my true beliefs would result in rejection and possibly also losing my job.  There are/were teachers at the school that weren’t raised in the religion, and I certainly did my best not to disparage it in public, but I felt that at best my work would be subject to additional scrutiny. There are a broad range of religious and political beliefs in the community, but the school has a major part in upholding the status quo, and the more conservative members of the community often have a louder voice, and larger donations. It’s a legitimate concern.

In addition, everyone likes to have an opinion and gossip spreads quickly. Though the opinions of others wouldn’t change my mind, I’m not really wanting to defend my decisions to everyone who asks. It’s one thing to explain my process to a friend, entirely different to have a confrontation at an event (ie. wedding, school, grocery store). While I am curious about how people might react, I also don’t really care about the reactions of random people I barely know, but who know my family tree and think they have the right to give their opinion.

Several of my friends know about the process I’ve gone through to reach my present beliefs, but there are many acquaintances that don’t really know, older friends from high school that have stayed religious and “like” various anti-atheist or pro fox news statements on facebook. I wind up feeling resentful that they feel so confident that I would share their beliefs as a matter of course. Simultaneously I have such admiration for people who make a public stand about who they are and why.

By connecting with the person who posted a public statement about atheism I have also connected with other community members who share my beliefs (I don’t know why seeking an underground network didn’t occur to me while I was in town!) i feel less afraid about making a more public declaration of my stance. One fear of moving away from religion, while thoroughly surrounded by a religious community, is the possibility of losing all community. But I’ve already extricated myself from the community, and live far away from local gossip, so that fear no longer has weight for me.

I’m debating next steps… do I email people I consider friends? Just let it come out in conversation (it hasn’t in past years, soooo). In this age of facebook, it would certainly be expedient to just post a note or a link that outs me, but that also seems pretty passive, though it would get the word out. So that’s where I am for today. Pondering.

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I teach at a secondary school, and in a recent faculty meeting the teachers were in a tizzy about laptops in the classroom. Students are asking if they may take notes on laptops, some teachers allow it and others do not. Arguments against the use of laptops include:

  • They will waste time on the internet!
  • They will disengage!
  • They will IM their friends!
  • Students must hand-write notes for the information to stick in their brains!

Last year the hand-wringing was over cell phones:

  • They can text secret websites and get answers to test questions!
  • They can bully one another!
  • Let’s confiscate all cell phones at homeroom and give them back at the end of the day (this was the proposal adopted, but not executed-because it is impossible to ensure you have ALL cell phones from ALL students EVERY day).

A few years before that was online social networking (facebook/blogs)

  • They are posting pictures of themselves breaking school rules!
  • What if they post things that we don’t know about!
  • What if they post pictures of themselves in a state of undress!
  • What if they are lured in to inappropriate behaviour by a freaky internet person!

Every single time I am one of the few people who does not end my comment with an exclamation point. Really, it is simple. There will always be new technology. Always. As with any tool, you can use it for good or ill. Before laptops were students distracted in class? I have 12 spiral bound notebooks used as journals written solely during class time in the 1990s that say yes. Before cell phones, was there bullying? Absolutely! I’ve been on both sides of passing notes, whispering, and prank phone calls from pay phones. Was it possible to meet shady people before the internet? I’ll venture a yes.

Have all of these inventions added information and interest to my life? Most definitely.  I met my husband on a book discussion site, and have dozens of friends I have met at similar sites. I have friends who were successful at match.com and chemistry.com, and it certainly expands one’s dating pool. Facebook has connected me with high-school classmates I never thought I would hear from again, and I am trusting that online communication will help ease the move to Ohio.

Instead of fearing these changes, wouldn’t it be socially responsible to help our students practice using this technology appropriately? Instead of only allowing my students one internet reference for their research essays I would rather teach them how to evaluate internet resources – use as many as you wish, so long as you can prove to me that they are reliable. It’s easy to see if a laptop is closed during quizzes, but during class discussions and notes I am just as happy for you to google your answer as I am for you to check your notes. In fact, finding reliable information online may even add depth to the discussion.

If adults pretend that social media A) Doesn’t exist, or, B) Is evil, we are not serving our students. We can use our experiences learning good manners and safe behaviour in public spaces to inform our discussions with students. Do people who became adults in the 1980s and before know that it is risky to go home with someone you just met in a bar? I’d venture most do. Same goes for the internet. It’s really not that big a leap to tell children and young adults to be careful what they do and how they do it.

So how is this related to Don’t Ask Don’t Tell? It seems to me that one of the big concerns is sexual harassment and sexual behaviour. Are there currently gay and lesbian and transgender and bisexual people serving in the military? Of course. Do they currently share quarters with heterosexual people? Yup. Are homosexual and heterosexual people engaging in sexual relationships? Sure. At many times men and women are serving on the same bases and there are rules of behaviour that are sometimes followed and sometimes broken. NO ONE should force sexual comments or behaviour on another person, regardless of their gender or sexual orientation.

Instead of getting all worked up about separate quarters, what about investing in training, and recruitment practices that teach and require appropriate behaviour between human beings. If I were serving in the military (which I am not), I would want to trust that the men and women serving with me would treat me as a human being, that we would support one another, and that I would not be attacked by that person. I know that sexual harassment happens in the military, and it is not limited to one gender or sexual orientation.

DADT is pretending a problem will not exist if we do not acknowledge it. And that is never a solution. By treating homosexuality as a secret we are doing a disservice to all the people serving their country in the military. We are encouraging service men and women to fear each other instead of supporting one another, and that is a bigger weakness for the military than the chance that people who work together and have a mutual attraction may form a romantic relationship.

Why not simply encourage healthy behaviour in relationships!

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