Friday, August 13, 2010

Where is Emerson's (Wo)Man Thinker on Twitter?

I'm new to Twitter and tweeting. On my Facebook "wall" I posed the question: "I am wondering if u have a lot of people following you on twitter and you tweet crap but name it as gold and it keeps getting retweeted, is it not an Emperor's New Clothes dressed up for the 21st century?"

As a teacher and learner, I have found myself a bit dismayed as I followed links that bring me to 14 things a 21st century teacher must know--or 20 ways to use an iPad-- or thousands of free lesson plans, and so on. Now to be sure, not all the tweets I read are of this sort, but a lot are.  It isn't the quality of comment and link direction that fully concerns me, but more so the certainty that underlies and fixes these tweets as "givens".  Each time I read one I ask: For whom might this be true? In what context?  It's the absence of context that worries me. I think of Robert Frost's poem, The Mending Wall, when the speaker declares:

Before I built a wall I’d ask to know
What I was walling in or walling out,
And to whom I was like to give offence.

Do Tweets by their very nature function as walls?  Let's pause a moment and consider the link that promised thousands of free lesson plans.  When I followed it I was directed to a site where a pop up immediately let me know that I had won something. 
After clearing that away, I was directed to a list of choices. Here's where the problems really started. Again, it was not the quality of the lesson plans, although the number was daunting, but rather it was the reality of them. I mean, why do I actually want these plans that someone or some group made?  What will these plans disrupt and displace with regard to my own thinking and my specific context as teacher and learner?  How do plans actually get made that don't involve the students?  Have they and the teacher no voice in what gets privileged in the classroom?  What does all of this suggest about what is valued and not valued in the education?  What might the presence of these tweets that are retweeted and labeled golden suggest about what it means to teach and learn?

DoesTwitter in some way facilitate the rapid replication of the accepted dogma?  Against the speed and volume that makes Twitter tweet, has Emerson's (Wo)man Thinker been lost?  In a commencement speech, Ralph Waldo Emerson said:  
"The sacredness which attaches to the act of creation,--the act of thought,--is transferred to the record. The poet chanting, was felt to be a divine man: henceforth the chant is divine also. The writer was a just and wise spirit: henceforward it is settled, the book is perfect; as love of the hero corrupts into worship of his statue. Instantly, the book becomes noxious: the guide is a tyrant. The sluggish and perverted mind of the multitude, slow to open to the incursions of Reason, having once so opened, having once received this book, stands upon it, and makes an outcry, if it is disparaged. Colleges are built on it. Books are written on it by thinkers, not by Man Thinking; by men of talent, that is, who start wrong, who set out wrong, who set out from accepted dogmas, not from their own sight of principles." 
So, can a metalanguage be heard on Twitter?  I mean consider: If you are a full time tweeter and you have, let's say 500,000 people following you, is it a matter of number and volume that makes one's truths, true? 

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