Archive - Oct 16, 2007

What about the rest of us?

I’ve written various posts about the Avery Doninger case. I’ve focused on Avery’s role. I’ve talked about the role of the Principal and Superintendent. I’ve touched upon the role of the board of education, but haven’t really talked much about our role in this.

The school board is elected by us. We have a responsibility to be involved in our schools. As parents, we need to be in our schools advocating for our children. As business people we need to be in our schools advocating for our future employees. As citizens, we need to be involved in the electoral process and holding the officials we elect accountable.

When I first started covering the Doninger case, I spoke with my father-in-law about it. He is a retired Special Agent for the U.S. Treasury Department. In 2002, he served as a member of the Tri-Town Amity Investigation Committee, which investigated the operating deficit of the Amity Regional School District for the fiscal years ending June30, 2000 and June 30, 2001.

In the cover letter to their report, they said,

Before the detail is discussed, it is critical to understand that the primary cause of the deficit is a culture which has been years in the making and, in fact, continues to this day. This culture is one of a lack of accountability that emanates from the Amity Board of Education

(Emphasis added)

In a few weeks, voters across the state will go to the polls to elect board of education members. Are you asking serious questions about not only how much money your local school board will spend, but also, how wisely will it spend it? What will your local school district be doing for preparing students for twenty first century careers where so much takes place online? Will it enact draconian measures to thwart students’ communications online, or will it work with students to help them become stronger advocates both online and offline?

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Stamford Advocate and the Danbury News-Times?

We all love to bash the traditional newspapers in Connecticut. It’s so easy to do and I know that many people here dislike the Stamford Advocate and the Greenwich Time almost as much as they dislike the Danbury News-Times and the Connecticut Post.

However, if reports in Editor and Publisher are correct, MediaNews Group, which owns the Danbury News-Times and the Connecticut Post is making a bid for the Stamford Advocate and the Greenwich Time. Will this result in more media consolidation? Will the Advocate and the Time end up with the same standards as the News-Times or the Post?

All the more need for people powered media.
(Cross posted to MyLeftNutmeg)

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A State of Writers

With some self-satisfaction, we pat ourselves on the back and recognize the important role that MyLeftNutmeg played in Ned Lamont’s campaign and in shaping the national discussions about Iraq in the 2006 election cycle. Those of us interested in the history of great writers from Connecticut may look back to great writers like Mark Twain or to the present day with writers like Wally Lamb, and several others that participated in Poets and Writers for Avery this past Sunday. Some of us, however, may want to look towards the future.

Nation Magazine recently had its second annual Nation Student Writing Contest. Two of the five finalists came form our fine state. Ned Resinkoff’s essay, Corporations Versus Democracy was one of the finalists. Last year, Ned was a senior at Middletown High School, and also did yeoman’s work helping with Ned Lamont’s campaign.

Jason Kaye wrote A Different Sort of War on Terror, which was also a finalist. Jason is a junior at Weston High School. Let us all congratulate Ned and Jason for their great essays.
(Cross posted at MyLeftNutmeg)

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An Accident Waiting to Happen

At Poets and Writers for Avery, Andy Thibault described Wally Lamb as an accidental novelist and an accidental activist. In many ways, it seems that Avery is an accidental activist as well.

As Wally spoke about his writing he talked about one writing teacher telling him there are no new stories and it is best to go back to the stories that have lasted through time, myths, because they contain the compelling elements of the stories we still need to hear to today.

Joseph Campbell, borrowing the word ‘Monomyth’ from James Joyce’s Finnegan’s Wake, talks about these compelling elements in his book “The Hero with a Thousand Faces”. Perhaps that is part of what is so compelling about Avery’s story. It isn’t just an issue about defending our basic freedom of speech, it is following the hero’s journey very nicely.

The monomyth starts with the hero’s call to adventure. The hero perceives a threat to the community, such as the threat to our basic rights, or simply stumbles into the adventure, such as using the word ‘douchebag’ in a personal blog, to set of the whole adventure.

Often, the hero is reluctant to take up the adventure or continue the adventure. The great adventures always seem so improbable. The hero is often asked to do something that seems impossible. This is important. If the hero goes out and wins what appeared to be a sure fire victory in the first place, then it doesn’t seem that heroic. There needs to be the possibility of loss, even significant loss. There needs to be fear of such a loss, but a girding up of the loins and a willingness to take up the challenged based on a belief that what the hero is doing is right.

Another part of the hero’s journey is the supernatural aid that the hero receives. These days that aid might come in the form of a community of supporters gathering around the hero, the way we did at Poets and Writers for Avery. As a community, we do not have any magical amulets to provide. However, with the sense of poetic justice, the Internet, which helped initiate the call to action, is also a tool to gather the community of supporters and I hope will be a sort of magical amulet.

Then, there is the return of the hero. The hero, upon returning from the adventure helps those around her by bestowing knowledge gained from the adventure. This is happening as Avery gets a chance to tell her story to people in schools, in the media and in daily life.

Perhaps this is where the real magic and power of Avery’s hero journey is hidden. We read the myths of old. We see them as they get portrayed today in movies. However, we all, too often forget that the heroes of these stories were regular people just like you and I. We are all potential heroes, waiting for our call to adventure, for our accidents to happen.

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