Confessions of an Educator

Armchair Activist: How Many Clicks Does it Take?

E789BFF3-8129-43A8-AC6D-847B86BCE33BYou are an armchair activist armed with Facebook statuses and the click click click of the Like button. You are the world’s misleading expert on everything amassed from hours online. Refresh. Refresh. Refresh. You’re armed with Likes based on quarter-researched comments on someone else’s timeline. Never a need to express your own opinions when the thoughts of the others in their own real-world are all playing a game of telephone with important words and catch phrases that catch hazy versions of hate from those who only clicked over to the line when someone else had chimed in with something they could appropriate.

You are the casual-manner, scroll-through of FOX and MSNBC, scoffing and commenting within the same few clicks of the up-up-up arrow on the remote control. You are obstinate ignorance. You are the voice of your parents—the parrot for dinner banter. You’re the kid in the classroom who knows nothing but what the hallways say and makes decisions based on partial, passing quips of conversations. You are the shrapnel of the confusion inside a history book. You are the opposition of everything for which you stand. No questions asked. You Instagram flip while the real stuff happens in front of you.

Or, you’re the real deal ally of those who need your support. Maybe you’re the one who listens beyond the headline and gets to the meat of the matter. Maybe you’re the one who leads the conversations because things just make sense. You’re the handraise-kid with the “stupid question” to which everyone else needs the answer. You are the one with honest dinner conversation and an inquisitive enough mind to want to know more.

Or maybe, you’re that student in my class from a few years ago who told me Michael Brown deserved to die. That Freddy Gray should have cooperated. And you’re the student who wouldn’t listen to the others in the class, because obviously that’s what your parents … err … you believe, and that’s fact. You’re the kid who made a Jew joke in front of their Jewish teacher. You’re the middle schooler who told me Donald Trump is the best president because “he keeps the animals out”.

Teachers can also be clickbait at times. Our opinions are held as fact by many students, and that is a difficult tightrope walk between what you believe, and what you are allowed to say. I once had a colleague teach Inherit the Wind, and decided that he would purport his own theories and thoughts on the origin of man. Unfortunately, this was a fairly conservative district, and parents flooded the principal’s phone line to let her know that the line had been crossed, that their child believed in big-bang-evolution-david-copperfield-magic-trick, and didn’t appreciate being told what to think or how to feel. Teachers need to keep in mind that students are not their audience. They are there to engage in philosophical discussions, but need to keep them focused on the facts, themes, and evidence provided by the text in front of them. The teaching of the book was put on hold indefinitely, and the book itself was tucked deep into the annals of the book room.

I will not sit here and tell you that, at times, I’m not also an armchair activist. There are times I share articles just because their title seems to fit within my ideologies. I mean to read them, but at times I don’t get there and have to simply own whatever I’ve posted as my feelings on whatever issue may have come to light.

My wife catches me spouting off information like it was science and then tells me to read the full article or figure out what I’m talking about before I open my mouth. But, in my defense, the headline was really good and the author most certainly falls in line with whatever it is I want it to say and whichever way in which I’d like to direct the conversation. Depending on the nature of whatever the headline touted as the content of the article, I was sure that I was right. But really, I was ignorant via laziness and an idiot for speaking confidently about a subject of which I knew only as much as could be stuffed into a headline.

We are the voices of everyone who gives their “thoughts and prayers” but offer nothing tangible or actual or that can be any more than a hand wave to look in our direction. Of this, I am as guilty as you are. And yes, I mean you. You’ve done this too. We are too confident about everything, too quick to support everything or refute everything or speak out of turn about everything. But really, false confidence and bravado go a long way toward convincing oneself they aren’t full of crap.

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Follow Chris Margolin on Twitter at @theEDUquestion or The Education Question.

Christopher Margolin

Chris Margolin is a Curriculum Specialist for English Language Arts, Social Studies, World Languages, AP, IB, and College in the High Schools. He spent 12 years as a high school English teacher, working not only with students but also as a member of the district curriculum design team, developing the district’s Creative Writing course. He is a contributing blogger with The Columbian, NCTE, McGraw Hill Education, The Buck Institute of Education, Ed Tech, and The Medium. He currently resides in Vancouver, Washington, with his wife and daughter.

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