Sunday, August 16, 2009

An Impartial Media?

As I prepare for a new school year, I am slowly starting to get my materials together.  I am trying to plan out the first few weeks of my classes so that I have everything at my fingertips when students arrive on September 1.  Since students won’t have textbooks for the first week or so of school, I have to do lessons that lay a foundation for the class, but don’t require a textbook to complete.

One of the lessons I am contemplating is one on media bias.  There are three views to media bias.  One view is that there is no media bias.  The illusion of media bias exists because of our own biases.  We see something happening in the world of politics that we believe that the press should be shouting from the rooftops, yet it doesn’t get mentioned.  Because of that silence, we see it as media bias.

Another belief is that there is conservative media bias.  It is held (obviously) by people on the far left side of the political spectrum.  They say that the media has a conservative bias because the TV stations, newspapers and radio stations are owned by corporations, and since business is (supposedly) in the hip pocket of the Republican Party, it is obvious (to those who believe in conservative media bias)that this would affect the neutrality of the media.  They believed that Bush should have been impeached and prosecuted for the Iraq war, and since the media did not take up that cause, it was proof that they biased.  They also have to point no further than Fox News for examples of conservative media bias (oddly enough, they cannot find examples of conservative media bias on MSNBC, CNN, ABC, CBS, or NBC).

The third view is that there is a distinct liberal bias in the media.  This view is held by most on the right and many in the center.  One of the proofs of this was the way the media fell over each other covering the candidacy and now Presidency of Barack Obama with the attitude of a slobbering lapdog.

If you hadn’t figured out yet from my comments, I believe that there is a distinct liberal media bias.  This bias is even admitted by some “conservative” Democrats.  One great essay by one such Democrat is by Orson Scott Card, the science fiction writer.  In his essay “Would the Last Honest Reporter Please Turn Off the Lights?”, Card lays out a most convincing argument in favor of this point.  At one point he says: “Even though President Bush and his administration never said that Iraq sponsored or was linked to 9/11 … you pounded us with the fact that there was no such link.”  The point is made yet again, when he points out: “[Y]ou have participated in the borking of Sarah Palin, reporting savage attacks on her for the pregnancy of her unmarried daughter -- while you ignored the story of John Edwards's own adultery for many months.”

Despite my own personal belief, I let my students decide for themselves.  I allow them to examine all three points of view, and decide for themselves what they believe.  Should you want to look at the three articles: there are links below:

Monday, August 3, 2009

Welcome to the Jungle …

…Well maybe not the jungle, but maybe welcome to the hiking trail.  I am Jim, I am a part time hiker, full time teacher and I love to hunt political animals.  I draw the title of my blog from two things we all need in our lives.

Fresh Air: we all need to breathe.  I especially love getting out to remote hiking trails away from the city where the air is a little clearer.  I plant a garden every year (this year excepted since the growing season was screwed up by a non-existent spring).  I used to keep indoor plants, but indoor plants and cats don’t always mix well.

Common Sense: a good friend of mine has a blog icon that says “common sense ain’t so common”.  Sure, it is an old saying, but it is very true.  Common sense is needed in all things: our personal lives, parenting, education, government and politics.

We need common sense in our personal lives.  I have had to learn to step back from situations and relationships which were adding stress and pain to my life.  This is something I have not always been good at doing.  I need to continue working on this.  I also need to make healthier choices in my life.

We all need common sense as parents.  I was a parent for five glorious years to two wonderful girls (my ex-wife came fully equipped).  In that time I made mistakes, and I learned a lot.  At the same time I was beginning a new career as a teacher, and the  two experiences went together quite nicely, I learned so much from both of those experiences.

Common sense is needed in education.  Speaking from experience, there is little common sense in how education is perceived, performed and paid for.  The public at large has little understanding of the issues in education.  Special education, broken families, over-involved parents, under-involved parents and unmotivated students.  These are just a few of the challenges faced by public education systems.  On top of that, pile on budget problems, overactive lawyers, monolithic unions, unrealistic expectations of political and educational leaders and the occasional teacher looking forward more to retirement than the next day of teaching.

Common sense seems totally absent in government and politics these days.  We are spending ourselves into oblivion and we have an “opposition” party that can’t seem to get past a silly issue like a certified birth certificate and talking about their high and lofty “ideals”.  Memo to the idiots in the minority: the people don’t want ideals or principles, they want to know what you are going to DO.  This is why you are in the minority.  You spent eight years talking ideals while the other guys were talking programs.  However, as Davy Crockett once said (the quote is often attributed to Thomas Jefferson; it was quoted by Gerald Ford in an address to  a joint session of Congress in 1974 and may also have been quoted by Barry Goldwater): “A government that is big enough to give you everything you want is also big enough to take away everything you have.”

There are four things we need in order to have a healthy, functioning participatory democratic republic: two lively political parties able to argue both ideas and initiatives, a truly independent media that investigates and reports on what the government is doing, an educated, engaged electorate, and finally common sense.