Search this site
Other stuff

All banner artwork by Brady Johnson, college student and (semi-) starving artist.

My latest books:


        Available now

       Available Now

Available now 

My book Machines are the easy part; people are the hard part is now available as a free download at Lulu.

 The Blue Skunk Page on Facebook


EdTech Update





Professional organizations and professional respect

I get a chuckle out of reading Jenny Levin’s The Shifted Librarian blog. One of her more recent entries was a vent about having to pay a full day of conference fees in order to be a part of a conference panel when her non-ALA counterpart did not. (Why I'm Not Joining ALA Right Now After All) She writes:

“… I recently received an email from PLA noting that I have to register in order to speak at their conference, and I’m pretty angry about it. I don’t have any money left in my budget to pay a registration fee (for half a day, no less!) for the privilege of accepting an invitation to speak at their conference. So I pursed this with the person who put my program together, and today I was told that I have to pay a full day’s fee if I’m a member of ALA. If I’m not a member of ALA, I get a complimentary day pass instead.”
She vows:
“I will never accept another invitation to speak at an ALA-related conference until they reverse this ludicrous policy of CHARGING THEIR SPEAKERS TO SPEAK. It’s insane, absurd, surreal, and unethical. You don’t have a conference without your speakers. I understand they can’t reimburse speakers for travel expenses, but the very least they can do is comp their speakers’ conference registration fees. And the whole conference, too, not just a day. You either value your own professionals or you don’t, and the current policy tells me you don’t.”
This one hit home since I have always vociferously advocated for complimentary registration for lead presenters at our state MEMO conferences. Our organization has been divided about doing so in the past, and I believe this decision is now left at the discretion of the conference committee. (I don’t remember one recently that hasn’t.) For our district librarians, this is a real incentive to put in a session proposal. It greatly increases the likelihood of being able to attend the annual conference if our librarians can say, “Gee I am presenting and I don’t have to pay the registration fee.” Gets new blood into the spotlight too. And it says, "Thanks for working on behalf of MEMO."

One problem of course is that conferences tend to be major revenue generators for professional organizations. Sara Johns, in a recent AASLForum listserv posting, states that ALA would lose $100,000 in revenues if it were to comp registrations for session presenters. (At $200 per day registration fees, that would be comping 500! presenters?) IMHO, ALA would be better off diverting some funds from high profile, very expensive keynote speakers who have nothing to teach us about library service or education, and use at least some of these funds to forgive conference fees. It’s a lovely way for an often impersonal organization to say “we value our members expertise and contributions.”  (I may be moved or motivated for an hour by the keynoters, but the things I learn I can put to use come from practitioners’ sessions.

On a side note, I deeply respect and admire the seeming 5-10% of any organization’s members who actually DO  necessary volunteer organizatio work for nothing more than jewels in their crowns. Volunteer organizations exist only because of these folks.

My question is: Why does it seem such a small percentage of people in any organization actually does more than just pay dues? (Oh, and offer “suggestions for improvement?”) This seems to be the rule for Kiwanis, ISTE, AASL, MEMO, the German-Jefferson Lakes Association,  – well, every organization to which I belong. I’ll give people with small children a pass, but everyone else has the same 24 hours in their day that I have. Does Jenny’s complaint suggest a reason?



Blogging ethics statement

Just in case you don't dig down into the comments on the earlier post "May I See Your ID?," here is a direct link to Liz Ditz's thoughts on blogging ethics. Well worth reading.


Keeping Kids in their Place

The ugly list called “Dumbing Down Our Kids”  (or is it Keeping Kids in their Place?)  attributed to Charles Sykes is making the rounds again. I detested the thing when I first saw it and it still creeps me out. Sykes’s original is in bold; my response is not.

Rule 1: Life is not fair; get used to it.  Life is absolutely fair. We all get the same odds of absolutely arbitrary good and bad things happening to us.

Rule 2: The world won't care about your self-esteem. The world will expect you to accomplish something before you feel good about yourself.  The world doesn't care about anything. Only people have the capacity for caring and there are plenty of caring people in the world. We should teach people to feel good about a much wider scope of "accomplishments" than that narrowly defined by the business world: artistic talent, empathic gifts, being a good friend, being healthy, etc.

Rule 3: You will not make 40 thousand dollars a year right out of high school. You won't be a vice president with a car phone until you earn both.  I know kids who come out of high school (or a year of technical college) Novell or Cisco certified that make 40K easy. Artistic, athletic, entrepreneurial, and musical talents are rewarded at an even higher rate. Age and experience are not an indicator of earning power. Talent and rare or valued skills sets are.

Rule 4: If you think your teacher is tough, wait till you get a boss who doesn't have tenure.  Very funny. Have you ever seen an employee evaluation done in the private sector? They are a joke. We have a negative unemployment rate here in our area of Minnesota in many sectors of our economy. (1 applicant for every 25 manufacturing jobs.) Good bosses aren't tough. They are teachers and coaches and mentors. At least the ones who wish to keep good employees are. (And that's driving the old white, bald, cigar-chomping, I-say-jump bosses nuts!)

Rule 5: Flipping burgers is not beneath your dignity. Your grandparents had a different word for burger-flipping; they called it opportunity.  Depends on whether it is at MacDonalds or Chez Bovine. Any work into which a person cannot bring imagination, creativity, and personal-goal setting should be automated. I hate seeing humans doing the work of machines nearly as much as I hate seeing machines trying to do the work of humans (Internet filters, telephone automated responses, etc.)  

Rule 6: If you screw up, it's not your parents' fault so don't whine about your mistakes. Learn from them.  You haven't seen some of the parents my students deal with.  Sometimes it IS the parents' fault.

Rule 7: Before you were born, your parents weren't as boring as they are now. They got that way paying your bills, cleaning your room, and listening to you talk how about how idealistic you are.  I thought they got that way because they lost their idealism by for working for people like you, Mr. Sykes.

Rule 8: Your school may have done away with winners and losers, but life has not. In some schools they have abolished failing grades, they'll give you as many times as you want to get the right answer. This, of course, bears not the slightest resemblance to anything in real life.  Really? Then why do I always read about the number of times people like Harlan Sanders (KFC) failed before making it big. Good schools never give up on kids. We've learned that some people take a little more time to perform at an expected level of competence, but given time, energy and motivation, everybody will eventually get the "right" answers. Schools can't afford to be social sorting devices anymore, since there aren't places for D and F kids in society anymore.  

Rule 9: Life is not divided into semesters. You don't get summers off, and very few employers are interested in helping you find yourself.  Do that on your own time.   If you are smart and talented enough you can have as much time off as you wish. If you are not finding yourself though work, you are in the wrong job.

Rule 10: Television is not real life. In real life people actually have to leave the coffee shop and go to jobs.  Unless you are a writer, consultant, salesperson, or work from home (or with a cell phone and laptop out of a coffee shop). I would agree that television is not real life. Real life is a whole lot better. Thank goodness.

Rule 11: Living fast and dying young is romantic-only until you see one of your peers at room temperature.  But living fast IS romantic. If you aren't a little wild while you are young, you'll have to be a little wild during a middle-age crisis when it's a lot more expensive and you'll look a great deal more foolish. The longest book is not always the most interesting book.

Rule 12: Be nice to nerds. Chances are you'll end up working for them.  Be nice to everyone. Chances are true "nerds" will be working for you. Learn what motivates them and makes them loyal and productive.

Mr. Sykes, lighten up and get a grip. 

Internet denizens, stop forwarding this crap.

I’m feeling rather contrary lately. Have you noticed? Must be all this Christmas, no Holiday, no Christmas, no Holiday, no ... Whatever shopping getting to me.