Monday, May 16, 2011

Fight for Your Right (to Party)

There's something about this Shelton High School Prom punishment saga that's left me uneasy.. conflicted.. even a little concerned.

It's not the ultimate outcome -- not at all -- James Tate deserves to go to his prom. He never should have been banned in the first place. The punishment did not fit the crime. In fact, the policy that indiscriminately banned anyone who got a suspension after April 1st is too "black & white" for me.

What bothers me, is the way -- or maybe the "why" -- the decision changed.

School leaders admitted they were bowing to "international pressure" that had made it difficult to maintain a good learning environment at the school. Facebook and twitter were buzzing with support for Tate.. and hate for Shelton High's Headmaster. The school campus was crawling with reporters and photographers for a week.

In other words, the angry mob won.

"Crowd-sourcing" is a big thing these days. But crowd-sourcing implies a group of people is asked to make a decision or do a job. Take reality television shows, for example. They often decide who stays and who goes by popular vote. Shelton schools didn't ask for input on this decision -- but, boy did they get it.  Of course, that kind of thing has always been around in some form. It's just that facebook, twitter, and online comment sections make it easier than ever for people to express their opinions. Everyone is entitled to that. I guess what I fear is a world in which only the "loudest voices" get to make all the decisions. That's a big can of worms. And once they're out, those worms are never going back in.

Don't get me wrong, I'm all for standing up for what you believe. I support expressing your opinion. It's a right -- even a responsibility. And I think companies owe it to their customers, like politicians owe it to their constituents, to acknowledge and address concerns and explain decisions. There must be checks and balances. But sometimes it goes so far, it further erodes any remaining respect for authority. Sometimes people in power must make difficult, unpopular decisions and we don't -- even can't -- know all the reasons behind those decisions. As they say, that's why they get paid the big bucks.

Maybe I'm just uneasy because, as a parent, sometimes I have to make tough decisions my kids don't like. I don't want them to think that if they complain loudly enough, I'll change my mind. It doesn't always work that way. It can't.

Today's title: The Beastie Boys anthem

Monday, May 2, 2011


There was a note sitting on the kitchen table when I got up for work this morning. With my wacky schedule, that's pretty common. It's often how my wife and I communicate -- I'll find or leave notes like: "Please pick up milk".. or "Don't forget soccer tonight".. or "There's laundry in the dryer."

The message she left for me this morning was a little different: "Osama Bin Laden: Dead." Wow. This is not going to be one of those slow Monday mornings in the news business.

I'm sure I'm not the only one who woke up to that news. Many people went to sleep before the news broke late Sunday. I dozed off while watching the Mets-Phillies game and turned the TV off around 10:00 -- a short time before the crowd at Citizen's Bank Park started chanting, "USA, USA, USA!" It was a sign of our plugged-in times. Fans on their smartphones, finding out about the big breaking news and then sharing the moment, together.

It's another example of just how connected we are. Always. We learn about events as they happen. And anyone can be the source (not always a good thing, but that's another story for another time). Take Sohaib Athar. He's the guy who unknowingly live-blogged the raid on Osama Bin Laden's compound on his twitter account. On his twitter page, he says he's "an I-T consultant taking a break from the rat-race by hiding in the mountains with his laptops." Turns out Athar's "hiding spot" was awfully close to Bin Laden's hideout.

But perhaps more important than finding out about things as they happen, is the opportunity social media gives us to react and respond to those events together - to share our emotions, to comfort one another or to celebrate. It's human nature to want share big moments together. It's why baseball fans in Philly started chanting, why people gathered and waved flags in New York City and outside the White House. And it's what millions of others did on twitter and facebook. Check your timeline or newsfeed -- there is true sense of community.

And it's impossible not to think about 9/11 and the shock, sadness, fear and anger that accompanied it.  It makes me wonder what that Tuesday morning might have been like, had we had those social media platforms...

Today's Title: Stereo MCs