Friday, November 28, 2014

Could We Watch our Language?

I've been watching a large number of "fail" videos and Vine videos. (6 second videos, mostly humorous).

Some of the videos have been funny, really funny. This one has some funny bits:
Yet one of the things I've noticed about Vines, fail videos (that aren't of Russian or Chinese car crashes) is the frequency of vulgarity. The videos toss off "N** r" with a frequency that could shame Kat Williams. They f -bomb more times than George Carlin did in a lifetime. Beaches are neither trees nor sandy places.

In an effort to derive humor from incongruity the vulgarities are frequently uttered by toddlers and tots in car seats, children who shouldn't have an idea of the meaning of these words, much less have thought through the connotations of their utterance.

There are very few "fag" appellations in the videos I've watched. Not quite sure why that's the case, but it does seem to be so. Humiliation seems to be a common theme, but that's for another post. Right now I'm concerned about verbal vulgarity.

I wish we'd drop dropping "f," "b," "c," and even "n" bombs. All of  us. Even black males attempting to be the next Kevin Hart or Kat Williams should drop the "n" word. Yes, black folks and "my nizzle" one another. Snoop Dog made it permissible. (By that same logic, shouldn't it be the prerogative of women only to use the "b" bomb?)

Vulgarity derives part of its power from being extra-ordinary speech. It derives some of its power from being words forbidden for  children's use. We are in danger of making these valuable expletives powerless and meaningless by the frequency with which we use them. 

So guys - can we please find new ways to be disparaging? Favorite writer Fred Buechner used to use "nig-nog" in his Book of Beebe novels. I don't have any female focused derogatives in mind just yet. And for the f-bomb we might borrow from Norwegian or Swedish. Or follow the Scandinavian lead and use the devil as a source for our disrespect.

Please mamma-knullare! 

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Toxic Dissension I

This has been a rough couple of weeks – from just before fall break to this Friday of Halloween. The temperature of the student body has been running from hot to severely over-heated. There’s been lots of talk about not returning, about the school not being worth the investment, about how bad things are.

Each year at about this time of the fall I run small groups in my Intro class. We focus on using the Dewey method of small group problem solving, so each year I get an earful of student complaints. I don’t think I’ve ever had a year when the complaints have been so toxic. I’m wondering what’s made this year different.

There are some things the college is doing – or failing to do – that could improve the situation. We could repair things in the dorms and keep student dorm trashers disciplined. We could better communicate what we’re doing to answer student complaints (one complaint raised a week ago in Bethany Quest was the issue of lighting. After the Stand Up rally on the 23rd the President walked the campus with students, looking at the dark places.) We could tell people why the faculty/student effort to end sexual harassment got shut down. We could do a better job at clarifying policy – like continuing to stress with students that the ID classes are skills oriented. In my view we could reinforce the idea that we are interested in skills by offering a “show what you know option” to all incoming students. Of course, that would then get students riled when they didn’t pass because they weren’t as good as they thought they were.

But I don’t think that those issues are what is actually causing the toxic level of dissent on campus. There are three major changes to the campus this fall that I do think are directly involved in student unrest.

The first is our new Interdisciplinary program. That is a source of major complaint among students. What’s different about these complaints from the old complaints about General Education is that we hear the complaints en-masse, and that the students are together in these classes and get to feed each other’s negativity. Under the old system students in General Education didn’t get to voice their complaint about having to learn algebra or chemistry or art in a class of lots of other people who didn’t like and didn’t see why they had to take those General Education classes. We heard their complaints in enrollment sessions, but they didn’t get a forum to air their complaints and get support from the like minded.

What we’re seeing, in my opinion, is a bad case of “Group Think,” in which a negative attitude is multiplying among group members.

It is natural that there should be resistance to what we’re asking students to do. We are asking for something unconventional, and this is the most conventional generation, totally focused on what their education is going to cost them and how they are supposed to pay the bills after graduation. They have been aided in this by the presentation of student debt as “crushing,” and “out of control.” Even though they’re not large consumers of TV news, they seem to have cultivated a “mean world” view of the value of college and the cost of their college.

It is natural. Perhaps we should offer the students a “show what you know” option – such as I mentioned above as a way of opting out of the classes. If you think you already know how to do college level research, have mastered presentation skills, can do analytic and critical thinking at a high level, you could submit artifacts (in the first six weeks of the semester?) that demonstrate your skills. If you pass, you get a pass on the course. It seems to me, from the work I’ve seen from the students I’ve had in class, that the number of passes would be incredibly small. It might, however, quiet some of the complaints. (Maybe we’ll offer this option in ID102 – do the final project within the first six weeks and you don’t have to come to the rest of the classes).

I'm going to discuss the other two factors I see in the development of this toxic dissension on campus in the next post. I want to drop in a class session I had on "I and You" messaging a couple of years ago (Spring term, 2013). I think this may be some helpful reminders from my discipline on what we don't want to do in response to "I don't like this ID course, I don't see why we're doing it."

Monday, March 11, 2013

Catching Up

It has been four years since I posted anything to this blog.

Part of the reason is that I only teach Interpersonal every other year and I didn't teach it the last iteration. This year's edition is being brought to you courtesy of Franzika Macur. She's an actual communication scholar. I'm more of a rhetorical generalist and media producer masquerading as an interpersonal scholar on occasion.

Nevertheless, I want to add a little something because I'm trying to get a general Communication Studies at Bethany College blog to go with our Bethany College new roll out. So I thought I'd revive this blog with occasional posts on what I'm still learning about Interpersonal Communication.

One of those learnings came from watching an amazing speaker, performer, musician, Amanda Palmer. The video is from her recent presentation at the TED conference.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Case presentation for Film studies

Bethany College should develop in the Communication Studies program a web film and video production emphasis.

Observation 1 – No other Kansas college has a film and video production program     

Sterling has minor video production, primarily radio production

Kansas has a large film production unit – which offers very limited opportunity for the undergraduate.

No school has a production emphasis devoted to production for the internet.

Observation 2 – Most frequent request of prospective students is for media related work.

Observation 3 – While news press is declining in circulation, new media, often with high production values, is starting to predominate.

Contention 1 Serving new students requires new courses and new outlooks. The newest outlooks are web based mediated communications.

Contention 2 Current configuration of course work, orientation to Rhetorical studies and performance of oral persuasion looks backward, rather than forward – serves old students rather than new.

Therefore – to serve new students with new technology BC should invest the resources to move communication studies to film and video production for the web.


Plan – We do the following: Three parts needed: Space, Equipment, Instructor.

              Space – basement of Nelson Science, room converted for edit suite

              Equipment – three Canon XL1, tripods, dollies, one crane, one handy cam, two shotgun boom mics, one lavi, three MAC G-5 towers, three second monitors for G5 (each have dual monitors), reference video monitors, desks, one printer.

              Instructor – Isaacson knows how, for moment let him teach it. Ultimately hire a specialist.


Agency – Team approach, led by Communication department. Purchase with grants (observation 4, camera we have purchased with grant money).


Mandates -  Comm dept presses all other team members. Pres authorizes, Advancement – write grant, Maintenance, create space in space. Dean Oks Isaacson as instructor, CC approves the curriculum change.


Enforcement – Communication & Theatre carries out the implementation, oversees the pieces, pushes to get the job done for students.


Funding and Staffing – purchase funded through grants, staffing by existing staff for next 5 years. Aim to become additional staff member in 5. Technician who can serve both the needs of video development, animation, theatre production management.


Addenda – Assessment plan issue must be addressed by current faculty. Must name where it fits in the current mission of the department, how it will be assessed with current plan (or revise)


Contention 3 – Expect that if we go ahead with the plan we will see an increase in numbers in Theatre/Communication. Here, combined majors 16. Sterling, with something like proposal, Comm Majors alone 21, additional 15 theatre. Reasonable growth expectation.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

I'm Sick

I'm sick today - again. I have a nasty cold.

The worst part is the sneezing. Maybe. Maybe it's the drippie nose. Maybe it's the stuffed up head.

In terms of Interpersonal Communication, sickness keeps me from being any sort of communicator. When I am sick I want to be left alone. I don't treat others properly. I tend to forget commitments. In other words,


Sunday, March 29, 2009

Back to Class?

We're coming back to class after this strange Spring Break.

My Interpersonal Relationships have been rather few and shallow this week. I've spent most of the time working on catching up (wasn't entirely successful on that either). I'm looking forward to being back with people and away from my computer screen.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Gone - But Certainly Not Forgotten

Gone - But Certainly Not Forgotten

It's the first full day of Spring Break. I haven't seen a student all day. (I haven't graded a paper either, but that's another issue. I also haven't finished Sunday's Sermon - yet another issue.)

But just because the students are gone doesn't mean they aren't still making their presence felt.


Voice-mail (I haven't checked).

Text messaging.

Tasks for Easter.

I have been busy much of the day with student related tasks. Either student and production needs have been my aim, or they have not been far off my mind.

Interpersonal Communication in the age of electronics isn't all that different from the way it was in C.A. Swensson's time. I'm betting that students were never far from his thoughts when he made that February 1904 trip to California. Students are like that. They're something that professors obsess over, worry about,work for and expect work from. If it weren't that way, maybe we wouldn't be in the profession at a small college that puts a premium on relationships.

But I am here, I like it here, I feel validated by what I do here - so - Good Break, Kids. I'll be thinking about you while you're away!