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Rabbits, Gremlins and All the Jabberwockys in Between

I think most of us can admit that we are living in a narcissistic time. Culturally speaking we are living in the “me” moment. Social media exasperates this since quite literally everyone with a computer, cell phone or tablet can broadcast their thoughts, opinions, beliefs, emotions, etc. to the universe. We live in a time where everything we think and feel is put on display for mass consumption , and we are encouraged to engage.

We throw ourselves into the fray to state why we agree or disagree, and in so doing can end up in arguments with complete strangers. I won’t give most of these arguments the grace of labeling them debates, because they simply aren’t. I’ve engaged in one of these debates on Twitter, but I did so in defense of a friend under attack. This total stranger disagreed with my friend and went into a tirade. I entered the fray calmly, and remained calm throughout, asking questions, trying to tease out why this person was emotional and felt the need to attack. At one point she started cursing at me, so me being me stated, “ah, so clearly you’re upset since now you are cursing. I’m not trying to upset you, I’m trying to have a conversation with you. If you’re upset you will be unable to have a logical debate.” She replied, “I’m just showering linguistic glitter onto this stupid conversation.”

Yes, I laughed quite a bit at that, as well as the fact that she blocked me about a minute later. I guess she felt like she had showered me with enough glitter and her job was done. Truth be told, I did have a lot of fun that day.

Typically I’m not a fray kind of girl. Truly. Why?

One: I don’t want to get engaged with keyboard warriors who are so convinced of their position that no amount of debate / arguing / etc. will EVER change their minds. They are there living on the angst. It fuels their toxic hearts and minds and drives their every need. They may not even realize it, but their need to enrage someone is the reason why they get out of bed in the morning. I am not going to throw myself into the mire with that type of person. It feeds their black hearts and accomplishes nothing for the cause.

Two: I will not engage with someone who is so convinced of the rightness of their position that they cannot possibly see another side, another angle, another reality. Like the keyboard warriors who are intentionally wrecking havoc for fun, these people are arguing from self-righteous positions and their defense, like the example above, simply feeds their martyrdom for their cause. It doesn’t matter if they’re right or wrong, or how factual their arguments are, to them THEY ARE RIGHT AND YOU ARE WRONG! Again, this fray isn’t worth my time or the emotional expense. This too will do nothing for the cause.

Three: Have you ever hear of Hiroo Onoda? He was one of the last Japanese soldiers to stop fighting World War II — 29 years after the Imperial Japanese Army surrendered to the Allies aboard the U.S.S. Missouri on September 2, 1945. His story is very sad. He was so far removed from Imperial Japan that it was a long time before he heard the war had ended, but his loyalty was so vast that he always believed that to be a lie, so he kept fighting. Can you imagine fighting a war for another 29 years because you are so convinced that there is no way on Earth that your Emperor would or could ever lose, much less surrender? He returned to a world he didn’t know anymore, and couldn’t function in. “Hiroo Onoda shows us all just how far values like loyalty, pride, determination, and commitment can take you — for good or for ill.” (https://allthatsinteresting.com/hiroo-onoda#:~:text=Hiroo%20Onoda%20was%20one%20of,Missouri%20on%20September%202%2C%201945.)

Debating with Balanced Literacy proponents is similar to fighting against a Hiroo Onoda. Their values of loyalty, pride, determination and commitment to the belief structure that is so deeply engrained in Balanced Literacy makes them blind to all else. I’ve written several pieces at this point, and as cruel as this may be it is unfortunately true, as these are the ones who will go down defending the Balanced Literacy ship. Engaging them is sometimes necessary, but only to an extent. Nothing can be gained by arguing with a brick wall. Once I recognize someone will defend Balanced Literacy to the dire end, I walk away. They too are not worth my time or emotional expense.

The problem is it’s impossible to be a parent advocate and not chase every rabbit you see, not scream at every gremlin, and not do battle with every Jabberwocky that comes across your path, as well as everything in between. This is the inner war between what we know is socially right, our own pain and trauma, our exasperation, our determination to correct a broken system, for some the joy in the battle, for some the narcissism of needing to be proven right, for some the narcissism of validating themselves, regardless of anything else. See? Again, there’s that “me” moment.

The challenges before us are vast. The longer I do this the more I understand just how vast. The ask to change literacy practices aren’t just small ones at the school board level, or state ones with individual state laws and mandates regarding practices, but federally speaking regarding “thought” leaders and shifts in ideas, ideals, pedagogy, politics, economics, and more. The literacy fray is one to enter with eyes wide open if one intends to create real and lasting change. It is not for the faint of heart. It is not for the weak. To enter the literacy fray is to enter the political arena, and those that are already there are well seasoned, waiting for new flesh to devour.

So some think that this is all Science of Reading proponents, #SoR, versus Balanced Literacy, BL, proponents, and for the most part it is. There are some people who engage more than others in this battle front, but of course the PR spins from the BL camp is that #SoR is just a bunch of angry, ignorant parents, who teacher bash and refuse to work with the system; that we really don’t understand the science; that we really don’t know HOW to teach, thus our ignorance makes our arguments unreasonable and not fact based; that the gains we “claim” will be achieved are not reasonable; that you “can’t throw the baby out with the bath water” by getting rid of “all the good in” BL; that pretty much any argument we make is moot, wrong, outdated, misunderstood, misguided, or whatever adjective you wish to use.

Honestly, this is the stuff of soap operas.

Which is why, when there is infighting inside of the #SoR camp, the BL camp sells popcorn, watches, point and says “SEE! THEY’RE ALL STUPID MORONS WHO DON’T KNOW WHAT THEY’RE TALKING ABOUT! THEY’RE OVER THERE ACTING LIKE CHILDEN!”

Now, the moms on the parent advocate side are going to have some in fighting. This I’ve accepted, as much as it break my heart. This stems from pain. We live an emotionally challenging existence, and in that existence there is real pain, real trauma, and some people are better equipped for that than others, some people’s trauma is overwhelming, some people suffer silently, some people shake off their pain, and any other possible algorithmic choice of how the our emotions and logic war with each other and how that emanates in actions and words. I wish this wasn’t the case, but I’ve been here too long to lie and say it isn’t true. I’d like to see us collectively behave better as a community, but hey, we’re human.

Where this hurts us though are when the real leaders in this space, and those leaders are the scientists spearheading and running these decades long research projects that yields the empirical data that we hang our hats on, when they choose to not be professional and get in the muck, that’s when real damage is done. Creating Jabberwocky’s out of what really…jealousy, the need for attention, the need for negative attention, the need for regardless of what, that’s when true damage to creating and sustaining any real change is put in harms way. The scientists doing the research are the only “thought leaders” that we have for our community and when they take their issues out into the open for the fray to hone in on and feed off of that’s when we lose ground.

Our thought leaders need to be above the fray. Again, they’re human too, but let’s harken back to the days prior to social media and podcasts, and blogs and whatever else makes everyone think their individual voice matters more than everyone else’s. This community is their institution and as the leaders they need to debate and discuss amongst themselves, then disseminate across peer-reviewed journals. Throwing pot shots in a speech on social media with little to no evidence can and did do real harm. Instead it was like watching a child throw a temper tantrum. No matter how good the eloquent points early on in the speech may have been, no one remembers that anymore. If I were on the opposing side I’d be celebrating this catastrophic showing with glee. Hell, I’d PR spin the crap out of it.

The sad facts is one of our thought leaders just lost his credibility with our community, and that’s a very tragic loss. It’s been coming for a while. There are some self-proclaimed “thought leaders” on Twitter that have been doing real harm for a while. They’re far too egotistical to recognize it because frankly they’re only in it for the fame and name recognition, not the actual science and not for our children.

Because that’s the thing, for those in the fray, for the hubris, for the ego, for the fame, for whatever self righteous purpose one is here, you’ve forgotten a very key thing…

…this isn’t about you…

…this is about our children.

So that being said, I could care less about your ego, or mine. I don’t care what your emotional response is. I don’t need to validate your existence. This is about our children’s literacy for generations to come and the real and lasting costs of their illiteracy, and that’s all that matters.

So stop chasing rabbits, stop screaming at gremlins, and stop creating Jabberwockys so you can slay them.

We must be better. Our children’s lives depend on it.

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