Today in glaringly obvious understatements: I was an excellent English student as a child. My love of the written word came directly from my love of reading. I absolutely loved to read. I didn’t think it was uncool or not fun. Fiction was a means by which to escape; history a conduit to self discovery. I devoured books in school. (I still do.) If a particular book peaked my interest, I was done with it within a few hours. (I actually still read alarmingly fast. But I don’t speed read. I refuse to miss a single word. And I retain about 90% of it for years afterwards.) I was (am) absolutely insatiable when it came to learning. I wanted to know everything for myself. I remember once reading the Bible cover to cover just because I wanted to make sure that what I was being told was right. (And we see how that worked out.)
When I reached middle and high school and my reading and writing skills surpassed that of my peers, started taking advanced classes and got exposed to even more outside my little bubble of southwest Atlanta. My teachers (whom I am forever indebted to) started challenging me a bit more; my papers had to be longer, better written, more extensively supported than that of my peers. The subjects had to be more difficult, more complex, my stances more nuanced than your typical high schooler. (In the eleventh grade I had to write a paper on Henry David Thoreau and civil disobedience, whether or not it was a viable theory to apply to the gentrification of my hood. And a paper in twelth grade about the origins of Christianity and whether or not the Bible was evidence enough to justify slavery, female subjugation, and persecution of homosexuals. Makes a nigga miss a book report, don’t it?)
The thing that reading, and subsequently writing, gave me was a very firm grasp on critical thinking. I couldn’t get away with half ass points or unsubstantiated claims. I couldn’t argue my point without fully researching it, truly understanding the scope of the question presented to me.
One of the best exercises I ever did as both a reader and a writer was my ninth grade year in an Honors English class. The first week of school, my teacher gave us a paragraph to read. After we read this paragraph we had to write down what we thought it meant. We shared what everyone in the small class thought it meant, and then we passed in our paper. Every month, for the rest of the school year, we reread that paragraph, wrote down our interpretation, discussed them and passed them in.
At the end of the year, when all of my interpretations were handed back to me, I had nine very different interpretations of the very same paragraph.
I never forgot that lesson.
I have tried as best I can to carry that lesson into adulthood. I have applied it not only to my work but to my interactions with friends and colleagues. It has served me well in not only expressing myself, but respecting and learning from other people’s viewpoints. I try to keep in mind that not everyone interprets the paragraph the same way.
That being said, I can’t help but wonder sometimes…
I cannot bear to read the news or blogs or discussion in chat rooms or watch TV anymore. I simply cannot live this way. I have been blogging for five years, I have come in contact with countless bloggers, real life writers, journalists etc, and I can tell you a few very important things I have learned from this new foray into social media;
1. Not everyone should have a voice.
No really. Just because you have something to say doesn’t mean you should say it. Ever. To anyone. You shouldn’t even write them in your journal. Especially if said journal is kept online. You think that what you have to say is profound and intelligent but in fact it makes me wonder just how much moonshine your mother drank while nursing you.
2. Some opinions are wrong.
I recognize that you have been taught since elementary school that by their very nature, opinions cannot be wrong. That is a lie. An opinion can in fact be so flagrantly erroneous that you laugh out loud if only to keep from curling up in the fetal position and weeping. Don’t believe me? Evidence.
3. Some questions are stupid.
Again, elementary thought tells you this isn’t true, but as a grown up you will discover that is simply not true. Stupid questions include:
“Where is his birth certificate?”
“Does your hair hurt when it grows out of your head that way?” (which is a true life question a white girl asked me about my naturally curly hair)
4. Just because you “know” big words does not mean you are a writer.
On this, I will admit my bias. I write. I went to school with writers. I know some of the most talented writers that you don’t know. So when I read absolute foolishness in mainstream publications and then hear about how these incredibly talented wordsmiths can’t get their work green lit, it makes me want to drink myself into a coma. Let’s be clear; knowing how to work the thesaurus function in W.ord does NOT make you a writer. Nor does (almost) knowing how to use the King’s English. THAT’S WHAT THE FUCK YOU ARE SUPPOSED TO DO!
5. The internet should require an IQ test and psychological exam before you can use it.
Look no further than the comment section on, well, any website. It doesn’t matter who’s website, its the same in the comments for news organizations, gossip blogs, or political tomes. It doesn’t matter if it’s a heartwarming story about how a fluffy puppy wrapped itself around an injured kitten during a snowstorm to save it. SOMEone, SOMEwhere is going to have the most profoundly ignorant, offensive shit to say. And they are given an even larger platform to spread such vile sentiment and link up with other bottom feeding creatures because of Al Gore’s creation. The internet should be a privilege. You trolls are on punishment.
It happens to even the most well intentioned people. They hear certain catch phrases…
…and just stop listening. There are plenty of debates raging in blogosphere but little to no listening and zero to negative critical thinking. No one has any actual evidence to support their batshit crazy theories or staunch personal convictions. No one has done any research or digging or soul searching to see how and why they came to such conclusions. And yet, EVERYONE is right. Because everyone has been validated by a little bit of internet gangsta.
And I can’t.
Anyone who knows me knows I love a good debate. Not for the sake of debating, but because the discourse has taught me so much, especially if talking to someone who knew more than me about a particular subject. I like asking questions. I like stirring the pot and then sitting back to listen and soak up some knowledge.
That is to say, I know when to shut the fuck up and let the big kids play.
I would enjoy it, very, extremely, alot of much, if some people on the internet would learn the same.
And in the meantime, read a book, niggas.
*jumping down off soapbox*