The Chauvinists

The big news is the conviction of Chauvin. That’s what everyone’s talking about. That’s what has been driving journalists, bloggers, and everyone with a keyboard to… well, their keyboards. It’s good news. Sort of. A man is dead, and 64 people have died at the hands of the police during the trial proceedings. I visited my mom before the verdict, and on my way out, she casually joked about possible rioting after the reading. She mentioned that the statehouse had actually put up barriers around their perimeter. That they felt the need to set up protection for the duration of the trial. It seems the only sane option was a guilty verdict. Now, the world is awaiting the sentence, and in the meantime it feels like hundreds of articles are being churned out, both for and against the decision of the jury. How much of it is produced by bots? How much of it is inflated politicking or trolling or some other form of monetization?

The news seems more and more to be a function of generating clicks more than expanding a population’s understanding of their world. There were literally over 100 articles written within the last 24 hours that mention Chauvin. And the way in which we get our news, even, is now produced so heavily by algorithms and marketing measures that I can’t help but wonder how much Chauvin’s death put into the pockets of people telling the “news.” I don’t know if monetization is the name of the game internationally, but one of the top watched broadcasts, Fox, is defending their biggest earner by stating he can’t be taken seriously. Access to information has never been more abundant, and the visibility of information has never been more obscure. How do you choose what you should know? Most of the research I do is through Google Scholar, the sourcing at the bottom of wikipedia pages, and asking the nearest expert willing to talk to me. Information is easier to find and harder to parse, and it leaves me feeling like every tragedy, celebration, and occurence in our lives is reducible to a dollar amount.

High Hopes for Lower Recidivism.

Yesterday was April twentieth.

That’s big news for some, and a passing joke for others. It meant deals! It meant celebration! And for me it mostly meant finals. 420, and weed in general, is a great example of a subject that inspires pictographs. Paraphernalia, coded phrases, and subtle smiles follow this habit all over our country.

Now I didn’t celebrate, personally. I’ve never been taken by the desire to pursue recreational drugs. I barely drink. But I absolutely love the passion and creativity that comes out of the ongoing debate on legalization and general use. If it were up to me, it’d be legal. Not because it’d give me a reason to partake, but because alcohol being legal is significantly worse for people, and the ban on weed mostly just enlarges the gap between the privileged and underprivileged.

Most people first encounter pot in school. Specifically, high school. By the time kids are eighteen, more than a third have tried pot, and ten percent are frequent users. They roll out of English, and roll up a blunt. And the real issue here is that punitive action is separated by color. Black and white people use at roughly the same rate, but between 2001 and 2010, blacks had nearly four times the arrest rate for possession

And when you incorporate school discipline into the equation, I’m left wondering how much marijuana is used in the continuation of the school to prison pipeline? Kids are more likely to use again when suspended from school for using to begin with.

What interests you?

We live in a world where traveling faster than flight means reaching for a handheld device. Where information is packaged up and sent at two thirds the speed of light, and “making money” ranges from buying fake currency to working more than one job to get by. The importance of education and literacy is cementing itself more as a means of finding happiness and purpose than one of survival. And more importantly, the use of interest in educating is fast becoming an imperative to education’s survival. The idea of national literacy means that literacy is no longer a way to excel. Education has become a combination of standardized testing and a doomed attempt to standardized teaching.

The distancing of students from teachers has thrown our educational system into a harsh light. We’re fatigued. In some cases, we’re failing or supplementing our education with other sources. We learn or we don’t, and that success or failure is more based on personal environment or teacher quality. The differentiation of students from each other may be as important as the learning environment and educator, but it is the teacher’s responsibility to be responsible, to teach -through their own behavior- what it means to hold oneself accountable, especially in the education of K-12 students.

Goody/Watts encourage the idea that the cultures with writing systems were propelled into critical inquiry, of observing history with skepticism, and the developing of logical practices. With the advent of the internet and concept of technological literacy, the benefits (or dangers) of writing have been given weaponry. Given the barest introduction, and a community interested in interests, kids today can learn everything they want through such platforms as TedX, Kahn Academy, or Coursera. People can learn languages from native speakers, game-like applications, or forums. Standardized education isn’t possible in a world where bridges are so small that I can ask a professor working at the University of Tokyo their favorite book on introducing architecture and compare it with a The Ohio State University professor’s favorite in the same day.

Holding the interest of the student should be a teachers top priority in the classroom. Teaching through interest inspires passion for education, and teaching against interests kills the desire to grow. We live in a society where we literally don’t have to pay attention to get by, where we have access to substances, both legal and illegal, that will get us through the day. There’s an infinite universe out there and we’re still teaching like knowing precise information is necessary. Like critical thought is secondary. We’re still teaching kids straight out of a love of writing, of learning, and of growing. It’s a problem I ran into a long time ago, and one that took a long time to find a work around. It took looking at myself, and asking a simple and complex question.
What are my interests?

Musk is on his way to the Moon, and the Internet is Bringing all Eyes to the Stock Market

Elon Musk has definitive plans to go to Mars, as is reflected in his company’s mission statement: But he’s also been incredibly supportive of one company’s meteoric rise in value. Currently, Gamestop (GME), a company that should, by all accounts, be fading from society like Blockbuster, is worth 7000% more than it was a year ago. The biggest news this week has not been the change in presidency, nor covid, nor even GM’s plan to go entirely electric by 2035. No, it’s on a battle between a hedge fund and a subreddit community. And the funniest part is that Elon Musk is influencing both the attention and the value. His tweets about it started on the 26th, with but one word, “Gamestonk!!”, and a link to the community r/wallstreetbets, Musk’s tweet was followed by a 60% rise in GME’s value. Musk’s use of memes is not new, and he even tweeted “Who controls the memes, controls the universe” at some time last year.

The community he linked to is a combination of organized disaster, memes, and interest in the stock market. A many headed hydra that jumps between chanting “diamond hands” and yelling “to the moon,” either directly or through emoji. It’s a community dedicated to the latter’s discussion, and at the moment it’s in a small war with Melvin Capital, using purchased shares of GME. The hedge fund has already lost more than five billion to independent investors (many of whom are a part of the subreddit). The news, general public, and other hedge funds are now looking at the fight with interest both economical and educational. Already questionable practices have arisen in the response of the mobile application ‘Robinhood’, and people are learning words and phrases like ‘short squeeze,’ ‘market manipulation,’ and just how similar the Stock Market is to gambling (and indeed, many in the community refer to themselves as degenerate gamblers with pride).

The interesting thing is just how many people are watching the news, hearing these words, and going to their best source of information for, well… more information. For some it’s a friend or family member who works in the industry, for others it’s the internet. Two weeks ago I couldn’t have told you the difference between an option and a stock (and honestly it’s still kind of hazy), but the scary thing is that gambling doesn’t require you to understand the odds, or even the words that people use to describe the odds. The scary thing is the number of people not going out looking for information, but for a quick buck. In ’08 the housing burst ruined millions of lives, and that was the interest of the banks against people. Now it’s the interests of hedge funds against people, and like banks, the hedge funds are much more informed and supported than the average American. It reminds me that it’s important to remember “Never bet on a sure thing unless you can afford to lose.”