A Sidekick's Blog

The College of Central Florida Needs a New Name

February 24, 2015
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The College of Central Florida needs a new name, to better reflect it’s actual mission and purpose: To make money for the Pearson Education publishing house; to enslave students to a single proprietary vendor whose policies, prices, terms, and forms change on the whim of that vendor, and to promote political correctness and discourage independent thought.

Almost all of my classes insist on using Pearson textbooks, and the Pearson web site for homework. Almost all of the instructors and classmates passionately hate the Pearson books and web site. They would choose different textbooks and certainly a different web interface for exercises and homework. Yet the college tells them they have to use these awful textbooks as a matter of policy. What real college does such a thing? It stinks of kickback, and I’m not the only student who thinks so. More than one of my professors thinks so too. Perhaps it should be re-named Pearson College.

But I suspect that my school is not a wholly owned subsidiary of Pearson Education, Inc. Microsoft surely has a large stake in the College of Central Florida as well. Because all work in all classes has to be submitted in Microsoft format. Both of the two alternatives for the required computer literacy classes are classes in Microsoft’s Windows® operating system and Microsoft applications, and all work has to be submitted in Microsoft format. Technology for Educators, the class I chose, makes no mention of any alternative to Microsoft products and formats, even though many schools, businesses, and even governments are freeing themselves from being bound to a single system from a single vendor. It is completely unrealistic and unethical to train future educators in only one single proprietary vendor’s system and software when most of the world is free to choose any other vendor, system, and software. Mac. BSD (OpenBSD, FreeBSD). Or any one of hundreds of GNU/Linux distributions. So maybe we should call it, Microsoft-Pearson College. Or an abbreviated blend, like Soft Pears College, or Micro Arson College. Any of those names would make more sense and better reflect the real mission of this never-to-be-recommended institution of so-called “higher” learning. I can’t wait to get this insanity over with and get the hell out of there.

I disagreed in a research paper with a bit of extreme left-wing propaganda that was required viewing in the mandatory Diversity for Educators class. The so-called “documentary” was produced by the ultra-leftist group, Southern Poverty Law Center, which was recently dumped by the FBI as an educational partner because of its radical agenda. The result of my disagreement – on a well-documented opinion paper no less – was a 75 out of 100 possible points. Instead of Diversity for Educators, that class should be re-named to the You-Should-Be-Ashamed-to-Be-a-White-Male-Heterosexual-Christian-American class.

I’m sure that the College of Central Florida will be first in line to adopt the New History when the Emperor’s “updated” version of U.S. History is released by Pearson Publications. And a great hero of America – besides Emperor Obama, that is – will be a gay and black version of Microsoft founder and major financial backer of Common Core, Bill Gates.

All this bovine excrement has got me seriously re-thinking my pursuit of a second career as an educator. I don’t think I can really do it under all of the idiotic constraints that our government has imposed. Perhaps I could teach outside of the U.S., or in a private school where the truth is still permitted; where critical, independent thought and argument are still encouraged; and where students and staff are not held hostage to a single vendor’s textbooks, software, or format.


Why I Dumped Facebook

February 12, 2015
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No matter what I did on Facebook, it seemed like it always hurt someone. Someone I left out, someone I included, someone who took me seriously when I wasn’t serious, or vice versa. I was only on Facebook because my family begged me to get on there so they could “keep in touch.” As if the phone had stopped working. Or e-mail had disappeared. Or the Postal Service had gone out of business. There are a zillion and eleven ways for family to keep in touch, with or without Facebook, and I frankly resent being forced into a single one. A proprietary one at that, in which every “like,” every click, every comment, and every check-in is logged and sold to targeted advertisers. I don’t like being reduced to a commodity, and that is exactly what Facebook users are. My phone still works, family and friends. So does the United States Postal Service. So does my e-mail. You want to keep in touch because family matters to you? Then answer my letters (e-mail and snail mail)! Return my phone calls! Make a few keystrokes if it’s important to you. If “keeping in touch” just means clicking a “like” button once in a while, then we have very different ideas about what keeping in touch means. And, apparently, very different values when it comes to family.

There is an alternative “social networking” site that I’m still on, but it is far from ideal, probably not safe for kids, for the easily offended, or the easily provoked. I don’t think I’ll even stay on Diaspora either since almost no one there shares my interests and the federation of content (as opposed to having it all on a centralized network) needs a lot more tweaking before Diaspora can really function as a viable “social network.” They do keep trying, but I think the main issue is more basic than the ones they keep re-trying and re-tweaking.

I don’t tweet, and I never will. I don’t “check in” on social media and I never will again. I like and I share and I comment, but I use the telephone, email, Internet message boards, and this blog to do that. Besides, in my experience, communication that isn’t done person-to-person is at high risk for misunderstanding, hurt feelings, drama, and other pointless, unnecessary headaches. That is what finally drove me off of Facebook, but all along there were other concerns that gnawed at me:

Privacy concerns: I’m not shy with my opinions, and I’m probably already on a dozen watch lists for my political, religious, and vocational views.


Permanency:
Nothing posted to facebook is ever deleted. There is a permanent record of every little thing I ever liked, posted, or commented on. Including some stuff I wish I could take back. An impossible fantasy on facebook. I still have a future to think about, too: Finishing college, getting a job, applying for loans… everything with my name on it is available on-line to potential employers, partners, professors, supervisors, fellow employees. And most of it is simply none of their business.

False friendship: People who never kept in touch for years suddenly appear and want “friendship” after having ignored me for years. Just – no. I don’t put up with that sort of phoney behavior from memebers of my own family! So why in heck would I put up with it from someone who has let himself become a stranger?

I am not for sale: Facebook is not free. No multinational corporation is simply giving away a product for people to use as they see fit. Facebook users are a commodity, to be sold to targeted advertisers. Your likes and dislikes, favorite things, and affiliations are valuable information which is gathered by Facebook and sold. It doesn’t make sense for me to give that valuable information away and let Mister Zuckerberg use it to line his own pockets and share none of the profit with me. I’m not a commodity to be bought and sold. This for me is an ethical issue, and I’m ashamed that I ever took part in it.


Big Brother is Watching:
I’m sorry if this sounds paranoid, but it isn’t only the NSA that has me nervous about sharing every little thing on “social” media. It’s all the other players in this global intelligence game as well. Members of the military are cautioned all the time about what they post to sites like Facebook. Enemies use posts from soldiers, sailors, airmen, marines, and their families to gain access to information which seems innocuous and harmless, but used cumulatively and coordination with other global cyber-sources can lead to disastrous consequences at home and overseas.

In the end it was “family drama” that finally got me to listen to my own conscience and close the door on Facebook. People who are accustomed to communicating only in memes and text messages can expect to be misunderstood, offended, scolded, and “unfriended” frequently. Real life relationships are becoming an endangered thing, and the simple skills needed to maintain good relationships are vanishing. I hope they will last beyond my own generation.