Tuesday, December 11, 2007

A Response for The Common Room

The Common Room has a post up about the controversy surrounding the HSBA. It's a thoughtful one but not one I (of course) agree with.

And that's a shame. The fuss seems to center around their request that blogs be family friendly

I think the initial fuss was really over the no swearing policy. The no swearing policy came after a fuss the previous year with a specific blogger and the rules seemed designed to exclude that blogger, possibly in an attempt to avoid another fuss.

A whole lot of other bloggers then realized that, due to the rules, they were excluded as well. It should be noted that the HSBA seemed to see some sense in the protest as the rules were amended afterward.

(which is hardly unreasonable in a blog contest where children and teens read)

I have trouble with this. Even the cleanest homeschooling blogs sometimes have posts on child predators and violent school shootings. Should homeschooling blogs really be considered family friendly when they're discussing a case of a teacher raping a student? But that's not a discussion we've even had in the community. Someone said 'family friendly' and others said, 'oh, of course,' and the matter was considered settled before it had even been addressed.

(initially some of them were also in the running for prizes, and somebody suggested, wrongly, that they were breaking the law)

That was a rather late post to the fray and after the initial fuss. Criticisms are getting lumped together when they need to be addressed seperately.

The question of legality was reasonable. It probably was a good thing for the HSBAs as they're getting a little bigger and should be looking into matters like that.

, and some objections to at least some of the prizes offered, as they come from hsing businesses not everybody supports. You know what, some of the prizes offered are not prizes I would use or recommend, either. At least one is a business I have refused to buy from for many years now, and I think my reasons are very good. But so what? I LIKE the Homeschool Blog Awards, and I love that Sprittibee and friends are gracious enough to volunteer all this time to do something for others. It's generous of them, and it would be churlish of me to complain about how their project looks.

If an award purports to represent the general homeschooling community then the awards should reflect the general homeschooling community in terms of volunteers, categories, rules and prizes. This is pretty standard stuff. Having a group of prizes that overwhelmingly represent one kind of homeschooler presents the image, real or not, of bias. It's something all organizations have to be careful of.

If you don't like the sponsors, there are at least four options I can think of, all of them more reasonable than giving a hard time to hard working volunteers who you have not supported with helpful input, funding, or donations of your own time.

The first step being helpful input. There were some very strong reactions to the HSBA troubles but there were also some very reasonable and calm ones. I remember a very respectful criticism from Don Gookin on the HSBA blog in particular. How were those reasonable and calm complaints dealt with? They went unaddressed and then were deleted. If helpful input is going to happen then the HSBA people have to be receptive to it.

If they aren't receptive to honest criticism (very valid criticism as we should remember the HSBA team did indeed change their rules in response) why on earth would someone expect they'd welcome someone who'd formerly been critical offered to volunteer and help?

You could start your own secular blog awards and do your own leg work. I really hope this isn't what happens, because I think that kind of splintering is harmful to the homeschooling community.

Was the homeschooling community ever a unified whole?:)

You can also work harder at nominating and canvassing for those secular blogs you like if you don't think they are getting enough notice. And you could suggest, after the Blog Awards are done, that next year might include a category for secular blogs, or even more specifically for a non-family friendly blog- that way, at least other voters would know ahead of time if they wanted to go read that blog or let their children read there. Call it 'the blue zone,' or something, and the rules about profanity could be lifted only for blogs in that category. Volunteer to be the overseer for this category, to screen nominations for spam or anti-homeschooling blogs, or blogs that have nothing to do with homeschooling. After all, it's not fair or reasonable to expect the current volunteers to wade through material that they find offensive. Note: I do not even know if this would work or be acceptable to the current volunteers- my point is that instead of requiring more work from people who have already invested a considerable chunk of their lives in a strictly volunteer project, you should invest your OWN time.

Does the HSBA reflect the general homeschooling community or not? If it does it should be open to criticism from those in that community. It wasn't. That sends the message that they are not interested in reflecting the general community. Should I support a group that doesn't reflect my blog or the majority of the homeschooling blogs I read? No.

Why does anybody feel the sense of entitlement to other people's time and work this way?

If you claim to represent a wide swath of people don't be surprised if some of those people speak up when your actions don't reflect your claim. What represents a sense of entitlement better than the presumption that you speak for everyone even when your actions contradict that claim?

The big problem in all this is that discussion wasn't allowed. Now we've all skipped to the end and are painting the 'other' with our judgements. The story doesn't have chapters anymore, it's just a few paragraphs about a hard working chicken, reduced to a simple image so all the debate that should be going on is shrunk to something that can be labeled as jealously or the work of sore losers.

If the homeschooling community is going to be a community it doesn't need to rally around one award. It doesn't even need to agree on anything. It just needs to be willing to listen to and talk with the different parts that make up the whole. For me at least, that's where the HSBA really fumbled the ball and why it doesn't represent me.

However, I'll pick the ball up and give it a toss to you if you're willing. :)


Not June Cleaver said...

They really don't get it do they? Or more likely, they don't want to get it. Even her suggestions pretty clearly indicate that there are Our Kind Of Blogs and That Other Kind Of Blog. I mean really, does she not see the absurdity in suggesting they accommodate That Other Kind Of Blogger by giving them a token category or two?! Either you represent ALL homeschoolers or you don't. Just say it up front Christian Homeschool Blog Awards. At least then everybody knows what they are reading.

Someone over there commented, "My mother always says the world is divided into two groups: people who charge batteries and people who drain them." And it is true. The one-sided thinkers are really draining my spirit. Glad she pointed that out for us.

Dawn said...

I completely missed the point you made about the special categories for the 'other'. Fantastic point and a great clue about the kind of thinking that's going on.

Doc said...

I have addressed every one of their arguments, and been met each and every time with imbecilic responses and excuses. Quite a number of the blogs nominated have posts about issues that are far from "family friendly", if "their" definition is confined to posts suitable for "their" children to read. Let's see, there's same sex marriage initiatives, pro life issues, pedophiles in the schools to name a few. Let's be honest. When one of the "them" says "family friendly", its in the pattern of Dobson, and it means "heterosexual one man one woman bible believers" and when I say "family friendly" it means something totally different. Of course the rules were written to keep me (and my legions) from being nominated.To say otherwise is simply a lie.

My kids are pretty normal kids. They have little to no interest in reading the blogs that interest me. They're too busy with their own blogs and friends and the things normal homeschooled kids are reading.

Name calling: when it walks like a duck, and quacks like a duck, it's okay to call it a duck. There's been no "name calling", there's been "outing" of a lot of hypocrisy though.

Another argument is that the prizes aren't such that secular homeschoolers would be interested . Hmm, okay - then why not just call it a Christian homeschool award? The reasoning was "we didn't know where to obtain secular materials". Right. I have a comprehensive list of secular suppliers right in the sidebar of my non family friendly blog. I think it's between my lists of monthy activities and materials and right before my 6 part series on classical unschooling.

The ethical issues of participating in a contest you're in charge of monitoring is beyond discussion.

If you don't want your integrity called into question, be above reproach.

It's not representative of the "best" of homeschooling blogs. Those who have the best blogs already know it, from traffic, from their sheer notoriety in homeschooling circles, and from the support they garner when a controversy develops. When that point is brought up though, "the other side" responds with "well, run your own contest". I guess that means "we" weren't welcome in the first place.

And finally, admit when you're wrong, be responsible for your mistakes, and for heaven's sake, stop with the blind admiration every time one of the team members has a bodily function. The most painful part of this "contest" is reading the supportive responses from "the other side".
It's embarrassing to be included in the larger demographic of "homeschooler" when "the other side" is so loud and obnoxiously sheeple-like.

Dawn said...

//stop with the blind admiration every time one of the team members has a bodily function.//

Not nice. I was drinking a beer while reading that and now I have beer all over my keyboard! :D

Part of me knows there's no point. I tried the nice card when the whole thing began and my comments were deleted along with everyone else. But I keep trying. Nothing to lose and it adds to the record of the whole dispute and maybe just one person will wander over and think, "Gee, hadn't thought of it that way before."

Just maybe.

Anyhow, your comment was much better than my post and much more to the point.