Last summer while attending a history conference, a professor of history from a very elite New England private school joined a group of us in a conference lounge for beverages and small talk. He started telling us about the wonderfully rich intellectual community he teaches in. Many of his students are pretty elite 11th and 12th graders who traveled from various parts of the country to attend the school. He mentioned that he kept a blog to write about academic life, political issues and ideas, as well as topics that would challenge his learning community. After hearing him articulate his message, I then asked if his blog created any problems? His response was no. According to him, the joy of teaching in a diverse intellectual community is that it allows us (faculty members and students) to use our vast knowledge and expertise to challenge the thinking of our community.
Because I was so moved by our discussion, I decided to create my own blog. Being the idealist that I am, I wanted to create a blog that addressed intellectual as well as social questions; I wanted to write about politics as well as my research and teaching interest. When I started this “blog” thing, my goal was to model the intellectual life of a teacher to students, friends, colleagues, and visitors. When I started this blog, I wanted to attract readers who would contribute their thoughts and ideas to any particular discussion. It has been a year since I first started blogging, and six months since I switched from blogspot to wordpress. I am excited about the number of people who take the time to read my thoughts and ideas. I am amazed at the volume of people who enjoy reading my blog, sharing a comment, or sending an e-mail with their opinions.
There are challenges that come with posting your thoughts and ideas on the Internet. Regardless of my best intention to use this blog as a medium for building a learning community, there are those who do not like views outside of their own. My goal is not to offend nor anger readers. The Bible is clear on how we should treat our brothers and sisters.
Blogging is not like keeping a private journal. Unlike journals, blogs should promote a conversation; blogs are not designed to be private. I have done a pretty good job avoiding controversial topics that offend people; however, there are those who define a learning community in a much different way than I. What I see as insightful and deserving of discourse, others might see as controversial and not deserving of attention. Claire Potter, professor of history and American Studies at Wesleyan University recently wrote about the pros and cons of anonymous blogs on her blog. I have been reading her Tenured-Radical blog for a few weeks. She is pretty open and frank about her thoughts while challenging my thinking too. I even got to work with one of her Wesleyan colleagues in Colorado. Check out TR’s blog piece on this issue.