Old School vs. New School Philosophy, Online Dating, Technology, and E-Mail Etiquette

Lately, I have been stuck in a conundrum between old school and new school philosophy.

Take Tinder and online dating for example. I personally would call myself very traditional in the dating department. I expect a guy to call me (not text) to ask me out, to hold the door open for me, to be the driver. My parents and my friends parents and my grandparents ALL met without the assistance of technology and have pretty successful marriages, so I feel like, if it happened for them, it can happen for me too, and so I refuse to sign up for Tinder or other dating websites. However, more and more people my age are starting to turn to these types of social networking sites and many of them rave about the accuracy. So, I find myself stuck. My own personal beliefs tell me not to, but society is telling me that this is the wave of the future–so do I succumb to society, because that is the new norm, or do I stick to my old school values and hope and pray I get hit in the parking lot at Wal-Mart and some hot stud jumps out of his truck and we fall instantly and madly in love?

I have a similar dilemma in teaching. The last two weeks of my grad school class have erupted in this debate of whether we use technology in the classroom to make learning fun and relatable, or we stick to traditional approaches of reading novels and writing papers, because these kids will not get those lessons anywhere else. I personally like to stick to the classics. We read, we write, we critically think and discuss, and sometimes watch movies. While there are some really cool new programs and aps out there, like Tagxedo, Prezi, Twitter, I do not incorporate too much into my curriculum, for the mere fact that I want my students to learn how to communicate intrapersonally, and because our WiFi is often very sketchy and doesn’t work/we run out of IP addresses and the kids can’t get on the internet anyways–the old school way of paper and pen is way more reliable. But, so much of education is moving towards giving each student an iPad or Chromebook, networking through blogging, and doing assessments online. Some believe that, because our students will be expected to use these programs in their jobs, we must teach these skills now; if we do not incorporate their everyday lives of social media, Tweeting, Snapchatting, etc. into our classrooms, then we are teaching them that learning is separate from entertainment and that is a bad, bad thing, because learning needs to be authentic.

I am stuck in a true literary dilemma, much like Edna in The Awakening or Juliet in Shakespeare’s famous play: What triumphs: individual desires or societal expectations? In both cases, the characters cannot handle the dilemma and end up killing themselves (of course, my dilemma is not that extreme). Do I maintain my beliefs, because being true to myself is of utmost importance, or do I change for society, because that is easier and what everyone else is doing?

I have been debating where I stand on this issue for quite sometime and recently, have been wondering how it applies to e-mail etiquette. ‘Tis the season for parents to starting stressing over their child’s grades. Where have you been all semester? I do not know. I think because we live in a generation with absent parents, they feel the need to go in and rescue their child as a means to harness their own guilt for not paying attention earlier. Thus, the teachers always have to take the fall of the burden and the blame. I have read and responded to many, many parent complaints and inquiries in the last couple of weeks, have noticed a few common trends, and am wondering the social acceptability of some of these issues.

First of all, I love it when I get five page scathing e-mails from parents that rant and rave about how horrible my policies are and how unfairly I treated their student and blah blah blah, and then in the signature line, it says, “Please excuse any typos”. Perhaps this is the old school in me, but anytime I send an e-mail to someone for non-personal reasons, I always make sure to proofread and run spell check; I always make sure to include a subject, an opening, and a salutation. This is all to establish my credibility as a professional. If I can’t craft a grammatically correct response, then how can my argument be valid? I see people using the wrong “their” “there” and “they’re” all the time and wonder how intelligent they really are. Has it become social etiquette that, by just including “Please excuse any typos” in the signature line, you are excused from any ignorance and illiteracy your e-mail might present? So, regardless if you can’t spell, don’t know how to use a semi-colon, are unable to capitalize the beginnings of sentences, should I still deem you as a credible subject, because you were smart enough to realize you might have some typos?

Second of all, I love it when I get e-mails that include a lot of exclamation points. For example, I just got this in a response: “I don’t know what you are talking about but I never had any college classes that were graded on a curve!!!!!!!!!” Ok, well first of all, I am not sure when you went to college, but my classes were certainly graded on a curve. And, second of all, what is the point of using multiple exclamation points? You deliberately had to push the key that many times, so obviously you were trying to emulate some kind of rhetorical sentence structure. I was always taught to use exclamation points sparingly, if at all, because they are too informal and you can better express your point through strong word choice. But, then again, perhaps I am old school and in new school e-mail writing, many exclamation points are acceptable.

And last, I am always appalled at the lack of attention e-mail writers pay to their audience. I am sometimes professionally offended at the kinds of things that go through my inbox (such as the student’s whose e-mail address says, “Suck My Wanky”). For one, you know that I am an English teacher. I teach English. I have a degree that specializes in writing, so I probably know a good deal about grammar, about sentence structure, about how to structure an argument. So, I love it when something comes into my inbox that says, “heeeeeyyyy mss. e what did i miss 2day?”. I delete it right away. But, it could be true that society is becoming more progressive, more informal, less strictured. We don’t have as many social rules anymore; there is no need to place five separate forks at your dinner table because we can fully function with just one. We have a friendlier relationship with our authority figures, we can communicate from behind our computer screens at any time of the day, and it’s more important THAT the student is communicating, rather than HOW they do it.

It could be very true that I am too rigid and strict in my old school philosophy and that I need to start giving up some of these beliefs to mold into current society. Perhaps I need a crash course in “new wave school etiquette” so that I may better prep my students for the 21st century.

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