Saturday, June 16, 2012

"I have a puppy!"


Anyone who teaches or even visits an early childhood classroom for any length of time is bound to hear the statement, "I have a puppy." Usually, you'll hear it when you least expect it because five, six and seven year olds have no solid skills in following a logical conversation. You might be reading a story about cars or even Curious George, when all of a sudden, one of the youngsters veers off topic to tell you about one of her pets. In most instances, this opens the floodgate to a number of seemingly disconnected announcements about puppies, cats, brothers, cousins and even what they had for breakfast that morning. Occasionally, you get a bit more information than you care to hear, ala Art Linkletter and his hilarious Kids Say the Darndest Things.

We think this is something that's restricted to kids and then one day we're reading the comments to blog posts, particularly on our Michigan Mlive website, the electronic version of "news" that is pushing The Grand Rapids Press, Kalamazoo Gazette and a host of other regional newspapers onto the trash heap of history. Just a quick perusal of the anonymous comments demonstrates that the art of disconnected, irrelevant conversation is not restricted to kindergarten.

Here's a perfect example. A couple days ago, one might have read "Meth lab found in Wayland attorney's office, one block from police station." It's not all that unusual of an article since Allegan County, Michigan appears to be competing for the title of meth capitol of the world these days. I guess it caught my attention because that's only a block away from Pine Street Elementary, the 5th and 6th grade school where I served as principal from 1997-2002. I still have a number of connections and friends in Wayland and I get down there often to either run, go to the farm store, or occasionally meet up with old friends. I suppose too that operating a meth lab in an attorney's office smack dab in the middle of downtown and within shouting distance of the police station is also a bit unusual.

I don't often read the blog comments because (1) they make me feel like I have been wallowing around in the mud with four-legged swine, and (2) I feel a strong need to shower afterwards. But, curiosity often overwhelms common sense so I scrolled down to the comments (something inside me was shouting, "don't do it!" but I did anyway) and it doesn't take long before I regain a sense of why I don't read the comments. Just like five or six year olds do, a couple comments by some intellectually challenged reader named well spoken (I use that term loosely because the commenter doesn't demonstrate a high enough level of literacy skills to actually have read the original article, let alone be "well spoken") with no logical connection to the article are shouted out:

well spoken
too bad dan miller cant do his news 8 interview for something he wasnt involved in, as usuall! Good job to those county and state investigators on the wmet team.
well spoken
oh, the puppet for miller has nothing to post anymore about his firing, so real news is the priority.....pull dem'strings

Really? What the hell does this have to do with a meth lab found in an attorney's office?

For those of you who don't know, Dan Miller is the former police chief in Wayland who was suspended and then fired but that's a whole other story about small town politics and the ignorance of the former acting city manager as well as his replacement. But this has nothing to do with the topic of the article.

"I have a puppy!"

I've suggested before that the intelligence level of the conversations created by Mlive's blog posts would increase dramatically if posters were required to identify themselves, just as they used to do in writing letters to the editor for print editions. However, in well spoken's case and others like him/her, I'm not so sure it would matter. To be honest, the comments and responses by most 1st graders make more sense.

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