Dictating the right history is still wrong.

July 17, 2011

The California legislature gets an A+ for intentions. They decided gays, lesbians and transgender individuals are under-represented if not completely ignored by their history textbooks and they were going to do something about. For what its worth I agree the struggle for gay rights and individuals who’ve been part of that struggle is worthy of historical examination and is probably not given the due it should be in history texts (I say probably because its been awhile since I’ve read one).

That being said I vehemently oppose the idea of legislatures mandating curriculum even when the intentions are as noble as they are in this case.

You think its good to protect gay people’s rights? sure, so do i but this has nothing to do with their rights.

You think its good for the legislature to advance this great cause? well then you’re also OK when the conservatives decide to do the same thing and dictate the teaching of intelligent design or banning the teaching of anything to do with gays, gay culture etc. One need only look to the texas school board who had no historians, teachers, etc on it, and decided Thomas Jefferson wasn’t that important, capitalism doesn’t sound as good as “free-market system”, Jefferson Davis should be studied right alongside Lincoln, and hip hop is not culturally relevant.
The legislatures job is to ensure its citizens have equal rights, its to ensure students have the opportunity for education, it is NOT to dictate what is part of that education it is NOT to tell people what they should think or believe. They should absolutely make laws to ensure those rights are protected and if it takes the national guard to enforce those rights like was needed to protect african-american school childrens access to education then call them out. However then its time for them to rely on the experts to make the judgement about how to teach and what is important to teach in the math, science and history classroom.

So how should these important accomplishments find their way into the history books, who should decide whats taught?

Ideally these accomplishments should find their way into history books the same way Thomas Jefferson and Martin Luther King Jr did — historians who write the books eventually decide their accomplishments were significant enough to warrant inclusion. Just like we trust mathematicians to set the math curriculum why wouldn’t we allow historians to do the same for history class?

Historians are biased and historians certainly aren’t always right but wouldn’t you take their judgment over that of a politician? You know, historians, the ones that have degrees in the subject, who have studied and devoted their lives to it, ones who have collaborated with other colleagues to further their understanding of a subject; well I’m going to take their consensus of whats historically important over yours or a legislatures any day of the week and twice on Sunday.

I have to believe a historian is going to look at the inclusion of ballot initiatives in states across the country against gay marriage, look at Don’t Ask Don’t Tell being a major issue in the 2010 lame duck session and are going to include them in future text books. Thus making the California law somewhat irrelevant anyway.  I have to believe a diligent historian is going to read the writings of gay people, anti-gay people and others to get a more complete picture of how the issues of the day were seen. They will NOT simply find a gay person to write the chapter unless that gay person was also a fellow historian who they are collaborating with. Otherwise it would not only be biased but not uninformed and being well informed is most important.

Will this make it perfect? Nope. As i said historians are biased and aren’t always right. Even when they try to be unbiased and work as hard as possible to get it right there’s always going to be a different part of the story that goes untold.

However even a cursory examination of history will show when legislatures, politicians, churches and other non-historians are left to tell the story it is one that is exclusive, MORE biased and MORE inaccurate. It is one that likely to suppress facts rather then work to get as close to the true story as possible.

So while this decision may be a rare instance of moving towards inclusion I’d rather the legislature just stay out the history making altogether… that is to say unless they do something significant enough for the historians to put them in it.


Know your Product/Event/Audience – Minor League Baseball Edition

September 2, 2010

Seems simple. Gotta know your product or event. Its what you sell its what makes you money. And yet working in minor league baseball there’s sadly some teams that don’t.

Often no matter what product you think you’re selling or what you set out to sell it isn’t at all what your audience is buying.

If you sell baking soda for cooking but your customers buy it for its ability to keep their fridge smelling nice you aught to change your marketing focus; or at the very least add to it. Well it would be very easy for minor league baseball teams to sell baseball but that’s not really why most fans buy it. Most teams are smart enough to realize this unfortunately some are not including one local team and its sad to see the resulting marketing efforts.

So what are minor league baseball fans buying if they’re not buying baseball? Several things including:

1) Entertainment- Pre-game shows, post game fireworks, in-game promotions like dizzy bat races, nightly promotions like Hawaiian night or Jersey Shore night.

2) Chance to see future stars- This really only applies to affiliated teams but its fairly self explanatory folks like to see rising stars as they try to make the majors.

3) Bonding – Chance to spend time with family/friends

4) Community – This is your team they’re part of your community and you’re proud of them.

Things you’re not selling?

1) Wins and losses – You’ve got your die-hards certainly but most fans aren’t concerned with your day to day wins and losses.

2) Your lineup – Its going to change with callups and player movement year to year anyway and most players the fans could care less about.

Why does this matter? Well take that local team i was talking about. Their facebook messages are about what their lineup is for the night. Their tweets are updates on the score of the game every inning. Their website doesn’t have a daily promo calendar. Their lineup is full of washed up ex major league players some of whom have had legal troubles and none of whom have ties to the community or who will likely be around long.

Not coincidentally they’re last in their league in attendance and one of the smallest drawing teams in any league. As always there’s a myriad of other issues effecting their attendance some positive some negative but i can tell you when added up they should not make them last.

With the minors as a whole setting attendance records and some teams struggling mightily its clear some teams get it and some teams just don’t.


Are YOU The Real Deal?

August 25, 2010

I came across the following article from @louimbriano who despite being a BC guy seems to be fairly intelligent and thoughtful. (Go BU!)

To summarize it seems he was writing the article in response to the fact that there are lots of folks in sports business and business as a whole who talk the talk but can’t or don’t walk the walk. They’re all style no substance and he wrote a nice list of how to identify these folks. If you pay attention to their actions and ask yourself the questions he asks you should be able to determine who is the real deal.

These people absolutely exist.  His concerns are on point. His list is on point.

My concern though is when we look at others we are ignoring the possibility that in some circumstance’s we’re the problem. Not because we don’t know our stuff not because we don’t take care of our own business but because we don’t foster an environment that encourages those around us to do so.

It’s nice to think that superstar employees, co-workers and partners will perform in any situation. Its not unfounded. In business we need to have personal responsibility. However i think we’re being naive if we don’t think the way we handle our relationships with others effects the way they perform in relation to you.

So i ask you to ask these questions of yourself to make sure YOU are the real deal (and i invite you to come up with your own).

1) You’ve just asked or told someone something. They’ve disagreed with you, or they’ve had some questions about the information/assignment. Do you examine these questions,suggestions and disagreements thoughtfully or simply find ways to reject their points?

2)When someone says perhaps I’m not the best person for this job do you automatically think less of them? Even when they are correct? Do you think about could i find someone better or simply give them better resource to enable them to better do the job?

3)Someone agrees to do something for you and realizes it might not get done on deadline. They keep you informed of their progress but its not going well for very legitimate reasons. Do you write them off or consider would someone else have really done a better job and what you could have done to ensure better results?

4)How do you react when someone tells you the truth? Does it benefit them in the short term and or long term to exaggerate, stretch the truth or flat lie?

Over time you’ll find if you foster a culture of honesty and openness you’ll find that’s what you get. If you support those you work with by giving them the resources they need to accomplish their goals you’ll find they meet their goals more often. You’ll find when YOU are truly the real deal you’ll be surrounded more often by those who are.

As Lou so rightly pointed out it won’t always be the case, “there are certain self absorbed folks that no matter how you treat them it really doesn’t matter.”

But when we’ve examined ourselves it’ll be that much easier to recognize those who truly need to be avoided. And you’ll have no remorse in doing so.


Is it Only News if It’s Popular?

September 30, 2009

Dan Froomkin was fired from the Washington Post recently. He blogged for them and his traffic went down and he was fired. That much is clear. The Times article gives it a bit more nuance but Seth Godin essentially says it was because his traffic went down period and that its a sign of things to come. The implication at the very least was that it is a good thing. That in the digital age we don’t have to deal with poor uninteresting writing.

I hope that’s the case but I’m not so sure it is.

We get all kind of shootings reported on because apparently it gets ratings, people love to read entertainment news and gossip, michael jackson’s death was the biggest story since JFK’s death.

Is that news?

It’s popular sure and there’s absolutely something to be said for writing about topics people want to read about. However that doesn’t make it hard news, it doesn’t make it important. Maybe we need to find ways to present hard news in a more reader friendly way. But again, popular doesn’t make it important.

I guess at the end of the day running what’s actually popular may be a better thing then an editor deciding what they think is popular and running that. Lets just hope there’s enough demand for the important stuff that it doesn’t disappear.


Did Nickelodean Really Change it’s Logo to Look Good on Business Cards?

August 4, 2009
Bye, Bye, Splat

Bye, Bye, Splat

I first heard Nickelodeon was changing its logo yesterday on twitter and initially i thought hmmm curious. The article i read initially talked about mostly the technical side of it; specifically about unifying the brands and making sure all the stations include the name Nick in it. Sounded like a decent idea… if they had done that originally.

Not having done it originally it seemed like a needless waste of money to go back and do it. Is anyone really going to make a deal with Nick or watch their stations more because of a new logo and names? probably not.

Then I read the following quote on a Fast Company article (that came from the Variety article) and my head started to spin a bit…

“The decision to streamline the network identities came after [Nickelodeon execs] started putting all of the channels’ logos on the same business card–and decided that it looked like a mess.”

Really? We’re making the changes because the logos look like a mess on business cards???

Strategic rebranding isn’t a bad thing. The car makers in the US needed to loss a few brands and redefine what their current ones were all about. Nickelodean? Admittedly  I can’t speak much to specifics of their business but i can’t imagine lack of cool business cards was on top of the list of their problems…


CSR is nice, but just give me good phone service

May 13, 2009

AT&T is running a commercial (at least online) where it talks about how they’re switching their trucks to American trucks and running them on natural gas.

All “socially-conscious” stuff.

I get it… CSR is in right now. I get that the commercial was being played before an online video of a person being interviewed about socially conscious stuff. I get that the ad spend was probably not nearly as much as a comparative tv spot. So it was hitting on a trend, it was well targeted and relatively speaking cost effective.

So it was a great ad right? I’m not so sure.

You’re advertising for telecommunications company; phone, TV, etc. While being socially conscious is good, and may cause me to differentiate between low cost items (like cereal) I have trouble thinking someones going to choose to switch to a new cellphone service based on what kind of trucks AT&T uses.

I’ll bet they even did surveys that said people were morely likely to use AT&T products after seeing these commercials. But remember, more likely doesn’t always mean likely.


Never Let Your Image Define You

May 11, 2009

I was watching an interview the other night of Mitchell Joachim. He’s a Ph.D. he’s earned degrees from very prestigious institutes, clearly a very smart guy. He was doing the interview to promote his Non-profit organization Terraform ONE which wants to “integrate ecological Principals in the urban realm.” If you want to know more look it up… the argument he’s making isn’t really the point.

Now when he came on the show he had a suit on which was nice, but his hair was long, braided and basically looked like something you would associate with a hippy.

I have no problem with his hair, nor do I have any problems with hippies. Yet they’ve been associated with/mocked for lazyness, drug use, and unrealistic idealism. And by allowing himself to be put into that box I fear it distracts from his arguments. He’s essentially asking people to make fundamental changes in the way we build things and do things. These are not simple requests.

When he has hair like that he gives small minded people an easy excuse to dismiss him. They can say oh look he’s clearly a hippy just trying to do some silly idealistic stuff that will never happen.

He’s giving them a chance to focus on who he is rather than the strength of the arguments.

The same applies for the marijuana activist appearing to be a hippy stoner or gay rights activist appearing to be overly flamboyant.

Certainly in some cases an image can help you make an argument. An insurance guy will wear a suit when he wants to look professional or a polo shirt if he wants to appear casual/part of the family.

The point? Don’t give people the chance to dismiss you; make them focus on your arguments.


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