You have to feel just a bit of empathy for Brian Williams. He lied, misrepresented the facts, embellished his stories and surely we can't rely on him as the most trusted name in news anymore - but then, did we really ever believe that line? And, come on - how many of us can honestly say we have NEVER lied, or embellished the facts just a little? Maybe we did so to save face, perhaps we got caught up in a story that became too difficult to extradite ourselves from, or maybe we told a little white lie to make someone feel better. Whatever the case, Brian Williams' downfall is symptomatic of our culture. No doubt Williams felt compelled to spiff up his newscasts. It IS difficult to compete with really important breaking news stories like celebrities in car accidents along the Malibu coast (Bruce Jenner), snow in the Northeast during the month of February (this is news?), or with the recent trend where morning news anchors cast themselves as media icons, evidenced by the estimated 4 million dollar super bowl ad of the Today show cast. Does anyone really care?
We think Brian's demise is an example of trying to maintain relevancy in a world that is changing. Social media and the Internet have essentially eliminated the relevancy of the evening newscast, and the emergence of new forms of investigative journalism by comedians turned social activists (Jon Stewart) and other journalists (John Oliver) have usurped the importance of evening broadcasts.
But we think there is a bit more to this. Look around - we are bombarded by images and tweets of celebrities that are known for the size of their derrieres, their baby bumps, what they wear and the depth of their plunging necklines. What's a newscaster to do?
And don't even get us started on Tweets, Facebook, and Selfies. Don't get us wrong. We love photos of beautifully prepared food, exquisite holidays, and those that document the accolades of yourself, family and your friends. We admit, we often share, but within limits. We are delighted there are so many people that use #onehundredhappydays - but enough already! The world is turning into a perpetual Christmas letter update about everyone's wonderful life, and we are tired of it.
We live in a culture where there is a strong need to be known, to be special, and to stand out - and this has some serious implications in education. Think about this encounter Jane had with three college students recently. In an informal setting the students were asked a simple question - what is your major?
Student 1: "I'm a double major in Economics and Business and studied in Japan."
Student 2: "Psychology and Philosophy."
Student 3: "I'm the underachiever in the group - I am just majoring in English, but I love it." This student went on to discuss the impact of a class in medieval literature.
We say - congratulations to student 3. You are not an underachiever. You are doing exactly what a student should do. You are learning and reflecting on what you are learning. We like to think you are rising above the 'me' culture in that you are focusing on what you love and what you want to learn, rather than building a portfolio to launch you in the world as a future newscaster.