What Not to Say to Your Professor

One of the things that we talk about a lot in leadership is trying to be empathetic and understand the perspective of those you lead.  I normally have a pretty easy time putting myself in other people’s shoes and I really value diversity, so this is typically a fairly easy exercise for me.  In fact, sometimes I think I make concessions that I shouldn’t make because I feel for the other person.

But today is not one of those days!

Today, I’m tired and busy.  And one too many student has said one of those things that really, really frustrate me.  So, since this is supposed to be a reflective blog…I’m going to reflect aloud to the world in an attempt to gain some empathic perspective.

Here are the things I’ve heard today that have just nearly sent me over the edge (along with my personal interpretation & my attempt at an empathic hearing):

1.  Did I miss anything in class on Monday?

  • What I hear: I couldn’t be bothered to come to class on Monday, but now I’d like you to do double the work by teaching all of it to me again.
  • What you probably mean: I’m trying to make sure I haven’t missed anything and would like to double-check that with you.

2.  I’m not going to be in your class because I’ve got to prepare for another class.

  • What I hear: Your class is not as important as this other class I have.
  • What you probably mean: I’m making the effort to tell you that I’m not going to be there because your class is important to me and I’m hoping you’ll be understanding.

3.  What do I have to do to pass this class?

  • What I hear: I’m looking to do the bare minimum in your class, but want to make sure that I come out okay in the end and I need you to make sure that happens.
  • What you probably mean: I’m just trying to survive!

4.  Is there extra credit?

  • What I hear: I can’t be bothered to do my work, but I’d like you to do extra work to create some way for me to get the grade I want.
  • What you probably mean: Ouch! That test was harder than I expected it to be and I just didn’t prepare adequately.

The reality is that as a teacher or a leader, I often do understand where you are coming from…but I have feelings too.  And sometimes the things that are inadvertently conveyed to me begin to pile up and take their toll.  I think there’s a lesson for all of us here as both leaders and followers:

Think twice about what you’re saying and how it might be received. (Tweet This)


P.S. And for any students reading this who want to ask the questions above, I’d suggest the following instead:

1.  “I’m going to miss class on Monday (meaning you’ve contacted your professor several days ahead of time), I see in the syllabus that we are covering ___________, how can I best make sure that I learn the material you’ll cover in class?”

2.  Please, just don’t say this.  Prepare early enough for your other classes that you don’t have to tell me that my class is insignificant and unimportant!  Professors do understand what it’s like to balance multiple classes and that everyone has a crazy day, but because we too go to multiple classes & have to be prepared for each of them every day, it’s really hard to hear this from you.

3.  “I have struggled up to this point in the semester and would like to see this through and really learn the material.  How might I adapt the way I’m studying/writing/preparing? And do you think it’s possible for me to get out of the hole I’ve dug for myself?”

4.  Okay, so I can’t think of any other way to say this, so maybe go ahead and ask.  Maybe just don’t count on extra credit all of the time. :)


E.T. phone your pastor!

I was amazed when a scholar in film criticism first brought to my attention that the movie E.T. was Steven Spielberg’s attempt to reiterate the gospel message in a fun-for-all flick about a lovable alien who befriends a boy and his family. Sure, there are similarities:

  1. An other-worldly being drops in on us lower-life organisms here on Earth (crashes the party, so to speak).
  2. He makes friends with a chosen few, especially children and those who are good.
  3. People on Earth have their own designs for him.
  4. He helps people while he is here.
  5. He makes contact with his own people while here.
  6. He suffers physically from living on Earth too long and dies an agonizing and emotional death.
  7. He recovers (or comes back to life), coinciding with those who have returned for him.
  8. He makes an amazing and emotional departure.
  9. His closest friends look forward to his return.
  10. He is forever regarded as a great person and positive influence on those he touched.

But besides these ten similarities–and perhaps a few more–why would anyone draw the conclusion that Spielberg had intentionally created his own science-fictional parallel to “the greatest story ever told”?

Photo Credit: Johnson Cameraface via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: Johnson Cameraface via Compfight cc

Because he did!

And because it is a great story line! When one begins to analyze modern film motifs, it is soon clear that numerous film genres have made use of the gospel narrative as a plot design for decades. (Tweet This)

Consider some other movies which seem to have capitalized on this technique…

  1. Clint Eastwood’s High Plains Drifter (1973) and Pale Rider (1985)
  2. Superman (especially, 1978, 1980, 1983, 1987)
  3. Lucas’ Star Wars (1977) and Return of the Jedi (1983)
  4. Ghost (1990)
  5. Rambo: First Blood and Rocky III (both in 1982)
  6. The Matrix (1999)
  7. Disney’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937) and Sleeping Beauty (1959)
  8. Turner and Hooch (1989)

In past blogs I referred to the usefulness of schema theory in understanding how audiences create and re-shape their views of reality based, in part, on media messages. Schema theory explains that images and situations portrayed on television and film provide building blocks for how we, the audience, construct–and re-construct–our internal (cognitive) reality. Our reality about people, politics, tangible and intangible things, including our concept of the “the self,” are made up mostly of a curious amalgamation of information bits about the things which we have been experiencing and observing since we arrived on the planet. As we learn more about anything we adjust the schematic references in our minds, or, in some cases, we adjust the incoming information to fit into the existing realities already present there, since the latter requires fewer processing resources (and less work!). This has been demonstrated by Rumelhart (1980) and others who have done extensive research using schema theory.

In short, the construction of the original gospel message (about real events) is a schema which may provide a useful framework for constructing fictional narratives. It may be considered a very successful vehicle for carrying a message from one point to another, such as from script to director to editor to audiences. The cohesiveness of the plot mechanism allows one to creatively attach a variety of discrete–even bizarre–story elements to it and allow the plot vehicle to unify uncommon elements into a common, easily-understood, even fun to tell story line.

What’s the take away for mass comm students?

Photo Credit: 1upLego via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: 1upLego via Compfight cc

My students should understand that every media product they create has the potential (and likelihood) to be interpreted as intentionally referencing both sacred and profane texts. Thus, they should be very careful to write informative news reports, produce engaging commercials, make inspiring music, and create press releases that do not encourage insinuations, double entendres, and potentially embarrassing unintended meanings. And when producing Christian media, they should be especially diligent to faithfully represent God’s Word and truth because people will ultimately judge the producer and the product more severely if they feel s/he has taken unnecessary liberties in storytelling. Finally, conscientious Christians in the TV and film industry likely do not want to accidentally give people the wrong impression about the Bible based on the escapades of a fictional character!

Darrell Roe (Ph.D., UGA, 1998) is an Assoc. Prof. of Mass Communication at ETBU. His specialty is analyzing the content of visual media and its effects on audiences.

Are you thinking what I’m thinking?

One of the most amazing organs in the body is the brain. (Tweet This)

A lot of people think that the functioning of the brain is the most distinguishing human feature. In other words, the way we think is what separates us from the other animals.

Our brain is so amazing that we tend to take it for granted.  It’s only when a problem shows up that we begin to appreciate the enormous amount of processing the goes on the brain.  Chemical imbalances, injuries or diseases focus our attention on those processes that are altered.

Most people are aware of some primary areas of the brain. These include areas for the six senses (see previous blog), and for muscle control. There are also association areas for the senses that provide perception and understanding of the sensory inputs.

When someone gets a stroke or tumor in one of the primary areas, they lose that sense or movement, but when the association areas get damaged, strange  amazing interactions can result.

For instance, damage to the primary visual cortex results in blindness. The person is not able to see images at all. Damage to the association area can cause a person to be blind, but in unusual ways. Certain people are able to look at an object and draw it, but not name it. Others can see the object, recognize the object by touch behind a curtain, but not name it. Others have no problem naming the object but draw some weird scribbles that they say is the object.

One deficit caused a woman to be blind to moving objects. If it was still, she saw it. If it moved, it disappeared to her brain. Her life was like a stop motion movie with snapshots of still objects, but sounds of movement all around her.

Some people have unusual deficits that cause the left side of objects to disappear. They see and draw only the right side of images. If you have them imagine standing on the street, they can remember only the buildings on the right side of the block. If they mentally move to the end of the block and look back, they see only the buildings that are now on the right, the invisible ones from a minute ago.

My mother-in-law suffered a stroke last Thursday (prayers are appreciated). Her deficits appear to be in the language areas of the brain. She has lost several spoken words from her vocabulary. She knows the word she wants to say, but it is not the word that comes out of her mouth. She hears the word from her mouth and knows it is wrong, but can’t make the right word come out. It is very frustrating.

In the late 1970’s, Steve Martin joked about teaching an imaginary son the wrong words, so that when the boy asked to go to the bathroom, it came out “mumble dogface in the banana patch…”

It’s not so funny when it happens in real life. The injured brain connects a different meaning to the spoken word. The patient is confused when others can’t understand the simple request they are making. They are trapped in a world of an unlearnable language. They can get frustrated and angry, lashing out with tantrums or becoming depressed.

Motor control can be affected in strokes or cerebral palsy. People find their body doesn’t respond to their brain. It might be speech  muscles or half the body in strokes, to malfunctions of entire body in cerebral palsy. They are trapped inside a shell that doesn’t function. Their thoughts and feelings are still normal, but the body just doesn’t perform. Again, frustration is the outcome of everyday efforts.

When the interactions of the brain are functioning well, we tend to forget how complex those interactions can be. We take for granted everyday activities such as walking, communicating, and thinking…until the activities go away.


Simon Says

I remember as a child playing Simon Says in the front driveway of my grandparent’s home.

“Simon says take one step forward.”

“Simon says put your hand on your head.”

“Turn around.”

“Ah! Simon didn’t say!”

Many of us initially think leadership looks a lot like a game of Simon Says. (Tweet This) Someone (the leader) tells us what to do and we do as we’re told.

Yesterday in class, my students were reflecting on the leadership of Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain who commanded the 20th Regiment of Infantry, Maine Volunteers during the Civil War.  When the 2nd Regiment was decommissioned, 120 men were reassigned to Chamberlain.  Those men refused reassignment so they were taken under armed guard to Chamberlain.  After 3 days without food, General George G. Meade of the Army of the Potomac instructed Chamberlain to “make them do duty or shoot them down the moment they refused.”

Meade believed that threats of harm should be enough to get soldiers to do as they are told.  He believed in the Simon Says model.

Chamberlain disagreed.  He fed the men and then painted a picture. Well, not a picture made with paint on canvas.  But he created a compelling vision of what they could accomplish together.  He used carefully chosen words to help them envision what the future could look like if they all worked together.

Chamberlain told them “Here you can be something.  Here’s a place to build a home.  It isn’t the land–there’s always more land.  It’s the idea that we all have value, you and me, we’re worth something more than the dirt….What we’re fighting for , in the end, is each other….” (Useem, The Leadership Moment, p. 134).

When we discuss different approaches to leadership in class, many of my students make the assumption that military leaders rely on the Simon Says method to get the job done.  While, I must confess that I know very, very little about the military, I’m not sure that the Simon says method is the only one used in the military.

I had the distinct honor of visiting the Army Fires Training School at Ft. Sill, Oklahoma just a few weeks ago.  I met some really incredible men and women.  And I heard many of them talk about the necessity of earning credibility with those they lead.  They spoke passionately about living out the values in which they believe.  Certainly, you want people who are well-trained and can respond to direct commands, especially when you’re in the midst of a crisis.  But, I heard a lot more conversations that sounded like Chamberlain than Meade.  Maybe they could give orders, but they didn’t seem to believe that’s always the most effective way to lead.

Painting a compelling vision is much more challenging than giving orders. (Tweet This)

It certainly requires more time and effort and thought.  But in the end, it’s worth it.  Don’t we all want to be a part of something bigger? Don’t we all want to contribute to something meaningful?  Don’t we all want to invest our time and lives and energy in something that we believe?

I do.

And doesn’t painting a compelling vision support what we believe about how we are to live as followers of Christ? If we truly believe that each individual is created in God’s image and should be treated with dignity and respect, shouldn’t we share the vision rather than just giving orders?  If we are to treat others as we want to be treated (and we want to work toward something meaningful), wouldn’t we help people understand the big picture they are working toward?

As a leader, I need to paint a picture that allows others to see the possibilities if we all work together.  To return to the image of childhood games, it becomes more like a game of capture the flag than a game of Simon Says.  In capture the flag we all know our roles.  The entire team knows our goal and aim.  We discuss and agree upon a strategy to reach the target.  And when we all know the goal, we can each make split-second decisions as the situation changes.  We don’t have to wait for “Simon” to tell us what we’re supposed to do.


The “Happy” Bug

I had planned to write this blog with some critical observations about the hugely popular song “Happy” (from the movie Despicable Me 2 soundtrack by Pharrell Williams, aka “Pharrell”). Numerous mock-ups and imitations of his original music video have posted on YouTube from groups all over the U.S. and around the world, from colleges to Congressmen, and everybody else in between. It seemed like easy prey for my critical eye (and typing fingers) to point out how superficial were all these unfortunate, child-like, overly-optimistic, too-easily-entertained Internet wannabe sensations.

As mentioned, I had planned to blog thusly, until, having watched a few of these amateurish, low-production-value vignettes,

I caught the bug!!

Sadly, it only took a few minutes of online viewing, and I had an raging case of “Happy” fever. I simply couldn’t help but enjoy the positive, unassuming faces and unpolished choreography. I began to take greater and greater delight in the carefree, no-strings-attached, boundless joy exhibited by the participants whose uncomplicated yet contagiously sincere joy seems motivated by nothing more than swaying to the catchy rhythms of Pharrell’s redundant melody, easy-to-sing lyrics, and uplifting tone. There is something magnetic about the smiles and unrehearsed moves that makes one want to “catch” whatever they’ve got going for them!

To be fair…

you should start with the “official” music video by Pharrell. Then feel free to click on and watch some of the takes on Pharrell’s video below (a small fraction of those available online):

  1. Great Lakes Institute of Management (U.S.)
  2. Syracuse University
  3. Children in China
  4. People in Santiago, Chile
  5. People in Prague, Czech Republic
  6. People in Kampot, Cambodia (disabled citizens)
  7. People in Laval, France
  8. People in Rome, Italy
  9. People in Abu Dhabi (U.A.E.) (about 40 nationalities shown)
  10. People in Jerusalem (mostly teenagers)

If I have any critique about the “Happy” song’s message, in my melodically-induced-dopamine joie de vivre, it would be to remind folks that happiness is, in fact, not the truth. Jesus is the truth–and way and life (John 14:6), as he himself has also reminded us (see also John 8: 31-32). Only a personal relationship with Jesus Christ can bring us genuine and enduring happiness, as well as peace and hope. If our happiness is based merely on the transitory pleasures of this fallen world, no matter how innocent or noble, it will surely not last. Rather, we will experience the same roller coaster ride of ups and downs on our journey through this time side of life as do those who don’t know the Lord at all. Jesus also reminded His disciples (and us) that “Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful” (John 14:27, NASB). And the apostle Paul, even though in prison, writes “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I say, rejoice!” (Philippians 4: 4, NASB). Perhaps most memorable are what have been referred to as the Beattitudes, 9 prescriptions for happiness direct from the Lord’s mouth in his hillside sermon. (As you read these, remember that the word “blessed” may also be translated “happy.”) Therein, we should find the greatest fulfillment for our souls, as well as our minds. (see Matthew 5:1-12) (Tweet This)

What’s the take away for mass comm students?

Bastien (2009) showed us that music has the ability to foster productive dialogue on important issues. I’ve recently covered this in my Senior Seminar (capstone) class at ETBU as we discussed the dibilitating effects of the stigma of being diagnosed and living with HIV/AIDS, especially in developing nations (including some in Africa and Latin America). Bastien believes that African popular songs may be an effective use of mass media, in that they may help overcome resistance and help push back some of the barriers to effective discussion and get people talking. Specifically, Bastien expects this will happen in three distinct ways:

  1. Helping correct risky behaviors associated with HIV/AIDS
  2. Helping correct misunderstandings about how HIV/AIDS is spread
  3. Providing context and appeal for popular social issues (through allegories and themes in songs)

King David, who frequently made time to worship the Lord in song and verse, found happiness in his relationship with his Heavenly Father. The psalms he was inspired to write can help us do the same. For example, “Many are the woes of the wicked, but the Lord’s unfailing love surrounds the one who trusts in him. Rejoice in the Lord and be glad, you righteous; sing, all you who are upright in heart! (Psalm 32:10-11, NIV)

So… why not lower your defenses and try to “catch” a little of the “Happy” bug? And then…?

Try to spread it!

Darrell Roe (Ph.D., UGA, 1998) is an Assoc. Prof. of Mass Communication at ETBU. His specialty is analyzing the content of visual media and its effects on audiences.

The Time of Our Lives

“`If you knew Time as well as I do,’ said the Hatter, `you wouldn’t talk about wasting it. It’s him.’
 `I don’t know what you mean,’ said Alice.
 `Of course you don’t!’ the Hatter said, tossing his head contemptuously. `I dare say you never even spoke to Time!’
 `Perhaps not,’ Alice cautiously replied: `but I know I have to beat time when I learn music.’
 `Ah! that accounts for it,’ said the Hatter. `He won’t stand beating. Now, if you only kept on good terms with him, he’d do almost anything you liked with the clock…”

mad hatter

Photo Credit: quicheisinsane via Compfight cc

  Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Lewis Carroll.

Time is another one of those things we live with that is difficult to understand scientifically. We know about it, lose track of it, manage it, but when you try to define and explain it scientifically, it gets really weird.

The official unit of time is the second which is defined as the duration of 9,192,631,770 periods of the radiation corresponding to the transition between the two hyperfine levels of the ground state of the cesium 133 atom (told you it gets weird).

Time is considered by some to be the 4th dimension of space and is intricately bound with space. Time is relative to the position and speed traveling though space. For example, time on earth is different from time on the space shuttle (weird), and if you could reach the speed of light, time would stand “still”…

When we are working with time in our lives, we are looking more at the passing of time. We don’t want to define it; we want to keep track of it.

clock with lunar

Photo Credit: nicola.albertini via Compfight cc

We use clocks and calendars to standardize the passing of time, so everyone is on the same page when it comes to time. The passing of time is really noticing the recurring rhythms that occur in our lives. Some powerful rhythms of time are the daily solar cycle, monthly lunar cycle and yearly seasonal cycle.


sunrise tree

Photo Credit: James Jordan via Compfight cc

Our bodies contain internal timekeepers called biological clocks. These clocks set the timing of several physiological rhythms such as hormones, digestion, cell division, tissue repair, activity, sleep, etc. The multiple clocks are regulated by a master clock in the brain which is synchronized to 24 hr daily rhythm by sunlight. If all our internal rhythms stay in-sync with the daily rhythm, we feel better and function better.

Years ago, we worked sunrise to sunset and stayed pretty well synchronized with the 24 hr rhythm. With modern society, we’ve  altered our environment with electric lights to give us more productive time during our night. We’ve extended our working day. We are no longer at the mercy of the sunset. We can work as long as we want into the night.

He (Time) won’t stand beating.

If there is anyone trying to beat time, it would have to be college students.  College students are not known for their time management skills.  They wait until the last minute to finish projects or papers.  This makes for a lot of late, sleepless nights trying to beat the deadlines.  And of course, the fun doesn’t begin until after 10 pm. Everyone knows the movies are a better at the midnight premieres. College equals sleep deprivation.

Time won’t stand beating.

multiple clocks (2)

Photo Credit: rustman via Compfight cc

Another problem is the body’s own internal timekeeper.  The biological clock has to be overridden in order to pull the all-nighters.  The light at night unsynchronizes the biological clock from the sunrise. Our body rhythms begin to get out of sync. Then after the late nights during the week, we sleep in on Saturday and Sunday which disrupts our biological clock even more. Then we have  to get up for 8 am class on Monday. The body clock has synchronized to the later time schedule and has to reset several hours to get back to normal. We have given ourselves artificial jet-lag. And jet-lag takes several days to get over so by the time our clocks are resynchronized, its back to oversleeping on the weekend again. We try to beat the internal clock in order to maintain our lifestyle. (Tweet This)

Time won’t stand beating. You know the old saying. if you can’t beat them, join them…

Now, if you only kept on good terms with him (time), he’d do almost anything you liked with the clock…

Keeping on good terms with your biological time means adjusting your habits.

  • Keep lighting as low as possible during the nighttime
  • Try to get plenty of sleep each night (close to 8 hours)
  • Try to get up at the same time each day, even on weekends
  • Limit naps and caffeine during the afternoon

When you do find yourself at odds with your clock, try to get out in the sunlight during the morning hours. Morning sunlight will help resynchronize your clock to the daily rhythm.



While I normally leave the discussions of movie, tv, radio and the like to my colleague, I’m going to make an exception this week.  Over the weekend, I went to see Divergent.  I’ve read the entire trilogy, so I’ve been looking forward to its release for quite a while. (Yes, I do read young adult fiction.  I can’t read scholarly articles all the time!)

For those of you who haven’t yet read the book (or seen the movie), I’ll give you a quick overview…
In the futuristic Chicago of Veronica Roth’s Divergent, citizens are divided into five factions.  Each faction celebrates and cultivates a particular virtue in its members:


Photo Credit: prettybooks via Compfight cc

Dauntless  – Bravery
Erudite – Knowledge/Intelligence
Candor – Honesty
Amity – Peacemaking
Abnegation – Selflessness

While Divergent is not the first (and likely won’t be the last) in the recent string of dystopian young adult fiction, I’ve appreciated the leadership discussion embedded within the story.  Throughout the books, there are implicit questions about what characteristics or virtues really make a person fit to lead.

Early in the books, all of the leaders of society come from Abnegation. It’s assumed that those who are humble and selfless are best able to make decisions and allocate resources in a way that will serve all of society.

Some characters in the story believe that the Erudite are best suited for leadership because of their high intelligence, commitment to learning, and diligent study.

There are also a number of decisions by leaders in the book that allow the reader to consider ethical dilemmas of leadership.  They are the same sort of questions we consider in my classes:

  • Do the ends justify the means in leadership?
  • Is manipulation an appropriate tool for leadership?
  • Does the leader have the greater responsibility to reveal all information to followers, or to protect them from potentially harmful information?

These are the same kinds of questions that philosophers and students of politics, history, and leadership have been asking for centuries.  Forgive my over-simplification of these heavy philosophical works, but many of the most significant writings in history have assumed that only certain people should lead or that they should lead in particular ways:

  • Plato designed his ideal society in the Republic with philosophers as his rulers of choice.
  • Machiavelli’s Prince argues that “it is far safer to be feared than loved”as a leader.
  • Locke says no one should be subjected to the will of another and advocates for majority rule.
  • Carlyle believes that those who possess divinely inspired knowledge have the right to lead.

I’m not sure that we consistently ask such deep questions about our leaders today.  It would seem we are often more interested in results, final products, and track record rather than with character, virtue, and ethical perspective when it comes to our leaders. Perhaps we need to reframe the kinds of questions we ask during presidential debates, CEO interviews, and pastoral searches to reflect a deeper kind of thinking about who should lead.

I’m also thrilled that we (as human beings and as leaders) can possess more than one faction’s virtues.  I think I might really appreciate following a selfless, courageous, honest, peacemaking leader who also wants to study to gain additional knowledge and skill.  And while maybe that person is too perfect to exist outside of the pages of fiction, I’d like to believe that our leaders would value all of those virtues enough to surround themselves with co-workers, mentors, counselors, and advisers who supplement their areas of weaknesses.

What about you?  Who do you believe ought to lead?


They can’t sleep…

Earlier this week in my Broadcast News Reporting class we were discussing how to write a hard TV news story about the recent spree of violent crimes known as “The Knock-Out Game.” This sadistic “game” is generally perpetrated by young males in urban settings, sometimes in broad daylight. Generally, one male from among a group (or even walking all alone) will sucker-punch an elderly woman or unsuspecting man, an innocent passer-by, perhaps someone carrying something. In every case, the victim is caught completely unaware and completely defenseless. Coming from the blind side (or even from behind), the assailants hit their targets with a full force fist punch in the head, knocking them unconscious and to the ground with such violent force that some have died from their injuries. All have suffered serious injuries.

Why is this happening?

There is no theft or sexual assault accompanying the attacks. Wallets, purses, and bags are left intact, even beside the victims. There is little apparent motive, other than a few miscreants wanting to amuse themselves. But again…


Solomon (inspired to write Proverbs) tells us that wicked and evil [people] “cannot sleep unless they do evil; And they are robbed of sleep unless they make someone stumble” (Proverbs 4:14-16, NASB). This very clearly tells us the Who, What, and Why of the story. It’s enough to get a writer going. But in class discussion another culprit became apparent, one that sees the crime but doesn’t help the helpless, one that may be as much to blame as those who strike down the innocent.

Who’s watching?

Photo Credit: hunnnterrr via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: hunnnterrr via Compfight cc

The CAMERA is!

Yes, the camera! Several students, as well as I, became increasingly convinced through our discussion that the cameras which captured the crimes for all to see, as well as the Internet and TV networks which repeatedly showed the attacks, were very much accomplices in the crimes. No doubt. First, there are the security cameras in many locations, all too effective in capturing the attacks, but not always clear enough to identify…

Who Done It?

In fact, at least one assault was videoed by the assailants themselves on a cell phone, which later got lots of TV “news” air time, having made it into social media streams faster than the news of the crime itself, far faster than any ambulance could arrive on the scene to help.

In previous blogs I’ve pointed out that research indicates that visual media inspire imitation. Vicarious learning may be a release for some, but for others, a cue to reenact and reinforce what they’ve learned. Pictures and video on social media are no exception to this, and they may, in fact, make the behaviors shared by others seem much more plausible and easy to carry out. Add the illusion of anonymity, and there is very little regard for the consequences of one’s actions.

How do we write about it?

The budding journalists in my class were clearly struggling with how to begin telling a serious news story for their audience. The challenge of crafting that LEAD SENTENCE can be daunting for anyone, especially when a story evokes a range of strong emotions, not only for the victims, but for the journalists themselves. Our discussions about WHO did WHAT to WHOM, WHERE and WHY became very spirited. But when I try to get students to nail down one strong, concise phrase that grabs our attention, sets the tone of the story, and compels us to want to hear more, many are stymied.

As I typically find in class discussions about issues that are highly evocative, there are several stumbling blocks that must be overcome.

  1. Victim blaming (lack of empathy)–likely an attempt to gain distance from the uncomfortable topic
  2. Joking–making light of the injuries and seriousness of the crime
  3. Prioritizing–inability to distinguish the most important facts from lesser important facts
  4. Newsworthy elements–inability to choose which angle to take on the story, such as impact, magnitude, proximity, oddity, etc. (There are 8.)
Darrell Roe (Ph.D., UGA, 1998) is an Assoc. Prof. of Mass Communication at ETBU. His specialty is analyzing the content of visual media and its effects on audiences.



Watch what you eat…

I finished the section about nutrition in class this week. The students received the introductory information which is pretty straight forward. Vitamins, minerals, proteins, fats and carbohydrates haven’t changed much over the years. What has changed is which foods are the “bad” foods.

You know the ones, if you eat them you’ll have a heart attack, get cancer and high blood pressure while becoming obese.

Now while Americans do have big problems with these ailments, its difficult to pinpoint the food that is causing the most damage. Years ago, many different foods were demonized and we took them off our tables in an effort to be healthier. With further study, we found that now these bad foods turn out to be not so bad, some are even good for you. Here is just a small sample…


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Eggs. They were taboo because they contain cholesterol. And everyone knows that too much cholesterol in your blood can clog your vessels and lead to heart attacks. However, it turns out that the egg’s cholesterol (dietary) is not the same as the clogging cholesterol in your blood. And the egg is packed with protein with several vitamins and minerals.


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Chocolate. Remember when chocolate caused acne and made you fat? Well, now it turns out to be heart-healthy, but you have to come over to the dark side, at least most benefits seem to come from dark chocolate. There is a Swedish study that says chocolate lowers stroke risk and 90% of Swedish chocolate is milk chocolate, so maybe milk chocolate lovers still have a chance.

glass of milk

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Whole Milk. Now here’s one that hits right at my home. It wasn’t the milk that was bad for you, but the fat in the milk. So, the switch was made to skim milk. I had to slowly change from whole to 2% to 1% then skim. My boys grew up on skim milk, four gallons a week to be exact. They don’t even care for the whole stuff, too thick. Recent studies indicate that drinking whole milk reduces central obesity.

And to add insult to injury, the study didn’t say just add whole milk, but also real butter and real whipped cream. All these years without whipped cream… dairy fat is the hero now. Instead of removing these items from our diet, we need to make sure that we use them.

whip cream (2)

Coffee. Back then it was caffeine fueled anxiety that would stunt your growth. There is still caffeine but it’s not as bad as we believed. It apparently enhances brain function. Plus there are many good antioxidants  and nutrients in coffee, and they actually add real whip cream on top of some cups.

Nuts. These were known to have good nutrition, but with a lot of fat. Now that we know there is good fat and bad fat, the nuts rise to the top of the pile. Tree nuts are usually recommended, but studies show that peanuts, which are really legumes (like beans and peas), are just as good. In fact, boiled peanuts seem to have a similar amount of the same antioxidant that is found in red wine, and you don’t have to hide a handful of peanuts from your pastor.

This is just a sample of foods that are now thought to be good for you. Just google or bing the phrase, “bad foods that are actually good for you” and you will get many hits that give these and other ideas on foods.

Just remember that too much of a good thing can be bad for you. Take each area mentioned above with moderation. Overuse can quickly throw the nutrition benefits and the calories into the negative column.

And keep checking with the latest nutrition research. Maybe some favorite taboo food is on the verge of changing from a zero to a hero.



More Questions Than Answers

We tend to think of leaders as people who have all the answers.  Maybe it’s because from childhood the people who “lead” us seem to have all the answers:

  • Our parents, who have already survived childhood
  • Our teachers, who have already conquered spelling, math, and reading
  • Our team coaches, who understand the fundamentals of the game

It can be a rude awakening when we find ourselves in a leadership position and realize that we don’t necessarily have all the answers.  But, do we really want our leaders to have all the answers?

This week in class, we were discussing the idea of the leader as coach.  I’m not talking about the kind of athletic or sport coaches that many of us are familiar with.  The International Coaching Federation (ICF) defines coaching as “partnering with clients in a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires them to maximize their personal and professional potential.”

Unlike a consultant or a trainer, a coach helps you to discover answers for yourself rather than delivering answers as an expert.  Our discussion in class centered around the ways that a leader can help their employees to gain competence and confidence by coaching them to find their own answers rather than always offering immediate solutions.

We talked about the reasons that coaching an employee to come to their own solution might be helpful.  My students identified some good reasons:

  • The employee might have more buy-in
  • The employee gains confidence and expertise to work independently

Apparently, though this might sound good in theory, this was a tricky concept for my students to apply.  After some very rudimentary training, I asked them to use a basic process to coach another student in class (on any subject of their choosing).  And off they went!

Initially, I was really getting a kick out of some of the “challenges” they chose to be coached on, but somewhere along the way, I heard a lot of the coaches telling their fellow student what they should do.

“You should open the door if you really want to be a gentleman.”
“You would plant that particular item during late spring.”
“Well, when I study for Dr. Prevost’s tests, I usually…”

You get the idea.

When we debriefed, they confessed how difficult it is to ask questions rather than providing solutions to people’s questions, problems, and dilemmas.  Almost immediately, we default to offering solutions.  Especially as leaders, we are used to be asked to “fix” the problem.

But, is delivery as powerful a method of learning as discovery?

Val Hastings from Coaching for Clergy actually points out in his trainings how often people in scripture came to deep insights from being asked questions. Consider these questions asked by Jesus:

“Peter, do you love me?”

“Which one of these three was the neighbor?”

“Who do you say that I am?”

Perhaps we should learn from this great teacher who has more followers than any of us will ever hope to have.  If you want people to follow, then ask powerful questions.  As leaders, we don’t always have to have an answer.  And even when we have an answer, perhaps we lead people to deeper, more meaningful insights and opportunities when we ask the right questions rather than always giving them answers.

When has someone led you with a powerful question?