The Politics of Feedback

##AUTHORSPLIT##<---> Readers' response to my presidential endorsement reveals much about the rift our disagreements can cause.

Geoffrey H. FletcherWE RECEIVED A NUMBER of responses (see Your Letters, in the print edition) opposing my endorsement of Barack Obama for president ("President Ed Tech," October). We expected that not everyone would agree, but we hoped to stir discussion and prompt people to consider the technology in education platforms of Sen. Obama and Sen. John McCain. We did indeed stir discussion. As I have answered each letter writer individually, I've noticed a few themes.

"You have made your publication partisan." T.H.E. Journal is and will remain nonpartisan. We have praised John Bailey, a Bush appointee to the US Department of Education, for his leadership and openness, and we have criticized the Bush administration for attempting to cut off technology funding. Likewise, we will criticize an Obama administration if we find it is making decisions contrary to the goals of the education technology community or education as a whole.

"You have made your publication political." We have never been apolitical. Education does not happen in a vacuum; policymakers from local boards of education on up to the Oval Office all make decisions that affect what happens in the classroom. Part of our mission is to inform them about technology and education and urge them to pursue the best policies. We regularly encourage readers to contact their congresspeople about matters related to technology and education. That may be acting politically, but it is also part of being a responsible citizen.

"Your focus was too narrow." I will not vote for president or any other office exclusively on a candidate's technology and education platform, and I would be surprised if anyone else would. However, that is what we, as one of our readers pointed out, "are competent in." Many of the letter writers raised other issues, such as abortion, terrorism, and tax policy, as well as a few unprintable, xenophobic views. Though my ballot will ultimately reflect many concerns, I felt my endorsement should only consider the single issue that T.H.E. is devoted to, namely, which candidate's platform would help to best prepare the most children to live and work in the 21st century.

"Cancel my subscription." Some readers, fueled by their disagreement with my commentary, asked to be removed from our mailing list, which we have done. That certainly is their right, but it's a reaction that will ultimately shut a person off from every publication, every news channel, and a large swath of the internet. Opposing viewpoints help people grow and learn; they have certainly helped me.

The philosopher Ralph Waldo Emerson said, "The only sin we never forgive each other is difference of opinion." I think I've had a glimpse into how right he was.

-Geoffrey H. Fletcher, Editorial director

This article originally appeared in the 11/01/2008 issue of THE Journal.