I have been reading Thomas L. Friedman’s The World is Flat as part of an online PLU course. Really the course just gave me a good excuse for reading a book I had been wanting to read for some time.
I am still finishing the second chapter about various flatteners that have brought us to the point where we find ourselves today, and I could not help but be struck by his comments regarding blogs. Is it just me, or does he seems somewhat more concerned about the negative aspects of blogs and blogging in comparison with the other flatteners he discusses? He says at one point, “A blog is your own personal virtual soapbox, where you can get up every morning, and, in the form of a column or a newsletter or just a screed, tell the world what you think about any subject, upload the content to your own Web site, and then wait for the world to come check it out” (117). Perhaps the word “screed” just jumps out at me, but I see this comment as somewhat negative. Yes, some bloggers write screeds, but I don’t read many blogs like that. He praises the bloggers who were able to expose “Rathergate,” but in the next breath he adds that “no one is in charge, standards of practice vary wildly, and some of it is downright irresponsible” (117). I know that what he says at true, but part of me wonders if he isn’t worried because bloggers are, as Charles Johnson quoted on the same page describes them, “an army of citizen journalists.” It just makes me wonder if Friedman feels threatened by bloggers.
I have to say I have found the book engaging and intriguing, and frankly, I have learned a great deal from the book. I know one thing — it is critical that educators help students prepare for entering this new flat world, and I don’t think all of our schools are doing enough.
Another curiosity I have about this book — when I posted on my reading blog that I was reading this book, a reader who had never commented on my blog before left a comment suggesting I read alternative theories by two other authors, criticized the length of Friedman’s book, and then left. A quick Google search unearthed four pages of extremely similar comments. She has not, at least not in the comments I have read, really explained her passion for convincing others not to read this book, or at least not to take it as the last word, but she clearly has some kind of agenda. It would not surprise me to see her comment here, as I think she monitors Technorati or Google for blogs discussing this book, and it is my hope that rather than leave her standard comment, she will be willing to engage in a discussion of her particular concerns about this book.
At any rate, as I progress through the book, I do intend to post my thoughts about it here.