COMMENTARY #3:  “Sometimes you have to trick people into caring;” How one website is getting young people to get engaged with issues that matter.

How frustrating for the college professor (believe me, I know) to ask a class of 25 students a question even a bit easier than the one asked Libertarian Presidential candidate Gary Johnson (i.e., What is Aleppo?), “What is happening in Syria these days?”  The probable (and actual, for this professor) answer… silence.

Probing further uncovered a profound lack of understanding by the students… of the focal point of current efforts at world peace, and war.  Ask students about the latest incredible animal Youtube (remember the cat who chased the vicious dog away from the infant, or the cat playing the piano?) and hands fly toward the ceiling.  So, I ask you, how does one get young people to research, study, dare I say, care about, subjects as serious as Syria?

The website Attn: (pronounced, “attention”) thinks it has the answer.  “If you want the dog to eat the pill,” Matthew Segal is quoted as saying, “you have to wrap it in a piece of bologna.”  Yes, Segal’s double entendre using the luncheon meat’s homonym is the way Attn: has seeded the Internet with viralworthy content such as, “Why Japan’s Public Bathrooms Put (sic) America to shame,” and “Why There’s a Mass Prison Strike Going On Right Now.”

I can cite my recent experience in an undergraduate classroom where there was a near-mutiny after the first grades were returned to students.  The solution did not involve charcuterial theories of education, but in fact the current chapter of our textbook, Introduction to Human Communication, by Beauchamp & Baran.  The section on organizational communication, specifically conflict communication, traces a conflict to a peak of harm, or injury, through negotiation, and eventually change, or resolution.  As a class, we worked through this conflict communication framework, and whether the students feel they were fed bologna, or baloney, they had to admit our discussion and resolutions were indeed adult, productive, and unprecedented in their school experience.

Source article: Denizet-Lewis, B. (2016, October 23). Can he have your Attn:, Please?  New York Times, Week in Review, 8.

Beauchamp, S., and Baran, S. (2017). Introduction to human communication: Perception, Meaning, and Identity.  New York: Oxford University Press.



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