John N. Gardner Institute for Excellence in Undergraduate Education

Confessions of a Repentant Blogger

John N. Gardner

I confess. I have fallen by the wayside. I have let my readers down. Haven’t written a posting for a number of weeks now. I feel badly about this. When I took this on about five years ago I did so after being badgered by a staff member in my non-profit organization that was/is about 35 years younger than me. She told me this would be a good thing to do; that I would enjoy it; that others would enjoy reading my thoughts; that it would personalize me to many people who only knew me or knew of me professionally. So I relented and became a blogger.

Most of my brief life as a blogger I have enjoyed. It has affected my consciousness by making me think often about what I could report. So I have found myself engaging in even more reflective thinking than I might have otherwise because I knew I had an obligation to report such. And especially when I am travelling out of our country I have come to think of myself as a kind of foreign correspondent. It has made me see things and think about things I might not have focused on in this intentional manner otherwise.

But my version of being a blogger is an obligation. A significant obligation. And I have really not been meeting it recently. It is a multi-faceted obligation. It is one of thinking, devoting time and energy, and, of course, writing.

And my primary duties as a nonprofit org CEO have recently had me doing an extraordinary amount of writing on other matters. I just haven’t had the time I needed.

Excuses, excuses. I wouldn’t accept them from me if I were one of my students.

I once was asked by an older, wiser, mentor of mine, who I was about to go to work for, if I had any “enemies.” Fascinating question. This is when I was working full time at the University of South Carolina. I thought about the question and came back with two names. One was the Athletic Director, whom I had come to blows with over treatment of first-year student athletes. And one of my trademarks at USC was to serve as the self-appointed spokesperson and advocate for the needs of first-year students. If I hadn’t been a tenured full professor, I suspect this guy and his Board allies would have had me fired. But nope, I left, but really never left and never will, on my own volition. Second was the University Librarian. He and I had fought many battles over such high stakes as his wanting to expel a student for stealing one issue of Sports Illustrated. I was chairing the Faculty/Student Discipline Committee back in the days when faculty still sat in judgment of students who committed major infractions of the student discipline code. And I refused to push for expulsion. The Librarian never forgave me. I was a coddler of criminals. And we had another fight too over whether or not my University 101 classes could have tours of the Library. He was adamant that they could not because they would come in and talk; and libraries were to be places of silence. So with help from a special colleague (Professor Jerry Jewler) we developed something called the “silent library tour”. The students toured, but could not talk. This Librarian once told my future boss and mentor that “The problem with John Gardner is he has only one speed: full speed ahead.” And he was absolutely right.

So when I agreed to become a blogger I only knew one speed: full speed ahead. And in recent weeks I just haven’t been able to maintain that so I didn’t maintain at all. And I guess I just told myself that if I couldn’t do it my usual full speed ahead then I wouldn’t do it at all.

For me, blogging is partially about writing about what is most on my mind. And right now the takeover of the formally centrist state of North Carolina by the political party that was never really in power in North Carolina has become a central preoccupation for me mentally. This is one of the reasons my writing has slacked. I didn’t want to write about my political concerns. Not an excuse, just a reason.

But I am going to get back on the wagon I have fallen off of. And it would help me to know, if any of you readers would care to direct me, what kinds of things you might be interested to have my thoughts on.

I resisted technology for a long time. But it has changed the way I work. And blogging has changed the way I see things and then write about them. I need to keep this up.


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