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Some Lessons Learned

by on December 24, 2018

Some Lessons Learned

by Marco M. Pardi

Learn from others what to pursue and what to

avoid, and let your teachers be the lives of others.” Dionysius Cato. 4th Cent C.E.

Disticha de moribus ad filium.

All comments are welcome and will receive a reply.

My calendar tells me another year is drawing to a close. I suppose I should look back and consider what, if anything, I’ve done.

Anyone who opens this blog site sees the column on the right listing all my previous entries. 176 of them. Going back to February of 2013. All still open for comment. I’ve written about things from mysticism to college teaching, ecology to politics, gun control to what to bring to a gun fight. I’ve even included some non-fiction fiction. I haven’t calculated the monthly average, but I do find myself slowing down over the past few months. It’s not age, despite the calendar. Nor is it lack of ideas.

When I started this blog I set up my site with WordPress as a free account. Even at that level I was provided with a multitude of data such as how many hits were received each day and from where they were generated (one has to just presume a hit meant that someone went ahead and actually read what was on offer). A couple of my offerings were hit in over 100 countries; they then stabilized at around 75 for quite some time. At no time have I ever had the identity of a reader, unless that person was kind enough to comment. Among the large offerings of data provided by this site I was also able to see how many followers I had. That number has steadily grown quite large. And so, to provide a better service to those followers I upgraded to a paid platform. I derive no income from this site, what you see is purely at my expense.

The site also allows me to automatically delete spam, or to see it in case an errant comment ends up there (that has happened). Interestingly, the ratio to spam to bona fide comments is roughly 100 to 1. I manually review and clean off up to a dozen spam comments daily.

In the early years I could count on several people to regularly comment. In responding to each one I have often expressed my deep appreciation for their efforts. In fact, I set up this blog for the comments, not for a mere platform to broadcast my views. I learned as a child that learning comes through listening, not through one way monologue. And the best lessons issue from dialogue. For me, life is learning. And, it is sharing that learning.

Yet, the number of “reads” far outweighed the number of comments. I admit I can be somewhat oblique at times, but I doubt my readers have to go back and re-read six or eight times before providing a comment. I also noticed that many of the “reads” came from guests, people not signed on as followers and apparently the recipients of forwarding through other media platforms.

The enhanced platform I purchased does some inspiring statistical analyses of the data it gathers. Looking at these I noticed cycles in the silent reader hits. In addition, and in parallel to a career in medical science I also taught college for twenty two years. The cycles of highest activity in the readership of the blog appeared to closely parallel those cycles within academic semesters when papers are due. These papers range from basic “position” papers to admission essays. They do not necessarily expound on subject matter intimately germane to any given academic course or subject. Thus, with a little editing, several of my blog entries could be submitted as original work by anyone.

And, not long after I noticed this association of reader cycles with academic requirements I began receiving solicitations from several companies asking to hire my services in writing papers they could then sell to students. Even had I never been in a teaching position I would have found this practice an appalling example of cheating. Yet, I know it happens on a large scale. As a professional dedicated to integrity in learning, I was inspired to vomit. But, although keyboards are cheap, I thought better of it.

I’ve seen several examples of cheating, some crude and some grand. I became bored at one small college where I was teaching and decided to do a research project very much like a marketing study for the college. The administration approved my protocol and I enlisted a couple of student volunteers to administer questionnaires to upper level high school students throughout the large County, soliciting their post high school educational preferences and their reasons for those preferences. After four months of data gathering and four weeks of data collation and analysis I wrote up an extensive paper, complete with recommendations to the college, and presented it in an administrative forum.

The paper was enthusiastically received and the college immediately embarked upon implementation of my recommendations, spending several thousand dollars in the process. The paper was published by and archived at the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA). I received Tenure the following year.

A year later the Dean of Instruction called me into his office. He asked me if I had read the Dissertation which had just won a Doctorate in Education, from one of the State Universities, for one of our administrative staff. I answered in the negative and was handed a copy. It was my paper from two years previously, with the title slightly changed and the administrator’s name in place of mine. All the rest was as I wrote it.

Getting over my shock I asked if, since the college had to now pay this person at a higher level, there would be any action taken to expose this. He said No. The inter-collegiate agreements in the State, regarding such things as transfer students, would be jeopardized if one school exposed another for wrong doing. If we refused to honor a degree from another university they could retaliate against our students. Sound baffling? I thought so.

The next year I had yet another administrative staff member in one of my classes; tuition was free for them. At the mid-term exam I wrote essay questions on the board, to be answered in writing in class. I noticed this staff person was visibly disturbed. When I reviewed the papers later in my office I found why. The person had written impeccable answers: To questions from a different course I was teaching. The answers, to questions from the Introductory Anthropology course, were submitted to the test for the Cultural Anthropology course. I gave the person a ZERO for the test. I did not dismiss the student from the class as I had a right to. At the end of the term the person had brought his/her grade up to a D. This person had a straight A GPA on all courses up to that point, and since the college was using the No-Grade instead of an F the person came to my office and asked me to change the grade to a No-Grade, thus not affecting the GPA. I refused, saying that were I to do so I would be complicit in cheating. My Division Chairman advised me to hold onto the mid-term test. I locked it, along with another student’s proper test paper, in my home safe.

Almost exactly one year later I was summoned to the Dean of Instruction’s office. That person who had cheated had filed a Federal Civil Rights suit claiming, along with other charges, I had acted out of racial prejudice. The case was to be heard in Federal District Court.

In the preliminary hearing I presented the test in question, next to the test from the non-cheating student. I also presented the test questions for each of the two courses at issue. The case was immediately thrown out of court. One can only wonder at the outcome had I not heeded my Division Chairman’s advice. But these are only two of many examples I can cite of cheating, some far worse.

Overall, I feel there was very little cheating going on in my classes. And, the classes were participatory to the extent the volume of material allowed. Of course, through the years of mostly lecture based teaching I have had innumerable instances in which the class ran to the hour with little or no movement from the students to ask questions or rebut a point. I understand that. But over the course of a semester there have rarely been students who have not participated in some way.

And so, Dear Reader, as you recover from your holiday spirit – or spirits, as the case may be, you may understand why, in the face of large amounts of “reads” and low amounts of Comments I’m spending this Season of Giving finishing this 177th offering and considering my options. Before the next billing cycle I can shut down this site completely. Or, I can leave it open to float, perhaps dropping back to the Free level while I find more productive ways to use my time. Or, I can examine the list of Followers and trim off the ones from whom I never read anything. Some of them might appreciate no longer receiving email notification that a new gift is under the tree.

I’m reminded of the aphorism, Use it or lose it. If I knew who coined that I would certainly give her/him full credit. Anyway, I would like to know your thoughts even if they are captured in a single word. In our modern world of truncated communication that shouldn’t be out of the ordinary.

Happy Holidays.

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12 Comments
  1. Gary permalink

    I am a desultory commenter. From time to time, you write something that strikes a chord in me, brings back a memory of something similar, or appears contrary to my thinking or experience. These are the instances that make me scroll down to this part and offer my thoughts. But not everything you write raises the writing muse in me. For example, this one. I don’t recall any instances of my fellow students cheating all through my school career. These ones you cite are appalling. Yet, what could one say to your experience except a commiserating tut tut. I would not have bothered to write to say something of that sort.

    I understand the effort that goes into a blog. I did one myself for several years. It was disappointing to not attract a more participatory readership, as happened to me, and I can confirm the 100 to 1 ratio of spam to hits. People who knew me sent me emails commenting on my blog and refused to make their comments on the blog site, even though it was simple to do so and I repeatedly asked them to do that.. That made me crazy. My biggest hit was the well-known author and now tv commentator, Mark Steyn, who wrote about one of my blog postings and provided a link, which did draw some more readers and one nasty one.

    I gave it up because it was time-consuming (I tried to keep up a weekly schedule) and the readership never developed beyond a certain point.

    I always read your blog, Marco, even if I didn’t always comment, and I, for one, will miss it if you pack it in. You have never been boring and regularly offer us good insights. Thank you for the 176 postings.

    Since it is that time of year, I will wish you a Merry Christmas.

  2. Gary. My very sincere thanks for your thorough and thoughtful comments. I’ve often thought how great it would have been to be a classmate of yours. You unfailingly operate from impeccable logic.

    I wish I had known of your blog. I’m assuming I would have found much of value there, particularly as I have long had a deep interest in the foundations of legal systems.

    I will certainly weigh your comments among any others regarding this blog. But, in any case I very much value the opportunity of conversing with you via the email group. Marco

  3. Julie permalink

    Marco, I love reading your blog and get excited when I receive a notification of a new entry – I would be sad if you decide to stop and I’m sure would many others. There have been more than one occasion when i have spent some time commenting, however for some reason my comments disappeared and never posted 😣 wishing you love and good health for Christmas and New year xo

    • Thank you, Julie. I particularly enjoy your participation. I am quite distressed that some of your comments did not come through. I will send you my email address and, should I continue the blog you might send comments directly to me and i will post them in your name.

      I saw news coverage of several Santas at the crowded beaches in Australia. I’ve often wondered how people in the Southern Hemisphere adjust to warm or even hot Christmases.

      All my best to you and your family. Marco

  4. Buon Natale, Marco. In gifting journals to my two very introverted nephews this holiday season, I said to them, “I truly believe in the magic of words, and that learning to express your thoughts and feelings can change your world.” This is the gift that you gave to me when you began writing this blog. I have read each one with great interest, and sometimes great delight. I will admit that some were harder to read than others, but all made me think. When I found the courage to leave my first reply, I found a voice I didn’t know I had. I will never be able to thank you enough for that.

    I have noticed, of course, that the frequency of your offerings has slowed of late. but I still eagerly look forward to each new arrival. I sometimes go back to a previous offering and read it again, enjoying it just as much the second time around as I did the first. Should it stop altogether, it would be greatly missed.

    • Thank you, Rose. Your enthusiastic participation, right from the start, has been a constant inspiration. And, the marvelous blog/journal/storyline you developed is a treasure I have so often recommended to others.

      I will keep this open somewhat longer as I recognize some people may be busy with the holidays. After that, we’ll see.

  5. Marco, you already know how I feel about your Blog and how just every one of us here would miss it terribly should you decide to stop. I know I have not been much online in the last few years, but whenever I get one of your essays in my inbox, I always read it and appreciate it more than you could ever know.
    When I was active on my Blog I had the same problem though. So many hits from so many countries but no comments, except of course from this precious group here.
    Nevertheless, who knows how many people are reading and benefiting from your writings , even if they never show up!

    As for me, I would like to be able to say I will comment more, but at the moment it is even more difficult than before. It turned out that my morning migraines were due to glaucoma, possibly caused by too much time spent on my PC for the writing and proof reading of the books. So now i have actually been forbidden by the doctor to use my eyes on any`screen` , even my cell phone, at least until the eye pressure goes down.
    But when I saw this, I just had to come here and say `Please, please dont stop!`.
    Your Blog is so special, that I would like to suggest you publish it as a book of `Essays`. To me, it is outstanding, to say the least.
    So hoping you will hear us out and keep on writing, I take this opportunity to wish you and all our friends here a Marvelous New Year full of happiness and of Marco`s Blog posts !

    • Dear Lory. I hope you have someone reading this to you, and I hope you will dictate to someone any response you may feel like providing. I have a close friend with glaucoma, and it is nothing to mess with.

      As always, thank you for your encouragement. I have considered doing as you suggest, and may yet do it. I do not understand why people take the time to read, especially regularly, and do not comment. Thinking of reasons is rather a waste of time as it always comes down to: I don’t know.

      Yes, it is the same group of conscientious individuals who comment, and I am so very deeply grateful each time. As I said above, I will leave the site up and open for some time longer, until the holidays are past. Please do take good care of yourself, and enlist a reader to help. Marco

  6. Dana permalink

    Marco, here my thoughts captured in a single word (I’m on a brief lunch break): WRITE!

    I hope you know how much I appreciate your efforts.

    Dana

    • Thank you, Dana. I will keep the site open for a while, and write more as it comes to me. Your work is long and stressful. Take care of yourself; you have a marvelous career going.

  7. jkent33 permalink

    Marco, After reading all of the comments on your latest installment I could very easily pick a line or two from each one regarding my heartfelt feelings. That being said more times than not, I read but fail to comment for a wide variety of reasons. At the sake of copping out saying I don’t have time it is the honest truth. My life is better known to you than others riding on this roller coaster of a life seeking proper shelter from the storms we all face. Clawing my way back to home ownership and a form of financial security has been an experience I never wish to repeat. It provides plenty of stories to draw from leaving me to sort some out and actually find a voice to share which you always kindly comment giving me courage to move forward. But more to the point I actually would miss them very much if you stopped. I always fall back on the line about love means you never have to say you are sorry. But sorry I am. As I was wearing a much younger mans clothes I always felt that when you are a friend it is for life and forever. Anyone who knows me at all will verify that statement. I felt we were friends soon after meeting. Nonetheless, I promise to be more responsive in the coming year. Fear is a wonderful motivator and knowing that I will make a much greater efforts at commenting. Unless things change I found a way to lower all of my debt levels giving me breathing room to cut out a better schedule to such activities. I was shy to start writing but at your kind behest words flow to the point of doing a lot more in that department. Face Book provided me with a platform to express myself to the point of building a cadre of followers who share their thoughts raising up in my confidence levels to highs well beyond my expectations. So to summarize, I hope you never stop writing because it touches more hearts than these comments will ever express. Now, I hope to enter into 2019 on all of the fronts we share with more moxie than ever. Ciao for nonce…friend!

    • Thank you, Jerry. As I’ve often said, you have an extensive blog – indeed a book within you and I truly hope you emerge flying your colors. We will all be the better for it.

      Yes, for those of us who, by our circumstances find ourselves in repeated separation friendship can be hard to maintain. But I know you are out there, and yet here at the same time.

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