Tuesday, May 3, 2016
Oops! Shoulda checked before I posted ...
As my Facebook friends know (to their sorrow) I occasionally post pages from The Book Lover's Calendar (I call it my book-nerd calendar). During the weekdays, each page deals with a single book (many of which I've never heard of), but on the weekends there's sometimes a Q&A about a book or writer--or, as in the case of this past weekend--a quotation.
I'm going to note here the oddest coincidence: the year when the book summarized on November 11 (my birthday) The Call of the Wild (I've published two annotated editions of that Jack London novel). Weird.
Uh oh: Weirder than I thought. I just found that calendar page in one of my Jack London folders, and I see it was October 11--a month before my birthday ... Traitor Memory strikes again. (Dyer, you gotta check stuff before you post it!)
But ... I had a strong memory that this page had appeared on a significant day. I just checked my journal, and, yes indeed, it was a most significant day, the day I was inducted into the Hall of Fame for teachers in Aurora. And I taught Wild in the middle school there for the last fifteen years or so of my career. So there!
Anyway ... the Tubman quotation. I confess that I did feel a tiny trickle of doubt dripping in my brain when I read it--but I quickly dismissed it (If you can't trust a calendar, then what can you trust!?). And posted it.
And not long afterwards I got a shock of embarrassment. A former student from years ago--Steve LaBonte, whom I taught in 8th grade in 1991-92--sent me note with a link. Here's what he said: Steve LaBonte Apparently there is no historical basis for this quote, and it didn't start appearing until the 1990's. Here's the link.
That was a shock--not only the realization that I'd posted something bogus (unintentionally) but two other things: (1) I hadn't followed up on my initial skepticism (though mild, I confess); (2) I've often judged others who have failed to check out the veracity of the quotations and images they've posted on Facebook. (I've often seen photographs, especially of the Obamas, that have been clearly photo-shopped or cropped in such a way as to confirm some anti-Obama point-of-view--see the one below, for example, the first showing them "failing" to salute with the correct hand; the second, the full original shot.)
Anyway, this kind of stuff--posted by people on the Left as well as the Right--is rampant on Facebook--and on the Internet in general. I've always sniffed in disdain.
And then discovered, yesterday, that I was sniffing my own odor, as well.
After Steve posted his reply, I wrote him a thank-you (I really don't like to post something bogus). I also double-checked on Snopes.com--and, yes, the quotation is bogus. (Link to Snopes.)
I posted the Snopes link on my own FB page--thanked Steve for what he'd done. And felt humble and a tad embarrassed the rest of the day.
But I decided not to take down the original post--and its aftermath. I think it's something we all need to think about in this digital era when truth and falseness and deception and all other sorts of things fly around our world at astonishing speed.
And so I want to thank Steve LaBonte again. For I am now resolving to be a More Skeptical Poster--Checking before clicking.
BTW--I just checked the Harmon School yearbook for his 8th grade year, and I see young Steve, now in his later 30s, looking youthful and sober and serious, wearing glasses (as I did and do). And over his picture he has written a note to me: Mr. Dyer. You're a great teacher. Have fun in Alaska.* Steve LaBonte.
Well, I can now add something: Mr. LaBonte. You're a great teacher. Have fun wherever you are. Daniel Dyer.
*The next school year, 92-93, I was on sabbatical, the culmination of which was a trek over the Chilkoot Trail (an important trail in The Call of the Wild) from Alaska into the Canadian Yukon. You can Google the series of posts I did a few years ago about that hike.