"Tom, I'm not comfortable with students using pen pal networks," my principal warns me.
"It's not about comfort," Mr. Brown shoots back.
"Good point. Let me rephrase this. I am concerned about the pen pal networks and the plogs and the class newspaper you have created. I recently read a study about how pencils are making society more narcissistic," he warns.
"Pencils? Really?" I ask.
"Yes, see, people are becoming addicted to them and it's turning people self-centered," he warns.
"Addicts? They're communicating, not drinking Coke. Let's be honest. Kids write short texts to one another, because they like to communicate. It has nothing to do with a fancy yellow Ebherhard," I respond.
"Perhaps, but you can't deny that the medium is making children self-centered," he adds.
"I'm pretty sure self-centeredness is a social and psychological rather than a technological issue. Blame humanity on that one," Mr. Brown adds.
"What about mirrors? Those seem to make people far more self-centered than pencils. Are we going to shatter all school mirrors?"
"That would mean bad luck," the principal says with an awkward chuckle. He's a dry man trying his best to use humor to deflate the escalating tension.
"Look, I see your point. Maybe we have that conversation with kids. Maybe we ask them if they feel the pressure to perform when they have a larger audience. And maybe that's the issue. Maybe we keep saying 'audience' rather than 'community,' and so our words are framing our mindset," Mr. Brown adds.
Narcissists aren't always the loudest ones out there and loud people aren't always narcissists. My father had a strong voice. He spoke up loudly in defense of the one-room schoolhouse when the town considered closing it down and letting students walk a few more mile to go the opposite direction. When we moved to the city, he wrote letters to the editor regarding worker's rights and factory conditions. He wrote letters to friends throughout his informal social network, sharing stories about our family. But his voice was humble. It was earthy.
The issue isn't the technology we use, but the tone of voice that matters.