Sunday, January 22, 2017

Getting Information Not Sound Bites

On January 17, 2017 the Senate confirmation hearing for Secretary of Education Nominee Betsy DeVos were held. Mrs. DeVos's hearing was over three hours long and had distinct portions. Following the hearing, there were numerous related conversations, posts and memes throughout my Facebook feed. There were sound bites galore. I was not looking for sound bites; I was looking for information. 

The Senate hearing is a piece of the nominee's “job interview” with the Senate committee that handles education. The part that is held in the public eye. It includes an audience of guests and the media. It is televised and recorded. It was live-streamed and still available online and as a researcher, I greatly appreciate this aspect and imagine my nerd-joy when I discovered that I could download the entire testimony! You can watch the hearing and/or download the testimony here:

Memory is impacted by experience and emotion. I did not watch the hearing live. I intentionally avoided the full emotional experience. I have chosen to watch it after the fact so I can watch with a pause button and a notepad. I can definitely read it faster than I can watch it but I have given myself the task of watching it and taking notes before reading the transcript sections related to what I've watched. My commentary is based on my notes while viewing. I will also be interested to see how those observations may change after reading the transcript segments. 

Observing People in Action

When we are watching people, it is easy to have reactions to what we think they might be saying other than just the words they are using. It makes sense to assume that there underlying statements really being made when the speakers at an event such as these hearings read their prepared statements because this is a group process. The people speaking are not only speaking to Mrs. DeVos, they are speaking to the other committee members and guests as well as their constituents who are watching on television or reading the transcript later; they are speaking in response to previous conversations, just they are speaking in anticipation of future ones; they are speaking for history as well as for the moment.

There are many things to be mindful of as an observer. What is our purpose of observing? Are we looking for the hidden agenda? Are we watching to find the elements which match our expectations or our pre-conceived notions? Are we listening with open ears or slanted ones? Are we asking questions or assuming answers? As we continue through the hearings of President Trump's nominees and the many changes anticipated in the days to come, I propose to you to be a mindful observer as I am working to model in my experience with the hearing for the Secretary of Education.

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