Thursday, February 5, 2015

On paying people and the hstry twitter mess

So this group hstry thought it would be a good idea to do a twitter timeline on the murder of Emmett Till.  In general, it's a case of the heart is in the being in the right place but the actual actions being deeply hurtful.  While understanding Emmet Till's death, the trial of his murderers, and their going free is important, simulating a live tweet of the events of that night, based on the court testimony of his uncle, was a really bad idea.  Having done successful (I guess) simulated livetweets of Paul Revere's ride and The Assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, they thought this would be a good idea for black history month.  Instead, they wound up with an, at best, insensitive replay of events that are still active memories for many people.  This is still fresh wounds territory.   How does something like this happen?

Based on their Linked in page, hstry is a small company here in the states.  They have seven employees, only one of whom is responsible for developing history content.  That employee has a BA in Teaching and History and an MA in teaching ESL.  She's taught middle school social studies for less than five years.  So that's a problem  It's worse though.  That employee got her degree from University of New England.  The History Department there consists of four people: two Americanists, one Europeanist, and a Latin Americanist.  They have one retired faculty person who seems to still teach a course on WW1.  They also have a group of courses in American Environmental History taught by an affiliated faculty member (and a classmate of mine at Swarthmore, Michelle Steen-Adams whose work I quite admire).  Even with Michelle on board, it's hard to imagine someone graduating from this school and being a high quality teacher who is qualified to develop a lot of web-based content for students.  My guess is the primariy quailifaction she had was that she was cheap.  If you wanted me to do that job, it would cost you around $100, 000 a year plus health insurance (or a lower salary and a one-time relocation bonus).  That would keep me about even with what I make now (including tuition breaks, computer usage, etc.) and, of course, I would make more working in a public school in the suburbs where I would be at the top of the payscale.  To hire one of my colleagues who left the classroom for more flexibility?  She makes close to $100 an hour tutoring part time.  Will you match that?

It's pretty clear that hstry is hoping that teachers will develop high quality content for free.  My response to that is:  you've already gotten what you pay for.  How is that working out? 

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