Saturday, January 31, 2009

When Pizza Isn't Good Enough

My eye was caught recently by an article in the campus newspaper about Pizza with the Provost being cancelled indefinitely. 

Reason: "Waning interest".

Initially I didn't pay this little tidbit much mind...until I got an email from a chum at Public Radio International, which is based in my adopted hometown of Minneapolis. If you hear the BBC on an American radio station, it's thanks to PRI. 


She is trying to figure out how to get the young folks interested in international news, which is why she turned to me (I guess 30 still counts as young.) She unfortunately does not have pizza at her disposal to lure the youth audience to compelling public broadcasting produced international news. Isn't that an oxymoron anyway? 


I will confess: I've given up on the Lehrer News Hour (sorry, Jim!) But I make sure to check the BBC's website and watch the latest Bill Moyers program (online of course - why should I have to sit on my couch at 9pm on a Friday night? I have a social life!) And occasionally I even do this with a few slices of pizza - I got my junk food, and feeding my mind with the vegetables. Too bad reading and watching quality news doesn't trim down your waistline. What a great invention that would be. Note to self: must develop device that connects consumption of quality news and relevant information to weight loss. 


Free food is a great incentive to get people out with the hopes of catching some interest. But ultimately, content (to use the old cliche) is king. And as much as the university here in Athens has talented administrators like the Provost - we don't really care. Well, some of us do, but the flyer beckoning the majority to "eat free pizza with the provost" lacks a certain je ne sais quoi. And let's face it: she's not Barack Obama. This was one of the issues for waning interest: no issues! What point was there in going to hear the provost when there wasn't anything pressing to talk to about? Also, look at the picture in the article in the Post - there is the provost standing at the head of the room, looking to poised to deliver a lecture. Thank you, I'd rather spend the money on an extra large and hang out with my buddies playing Beer Pong and Wii. 

I'm not advocating Student Senate start "Beer Pong with the Provost" (though that would be funny if illegal), but why can't we expect our university elders to be, well, human? I've heard plenty of students voice concerns about various issues at coffee shops and parties - those ideas are out there. 


So here we are back at square one: how do you (or the royal we) get young people interested in the boring tedium that is civic engagement? To that I say to the older generation, don't give up! Email links to articles or videos to your students or young people in your life that you think they might be interested in. Don't use easier words because you think young people won't know what it means. Make references to people or places to expand their knowledge base ( I did this recently referring to a recent film I'd seen as akin to a torture session with Torquemada - hyperlinked here for your convenience or if you know someone from Spain, ask them. He's world famous in Spain.) 


The greatest connections we have are personal - not pizza. Our information is as good as our social network - so take your role in your social network seriously! I go in twice a week to do a radio shift on campus. I'm a lot older than the students, and my attempts to integrate via joking are often met with confused stares - but occasionally, grins and "wow, you're weird". Sometimes I'll throw out a bone - like when I teased one of the TV news anchors about stumbling over the word testes - we had a nice communal giggle. But just by being there, coming from a different lifestyle, a different background, a different perspective, I believe I am contributing to the Great Conversation. 

And I do it without any pizza.


Anonymous said...

It could be pizza over personality, but it better be a pretty damned good pizza! What do you think may have happened to the money saved by postponing the Provost Pizza Party?

The Meeting Coach said...

I like the way you think.

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