Tools of Thought

July 13, 2018

(This blog first appeared on on May 11, 2012.)

I am famous at home and office for my lack of keyboarding skills. The only “C” grade I received in high school was a summer school course in what was then called “typing.” At Dartmouth I paid a woman who worked at the dining hall to type my college papers. In an early job at the University of Wisconsin I typed the play-by-play of Badger football and basketball games with a clumsy “hunt-and-peck” approach.

Today, with the same lack of style, I pound out dozens of emails daily, hammering the keys like my first manual typewriter required four decades ago.

But for any document of great length or importance, I do as I’ve always done: take up pencil (my software) and legal pad (my hardware). There is no question that, for me, the nature of the equipment I’m using for writing affects the nature of the thinking.

With his eyesight failing late in his life, Freidrich Nietzsche bought his first typewriter, changing from pen and paper to the new technology of the 1800s. According to a 2008 article in Atlantic Monthly by Nichols Carr, a friend wrote to Nietzsche in a letter that, since adapting to the telegraphic style, Nietzsche’s terse prose had become even tighter. To which Nietzsche replied: “You are right, our writing equipment takes part in the forming of our thoughts.”

Which makes one wonder where all today’s tweeting and texting may take us.

Cheering for Sportsmanship

July 31, 2018

(This blog first appeared on on January 8, 2013.)

I try to start each new school year at the Michigan Interscholastic Press Association summer camp at Michigan State University. I talk briefly about who the MHSAA is and what it does; and then two or three dozen high school newspaper editors and writers ask me questions; and in doing so, they give me clues to what’s going on in our schools and what’s important to our students.

Several years ago, when I opened the session to questions, one young man asked: “Mr. Roberts, what’s your job?” I paused, and then said, “I guess I’m the head cheerleader for high school sports in Michigan.”

So then this precocious student asked: “Okay, what do you cheer for?”  With a briefer pause, this is some of what I said:

  • I cheer for sportsmanship that’s not merely good, but great.

  • I cheer for sportsmanship, not gamesmanship.

  • I cheer for playing by the rules, both the letter and the spirit.

  • I cheer for maximum effort to try to win each and every contest.

  • I don’t cheer for winning at any cost; I do cheer for learning at every opportunity.

  • I cheer for losing with grace and for winning with even greater grace, with humility and modesty.

  • I cheer for the lessons of victory and the even greater lessons of defeat.