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Possibilities of Virtual Dialogue

A recent op-ed piece by Nicholas Kristof in the New York Times, When Children are Traded, about the private re-homing of children who are adopted (often internationally) is a compelling addition to the larger sphere within which the YMEJ course contextualizes its work.  I came across the op-ed piece in a backwards way: I first found a link to a series of letters to the editor written in response to the piece.

Check it out here: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/11/29/opinion/when-an-adoption-doesnt-work-out.html

While I could use this post to disentangle the broad narratives Kristof infuses in his piece, I am more interested in the conversation the piece sparked, since I read the response first.  More specifically, it caused me to wonder about the dialogue surrounding foster care in mass media and the space certain medias create for people to speak back or engage in dialogue.  The opinion/response was posted by the New York Times and therefore, I am aware that many other responses may not have been shared on the website. Next, I looked at which letters had been chosen for inclusion in the paper. One came from Westchester Child and Family services — part of Kristof’s op-ed questioned American adoption agencies for being leery to accept foreign adoptions that were not working in the US.  Another response was from the Children’s Law Center and the final letter came from the Center for Adoption Policy.   I immediately noticed the absent voices: parents, children, teachers, social workers.  This lead me to Kristof’s original op-ed piece and the comments section at the bottom of the website.

What I find fascinating is in the opinion pages the New York Times makes a point to explain who is writing the opinion and whether or not they are affiliated with a group, agency etc.  In the comments section, anyone can leave a comment.  But the comments are divided into sections, NY Picks, Readers Picks and All comments.  The freedom to respond is still mediate and moderate, which causes me to question the role the New York Times website, itself, plays in constructing a response to the op-ed.

I call this into question because the conversation and comments that interact with the article demonstrate a wide range of responses and perspectives.  Though the comments include many more parent voices, I still had to search to find young peoples responses and even responses of people who were adopted or lived in foster care.  Which begs the question, whose story is Kristof telling?  What can those of us involved in the YMEJ graduate seminar do to get involved in these conversations? How can we generate our own conversations in the public sphere? I hope this blog is a starting point and look forward to the virtual dialogue that unfolds.


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