Word Count: 2417
Takes: 7 minutes and 5 seconds to read
Andrew Johnston is a American 24-year old ESL (English as a second language) teacher. He also also taught to classes in China, in Jilin province. He is a active blogger on the internet and records his own podcasts. He debates about several subjects, and is always interested in hearing the opinion of others about the subject he talks about in the podcasts on his blog Dramatis Interruptus.
1- Max Pen: Can you tell us in short who you are, what your job is, any hobbies, where you from; to the readers of IY?
Andrew Johnston: I like to tell people that I am but a humble teacher seeking love, fortune and adventure. In all seriousness, I am an ESL teacher from a small town (7000 people) in Kansas. In my free time I enjoy writing, old video games and wandering through the city. I also spend way too much time on the Internet.
2- Max Pen: You studied Political Science in the University of Kansas, did you had any other interest to study or follow in the University? Or was your choice easy made when you went to the University to study Political Science? Were you also involved with politics and all before you studied it or did it really spark your interest when you started to study it?
Andrew Johnston: I’ve been following politics since I was about 14 years old and writing about it since high school, so it was a natural fit for me. I briefly considered going into journalism – KU has a good journalism program – but it wasn’t for me. I was honored to write for a small politics website during college, so I guess I was active in politics during that time. The only other thing that really interested was cultural studies, particularly East Asia, so I got into that as well.
3- Max Pen: Did your parents and friends support you through your choice of studying that course, and what did you expect to do when you graduated as in getting a job? Did you know or saw the chance to end up as a ESL Teacher?
Andrew Johnston: My parents were very supportive. In fact, my father is a lawyer and also had a political science major. I really didn’t know what I was going to do after I graduated until I met a woman who had taught overseas. It seemed like a good opportunity to see the places I’d only studied. It was the first time in my life that I had a good idea of where my life was headed. I had a lot of support while I was working, too, even when things got unpleasant. Some people aren’t so lucky.
4- Max Pen: You worked in China’s Jilin province as ESL teacher for how long and what new experience did you gain personal and to your teaching career?
Andrew Johnston: I lived in Changchun – the capital of Jilin – for a year. During that time, I was with two companies, a private teaching center and a contracting company that sent me to lots of different schools. It was an enlightening experience. I had a chance to see how both rich and poor live in that country, and how people treat each other.
As for my career, I learned one important lesson: Trust only goes so far. I was very trusting when I arrived there, and some very unscrupulous people took advantage of me. There are a lot of people in China who prey on ignorant foreigners, and the trick is learning to recognize them. I tell people that they should never believe anyone who demands their trust. Trust needs to be earned.
5- Max Pen: What are the major cultural differences that you noticed in China during your time in various locations there?
Andrew Johnston: People are people wherever you go, but there are differences. Probably the biggest difference is in the way Chinese people deal with bad news. There’s a concept called “saving face” where no one wants to tell you bad news, so they just hint at it. It’s pervasive over there. One school I applied to wasn’t interested in hiring me, but they didn’t tell me that. Instead, they blamed some government official, and I didn’t find out the truth until I called him. It sounds nice, but it’s not. China also puts a lot more emphasis on groups than the United States. Chinese people rarely go out on their own, and the local teachers were shocked when I told them I liked spending time by myself.
6- Max Pen: Most of the projects you were involved with failed, did you each time learn a important lesson? Did you ever own a site before you started with your blog Dramatis Interruptus in early 2011? What are your goals, exceptions when you first put it online? Did most of those goals or desires came true until now?
Andrew Johnston: It’s important to learn something from everything you do. I had a few websites, but this is the first time I’ve tried to seriously pursue an online venture. Before, it was writing mostly for myself, or to keep people back home informed. Now, I have a product that I’m proud of and that I want to promote. It’s definitely different.
I’m not sure what I expected when I started publishing these podcasts. Mostly, I’m hoping to grow a small group of followers. I think I can inform and entertain people – that’s what this is about.
7- Max Pen: Your first blog post and also first podcast done on the blog was “Evolutionary Psychology” What emotions or thoughts came up when you published the post with the mp3 file in it? You mentioned in the podcast that there are many studies done around Psychology that are not true, not done well. Like the study behind a nations average IQ being better in rich countries then in poor. What do you think could lead to one country having a higher average IQ then a other country? What factors if improved on that country with lower average IQ would increase it?
Andrew Johnston: The first episode was very extemporaneous, very emotional. It was appropriate – evolutionary psychology arouses strong emotions, especially when it addresses gender or race. National IQ is definitely one of the more controversial topics. The biggest flaw – and I don’t remember if I mentioned this – is the assumption that IQ is a good measure of inborn intelligence.
There’s evidence that this is not true. You see massive swings in average IQ over periods of time that are far too short to account for them. And national IQ theorists assume that people in impoverished or war-torn regions would take intelligence tests seriously. I, for one, wouldn’t take any test too seriously if I were worried about starving to death or being shot.
8- Max Pen: For people who don’t get what politics is about, how would you describe or explain it to them? Is politics in all the countries almost identical? Is politics often about the politician himself trying to secure his name or party somewhere or more for the people?
Andrew Johnston: The biggest mistake people make is assuming that politics is the same everywhere. I’ve studied enough European politics to realize how different it is there. As a whole, however, politics is people with different views arguing over how we should live. It is philosophy as applied to the real world.
Politics would be great if it weren’t for the politicians. Politicians are people with power, and people with power are always dangerous. And yes, many of them are only in it for personal gain. Unfortunately, the people who get into politics to fix problems are very often outnumbered by the people who want something for themselves.
9- Max Pen: What is the best or most effective way to fight corruption in a political party, group or even in the government in your point of view? In what country do you think the politicians are the most corrupt?
Andrew Johnston: Transparency is the single best way to prevent corruption. It’s hard to steal if you can see everything that’s going on. That’s a guiding principle in this country, even if we don’t enforce it as often as we should. There should never be any secrets in politics.
Similarly, the most corrupt nations tend to have governments that are very opaque. If you look at countries like Russia or China, or any of the monarchies that are facing revolution right now, you see governments that operate entirely in secret. People just assume that these governments are corrupt, and they’re usually right.
10- Max Pen: Will you tend to follow and read politics or have any interest to become a politician yourself?
Andrew Johnston: Seeking office is a long and difficult road, and I’m really not sure that it’s for me. If I were to have any serious involvement in American politics, it would probably be as an activist. A skillful activist can accomplish as much as a senator or even a president. Of course, I don’t know how “skillful” I would be.
11- Max Pen: About Obama, are you a fan or hater as it is called off him? How much do you pay attention to what he has done then or now, or news that is about him?
Andrew Johnston: I disagree with some of the things Obama has done, but on balance he’s been a good president. I get into fights with people over that sometimes. There’s a lot of silliness around the president coming from both sides, mostly by people who don’t understand the way politics works or who are simply ignorant.
I know of a few bloggers who keep track of news that’s being ignored by both sides, most of it about the current administration. It’s always interesting.
12- Max Pen: It was a historical moment when Obama was elected first black president of America, do you think it will ever happen again soon that a black politician becomes president? About this article: (article) What major actions of Obama influenced the popularity of him to increase/decrease?
Andrew Johnston: The first person to break a certain barrier always has the hardest time. I imagine that there will be non-white presidential candidates in the future, and I hope that they will be judged by their stances rather than race. Same with female candidates, religious minorities . . . progress is slow, but it happens.
Most of the fluctuation with Obama has been among people in the political center. People on the right always hated him. People on the left always liked him, though there have been a lot of malcontents on the Internet. People in the center loved him at first, but I think the spell has worn off a bit.
Obama has taken a lot of the blame for the economy. It’s not fair, but that’s the way it works – people blame the guy in charge. Now that the economy is recovering and the health care plan is going in to effect, I think you’ll see a change in those numbers.
13- Max Pen: Not sure you heard or followed this, but what is your opinion of the girl from Bosnia who threw several puppies into the river? (Article) Thousands or even million of people responded on this by posting hate message on facebook or youtube etc … Saying to hurt her, kill her for what she has done, and so fort… Do you think the public response on this action is way over reacted? As in it happens alot behind the screen but when it gets in the media people are like omg,wtf, making from a mouse a elephant?
Andrew Johnston: I hadn’t heard of that story, but I’m not surprised it got people so riled up. Cruelty to animals is deeply upsetting because it’s such a senseless act, and recording it makes it seem even worse. It is unfortunate how quickly people turn to death threats, though. I can certainly understand people getting that angry, but it accomplishes nothing.
Stories like this end up being modern day witch hunts, because innocent people get targeted by mistake. I see by the story that they thought they had identified the girl, but were mistaken. Imagine being falsely accused of being a puppy killer! Something similar happened in Kansas, where a guy was falsely accused of being a rapist based on a Facebook photo. It’s when emotions run high that people need to keep their cool.
14- Max Pen: How do you manage to keep your audience interested during podcasts? As you say a podcast is up to 20-40 minutes and it is most of the time only audio, not video as in that they see you talking.
Andrew Johnston: Mostly by keeping it trim and keeping the talk going. The biggest mistake that podcasters make is leaving in dead air. If I run out of things to talk about, I’ll pause the recording so my audience isn’t treated to me stumbling over my words.
The nice thing about it being audio is that my audience can keep busy with other things while they listen. This is how I usually spend my time – I’ll play a game with the sound off while I listen to something else in the background.
15- Max Pen: Finally will you keeping doing the job of ESL teacher forever or will you change your job? Is there any other job you could do in theory and or in practice? And how long will you go on with your blog, is it important for you 10+ or so people listen to the podcasts you make? Or is it more about releasing your opinions on stuff, expressing yourself over the internet?
Andrew Johnston: Teaching is definitely temporary for me. I don’t know what my life will look like ten years from now. I’d like to be a writer, but that’s just a hobby right now – professional writing is not as glamorous as it seems. My hope is that, through teaching, I can develop my language skills and make connections that will help me in whatever career I take. As far as the podcast, I’ll do it as long as I have time, resources and things to say. I’d like to have more followers, of course, but its also a form of self-expression. It’s important to have an outlet.
A very detailed interesting interview, I really enjoyed doing this interview with you Andrew Johnston over msn. This deserves to be a featured interview for sure, I hope many have a good read on this. -Max Pen