Happy Birthday, West Virginia!

Originally published at IntellectualCapital.com
By K. Daniel Glover

Every month when I pen my historical essay looking at “Congress Back Then” for IntellectualCapital.com, I have one goal in mind: Cast the congressional news of today in the context of the past to show readers the “big picture” of American policy and politics. In the spirit of George Santayana’s familiar warning about history, I aim to remind us of the mistakes of our forebears to keep us from repeating them.

This month, in writing about the creation of my home state of West Virginia, I have no such higher purpose. I am simply availing myself of the columnist’s prerogative to write about whatever he chooses. Oh, I do have a news peg: West Virginia celebrated its 137th birthday on Tuesday. But that is really just an excuse to write about a topic dear to my heart.

Fortunately for IC readers, the story of West Virginia’s birth, coming as it did in the heart of the Civil War and under constitutionally questionable circumstances, is an engaging one, as Granville Davisson Hall made quite clear in his 1901 book “The Rending of Virginia: A History.” “To carve a new state out of an old one … in the midst of a civil war threatening the existence of the Union itself,” Hall wrote, “was a task as serious as any people ever had to confront.”

One state, two peoples
Despite its link to the most tumultuous time in American history, West Virginia statehood had less to do with the Civil War and slavery than with the decades of enmity between Virginians separated by the Blue Ridge Mountains. For reasons geographical, political, economical, ancestral and cultural, the plantation aristocrats of the east and the rugged mountaineers of the west were destined to part ways some day. The Civil War and slavery were just expedient means to that inevitable end.

Serious talk of splitting the Old Dominion surfaced at least as early as 1830, after a state constitutional convention long sought by westerners. The convention largely failed to address complaints ranging from voting rights and legislative representation to taxation and the distribution of state money and debt. One frustrated Wheeling Gazette writer called for a division — “peaceably if we can, forcibly if we must.”

Reforms adopted at a second state constitutional convention in 1850-51 alleviated some of the festering east-west tensions. But the national uproar over slavery in the 1850s resurrected the talk of two Virginias — and the talk was not confined to Virginians.


The Disability Divide

Originally published at IntellectualCapital.com
By K. Daniel Glover

Ask most anyone to define “digital divide,” one of the catchphrases of the information age, and they are likely to talk about the technology haves and have-nots — the white, wealthy and urban Americans who own computers and have Internet access, and the minority, poor and rural Americans who do not.

But there is another oft-forgotten element to the digital divide: people with disabilities. They are the “haves” who nonetheless have wont of technologies that meet their specific needs. They are a population for whom computers and the Internet have the potential to open new doors or to shut them out just as they have begun to gain greater access to the bricks-and-mortar world.

“Technology is a double-edged sword,” says Cynthia Waddell, the author of a report on the disability-related barriers to the digital economy. “It can create the problem, but it can also solve the problem.”

Technology as hero and villain
To a large extent, the Internet has been a boon to the disabled. A recent Harris poll conducted for the National Organization on Disability confirmed the Internet’s value to the disabled. According to the poll, computer users with disabilities spend nearly twice as much time online and using e-mail as others, and 48 percent of them (compared with 27 percent of people without disabilities) say the Internet has improved the quality of their lives.

Even people like Waddell say technology is not the problem. But the way technology is used definitely can create obstacles to the disabled. Just as architects once designed buildings that were inaccessible to the disabled, she says, e-architects today are designing high-tech structures that effectively lock them out.

That problem is particularly acute for the visually impaired. Screen readers enable them to “see” materials online that might not be as readily accessible to them offline. But screen readers lose much of their functionality on graphics-heavy sites that lack caption-coded images or that use tables and columns.

Schmooze Or Lose: Career Networking

Originally published at CareerBuilder.com
By K. Daniel Glover

Networking. Schmoozing. Office politics. You hear those buzzwords in the workplace all the time these days, and perhaps cringe every time you do. They may seem to simply be objects of Scott Adams’s workplace satire in Dilbert.

But even as you recoil at the realities of the modern workplace, you know you must master the art of networking. Trite as it may seem, that old saying about who you know being more important than what you know is undeniably true. You need a circle of influence to help you climb most rungs of the career ladder.

“This is an important way to build your career,” says career coach Karen Wood, author of the book “Don’t Sabotage Your Success” and the soon-to-be-published “Making Office Politics Work.” “You never know where a relationship could take you.”

Networking is crucial
The first step to successful networking, experts like Wood agree, is to realize just how important it is in today’s professional world. Up to 70 percent of new career opportunities are the result of networking, says Vicki Lind, a career consultant who heads her own firm, Evergreen Careers, in Portland, Oregon. “Only the dregs [of job openings] show up in the newspaper unless you’re in a very desirable career,” she says.

White-collar workers determined to excel also should take stock of themselves before they start schmoozing. It is natural to dislike network marketing, Lind says, “because you’re using friendships for other goals that sometimes feel a little bit creepy.” But it is possible, she adds, for individuals to create networking plans that are consistent with their personalities and values.

“If you’re not a schmoozer, golfer, joiner, etc., then don’t try to make yourself something you’re not,” says Dan King, principal at Career Planning and Management Inc. “Figure out how to make your personal style work for you.”