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Mormon Media Observer: Covering Education Week deserves kudos

Published: Sunday, Aug. 19 2012 5:05 p.m. MDT

In one of my first visits to BYU's annual Education Week as a teenager, I won a broken bowling pin.

It's a testament to the variety and depth of the educational offerings at Education Week that along with learning about Woodrow Wilson and about life, I could try to improve my bowling skill at a bowling clinic.

My score total for the week was among the worst of the dozens participating, so I won the broken pin, which I was too embarrassed to pick up that day. I even remember my high score for the week — 65.

Thankfully, my bowling has improved some in the years since. I usually sigh to myself when I pass 65 each time I bowl. Such is the power of lifelong-learning.

I wish not to sound like I am joking, however, when I speak of Education Week. This week marked the 90th anniversary of an Education Week in Provo — a tradition that marks the end of summer and is a unique example of a strength of LDS culture.

I decided, as I often do with similar things in LDS life, to look at the news coverage of this event, and found, not surprisingly, there was none outside the Wasatch Front.

To be sure, there was great coverage of the event in Utah. Besides the great work of Trent Toone and others on this newspaper, BYU's student news from The Universe has done an excellent job writing about Education Week's presenters.

Other than local news outlets, no major news organizations, in my Lexis-Nexis search, has used the words education week and BYU together in the same article during the last five years.

That's not surprising. Few things controversial — and therefore newsworthy — are said. No one protests or politics.

Given that there was limited coverage outside the local news, I went to Twitter and to various blogs to see how it was handled there.

Surprisingly, to me anyway, I found relatively few tweets about BYU Education Week. I only counted a couple dozen tweets Thursday. One talked of how much they liked it — and how full they felt.

One young man joked on Twitter that this is a week he had to be more careful with whom he was flirting on campus.

The most commonly tweeted presentation? Tom Holmoe's remarks about BYU athletics.

As for blogs. Presenters shared, as did those visiting.

Janelle Joy's Simple Supermom blog had one of the more moving posts about the effect that Education Week has on people.

Joy suffers from a thyroid condition with lots of unpleasant side effects. She's suffered through five miscarriages.

In preparing for Education Week, her condition re-emerged.

She decided to go anyway, arrived and wrote, movingly:

"So far, the miracle I hoped for has begun as the pain has receded to a dull ache this morning and I have made it through one class so far. My emotions are also distracted by learning new things so right now I don't have to look too closely at the emotional pain of knowing I am losing a baby for the 6th time despite all my research on autoimmune miscarriages and all the positive changes I have worked so hard to implement in the past few months. I know I can't run from the pain but I am thankful that I can have some time to accept it and think about it more rationally while also enjoying new experiences in a place I love so much."

For journalists wishing to understand us, they could do worse than coming to Provo in August — or, like an increasing number, to Rexburg in July — to experience the tradition that is Education Week.

It's a moving thing to see thousands of earnest Latter-day Saints eager to improve themselves, to gather together and to feel religious power as they enhance their educations to learn in more than 1,000 different classes on everything from money-management to nutrition to spirituality and the atonement — and bowling. They seem to prove the LDS axiom that the Glory of God is intelligence.

Joy, the blogger, ended her post on Education Week the way she ends each post: "Be Inspired."

That's really the essence of Education Week in my view — including the times when you win a broken bowling pin.

Lane Williams teaches journalism and communication at BYU-Idaho. He is a former journalist whose scholarly interests include Mormon portrayals in the media, media and religion, and religion and politics.

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