Thursday, October 26, 2006

Blogs & Myspace

Two interesting articles I read this morning. I picked up the complementary USA Today outside my hotel room and read an article called, "Students, officials locking horns over blogs."

The article reported three school districts taking disciplinary action against students because of statements made on a blog -- this included one student being expelled from a school in the Indianapolis, Indiana area.

As you can imagine, this has re-sparked the free speech and first amendment debate. Can school districts discipline students for statements made on a blog? Can a student go over the line when making free speech statements? Who determines where that line is? Apparently, the courts are now getting involved and will contribute to the debate.

For me, in reading this article, I support what these school districts did. I agree that there is a fine line between the perceptions of venting frustrations and criticism and the perception of personal attacks. I also agree that school districts have the right to preserve the learning process the best that they can despite comments made by students. This attorney disagrees...
Says [Tom] Clarke, the San Francisco attorney: "Sometimes I'm very surprised how paranoid school districts are about what is said about teachers. That seems to be a focus of a lot of their concern, that nobody bad-mouth their fine, exemplary teaching."
What if the shoe was on the other foot? What if a teacher was perceived to be overly critical of a student? Does the teacher have free speech rights, even if a case could be made that it was constructive criticism?

You know the answer to that one. This teacher would be sued for student harassment, a demand would be made for the teacher to be fired, and maybe even to have the teaching license to be removed. You can’t have it both ways, and that’s how I see these cases going.

The second article I read this morning was from the hotel complementary Wall Street Journal. It describes people completely removing their listings from social sites like myspace and facebook in the article titled, “MySpace, Bye Space” (free article on today only). There are two reasons people are starting to rebel: ads and spam.
There's no question, however, that MySpace's recent popularity has brought with it a proliferation of spam that has annoyed some users. Many advertisers take advantage of the "friend request" function and send out requests that are really just advertisements.

And programs have cropped up that can automatically send mass friend requests to MySpace users -- in short, a new generation of email spam. Sites with names like and sell the programs starting at $19.95.
There was a time when I considered getting a myspace listing to try to further promote my blog. I think I’m comfortable passing on that idea now. It’ll be interesting to see if there is a trend over the next few months of myspace profile deletions because of ads and spam.


Anonymous said...

The first article looks very interesting. I have a few friends with MySpaces of their own that frequently vent their frustrations about teachers. It's never threatening, but it's not exactly nice either. Although, I've written about a teacher in my blog before, so I can't claim to be any better.

Anonymous said...

So are they really all that shocked that teens tend to think teachers suck? Honestly? Has it been that long since they were teens?

With the exception of Columbine type posts, with direct threats, I frankly think schools and teachers just need to suck it up and deal. Teenagers think you suck, get over it. And teens, teachers and schools think you are stupid. Get over it. Not everyone in this world will like you!

Dr. A said...

Thinker, I read your post and I didn't find a problem with it.

Starrlight, I don't think the issue is hearing comments about whether they "suck." I think the issue is what you call "direct threats." Who defines what a direct threat is? The student? The teacher? The school board? The courts? The student in Indianapolis was expelled because of sexually explicit comments about a teacher. How far is too far when it comes to student comments? That is what is being sorted out through the legal system right now.

Anonymous said...

I think anyone who makes a direct threat or discusses perhaps a school shooting/bomb making idea on any online venue should be, at the very least, investigated.

I went to MySpace a couple months ago to look into it after hearing all the hype. I was not impressed. Maybe I'm just too old for all that.

Thanks for the visit to my blog.

ipanema said...

If judging by what students write reflect part of the education system, I'm not surprised why there are problems. In whatever profession one is in, not everyone will like everyone. It's a matter of co-existence. But to vent frustrations and personal attacks online is a cowardly thing. And the same goes if a teacher vents her/his frustration and personal attacks about students and admin.

I was compelled to open a myspace account because of one comment that I was itchy to write about but it never got any further other than the automatic welcome page with automatic welcome spam messages from people I dont know of course. Most of them with photos I dont like to associate with. I really dont like MySpace, never. For the young perhaps.

Anonymous said...

I just think we are on a slippery slope when it comes to freedom of speech, and I think there are some obvious examples of "direct threat" such as those made by the kids at Columbine. As for the sexually explicit comments, while I totally understand punishing them for that, you have to wonder where we are going to draw the line on limiting freedom of expression.

Anonymous said...

I am on myspace and facebook - it is a really great way to keep up with friends. I have been on facebook/myspace for at least two years now. There is a lot of fuss about privacy, etc with those sites. I have my settings so that if I have not added you to my friends- you can't see my profile or who I am (and I only add people I know). Second, I don't put on anything that says where I am or anything specific (of course after seeing stat counter.. apparently you can see that anyway).

The Curmudgeon said...

This is a topic of some real concern for me because my kids are all on this stuff. What I preach is that there is no privacy, no expectation of privacy, and anything -- especially pictures! -- that is posted, even on a site that's limited to "friends" -- can be copied, put on a less secure site and spread to the four winds.

This has not only gotten kids in trouble with their schools, but cost older kids jobs....

You can't be Mr. Button-Down by day and Mr. Show Your Butt on MySpace.

At least you shouldn't be.

Anonymous said...

I wonder how people would feel if teachers blogged about students but changed the names and circumstances so that they were supposedly fictionalized . . . What if they blogged anonymously? ;o)

Anonymous said...

It's hard to address the cases mentioned in USA today without knowing all the details, but in general if a kid wants to rant (in a non-threatening, non-libelous way) about school from a home PC, I think schools are far overstepping their bounds to think they can stop it. Plus, I'd rather see a kid with the ability to reason and compose a well-thought-out rant than one who has been so programmed that all s/he can do is fill in a bubble on a multiple-choice test.