Free speech in schools

Discussion in 'Teacher Time Out' started by Irishdave, Apr 27, 2012.

  1. Irishdave

    Irishdave Enthusiast

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    Apr 27, 2012

    Recently we had a thread closed before the topic of free speech could be addressed.
    Schools have rules that in "real" life cannot be enforced because they are not law.

    The girl with the rebel flag dress, a student making statements on Facebook, a boy running for prom queen, a student witnessing their faith to another student, .......
    A Teacher showing favoritism of a political candidate, teachers being seen at political rallies, a teacher of other school employee who moonlights in a bar or is a former adult film actor .......

    Many of these touch the issue of free speech.
    Just how much free speech do students and teachers have?

    Now I am not backing any of the offensive behaviors or statements. I am just questioning whether the schools have done their homework in trying to prevent the behaviors in a manor that doesn't infringe on free speech?
    Do teachers and students hang up their free speech rights at the school's front door?
     
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  3. lucybelle

    lucybelle Connoisseur

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    I read this article yesterday that I think addresses some of the things you talk about. Of course you "can" say whatever you want. We have the freedom of speech here. But if it hurts someone else, why do it?

    Schools need to make a learning environment where all students are able to learn. The first thing students need to feel is SAFE. So it is the school's job to make them feel safe. Wearing a rebel flag can imply hate which can make some students feel fearful. Witnessing to another student can make them uncomfortable and thus unable to learn.

    So yes, although we can stand up and yell whatever we want because of our "rights" maybe we shouldn't. And since school is for learning, students should be taught that too.
     
  4. KateL

    KateL Habitué

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    I don't see school rules as being that different from rules in other places in society. Most workplaces have a dress code, a tardy policy, a sexual harassment policy, and an unwritten code of conduct for things like how to speak to the boss. These aren't laws (with the exception of the sexual harassment one), but workers are expected to abide by them. I don't see why we shouldn't expect the same of our students.

    Even businesses have rules. "No shirt, no shoes, no service" comes to mind. Society has to have these rules to keep things polite and to avoid trampling other people's rights.
     
  5. knitter63

    knitter63 Groupie

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    I understand the need for rules, but I do often feel that my free speech is stifled when I am at work, as well as in public places.
     
  6. callmebob

    callmebob Enthusiast

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    Semi off topic, but your comment about schools having a sexual harassment policy just made me think about the one at our school. I don't know about other peoples schools, but I know at ours it is treated as mostly a joke and people intentionally break it all of the time.
     
  7. Go 4th

    Go 4th Habitué

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    Isn't part of school to learn about how to appropriately and respectfully express your opinion? Isn't part of school about learning how to hear the opinion of others, even if you don't agree--and learning how to handle it? Isn't part of our job to help students learn to form educated opinions and support them?

    I see nothing wrong with a teacher going to a political rally or supporting a candidate. I do have a problem when they impose their opinions on my child. Feel free to post bumper stickers, wear t shirts, whatever.

    I'm even ok with a teacher working in a bar.Bartending is not an easy job, takes knowledge, and is long hours with not a lot of pay. Is it the best job--no but I can find justification in it.

    Thinking that my child's teacher might be a former porn star doesn't sit well with me. It makes me question their morals. I can see no solid justification for being in the porn industry. If the best job you can find is laying on your back, then I don't want you teaching my child. Rightly or wrongly, I feel like there are other jobs, albeit that pay less money, that would be more acceptable.

    No, I don't feel free to share all my opinions at work. Not from free speech--too political. You never know what is going to happen in this economy and who you may end up working with.
     
  8. KateL

    KateL Habitué

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    Apr 27, 2012

    People being teachers or students?

    When I taught middle school, some of the boys would find it funny to touch each other on the back and then yell "That's sexual harassment!" I've never seen real sexual harassment treated as a joke, though.
     
  9. Go 4th

    Go 4th Habitué

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    Let me add, that part of forming an opinion and expressing it is also about learning when to accept that someone else doesn't have the same opinion and how to handle that.
     
  10. callmebob

    callmebob Enthusiast

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    I meant the teachers towards each others. Its not real sexual harassment where it is unwanted, but quite often comments and gestures that would be deemed inappropriate.
     
  11. Speechy

    Speechy Comrade

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    I just think it will get the point where no one will be able to say anything anymore, express opinions, or be an individual because their actions or POV might "offend someone". "Free speech" isn't really free speech.

    Due to technological advances, everyone is under a microscope now. The internet is part of the problem. Facebook was a place where people could go and vent and says whatever they wanted. But now, that website is being used dig up information, which is used to judge and scrutinize someone's character. The story where an employer was asking for an applicant's passwords? It's a pity, but if people think that's bad, it's only going to get worse...

    In our attempt to please everyone and to be "neutral" and to hold back on opinions, we are only hurting ourselves. I get the rules and regulations at the workplace, but when it interferes in daily life (outside of work) then that is where I start to get worried.

    Adults are starting to get worse than children. "Wah wah wah, so and so hurt my feelings and offended me!" Not even over a personal attack, but someone giving them THEIR opinion. It's just ridiculous. but I see evidence of that every day, including on forums.
     
  12. Irishdave

    Irishdave Enthusiast

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    Apr 27, 2012

    There were some districts that had clauses in contracts prohibiting political activity back when I started teaching.
    There are some gray areas where teachers need to check their speech. Parents, and busybodies sometimes are looking for something to b---- about. My feeling is not to give them any ammunition.
     
  13. 3Sons

    3Sons Enthusiast

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    Apr 28, 2012

    I'm sorry, this analogy is pretty off-base except in the most general of ways.

    There are different justifications for rules. Workplaces that have dress codes, tardy policies, etc. can expect obedience to these rules because otherwise they can fire the employee. In fact, they cannot enforce these things through the court system or the police.

    Similarly, the "no shirt, no service" rules aren't enforced through legislation (usually, actually in some places there may be health code laws), but by the refusal of service and the fact that customers are considered licensees (i.e., they're legally allowed on the business property, but with limited rights to stay. Violate those conditions, and they become trespassers).

    Students aren't under either of these justifications, and teachers and administrators should remain well aware of this (though in practice I don't think they do). What does allow many of the rules is the mandate of the educational institution to teach: if a certain behavior or speech causes academic disruption, the school may restrict it. It's highly questionable whether schools should have any say over things like hair color/style, makeup, messages on shirts, or proselytization. That it might possibly create some disruption isn't a good enough justification, there needs to be a showing that it would indeed actually cause disruption.

    Schools are given pretty wide latitude over discipline, and I think sometimes this gives admins and teachers the idea they can simply do anything. It's not just free speech they're limiting -- schools step over all sorts of rights we have in general society (often legally doing so, but sometimes not). For example, students accused of wrongdoing do not get the right of counsel, freedom from search, a jury, the right to confront their accusers, freedom from double-jeopardy or double-punishment, right of appeal, or freedom of association. I'm not suggesting those things should be implemented, as there are fairly good reasons to limit those rights and the overhead of trying to maintain a full justice system just to prevent kids from getting detention unfairly would be prohibitively expensive. What I am saying, though, is this: teachers work in an environment that is completely unlike US society in many important respects, and a teacher who doesn't pay attention to US society runs the danger of violating the letter or spirit of US law when operating within the confines of the school.

    This is also the reason I absolutely despise the fairly commonly used, "Classroom Bill of Rights" lesson. The class bill of rights is so unlike the actual bill of rights, not just in subject matter but also purpose, that it does more harm than good in fostering any understanding.

    As for teachers themselves, they have some limits as agents of government. Specifically, they cannot advocate a particular religion or lack of religion (there is actually a little leeway here even within legal bounds, and of course teachers step well over this line without punishment all the time). Though I don't think other opinions are technically illegal (I think, for example, a teacher could tell the students who they're voting for), sharing some of those other opinions probably isn't a great idea and may even be more likely to result in backlash than opinions on religion.

    Of course, private schools are exempt from a lot of this.

    And to Dave's point, a lot of schools create additional restrictions through contract.
     
  14. KateL

    KateL Habitué

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    Umm... I said that they aren't laws. I'm not sure what your post has to do with me.
     
  15. 3Sons

    3Sons Enthusiast

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    Apr 28, 2012

    Yes, you did, and that's exactly correct: they're not laws.

    But, you said school rules aren't "that different from rules in other places in society." And my point is that the basis for school rules is completely different from those other rules. Because of that difference in basis, there is a difference in the types of rules business can adopt as opposed to schools. An employer, for example, could make a rule saying "No democrats will be hired" or "Anyone who visits McDonald's, even in their off time, will be fired". A business can make a rule saying, "If you're not good-looking enough, you cannot come in to our establishment".

    I hope that clarifies things. If my initial statement, combined with a very lengthy post after that, gives the impression that I was deeply disturbed or angry with your post, let me assure you that isn't the case
     
  16. silverspoon65

    silverspoon65 Enthusiast

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    I don't know if you chose this wording on purpose but the statement “It can hardly be argued that either students or teachers shed their constitutional rights to freedom of speech or expression at the schoolhouse gate.” is from Tinker v. Des Moines, 1968, where students were supported in their decision to wear armbands to protest the vietnam war. The ruling decided that as long as the action does not cause major disruption to the school day, it is legal.

    In another case, Bethel v. Fraser, a students gave a very lewd election speech and was suspended. This was upheld because the speech was intentionally vulgar.

    So basically the test for student speech and expression is that if it doesn't cause a major disruption and it isn't vulgar, than it is allowed.


    There are fewer guidelines for teachers. It probably depends more on your individual contract and your school's view of academic freedom.

    Personally, while I do not push my political beliefs on my students, I will answer a direct question if asked. I don't think politics should be a taboo topic, and I think students should be encouraged to discuss it openly with other adults. So if they directly asked me what political party I was affiliated with or who I voted for, I would tell them.
     
  17. Cerek

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    The "article" sounds more like a blog to me, unless interlaced profanity has become an acceptable standard in journalism.

    In addition, the perspective offered seems very shortsighted since the author seems to think whites are the only ones who practice racism. It is not entirely his/her fault, of course. Because of our history - and the stereotypes it created - society in general seems to believe whites are the only ones who feel and express racism. That simply isn't the case. Hatred or intolerance of other races crosses all ethnic boundaries.

    Schools should provide a learning environment where all students feel safe, but I agree with GoForth that environment should also be "safe" for students to express - and hear - viewpoints and opinions different from their own and learn how to respond appropriately.

    The rebel flag can imply hate. That may be true for some students, but it also can imply pride that has nothing to do with hatred (whether you believe that or not). Also, just because it "can imply" doesn't mean it automatically does. The prom dress recently discussed did not seem to offend any of the other students at the school and, in fact, was fiercely defended by some of the African-American students. Banning something because it "can imply" or "might imply" hatred is just as closed-minded as the opposing viewpoint. How about investigating to see if the student in questions actually expresses or exhibits hatred and/or intolerance rather than just "implying" it?

    A better approach (IMO), would be for the teachers to provide a unit studying and exploring the history of the rebel flag and leading discussions on both the good and bad aspects of symbolism it represents. That way, one side could learn why the symbol is offensive to some while the other side could learn that displaying or wearing the symbol does not automatically mean a person has hatred or intolerance of other races. That way, both sides can learn from the perspective of others and, hopefully, be more understanding of opinions and views that differ from their own.

    As far as one student making another so fearful they cannot learn just by sharing their faith with them, I find that to be a bit of a stretch. But we'll go with it anyway. What if a Muslim student wanted to express his/her belief in Allah or conduct his/her daily prayers towards Mecca during school hours? Would those displays of faith carry the same possibility of making some students so fearful they would be unable to learn? Or what if a student knew about a classmates Islamic faith and worried that might mean they were a potential terrorist; would we tell the Muslim student he/she cannot express or display their religious views in the school (so other students will feel "safe") or would we want to open a discussion about the misperceptions being held about a faith that is possibly different from that of the students feeling the concern?

    I agree.
     
  18. TeachOn

    TeachOn Habitué

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    :thumb: Freedom is not for the fragile. Limiting speech to that which is "nice" or "safe" or "appropriate" conduces to a particularly subtle and dangerous sort of tyranny.
     
  19. lucybelle

    lucybelle Connoisseur

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    I'm not going to go into the Confederate flag thing since that post was just shut down.

    I didn't say it would make kids "fearful" I said it might make them uncomfortable. I went to a public high school school where most people were Christians and we would participate in prayer before field trips, plays, rehearsals, football games, etc. It made me extremely uncomfortable to be in those situations. But it was so widely accepted in the school that nothing was ever said about it. I was very sure that if I said I didn't want to participate or I didn't believe the same as them, then I would be shunned from the school. I was young, I didn't know to stand up for myself. And I loved my school and my friends, I didn't want to be an outsider.

    The example that was given by the OP was that one student was witnessing to another. Not praying before lunch, not praying before a test, not silently worshiping, not asking to pray during school hours, but actually involving another student. If the other student is timid, they might not admit that they are comfortable with this. I'm all about expressing religious freedom, but don't involve people who don't want to be involved. If a student requests to pray silently, cool. If a student requests to preach to the classroom, not cool. It puts peer pressure on those who might not actually want to participate. Sure they could always say no, but peer pressure is tough. How many teens do you know that have done things much worse than pray because of peer pressure?

    I think our histories must be different and that's why we have differing opinions when it comes to religion in school.
     
  20. Irishdave

    Irishdave Enthusiast

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    3Sons makes some valid points:
    If you want to prohibit an activity or "disruptive (for affect) free speech" you must have your ducks in a row and be able to prove that it is disruptive to the learning atmosphere of the school , not just disruptive! The devil is in the details, You can not Be so ambiguous that it creates the act of "Profiling"(gosh has this term been beat to death) and you can't be so specific that it creates loopholes.
    To paraphrase Justice Potter Stewart
    I shall not today attempt further to define the kinds of actions I understand to be embraced within that shorthand description [disruptive to the learning atmosphere]; and perhaps I could never succeed in intelligibly doing so. But I know it when I see it, .....​
    Many rules at school are "for the greater good" where laws are aimed at the individual.
     
  21. Cerek

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    The issue with the Confederate flag is that it is just a symbol and symbols - by themselves - are neutral. It is the interpretation of symbols by people that make them either "good" or "bad". Just because you and others interpret the symbol one way does not make your interpretation "correct" and others "wrong", any more than it makes the opposing interpretations "right" and yours "wrong". The interpretation is left up to the individual. But the interpretation of one view should not override the interpretation of another.

    Here's another example: the swastika. I think most people would naturally associate that with Hitler, the SS and Nazi party. But what if you saw a Navajo, Buddhist or Hindu wearing or displaying the symbol? The swastika has been used by these cultures much longer than it was with the Germans and has a much different meaning to them. Would we ban those for whom the swastika has strong spiritual meaning from wearing or displaying one? Or would we consider that an opportunity to learn more about their culture and the significance the symbol has to them?

    Personally, I think it would be a wonderful learning opportunity and, perhaps, a chance to overcome the evilness and hatred associated with the symbol. There will still be some who DO use it as a symbol of that hatred and violence, but as educators, we could show our students this isn't the only meaning associated with the symbol.


    I understand why that would make you uncomfortable, but the question wasn't about group or school-led prayers. Even though I'm a Christian, I would oppose those practices precisely because I know it would make some of my non-Christian students uncomfortable and may even send the message (indirectly) that it was alright to "pick on" those kids for not sharing the same beliefs.

    So,that brings us back to the question about a Muslim student and his classmates feeling "uncomfortable" about him displaying or discussing his religion because they think it might mean he is a terrorist. I can easily see how that might make students so uncomfortable they had a hard time learning. So, do we prevent the Muslim from displaying or discussing his religion, or do we try to educate the other students about Islamic religion to help promote better understanding and acceptance?

    Peer pressure IS tough, no doubt about it. However, an individual student DOES have the right to discuss or share his/her religious beliefs with another student if (s)he wishes. As long as it is not sponsored, promoted or encouraged by the school staff - and is just one-on-one between two students - then the witnessing student is not violating the other students rights, just as the other student would not be violating the rights of the first by telling him take his beliefs and shove them because he/she doesn't want to hear about them.

    If the student tries to witness during a class speech or presentation or over the P.A. system, that is a different matter entirely, but if it is just one-on-one between two students, I feel that is between the two students and learning how to handle that situation is part of the learning and growing process.
     
  22. Irishdave

    Irishdave Enthusiast

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    I used this example because it happened in my class one student a sweet 8th grade was starting to, for the lack of a better word, "Witness" to the most vile, rude, vicious, mean student in the school, I stopped her because I knew without a doubt what his response would be! Later I was called up to the principle's office to explain my actions to her father. After about a half an hour (where the father was quite heated) he understood where I was coming from (BTW the Principal was Mormon, the father was Pentecostal and I attended a Pentecostal church.)
     
  23. czacza

    czacza Multitudinous

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    It's uncomfortable to feel 'held hostage' to an instructor's/teacher's personal pontifications. My son was in such a situation in HS with an Englsh lit teacher who made many many male bashing kinds of comments. One feels that if you speak up, your grade may suffer... My son and another student approached her respectfully and told her that some of her comments made them uncomfortable. It got better, but she wasn't asked back the next yer. I had a similar experience in a grad class where the instructor felt a need to go off topic on a rant on her political beliefs...which had nothing to do with course content. I was SOOO irritated that I was paying $$$ to listen to her diatribe. I engaged in a respectful dialog with her during the rant ( during class time), but after a short volley of opinions back and forth with others joining in, I let it go...BUT I DID reflect my thoughts on the course evaluation.
     
  24. Go 4th

    Go 4th Habitué

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    Yes!!!!

    It seems to me that most of the time, it is adults stirring to free speech pot, instead of the kids. Like Dave's parent....I bet the student understood exactly why he asked her to stop.

    Schools are where acceptance of cultural diversities and differences of opinion are supposed to be taught......not stopped. You are exactly right when you say students should research topics such as the flag, homosexuality, and politics. They need to forn their OWN opinion and not just base it off of their family's beliefs, as many do!
     
  25. TeachOn

    TeachOn Habitué

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    Oh no she di'int. Nah nah nah. :huh:
     
  26. TeachOn

    TeachOn Habitué

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    Perhaps, but it is a short step from this sort of thinking to advocating varieties of skepticism which effectively advocate for implicit - typically secular humanist - points of view, to which parents might well quite reasonably object, regarding disestablishment of religion generally, or of student's particular religion, as an objectional advocacy of establishment of religious skepticism, itself again arguably a religious point of view.

    An exactly analogous argument can be made with respect to any number of other, more political views; that such a policy can and does indeed too often amount to advocacy by teachers of their own typically "liberal" and secular views.

    I think, to be honest, that this is exactly what you do propose to advocate, and I wish to congratulate myself on my restraint in responding to you.

    I say this, I might add, as one who started a homosexual support group here at my school, and who revived Amnesty International here once upon a time, lest you mistake what sort of fellow I am.

    As for the notion that "Schools are where acceptance [emphasis mine] of...differences of opinion are supposed to be taught,' you do not have this quite right either. Schools are where different points of view are to be offered and discussed in a balanced way without teacher advocacy of any point of view in the discussion. Students, perhaps with guidance from parents, decide either to accept or to reject them. Here too, your surreptitiousness, though perhaps subtle to some, is every bit as reprehensible. Teachers unable to discipline themselves to such an approach ought to off somewhere shilling for some demagogue or another, or perhaps "occupying" the main street of their home towns in the daytime, channel surfing at night, in Mom's basement, in quest of the Holy Grail that is Keith Olberman, his or her ideological chimes frustratingly unrung by the rich tapestry that is MSNBC. But I digress, and lapse into mixed metaphor. Maybe I'll fix it later, though I might argue that the metaphors are more sequential that mixed, only seeming so a result of contiguity, only a preposition and an article intervening (so, I suppose, not technically contiguous, maybe proximate.) Yes, let's go with that.
     
  27. TeachOn

    TeachOn Habitué

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    In the news:

    As many as 100 high school students walked out of a national journalism conference after an anti-bullying speaker began cursing, attacked the Bible and reportedly called those who refused to listen to his rant “pansy a-sed.”

    The speaker was Dan Savage, founder of the “It Gets Better” project, an anti-bullying campaign that has reached more than 40 million viewers with contributors ranging from President Obama to Hollywood stars. Savage also writes a sex advice column called “Savage Love.”

    Savage, and his husband, were also guests at the White House for President Obama’s 2011 LGBT Pride Month reception. He was also invited to a White House anti-bullying conference.
     
  28. Cerek

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    Eloquently verbose, yet still egregiously wrong.

    The acceptance Go 4th is speaking of is learning to accept others have views different from their own and that those views are not arbitrarily "wrong" simply because they are "different".

    I also promote a well-balanced discussion in my classrooms and will occasionally challenge viewpoints held by students in an effort to encourage them to examine why they believe as they do; is it because they have looked at the issue from different perspectives and found the one they agree with most, or is it just because that's what mom and dad have always said. There is nothing wrong with parents shaping the views and opinions of their children. That is, in fact, part of their "job" as a parent. But as the children grow and begin to establish their own identity, re-examining their views and beliefs is an integral part of that maturity and growth.

    I do not advocate, nor even emphasize, one viewpoint over another - especially not my own. Rather, I encourage the students to consider ALL the points raised and give each perspective equal weight, whether they agree with it or not.

    My intent is not to disestablish any beliefs of the students, be it religious, political, or anything else. Instead, I want them to be able to explain exactly WHY they believe what they do and to determine if they have reached this perspective through their own reflections or if it is just a reflection of the views they have been told to believe.
     
  29. czacza

    czacza Multitudinous

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    He sounds like a bully. I would have left too. I'm not impressed with someone simply on the basis of their status as a White House guest.:dizzy: or their sex advice column....
     
  30. silverspoon65

    silverspoon65 Enthusiast

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    He was saying that many teens do not stand up against bullying of gay teens because of what is in the bible, and he said anti-gay teachings in the bible should go the same way as not eating shellfish or slavery. I agree with him on this point. I do think he went too far later in the speech as people started to walk out, especially for something that was supposed to be an anti-bullying speech. Also, the only place I have seen it reported as 100 people was on Fox News - every other place I have seen it has said about a dozen.

    However, this was a conference for teen journalists, not a public school setting. His speech was edgy but totally in his rights, and it was the rights of the students to walk out or choose to stay and cover it journalistically from either viewpoint.
     
  31. TeachOn

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    I didn't find this on Fox, but I am sure that you're take is available on MSNBC.
     
  32. TeachOn

    TeachOn Habitué

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    I now accept these views as (extensively) amended. Thank you for your attention to this matter.

    Terse enough for ya?
     
  33. Irishdave

    Irishdave Enthusiast

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    Ya it was

    But let us have acceptance here
    there is no need to bicker
    I have found that the less you need to defend you position the better it is and
    the more you attack another, the weaker your position is.

    Free speech is one of our most sacred rights so it is also the most abused and tread on.
     
  34. Cerek

    Cerek Aficionado

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    Apr 29, 2012

    I've replied to several responses, but not to the OP itself.

    Many of these issues do touch on Freedom of Speech, which should be encouraged, but we also have to explain to our students that the Freedom provided is not unlimited; there are some restrictions on it.

    Many of these issues also touch on Political Correctness, an idea that has become a blight on our society (IMO, of course).

    First of all, it is impossible to avoid offending everyone because someone will always take exception (or at least disagree) with what we say. Rather than improving the "niceness" of our society, political correctness has only served to make us even more hyper-sensitive to insults, be they real or perceived. Before PC, we grew up to learn that not everyone agrees with us and some people are just jerks for no reason. Either way, we learned to ignore their comments, take them with a grain of salt or respond in kind. With political correctness, however, now we have adults still acting like adolescents running to the teacher or parent and saying "Boo hoo, (s)he hurt my feelings so (s)he should be punished". In years past, parents may have used the "Sticks and stones" reference or just told us some people are mean and we have to learn to deal with that. Now they say "WHAT??? Let's sue them and/or throw them in jail."

    The whole concept of political correctness ignores a very central truth, though...nobody can MAKE you mad or MAKE you get angry; each of us CHOOSES whether we will become angry or not. To say that someone else has the power to make you mad is to give them far more power than they have and to give up the power you have.

    If one of our students says a smart-aleck remark or even an insult, does it really hurt our feelings? Or do we scoff it off since (s)he is just a kid? That is the point I'm making. Nothing anyone says here or anywhere else can MAKE you become angry....you have to choose to do that yourself. And if we realize the power of that choice lies with US and noone else, then we can also realize we have the same power to NOT get angry over something that is said.

    That doesn't mean it is wrong to get angry. Sometimes anger, outrage or indignation IS the right choice. Just realize the choice is being made by YOU and not be the actions or words of someone else.
     
  35. TeacherGroupie

    TeacherGroupie Moderator

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    Apr 29, 2012

    A tough skin is a fine thing to have, to be sure. The simulacrum of one will sometimes suffice: on the occasions on which I've managed to maintain outward calm in spite of another person's efforts to insult and browbeat me into hysteria, I knew I'd scored a victory. Unfortunately, more than one of those occasions cost me dearly later, when the people involved - whose great need was for me to understand my place - exacted the various retributions that their greater power made possible.

    I will concede that political correctness can be carried too far, and often is. Nevertheless, people who wish it done away with generally either don't know or have forgotten what it is like to be in a situation one cannot leave and in which one daren't protest, and in which the linguistic aggression goes on drop after drop, like water torture, for years.
     
  36. Cerek

    Cerek Aficionado

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    Apr 30, 2012

    That's a good counterpoint, TeacherGroupie. Point well taken.

    After re-reading my post, I realized I should have pointed out that PC does make most of us think about what we say before we say, even some of those who normally wouldn't care.

    I don't know that PC would have helped in either of the two situations you mentioned; if a boss or superior is on a power trip and determined to "put you in your place", they will find a way to continue doing it, no matter what. I have had experiences like this myself. If you're in a situation where you dare not protest, then political correctness isn't going to help you anyway.

    Still I agree that it does have it's place, but I also agree it is sometimes (perhaps often?) taken too far. And I still feel that it has made our society more hypersensitive to even the smallest perceived insult.

    My main point was for each of us to remember (or realize) that WE are the only ones that can make ourselves mad. Nobody else has the power to do that unless we give them that power.
     
  37. TeachOn

    TeachOn Habitué

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    Apr 30, 2012

    Among my favorite little literary gems are the Proverbs of Hell in Blake's "Marriage of Heaven and Hell." For those not familiar with them, the idea is that many things which are customarily called Evil are in fact Good if you have the courage, insight and imagination to see that this is so.

    One of these proverbs is "Opposition is True Friendship," which I take to affirm that to engage another in agon is to honor that person in a number of ways, establishing the best basis for friendship (no need for more detail here).

    And Nietzsche: "A legal order [think PC, nicey-nice intrusions into free speech] thought of as sovereign and universal, not as a means in the struggle between power-complexes but as a means of preventing all struggle in general [ . . . ,] would be a principle hostile to life, an agent of the dissolution and destruction of man, an attempt to assassinate the future of man, a sign of weariness, a secret path to nothingness."

    All of this reminds me of something I said in an earlier post: Democracy and freedom of speech are not for the timid, the fragile, the weak.

    As to my alleged verbosity and rhetorical excess, another Blakean Proverb of Hell: "The Road of Excess leads to the Palace of Wisdom." Plus, it's fun.

    And an aphorism of my own, which I used one of the times I was asked to give our graduation speech: "Agreement is the most effete mode of thinking. Indulged in as a habit, it irreversibly weakens the mind." {Something like that: working from memory}
     
  38. 3Sons

    3Sons Enthusiast

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    Apr 30, 2012

    Good points, Cerek.

    This bothers me just slightly, not because it's wrong on either free speech (there are indeed restrictions), or because of your feelings on PC (though "blight on society" might be going a little far, I'm not a big fan of PC either). But because of the juxtaposition of the two. I have a hard time thinking of a time when PC is a legally imposed limit on free speech. Free speech is a legal protection, and PC is largely social.


    While that's sort of an ideal, I think that's mainly what it is. Seems before PC, we learned we could make people shut up by being more powerful than them. In fact, I suspect the powerful in society have never needed PC. You pick an example of a student saying something rather than a co-worker -- is that because a student is demonstrably less powerful and a teacher can simply punish the student at will?

    I have no idea what you're trying to say.
     
  39. Go 4th

    Go 4th Habitué

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    Apr 30, 2012

    You are correct--we have the power to control our emotions. In my opinion, that power usually comes from knowledge. As teachers, we have to empower students to form their own opinions--our biases should be left outside the classroom door as much as humanly possible. Too many people today base an opinion on hearsay, not on research or facts. How many people have an opinion about the flag and yet have never really researched the meaning behind it. I can truthfully say that I have never researched the swastica until after reading several of these posts, yet I had an opinion of it. Part of forming those opinions is based on our family values and the facts.

    In my opinion, education is about teaching children to think for themselves, not base their opinion on what their dad or mom thinks. Being scared to approach "hot topics" will not make them go away--it simply allows them to fester and grow. I simply believe that people should base their opinions on information--whether the bible or the encyclopedia, doesn't matter--instead of on someone else's opinion.

    Absolutely! But without knowing the various facts of many topics, this simply can't happen.
     
  40. Cerek

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    May 1, 2012

    You're right that "blight on society" was too strong, I just couldn't think of a better phrasing at the time and I still think it has done more harm than good because now people sometimes claim offense at the slightest perceived insult.

    PC may not be legally imposed, but when Al Sharpton and others can demand that a person be fired and lose their livelihood for one comment, then we've definitely come too far. I understand Sharpton also addresses the excessive use of the some offensive word (and other offensive language and images) in rap music, but you never see him demanding any of those rap artists be fired or lose their recording contracts because of their offensive language. That's just an example for the sake of illustrating my point.

    Another example was use of the word "niggardly" by David Howard, a white aide to former D.C. mayor Anthony A. Williams. The word means "stingy" or "miserly" and was used by Howard in reference to a budget, which was completely appropriate in that context. Despite it's similarity to the well-known racial slur, the two words are etymologically unrelated, so it isn't a derivative of the racial slur. A colleague took offense at the word and pressure from the resulting fallout led Howard to resign his position. Mayor Williams later offered the job back to Howard, but Howard declined and accepted a different position instead.

    When I looked this incident up on wikipedia, I found several more incidents of the word causing offense, due to it's similarity to the slur and the lack of understanding that the two words share no common meaning at all.

    So, while there may be no legal pressure to enforce PC, there are certainly numerous accounts of social and political pressure being brought to bear to enforce it.


    No, it isn't because of the inequality of power between the two, although that's a good question to ask.

    This stems more from personal experience. A couple of years ago, I had begun re-posting on a forum I use to visit very regularly, but had left for some time for different reasons. One member on the forum immediately began posting ridiculously rude and insulting comments in response to my posts (we were usually discussing "hot topics" like global warming and others). I reported his posts to the admin, which calmed the member down briefly, but he just tried to become more subtle with his insults. I admit I was letting myself get angry at his posts until I just realized he was acting no more mature than one of my middle school students. The difference is my students would have been acting with age-appropriate maturity while this guy was not. Then I asked myself "Would this statement make me angry if one of my students said it?" The answer was "No". Not because I could punish the student if I chose, but because I would mark his comment up to lack of wisdom and tact based on his age.

    As teachers, we have learned to overlook much of what our students say because we know it isn't really directed at us personally, it my just be a reaction to other things that are going on in their lives. Even if it IS directed at us personally, most of us don't take offense. If we can avoid getting upset over the comment of a student, we can avoid getting upset over the same comment from a colleague or other adult.
     
  41. amakaye

    amakaye Enthusiast

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    May 1, 2012

    Haven't read the most recent responses, but I just had to jump in to say that we just finished discussing (in 3rd grade) how everybody has these rights, but there may still be consequences if you choose to exercise them in a way that interferes with others. I think sometimes we forget that...
     

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