That Evil Facebook…

In reference to my previous post: the other high school in our district is scheduled to complete the state writing test this week. Yesterday, today, and tomorrow, to be exact. Yesterday, an ice storm resulted in ridiculous absenteeism at our building–I can only imagine it was the same across town. Today, school was canceled as we expected significant snowfall. I just received word that tomorrow is canceled due to wind chill factors of -25 to -35.

Moral? Winter doesn’t like State testing anymore than I do.

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Are you on Twitter? Do you follow @mashable? You should. Sure, sometimes Pete Cashmore’s social media news aggregator tweets links and articles that don’t have much to do with education, but every now and then, an article like this comes along.

I wrote my master’s thesis about this exact issue. I retweeted the article, and a former student asked, “”What’s your take?”

Well, my dear former student, you asked a question that requires more than 140 characters, so here goes.

Four years ago, as I was conducting preliminary research for my thesis, I knew exactly how I felt about this issue. Students shouldn’t be punished for online speech created after school hours, off school grounds.

The courts don’t seem to provide much guidance–most of the cases I read were split. Some judges find for the adults, some–presumably judges with a clear idea of First Amendment protections–find for the students.

Part of the problem is the precedent set by previous Supreme Court cases involving students invoking the First Amendment–Tinker v.Des Moines, Bethel v. Fraser, Hazelwood v. Kuhlmeier, and most recently, Frederick v. Morse. After Tinker, each case has limited student expression, but each case also involved expression on school grounds or at school events. Judges use these cases to buttress their opinions that student speech should be monitored–24 hours a day, seven days a week.

However, the root of the problem is that few people teach proper use of online expression. We aren’t teaching restraint. We aren’t teaching that once something is posted online, it is archived and retrievable forever. And honestly, many adults aren’t much better than the kids with this–otherwise, the National Labor Relations Board wouldn’t have had to rule that Facebook wall posts are free speech. 

People who compare Facebook wall posts to notes passed in the hallway are using faulty logic–when I wrote notes to my friend Jen about our government teacher’s annoying repeated phrases, no one else saw it. If I had posted it to Facebook, it would have been seen by all my friends and possibly copied into a text message and sent to the entire student body. It’s not the same.

I’m not advocating for an all-out ban, nor am I advocating that teens have unlimited access. But we need to teach them how to use the tools available to them. 

And then we need to practice what we preach.

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