Tuesday, September 4th, 2007
Milan Kundera was correct in claiming that we should attempt to understand first before we judge. It’s a hard stricture.
Avery Doninger’s blog post accusing Burlington school officials of being, I believe, “douchebags” (in the original post the student wrote “douchbag”) falls into the above category and is yet another example of a wasted effort by the courts and school to offer learning opportunity. Since the post was public, why didn’t an official from the school system in their own weblog or comment space simply ask the student to explain the remark? This would have cleared things up and would’ve presented Doninger with chance to amount an appropriate rhetorical scheme.
Doninger was junior class secretary in April when a dispute over the school’s battle of the bands-type jam session led to her now-infamous comment. After talks with school officials made it clear the school’s “Jamfest” might not go forward as planned, Doninger wrote on her livejournal.com Web log, “Jamfest is canceled due to the douchbags in central office.” She also encouraged others to write or call Region 10 Superintendent Paula Schwartz “to piss her off more.”
A few weeks later, Principal Karissa Niehoff told Doninger to apologize to Schwartz, show her mother the blog entry, and remove herself from seeking re-election as class secretary. Doninger agreed to the first two points, but refused to withdraw her candidacy. Niehoff then told Doninger she would not provide an administrative endorsement of her candidacy, barring her from the race, according to Kravitz’s ruling.
The above presents some traces of context. The witless call to “piss off” the Superintendent is further evidence for answer in the agora, not for prohibition, which merely makes things worse.
I’ve always felt that the answer to rate your teacher websites is a counter “rate your student” website. This wouldn’t work, though, would it.
In today’s Courant, Rick Green writes:
A fascinating ruling Friday evening by U.S. District Judge Mark R. Kravitz suggests that Big Brother school districts can keep watch and penalize juvenile offenders who overstep the boundaries of decency and civil behavior, even if it occurs nowhere near school.
Technically, Rick is begging a question: it is merely an assumption that Doninger overstepped in the first place and incorrect to attribute “juvenile offender” to her position. My claim is that “civil behavior” demands a question or an explanation. But this question and explanation was never asked for. I disagree with Green’s characterization that “education leaders” seek to “muzzle speech,” they simply don’t know how to react appropriately in the context of networks.