Free Speech?

When I first began to think about setting up my blog, I had to contemplate the public nature of the format and the impact that could have on my work life and my personal life. These wonderings take sharper focus when I hear news clips of folks who’ve lost their jobs due to the discussions on their blogs.

As a free speech advocate, fledgling member of the teacher librarian community and current member of academia, I chafe at the need to watch what I say. There are always issues requiring attention and advocacy at a local level, must I be silent on the issues which concern me most? I think about the classroom that my son is in and the issues that I find as a parent and teacher, also a tricky balance. Can I speak about those issues – as a parent, on my blog?

I guess I have answered myself with my actions. I do not speak about my employer, expect when it is positive, my son’s classroom except to say that he is happy and is being taught by a professional who takes her role seriously and does her job well. Is this careful speech still free?

Doug from Blue Skunk, addressed this issue very well today.

“Write assuming your boss is reading.” Good advice. I don’t think my boss has been here yet, too busy. I sent her an invitation the other day. I guess I’m not too afraid of what I have said. As my husband and I start to think about setting up a blog for his classes, I wonder how you frame this for students. Write as though your grandmother was reading? Write as though your future job was on the line? Probably better yet, write assuming I, your teacher, am reading, which of course I am.

“Gripe globally; praise locally.” There is much to praise in the local context. Sometimes it is easier to see the downfalls of the system that you sit within, but hearing from the global community can give a frame of reference. In one of my courses, I am in contact with teacher librarians mostly from within Canada but some more global contacts. I realize how fortunate my colleagues and I am to be working in a division with personnel resources, computers and bandwidth which far and away outstrips my online acquaintances. One can see the room for improvement but it is also good to see the ongoing benefits of one’s home.

I’m glad I can join a broad chorus of educators in taking a stand against standardized testing and business model application to the educational setting. I can say from the safety of my Canadian home and school, that NoChildLeftBehind is not good for students or teachers and that there is a growing body of evidence and experts voicing their discontent. I hope that my provincial bureaucrats and my school administrators are watching and carefully weighing what they see. Let’s look for models which are not based on the current American model. There are other ways to view education.

“Write for edited publications.” Here is a new challenge. I have set as a goal for this year to publish something. Now I have to decide what and where!
“Write out of goodness.” I hope that I write for a change in education. I named my blog ‘What Counts” because I fear that we count the things that are not important and ignore the things that are important. The quotation attributed to Albert Einstein, which ‘what counts’ come from is as follows – “Not everything that counts can be counted, not everything that can be counted counts”. I hope that to speak for the things that count is ‘to write out of goodness’. I don’t know if that is protection against the powers that be. Surely if you were to look at some of the great persons in history who wrote and spoke ‘out of goodness’ – Jesus, Gandhi, Martin Luther King; they were not saved by their goodness. I do not put myself on a par with their goodness or their influence, nor do I expect that I will suffer their fate. It is something to ponder.

I will blog. I will say what I believe in my manifesto. I will tell you that we need to play more, listen more, change more, try more, laugh more and test less, sit less, measure less, enforce less. I often think of Martin Luther, “Here I stand, I can do no other.”



Filed under blogging, education, free speech, responsibility, social justice

3 responses to “Free Speech?

  1. Very thoughtful, Susan. Thanks.

    I do want to clear up one thing. I definitely believe one should speak out on local issues of concern, just that public blogging is not the forum.

  2. I agree. I think we struggle to find a forum at times, perhaps it is when the debate becomes stiffled through official channels that people then use blogs to air their concerns.

    I have to give kudos to my employer, they have just begun a survey of employee satisfaction through a third party. I hope that it gives them the informatino they are looking for and gives ‘us’ a chance to speak openly. We have other more offical channels too but I think people are sometimes afraid to use them. I appreciate that my employer has recognized, then need to take other kinds of steps in listening.

  3. Idetrorce

    very interesting, but I don’t agree with you

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