Thursday, February 16, 2006

Profanity on the Blog

It was brought to my attention today that one of my students is using profane language on another one of my student's personal blogs. This is incredibly frustrating to me for several reasons. First, I trust my students and try to treat them like adults. When they violate this trust by acting like twelve-year-olds who have just learned their first swear words, I feel like an idiot for having trusted them in the first place. Second, I don't have time to police their personal blogs, and it's a little frightening to think what they could be posting that it ultimately linked back to my name and my class, even if it's several degrees removed. I know that some of my students have links from their personal blogs to random websites that have nothing to do with Arapahoe. Yet whatever happens to be posted on those sites is linked back to my class blog as well. I'm going to need to revise my blog expectations to address directly how personal blogs should be used, and at the risk of coming across as a Nazi, I'm going to keep it strict. I respect my students' first amendment rights, but I also have a right as to how my name is used. In any case, I'll address this right away. I think that 99% of the time my students use the blog respectfully and academically, but that 1% of the time that it's not plagues me.


Blogger Crosby said...

Thanks for addressing this. I agree - it definitely reflects on us. This is an issue that we will have to continue dealing with, and I think that you are doing the right thing addressing it as a respect issue. And you are also right that we do not want to blow this out of proportion because the vast majority of students are very respectful.

9:50 AM  
Blogger Karl Fisch said...

You're not an idiot (well, at least not because of this!) We obviously need to address this, and I think the Acceptable Use Policy that we will have up in the next few days will help clarify things for students (and staff). I think we treat it as a "teachable moment" - a learning opportunity for both our students and ourselves.

10:31 AM  
Blogger Meyer said...

Just before I read this, I was walking down the hall and heard A.P. students, as they discussed a book, use language that many find inappropriate. Yet their intent, meaning, grammar, etc were actually quite appropriate. While there are ALWAYS better ways to say it, our focus, in my mind, isn't just on language, it is on tolerance of ideas. When language is accusatory, demeaning, threatening - then it no longer has value and to me, that is my focus in a policy. Some might say that I can be a bit loose with language as I grew up in a home that knew how to use the "f-bomb" very well and often. And since I've had children, I know that I've gotten better. So while that "clouds" my opinion, I am often more bothered by words like can't, boring, just than I am by %*&^%&^$^%^ - unless it is used in certain manners.

11:34 AM  
Blogger jasonm said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

7:39 PM  
Blogger Karl Fisch said...


I'm certainly not an expert on freedom of speech (maybe Mr. Meyer can chime in, here), but based on my recollection from high school it is very much conditional. I believe the classic example being you're not allowed to yell "Fire!" in a crowded movie theater. (Which, of course, always made me wonder if you could yell it in a sparsely populated movie theater - but I digress).

I guess I have several concerns about the words you choose to "convey emotions." First, are those truly the only words you can think of to convey your emotions? I obviously don't know you, but from reading at least some of your commenting on blogs you strike me as being rather intelligent and thoughtful (when you aren't purposely trying to get people riled up). If that's indeed the case, I would expect that you could "convey your emotions" much more capably than you recently have.

Second, the words we choose matter. They matter tremendously. Once again, I'm not an expert (Ms. Kakos' turn to help me out on the power of words), but if you want to convince, sway, or otherwise influence other people, I don't think you're likely to be successful by bludgeoning them with anger.

And, speaking of word choice, I find your use of the phrases "It's not my fault" and "merely a minor setback" to be interesting choices. If it's not your fault (don't particularly like "fault" either), whose is it? Who exactly other than you is responsible for your emotions? Who other than you is reponsible for your choice of words?

And why do you feel this is a "setback" for student freedom of speech? Ms. Kakos, I, and others are doing everything in our power to maintain a reasonably free and open discourse. Are there limits? Yes. Can reasonable people disagree about where those limits should be? Of course. Is the hill of profanity really the one you want to die for? You'll have to decide that for yourself.

Finally (and you thought I'd never get here), do you really find something redeeming in the blog you posted the link to? I'm going to remain positive and assume it's not yours, but I fail to see how that blog contributes anything to anybody. And, of course, by posting the link in Ms. Kakos blog, you now have connected it to AHS. You and Ms. Kakos can discuss whether it would be appropriate to remove the link, or you could simply remove the link yourself (copy the rest of your comment, delete the original comment, repost everything but the link).

You should also consider removing the link from your personal blog (thanks for changing your display name by the way). I'm sure Ms. Kakos will be sharing this with your class next week, but we have just published blogging guidelines for AHS, and linking to sites such as that one would be in violation of those guidelines. If you have reasonable thoughts or comments on those guidelines, I'd be interested to hear them.

[To be clear, these are my thoughts and not Ms. Kakos' thoughts.]

8:48 PM  
Blogger jasonm said...

I have alot to say...but I fear I may get into trouble for what I'm saying due to the fact that I don't know all the schools rules. I will email a copy to Ms. Kakos for review before posting it here.

10:50 AM  
Blogger Matt W said...

Mr. Fisch, I agree with you completely. This is an issue I believe very strongly on, and am glad to see that the staff is very aware of this problem and that you all are doing everything possible to confront it. Jason, profanity may be covered under the right to Freedom of Speech, but is it justified? The point of the matter is simply this: If we as a school are to cause others to think of AHS (and especially the students and staff that comprise it) differently, then we will have to act and speak differently than what seems to be the stereotypical norm for a high school. Profanity in our society is ubiquitous, so a teenager that has decided to rise above such childish behavior certainly catches positive attention. As students, whether we realize it or not, we are representing AHS in what we do and what we say. Our personal blogs may be physically not connected to AHS, but as students there, our representation of our school has no boundaries. Never be so naive to believe that at any moment you are not representing anything but yourself. If you act and speak like a child, then the world will treat you like a child. If you act and speak like the young-adult that you are, you will immediately be treated and viewed as such. As a final word, I cannot stress enough that is of utmost importance that in our personal blogs, we are directly tied to Ms. Kakos' class, and her name. As individuals we can have the right to do whatever we want no matter how it may reflect on us. But we have no right whatsoever to do anything that will reflect badly on Ms. Kakos or AHS at all. I encourage you and all the other students at AHS to rise above this childish impulse to use such a limited vocabulary. As teenagers we constantly fight to be viewed as adults, but do everything possible to deserve the stereotypes place upon us. I open-enrolled to AHS (Which is 30 miles from where I live in Parker) because I truly believe that AHS is a very different school. All I'm proposing is that we give outsiders reason to believe so as well. Live your life knowing that what you do and say never affects only you, but in fact wherever you go you are always representing so much more than yourself.

1:01 AM  
Blogger shamitap said...

Well said Matt. When we were first able to blog, I was really happy that we would actually be doing an "online chat" sort of thing that is actually safe!-- meaning it would be protected through the schools and carefully observed by administrators. With all the profanity on the blogs (I think I speak for many other people) I honestly feel that my rights are being violated. And I feel that not only is our school recieving a bad image, but I, as Shamita Punjabi, am tied in to this sort of website as well. It's really uncomfortable for people like me to know that our lives are connected to a sort of place like this. We all have a right to be part of this website, and I think it's important that we respect others' rights as well. I guess what I'm trying to say is if we don't know how people will react to something we post, it's best to refrain from posting it in the first place.
It's issues like these that make BlogSpot no different from MySpace.

2:16 PM  
Blogger Darren Kuropatwa said...

From reading your blog it sounds like your school year has wrapped up.

I teach senior math in Winnipeg, Canada. All my classes and students blog. We spend a lot of time talking about ethical online behaviour at the begining of the semester.

I'm really impressed with the conversation you folks are having here.

Lots of teachers and school adminsitrators are uncomfortable with students blogging because of many of the issues you raise here: use of profanity and other inapproriate text and images that reflect badly on the school or teacher that allows their classes/students to blog. Your administrators and teacher seem to have taken this "event" as an opportunity to learn something constructive. More than that, the students who have commented here have shared some exceptionally mature perspectives and concerns. The thought and energy you have devoted to this discussion is a great example of how all schools should handle similar issues when they arise. If any of this sounds "preachy" I appologize, but I just had to leave some kind of comment. I'm really impressed with the nature of the conversation you're all having.

Think about that for a second. How many people are reading this and not leaving a comment. When you publish something, anything, on the internet you can never tell who's reading it or where they're from. It may be your parents. It may be strangers from China. It could be just about anyone.

I think anyone who reads this conversation will be impressed -- on many levels. As students, don't you want all your blog posts to have that kind of impact?

Darren Kuropatwa
Winnipeg, Canada

10:27 PM  
Blogger MrsC said...

I want to show this conversation in a workshop I am doing for Alabama educators next week. We need to show real people working out real problems. Great maturity!

12:08 AM  

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