Friday, October 22, 2010

Student videos at Dangerously Irrelevant

These kids are complaining about school (a new phenomenon, I'm sure) and, true to form, people are watching them. Some viewers take everything at face value and believe every word the kids say because the teachers are always at fault. Others, I assume, are in thrall to the idea that "If it's put on the Internet by a kid, then that's 21st Century Skills right there!" and completely miss the fact that the kid is in desperate need of some psychological counseling. Most of the ones shown at the link above are of the"whiny student" who hates his teacher "because he made me work" variety. Danzigar (left) points out the problem with that reasoning.

Scott MacLeod gathered some videos together, asking "American students generally have the legal right to express their opinions at home on their free time using non-school computer equipment. So here are a few students expressing their opinions about their teachers. Do you know what your students are saying at home about your school? Is this something that educators should care about or just ignore?"

Some of the ones he gathered are full of psychological cues for depression, others are classic student complaints -- a self-centered world-view and a total misunderstanding of what they will need in life and why the town spends the kind of money it does. The self-centeredness is nothing new, of course, but I must admit to an overwhelming desire to point out how incredibly short-sighted most of those complaints are.

A few are to the point. I always hated when anyone said "Nucular" instead of "Nuclear" but he was our President and we had to live with it. I think he was an idiot but not because of his pronunciation problems.

I worry, though, about the ramifications of these. The teachers who see them are not going to be happy and the kids seem completely unaware that people talk. They also seem unaware that most people, when attacked directly will retaliate, overtly or subtly. Stories will be told. Deadlines will become more definitive; retakes and makeup will disappear. People will be warned. Reports of threats and unsafe working environment will surface - hey, teachers are mandatory reporters and that first kid keeps picking up sharp implements. Threats will be reported to the police and the evidence is crystal clear. Admissions officers will notice. Principals will react. People will think twice about your judgment. It'll all be confidential, of course. (Sure, it will -- you put it on YouTube, you moron!.)

What's the point of it in the long haul? Why didn't some adult say, "Not a good idea."?

If I'm in one of these videos, I might change something about the way I teach but it's more likely that I would write it off as another selfish, whiny student. I can't change my accent. I teach the way I do because I believe it's a good way - backed by my 30 years of teaching experience as opposed to the kid's 2 years ignoring high school. If you hate me, I don't actually care.

But these videos persist.
  • "A recommendation? Sorry." 
  • "You want to join my class? Sorry, it's full." 
  • "Mr. V, watch it with that one. Bad student." 
  • "That just wasn't a very good essay.  I'm sorry. You made a whole lotta grammatical errors and it brawt the grade down. You're a junior. This isn't assseptable." I'd be sure to use any words she mentioned in her little tantrum and really draw out the accent.
  • "This dyke isn't amused." 

A teacher could make the next parent phone call or conference REALLY uncomfortable for the parents, especially if the teacher has been there for a while and knows all the people the parent knows. Just start playing the video in everyone's presence. Watch the parent slink into the crack of the chair.

To answer MacLeod's question:
  1. Ignore all of the ones that complain. They have the right to babble, off-campus. Mention the video to the teacher and suggest he/she watch and decide if there is any merit to the complaint and to ignore it or change, as he/she feels appropriate.
  2. Take seriously all the ones that threaten, slander or libel. Sorry, kid. You took it public. There are always ramifications for public speech that threatens, slanders, or libels. Under current interpretations of law, statements such as "Ugh, class ... with the dyke ... 'That's the point, you suffer.' 'Fucking dyke.'" constitute harassment.
  3. Take seriously all those "hidden camera, gotcha" videos. Something is wrong but remember that students can drive a teacher to it. Don't just react and fire a good teacher for a bad day with evil children. Notify and warn, but do nothing because you don't have context. (Unless you have context.)
  4. If school equipment was used, then someone needs to have a serious talk with the teacher responsible for it. That classroom in #2, for example. 
    1. Were they allowed into someone else's room? 
    2. Did they film that for an assignment? 
    3. Did the teacher know that the school resources were being used to attack another teacher? 
    4. Why did he approve the script? 
    5. Why did he think it was okay to let students do this?
  5. If you've got violence about to happen ...
    Well, you'd better do something quick, don't you think?

Speech is not completely free in Schools, even though the Tinker decision said, "The rights of students and teachers do not end at the schoolhouse door." The later Hazelwood decision allows editing (censorship) in those school fora which were not expressly set up for a free flow of student views ... "the rights of public school students are not necessarily the same as those of adults in other settings." Essentially, the school does not have to provide full, free-speech forum and may instead provide a limited speech forum for academic purposes. This limited speech forum cannot be forced to allow full free speech, "schools aren't required to lend their resources to the dissemination of students' opinions, particularly opinions that 'associate the school with any position other than neutrality on matters of political controversy.' "  The court also specifically allowed officials to censor material that's "biased or prejudiced, vulgar or profane, or unsuitable for immature audiences."

The current interpretation of this rule is that schools may "edit" (or censor) material or views that are produced using school equipment, or school resources. [The main reason I write this blog from home and never check it at school]. School resources include school-assigned emails from the school domain, internet access, class or study hall time or computer equipment use, school software or even school laptops when taken home. (Bet you didn't think of that!)

Remember that case of the school that turned on the laptop webcams? They got into $600,000 worth of trouble because an administrator went off on her own to start taking pictures of students, half-naked or in their bedrooms. Had it been properly warned and notified, had protocol been set and followed, things would have been different. They did not get into trouble for monitoring their own machines. They would not have been ni trouble if they had required all students to submit to an audit of the harddrive.

If the threats were created done at school, it's even easier.  Simply explore the kid's network account for the powerpoint or animation file and follow your current procedures when you find it.  Any kid stupid enough to attack a teacher by making a file in computer class deserves to be punished, if only for being so stupid.


  1. "A few are to the point. I always hated when anyone said "Nucular" instead of "Nuclear" but he was our President and we had to live with it. I think he was an idiot but not because of his pronunciation problems."

    We agree! I think Jimmy Carter's an idiot, too. And he was a "nucular engineer".


  2. This is a GREAT post. I'm going to link to it over at my blog.

    I'm guessing that many of these kids' parents may have NO IDEA what their kids are doing online...

  3. I agree, Scott. In fact, I'd put that as NONE of the parents have any idea of what their kids do.