Current/Recent Reading List

20 January 2007

The #1 Demographic for Those Who Hate

... has to be high school teachers and administrators. Trust me, I don't hate all cutting-edge technology-related products and activities (though I probably won't know about them until they are old news to many of my family members and friends). I generally accept the conventional wisdom that the internet, and its popular sites, can be really beneficial, or really rotten, depending on how utilized. But MySpace? Let's just say I picture Screwtape and his buddies cooking that one up somewhere in the boss's basement. Anywhere there are kids on computers at school, it is highly likely that they are (at least on the side) finding a way around the security software and onto their idiotic personal MySpace pages.

Earlier in the year I expressed misgivings about how the MySpace format encourages teens to surrender to the world that which should remain private. It encourages narcissism and self-absorbtion, things most teens do not suffer from lack of in the first place. And,in passing, I'll just mention the well-documented fact that, oh, freakin' pedophiles use MySpace to great advantage. But here is what has me pissed off and ready crack heads right now:

One of our business teachers discovered on Thursday that there are two fraudulent (and public) MySpace pages that have been set up for a couple of teachers at our school. These were obviously set up by some smart-ass students(actually, it seems fairly clear who it was). One of them is set up for a popular gym coach, and the site doesn't mock or slander him, though it pokes some gentle fun at him. The other, set up for a civics teacher, is far more malicious.

Now, this teacher is a friend of mine, but I will readily admit he has an eccentric personality, and a kind of halting, labored delivery even in casual conversation. He is one of those teachers that we probably all had who was always a step behind his students, and therefore an easy target for practical jokes, purposely stupid questions, etc. But he is a really nice man, conscientious, and someone who constantly worries about both what his test scores will look like and the job he's doing as a girls basketball coach.

Not only was the fraudulent information on his page of a mocking nature, but the comments from "friends" on his page, who are of course other students at school, contain some awfully hateful language. Reading the thread, you can see that some got the joke right away, while others took a while; however, once it was clearly established that the page was not "real", the hate-spewers seemed to really unburden themselves.

The principal has already been informed, and the pages were printed out in their entirety in case they are deleted from the site. I have no idea what will happen from here, but I hope the discipline is severe. The gym teacher found out about his page and was angry, but so far as I know the civics teacher doesn't know, and for the sake of his feelings I hope he never finds out. (On the other hand, wouldn't it be just desserts for both of them to sue for defamation?)

Aside from my anger and disappointment in some of the students who were contributing to the "dialogue" on the site, most of whom are at least community-college bound,I'm astounded at their stupidity. By posting on a public site, which was so carelessly guarded that most of the faculty now knows about it, they have surrendered control of their reputations. Their posts, of course, all came attached with their little "friend" picture (duh!). Who would want to write a letter of recommendation for the most egregious of these posters? Who wants to give their rough drafts one more extra read, or cut them a break for a minor disciplinary matter? How might someone on the scholarship committee (I'm on it) view this when it came time to vote on a certain scholarships? And, as already mentioned, do they not have any clue about legal ramifications?

Plus, there are a couple of them I would really like to pull aside and punch. But that is one ramification, alas, that won't come to fruition.



middleagedhousewife said...

This issue was discussed at length at Ace of Spades ealier this month. (
A cheerleader posed for filthy pictures and then whined because they 'somehow' found their way to the internet. The gist of the comment section was that kids, mostly girls, are doing this &*))% and posting it without thinking about the ramifications for their future. You're right, Mr P, when you think that this will make a difference later. The internet doesn't forget. It has no empathy, no sense of responsibilty at all. If you choose to post inflammatory statements about your teachers, the internet thinks that's just wonderful. However, the statements will still be there 5 years down the road when you come back to ask your teacher for a recommendation for, oh, whatever. Then the big worry is whether or not the teacher has forgotten about that little online faux pas of yours. If he does remember, will he look at it as a youthful lapse of judgement or the well-planned, cold blooded act that it really was? Television offers 15 minutes of fame but Youtube, Myspace, all of them offer immortality. It could be said that kids are to be forgiven because they're just that - kids- and therefore they lack the ability to understand the damage they're doing to themselves and others. It COULD be said but not by me. Any kid that is bright enough to figure how to do these things is plenty bright enough to think, even for a the briefest instant, that there may be consequences down the road. No, these kids live in the moment and couldn't care less about tomorrow and what it brings. Just as there are decent Democrats, respectable Republicans and women who really do like their mothers-in-law, there are good kids out there. I know cause I've seen 'em.
I blame Britney, Paris and Lindsey.

Dragon Management said...

There is certainly some type of (odious?) shift in teen culture as a result of MySpace and Facebook. I'm not exactly sure what it is, but I think you're really on to something here. Nevertheless, I was a high school teacher for almost five years, and rumors can spread even without the aid of the internet. As a young and relatively lively teacher, I heard--from students of mine that I was close with--rumors about me sleeping with female students. Despite them being patently false, those rumors spread largely through non-internet personal channels (or so I've heard). On the other hand, I've had plenty of former stuents find my MySpace page and tell me that they really enjoyed my classes and learned a lot as a result of them. Anyway, all that to say: the internet is simply making more public what was always being said about teachers by students--both good and bad.

School Master P said...

I think I can conflate a couple of salient points in both your comments. Dragon, you are certainly right that there is nothing new under the sun when it comes to hurtful rumors (I hate to hear you were the victim of some really bad ones), but that the medium changes the dynamic a bit. And MiddleAged, you put your finger on one of the main reasons for this: things put in writing and posted publicly have a permanence (and, I'll add, a power) that spoken words or even private notes (confiscated or found accidentally) don't.

I'll check out the Ace of Spades discussion with great interest.