From Canada comes the story of an angry teacher’s classroom rant being filmed surreptitiously by students and then posted to the internet video site, YouTube.
As the story points out, this is far from the only case of its kind. A search for ‘angry teacher’ on YouTube today produces 93 other examples, a number that is bound to grow. Comparisons with cases like that of comedian Michael Richards’ racist tirade or with the latest incident of police brutality being videotaped are inevitable.
In the Canadian story, the teacher’s union representative has leapt to the teacher’s defense in a strikingly sweeping way. “The teacher will be the master of his class — a closed class and confidential,” he says. “Master” is of course the 19th-century word for teacher (the term survives residually in the principals of private schools being called ‘Headmaster’). But I worry about its implications. If teachers are masters, what does that make students? Servants? Slaves? Do teachers have the right to do or say anything they please inside their ‘closed’ and ‘confidential’ classrooms? Surely not.
In Canada the school’s response has been to ban all personal electronic devices from the classroom—to which I say, “Good Luck!”
Wouldn’t it be easier to ban angry rants by teachers (along with racist tirades and police brutality, if possible)? Why in the 21st century does anyone still believe that teachers have a right to speak to students in ways they would never speak to anyone else? Teachers who think that such an approach is not only justified but effective would do well to read Alfie Kohn’s book, Beyond Discipline.
Or we could all just decide that it’s a good idea to treat everyone with respect and courtesy. As my mother used to say when I was going out for the evening, “Don’t do anything you wouldn’t want broadcast on television”.
Much less on YouTube, eh?
It was good advice then, and it’s even better advice today.
UPDATE 13 January 2007
Slashdot today has a piece retailing a Wall Street Journal article about people’s misdeeds being posted on the internet. The discussion is worth a look. One reader’s take:
“You don’t see a problem? The problem is How long does someone have to be ashamed for, and in front of how many people? You put something on the internet and potentially it’s there forever and can be seen by millions, like with Star Wars Kid. I believe forgiveness is necessary in society – being allowed to learn from your mistakes and move on to become a better person – but we seem to have a culture where nobody forgives and nobody is allowed to forget.”