On Free Speech, the Internet and Myspace
I want to thank Scott for opening up this topic here.
Dude, this little article goes to the core of a variety of issues involving the internet, education and free speech. I have a myspace because my students hounded me for months to get one as a means to communictae with me. Some of them even created a discussion group for one of my classes that has actually been useful and fun.
Having said that I will also say that the myspace phenomenon has become a great evil. Myspace was originally created two years ago as a means for singles to hook up and meet new people. It was subsequently hijacked by the teen age sub-culture. For some students it is just another medium to talk online, post pictures(many of them inappropriate), post artwork or poetry, etc. In some way, for a very small percentage of young people it is a creative forum. But, by its very nature it has become a dangerous forum because some kids post very personal and very specific information online that is a sexual predators dream come true.
All of this is to say that what the student in the article did does not surprise me. Nothing a high school studentdoes surprises me anymore. What the kid did was wrong, stupid, disrespectful and inapropriate. Suspension from school and from internet access on campus sounds more appropriate., maybe even a transfer to a different school but not to an 'alternative' school, those are bad news. As far as how negatively that affects his immediate future. . .well, he should have thought about that before he did what he did.
You have not been on your side of the lectern too long. The kids are getting worse, less sophisticated and more uncouth. I correct myself, there a still good kids out there, but many of them know no boundaries or sense of right and wrong. I'm only 36 and I can say that honestly. I know every generation complains about the one behind it, and on some level it is true, but I've talked with esteemed colleagues that have seen more change than I and they concur.
Recently, one of my colleagues, a decent man with a wife and kids, unbeknownst to him had a myspace created in his name. He is freaked out that this kind of freedom in the hands of juveniles could damage his career. What if this nefarious teen decides to start hitting on young girls online under his name? The mere investigation that would ensue could ruin his career. Any good parent knows that you afford freedoms to young people as they demonstrate responsible behavior. The challenge of the internet is that it affords unlimited freedom, even the freedom to potentially ruin careers, to young people that may not have the wisdom to exercise that responsibility.
You are not wrong in your assessment of the events described in the article. Perhaps the school went a little too far, but not much. Teenage hijinks in the past was limited in scope and effect on the victim. With the technology afforded by the 21st century, the consequences for the victim can be long lasting and far reaching. With that in mind, perhaps the consequences for the perpetrators should be just as far reaching and long lasting. Maybe eventually, people of all ages will recognize the immense responsiblity that comes with the gift of technology.
Oh, and by the way, I'm deleting my myspace tomorrow.