Civil Discourse (EDIM516 Unit 2)

On Constitution Day, a student asked US Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer if he ever gets in arguments with the other justices. Before the student could finish his question, Justice Breyer was already saying “yes.” The student went on to ask how they work through it. Advance to 27:11 in this video to hear a most fascinating tale of how nine people who tackle some of the most controversial issues of our time do so without ever raising a voice.

Pretend this is an embedded video. WordPress is angry with iframes these days.

He says some important things about civil discourse. They listen to each other. They take time to write down what others are saying. They add commentary when they have something helpful to add.

At 29:52 Breyer tells us he has been there for 20 years and has never heard a Justice raise his voice. He’s never heard a Justice be rude or even joke about another. He says it’s civil, polite, and professional even though they might strongly disagree with one another. What a great example they are for how humans should behave when they disagree.

This week, we are asked to consider both sides of an issue. I chose to consider the blur between personal and professional due to social media. In other words:

Should teachers face consequences at work for their behavior on social media?

Those who believe that teachers (professionals) should be held accountable for what they share on social media likely have a lot of reasons. It is also likely that there is a lot of variety in what these people think is acceptable/uacceptable behavior for teachers on social media.

In this article, a teacher has gotten herself into trouble by pinning Some eCards content. The teacher didn’t create the image, she just found humor in it and curated it using a bookmarking tool that happens to be set to public.

1923_contractTo some, this is perfectly acceptable. To others it might be the online equivalent of laughing out loud at a tasteless joke. It happens; most of us regret it later. It’s certainly not a firing offense.

To others, teachers are held to some higher standard than the common worker. They are too pure to have similar feelings as others in the service industry. Their altruism is their defining character. In some places, teachers are not supposed to drink, smoke, have tattoos or a coarse sense of humor in their personal lives. If they do, they should do so only in privacy. The truth is that teachers are held to different standards by many than those in other professions.

I’m not so sure that it is a bad idea to have expectations for how teachers behave. I’m not looking to turn the clock back to 1923 or anything extreme. (By extreme, I mean a teacher in “hot water” over the repinning of Some eCards. Absurd imo.) Teachers are models of digital citizenship.

On the other hand, I think that it is awful to hold people to different social standards. What do you think?

Hebd2b09b88502a735027feb4c7edaa0c4re’s how I resolve it. What if we all just behaved on social media as if our grandparents were following us? Or if we aren’t going to behave that way, could we take time to select our audience before we post? There is no mainstream social media site that doesn’t allow users privacy if users choose it. That means the only excuses for teachers or anyone for that matter posting things that will get them in trouble is probably a lack of judgment or a lack of understanding about privacy settings.


10 thoughts on “Civil Discourse (EDIM516 Unit 2)

  1. You have a very interesting question within your post. This question has been answered multiple times in several different ways, in several different school districts. I have even seen this in our school district. This is one of the reasons that I do not have a facebook page. My wife, who is also a teacher, has one and she connects with some of my friends and I have her contact them through this. Another thing I utilize is a simply just text messaging. I am working on adding more technology, but as I do this, I make sure to ask this question, “Is this appropriate?”


    1. Hi Kelly, nothing that I wrote is intended to support the idea of avoiding Facebook. I think it is the most valuable place I learn. I want every teacher using social media to connect with each other. I believe we are stronger and better when we see lots of ideas. I just think people should think about their audience before they post, teachers or anyone else. We should practice civil discourse, and we should use privacy settings that are in social media tools to protect ourselves if we do decide to post something “saucy”.


  2. Hi Porter,

    What resonated with me after reading your post was the question that you posed to your audience. ‘Is it okay to hold people to different social standards?’ Teachers are held to different standards when it comes to social media and an assortment of other social standards. From a personal perspective, I feel like this is unfair. Why do I have to be held to the highest standard possible? Later, after I let off a little steam, I consider what I do and the power and influence that I have over young people’s lives. Every day we are interacting with young people who see us as role models and seek us out for guidance. Another point that you made in your post was to consider whether or not you would want your grandparents to see something you post. I was thinking along those lines too but couldn’t put it into quite the right words when I was posting in my blog for this week. On a side note, I enjoyed watching the clever video that you posted about a world where teachers were treated like professional athletes. Thanks for sharing!



  3. Love that video segment. I’d love to explore more deeply how the tenets of the supreme court’s discussions could be used for all of us. So often we quickly jump to shouting and allow our emotions to dominate the debate. You have me thinking.


  4. Wouldn’t it be great if that video – at least the part you directed us to – was required viewing for teachers, students and parents? That would be a fantastic methodology to start with in 1st grade and build on from there.

    For ‘think before you click’ I always ask if you would want the principal and president of the United States to the see it along with parents and grandparents. This makes a big difference for my little kiddos!


  5. The video you posted and your comments remind me of a TedTeen video featuring a 14 year old who created an app designed to make young people stop and think before posting harmful comments. The app focused on forcing kids to think before they posted by reminding them that what they are about to post might hurt the person they are sending it to. Her research showed that the instances of harmful posts was reduced dramatically!


  6. I think with cases like this, the issue is about where do you draw the line. Teachers are absolutely entitled to a private life, to their own opinions, and to their own likes and dislikes. However, there has to be a line as to how much of that is made public on social media or elsewhere. Where you draw the line and where I draw the line could be very different. Schools will undoubtedly have the line in different places too, but in my opinion, if you are posting things that could be interpreted as unprofessional, or that could be seen as showing a lack of dedication or passion for your job, then educators should be held accountable for that in some way or another. I personally did not think that those ecards were particularly appropriate for a teacher to post publicly. I can see the humor in them, but there is a time and a place for that, and I don’t think the teacher in question chose that wisely when she reposted those. I mentioned the T.H.I.N.K poster when I replied to Nicole’s post on the same topic. If the teacher in Texas followed that idea, I doubt she would have posted what she did.


    1. Yes! We all draw our lines in different places which makes life so interesting, doesn’t it? I think I’ll continue to feel conflicted about this topic for some time. I am very strict with my own choices about what I share, but it would take quite a bit to offend me.


      1. Same here – I tend to keep my personal stuff personal. In fact, when I watched everyone’s welcome videos I felt badly that I didn’t even mention my family when so many others do but that’s always been my habit.

        I can’t imagine posting many of the things people do over social media. These folks need common sense and boundaries. The question remains, however, as to when losing your job or legal action is justified.

        The line blurs even more when posters thought their information was private.
        And even more when the info has been fished out by someone deliberately snooping or with a vendetta.

        I’m sometimes tempted to take the Darwin approach to topics like this – if people truly have no common sense or common decency lets weed them out – but at some point the issue will something the majority of us see as harmless. Then what?

        Liked by 1 person

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