Time for my on an issue that has already been blogged by Will Richardson, podcasted by Steve Dembo, and just revealed 18 links from Technorati, including an entry in Scoble’s Link Blog. They story surrounds a Cobb County Georgia high school principal closing down the school paper. I would like to make four statements about this controversy, but first quote two paragraphs from a story in the Editor & Publisher (America’s Oldest Journal Covering the Newspaper Industry), published May 19, 2005.
|Randolph Bynum, principal of Pebblebrook High School in Cobb County, Ga., cut the class, citing a teacher shortage and the need to keep more popular courses like cosmetology. But he also criticized the paper for negative stories at the expense of articles more favorable to the school’s image and for a lack of thoroughness in its reporting of stories on teen pregnancy and vandalism in the school parking lot.
He said despite this, the paper could continue next year as an extracurricular activity.
Point #1: It is human nature to jump to conclusions that agree with our world view. We’ve all known high school principals (and other educators) who’s behaviors conflict with our own desires for retooled education environments, both as students and as professional educators and education reformers. We’ve also known many who embrace and work hard for their students’ futures. In my book, we don’t have all the facts yet, and I suspect, as Steve Dembo said, that there is another side to the story.
Point #2: In Jurassic park, Dr. Ian Malcomb (played by Jeff Goldblum) says, when trying to convince park officials of the dangers of their project, that “Life will find a way!“. At issue to bloggers is the fact that the student journalists, after having their established news paper shut down, resorted immediately to a blog, Speaking Underground. Teachers, librarians, and school administrators must come to grips with the fact that our information environment is growing and morphing. It is become much less a library of publications, and much more a conversation. The information will find a way.
Point #3: Comments have been made about the fact that the students are not publishing much on their blog, only links. First off, I say, “Give them time.” In the same breath, I suspect that these students have not been taught to converse, in the sense that I described in Point #2. If this had happened in Will Richardson’s school, or the schools of many other educators who are using blogging to make learning more of a conversation, then the blog would likely have taken off like a prairie fire. In the 21st century, teaching and learning are about conversation. Don’t fight it. Doing so only damages your students’ futures — and yours.
Point #4: I often quote a book that was written a number of years ago, The Cluetrain Manifesto. One element in the manifesto that impacted me was the idea that our customers (students & community) are going to network. They can either do it inside the school community, or outside. Which is better for local teaching and learning endeavors?