I heard recently on NPR that public school teachers all over the country are being discouraged from using social networking sites like Facebook. Many are actually prohibited from doing so with punishments being as severe as immediate termination.
I find this very strange.
Social networking isn’t some sort of fringe behavior that you can prohibit teachers from engaging in. I get the fact that students are supposed to see their teachers as authority figures, and not as “regular people”, and I also get that teachers often have lives outside of work that might not be something to set an example by. But these things are tiny in importance compared to the freedom of the teachers.
You can’t limit teachers from expressing themselves via a medium that’s going to be as normal as the mobile phone in a few years. There are other solutions. For one, it’s possible to maintain granular control over who you share various types of content with on these types of networks. So teachers could, in all fairness, be required to limit their more sensitive content to friends only (and hence, not students).
This is a fair compromise.
At that point schools could scan their teachers’ profiles and make sure there’s no images of naked drinking binges available to the public that that teachers’ students could see. But to fire a teacher for just having a Facebook account at all is demonstrative of how clueless people still are regarding the impact that social networking is going to have on society.
These types of networks aren’t going away, and everyone is going to be on them. We need to be figuring out ways to manage this fact rather than run around trying to take the pee out of the pool. ::