Comments Welcomed (Not Really)

Recently I shared an article [via Facebook and Twitter] on the topic of play at school that was refused by a local school PTO Facebook page. The potential for controvery aside, given recent parental concerns regarding reduced recess time, the article did not meet the PTO's standards for sharing only school-related information. [Here's the article link in case you missed it: "When one New Zealand school tossed its playground rules."]

In all fairness to the PTO Facebook page moderators, I can appreciate the weight carried by that role, balancing the PTO's very good intention of information sharing [event updates, "My Girl" dance pics, program info, fundraisers, etc.] with the school Principal's fear of opening Pandora's box - creating a social media haven where parents might air their dirty laundry and better-to-talk-about-it-in-person grievances. It's a tough role to play, especially in balancing the needs and worries of so many.

What struck me is the worry not just behind social media moderation, but in social media connection, period - the fear and uncertainty that comes with creating a space where we risk not knowing what conversations MIGHT emerge.

Are we really afraid of being free - free to share, to think, to listen, to engage?

It's one thing to moderate topics of discussion to ensure conversations take place with principles of respect, accuracy, professionalism, etc. This was a concern raised on March 24th by RI Education Commissioner, Deborah Gist, who made an invitation for public conversation on her Facebook wall, acknowledging guidelines she would honor to ensure respectful language and accuracy in content. Agree or disagree with opinions on posts; I respect a person's request for respectful discourse [especially when such discourse is openly invited on her very own Facebook wall].

But what if moderation is actually prohibition in disguise - prohibiting resource and information sharing before conversations even begin? This is especially disconcerting at a time when schools [and their students] long for increased family and community engagement, in the building and out, affording more people opportunities to learn, to connect, to inspire and be inspired, and to tighten [if not close] the parent-teacher-administrator gap.

I'm thankful for the countless forums where I can freely share and seek information - always respectfully, professionally, and with an eye for accuracy. And I'm all the more thankful for forums [in person and online] like Learning401 that give voice to and even empower the public that is public school.

If we want to raise our children to engage - to openly ask questions, to challenge assumptions, to explore, to LEARN - then we grownups need model and encourage more of the same - always respectfully, professionally, and with an keen eye for accuracy in all we read, comment, and share.



- Mom with a mission

For further reading:

  • Check out my good friend and colleague, Sam Chaltain's book, We Must Not Be Afraid to Be Free

  • Blog and additional resources from IDEA: the Institute for Democratic Education in America

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