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Don’t Twitter shame a school and call it a debate

July 31, 2016

Yesterday I wrote about the Daily Mail’s shaming of schools. The stories generally consist of a parent’s complaint about a school, in which the parent describes what the school did, with insufficient attempts to confirm whether it is accurate or not. This is often then followed up with a social media hate campaign that leaves schools overwhelmed with hostile tweets and emails, with limited opportunity to put their side of the story.

Some, however, suggested that the hate campaign against actual people in actual schools was not the important point. That we need to discuss the details of a school’s policies and publicly judge whether what goes on in schools we have never visited is fair. I’m happy to discuss the ethics of school policies and what a fair policy should be like. Watch out for my upcoming blogpost about the “substantive point” in one of the stories.

However, I do not understand why it would be necessary to name or release information about individual schools in order to have such a discussion. I have written repeatedly about daft school policies, yet I don’t think I have ever felt the need to name the school. For the ethical debate it is enough to say “I think a policy like X is unfair” and mention how you know that such a policy exists but not name individual schools. I think a number of schools that have implemented one-to-one iPad schemes have wasted public money on a ludicrous scale, but I can say that without naming any of the schools. I think it disingenuous to name a school and then say “but I’m just discussing the fairness of policies”. By naming the school and talking about specific incidents you effectively ensure that the debate becomes about whether the school is a good school and whether the staff there should keep their jobs. Far from encouraging debate you force people to go silent. Nobody debates freely in a Twitter storm. A Twitter witch hunt is a Twitter witch hunt. I’m all for debate. This is not debate:

And if this is what I get for trying to debate the issue, then imagine what it would be like for anyone working at a shamed school trying to explain their actions.

6 comments

  1. Commenting in general on school policies is usually the way to go, as you say. I’ve done it myself on topics such as rigid uniform rules, homework set for its own sake and many others. This case, though, is different. The policy is closely bound up with the highly individual approach of the particular school and its high-profile head. Indeed the head, as you’ll have seen, has responded in terms which do little to convince critics that she understands the basis of the criticisms, choosing, instead, to fire off scattergun insults of her own — In her world, it’s all about ‘white, middle-class liberal guilt…’
    https://www.theguardian.com/education/2016/jul/29/headteacher-defends-policy-of-putting-pupils-in-lunch-isolation


  2. Reblogged this on The Echo Chamber.


  3. […] Teaching in British schools « Don’t Twitter shame a school and call it a debate […]


  4. […] Don’t Twitter shame a school and call it a debate […]


  5. […] Don’t Twitter shame a school and call it a debate […]



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