Don’t Twitter shame a school and call it a debateJuly 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.