Freedom of expression for primary and high school teachers

I was prompted to write this by a request, which I received today.

Some background information: large part of the contents of my DEAF-INFO Web site is material, which was posted to the DEAF-L mailing list by various subscribers over the years. When the mailing list was active, I saved the best posts and put them in the Web site, with attribution to the original contributor.

The request, which I received today, was to remove the attributions to a particular contributor.

In the past I received similar requests. Upon further questioning, it turned out that most of those requests were made by people, who expressed their strong opinions about various deafness related issues, while they were students. Few years later, they were to get jobs as teachers in schools of the deaf. Then they were concerned that they’ll get into trouble because of the opinions, which they expressed in the past.

I asked someone, who teaches in a regular primary school, about this. She explained to me that teachers are forbidden to publicly express their opinions. The teachers are usually state or county employees. The only people authorized to publicize opinions are the employer’s public relations specialists.

I believe that this state of affairs is rather unfortunate. Teachers work “in the trenches” - they deal with pupils with learning disabilities, they deal with non-working educational methodologies, they deal with poorly-designed materials. They should be able to criticize non-working methods of instruction. If their school principal does not improve the methods, the teachers should be free to publicize their criticism. This would allow parents to ultimately have a say in improving the quality of instruction their children receive.

This is important especially in the area of deaf education, which is especially rife with conflict among different goals (integration vs. separate identity), philosophies (oral vs. Sign Language) and a bewildering choice of communication methods.

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