Thursday, May 24, 2007

Freedom of Writing

It is working out to be a busy day. The dandies are coming to the house tonight for dinner and a movie. I have lots of house cleaning to do. I have art class. The rat terrier had problems through-out the night that required clean up and now a trip to the vet. I don't know what he ate, but he never has accidents in the house which causes me serious worry.

This morning I spent way too much time making a comment over at Jack Army's blog. He has some interesting thoughts and some questions concerning freedom of speech/writing. I decided to just post my comment here too since I had already put so much effort into writing it. I gave my opinion on writing in public school/freedom of speech sort of thing. Go visit Jack's blog to read his thoughts and his thought provoking questions:

As an ex-high school English teacher I would like to make a couple of simple points. First, I always encouraged my students to think about their audience when writing. They were told not to write anything that would not be appropriate for me or other teachers to read. Sexual content, bad language, violence all being things that would not be appropriate. Hey, this was public school, and it was important to control the atmosphere. Just because school is public and free doesn’t mean you get to do and say whatever you want. Sure a kid could write how he hated the food in the cafeteria, but he could not write that he would like to kill the cafeteria workers. If a kid did write something inappropriate, it should certainly set off bells and be dealt with accordingly. Which bring me to my second point - any teacher worth his/her salt should be able to discern serious threats of violence and just simple mouthing off (or showing off). Knowing your students, watching their behavior, sensing their emotions is a large part of teaching (yeah being a psychologist is part of it). I could give lots of examples here, but will spare you my battle stories. The “dealt with accordingly” has several meanings. It could mean the student is watched closer, questioned and talked to by the teacher, sent to the school counselor, sent to the principal, suspended, expelled, etc.

Having freedom of speech sounds great, but nothing is ever truly free. There are boundaries everywhere - from public schools to the work place to the everyday life. Kids must learn to function within those boundaries. If an employee wrote sexual or violent fantasies in the work place, you bet your bottom, it would be dealt with seriously. Being taught what is appropriate for different situations or different audiences is part of education not stifling the imagination. There is plenty of freedom in writing other places, but not necessarily in public school.

Okay, one quick example: A few years ago I was in charge of the youth portion of a local art show. It was a typical small town art guild art show. Local schools were encouraged to send in student art work. One school sent in a drawing of a person looking into a shattered bathroom mirror pointing a gun at his own head - basically a kid committing suicide. Truthfully, it was a great piece of art work - thought provoking and well drawn, but the audience was horrified as was the judge of the art show. It did not win any prizes and most people had comments like, “That kid needs serious help.” The art teacher was angry that the drawing did not win and said it was because our art show was a bunch of old fogies and that in a college environment the drawing would have done very well. I agreed, but pointed out that a painter or writer must keep his audience in mind. That school has never participated in our art show again which is too bad for the students - another form of stifling the imagination?

Someone else made a good comment on Jack's post about parental involvement. I agree whole heartily. Parents should be much more involved in their kids life. I should add to my list of "dealt with accordingly" that parents would be notified of any inappropriate writings.

1 comment:

Buck Pennington said...

Lou...the link to Jack Army's blog isn't working. You get some sort of google-like list, not a blog.

That said...I appreciate the thrust of your comment. I'm always shocked whenever I encounter something/anything that isn't appropriate for the situation and/or audience...which usually involves "music," these days. (yeah, it's still possible to be shocked, even at my advanced age!)