March 24, 2007

Rebels or Brats?

I have pondered long and hard about weighing in on this issue. A short while ago, a bunch of students at Birchmount Park Collegiate in Toronto were suspended for comments posted on Facebook. Facebook, for anyone who hasn't read a paper in the past year, is an on-line interactive community where people become 'friends' and chat. There are several similar forums, and they cycle through being flavour of the month.

There was a physical clash yesterday between students defending the suspended, and police. Here's today's story.

Should people, specifically teens, be allowed to say anything they want? We sure did. Should they be allowed to post into cyberspace anything they want? I'm tempted to say 'whole 'nother set of rules', but is it? Not really.

School has changed. Teachers don't have any authority, for the most part. What used to be donned like a mantle now has to be earned. If your students hate you or are bored, you're going to know it. And there will be little you can do about it. The 'us' against 'them' mentality is hardly new. It's in every workplace, it's every time a cop pulls you over, it's kids against their own parents. What matters is how those in authority, real or perceived, handle it.

Suspending kids for cruel things they write, or say, about you is stupid. No administration is going to wrestle the Internet to the ground and slap it into a straitjacket. Kids talk to each other in closed forums - you have to be 'invited' into the conversation, much like someone can allow you in or prevent you from a party.

Self-governance doesn't fit with being a teenager in many cases. They don't get it. It's why they're reckless, trusting, dramatic, self-centred and often grandiose with their beliefs. Weren't you?

There is much slamming of the teachers and admin for not getting a handle on this whole thing another way - outside of using police and suspensions. I agree. But I am far more troubled by the omission of where the biggest part of this equation lies: Where are the parents?

If my son is sitting in my house spewing hatred and vitriole over the Internet, whether it's to his friends or to the world at large, am I not remotely responsible for this? What kind of kid are you raising? If your kid spray painted an overpass with something lewd, do ya think you might need to do something about it?

This is much ado about something, but that 'something' is not crude words or mean intentions. It's the fact that these kids, so computer savvy and cutting edge, keep forgetting they are littering their future with their past. This garbage will follow them around like a puppy with no home.

I can appreciate teen rebellion when it stands for something; calling your principal fatso, or saying your teacher is an ass is not my idea of advancing the cause. Belligerence for the sake of belligerence is boring. Make a point or get off the pot.

To the teachers? I've known, and still know, some fabulous teachers who do the unthinkable - they connect with their students in ways that work, regardless of convention. Bring the game to them, and stop waiting for them to fall in line. I could never be a teacher - but if my child is the one making your life a living hell, you have my word that I will do something about it.

To the students? Freedom of speech is absolutely your right. Use it wisely.


Anonymous Anonymous said...


March 25, 2007 10:39 AM  

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