Friday, January 13, 2006

Teachers muzzled

Been a bit late with this one but sometimes I like to mull. Earlier this week I would have come here typing a big rant about the teachers disciplined for speaking out against their school board at a public meeting. I would have stomped and raved about freedom of speech. I still think that the only way anyone can make things better is if people are allowed to speak freely about the problems that exist. I still think that a publicly funded institution that we pay for to teach our kids should be able to be improved by open discussions about where things can be improved. Still, my husband has tempered my fervour on this. He, after listening to my ranting, and in his annoyingly logical and even-tempered way, quietly said "well, if I said anything in public or anywhere else about my employer, I'd be fired". And he's right. He works in private enterprise and if he mispoke about management or the company itself, his ass would be grass so fast we wouldn't know what hit us.

And I've worked in government before and other large institutions. I have sat in staff meetings where we bit our tongues about things that really piss us off and while we pretended that everything was okay for fear of reprisal (and, to be truthful, because we knew complaining wouldn't do a damned thing except get us in trouble). Every time you speak about an employer or a workplace, you have to be on guard and make sure you are diplomatic and don't cross any lines.

That includes blogs, by the way. Lots of people get fired and disciplined for talking about employers on their blogs. There is a term for it. If you are fired because of your job, you have been dooced. This was coined by Heather Armstrong who was fired from her web design job because of comments on her blog. Her employer found them "objectionable and negative". So be careful out there.

I'm not sure what those teachers said exactly to be disciplined but I hope it was worth the trouble to get it off their chests. In a perfect world, they should have been able to speak freely about their concerns but this is the real world and in the real world, you play the game, smile, often bite your tongue, couch unkind things in nice language to make it palatable and maybe write a (relatively) anonymous blog. Sure b'y, that's what I do.

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