Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Who's a Bully?

I have been noticing there is this new meme out there - grown-up bullying.  Do I think it exists? Sure but not in this new expansive definition of one person expressing unhappiness over another person's professional actions and having it called bullying.

I find this especially troubling when it comes to public servants/elected officials.  It's almost a way to deflect any kind of questioning that taxpayers may raise. 

In New York state, an anonymous person/group has created a Wall of Shame for administrators who oppose opt-outs of students in their districts/states.  (And there's another ill-used word - shame.)

I read thru this wall and frankly, didn't see a lot of "shameful" talk.  These administrators have to support testing.  It's part of what they get paid to do.  And most of what is said in the news articles they are quoted in or letters they sent home to parents is fairly benign stuff.  You may not like it but is it shameful? I don't think so.

However, whoever created this website has an absolute First Amendment right to say what they want about these administrators and provide their workplace addresses and e-mails (obviously so people can contact them and provide their own viewpoints).

But apparently, you can no longer express an opinion without being called a bully.  High Achievement New York, a coalition group that supports Common Core (and is financed by the Gates Foundation) says:

"The website, which has posted public images and contact information for multiple educators for the 'offense' of supporting the State’s learning standards and annual tests, has a single purpose: to shame and intimidate educators until they are publicly silenced,"
“If this online bullying happened in our schools or classrooms, it would be widely denounced. And yet, because this intimidation is carried out anonymously against adults, it has been disregarded. Let us be clear: the fact that this website operates anonymously online does not make it any less wrong. If anything, it is even more insidious, operating without any accountability,”
Since when has anyone, in our Internet age, had to account for what they say? It's called the First Amendment. Those "images" are photos the administrators took for their jobs. And, the words used at the Wall of Shame call attention to administrators who are hard-nosed on testing and opting-out.  No one accused them of anything personal or said they kick puppies.
Tactics like this “Wall of Shame” make a real, productive dialogue to resolve this impasse impossible. HANY, along with these victimized educators, stand ready to participate in a rational, productive and fair debate. What we cannot accept is an effort to silence educators and administrators who are simply trying to do what they believe is right by their students.  

We believe the only way for us to move beyond this gridlock is for all stakeholders to work together to improve the state assessments – that begins by ending hurtful sites such as this.
This group, High Achievement New York, sent this letter to state legislators asking them for action (apparently these legislators had sponsored anti-bullying legislation...for students.)

Oh c'mon! There are no "crimes" here.  "Victimized educators?"  Please.

So onn the one side there are people who want to opt their kids out of testing (for whatever reason.) It's called protesting and further, anonymous protesting has gone on since Roman Times (see Life of Brian.) 

On the other side there are administrators doing their jobs (while seemingly having little interest/sympathy for parents' concerns.)  Are these administrators saying they didn't write/say these words in service to their jobs?  There are no threats here at all (save "I'm not testing my kid.")

Lastly, I have my doubts about a "rational, productive and fair debate."  I have seen little evidence that most districts want to do that at all.

Maybe that's how this Wall got created in this first place.


Charlie Mas said...

How is it bullying to quote someone? If the education administrators who are on that "Wall of Shame" actually said the things they said, then I presume they believe the things they said and would have no problem with the reporting of their statements. I don't think it's bullying to attribute words to the speaker when the speaker actually said the words. I think that's called "reporting".

Charlie Mas said...

I read a Facebook post recently that was a collection of quotes from a presidential candidate. One person commented on the post that it was wrong to ridicule the candidate in this way. I replied that no one was ridiculing the candidate, only posting the candidate's own words. If those words ridicule the candidate then it is the candidate who is doing the work of appearing foolish.

Po3 said...

Here in Seattle - and on this blog particularly - I find it fascinating that the bullies seem to pop up whenever the topic is about charter schools.

And sadly, it looks like the charter schools will be back in court, so I expect it will get ugly as you (rightly) cover the next round in this saga.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Po3, being kind of cryptic (must be in the water.) Are you saying the blog is a bully to charters or some charter supporters are bullies?

Outsider said...

On this topic, an interesting read is:


It leads with a comically failed attempt by O'Keefe to embarrass George Soros, but goes on to describe how both left and right have assembled on-call armies of internet trolls and teams of video trackers who can go after anyone if someone else is willing to pay. Bullying of a sort in the public sphere is now the norm, mostly funded by big money groups. For the Gates Foundation et al. to complain about it is a bit "rich."

madpark said...

everything has become bullying.


Anonymous said...

Bullying in this instance would be publishing home addresses and phone numbers. Picketing outside a person's house. Any personal information given out would be bullying.

Publishing readily available work addresses and contacts is not bullying. Publishing public statements by someone is not bullying. By this logic, then signing petitions and sending them to elected or appointed public figures would be bullying. Boycotting would be considered bullying.


Po3 said...

What I meant to say is it seems to me that whenever a post about charter schools is published here the bully commenters come out enforce versus the regular SPS-related posts, where those comments tend to be more information/experience sharing.

There is just a different tone to the charter posts comments. But that seems to be bleeding over to other post topics, like the Open Tuesday thread this morning. Not sure what that is about...

I have never thought you to be a bully, despite that I do disagree w/ some of your viewpoints. I have always appreciated the open discourse you provide and your long history working in SPS in many different capacities.

Hope that clarifies :)

Melissa Westbrook said...

Po3, thank you for that nuanced response. However, I am still mystified - what is in the Open Thread today that is bullying (unless you are talking about the person who is telling us not to take sides politically.)

Po3 said...

(unless you are talking about the person who is telling us not to take sides politically.)
Yes, seems like some veiled threat followed by a commentator who signed using the B-word, (gone now) which is another word popping up more and more. But more "warning" messages appearing.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Po3, when you see those "threats" and foul language, just ignore those people. I pretty much do.

Robert Cruickshank said...

I would have more sympathy for those complaining about the "Wall of Shame" if they weren't also the same people promoting "data walls" that use kids' photos, kids' names, and other identifying information to shame and bully kids about these tests.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Good point, Robert.

Anonymous said...

New article in NYT about this issue and PARCC test leakage:

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Melissa Westbrook said...

Reprinting for Anonymous (please, next time give yourself any name):

"SBAC ELA - Three days spent writing about hand sanitizer..."

PLEASE, do tell. Or write and tell me (sss.westbrook@gmail.com)