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Thursday, April 10, 2008

School's 'Facebook scandal'

That's the shorthand, but in this New York magazine story about Horace Mann School suggests that students' dissing of teachers in social-networking sites are more about a changing balance of power in the "real world." "Should they be punished? There were, as yet, no rules or codes for how a school should address such issues.... But the questions provoked by the Web postings ran deeper than these. Who should make the rules? In the past, there had been at least a rough assumption that teachers were parental surrogates, authority figures who were charged with making decisions regarding education and discipline, and that the rules governing this kind of behavior were clearly the faculty’s to make." This is a fairly unique school in terms of the wealth of its community, but its "Facebook scandal" is more a symptom - of major social change - than the problem itself. "The students were more aware than ever of where the real power resided. So when the Facebook situation was brought into the open, the teachers found themselves powerless to act, and the students did not passively wait to be disciplined." If you can make it all the way through the politics related, it's an interesting, slightly scary story about how the participatory Web empowers for good or bad.

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