Thursday, February 23, 2006

Free Speech is Going to Become Costly

Today I'm back in class teaching my students about proper documentation of sources. I'm very meticulous about this, and those who don't follow instructions to give proper credit to borrowed material will not receive a good grade on their essays. During the last few class periods I have spent most of the time on technical aspects of writing essays. That's not nearly as fun as discussing controversial issues--something we do periodically to help with our argumentative strategies.

Lately, however, class discussions have not been fun for me. We had a discussion in one of my classes last week that resulted in one student having her feelings hurt, and in fact, this could have turned into a serious situation if she had decided to complain to the administration. I don't think I or any of my students did or said anything wrong, but the fact is that in this day and age, people who get their feelings hurt can cause problems for other people who meant no harm. I thank God that that didn't happen this time.

But the thought stays with me that one day it could happen. And that makes me very nervous. Because I allow students to voice their opinions--whether they are "good" opinions or not--I could be held responsible for the content of those opinions. The university was always known as a place where free speech is valued, but society today has made the free expression of ideas very difficult. If you know "what's good for you," you'll keep your mouth shut and your opinions to yourself when you're at a public university.

And it's only a matter of time before we start getting into trouble for expressing our opinions in our blogs.


Tony Arnold said...

Not just a matter of time, it is a reality in blog land. Go to Nashville Is Talking.


brittney said...

Wait, what does that mean? Did someone on Nashville Is Talking get in trouble for their opinions, and I don't know about it?

Tony Arnold said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Tony Arnold said...

Brittney, as you were the author of the NIT post I linked to, I was surprised you misinterpreted my reference. Let me clarify.

To readers:
The NIT link in my first comment links to a post that reports on a blog that has caused trouble for the blogger. The post discusses cyberbullies and the abuse of free speech against one blogger. A commentor mentions a lawsuit in a TN county against a blog for defamation.

I was not issuing an opinion, just pointing out that blogs are already involved in issues regarding free speech and citing the link where I found the information.

Hope that clears up any confusion regarding my comment.


brittney said...

Oh, I see. I didn't notice the link went to a particular post. My bad for the oversight.

jettybetty said...

Have you heard of Fred Phelps?

Since PH is from Topeka, we've seen his protests several times--he does all that under the first ammendment--and his Christianity!

I'm not for hurting someone else at all--I'm sorry that the young lady in your class had an issue. Was something said that personally attacked her? Or did she just take it that way?

Ayatollah Mugsy said...

It is a shame that you have to worry about such things. Political correctness and newspeak have clearly run amok. Humans need to toughen up and stop being so easily offended.

And as far as our blogs getting us into trouble, I have even encountered humans who are unhappy with my teachings. Can you imagine? Fortunately, they have all "disappeared."

JMG said...

It's one thing to disagree with a view, but to engage in personal attacks is just low.

JB, nothing was said personally against the student. She's just very close to the issue we discussed and took it personally.

Mugsy, I wonder when the powers that be in our country will start "disappearing" people who don't agree with them?

Ayatollah Mugsy said...

The U.S. government? "Disappearing" people? That would be illegal.