This is why students should be taught to blog. A Georgia high school principal decides to pull the plug on the journalism class because the stories in the paper it was producing were too controversial. (Guns in schools and teen mothers…shocking!) Then he also pulls the school magazine and cancels an introductory journalism class that the same teacher had proposed. So, the students start a blog “Speaking Underground”:
We believe students’ rights to exercise responsible free speech should be encouraged and not stifled. The Speaking Underground forum was created in an effort to keep students’ voices from being silenced by school authorities. We invite you to study the documents on this website. Please contact the Pebblebrook administration, as well as Cobb County School District officials and encourage them to rescind the decision to remove journalism classes at Pebblebrook High School.
People all over the place are railing against the principal for his affront on the free speech rights of students. What I’m more interested in, however, is the students’ response: they started a blog. I mean, really. How cool is that?
Now they’re not getting an “A” for blogging…yet. Right now the site is basically a list of links. Most of the 100 or so comments bash the principal, raise the banner of the First Amendment, etc…stuff you would typically expect to find. But if you look closely, it gets more interesting. You have bloggers saying they’ve “covered” the story on their sites. One blogger, Michael Memberg, actually tells the kids to stop complaining and asks:
Has your ability to disseminate your ideas been limited? No, as evidenced by this blog, you still have a means to publish your work.
Whoa. One anonymous commenter says:
Fight to keep the newspaper if possible, but consider starting your own independent paper, too. This blog is a good start toward that.
So maybe the indie paper doesn’t look as slick or modern as what might come from a class production … in this case, the content seems more important than the design.
And do you know how awesome it would be to produce the publication without the school’s interference?
And if it really matters enough, the death of the class will not be the death of a newspaper at Pebblebrook.
Content over design. Hmmm…ever hear of RSS?
As a journalism major, former journalist, and former adviser, I’m not sure if any rights have been violated here. Certainly, the principal could have found a better way to deal with what he perceived as a problem, however. And I’m not totally convinced that students should be producing a “paper” per se outside of the school for a variety of reasons. Good journalism is a craft, and those skills need to be coached by someone who recognizes them and hopefully employs them.
But these editors and reporters should be blogging. And I mean really blogging, reflecting on the stories they write, engaging in discussions about meaningful topics at the school, giving voice in a respectful and meaningful way to issues and ideas that might not always make it into the paper “paper”. And in doing so, they could contribute to the development of other high school journalists across the country, around the world. Right now, they’ve contributed the story. By blogging, they can start to contribute the LEARNING.
(Thanks to Steven Cohen for the link…)