Saturday, January 29, 2011

Banning the Human Voice

John T. Spencer - This is a cross-post from my own blog

The principal stands up at the staff meeting and delivers his well-rehearsed announcement. "After a recent audit of student interaction and some severe cases of verbal bullying, we've decided to prohibit any voice tools within the classroom."

"What would those be?"

"Oh, any tools that can be used for social interaction. We've found that students are engaged in a large-scale social network called friendship. They simply request friends and next thing you know they are talking to one another."

Collective gasp.

"I know. It's pretty scary. One kid committed suicide after he was verbally taunted. And if we've learned anything in education, it is that the best way to create a policy is to use one isolated outlier incident and present it as the norm."

"So, what will we do?"

"Well, students will use a mouth piece that will prevent them from speaking during class."

"Isn't that a classroom management issue?" I ask.

"We're making it easier for you. Just think of it this way. You allow students to speak in class and another teacher doesn't. Next thing you know parents are complaining about the inconsistencies. We'll just ban the voice altogether."

"But what if we want students to use their voice collaboratively?"

"Data proves that learning is done best in isolation. It's the only way for us to have 100% making AYP by 2014."

"He's right," another teacher adds. "Kids can't talk to one another on the test."

"But they'll need to speak to one another in the future. They'll need it in most jobs."

"I disagree. Most jobs ask people to sit silently," the principal adds.

"Like what? Name one job where people never talk."

"Mimes and monks. And that's just the ones that begin with m."

"He's right. I've heard miming is making a comeback with the death of Marcel Marceau. We can't have good mimes if they grow up talking."

The principal finally reassures me. "We'll have a voice lab open. Your kids can sign up for programmed speech. It's like a non-religious catechism and it helps guarantee that they don't talk about anything off-topic, off-color or social-related."

Note: This is satire and is not in any way related to my own experiences. My district is actually ahead of the curve on allowing authentic social media.


  1. Always on target! Thanks. I am going to assign this sometime during the semester. Since you tell them it is satire we only have metaphorical to go!

    Again, my thanks!

  2. I felt bad for your students who missed the fact that I'd written satire. I tend to write it especially over-the-top.

  3. "They're learning sign language now, quickly tie their hands up!"
    This gave me a nice chuckle, I love the mime reference. In all seriousness though digital bullying can be viewed as a very serious problem but I don't think schools can control it. It gives a forum for a larger group of people to focus on others without them viewing the direct repercussions of their actions. A group of people picking on someone tends to be more obvious in person than online.
    Banning social networks within the school cannot even touch the problem since they are available outside of the school. You of course would encounter the same problem with the voice, which I think isn't the whole point of what you're saying but is still an aspect of it. Schools should not fight something because it can have a negative use, they should nurture its positive uses so students will view and use it that way.
    I know a problem when I was in high school was students posting pictures of illegal activities they did over the weekend on social networks. The school system immediately jumped on the issue with a variety of weaponry ranging from informing parents to in school lectures and threats. This of course only got rid of the symptom and made everyone feel good about themselves despite the real problem still existing.
    I like the way you put this and I'm reading through some of your personal blog, I love your recent post on poetry.
    My name is Nickolas Sullivan and I'm in one of Dr. Strange's EDM 310 classes. Here are links to my twitter and class blog.

  4. I was in a meeting yesterday where we were having a discussion about whether teachers should confiscate cell phones every time they see them in the hallway or not worry about the hallway and maybe even use them for educational purposes (my perspective). It is so frustrating to me that my colleagues, who I like and respect, feel that cell phones in school are evil. Your post was perfect! It lightened things up for me considerably. Thank you!


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