Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Civil Discourse

"couple yelling at each other" by hang_in_there

There have been numerous mentions in my network recently of an online petition to Save School Libraries, which recommends that:
"Any school receiving Federal funds should be required to have a credentialed School Librarian on staff full time with a library that contains a minimum of 18 books per student. Failure to have a school library open to all students and/or failure to have a credentialed School Librarian to run that library should be punishable by a immediate withdrawal of all Federal monies."

While many people supported this proposal, Buffy Hamilton chose to blog about Why I Am Not Signing the "Save Libraries" Petition. Doug Johnson voiced his agreement with Buffy in You can't mandate quality, but you can mandate mediocrity. Each of these postings was thoughtful, reasoned, dispassionate. Unfortunately, many of the comments added by readers were not.

During my classroom days, I sometimes shared with my students the Rules of Civility that were written by a teenage George Washington. Although we laughed at some of the caveats ("Spit not in the Fire, nor Stoop low before it neither Put your Hands into the Flames to warm them, nor Set your Feet upon the Fire especially if there be meat before it."), and shook our heads at others ("In Speaking to men of Quality do not lean nor Look them full in the Face, nor approach too near them at lest Keep a full Pace from them.") we found some recommendations that still hold true after more than 250 years.

In regards to conversation, Washington admonishes:
  • Use no Reproachfull Language against any one neither Curse nor Revile.
  • Let your Conversation be without Malice or Envy, for 'tis a Sign of a Tractable and Commendable Nature: And in all Causes of Passion admit Reason to Govern.
  • When you deliver a matter do it without passion & with discretion, however mean the person be you do it too.
Two hot topics in education today are cyberbullying and good digital citizenship. We cannot just pontificate on these issues. We need to model positive behavior for our students. Disagreeing with a professional colleague in a respectful manner is appropriate; personal attacks and name-calling are not.

When engaging in a public discussion, please remember to keep a civil tongue in your head.


Unknown said...

Hi Diane,

I replied to all those who commented, in what I felt was an open and respectful manner. And guess what, I received open and respectful comments back. My faith in human nature is restored! For now anyway. Doug

diane said...

That's good to hear, Doug. I may upgrade my status to "cautiously optimistic."