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Natalie Munroe Redux

So, this post.  Commenters (mostly Anna) have raised some important concerns about the Natalie Munroe case, which despite 3 hours of assiduous Googling on the issue, did not cross my radar.  Namely, Munroe did, I believe overstep some boundaries in making fun of students with disabilities and students with other forms of non-privilege.  We might have a whole new discussion about why the most egregious item from her blog was absent from every mainstream report on the story.  Furthermore, it would appear that she was negligent in not ensuring that her very private thoughts were not accessible to anyone who might be hurt by them.  Finally, it occurs to me a bit more fully that public awareness of her blog posts will make it pretty much impossible for her to do her job, and that is, to a very great degree, her own fault.  I’ll defend anyone’s right to free speech, but free speech has consequences.

It did, however, occur to me that this whole kerfuffle is acting as a kind of Rorshack inkblot for many people, revealing some of our deepest points of sensitivity (many of which ought to provoke lively debate) about issues in education.  I, as you can probably tell, was most struck by the very nature of the public outcry, that so many people seemed to be shocked, shocked that a teacher, given the environment in which they work, might have these thoughts.  It hit that part of him that does resent the fact that teachers, particularly female teachers, are expected to be endlessly tolerant and forbearing.  I also find the resentment toward teachers who try to get their students to meet minimum standards for graduation perplexing, because that is, after all, their job.  They are evaluated based on how well their students are doing, though again, we can debate the wisdom of that another time.  Naturally, venting one’s frustrations in this manner was not wise, but the adversarial relationship that teachers sometimes feel toward their students is not altogether uncommon and not altogether a sign of a bad teacher.

Finally, it hit that part of me that is tired of seeing teachers being used as a very easy punching bag for frustrations with a broken education system, as if going after teachers unions and pensions and tenure and collective bargaining rights were going to solve anything.  The perception that government employees–particularly teachers–are incompetents simply living off the federal dole–is disturbingly alive right now.

So, just in closing, Natalie Munroe is not my test case for anything.  My initial assessment of her culpability was wrong, but the public reaction to her blog is, in my opinion, almost as troublesome as the blog itself.