Sunday, March 30, 2008

Free Speech on the Internet - Not in France

A teachers' union in France has won a court case to shut down a web-site on which students graded their teachers' performance. 
According to this commentary published by Ronald Sokol the French court determined that an uncensored on-line discussion of teachers was too controversial.  The court held that freedom of speech ended when it affected teaching.  Huh?!

Teachers - and anybody other people for that matter - are already protected by laws against defamation or threats.  The should not be above comment.  And good ones shouldn't be afraid of being graded by their students.  Bad teachers should be afraid - but what's wrong with telling the truth.

I understand that malice could enter into these grades and any on-line anonymous process could be tainted - but it is what it is.  Take it for that and leave it at that.

Sokal's take on the subject is concisely given, "The idea of free speech is that people should be able to express their views without constraint, even if their views are wrong. Out of the chaos and struggle of conflicting ideas, better ideas emerge."  He's absolutely right.

And that's why American's had better take their First Amendment rights seriously.  

But this is France, you say, why worry about it here.  Take a moment to revisit Avery Doninger, the Connecticut high-schooler kicked off of her student council for posting negative comments about her school's administration on-line.  What would have happened if she had commented about teachers instead of administrators.  Would the NEA have tried to shut down her blog?  Let's hope not - but we should all be vigilant in defense of our freedoms.

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