When I first read this article in the Globe and Mail earlier this week about how a group of students in Ontario were barred from going on a class trip because they made derogatory comments about teachers on Facebook, I was so angry that I barfed all over the bathroom at work. I spent the rest of the evening at home sick in bed, a feeling that wasn't helped by reading this article (via Slashdot) about a group of Australian teachers who are trying to have a popular teacher-rating site shut down due to "defamatory" content. Later, I realized that I probably had food poisoning, but my initial "Are you fucking kidding me?" reaction still felt valid. Part of me seriously wants to think that teachers can't honestly believe that before the internet and sites like this, students never made deragatory or defamatory comments about them. Hell, talking shit about my teachers was my bread and butter for most of high school and I didn't need the internet to do that. Shutting down these sites, or punishing students for speaking their creative, young minds on them, isn't going to stop this. These kids are going to find new ways to make fun of their teachers, and these latest incidents aren't going to do anything more than fuel the fire.
In a way, its similiar to the AACS response to their hacked code being shared on a number of websites: issuing a bunch of legal letters telling people to take it down isn't going to solve anything, as BoingBoing points out the growing number of sites carrying the code. Good for Digg for realizing that fighting against the numbers was useless.
It is interesting that all of these stories broke at the same time. While we social media enthusiasts have been saying it for a while, signs of the users taking control are finally a little bit more obvious. Stopping these students from going on a trip or trying to have the teacher rating website taken down are evidence of how the general public (school officials, not exactly the most tuned-in people around) see social media as being powerful enough to be a threat. Call it mob rule or call it social media coming of age, the facts are the same. Can Assassination Politics really be that far away?
Oh, and if any of those Thornhill students read this, I'm volunteering the space of one post on BlogCampaigning for you to say whatever you want about your teachers. Montreal is an awesome city, and it really sucks rocks that you are being barred from going on that school trip.