Among the panelists were two students (both of whom did an AMAZING job!), Brad Jupp, advisor to Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, and Gary Stager, professor, blogger and well-known speaker in the Education circles. As soon as the debate began I realized that my question wasn't going to fit so I took out my pen and paper (yes, I carry a small notepad and pen to jot down quick notes) and began to write ideas for the question. The debate theme was, "Brick and Mortar schools are detrimental to the future of Education." As it turned out, both sides really argued the same points, I thought, but elephant in the room question hadn't been raised. That was - the issue of the fear of lawsuits.
So, I wrote out my question, hastily rewording and rewording it in a (failed) effort to make it clear yet concise. Here's what asked, "Brick and mortar schools also carry with them the burden of the fear of lawsuits. That fear, both real and imagined, defines their limits and shapes their curriculum. Can B&M schools break the bonds of that fear to become the vision that both sides here have expressed, or is it a burden so heavy that it will crush them?" ARGH! See what I mean by a failed attempt? What I wanted to ask was simply, "How can our schools function and be competitive with schools in other nations when our curriculum is shaped, not on sound educational practices and good data, but on fear of lawsuits?" Or something like that.
Regardless, I asked the question of Mr Jupp. I wanted HIM to respond to the issue. I knew I was in trouble when he couldn't answer. He appeared not to understand the question. Can't fault him there, I suppose. But he said, "Lawsuits? What lawsuits?" He asked me to explain - give examples. I said, "Schools can't use blogs because they're afraid that a student may say something inappropriate, or they can't use wikis because anyone can put anything on a wiki." Instead of addressing the question then, he gave me an example of a teacher in.. someplace... who uses Facebook with the students and he uses other social media with his students."
He COMPLETELY avoided the issue. Everyone in the room recognized it, and everyone in the room who is remotely connected to public or private schools knew exactly what I TRIED to say, and he dismissed it. Does he not know that this fear exists? If not, he's the wrong person to be advising Secretary Duncan, for sure. He may be right that there aren't any lawsuits as yet over the issues that I mentioned, but the fear is quite palpable in schools everywhere in this country.
Mr Siegel then asked the other side if they wished to comment. Here, I thought, was the PERFECT opportunity to enlighten Mr Jupp and to make an excellent point for their side of the debate. But, their side declined to comment.
Now, I'm not a fan of Mr Stager. I just don't care for his tone and sarcasm. When asked if his side wanted to comment he just sneered and shook his head. Opportunity lost. Had he not been so ??? he could have scored a MAJOR point for his side AND given Mr Jupp an education of his own to take back to The Hill.
Oh well. I take full blame for botching the question and making it far more confusing than it needed to be. But, I REALLY wish someone would have picked up the torch on that question. It's a VERY important one, and one that Mr Jupp should understand so that his department could at least TRY to address. What a difference that MIGHT have made.