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Discussion via bumper sticker


No indictment for officer Wilson! Very sad day in America. How do I explain this to my black students? - Tweet by St. Paul Public Schools Superintendent, Valeria Silva. (See article here.)

Superintendent Silva certainly has a right to free speech. I can understand her POV on Ferguson. And Twitter can be a valuable tool in education.

But for discussing politics, educational theory, or any subject that requires any nuance whatsoever, tweeting is the wrong medium. Except for social or political ideologues, the national discussion on police relations with communities of color has no absolutes. The widely discussed incidents of the past months cry out for thoughtful dialog, deliberate empathic responses, and as objective an interpretation of facts as possible.

Not 140 character bumper sticker blurting.

To me it's ironic that in an era where communication is more open, more accessible, more democratic, less complicated, and more ubiquitous that we as society seem to have decided to let billboards, news headlines, posters, protest signs, and Tweets be our main source of information. We have a banquet of thoughtful opinion and information, but we only eat junk food.

Not a good role model of the use of social media by an educated person, Superintendent Silva. I guess it just goes to show that all educators need a good digital citizenship course - even those at the top.

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Reader Comments (7)

Hi Doug,

This is a tough one! I agree with you that the national conversation regarding race and the police in American is a nuanced one, or at least should be a nuanced one, and also that this superintendent was out of bounds for making such a sweeping statement while officially representing her school district. If she had made clear that her views were her own, or that she was not tweeting as a school district official, I think it's more forgivable.

I also think that your point about the ubiquity of letting billboards/signs/bumper stickers/tweets speak for us is a shallow and, I would add, lazy trend, is right on.

I started this post with the intention of eventually disagreeing with you (!), but now I'm thinking that I mostly agree with you. I was going to argue that educational theory discussions can be fruitful, but what I really mean to say is that sharing resources, supporting initiatives like Hour of Code, encouraging administrators to use social media, and things like that are appropriate to share on the likes of Twitter. Where it starts to go off the rails is when people start tweeting about majorly complex ed issues like Common Core. This issue springs to mind because Common Core incites people to mania, both for and against it, but Twitter does not allow for nuanced discussion to occur. The best things I've read about Common Core (on either side) come from blogs and articles, not from Twitter sniping and the sharing of supposedly "bad" Common Core elementary math assignments.

So yes, I agree! Let's not forget about the opportunity to talk with each other using long form media. Better understanding occurs here.


December 8, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterAlicia Duell

Hi Alicia,

It makes me nervous when anyone agrees with me!

I do think Twitter can (and does) provide links to some great resources and ideas and can be a means of promoting one's school or department. (Tweet new book arrivals in the library?) It's just when we try to discuss important issues in terse language that I find upsetting.

Thanks for the comment - and not a Tweet ;)​


December 9, 2014 | Registered CommenterDoug Johnson

Great analogy - banquet vs. junk food. I just had (and likely will continue to have) a conversation with my Web Design class about all the "information" they see and read on the internet. Strange how they acknowledge the reliability of internet sources can be sketchy, and yet they still refer back to the same junk. I made a statement "before we have this discussion we all need to read the grand jury indictment and results" which pretty much ended the conversation.

Thank you for commenting on the time and place for Tweets - and other social media posting. I enjoy the fact that I can post a fun picture or a quick update, but may I never try to 140 character something that needs real, honest, and sincere communication.

December 9, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterKenn Gorman

HI Kenn,

And I am guessing adults struggle as much or more with the lack of discernment in evaluating sources as our students. (Why librarians are so important.)


December 11, 2014 | Registered CommenterDoug Johnson

nice post

December 11, 2014 | Unregistered Commenterjohn smith

Not sure I agree with this one, Doug! Just because something is short, doesn't mean it's "junk food."
For example:
"Do unto others as you would have others do unto you," comes in at well under 140 characters, but is golden!

Personally, I didn't see anything wrong with the superintendent's post. She was showing a human side, that demonstrated that she didn't necessarily have all the answers. In a person in her position, I find that refreshing.
Of course, I understand that the school resource officers in her district might have held a different view.

December 13, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterMichael Walker

Not agree! What's the world coming to?

I agree that some great truths and thoughts can be states succinctly. But most also require interpretation and application.

What I worried about was Silva's statement "What will I tell my black students?" Are these the only student impacted by Ferguson? Are other races not also impacted by racial prejudice - ​even whites? Does she not have the children of police officers also in her district? I would like to have heard her interpretation of the events done in a thoughtful, rational manner.

Oh, they changed the Golden Rule. It's now "Those who have the gold, make the rules." You can tweet that if so inclined.

All the best,


December 13, 2014 | Registered CommenterDoug Johnson

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