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Wednesday 11 April 2007

Moral Panic #6,235,985 Postscript

Alan Johnson's speech about 'cyber-bullying' was — n'est ce pas? hole-in-one — classic Today Show fodder.

But Sarah Montague failed to land one on the founder of (link to BBC readaudio for seven days), Michael Hussey, who has been through this and more for five years.

He eloquently explained the difference between them and YouTube (clue not Montague have).

Apparently teachers are being subjected to "criticism or ridicule". She launched off with "why he allows youngsters to have an unfair advantage over their teachers?"

They're moderated and teachers (verified by their unique email addresses) can get comments removed.



Yeah, but, goes the voice of Middle England, it "only takes a couple to make their lives hell in the classroom".

But "we're doing a great public service!" (They are). RateMyTeachers is completely different to unmoderated "anarchy online" and — take his advice Alan — Hussey encouraged Johnson to look at their rules. (Or ask your Secretary to print them out).

Montague tries one last heave (I think the "public service" comment floored her) with Johnson's rather tasteless association with porn.

Hussey nailed that and slagged off the hideous, ignorant British news coverage (even The Guardian made very basic errors).

"The right information needs to be put out there before people form an opinion." — right on brother!
The potentially negative impact of knee-jerk, 'ban it' type press coverage on politicians and then people in the Real World was pointed out by the BeatBullying charity:

"The most important thing for those involved in creating these offensive videos to remember is that if you upload a criminal or immoral video onto YouTube, you are leaving a digital fingerprint of your crime."

"Deleting this potential evidence could be interpreted as perverting the course of justice."
But what about the effect on a teacher's future employment says Montague? Couldn't a headmaster look up these comments?

Now she has a point. Fact is that the Web is creating a trail for all of us that will have implications and some smart people already know this.

In his remaining few seconds Hussey tried his best to say "user generated content" "on the cusp" and "Web 2.0" — 'wake up, we're the nice guys', another wing of the BBC put it this way "this might not be what teachers want to hear" — and Montague tried thrashing regulation, forgetting the real point she'd just made.

Here's a sample RateMyTeachers page and literally the first comment (abridged) I found:
April 9, 2007
Let tell you why I am so grateful why this site exists. My son used to come home from school complaining about some teachers ... I believed he was just super sensitive ... I was shocked as the comments they were making were identical to what my son had been telling me for a year. I felt so guilty. I immediately reported the three individuals to Ofsted and the teachers were no longer in a position to bully and humilate my son or any other child in that school.
The site is also praised by parents and teachers here:
..I looked at the site. Looked up the schools I worked in and the teachers I know. I must say one thing: the ratings were , qite frankly, pretty honest. I would haev said pretty much the same, havong observed lessons.
Then I asked my daughter about her teachers (the ones listed on her school's site) without her knowing about the site. Her "verdict" was quite congruent with what I had read so it does seem that this is not a slagging-off-site at all.
Still.................I'm not on (yet)................shiver...........
ir Iever AM mentioned, I might comment on it, only if it's
really nice. Because - waht else could I possibly rate as. eh?

This was Hussey when he started the website:

More or less I wanted to have an outlet to praise the stellar teachers and there was only a handful of teachers in my previous experience where I didn't feel there was much value. I thought that, for both sides, particularly to praise teachers who deserve it and also to let other students know who they might want to avoid.

INTERVIEWER: Forgive me for being a cynic, is this not students' revenge here?

HUSSEY: You could -- you could probably assume that on a first impression. But if you get into the Web site, you'll see that's not the case at all. The clear majority of the ratings are positive, as one would expect when you walk through America's classrooms. I think most teachers are doing a great job and that's reflected on the site. Seventy percent, some schools much more than that, of the ratings and comments are positive.

Why can't they just simply think of this site in the same way they think of Hussey is right to be angry with the press.

And all this at the same time that Minister for the Cabinet Office Hilary Armstrong "wants Government to harness the phenomenon of internet advice sharing sites and empower people with information that could help improve their lives" and announces The Power of Information Review.


Addendum: I've managed to avoid downloading RealPlayer somehow, it exhibits Spam like properties, but had to to listen to this Radio Four extract. There is a specific BBC version - so off I went.
  • File size is never mentioned
  • Makes me reselect my default player than laboriously reselect media type
  • Of course I end up filling in a form - which, note, is opt-out on their newsletters (see, spam).
Why doesn't this just play in the Media Player like everything else on the BBC?

Or even in something far simpler, since this is radio audio!


  1. Thank you so much for writing that -- very cool...and you really got it too...

  2. Fantastic!
    I'm British, I'll admit to that, and there are so mant people who just don't get anything right. Like the newspapers. And the politicians, which annoys me.
    I cannot believe that so many basic errors were made, as a mod on RMT it really got to me that the reporter didn't have a clue that there were moderators, and that there are rules by which we must abide.
    Comments are not 'malicious' - they are honest. Any personal comments are deleted.
    Thank you for writing this, it says so much that I want to but can't in any eloquent fashion.