This week, the course took an unexpected turn. I was saddened to learn that at the end of the day, according to the resources included in the course, there is not a program or a solution to cyberbullying. Well, of course, there isn’t. The problem with cyberbullying is that it is one small part of a much larger problem in society. Our culture and our society have cultivated this concept of shame as entertainment by promoting things that feed the conflagration. Monica Lewinsky was right when she pointed out that we have an empathy crisis on our hands. I would argue further that what we have is a crisis of values and virtues and the value of human life and dignity have been diminished significantly. This would explain why one of the case studies included in this week’s assignment was about a special needs student being bullied. After spending some time with the course material, I felt like the course should have come with the disclaimer “proceed with caution,” as this one is too close to home. I know that most people don’t understand the dynamic that Ryan’s special needs status brought to the table, but I would strongly advise the course creators to change out this case study for one that is more authentically cyberbullying and not one clouded by the extenuating situation.
Despite encountering this troubling case study early on in the week, there have been some interesting connections and developments. I was really, truly pleased to see that Monica Lewinsky has gotten back up, even if it did take 10 years and she isn’t completely alright, yet. She offers such an authentic and well-verbalized viewpoint that I decided that I needed to incorporate her Ted talk in my own class. Coincidentally, I started the school year teaching my students about digital citizenship. Before I open up a feature to allow commenting on their eportfolios, I wanted to be certain that I had at least had these conversations with my students. And, since I teach English, we can read and write about almost anything. Why not read and write about something so important?
We will start by reading The Crucible by Arthur Miller, where we will be focused on the themes of identity and reputation. Then, to help students understand why John Proctor refuses to sign his name to a confession, we will link out to make connections with some ideas about reputation and legacy of a name that the kids can relate to. We will discuss Gerry Sandusky vs Jerry Sandusky, the moral dilemma of Jean Val Jean, the shaming of Hester Prynne, why rappers repeat their names in their music, and then connect cyberbullying and the damaging effects it can have on a person’s reputation. It is a vibrant and rich unit that connects classic literature with the modern day. In the end, we will come back to Monica Lewinsky and her message on becoming an upstander. At the end of this marking period, these students will have studied a unit that begins in 1692 and ends in 2018, linking concepts from this week’s coursework on cyberbullying to the study of a classic piece of literature in a way that is relevant and important.
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