Free Speech Rights of College and University Faculty
This is a paper that outlines Free Speech Rights issues at academic institutions and argues why it is important to preserve it. It has 16 sources.
The freedom of speech is something that has to be preserved no matter what the medium of communication may be, and this is because members of society may be greatly disadvantaged if exceptions are made.
As compared to the past, education today is very different. The nature of educating students today itself has seen changes largely because of the awareness that media has brought around. In contrast to students today, dealing with students of yesteryears was much easier because teachers could control them effectively.
Today, it seems that control over students is at risk, especially with the process of distance learning becoming more and more popular. Through this means of learning it has been seen that teachers have far less impact on the consciousness of students, and this is because of the fact that they are nowhere near them.
Computers have had an immense impact on education today, and it is expected to do a lot more for education in the future. However, there are many questions that have been raised because of the ethical issues involved. It is assumed that with the passage of time distance learning for higher educations students will increase and this will directly result in students becoming less ethically conscious and teachers becoming irresponsible for their actions towards students (Fisch, 1996).
There are great concerns for the use of cyberspace because of the fact that people think that more than educational exchange of information, there will be more misuse of cyber space. This refers to the exchanging of pornographic material, etc. However, as one has seen in the recent court battles that such narrow-minded approaches cannot hold distance learning back (Simpson, 1999).
With the facility of the Internet at their homes, many students have taken it into their stride to do more research and study harder so that they can be better at the fields they are studying in. Because of this self-motivation on the part of students there may be several changes seen in education in the coming years. Few areas that might be affected with the advancement of educational technology include the role of a teacher, the type of students and a society that relies on the newer techniques of teaching. However, there may be certain disadvantages seen if all education were to be made online. This is because students who are not self-motivated enough would be left behind. Since self-motivation is a general human capability, it is worth emphasizing that there should be consideration for those who are not self-motivated. In addition to individuals who are not self-motivated there is a need to consider those individuals who have disabilities. This is something that is made mandatory under the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001.
Education is a noble profession, and so no matter what kind of child a teacher encounters in the classroom, his or her role is to educate the child, regardless of deficiencies in the child’s learning capacity. But since the center of discussion here is concerning distance learning it is important also to consider educating those individuals who are less capable than normal people. The ethical approach considered here is one that questions whether or not such students would get the same attention that other students get, or would s/he be ignored. Presently, with a binding anti-discriminatory law being enforced (No Child Left Behind Act, 2001) this is what is demanded of teachers whether they like it or not.
Schools today are compelled by the legal law and natural law too to accommodate those who may have deficiencies, so that they are included in regular environments, whether they are in a classroom or engaged in distance learning.
Besides these areas there are other things that also come into play. These are things like the law that define boundaries around the exchange of information. These laws are mainly a result of concerns over the ethics of information exchange. Undoubtedly, these laws aim at maintaining a stable society but the fact remains that in an effort to do so authorities might go beyond what freedom the constitution is supposed to guarantee. However, it is the responsibility of educators today to make sure that they fulfill their roles as teachers (Fisch, 1996).
Most people are content with the way that they lead their lives, and this is because they may have molded themselves into certain patterns that they have grown to be comfortable with. A change in the way that they live would mean that they have to readjust themselves according to what the system requires.
The experience that each individual has is the reason why individuals believe that the peaceful world they live in is a result of the practiced ideals. This is the kind of ideology maintained by the sate through the curriculum in order to ensure that the society remains stable. However, the world does not remain the same, and changes in technology also require adjustment in social institutions. These changes may be required because there are higher demands for job posts today, which have been triggered by the need for more highly qualified people. This is because the nature of jobs has changed; they have become more complex, which in turn requires higher level of understanding. Hence, the state is required to play its part in leading institutional change. They have been able to adjust society to the demands of the jobs by integrating technological education in the curriculum.
With the passage of time and technological development it appears that there is a gap building up between teachers and students. This is because of the fact that at higher education level the number of students attending regular school is diminishing.
With the concept of online teaching becoming more and more popular, there are a growing number of people turning to this form of education (Yap, 2002). This is especially the case with higher education. Teachers for this level of online education may not have the problem of handling badly behaved students. They are free of handling all the unnecessary day-to-day issues in regular schools too. The only thing that they really have to focus on is the matter they are supposed to teach. These teachers are at the greatest advantage because of the fact that they are employed on a consolidated amount and can deliver their lectures online without being hassled. (Innovating in Education 2003).
When teaching online a teacher will get a wide variety of students from all walks of life. They may even have students from Juvenile Hall. With the passage of time, it might even become compulsory for inmates of Juvenile Hall to take these online studies and educate themselves. In this way, they will be able to engage themselves in some useful kind of work once they are through with their sentences.
A problem that teachers may be faced with this type of teaching facility on the students’ part is that there might be a language barrier for those who are from non-English speaking countries. This kind of barrier will of course be yet another reason for non-English speaking countries to emphasize on the importance of this International language, and encourage their respective populations in this way. There might also be an encouragement for a country to produce more English teachers too. However, communicating with these kinds of students within distance learning is a problem that is difficult to overcome. It must be realized that there is a need for teachers to act nobly as they are supposed to and either clarify the minimum chances of good results that these kinds of students have or abort teaching such students. This is because of the fact that teaching such students would be unethical if a teacher knows that the student is not going to pass. Aside from this there are practices of teachers that are difficult to carry out in distance learning (Fisch, 1996).
The socialization of students cannot take place effectively in any way. This is the reason why distance learning cannot fulfill the needs of students of lower levels. Elder age groups might be considered more suitable for this form of education. This is because by the time they reach this stage they are motivated enough to improve their grades and study harder. The problem that is faced by these students is that they will not get the same attention that other students get when they attend regular school or college. This is because cyber schooling segregates students and does not have any concept of student/student or student/teacher interaction. This interaction is something vital that is seen in colleges commonly and is a very good way for students to discuss things at length even after the class is over. This is what makes college life interesting and encourages students to be outgoing and enjoy social life too.
It must be realized that enjoying social life is an important part of higher education because this is what makes a qualified individual more complete.
Distance Learning is a kind of education in which students do not have to go outside their homes to get an education. All they need to do is log on at a set time and listen to or down load their lectures.
With the Internet, one can enroll in a cyber school. Students can all be in contact through the Internet and even take part in class discussions online (Mast, 2003). This would be possible because all the students could be registered online with the head office of the school. Only when a student is registered and pays his membership will s/he be able to access this cyber school. This will be just like paying regular school fees. What will make these kinds of classes as effective as regular school is the fact that during these online lectures all students of that particular class will be in touch with each other; they will be able to listen to the lecture in one mode and discuss problems in their subjects with their classmates in another mode. Students may also be arranged in groups so that there are a few of them in instant contact, thereby making group discussions possible. (Education and Technology: Future Vision 2003)
Distance Learning is like the ordinary school almost in every way, except, the teachers and students would not be able to meet each other in person. This idea prompts another ethical consideration. The consideration is that honesty becomes questionable. Due to the fact that students and teachers will be in official contact but yet not see each other means that they will never know whom they are really communicating with (Hallam, 1998).
It must be realized that human beings are such that when they realize that they are communicating with people they cannot see there are higher chances for the information exchanged to be less authentic. This is because of the fact that in the absence of a real figure there is not even an image, and this encourages humans to approach one another with less ethical concern. This is practice that is actually very normal because of the fact that human beings are made this way. However, it is a problem for distance learning, and it one of the reasons why President Bill Clinton’s government had focused on laws controlling the type of information exchanged through cyber space. However, such restriction was equivalent to snatching an individual’s right to free speech (Fisch, 1996).
Students and teachers both need to be protected from laws that might cause them to be at risk legally. The right to express one’s self through cyber space is important. However, it must not be forgotten that there are issues that must be taken care of, and these are ones like issues of false identities, plagiarism, etc.
Due to the fact that teachers and students both are susceptible to be tricked through distance learning it is important that both sides are aware of the chances they may be taking by breaking ethical codes. It is vital that online institutions set up their institutions with a rigid policy on expectations from both students and teachers who are affiliated with the institution. If an individual has breeched the codes of conduct laid down by the institution they may be liable to face severe penalties. Examples of penalties for students and teachers are disqualification and termination of services respectively.
Besides issues of plagiarism under which students may be penalized there are other forms of cheating that are also prohibited. These are ones like getting someone else to do the examination. Teachers too may be penalized for wrongly judging students by using inappropriate assessment schemes. These are things that have to be supervised or safe guarded by practices that minimize the chances of them taking place.
It is advised that institutions should implement evaluation strategies that will give him or her clear insight to the situation and standard of the school. A head of school has very often been compared to a driver who uses the evaluations as signals. Such evaluation may also be used to determine the competency of teachers, and hence lead them to being promoted. However, it must be noted here that the process of evaluation should not be considered as the basis for decision-making.
Therefore, evaluation should be considered as a major but not the only tool in decision-making. There are other things to be considered, and these have to be done over a period of time. A teacher cannot really be evaluated in a day. If this were the case then we would be able to tell in a relatively short period of time who is fit for the educational institution and who isn’t. Hence, educational institutions have had to make sure that they have a specialized body to deal with this part of running the institution. Most of the bodies required for these are from the institutions themselves. And they have the administrators as the supervising figures. Hence, the school itself governs them. This may reflect in the results of the evaluation, and it is for this reason that some are of the view that it is better to have non-institutional models implemented for evaluation.
The relationship that exists between the educational system and the assessment institution is considered to be one that is the cause of the standard of education improving. It is also said “to improve the quality of teaching, the scope of evaluation must be expanded.” Evaluation institutions may consist of “evaluation agencies, foundations, research departments, etc.,” and these need not be dependent on the education authority (Azcutia, 1999). The more of these departments that the evaluation institution consists of, the better it is for the overall evaluation. This makes the evaluation more accurate for decision-making, as the net of evaluation spreads out more. This is because of the various approaches that the evaluation institutions have now adopted (Barnes, 1999).
In institutional models of evaluation, there is a wide range of departments that can be used to evaluate the educational institution. This is seen as an advantage, because within the staff, the administration can designate a group of employees to evaluate the teaching staff under specific guidelines.
In non-institutional models, this is limited, and will be carried out according to the policies of the non-institutional models. This is the advantage that the non-intuitional models have over institutional ones. This is because of the way the latter educational administration relates to the evaluation institution, which means that the relationship that exists between the two may influence the results of the evaluation. Hence, this is not a hundred percent way to decide if a teacher is fit for an organization or not.
Autonomy of approaches to evaluation is approached in two ways. The first is that the educational system is evaluated according to its efficiency. This includes the way that the institution is run according to the resources spent on education, measuring the outcome. The outcome is measured as the amount of knowledge that a student that a student might appear to have. S/he may have a wide range of knowledge of many topics in a particular subject, and this is the quantity of knowledge that the students may be given in a school. Thus the income (finance) is compared to the amount of knowledge (quantity). Income refers to the amount of finance that the parents or guardians may have put towards the student’s education.
The second approach is a pedagogical (educational) approach. The output is not of prime importance, as most of the aspects considered are given weighting according to their importance or what their importance should be. The things that are considered include: the educational administration itself, the management and organization of schools, the teachers, the pupils, the curriculum, the teaching methodologies, etc. Thus it is the quality of teaching that is what this method aims at exposing (Azcutia, 1999). By quality, it is not the amount of knowledge that the student may have over a wide range of topics. Quality refers to the in-depth knowledge that students have been given by their teacher. This means that the teacher has gone into a quality, in depth discussion, and has made the student understand everything properly.
These two approaches (efficiency or quantity and quality) do not go hand in glove, so then how does the evaluation procedure really go, and how much autonomy do the evaluation institutions really enjoy?
Evaluation Systems may be based on:
Both evaluative and professional development processes,
Self-directed professional development for teachers,
Clear criteria and standards, supporting the Show-Me Standards, student performance and assessment,
Clear procedures for the evaluation of performance,
An emphasis on training for both teachers and administrators and collaborative process which is necessary for the development of a learning community (Cyrs, 1997)
Evaluation using the students:
Students are an immensely important source of feedback that can be used to analyze the efficiency of a teacher. They are the live source of information that can be available to the teacher and the head of school. The students exhibit the way that the teacher has worked on them; so, there is not much difficulty in determining the efficiency of the teacher. Students automatically exhibit what they have been taught in the following ways:
Students acquire the knowledge and skills to gather, analyze and apply information and ideas
Students acquire the knowledge and skills to communicate effectively within and beyond the classroom
Students acquire the knowledge and skills to recognize and solve problems
Students acquire the knowledge and skills to make decisions and act as responsible members of society
Teacher uses various ongoing assessments to monitor the effectiveness of instruction
Teacher provides continuous feedback to students and family
Teacher assists students in the development of self-assessment skills (Dillon, 1997)
There needs to be proper checks made into teaching processes. Part of this program should be an inclusion of regular assessments throughout an academic year. This is a far better way to test how a student is coping rather than a student being tested decisively at the end of a session, which is unfair in any case.
Through assessment of students teacher performance is also judged effectively. This is because of the fact that the knowledge that the student has depends almost directly upon the teacher concerned. Though online students are ones that have to make a large effort by themselves, teachers also have their responsibilities towards them.
A typical example of such a problem is the inability for an online student to make contact with concerned teachers as and when they experience difficulties. Teachers may not always respond through online communications effectively, and may have ready-made excuses of being too busy to respond.
In contrast to this is the classroom environment in which students have instant access to teacher responses, and even if they are not in class they are able to get information and clarification by contacting the concerned teacher on campus. Within a campus it is difficult for teachers to stay away from their students. This is because of the fact that they cannot physically escape them, and the second reason is that they would be more conscious of their need towards their students.
Naturally, it is the students that are to be considered first. So whatever changes are made in the education system and the means of education should benefit students. If there are changes taking place that are affecting students adversely then online education is a failure.
The gap that is produced between students and teachers due to distance learning has advantaged and disadvantaged teachers in several ways. It is mainly the disadvantages that that everyone has to be aware of because this could mean a deterioration of proper teacher roles.
It is quite normal that students will not feel the way that they do about their teachers when they are not in direct contact with them. Being at a distance from them means that they are segregated from them emotionally, and this results in teachers standing higher chances in being cheated by their students. This is the reason why teachers today have to rely on things like plagiarism soft ware that catches out those students who have cheated them.
Since teachers have such busy schedules at times they cannot always detect who has cheated them. Hence, there might be a number of students getting past teachers with cheating. Authorities of such educational institutions may check such papers and assignments and catch out the plagiarism, resulting in the concerned teacher being held responsible. This is the more reasonable approach in holding teachers responsible for the action of teachers. However, there are other things that teachers are held responsible for but in reality are not. Teachers are often accused of being responsible for the way students interact in society.
Students engaged in distance learning are still expected to display the same kinds of manners that regular students do towards elders, and when they fail to do so teachers are held responsible. Such an accusation is hardly reasonable because of the fact that they are not in touch wit the students significantly enough to influence the way that they interact with members of society. Since these teachers and students do not even meet each other face-to-face it is hardly likely that any teacher would be able to have such effects on their students. Aside from the accusations that teachers face regarding their lack of influence over distance students, there are also accusations against teachers favoring students.
Teachers may also be accused of being biased towards students in the upper stratum of society. Due to the fact that some students have better financial resources they manage to invest in better equipment that is vital to successful distance learning. This equipment means that they are able to make better use of information, which is in contrast to the access to information that the students who come from lower income families may have. These students have to make do with the public facilities, such as libraries, available to them. Not only can teachers be accused of favoring students with better financial resources but they may also be accused of racism, and this is due to the fact that it is more likely that more resourceful students will be from the white majority.
Coupled by such accusations is the accusation that teachers of this level are the ones that are given the most privileges. The reason for this accusation is due to the fact that there are many other educational institutions that are not dependent on online learning and are in pathetic condition, with features like pealing paint. Such an outlook is pathetic for an educational institution, while universities and colleges both get a major portion of funds. However, these funds do not get spent on things that are not put to use because the equipment that is required for these institutions are expensive (Spinello, 2001).
Since it is noted that there is so much being spent in the direction of distance learning, it is reasonable to think that distance learning could overtake traditional classroom setups. This in turn means that teachers for online teaching will be required, and they may not be protected from the accusations that they face today. However, it is expected that with the passage of time, as was seen in the past with the over-ruling of President Clinton’s law against exchange of information, better laws will be enacted to protect teachers (Simpson, 1991).
With the possibility of distance learning replacing regular classes it is a worry for university and college teachers so that they are not impinged. However, with the growth of distance learning it is expected that the lower economic classes will suffer. This is because of the fact that they will not be able to purchase the required equipment for this type of learning.
The present situation as it is seems to be threatening the adult population of minorities. This is because of the fact that whatever progress has been made in the field of distance learning those with fewer resources have already been left behind in contrast to those who can afford equipment to aid them in their studies at home. Here again one can see that that there is a violation of the No Child Left Behind Act as far as children are concerned up to high school level. As far as higher education is concerned, there is no law that really protects the rights of students with disabilities.
The presence of regular college and university however provides a much better setting for such students, and in fact is a necessity. However, it seems that there is a much quicker move in progress towards distance learning through which disabled people cannot achieve an education. This is because of the fact that these kinds of students get to interact with each other and may understand lectures better through being in physically in the teachers’ presence (Brey, 1991).
Though reasonably speaking it seems that universities and colleges will not all become totally distance learning centers, and this is because of the fact that they will probably be kept from doing so through some humane law.
It is vital that the government takes some sort of action and enacts a law that would prevent injustice from taking place against students who are being neglected at the college and university level. Simply because of the fact that this level of education is expensive does not in any way mean that the less fortunate students should be deprived of a rightful education. Just as the Bush administration enacted a law for all students from junior up to high school level to attain an education whether they could afford to or not.
Conclusion: Saving teachers from being accused of avoiding their responsibilities in the process of distance learning is something that is important because of the fact that they are the ones that are in a position that is really restricted. Through the process of distance learning it has been seen that there teachers have virtually no influence over their students because the students do not even know what their teachers look like to begin with. In a world where images really count, there is no image provided for the students. Similarly, there is no way that a teacher would know how to deal with students as they do not know what each student is like. Every student is unique, and therefore it is not at all practical to apply the same approach to all students.
Keeping in mind that there are such limitations as far as controlling students or laying down rules for them is concerned there is a need for teachers and students to be able to communicate freely through the internet. There should not be any laws that restrict communications between students and teachers.
Due to the fact that there are several disruptions in students’ and teachers’ lives that occur it seems that the transition that higher education is going through is indeed a difficult one, especially for teachers. A far worse change that is in progress is the fact that there are gaps being created as a result of this transition. This is because of the fact that those without resources are the ones that are left behind, while those with them are able to move upwards, therefore widening the gap.
It is worth considering the enactment of laws that first of all minimize the chances of members of society with fewer economic resources being left behind. Secondly, there is a need to guarantee that all students will have the same chance to achieve a higher education like other members of society so that they will not be left behind.
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