A recent article in Inside Higher Education titled “Mum's Not the Word” got me thinking about confidentiality in education. http://www.insidehighered.com/news/2012/12/13/aaup-recommends-against-confidentiality-agreements-shared-governance. While the article talks about confidentiality agreements for the most part, I believe there is another direction we need to think about, and that is discretion.
Educators are notorious gossips; there I said it out allowed, but it is true.
For those of you, who have taught K12, think about all the times you have talked about your students in the teachers’ lounge, at the mall, or at a bar while having a drink. I would guess that a lot of that “talk” violated FERPA (family educational rights privacy act).
In higher education, it is just as bad, although a lot of the gossip tends to focus on internal issues. Good people lose their jobs quite often in higher education because of office gossip, office slander, or forwarding inappropriate emails. You should listen to your students here, because they hear and see this more often than you think. Professors have actually incorporated their negative private beefs with institutions administration into their classroom lectures!
When you get the chance, count the number of stories in news sources about educators that involve scandal, someone resigning in disgrace, or a leader being ousted for some “secret” reason.
Educators are supposed to be setting a good example, and we are supposed to be molding the minds of the future. However, I think we have a long way to go when it comes to respecting privacy. We need to fix this, and fast, because if we cannot respect the rules, how can students respect us? In the end, it is all about the student right?
Dr Flavius A B Akerele III