May 8, 2005

Your Permanent Record

Jill Walker thinks carefully about the ethics of asking students to write weblogs. If they publish foolish things, will their mistakes haunt them forever?

If a student has to publish under her full name during her learning experience, and makes mistakes, they’ll show up for every future employer or lover who googles her name. That doesn’t seem like a safe environment for learning.

I'm sympathetic, but this can be taken too far: life goes by surprisingly fast, and you can be so intent on keeping your record clean and shiny that you never get much of a record at all.

Jill talks about music students and their recitals; with small audiences, time heals blunders. But time doesn't heal everything: if you melt down at the Rachmaninoff, well, that's it. If you miss the ball at the wrong moment in some silly schoolyard game, you don't make the team and there goes that dream of someday standing in The Stadium or at Lord's or whatever.

When you're a child, don't speak on the net. Once you're not a child, stand up, speak your mind, accept the consequences. (The world is often a forgiving place. Everybody was young once. Everybody made mistakes. Chances are, they'll understand. You can go from the Hitlerjugend to the papal throne.)