It all started almost a month ago when a blogger associated with the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs, a pro-privatization think tank, decided to take #OklaEd bloggers to task for what he perceived as “vitriol and obscentity” on their personal education websites.
That accusations lead to a session discussing free speech and digital citizenship for educators at the Oklahoma City EdCamp hosted Saturday.
Wes Fryer, director of technology at an Oklahoma City private school, recorded the session, which features Tulsa high school history teacher Dallas Koehn and Mid-Del Superintendent Rick Cobb, along with several other educators in attendance. You can listen to his recording here:
This podcast is an audio recording of the session, “Vitriol and obscenity: Where is the line?” at EdCampOKC on March 5, 2015. This was a session proposed and primarily facilitated by Rick Cobb (@grendelrick @okeducation) and Dallas Koehn (@bluecerealeduc). The session was motivated by a series of blog posts and tweets questioning the free speech rights of educators angry over current and proposed education cuts in the Oklahoma legislature, as well as other issues. This was a great conversation about very important issues.
That said, can we please stick to the issues, and leave the straw men back in the hay field where they belong?
February 11, 2016
Unknown to many Oklahomans, a group of public education employees uses notoriety they derived from the classroom to promote their partisan political ideology through internet and social media.
February 12, 2016
The email begins with an exclamation, “MPS needs your help!” giving the impression that an emergency is to befall the school district.
February 19, 2016
Following a report by MiddleGround News on Feb. 11 spotlighting vitriol and obscenity by Oklahoma public school officials, the identified bloggers claimed a First Amendment right to use vulgar and abusive language in their online commentary.
Well-known #OklaEd blogger Rob Miller responded to the the accusations on February 21:
For the record, I think vitriol is covered by the First Amendment of the constitution. If you’re not sure, ask Janet Barresi or Chris Christie. I also think Jay needs a refresher on the legal definition of obscenity:
The U.S. Supreme Court established the test that judges and juries use to determine whether matter is obscene in three major cases: Miller v. California, 413 U.S. 15, 24-25 (1973);Smith v. United States, 431 U.S. 291, 300-02, 309 (1977); and Pope v. Illinois, 481 U.S. 497, 500-01 (1987). The three-pronged Miller test is as follows:
- Whether the average person, applying contemporary adult community standards, finds that the matter, taken as a whole, appeals to prurient interests (i.e., an erotic, lascivious, abnormal, unhealthy, degrading, shameful, or morbid interest in nudity, sex, or excretion);
- Whether the average person, applying contemporary adult community standards, finds that the matter depicts or describes sexual conduct in a patently offensive way (i.e., ultimate sexual acts, normal or perverted, actual or simulated, masturbation, excretory functions, lewd exhibition of the genitals, or sado-masochistic sexual abuse); and
- Whether a reasonable person finds that the matter, taken as a whole, lacks serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value.
Any material that satisfies this three-pronged test may be found obscene.
I am not an attorney, nor do I play one on the Internet. However, I have studied mass media law and I am certain, in my amateur opinion, that the aforementioned blog postings are NOT obscene. Feel free to talk to a real lawyer if you need legal advice.