“I take pride in the words Ich bin ein Twitterer.” – UK tweetcher, Jon F Kipper, June 26th 2019, Weston Super Mare
Whoever heard of a beautiful wall?
Walls are practical, concrete, to keep people in, or out; to defend the framework of a political point. Some would argue that walls are built to keep people safe; that they are a vital controlling factor, a segregator, a restrictor or a guardian of privacy.
But building fortresses of sand at the oceans edge is a folly and I have thought much about how we seem to loyalty kneel down and pray at the fragile alter of the twitter wall all too often. The Great Wall of Twitter where it would seem that opinions are made from the bricks and mortar of deep set belief systems and cybernetic wolves stalk the shadow of the perimeter waiting for the weak, or someone who strays too far from the flock.
“There are four kinds of people in the world, Ms. Harper. Those who build walls. Those who protect walls. Those who breach walls. And those who tear down walls. Much of life is discovering who you are. When you find out, you also realize there are places you can no longer go, things you can no longer do, words you can no longer say.”
P.S. Baber, Cassie Draws the Universe
I have noted that twitter is pretty good at the wall business. We have done a fine job when discussing behaviour. My initial thoughts are that these walls do not help the conversation, debate or argument. They fuel the burning pitch, siphon the vitriol, rally the tribes, poison opinions, limit interaction and ultimately blindside us. Quite often all the wall does, it would seem, is force each side to push fingers deep into their ears, close their eyes and shout as loud as possible and then press mute or block.
Let’s take the behaviour debate to a ridiculous extreme –
On one side the anti-exclusion brigade suspicious of schools who seemingly want to ‘off load’ students at a whim because they only care about their reputation or grades. This is mainly argued for by free range childhood consultants, head teachers harking back to the 1970’s or people who don’t have to face the reality of unruly behaviour in the classroom on a daily basis (And have something to sell).
On the other side we have (For want of a better extreme) the ‘Exclusionists’ – hell bent on kicking out a rogue sock wearing malcontent for looking at the clock during a rote times table rehearsal. This is mainly argued for by passionless, grey suited, ‘trads’* who during Masonic meetings also demand the return of corporal punishment. “Let them get their way and it’s the beginning of the end I tell thee… the beginning of the end!” is probably their motto.
As ridiculous as both these statements really are the limited forum that is twitter does nothing to break down the wall between them. Maybe twitter is the wall! The twitter echo chamber is in fact just a fragile hall of mirrors which isn’t good enough for the debates it has done so much to highlight. The irony being, it is because of twitter that these issues have gained prominence and yet at the same time the twitter forum has also polarised the people debating it
Another good example was a tweet I read that said, ‘Is two hours a week enough PPA time for teachers?’ I wanted to reply but knew that I would be putting my head on the block writing a tweet that said something like… ‘Teachers get 2 hours PPA time on top of children leaving most schools by 3:30 every day. There are a lot more than 2 hours a week for planning, prep and marking’. I didn’t want to belittle the massive pressure on teachers to mark, plan and prepare… because in truth there would never be enough time. I didn’t comment in the end because I knew I’d be drawn into a polarised ‘debate’ with those disagreeing being very strong in their outrage at my utter lack of empathy for teachers… “Call yourself a headteacher? You monster!”. Edutwitter is basically the social media projection of Brexit.
“Walls protect and walls limit. It is in the nature of walls that they should fall.”
Jeanette Winterson, Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit
But, through thinking about this I have begun to change my mind. Without a wall there is nothing to see behind it no desire to climb it or build a door through it. We take the landscape in front of us for granted. Without the wall there is nothing except the accepted. Maybe the Walls of Twitter are its greatest gift? When surrounded by walls without ceilings nothing stops you staring at the distant stars and I believe that through all the disagreement everyone is looking towards better futures. Rather than feel imprisoned by the walled communities of twitter we have to think how we breach them? Frontal attack seems to be the least effective and most damaging way; building false trust will eventually end in keyboard bloodshed- so I am thinking that I have to begin to try much harder at accepting the views of others as better than my own (Which is usually easier than you may think dear reader). I need to look at my views in terms of absolute facts of success or failure.
I have done this recently by attending exclusion panels, looking at the exclusion from the perspective of the school. I obviously can’t go in to any detail but I have learnt SO much from the experience. This is what I mean about seeing the twitter wall as a way forward rather than something that limits us.
*trad/ (træd) /
Small education influenced Jazz trio from Happy Bottom, Dorset
short for traditional