France Decides That Expressing An Opinion About Your Teachers Should Be Illegal

from the please-explain? dept

Sites like RateMyTeacher.com and RateMyProfessor.com have been around in the US for ages, but it appears that some other countries aren't too thrilled with the concept. Last year, a teachers' union in the UK demanded that the sites be banned which seemed a bit extreme. However, in France things have gone even further, as a court has banned such sites from naming teachers entirely, and is threatening huge fines if the site continues to do so. It makes you wonder what good the site is if it can't actually name teachers.

Either way, it does raise a larger issue: what is wrong with a site that allows students to rate their teachers, and allows students, parents and the schools themselves to see what the students feel about various teachers? In France, they're saying it's a violation of privacy, but it's not clear what privacy is being violated. It seems the only violation is in preventing students from giving feedback and their honest opinions. Even the article notes that the average rating was quite favorable for teachers. This seems like the type of site that could only be useful. Yes, there will occasionally be an angry student who posts a bad review, but on the whole, you'd imagine that the ratings will even out and be accurate over time. If a teacher is really worried that their ratings are poor, perhaps that says more about their teaching ability than it does about this particular site.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
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    Jason Foster, Mar 4th, 2008 @ 3:47am

    Would you feel the same way about a hypothetical site called RateMyStudents.com (apparently it's registered but not doing anything) that allowed professors to post information about (say) the attentiveness, hotness, and ability of their students? College students have the opportunity to give anonymous feedback as part of the mandated institutional course evaluations but have chosen to take the RateMyProfessor route. Do professors not have the similar right to add in a public rating of their students?

     

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  2.  
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    Douglas Gresham, Mar 4th, 2008 @ 3:51am

    Re:

    Teachers are paid professionals and as such it would be vastly inappropriate to give such public feedback on student (and think of the discrimination lawsuits they'd open themselves up to). Students are consumers of a service the teachers are providing. There is a world of difference, and that's without the individual-vs-crowdsourced nature of the two.

     

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  3.  
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    James, Mar 4th, 2008 @ 4:06am

    Bigger picture

    Mike, you might be missing the bigger picture here. I'm personally not against sites like this, freedom of speech/expression, etc., but, I'd feel more comfortable for the teacher's safety and for them to remain unbiased in their teaching methods from such a thing if the site posted pictures and perhaps a nickname (or initials?) as opposed to their REAL name.

    Students have done the same thing for years giving teachers they liked/disliked nicknames anyways but when I went to school that was a local thing not something that could be subjected to millions.

     

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  4.  
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    billy bob, Mar 4th, 2008 @ 4:10am

    Ratemyteacher is a fine idea however students are not mature enough to handle it. The rating system is for teachers to get better not for students to slam them because they got a bad grade or because the teacher did not accept a late assignment. In addition to these examples I have seen investigation take place from one post which was anonymous regarding sexual harassment. If they had the ability to filter out these things I think teachers would embrace this technology.

     

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  5.  
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    innocent bystander, Mar 4th, 2008 @ 4:20am

    Very informative

    One way or the other the information on teacher performance will get around, but it sure would be nice, when traveling to France, if I meet any teachers, I knew if they were crappy or not.

     

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  6.  
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    The Mighty Buzzard, Mar 4th, 2008 @ 4:24am

    Re:

    Jason, last I checked teachers were more or less required to rate their students. See your grades for every class you ever completed for examples.

     

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  7.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 4th, 2008 @ 4:27am

    God forbid we see something we don't like and not go to that school. It's just more BS to cover up the BS that goes on so that the school doesn't lose new students.

    How about rate my college.

    WESTWOOD COLLEGE
    A complete waste of your hard earned money - No job placement, more like they copy ads from jobs sites, no student follow up after graduation and most significant. NO NETWORK or VERY LITTLE NETWORK Equiptment for hands on learning. Bet Westwood will say that's also illegal - Not like it will stop me from spreading the word - Oh, and HP has the worst customer service - and ...and ,.... Don't ever allow anyone or any government stop you from sharring the scoop.

     

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  8.  
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    Jake, Mar 4th, 2008 @ 4:27am

    From my recollection of the news reports at the time, the National Union of Teachers in Britain objected mainly on the grounds that the system was being abused by the kind of troublemaker who'd get panned on RateMyStudent.com, and therefore generating more heat than light.

     

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  9.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 4th, 2008 @ 5:35am

    i saw a "ratemystudent" website. it was quite funny. but i think it was a blog istead of a "real" website. and even then, it used "fake" names instead of the real name.

    however with the professors....i believe it's a bit different.
    the teachers are "contractors" faced with the task of educating their students. and every client should be able to research and give feedback on their investment.

    however, it should be noted that yes, it can be abused. i've read several posts on professors i've had that were just awful. yes someone got a bad grade and wanted to spout off about it.

    however just the same, there were many awesome reviews. not all saying the prof was great,but actual intelligent responses and critiques of teaching style, assignments, testing, availability, communication and others. they weren't always favorable towards the teacher, but at least they showed respect for the person.

    but as with any "user modified" website, it must be taken with a few POUNDS of salt. the ability for anyone to just go in and post willienillie....

    so i wouldn't claim ratemyteacher.com as the gospel truth, but as some insight as to what's going on. and other people should dothe same.

     

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  10.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 4th, 2008 @ 5:41am

    Re:

    If anything, I've used ratemyprofessor.com to see if the teacher was worth taking / should be avoided. It's certainly helped on numerous occasions.

     

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  11.  
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    Anonymous Kansas Coward, Mar 4th, 2008 @ 5:43am

    This site needs to be taken down immediately! Won't somebody think of the adults!

     

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  12.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 4th, 2008 @ 5:44am

    rateyourstudents.blogspot.com

    there we go

     

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  13.  
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    Mike, Mar 4th, 2008 @ 5:56am

    Re:

    Well, most students, usually the competent ones, can read all the comments on a site like ratemyteachers and distinguish to immature or hateful posts of incompetent students who do not understand the mean of education and the posts of sincere, competent students that can properly articulate valid reasons for why a teacher is good or bad.

    I have used it often and, even while I may have scored significantly above the class average with a more than satisfactory mark in a course, I have still posted comments regarding the teacher's inability to teach.

    Sites like these benefit those who can make good judgements.

    Mike

     

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  14.  
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    EVIL_BASTARD, Mar 4th, 2008 @ 6:03am

    Re:

    Are the students paid professionals providing a service?

    Also, are you familiar with "grades"? It's an innovative system by which teachers can rate their students by means of assigning a letter, typically A-F in which A is the most positive and F, as you may guess, stands for Fail.

     

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  15.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 4th, 2008 @ 6:13am

    RateMyProfessor.com is a dumb idea and bad for professors. What makes you think there will be people who are happy to take the extra step of going to the website and posting good reviews.

    There are just too many ***holes in this world to have a site like this.

     

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  16.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 4th, 2008 @ 6:21am

    I just checked out that website and it seems like the site is run by a bunch of idiots. I was able to access a bunch of random professors and rate them poorly. I am not a student and don't know them at all. How the heck do these people validate that the student did indeed take the professor's class?? Unfortunately, the poor buggers got really bad remarks from me thanks to the idiotic website thought of people who haven't thought through the process completely.

    ...and if you read the comments seems like there are a bunch of people like me doing the same.

    Not a good idea. Sorry dudes!

     

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  17.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 4th, 2008 @ 6:23am

    Re: at Westwood College

    Dude, you went to Westwood College. What were you expecting? That is probably what they would tell you.

     

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  18.  
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    Overcast, Mar 4th, 2008 @ 6:24am

    It's what you call 'Integrity in Education'.

    Just don't ask any questions...

    Any teacher who's doing a good job educating students shouldn't have to worry. If I was confident in my teaching ability, I would easily let any bad remarks just slide right off.

    I think it's just the bad teachers and bad educations systems that are complaining.

    From this standpoint - shouldn't we ban things like the Better Business Bureau, Consumer Reports, and other product review sites also?

    Or is it ok for people to give an opinion on Corporations but not teachers?

    Which should really matter more?

     

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  19.  
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    Jake, Mar 4th, 2008 @ 6:31am

    The problem with such rating site is:

    People don't tend to praise about the goods. The mainstream medias deploys a shock value for their news reporting, anything positive isn't considered "shocking"

    We tend not to go out of our way to praise people but am so quick to act/vent when some wrong is done to you. That's why an average rating is consider favorable! Cause someone actually cared enough to write a positive review. That's why sites like dontdatehimher.com is popular. c'mon guys, this is not EBAY....

     

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  20.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 4th, 2008 @ 6:32am

    Re:

    I would believe these sites would be useful and I honestly used them until it just became hot or not.

     

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  21.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 4th, 2008 @ 6:39am

    @Overcast:

    HA! The problem with this website is that there a few checks and balances to say the least compared. BBB and Consumer Reports etc have some more oversight than what is provided by this website.

    Guess what buddy...I am an *** and I have rated my prof really badly because he pi$$ed me off even though he was really good.

     

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  22.  
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    Shohat, Mar 4th, 2008 @ 6:48am

    Ahem

    Because teenagers should not have a stage to voice their opinions about teachers.
    Young+stupid+loud = damage. nothing good can come out a mouth of a person younger than 21.

     

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  23.  
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    Jason Foster, Mar 4th, 2008 @ 6:49am

    Re:

    To: The Mighty Buzzard and EVIL_BASTARD

    Professors have grades, true, and students have the institutional course evaluations (as mentioned in the original comment). If the students feel it appropriate to turn to an independent means to assess their professors, then why shouldn't (or at least can't) the professors do the same?

    If you're going to respond with "but the course evaluations don't matter", then you might want to explore just how professors get their raises (and a _part_ of tenure, the extent of which varies by institution). Those evaluations are _huge_, especially if you're an adjunct on contract.

    If you're going to respond with "but the course evaluations are private", then it depends on the institution. Some make the evaluations public (a fine thing) and some don't (in which case RateMyProfessor has some merit).

    The professor/student power relationship is nowhere near as biased in the professor's favour as one might expect.

     

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  24.  
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    Jason Foster, Mar 4th, 2008 @ 7:17am

    Re:

    [Sorry about the double post... a slight misunderstanding of the reply interface]

    To The Mighty Buzzard and EVIL_BASTARD:

    Professors have grades, true, and students have the institutional course evaluations (as mentioned in the original comment). If the students feel it appropriate to turn to an independent means to assess their professors, then why shouldn't (or at least can't) the professors do the same?

    If you're going to respond with "but the course evaluations don't matter", then you might want to explore just how professors get their raises (and a _part_ of tenure, the extent of which varies by institution). Those evaluations are _huge_, especially if you're an adjunct on contract.

    If you're going to respond with "but the course evaluations are private", then it depends on the institution. Some make the evaluations public (a fine thing) and some don't (in which case RateMyProfessor has some merit).

    The professor/student power relationship is nowhere near as biased in the professor's favour as one might expect, especially when you're an adjunct or lecturer.

     

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  25.  
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    inc, Mar 4th, 2008 @ 7:19am

    Re: Ahem


    Because teenagers should not have a stage to voice their opinions about teachers.
    Young+stupid+loud = damage. nothing good can come out a mouth of a person younger than 21.

    Yes, except go to war at 18 and die right? I still don't see the problem with giving people a forum to voice their options. Just because you think only pissed off students will go there doesn't make it so. Also, ever think if you actually listened to what students are saying you may be able to help them better understand the material rather then just give them a F. If teachers are given as way to rebut or explain teaching method this could open a new of communication channel to help strengthen the system as a whole. Nothing good ever comes out of telling someone their voice is stupid especially if you have never heard what they had to say.

     

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  26.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 4th, 2008 @ 7:49am

    ratetheircomment.com says all your comments suck and none of you are attractive.

     

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  27.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 4th, 2008 @ 8:07am

    @ 25

    It's been my experience in college (for the past 7 years) that "you may be able to help them better understand the material rather then just give them a F", does not work. Many kids don't care about learning the material, they just want the grade; and, if they don't get the grade, the professor is terrible and wasn't helpful at all.

    "Too much homework", "tests were awful", "no review sessions", or anything which ultimately contributed to their grade is pointless. Professors are (usually) not allowed to fail as many students as they want, universities are mindful of that. If an appropriate number of people passed (given that college's difficulty/avg. pass rate), then good riddance to those who failed. And, to those who didn't perform well: that's the entire reasoning behind grades.

    Furthermore, I would say that most of their opinions are worthless, even if they do make the grade. Their critiques are usually so trivial that it does not make one damn difference.

    If a person needs to pick and choose their professors... I'm sure they do it on the quality of education and not the grade distribution (sarcasm). It's a stupid idea.

    That said, you can't infringe on their right to voice their opinion, no matter how stupid it is, or how stupid the people reading it are.

     

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  28.  
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    Rose M. Welch, Mar 4th, 2008 @ 8:07am

    I'm concerned about...

    ...where the censorship ends. If it's okay to ban it online, will it soon be okay to ban it in person, or in writing? Will they soon start checking postcards and letters and cutting or blacking out any sections that seems to show a difference of opinion between the gov't and the individual?

    If a student complained about another student saying mean things, the teacher would bust out the old 'Sticks and stones...' adage, and tell them not to let the other kids bother them. Seems like it's the teachers who aren't being very mature here. Sticks and stones, guys!

    The whole thing is very Orwellian...

     

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  29.  
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    Kevin-M, Mar 4th, 2008 @ 8:14am

    France

    Sounds like the French and Democrats in the USA are spun from the same spool.

     

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  30.  
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    José Luis, Mar 4th, 2008 @ 8:23am

    This comment is banned!

    At first, i reacted to this "France story" thinking that the problem is the "extreme conservatory right" in the government (you must acknowledge that this has been a trend in last years, specially in USA/UK/France). And it may have something to do with it (as "extreme" as banning can get), but i'm guessing is more in the line of "age difference".

    Most of the judges/deans+principals/teachers are way over 50/50/30 years old and have life experiences where only main stream media (news & news papers/magazines) existed. A bad comment in one of these media was an (atmost) CERTAIN career death.

    Now, the young students are all way bellow 18 years old, and their life experience COMPLETELY includes the internet, forums, comments, rating, etc, etc. They have a thick neurons layer in their brains to filter out all the stupid/immature/moronic comments around sites, and they do.

    This is just the result of a new technology not being well understood by older people. This also clearly explains the so called "streisand effect".

    What still wonders me is:
    1) what (in the mind of these people) keeps the same stupid students from giving immature answers in the written revisions?
    2) is it that these revisions are done for the sake of appearances only or do they give it some value and so something with the answers?

     

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  31.  
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    a journalist, Mar 4th, 2008 @ 8:50am

    A French judge decides..., not France

    France Decides That Expressing An Opinion About Your Teachers Should Be Illegal

    From the misleading headline, I thought a law had been passed by the French Congress or France's President had enacted a Decree that prohibited some sort of free speech related to teachers.

    The fact is that it was the decision of a French court, not of France.

    In the same guise as judges elsewhere order sites offline etc.

    Another case of a misleading headline:

    Brazil Wants Another Google Site -- YouTube -- Shut Down

    It wasn't Brazil that ordered Youtube offline. It was a Brazilian judge.

    And a case of a headline that didn't mislead:

    Why Did A California Court Hide All Of WikiLeaks Over A Single Document?

    It wasn't the United States that prohibited Wikileaks of operating, it was a federal judge in California that ordered "that its registrar block the transfer of the domain, force the registrar to point all visitors to a blank page and also having the registrar hand over all information on IP addresses of people who accessed the wikileaks site".

    PS: I'm not french nor do I live in France. I'm just a journalist.

     

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  32.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 4th, 2008 @ 10:08am

    Re: A French judge decides..., not France

    When someone says something like "France decides...", I think most people take that to mean "The government of France decides...". Now, if a legal system is acting with the authority of the government and it's decisions can ultimately be enforced by the use of government force, then it's decisions can rightfully be said to be government decisions. So, official decisions of the French legal system are indeed decisions of France.

     

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  33.  
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    Clueby4, Mar 4th, 2008 @ 3:11pm

    Don't beleive everything you read.

     

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  34.  
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    Clueby4, Mar 4th, 2008 @ 3:24pm

    Don't beleive everything you read.

    "Believe nothing that you read, and half of what you see"

    Are humans getting dumber? Earth to mouth breathing droolers, this is the internet, you have to vet and validate it yourself. Which is much like life. Don't take things at face value evaluate, compare, research, explore, and question. Who cares that some anonymous poster spews near libelous rantings, ignore it like a reasonable person should. Perhaps the first thing people really need to understand is the term; anecdotal. I mean this is the internet you're going to come to a conclusion based on flappings from as single site?

     

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  35.  
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    school hater, Mar 4th, 2008 @ 9:52pm

    f@@k school close all schools i hatted school
    and ther pig Teachers

     

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  36.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 5th, 2008 @ 8:41am

    How long would ratemyjudge.com last in any country?

     

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  37.  
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    Sad, Mar 31st, 2008 @ 7:49am

    Fascist

    Ratemyprofessor.com is just a fascist tool. Make it legal to France and you come back to those dark times of Occupation during the Second World War where it was encouraged to denounce one's neighbors. What will the next big thing with rating?:
    "Rate my parents", "rate my neighbors", "Rate my neighbor's dog"?
    It is very interesting to consider that this site has been originally developed by an angry student who was was frustated by some of his professors (perhaps a dunce after all). I imagine the same type of mentality in action in the 30's in Europe with the same type of technology: Sick!

     

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  38.  
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    Anonymous Too, Aug 18th, 2009 @ 5:18pm

    I don't think Ratemystudents could be compared to Ratemyprofessor, as there is a difference in power relations. Professors have more power than students. And if professor is not right, s/he should be challenged. There is nothing wrong with ratemyprofessor, it is wrong not to have it.

     

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  39.  
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    me, Aug 26th, 2009 @ 9:08am

    Re: Re:

    "students are consumers." oi. this is why we're in the mess we're in.

     

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  40.  
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    Jacques, Apr 27th, 2010 @ 2:49am

    Professors in France could use a little public evaluation

    Because even in the best universities a number of them are poor quality (unprepared, arrogant, unclear, etc.) and don't get any pressure to improve. I know - I've studied in both the USA and France.

    In most American colleges there is more of a culture of "how can I serve the student" than in France. For example, French professors don't have office hours. But on the other hand, I have found French university students to be less disciplined and more insouciant in the classroom -- they chat more during class, cheat more openly, etc. (I do not know about grandes écoles. I study medicine.) So the professors would normally be more frustrated in France and less cooperative.

     

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  41.  
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    Larry, Jan 5th, 2011 @ 5:13am

    FRENCH HISTORY (of anonymous letters)

    French people have bitter memories about anonymous messages. During Nazi occupation, French people lived in fear that a nasty neighbor(it takes only one in the whole town) would drop into the mailbox an anonymous letter to the authorities (e.g., telling that they are hiding someone, that they practice black market, whether it is true of not).

    Are anonymous web postings (with all excesses one can imagine) simple acts of freedom of speech?

    Any angry parent (everybody knows they exist)or any angry kid can easily post a bunch of anonymous messages, claiming the (real or not) teacher's incompetence and ruin a career. They can even pick up, as a prank, any teacher on the web, whose name they don't like and demolish a career.

    - If the same anonymous texts were sent in US mail, everybody would call that harassment.
    - If the same anonymous texts were graffiti on a public wall, it would be called slander.

    Freedom of speech? Let's think about it.

     

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  42.  
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    not an American idiot, Apr 11th, 2011 @ 7:55pm

    Re:

    hahahahahah!!! Teachers have ZERO - MAKE THAT NEGATIVE POWER. Teachers are forced to give lazy, undeserving, immature students A's in order to preserve their online reputations and keep their jobs. And people wonder why Americans are so stupid, keep up ratemyprofessors.com you American morons, you get dumber by the day as you let kids control the professors. America has fallen hard and can't get up.

    Teachers get beat up by these same students on campus (yes it happens a lot) but yes it's perfectly ok for idiotic websites to put teachers' safety in jeopardy so idiot students who have no interest in learning can get the American A (which now stands for Average) by their idiot names.

     

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  43.  
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    Ire, Mar 27th, 2012 @ 5:49pm

    Re:

    That concept is incredibly flawed because the anonymity would go out the door if you had teachers rating students. With a large anonymous base of students you can't really know for sure who said what online if they are anonymous but with a teacher it's pree easy to figure out who was teaching the student being rated and therefore it wouldn't be anonymous. ufail.

     

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  44.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Nov 26th, 2012 @ 5:14am

    I guess I'm a bit late seen the date of the post, but in case anyone falls on this topic, being myself a teacher in France, I'll add my contribution.

    1.The main problem, besides privacy issues and blablablah, in France, is that such a public rating system would encourage teachers to do a course to get a good grade, and not necessarily a good course where students get the hard things to do. A little bit like TV channels who make shitty reality shows instead of interesting programs to get audience.

    2. In France university is mainly free, so students are not "consumers" who rate their service providers, but more lucky citizens getting education for free and who should be trying to get the best out of it.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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