UK Teachers Union Demands YouTube And RateMyTeacher Be Shut Down

from the censorship-to-beat-cyberbullying? dept

Back in May, we wrote about teachers in the UK demanding that “something must be done” about cyberbullying of teachers. It appears that teachers have had enough of the various online pranks and tricks that kids pull on teachers. However, as we pointed out at the time, the “something must be done” cry seems pretty pointless. Kids are always going to find ways to bully each other and teachers, and there’s no magic bullet solution. Apparently, the teachers missed that lesson, because they’re back with actual suggestions on what can be done. Dave writes in to let us know that a teacher’s union in the UK (apparently one of many) has adopted a resolution asking for a ban on sites used for cyberbullying. Reading the details of the resolution shows the only two sites they name are YouTube and — both of which have many perfectly legitimate uses and where cyberbullying takes up a tiny fraction of their usage. More importantly, however, shutting down these sites will have absolutely no impact on bullying — except perhaps encouraging the kids to turn it up a notch, knowing that their tactics have had the desired impact. There are nearly infinite outlets for the cyberbullying to take place, and shutting down one will simply encourage kids to use a different method of cyberbullying. It seems highly unlikely that the teachers will get their way, but it’s nice (ok, more like troublesome) to know that a bunch of teachers seem to think that the best way to deal with problems between people is censorship and blaming the tool involved.

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Comments on “UK Teachers Union Demands YouTube And RateMyTeacher Be Shut Down”

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Hornswaggled (user link) says:

Ugh, here we go again.

I would think that teachers of all people would be for free speech. Sites like this get publicity because of actions like this. Lawyers have tried to get services like this to shut down here in the US as well.

With the www censorship is difficult and near impossible at best. What is to stop johnny kido from posting about their teacher on myspace, nothing. What about blogs? I can review damn near anything I want and I dont foresee teachers sending out thousands of C&D letters.

Cmon guys, grow with the times and teach your class about the positives and negatives with these services.

joe says:

classroom pranks

My favorite was to get as many of my friends as I could to all throw a super ball at once when the teachers back was turned. The teacher can’t hear them until they hit something but once they bounce you can never figure out where they came from. It used to cause a pretty major disruption. This was way before youtube and ratemyteacher existed.

Anonymous Coward says:

just WOW!

just WOW!

Out of the 12 years which I have been online the WWW (according to my sign-up date at… and the fact that I spend close to 14 hours each day online (online web-programmer – creating social sites and such)… I have not once seen any cyberbullying of teachers. But I guess that if you don’t go looking for something, you are far less possible of finding it.

Jim says:

@”I have not once seen any cyberbullying of teachers.”

Then you missed it. I work in the IT department of a large school district and it happens, a lot. MySpace is the source of several threats against our teachers and bomb threats against our schools each year.

But the answer certainly isn’t shutting down MySpace. The answer is making children and their parents responsible for the child’s actions. And by responsible I mean serious consequences. Permanent expulsion of the child and jail time for the parents.

I am sure that sounds harsh but most people have no idea what is really going on in schools these days.

Chris says:

Re: Re:

“The answer is making children and their parents responsible for the child’s actions. And by responsible I mean serious consequences. Permanent expulsion of the child and jail time for the parents.”

Speaking as a “child” I can tell you that would be ineffective as even if my parents try to control what I do online, they can’t. They have, for instance, tried to block techdirt on our home network, but as you can see I am posting here. They also have tried to block myspace and youtube, both of which I can access. When they saw that I could get arround their fliters, they started turning off the wireless on our router. Now I just have to use the neighbors unsecured network.

My parents can try to control what I say and/or do, but they cannot be held responsible for something I did. They have no way to prevent me from saying something stupid on myspace, something like (and I’m only typing this as an example) “A bomb will go off at ____ school at 11:30” or “I’m going to go and stab the **** out of Mrs. _____”

They have no way of knowing that I did any of that until the police know at my door. Since you work in the IT department at a school I would think you would realize this……

JeanE says:

Re: Re: controlling kids on computer


Depending on the laws in your state, your parents may well be legally responsible for your behavior, in spite of the obvious difficulty of the task given your computer skills. Hopefully, you will not do anything that would create a problem for yourself or your family.

As a mom, I must say it disturbs me that you and your parents are clearly fighting for control of computer access and use. While their rules may be too rigid, I expect they are trying to protect you. I know that when my kids are willing to compromise and accept some limits that they don’t really agree with, I can figure out pretty quickly if they are ready for more responsibility. When they keep fighting me, I get more and more worried and feel like I need to make the limits even stricter. Relaxed, happy parents are usually much easier to live with. Just food for thought.

Chris says:

Re: Re: Re: controlling kids on computer

I am aware of state laws about me. They are stupid because they put the blame for my actions on my parents.

In response to your concerns about my parents trying to control me, I submit to them more than I rebel, but when you start to filter me without talking to me first, or asking me to stop, you lose my respect and any chance you had that I would comply. It is the same way at school, their filters suck so I just bypass them.

Trerro says:

A lot of teachers hate and the reason has nothing to do with bullies. The simple fact is, get 30 opinions from someone who had the professor, and you get a pretty could idea of whether or not that prof is worth taking. College is ridiculously expensive, so getting a useless teacher wastes both your time AND money.

When a college can’t fill a course because the entire campus hates the professor, that doesn’t go unnoticed, especially since unlike in high school, it’s quite easy to get worthless profs fires and replaced with competent ones. So ratemyteacher is doubly useful – it helps you get classes that are worth your time, and helps you get rid of profs permanently that never should’ve had the job in the first place.

Even in high school though, it’s still a valuable service. Thinking of signing up for that elective on a topic you actually want to learn? Check the site and make sure the teacher doesn’t suck first. If he does, you’re better off with a $30 bookstore purchase and your second choice for the class.

Have I seen some uhhh… less than professional posts on the site? Sure, and yes, some of them include a hope that said person dies. There’s a big difference, however, between saying you hate someone and want them to die, and actually making any sort of threat to do it, and I’ve never seen anyone cross that line.

As for attacking Youtube/Myspace/any other massive social network because there’s a 1:1 bajillion chance that a given post might threaten a teacher, that’s beyond stupid. Are we going to shut down every forum site that doesn’t require you to be 30+ to join too? Might as well kill all of Usenet while we’re at it too.

The simple fact is, if you want to threaten someone, you’re going to find an outlet to do it, and reducing the number of outlets does absolutely nothing towards solving the underlying problem… and quite a bit towards shutting down stuff that has plenty of GOOD uses.

Anonymous Coward says:

Cyberbullying, ....

Bullying is intimidation by threat or use of actual violence.

Cyberbullying is the threat, but as hard as I bang the keys on my computer, the violence doesn’t make it through the net. Without the violence being possible the threat is not real and so it’s not real bullying.

Teachers censoring free speech is not a good thing.

Stephen Paulger (user link) says:

Teachers in denial and using bent logic

It won’t make the bullying go away but it will make it less apparent to adults such as parents of potential students and school inspectors. The majority of schools prefer to pretend that bullying doesn’t happen. How can they if there is video evidence?

I think rather than stomping their feet and making laughable demands they should do two things. Firstly they should accept that bullying is a problem within their school and secondly they should sort it out in the same way as they would any other kind of bullying.

Teachers demanding that websites be shut down is quite a sad indication of the state of our education. Every day I see reports of horrendous things done by people to other people in newspapers, banning the newspapers would do anything to prevent these things.

Enrico Suarve says:

Typical attitude of poor teachers

ban ban ban – no dialogue

I have 2 head teachers and 2 teachers in my immediate family and I have to say none of this sounds particularly surprising given some of the conversations I have witnessed growing up surrounded by them

I’ve listened to conversations where other heads have sat on our sofa gleefully recounting how they outwitted Scott (or whoever) that day, the sentiment and vitriol that these battles are recounted with you’d think they were David recounting the look in Goliaths face , then you remember that ‘Scott’ is an eight year old…

I have to say I’d never actually heard of before, but have been and had a look since, I can see why some teachers would be worried.

I compared some of the schools in our area and to be honest the results seem to me to be reasonably reflective of what the Government league tables (a UK thing) state anyway. Even in these schools however there is a marked difference between some teachers – some scoring highly and others a lot lower

Of the teachers I have personal experience of they seem to have been rated pretty fairly – there are some who I always thought acted like little Hitlers and were blowhards, they get comments like “loses temper a lot”, whereas there are many other teachers in the same schools and subjects rated a lot higher

Yes there will always be abuse of such systems but on the whole I was quite impressed by the comments and their reasoning

It’s in Ratemyteacher and teachers mutual benefit for the assessments to be as accurate and relevant as possible – perhaps the two groups should speak more?

Anonymous Coward says:

I think a brilliant way to fight this would be to allow ALL students to post annoymous complaints and reviews about their teachers to an independent body that monitors X schools.

They could then take this information and re-train, fire, educate, reward, the appropriate teachers.

The reason this will never happen is teachers like the immunity they have from scrutiny. Teaching is one of the only professions I can think of that you can be completely useless, get serious complaints about how poor you are at your job yet still continue in your job happily.

At least in other jobs you have to hide how poor you are at your job or you get fired. Why don’t teachers?

Sarah says:

Re: Using 15 year olds to evaluate teacher performance

Raise your hand if you’d be willing to have a group of teenagers, ages 14 to 18, judge you on your work performance. You’d better be “easy” and “friendly” because that’s some of the criteria ratemyteacher asks the students to use. Weren’t your favorite teachers, the ones from which you learned the most,challenging and demanding of a strong performance from you? You probably didn’t like them at the time either. Didn’t they upset you now and then by pushing you beyond what you thought were your limits?
I am a staff member at a high school and looked over my school’s results. The coaches rated high and the teachers prepping kids for standardized tests scored low. There’s nothing wrong with a teacher who asks students to step up and work hard–except that the students may not “like” them.

Peter says:

i quit teaching due to lack of support.

I am not sure if any of you out there are actually old enough to remember the time when a teacher’s word pulled more clout than that of a disruptive and misbehaving student.

My parents would always believe the teacher over me any day of the week.

The tables have turned though now haven’t they?

I studied to be a teacher and in this time discovered what it was like to be a student studying under a poor lecturer.

This certain lecturer had the same notes from years gone by that he would read directly off powerpoint. He would make fun of female students and times bordered on being rascist.

From what I recall the students in his course filled out his course overview questionairre in the resounding negative and he was disciplined by the university. Most university’s in Australia have questionnaires that are handed out at the end of units letting you rate the teachers and courses effectiveness.

Other lecturers I had inspired me to keep going, do well and finish my degree.

My first and last year of teaching was a posting out in the far west of Queensland in a small country town. My first year was supposed to be a year of growth and beginning of a fruitful career.

There were some good times and to be honest teaching when things were going well was most rewarding and satisfying. Seeing the look in their eye when they just ‘got it’ or seeing a child develop in confidence and ability felt great.

I tried to reward students when catching them doing the right thing and bring them into line fairly and firmly when doing the wrong thing.

Teaching though from word go was tougher than it should have been.

I was different and a ‘city slicker’ doing service in a country town. I spoke differently (clearly and intelligently), didn’t paticularly take to the notion of ‘piggin’ (pig hunting) with zeal or play rugby. Being male and liking jazz music and reading books meant that you were probably gay(I was forced to teach music and religion in that school which did not help much at all).

My wife lived in Brisbane eight and a half hours away and I had no close friends out west. In the whole year I had roughly three weeks time together with my wife.

A lot of the bullying that was tried on me I feel was testing. Any student will do their best to get on over the teacher if they think they can. I didn’t leave because students were bullying me even though some students sure tried to make a good crack at it.

Half of my class was made up of problem children dumped into my care because the teachers from the year before did not want them. Many of their parents did not think that their child had problems or would ever steal from another child yet every day part of my routine was opening desks and returning stolen property to the appropriate students desk. Some of the theives even complained that things were going missing and described the items as things they had taken from other children.

If there are no consequences for students being disruptive at school and parents do not back teachers up what are children going to do? They are going to push the boundaries just that bit further.

Some $400 prescription sunglasses of mine were stolen from my desk. These never re-appeared.

Don’t get me wrong, half of my class were great. It is really hard however to foster the ability of the advanced students and those who really want to make a go of it when the majority of your time is spent making sure the students at the other end behave or just keep up.

I left teaching after that first year because the respect, support and pay I received did not balance with the responsibility and expectation that was rested/heaped upon my shoulders.

Teachers are people too with feelings. At some point I thought that I could make a difference in some students life. Perhaps I even did. I am sure I did. I lost too much in the process however and lost faith in the education process. I can’t help but think how many good teachers are abandonning their profession after being burnt either directly by students or indirectly through lack of support. It is such a waste.

Some of the comments made in this forum have validated my personal beliefs.

Shutting down websites will never work and it sounds like some of these online education rating schemes have their place in America. Freedom of speech however I think should be uplifting and empowering not just shooting your mouth off to try to hurt people.

If a teacher genuinely is poor there are proper ways of approaching the problem. Consult with the teacher directly; speak with another parent, teacher and or principal. Talk directly with the board of education. Problems are solved by positive action and affirmation not inflammatory and pointless gibes.

By the way.. I am now a successful and happily married store manager enjoying my work and my weekends off. My staff respect me and my senior management team for the most part support me.

John says:

Not far enough

I think the proposal by this union doesn’t go far enough. Cyberbullying is really just a specialized form of bullying. If we really want to do something about bullying then we need to ban those venues where it is likely to occur, like, um … schools. Note: this point was also made in the referenced article, though it has not been made here.

I could make the argument that cyberbullying is actually a good thing, in that when posting to the web, you leave tracks that can lead the authorities to you. Okay, it’s a stretch…

Michael Hussey (user link) says:

RateMyTeachers, Teacher Unions, and the UK

I’ve commented on this at my blog…thanks for picking up the story.

Do not believe the excuses being put forward by the teacher unions — demanding internet censors protect teachers from cyber-bullying? RateMyTeachers is at the forefront of protecting teachers online and it promotes the best and most effective among them. Since our inception, RateMyTeachers has instituted rating rules that protect teachers from any such thing. Any rating that crosses these rules is removed without question. A moderating force of over 5000 individuals is constantly on the look-out for any ratings which do not meet standards. Every rating is reviewed before it is posted live on the website.

See for yourself:

A tyrant demands absolute control and is the first to censor that which threatens its power. Teacher unions recognize the threat websites like RateMyTeachers pose to their monopoly and use “cyber-bullying” as an excuse to enact censorship. The fact is, not all teachers are created equal and RateMyTeachers is making this plainly obvious to anyone with an interest in the system (parents, students, administrators, taxpayers). Despite any rhetoric to the contrary, teacher unions by their very nature view every teacher as a cog in a great big education machine. Teacher contracts are negotiated so that every teacher, good or bad, is treated the same. Teachers who opt out of paying union dues are punished even though they are required by law to accept the union negotiated contracts. Tenure tracks ensure that horrible teachers will waste students’ time and taxpayers’ money; and in some cases, a bad teacher can seriously harm the education and mental development of a child. Pointing out to the public which teachers are creating an environment for learning (as most teachers are successfully doing) and which teachers are failing in that mission (a small minority), leads people to question a system that restricts choices.

The point issue, which the press always ignores, is that any pressure to allow school or teacher choice threatens the teacher union’s power. For a tyrant, choice is something that must be avoided at all costs – and censorship is always on the table when losing power is at stake.

The United Kingdom stands at a cross-road. By allowing their citizens to access to websites and servers outside of their borders, they have unwittingly granted incredible new freedoms to their citizenry, the implications of which were not foreseen. This freedom threatens many of the institutions which prop up the State apparatus and rumblings like this are not at all surprising. The choice at hand is between protecting citizen’s rights to access information freely – or to look to China for inspiration in controlling its people and the information they may consume. Sadly, considering the recent rhetoric ringing through the highest levels of the UK government, I would not be shocked to see the UK look east for inspiration.

Linda says:

Here we go again!

I entirely agree with Michael Hussey’s comments about teachers unions in the UK. I have taught for only 4 years and am already going to give it up altogether.

A large part of my disilluionment is the narrow-minded and insular attitude of teachers. Teachers – and the unions which represent them – hate criticism from anyone of anything they do. Part of this must be related to the continuous political meddling endured by teachers in the UK, and the conviction on the part of the government that teachers really don’t know what they’re doing.

On the other hand, teachers feel threatened by anything which they do not understand or which they have little experience of, and even more importantly, which they have little or no control over. I have looked at the RateMyTeacher website and hail it as a triumph! At last the students and parents have an oppurtunity to say what they think of the teachers in their schools. For too long the last people who are asked what they think about learning are the “consumers”: that is, children and parents! Why shouldn’t they have their say? I personally think that for the teachers who hate the site, the truth hurts!

What teachers who view RateMyTeacher need to remember is that these are personal opnions; for every person who thinks a teacher is wonderful, there will almost always be someone who thinks they are awful. Howvever, there will always be teachers who are universally disliked and those who are hailed as paragons of the teaching profession. My own children have posted comments about teachers at their own school and I have read some of the other comments posted. I know some of the teachers who have been universally cheered and booed and I have to say I agree with the students opinions! NONE of the comments were personally abusive or threatening. In fact the school was so enlightened that they WELCOMED the site, saying that it made teachers reflect on what they do and improve if necessary!

What my fellow teachers could do to really impress me is to read (and listen to) what children and parents think and act on it. They may feel hurt by some comments – teaching is a profession where self-confidence and self-belief is the key to success after all! However, in the same way that a retail outlet will change and adapt to the needs and demands of their customers, so should teachers realise that the days of the teacher’s word being law are over.

This is not to say that children or their parents should be allowed to abuse or berate teachers at will. That of course is not acceptable. And unlike a retail outlet, teachers should not be about giving children what they want rather than what they need. Teachers must make those professional judgements.

Teaching is a difficult profession for many reasons. Unfortunately teachers have made the job more difficult for themselves by focusing on the unreasonable demands of the government, rather then tailoring their work to the needs of their customers: the children!

New Teacher says:


As a new teacher, I went on “rate my teacher” and found out that I was a “f*cking bitch that needs to die” or how about “white so she gotta be right” I challenge any one of you talking about rate my teacher and teachers as “morons” to come and do my job for one day and endure the ignorance and intolerance that infect our schools today. There is not a single positive comment on my page for rate my teachers…not one suggestion. So if you think the opinion of lazy sexist and rude students has weight, then go right ahead. YOU”LL JUST BE ANOTHER HYPOCRITE Keep you kids in line, teach them the basics like the golden rule and censorship won’t even be an issue. Next time my life is threatened I will reconsider teaching in a district that turns over teachers faster than you can say “spitball” and leave YOUR kids to fend with the real reject morons. People like you make me regret ever dedicating my life to people who hate me.

To Pro-Bullying Site Person, says:

respose to

To the Public,

May I ask what you do for a living? How do you earn your salary to pay your bills and raise your kids?? Tech person, sales, construction?? Some people do it as teachers. We have families, friends, reputations, etc. An on-line site like is immoral. It is not just students who voice their “opinions”, it can be someone who doen’t know the teacher from Adam. Basically, the site is slanderous, can ruin careers and should be banned!!!!!
How would you like it if your name was rated undesirably under your occupation??!!!! Could you handle the stress? humiliation?
I am enraged that this type of bullying is going on, and it has to stop!!!

Stuart says:

Union demands sites should be shut down

What a laaugh…The teachers union is complaining that studends are bullying by expressing their opinions…I guess the unions feel they that expressing their opinion (some would say bullying) is something that only they are allowed to do. How many times have we seen the unions getting in peoples faces, bullying and many times in history resort to violence at times when they don’t get their way….history is full of examples.
Let the customers of the education system have their say without demonizing them as bad or immoral people.

Stephanie says:

Constructive, not hurtful, criticism

I’m a teacher and have been for four years. I discovered after my first year and found some very hateful comments. Luckily, I have a great sense of humor and laughed them off. Nonetheless, I think the site is appalling. I would be all for a site that allows a student to rate the teacher and offer constructive criticism; but I would expect the people that edit the site to scan the ratings and disallow anything that even remotely resembles a threat. Don’t tell me that I’m “a stupid bitch that hates all students.” Tell me where I went wrong and what I can do to fix it.

Anonymous Coward says:

No offense but this is a bunch of crap, people need to toughen up and quit acting like a bunch of babies. If your being “bulled” don’t you think you did something to offend the person who is doing the bullying. Plus if we keep taking out way for people to get there anger out what is going to be left? If no one can take there negative stress out, then there will be more people “Snapping” in schools across the UK.

Toughen up, and quit whining.

P.S. I am not for nor against these sites. Nor am i encouraging bullying. I am merely stating that teachers and kids need to recognize that; A. People get mad, and do stupid things, its a part of life, and B. No where on the back of your birth certificate is there a fairness guarantee.

Thank you

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