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Censorship as an act of academic bullying


Over the course of the past two years, we have seen many students and their advisers go through some deep waters as they have had prior review and censorship foisted on the publications they work so hard to produce. This is a serious issue in American public education that I believe is academic bullying. Yes, academic bullying.

Think about the markers of bullying for a minute.  I found these markers today when I was preparing a lesson for my pre-service teachers at

Bullying is a conscious act.
The bully always has more power in some way (size, maturity, age, more acceptable race or ethnic group).
The bully always intends to harm the target.
The bully leaves the target with threats of future aggression and terror.

If you think about the context of censorship or prior review in each of the cases chronicled in a previous post by John Bowen with links to the Stevenson High School situation, you must realize that this is what I would like to call ACADEMIC BULLYING.

When invoking censorship or prior review,  an administrator is making a conscious decision to use his or her power to harm both students and advisers as well as leave the targets of this bullying full of terror that they will lose grades or some other such reprehensible action if they do not follow administrative directives.  Are we still in America?  Does the American flag still fly in front of the school house?  If it does, then, we MUST, as educators,  rise up and call censorship and prior review what they really are –  ACADEMIC BULLYING – because students are being TOLD WHAT AND HOW AND WHEN TO WRITE and their advisers are TOLD WHAT AND HOW AND WHY they should censor their students.  They are being threatened with job losses or failing grades.

Students and advisers who are threatened in any way because they do not do these things are victims of BULLYING – ACADEMIC BULLYING.  When schools do not allow other types of bullying, why do they accept this type of bullying?

When I earned my administrative certification, I never signed on to use my power as an administrator to throttle the voice of students who are practicing journalism or algebra or chemistry or history.  Why are parents and school boards putting up with this?

Administrators, I challenge you to do the right thing and refrain from ACADEMIC BULLYING just like you want students in your schools to stop bullying others who have lesser power.  Be leaders of ACADEMIC FREEDOM, not ACADEMIC TYRANNY.


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