Why use a Pseudonym?

There’s a reason why I have chosen to set this blog up using a pseudonym instead of my own name. I thought that my reasoning might make for an interesting post.

Since I work in education, and my relationship with my students is the source of so much insight into society and youth culture, I often like to post about some of the awesome, ridiculous, offensive, and sometimes perceptive things that they say  in class or write in papers.

For example, my personal favourite was this gem of a question, which was posed by one of my male students after a critical lesson on ‘slut-shaming’, and gender inequality in an introductory sociology class:

Him: “Miss, can I ask you a question? (face held in a particularly pensive expression)

Me: “Sure. Absolutely.”

Him: So, how exactly how many guys does a girl have to sleep with, to technically be a ‘slut’?

Me: (Liddderally a face palm – excuse the cliché- which turned to sad slow head shaking). “It’s an oppressive social construct, and there is no real definition. You’re missing the point.”

I posted this little interaction on my Facebook page, and was cautioned by many well-meaning friends and colleagues that I should probably avoid such posts, because I might be putting my job at risk.   To their credit, they are unfortunately not incorrect in their wariness. Recently, there have been instances of educators losing their jobs, and attracting public criticisms for complaining about their students, even when it is done without specific reference to particular students.

It happened here, and it also happened here. In both cases, I would argue that the educators suffered much more than their students due to the backlash.

As someone who has been a student in a post-secondary institution since 1999, the idea that educators at any level cannot openly vent about this element of their jobs is ridiculous. In fact, I remember waiting outside of professors’ offices, and reading hilarious lists of quotes they pulled from students’ papers that they typed up, and posted on their doors. Perhaps they did this to deter current students from saying such foolish things, or simply to amuse any colleagues or students that may be lurking outside of their offices. In any event, I saw nothing wrong with it. Clearly, neither did their colleagues, or the administration, who would clearly see such a public ‘post’, which was brazenly posted on their office doors next to their name plates.

As a student, a teacher, and an employee, I have certainly never felt entitled to not be discussed by my teachers, students, or employers when I left the room. I’m not sure why such expectations exist now.

This of course would be much, much different in cases where hateful speech (racism, homophobia, ableism, sexism, etc) is enacted. In my opionion such musing are not acceptable, because they are systemically oppressive and hateful. Similarly, if particular students were named or identifiable, consequences would not be unreasonable.

So, I use this fake name write freely, not because I feel that what I have to say is wrong, but because my peers do have a point; there are far too may consequences for public venting in education. This is especially true considering the blurry distinction between public and private which complicates, for better and worse our understanding of the limits of free speech.

– DS