Victory for the Teacher-Graders

About a year ago, a few young Germans set up an Internet forum, www.spickmich.de (G), that lets students anonymously rate their teachers. The ratings were divided into categories such as "good lessons," "knows his field," and "cool and funny."  Oh, and you could rate how "sexy" your teacher is, until some teachers complained. 

How did teachers react to the website?  According to one of the webmasters, not very accommodatingly:

"At one high school in Cologne, the principal allegedly threatened the students with ‘consequences’ if they put any grades on the site; at a school in Karlsruhe, a letter was distributed to the parents, with the request that they sign it, certifying that their children did not use the site.

The teachers’ lobby groups also attacked the site.  The ‘Philologists’ Association’ [the name of one German teacher lobby group] referred to Spickmich in the same sentence as mobbing-videos and porno-montages featuring teachers.  And the head of the German Teachers’ Association, Josef Kraus, even said that students were not capable of judging teachers’ quality.

But that’s not all.  In Germany, people whose feelings are hurt when somebody says something rude about them in public can file a lawsuit on the grounds of "insult," among other legal theories.  A teacher who got low marks in the online forum did just that.  However, the Regional Court of Cologne just ruled (G) against the teacher on free-speech grounds.

As someone who actually is a teacher and presumably gets ‘rated’ by students all the time, I say ‘Hooray for free speech!’

14 thoughts on “Victory for the Teacher-Graders

  1. This ruling will surely destabilize a lot of Well-Raised (TM) Germans that know, they just know you mustn’t question anything teachers say or do, especially not why they get a full-time salary for a half-time job with 12 weeks of paid vacation and very little responsibility apart from regurgitating what’s been dictated to them by their respective state’s Department of Education. And whether that wouldn’t mean that a lot of half-witted do-no-gooders would have entered the profession by now.

  2. Don’t worry about the german IQ: http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/uk/article697134.ece

    My time in school is long over but R.E.S.P.E.C.T. isn’t the first thing that comes to mind when I think about my teachers.
    We gave them trouble and questioned them more times than I do care to remember and somehow I doubt that our children are nicer to them nowadays.
    And about your 12 weeks of paid vacation, have you ever even talked to a teacher?

  3. @Volker,

    > [random reference about individuals’ IQ points]

    When you grow up and get to see the real world, you will see that sometimes the whole is less than the sum of its parts. Point in case:

    > … I doubt that our children are nicer to them nowadays …

    But when they become adults, they are? Collective dumbing down by assimilation is a problem everywhere, only in Germany it’s an art form.

    P.S.:

    And about your 12 weeks of paid vacation, have you ever even talked to a teacher?

    Sure, plenty. And those conversations confirmed my suspicions. Now what. Do you want to start a war by anecdote?

  4. Heaven knows why Martin is tolerated here; he has long descended into nonsensical trolling. There is a German website where students complain about teachers. The teachers don’t like it and sue, but the court dismisses them. How does that fit Martin’s idea that Germans never question authority and that this mindset is deep engrained in a corrupt civil society? Not at all, of course. So he predicts that this ruling “will surely destabilize a lot of” our fellow citizens, which is a plain falsehood because the ruling will do no such thing. And the rest is his usual blah blah. What an idiot.

  5. “In Germany, people whose feelings are hurt when somebody says something rude about them in public can file a lawsuit on the grounds of “insult,” among other legal theories.”

    Andrew, I thought you’re a lawyer. The sentence above is not correct. It should read: In Germany, somebody who has been the target of a vilifying comment made by another person can file a lawsuit against that person only if in that comment, after a comprehensive look at the circumstances, the defamation of the person prevails over the arguments in the subject-matter!

  6. @Sebastian,

    instead of descending into non-sensical name-calling, why not argue based on facts? Andrew’s post is gleaned from Spiegel Online, where you can follow the ongoing uphill battle that the plaintiffs, backed by the teachers’ association, are waging. Apart from the audacity of filing an anti-free-speech lawsuit in the first place, there has been an appeal and again another appeal as far as I can follow, which makes any sane person wonder what the mindset is that produces so much energy.

    And then, remember that this is not some corporation trying to sue its critics into silence, which, while also morally wrong, is what we’ve gotten used to and mentally written off as “artifacts of our capitalist society”. These are government employees and the very people that are supposed to instill pride and self-respect into our Fellow Citizens of the Future (TM) all on top of the extra German burden of firming them against You-Know-What-Should-Never-Happen-Again.

    If a mother was suing her child, would you shrug it off, too, as just another lawsuit? Nevermind in dubio pro reo, going to court in the first place speaks volumes about any plaintiff’s intentions.

    As for your simplistic blanket assertion of “plain falsehood”, I think the points put forward by me were quite reasonable, again, I am questioning a society that creates an extremely attractive economic framework for teachers paired with low responsibility and then walks away without asking about what kinds of people might be attracted into such an environment. And, who now, only to add insult to injury, are suing their own customers, so to speak. Your counter-argument however I am still looking for.

  7. @Norbert,

    oh gosh, why, that makes me feel so much better that I am having a court look over the arguments when I call a spade a spade a dimwit a dimwit. I am sure German courts have wittiness committees observing the targets of my public accusations to determine whether their lack of wit really qualifies for a me calling them a ‘dimwit’. Shame to those who think that that might keep people from speaking out against anyone in the first place.

  8. It doesn’t correspond to my perception of a decent way of life together, when people manifest their disrespect to individuals in all public. It is not okay that fellow citizens be pilloried, not even teachers.

    Those internet junkies keep demanding a private law for their domain, and this seems to have begun infecting court. Just fancy a group of children running around slandering and insulting teachers. And they did not do so in the school yard but on the market place with the bullhorn.

    Let’s not mix this up with free speech!

  9. Just fancy a group of children running around slandering and insulting teachers. And they did not do so in the school yard but on the market place with the bullhorn.

    Actually, they did not. They just gave their teachers grades for their performance, as teachers do habitually with pupils.

  10. They just gave their teachers grades for their performance, as teachers do habitually with pupils.

    … and because of students’ legal protests in the past, teachers must not openly announce these grades today – it’s verboten. Harsh debates in the classroom about fair Epochalnoten at the end of a school year are gone forever.

  11. @Thomas Frieling,

    > Those internet junkies …

    Only the lowest life form on Earth could possibly be afraid of a bunch of letters on a screen. I hope we meet in real life one day. It’ll be so enjoyable for at least one of us.

  12. @martin

    Nobody needs to fear “letters on a screen”. But how about assertions about real people on thousands of screens? At least there should be a way to put counterstatements adjacent to them. Wh

  13. @Thomas

    > … letters … on thousands of screens

    You really have a hard time grappling the concept of “free speech”, don’t you? Makes me wonder what depths of delusion the lack of free speech in your country has allowed you to descend to.

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