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Tall tales and the Duck test

Mark Gibbs | March 21, 2011
"If it looks like a duck, swims like a duck, and quacks like a duck, then it probably is a duck."

Nowhere does the letter say, as The Daily Caller article by Neil Munro, contends, "Under the new interpretation, principals and their schools are legally liable if they fail to curb 'harassment' of students, even if it takes place outside the school, on Facebook or in private conversation among a few youths."

The only "new interpretation" I can find is that provided by Munro and The Daily Caller.

Look, it's really simple: In our society, anyone can be taken to court for pretty much anything and a school, its staff, and teachers can be charged with anything any parent or anyone else pleases. The DoE letter simply outlines what is required to avoid the most obvious accusations of negligence on the part of a school when it comes to the problem of bullying.

But what's happened? The Daily Caller article conflated the DoE letter with a whole barrage of unsubstantiated claims, such as: "There has only been muted opposition to this far-reaching policy among the professionals and advocates in the education sector, most of whom are heavily reliant on funding and support from top-level education officials. The normally government-averse tech-sector is also playing along, and on March 11, Facebook declared that it was 'thrilled' to work with White House officials to foster government oversight of teens' online activities."

Really? What muted opposition? How is the "policy" (which isn't actually a policy) "far-reaching" when there's nothing extraordinary in the letter's content! I could go on slicing and dicing, but there's no reason to; it's all baseless hyperbole.

This is spin at its finest and the fact that there are already 65,000 plus references to The Daily Caller article attests to the incredible gullibility, credulousness, and lack of intellectual rigor that apparently characterizes a lot of online blogs and journalists today - not one of the sites I looked at were at all critical, they apparently took the assertions as gospel.

To all of the online publications duped by this article: Use your commonsense. It's simple; this is the online world. You and the articles you reference aren't limited to X column inches. You can include links and footnotes. You can provide support for your claims and theories. You can cite dates and sources. Bits cost next to nothing and if you want to be a real journalist, follow the story. Recycle it just for page views to drive advertisements and you're a joke.


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