First, there is the story of Tim Torkildson who was supposedly fired from his job as an "educational blogger" because he wrote a post about "homophones," which is boss said would associate the school with homosexuality. The actual post where Torkilson relates the firing can be read here. The word got out that he was a "teacher" fired because of his teaching a relatively basic concept. His boss was painted as an ignorant buffoon. Even now, months later, his story is floating around and showed up in my Facebook newsfeed via George Takei today. I've also have colleagues sharing it over the last few months.
Here's the deal:
- Torkildson admits that his boss had already called him on inappropriate material in his blog. Specifically, when the story broke months ago, he pointed to this blog about incontinence that got him called into the boss' office.
- Torkildson has been portrayed as a "teacher" and "educator." This is not accurate. His job was as a blogger (a "social media specialist") for the company. Because his personal blog was so specific about who he is, as well as giving addresses and photos of businesses and the like, it would be very easy for someone to find his posts. Like it or not, when you have a blog and a job in education or PR (as this guy's job was), you have to consider the content of your blog. He notes in his post about getting fired that he does not have the credentials to teach at the college level.
- Torkildson noted in his own post here that his employer points to the incontinence post as the real issue.
- The "school" is not a university or regular "school"--it is a private language school for non-English speakers.
- Torkildson had been working there for roughly three months--this means he was in that 90 day probation period.
- Torkildson has a past of getting fired for insubordination, apparently, even though he claims it was over his choice of a bowtie over a necktie.
Now, while Torkildson has freedom of speech, he does not have the freedom of consequences for what he says. This is true for actual academics, too. Just take a look at the ongoing controversies regarding Steven Salaita and Ayaan Hirsi Ali.
Academic freedom is not intended to shackle an educational institution to a scholar who does not project the values that the educational institution holds. That's not to say that all professors/academics in an institution have to walk the walk and talk the talk of the institution, though. In Salaita's case, he made a bad choice to go on a Twitter vomit rampage and it cost him the job offer he'd been extended (which apparently had not been fully processed). I don't yet have an opinion figured out on this individual case, as I haven't read enough about it and it seems like the whole donor-pressure issue might be a problem for me.
I do know this: The fact that the "homophone" guy is getting more social media play and coverage in mainstream publications than Salaita's is troubling to me. That the homophone dude is being given legitimacy as an educator bugs me.
Ultimately, I wind up in the same spot I always do, whether we're talking about Salaita, Ali, Torkildson, Paula Deen, or the Duck Dynasty guy--all of us have freedom to say what we choose to say and how we choose to say it.
But we better be ready to face the consequences.