mabfan (Michael A. Burstein) (mabfan) wrote,
mabfan (Michael A. Burstein)

More on Lehman High School

Earlier today, I found an anonymous reply from a student at Lehman High School. The student, whom I shall think of as "he" since I have no way of knowing their sex, was annoyed with some of what I had said about their recent copyright infringement case involving the musical Chicago.

I deleted his comment for a few reasons. First of all, I used to require all anonymous posters to identify themselves in the body of their post. This person didn't, and sadly, a lot of people have been ignoring my request. So I've now gone to account holder comments only.

But I also deleted it because the response included insults and foul language. My blog is my space, and I don't allow either of those things here. It says on my profile page that I reserve the right to delete any comments I deem inappropriate. And quite a bit of what this student said was inappropriate.

The fact is, though, that the student did have one legitimate complaint with my post, and a few that bear responding to. Had he replied in a more polite manner, I'd have left his reply up and responded directly. I didn't because I don't choose to leave insults up in my own space. However, should this student actually be checking my blog for a response, I thought I'd reply to some of his concerns.

1. The student complained about my characterization of the students whining to the press. He said that the press came to them, and that they did not whine.

My reply: This is quite possibly a fair point. I don't know how the press got involved, although I suspect that someone from the school got them involved. And I don't know if the students whined. But I do know that almost all the articles I read were biased in favor of the students, presenting their disappointment in such a palpable way that I could practically see their tears in my mind.

And, more to the point, I never said that the students whined to the press. I said that the school did. The student who replied to me does not seem to have caught that distinction in my post.

2. The students said that the New York City council members assisted them without their asking for it.

My reply: Again, that may be true, but it's irrelevant. I never said I was upset at the students for getting the city councilors involved. I said I was upset with the city councilors for choosing to get involved. Again, a distinction that the student seems to have missed.

3. The student suggested that if I wanted them to learn about copyright infringement, I should visit Lehman High School and teach them myself. He also wonders why I'm concerned with the lessons that they learn.

My reply: I'd been a teacher for many years, and I was always responsible for making sure that my students knew much more than the material I was technically teaching them. But in this case, it's not really my responsibility to teach the students of Lehman High about respecting copyright law. Frankly, in this particular case that's the job of the drama department. I don't think the student quite got that.

As for why I'm concerned with the lessons that they learn -- why shouldn't I be? If a school in Kansas chooses to teach intelligent design instead of evolution, for example, that has a detrimental effect on society as a whole. In this case, a school in the Bronx has taught a bunch of students that if you're caught breaking the law, you can still get away with it if you get powerful people on your side. To me, that's a chilling lesson, and not one we should be teaching our future voters.

To my correspondent: if you're still out there, I hope you'll take these replies into consideration. And if you wish to provide further correction and detail on just how the press got involved, I'd be more than interested in finding out. Just please be polite about it.

And finally, if any other students from Lehman High are reading my blog, please take note: I don't blame you for what happened, and I'm glad you got a chance to see all your hard rehearsal work pay off in the end. But I hope that you will take from this a better lesson than the one I'm afraid you've been taught, which is that it's easier to beg forgiveness than ask permission. I know of many other students who would have loved to perform in a school musical version of Chicago and were denied the chance because their schools obeyed the law and respected creators' rights. One day, one of you may be the famous playwright who discovers a school putting on one of your plays without permission. When that happens, I hope you'll choose to be as generous with that school as the producers of Chicago were with you. Because if you're not, then that would be hypocritical.

Copyright © Michael A. Burstein
Tags: copyright, nyc, personal, teaching

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