Bite your Tongue

As the title of my best selling book* amply demonstrates, one way to get people to notice your stuff is to say something rude. I think it’s fair to say that there is more to my book than the title, or it wouldn’t have been in print for 15 years, but the rude word helps people remember it. Marketing is part and parcel of being a writer, and titles are an important part of the way that you market a book. In the crowded online world of blogs, books and tweets, where so many voices are jostling to be heard, one sure fire way to get attention is to be rude or abrasive. You can be rude about other people, you can be rude about other people’s ideas, or you can be rude in the language that you use when you talk about them (it doesn’t seem to matter which one you pick). You can also apparently be rude and then claim that people are unfairly mistaking your forthrightness for rudeness. Once you’ve been rude, one set of commentators will jump in to agree with you, another will jump in to defend your chosen target or targets. But one thing is for sure: you will get a lot of hits.

One of the great things about taking February off Twitter is that I have not had to bite my tongue all the time to stop myself saying what I really think. (It strikes me that not everyone realises just how often other people are biting their tongues and deciding not to comment. At times my poor tongue is nearly bitten off.) During my Twitter break I have had a chance to ponder things from a distance, rather than reacting in an ‘up close and personal’ way. I’ve been reading quite a few blogs, and it has saddened me to read sweeping generalisations about colleagues, to see labels used to denigrate, and to feel that the main aim of what I’m reading is to criticise others, in order to make the writer appear ‘better’ themselves. It’s not that I think teachers are above criticism; and it’s not that I think debate is a bad thing. It just feels like the DfE has engineered a negativity virus, and let it loose on the teaching world. I keep muttering to myself things like “Gosh, did you really need to say that?” or “Aren’t teachers meant to be role models?” or “Is it necessary to be so personal?”. But mostly I am just reminded of the proverb, “Physician, heal thyself.”


* Getting the Buggers to Behave

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5 Responses to Bite your Tongue

  1. julietgreen says:

    I consider myself a ‘veteran of the threads’, as it were. I learned a long, long time ago now (the early 90s!), how easy it is to become embroiled in (or deeply wounded by) what we used to call ‘flame wars’. It’s akin to road rage – you don’t have to be face to face with the other person so some social conventions break down. These days, like you, I never get involved in them. I think it’s a very suitable topic for our e-safety lessons. How to be civilised and courteous online.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. tinomot says:

    Just trawling a few threads, it’s very easy to see how perfectly rational disagreements and differences of opinion become enflamed. I guess it’s down to the same problem as texting and e-mail: without the social cues and the proximity, it’s all too easy to ‘express yourself robustly’. Of course, some do make their living from this…(ellipsis deliberately used to ensure that the insecure are thinking ‘is it me?’).

    Silly, really: I’ve never seen an offhand digital comment that couldn’t easily be sorted with a ten-second conversation.

    One of the perils of the digital age?

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Helen Rogerson says:

    Agree with your point Sue about people not realising just how many people are reading and biting their tongue (or in my case writing then deleting a tweet). I do both. I don’t have the time to get into a pointless argument that isn’t going to make a difference to me.

    Liked by 3 people

  4. Jill Berry says:

    Accept all this, but if some of those biting their tongues are the ones who might be able to contribute in a considered, reasonable way, where does that leave the debate?

    I tend not to get enmeshed in discussion that becomes inflammatory, but if someone says something I don’t agree with I do say so. Not rudely, I hope!


    • suecowley says:

      My (very rough) rule of thumb is that if I think rudeness has been used deliberately to shock, and it is aimed at someone, then I’m not willing to give it my attention. One of the issues we have, I think, is that we pay attention and therefore publicise things that don’t deserve being given publicity, and it becomes a vicious circle. You do calm and polite very well though Jill!


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