Privacy: Privilege or Problem?

Today I had the privilege of observing a teacher I don’t know teaching ELA to either 6th or 7th grade students. 

I don’t talk about students or teachers on my blog. I know education is probably something I should blog about, but I’m so afraid of crossing a privacy line. Today I don’t know any details about the individuals I observed, however, and therefore can’t cross any privacy lines. 

So, with that said, today I observed middle school students sitting in teams of 4 reading and analyzing an article on Syrian children. As one student finished their assigned task over the section the group had just read, they asked if anyone hadn’t understood anything from the section. Another student said, “Yeah, I don’t understand why they’d make the students have ‘intense English lessons’ if they don’t even speak English.”

A third student from the group answered with, “They have to understand the English language to be able to understand the what the teacher is saying.”

“Yeah. I guess that makes sense.”

And they moved on to the next task. 

As the observers left the classroom, another administrator said, “Did you hear what he just asked me? He wanted to know if we could do a fundraiser to help these Syrian children.”


So much more than “just reading” going on in that (as well as a multitude of others) classroom. 

And yet I found myself pondering all afternoon why our students are so quick to want to reach out to students from other nations but are so quick to judge their own peers. 

Remember what I started this conversation with? Privacy. 

FERPA: Federal Educational Right to Privacy Act. 

It’s a good thing. It is. 

It also creates a hush, hush environment where the truth often can’t be told. I wonder if our students would be as quick to judge if they knew just what their peers living conditions were like. Or would they instead rush to volunteer to do something to bring about change for those peers?

They don’t know. They can’t. 

The community may not know. That information is confidential. 

And yet I feel if people knew, things would change. Individuals, families, churches, civic groups, all of us might rise up to change things if they weren’t so hidden behind privacy. 

I’m wondering. Contemplating. Seeking. Is our right to privacy a privilege or a problem?


  • Our right to privacy is being challenged from too many vistas. And, if folks WANT to share their home situation, they are free to do so. It’s not your- or my- right to change that fact.

  • What a great question to do some research – “And yet I found myself pondering all afternoon why our students are so quick to want to reach out to students from other nations but are so quick to judge their own peers. ”

    Perhaps if students were to see that there are other children here in their own backyard that need assistance they may think differently. Can it be that they judge their own peers because they are immersed in the same environment as their peers and therefore do not see them in need?

  • Paul has an excellent question. So many judge their peers and may not see what is really needed

  • Good question. We are a nation of people who want to help others. Hopefully that will never change where it is offered.