Facebook as a Vehicle for Policy Change?

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Photo by Sean MacEntee, on Flickr

Charissa FernandezResearch tells us that kids benefit when all the adults in their lives
are working in concert, but the adults who are shaping and setting policy seem unwilling or unable to engage in dialogue with each other (everyone’s pretty good at the talking part, the listening not so much**). This pattern gives me pause when registering to attend events with otherwise impressive rosters of panelists and speakers.

So the recent news about those who have many Facebook friends having bigger brains combined with compelling research from the Yale Child Study Center that was presented at the Scholastic FACE (Family and Community Engagement) Symposium got me thinking…What if policy opponents were friends on Facebook? Would it reduce the rancor and increase the dialogue? If you knew someone’s kid was just accepted to your alma mater would you be more inclined to seek common ground? If you knew their dog just died, would you show a bit more compassion?

The potential for social networking media to blur the lines between our personal and professional lives is part of the reason many people find it threatening. This fear leads many of us to maintain multiple profiles—Facebook for family and former classmates, LinkedIn for current and former colleagues, Twitter for anyone who’s willing to listen. Would it really be so bad if Aunt Ruby understood where you work? And perhaps your freshman roommate is interested in more than your reunion photos.

I say, go ahead, let those worlds collide.

** NYC Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott is a notable and refreshing exception to this trend. He’s been criticized for simply perpetuating the policies of the NYCDOE under Joel Klein. (I’m not sure why that surprises anyone.) I think a change in approach can make a difference, but it won’t work if he’s the only one who does it—the proverbial sound of one hand clapping. He seems genuinely committed to listening, and actually invited criticism from parents and teachers at the Bronx Education Summit on October 15.

One thought on “Facebook as a Vehicle for Policy Change?

  1. I’ve heard some suggest that the reason there’s such polarization in Washington these days is because elected officials don’t move their families to DC like they used to, generally commuting home for the weekend and when Congress isn’t in session. When they see each other at a Sidwell Friends cross-country meet, it’s harder not to be reasonable the next day at work. Maybe social media can recreate those links.

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