More about Student Blogging

Brian LePort has continued to focus his blogging attention on the topic of student blogging. In one post, he sought to gather names/blogs of doctoral students who blog – or blogged when they were students, for those who’ve since graduated. In another, he asked about the possibility of blogging later interfering with attempts to find employment.

Then Robert Holmstedt posted on his own blog his opinion that students should not blog. It includes a bit of “discovered” correspondence related to 19th-century blogging – sorry, writing on a public chalkboard or “choard.” This in turn led to Brian responding.

I think that there is a danger of students who lack maturity blogging as a way of venting about frustrations and criticizing others, or doing other things that can and probably should have consequences. But isn’t the issue one of blogging wisely and with maturity, rather than avoiding doing so altogether?

Please contribute to the conversation, whether here or on the other blogs I’ve linked to!

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  • Robert Holmstedt


    I agree that the central issue is really about maturity and wisdom.

    But in the academic world, discerning how to interact both with peers and with senior scholars as well as really understanding just how thin-skinned and/or territorial some of us can be, requires exposure and experience which, for the vast majority of people, comes only well into endeavor. And some never achieve the maturity and wisdom.


  • brianleport

    Thanks for bringing attention to this. I hope to hear from people who known examples of how blogging has prevented someone from educational or employment opportunities. I have learned over the last several months that many students are developing a paranoia about blogging. I wonder how justified it is?

    • I wonder whether it is just like most things that we get worked into a frenzy about – something relatively infrequent but newsworthy and scary…

  • Ian

    This is not an issue of maturity and wisdom. We’ve had bad news this year of folks being fired from jobs over their scholarly opinions, were they immature or unwise? Is it really so hard to imagine that someone would not be hired because of a position they entertained while a student?

    And isn’t the point of learning that you are not mature and wise yet? Isn’t that the goal, to grow in intellectual maturity and wisdom?

    As a mentor to students, encouraging them to grow in public, with a permanent record of every growth pang is plain irresponsible, I’d say. It is your responsibility as a mentor to encourage them to explore their learning and their beliefs in a context that is safe no matter where that exploration leads. Just as (I hope) you bend over backwards to make sure the learning environment in your class / sections is a safe environment for them to explore.

    • You’re absolutely right. I should have written that, other than in a context in which there are thought police and statements of faith, blogging can only be a risk for later employment if one does so unwisely or immaturely. Would that statement seem closer to the truth, or does it still seem problematic?

      • Ian

        I think it is closer to the truth, but it assumes it is possible to avoid some kind of thought police or just plain old bigotry. Sabio, for example, is a medical professional, and blogs pseudonymously because he concludes some patients would otherwise not come to him, because his beliefs would make him untrustworthy. I use my real name, but take care to only have my first name appear in relation to the blog, for a similar reason – I don’t want a potential client’s inevitable google search to bring up my theological wranglings.

        I think it is a trivial thing to solve, just saying to students “create blogs, but I would advise you to post pseudonymously, so that you are free to explore issues without fear of saying something you might be judged on later.” Because I think blogging is an excellent thing for students to do, with that caveat.

        I suspect it is probably a generation thing, anyway. And many of your students would do so naturally. There was a generation of kids who grew up putting their dirty secrets on facebook. But that is waning now. Facebook’s key demographic is no longer 18-25, but 30-55. The 18-25 are more likely sharing on Tumblr, where pseudonymity is the norm.

        • I appreciate your points, but I think that internet anonymity has contributed to the immaturity and hostile tone that characterizes so much online interaction. I think that, assuming I am not a gatekeeper of some sort of doctrinal orthodoxy, I would be impressed with a job applicant who blogged under their real name and did so in a serious and polite manner.

          • Ian

            “I think that internet anonymity has contributed to the immaturity and hostile tone that characterizes so much online interaction.”

            That’s a really important point, I think. And some interesting questions flow from it. I’ve not considered this w.r.t. theological or historical topics, but it comes up a fair bit in my day job.

            I know it is bias, and I’ve no more evidence than the other position. But a lingering sense I have (which dates back to my BBS days), is that there is a difference in behavior between anonymous online interactions (4chan-style) and pseudonymous ones. And that, as a person is increasingly in relationship with other users of a service, their pseudonym is as much a repository for their reputation as their name.

            But, as I said, I admit that might be post-hoc rationalisation, since it antedates my opinion.

  • As someone who’s been all over the internet under various pseudonyms and variations of my legal name since I was an undergraduate 20 years ago, I’ve always tried to be conscious of what a potential employer might find.

    I am still continually reminding net friends and acquaintances of my First Rule of Social Media: If it’s something you would have difficulty explaining to your boss, parents, significant other, or clergyperson, do you really want to post that on FaceBook (or LiveJournal, or your blog, or Usenet…)?

    I add to this the caveat that I am a student exploring the liberal tradition, so I have perhaps less to worry about from the “heresy police” than someone studying a more orthodox faith tradition…