Thursday, March 31, 2011

The Philadelphia School District has blocked me from following its Twitter account

The Philadelphia Inquirer has done first-rate work this week with its series on violence in Philadelphia public schools. The overall effect of the series has been to re-affirm for me—based on prior observations—that Supt. Arlene Ackerman and the district leadership are more concerned with clamping down on critics and whistleblowers than they are with fixing the district's substantive problems.

My opinion was reinforced today when the @PhillyEducation, the district's official Twitter feed, decided to mount a sustained attack on the Philadelphia Daily News for running a Photoshopped picture of Ackerman with a chainsaw in her hands—to illustrate coming budget cuts. Word of the feud got around quickly, and I did two things:

* I decided to follow @PhillyEducation's feed.

* I offered a series of my own Tweets criticizing the district for how it was handling the situation. I aimed my Tweets at Tara Murtha, a writer at Philadelphia Weekly, whose Tweet first alerted me to the imbroglio. I was irritated, as you can see, but I don't think my commentary was out of bounds:

Cut to this evening. I wanted to check into how the conversation had proceeded after I moved on to more productive work. Only to find out the school district had blocked me from subscribing to its feed:

From a technical standpoint, this isn't a huge deal. The district's feed is still open—I can see it if I just go to the feed page—but it is irritating. And it should be shocking: whoever runs the social networking voice of a government body has decided that mild criticism warrants being blocked from receiving "official" information about that body.

But it also proves my point. The district is more interested in blocking out the voices that talk about what it's doing wrong than it is fixing those problems. The folks at North Broad Street don't know me from Adam; I'm just another citizen, taxpayer and parent they feel free to ignore. It's a lot easier to block me on Twitter than it is to provide safe and adequate education to the children of Philadelphia.

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