Sunday, September 28, 2008

Should SF K Files require registration?

I'm getting lots of questions about registration.

To clarify: I didn't introduce registration to kill the heated debates on this site. And I didn't introduce it to discourage negative comments. I did it because someone has been posting highly inappropriate comments. We might have a creepy troll (someone who doesn't even have kids) lurking on the site and since we're discussing our children I think it would be best to block this person. The SF K Files has grown into a large community; we're getting anywhere from 500 to 1,200 unique visitors on the site a day. Last year, when I was in the midst of the process only 200 people visited a day. It's very common to require registration when you have such a large, active community. Also, keep in mind that you can come up with a very generic username such as "Mom" and no one will have a clue who you are. But at the same time, I worry about dampening the candid, thoughtful conversations that have been spurred on this site. I want people to feel comfortable speaking their mind.

That said, I'm introducing a poll where you can vote on whether or not you think The SF K Files should require registration. I'm turning off the registration requirement for a week so everyone can easily vote in the poll--and comment in this post.

59 comments:

  1. I think if you remove the "anonymous," people are going to be a lot less forthcoming with their true feelings. San Francisco is a "small" town. I notice that often parents don't say the name of the school they're talking about it -- as it is with anonymity. If you take that away, the comments then will get really watered down.

    As for posters who put down inappropriate stuff, I'm able to "edit" those from my brain and move onto legitimate postings. I sometimes get frustrated when others feel they have to respond to those few crazies. The best way to stop it is to ignore it.

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  2. I guess I am confused by what you consider "mean". Use of that word makes me think people are starting to speak like their 5 year olds. (Or is that a "mean" thing to say?) Perhaps "impolite" would be a better term to use.
    I thought it was really mean of Caroline and Dana to make the snide insinuations they made about Norman Yee's mental condition, but you didn't remove their posts or admonish them.
    All of us are going to be offended at one time or other by something someone else writes. Racism offends me, so does snobbishness. Other people are offended by having to use PC terminology.
    I think we are all grownups and do not need protection from other people's words.

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  3. People won't want to bother registering even if they can choose a fake name. Candid information will fall by the wayside. I'd hate to see that. You might think of adding a couple of moderators to help you out. Personally, I don't let obnoxious posts affect me. If there are posts you feel are creepy and need to be deleted, then the mods can help you. If someone is just being rude, then I say don't delete it. I don't need my life bowdlerized.

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  4. What I don't understand is that you can block the creep from posting, but you cannot block the creep from reading all your posts about your kids, so what really is the point?
    Unless you make a website that denies ACCESS to anyone who isn't registered. A private site.
    I post things here but never things about my kid, or what school he goes to. Maybe I am just paranoid, but lots of you mention your children's names, the school they go to, what grade they are in and , even put up pictures of your kids here ... and unfortunately, that is sort of dangerous in this sad day & age.
    I would advise discretion. You can still talk about schools without describing your children too much.

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  5. I think the vicious and petty comments have a negative impact on the community that go beyond just this forum. I believe that they frighten away newcomers and degrade the tone of the blog. It's quite legitimate for Kate to maintain a civil tone by restricting the commentors who attack others personally.

    It's kind of like how Rush Limbaugh's tone degrades all of our public discourse, even if we never listen to him. Really, I think the tone that people like Limbaugh and Ann Coulter set has empowered people here who for some reason are seething with rage and dying to vent.

    Why would anyone defend the right of others to make venomous anonymous attacks on members of their own community? Everyone can still register with a pseudonym that conceals their identity. But that allows Kate to keep those who spread nastiness and negativity off this forum.

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  6. I still think people are too sensitive. I've heard this discussion so many times over my years online. It's a strongly marked line, and it never ends well. I'm in the camp that people can just scroll past what they don't like. Moderate yourself, otherwise you'll have an exodus of people who don't like fearing they have to walk on eggshells. And I'm not even referring to people who are perceived as saying 'mean' things.

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  7. I completely agree with 1:52, and, as a parent who is entering the kinder terrain, this site is so valuable for so many of us newbies. I can say it is sad, that when a positive topic (hidden gems, pitch your school) kicks off, within just a few posts, somehow the discussion can go way off base...perhaps a column titled "vent" would be a nice add-on. I do agree that perhaps having moderators to seek out/exterminate the troll(s) is a good idea, but also think that having user names provides a bit more of accountability...and, not saying this because I think folks should edit their thoughts/comments. I have no problem scrolling past the negatives or back/forths, but, when a good % of the posts leave the original topic by the wayside, I feel it can be a turnoff for new parents who really need to hear some positives, too. Much talk has come up at my preschool as to the value of this site, the addictive quality of this site, and the recent escalation in negative posts...I can understand Kate's need to at least consider this, or, put folks on alert so perhaps we'll all be a bit more compassionate towards each other. As far as the creep troll goes, yes, not specifying personal info goes a long ways, but the idea that a non-parent is peering in and getting jollies off of making inappropriate comments is, well, very creepy.

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  8. I'm a grown-up and can skip or ignore the obnoxious posts. But if people can't be anonymous, they might not be as willing to be candid about less-than-perfect schools, etc.

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  9. I can handle the crabby comments. Some of them are understandable, b/c some commenters are off the wall extreme PC, and I like to see other parents take a stand against that.

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  10. In principle, I think we should register, sure. But in practice, I think we get more comments and engender more honesty and interesting seat-of-the-pants comments by NOT registering.

    I vote no.

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  11. I guess it depends on how creepy the posts have become. I feel like I read this blog pretty regularly. There certainly have been times my jaw has dropped at how shallow/vicious/racist etc. people can be. But nothing so awful I would stop coming here (unlike, say, the comments section on most Chronicle articles). But maybe I've missed something? Trolls are creepy (see link below), so anything you can do to stop them is great. Perhaps making some sort of "comments policy," so that people are clear on what is/is not acceptable? And maybe be very aggressive at first about deleting posts that violate said policy? I realize it's easy for me to make this suggestion, though, as it would be no extra work for me, but lots more for you....
    http://tinyurl.com/4p2k3j

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  12. I would prefer not to register. It just seems like too much hassle. I'm a current SFUSD parent who posted fairly regularly in the past but don't think I will continue to post if registration is required.

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  13. How hard can it be to register? You only have to do it once, and it takes a few seconds. This blog has enough addicts and diehard fans that it's hard to imagine that minor requirement would make a difference.

    You don't have to reveal your real identity, so concerns about people somehow putting themselves in jeopardy or leading pedophiles to their children seem unfounded.

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  14. Personally, I would prefer to have people register, though it is a pain.

    I posted under my name for awhile and got some really nasty comments, not just about what I had written, but personal comments about me. The poster or posters of course were anonymous and it made me feel awful, really awful actually. Since then, I've gone back to posting anonymously.

    I do think that even when posters use pseudonyms, they will be inclined to be a little more civil!

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  15. I vote yes for some sort of registration. I posted anon in the past but signed in to post during that short period when it was required. Signing in took a few minutes and once done that's it. The other blogs I post on all require an I.D. and I do think it makes people a little more civil to "own" their words. Of course this isn't always the case, trolls will be trolls, and moderator that's where you come in. If something really over the top is posted by all means shut it down by removing it. As for the rest of us, don't feed the trolls. Ignoring them is the most effective way to deal with haters in this context.

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  16. Sunflower says
    Using only "Anonymus" makes it difficult to follow the conversation. My suggestion is to give yourself a "handle", and put it in your post.

    I think that registration requiring a Google or Blogger account would inhibit some of the posters because it appears complcated to new users.

    Our parents are probably already tired from work and distracted by their children. Also there is the fear that their true identity might become known and the post impact the child's education.

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  17. Sunflower says
    I saw someone mention PC terminology, that is, politcally correct speech. I think we have to try to use standard English as much as possible in order to be understood by the widest audience.

    A huge percentage of our parents are foreign born. They don't necessarily know what PC is, or for that matter, acronym's, slang, and specialized words.

    It is very important to listen carefully to these parents because they often come from vastly different school backgrounds.

    Their expectations for their children may be somewhat different due to a different background, but we must remember that these parents foreign school experience is totally valid, worth considering. And it is perhaps worth implementing some of the ideas which are new to US parents.

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  18. Sunflower says
    People in the Bay Area take progressive politics as a norm. We've heard about it for years, but this may not be the case with parents of students who just moved here.

    The UESF said that they "want to continue a new era of progressive policies in our school district." What does this mean?

    We have parents in our district who experienced communism and fled to the US. I've heard there were huge banners saying "Progress" and other slogans in Moscow, and also in China the slogans were posted in the classroom and refered to often. Is this what "prgressive policies" will mean?

    If these parents hear about "progressive policies", how do they feel? They might interpret this as the similar to the country they fled.

    I think we are better off talking about specific policies rather than using rhetoric from a particular party. We need to make it clear exactly what it means to the students when we say something like "social justice" or "ecological wisdom". What do these terms really mean to the student in the classroom?

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  19. 8:59 here...as much as I too, am tired after a long day, registering is quite simple, and given you do not need to use your name, I see this as much more of a pro than a con. I too have a user name, I've registered and it took maybe 1 minute to do. In regards to creepy trolls, if you take a minute to look at the site included by 8:59, a troll can potentially go way beyond just a hostile parent on the site (http://tinyurl.com/4p2k3j). I too don't want to over-think this, but, I do think that the reason the posts lessened over the past few days could be that folks are more civil with an ID --- and, though many of us (myself included) have stated we can just scroll by the posts that don't relate to the column topic (for example, Pitch your school column has only 7 out of 16 posts that actually have specific school names being mentioned by name), I do think people do read the negative posts and it is a turnoff...just human nature, I guess but as a parent who is new to this process, it is a turnoff and ultimately, I do think it could leave people with a bad taste.

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  20. Why is it considered racist when a parent doesn't want their kid to be the only white kid in a classroom? Or to want their white kid to attend a school with diversity AND high test scores? They do exist. Just not many of them

    Why is this racist?

    These are the comments that most often engender calls of racism, so I want to pose the question. It seems that these issues are the ones that people point to, when they talk about how anonymity leads to troll comments.

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  21. I hope the honest questions and questioning don't stop, including discussions about people's fears about race, class, and other touchy issues. One of the reasons many of us are attracted to this blog is the opportunity to talk about things we might not talk about on the playground or at a party.

    That said, I'm in favor of "registering" in that it's really as simple as picking a name.

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  22. People throw around the word troll a lot because they don't understand what it means. What happens here for the most part isn't "trolling". It's people being rude, or frank, or confrontational, or abrupt, or sarcastic, or honest. or blunt, etc.

    Just because someone says something you don't like does not make them a troll.

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  23. As mentioned by Kate in her original post, there may be someone trolling on the site who is not a parent.

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  24. Probably, but who cares? Sometimes I get the feeling that lots of you do not know how to handle confrontation. I grew up in a wild Irish household, where arguing loudly was commonplace. It is considered fun in my family. Some of you act like you need smelling salts if anybody disagrees with you, let alone gets a little hotheaded.

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  25. Requiring registration will not eliminate a dedicated troll. You either run a tightly moderated ship, or you put up with the less savory aspects of internet communication.

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  26. What would make more sense is to create an offshoot of this blog, except host it at a site that allows for community creation, that people can join if they wish, and be allowed to post their own threads. That way, we can have a thread for privates (asked for several times and never got here), specific schools, advice, food, neighborhoods, whatever.

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  27. Or just start a yahoo group that is private (members only) and moderated?

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  28. Yeah, it could be a transition years community for entering K, middle school, high school. Public and private school discussion welcomed.

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  29. No on registration! for numerous reasons, only a few of which I will mention:

    Registration does not equal security; it will in fact tend to breed a false sense of it. Better to educate people about how to use the internet -- don't put up pix of your kids, their names, their ages, their schools, your home address... duh! If you want to be a public figure, as "Kate" has chosen to do, fine, but don't do it accidentally or ignorantly.

    You have to provide your personal information to Google, and agree to its terms of service.

    Nice? I don't think all that many people are here for nice. If you want to start a private community, that's one thing. You can run it by the code of conduct you would expect in your own home. But if you start dividing people by interests and attitude, you diffuse the critical mass and frank clash of opinions a public blog needs to stay alive.

    Me? Not only do I post anonymously, I sometimes post opinions that aren't even necessarily my own, such as when one a certain someone's needs a smack down on principle alone. I would have to register multiple accounts... let's see... sybil@gmail.com, eve@gmail.com...

    In summary... How to kill an active blog in 24 hours or less: require registration.

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  30. Why does anyone need "a smack down on principle alone"? Perhaps some would argue your point as one for registration.

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  31. For example... an opinion that decries private schools because they consist of hand-picked students, and in the same breath defends public magnet schools that also consist of hand-picked students... well, hypocritical opinions always beg a smack down, if you ask me.

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  32. lots of theories about registration, but what seems to be happening is less comments. i'm so surprised no one is pitching their school. i say no to registration.

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  33. "hypocritical opinions always beg a smack down, if you ask me."

    But why does the smackdown have to be anonymous, or mean, for that matter? I just posted this on another thread too -- an informed, eloquent response is far more effective than a bunch of ugly insults. How would the debate be harmed if the posters were using a name, when it's acceptable to use a pseudonym if we choose?

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  34. Wouldn't it be funny if the dramatic drop in posts had to do with the fact that those people who already had an id had to stop co-posting under "anonymous"? Lots of unique visitors, but how many unique posters?

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  35. As an SFUSD employee, I can assure you that I will NOT be making posts if registration is required. Sorry, I need (and like) my job too much!

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  36. Or the same few anonymous posters were representing themselves as a large number of anonymous posters.

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  37. I think the vicious and petty comments have a negative impact on the community that go beyond just this forum. I believe that they frighten away newcomers and degrade the tone of the blog. It's quite legitimate for Kate to maintain a civil tone by restricting the commentors who attack others personally.

    I don't think Kate is talking about moderating meanness. That is a full time job, whether she removes it by hand or blocks it by IP address. I think she's talking about hate speech and pedophiles. But what good does registering do? The trolliest of trolls know perfectly well how to circumvent being banned anyway.

    If she wants to make a rule: Must register and don't be mean... That's her right. But I do think that will be the end of this blog. Might as well visit her nice happy page at sfgate (mommy files), where her posts get like maybe 2 comments -- on a good day.

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  38. "Or the same few anonymous posters were representing themselves as a large number of anonymous posters."


    Lol. The anons haven't been "representing" themselves as anything. Let's not take the paranoia too far.

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  39. "Might as well visit her nice happy page at sfgate (mommy files), where her posts get like maybe 2 comments -- on a good day."

    No thanks, it is too perky and insipid.

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  40. 8:27 AM - Bless you, thank you. I am sick to death to the PC police, too~!

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  41. I've noticed fewer instances of actual "PC Police" than people using the theoretical existence of some nebulous "PC Police" as a strawman for their own purposes. As in, "call me racist, but I don't want my child bussed across town." Well, you hear that a lot, but the fact remains that in this district no one is bussed across town. Kids who aren't assigned to one of their 7 school choices are assigned to the closest school geographically to their home with openings. That may not be your neighborhood school, and it may not be a school you ever considered for your child, but it's probably not across town.

    Anyway, this is a digression, but whenever I see the "PC Police" term it's almost never in response to anyone's actual comments.

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  42. I think Kate is just a big, fat idiot!

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  43. If registration is required, please make it easy. I tried to register for an hour (could not figure out how to use Google/Blogger (didn't want to use my real Google id, so tried to create a second one but couldn't figure out how to do so) or Open ID, but could not. I finally gave up.

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  44. 7:29 PM - Are you just tuning in now? Most families I know are in privates BECAUSE their kid was assigned to a school across town, no bus provided.

    And I am sick of hearing that if you don't want yr kids schlepped across the city/ be the only white kid in the school/go to an unsafe-borderline neighborhood = racist/elitist/blahblah.

    I keep seeing posters on the blog put down for putting their own kids first. WTF?

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  45. 9:27 you are making my point for me by using a straw man argument:

    "And I am sick of hearing that if you don't want yr kids schlepped across the city/ be the only white kid in the school/go to an unsafe-borderline neighborhood = racist/elitist/blahblah."

    And I am sick of hearing that if you don't want yr kids schlepped across the city/ be the only white kid in the school/go to an unsafe-borderline neighborhood = racist/elitist/blahblah.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Straw_man

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  46. I am a mostly lurker sometimes poster here. I don't have kids in school yet (oldest will go to K in '09 so we're starting the search now). I personally have never fully understood all of the posters who feel the need to be anonymous, but perhaps I will discover the reasons as we get into the process. That being said it seems like the people who post under their own name have built/gained a lot of credibility BECAUSE they are willing to put their name on their experience and viewpoints.

    Not sure if you're going to get rid of the option to do name/URL which I think is a nice alternative for those who want some privacy.

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  47. 10:02 PM I'm not straw-mainning you, so don't red-herring me, babe!

    I responded to your fallacious assertion that "but the fact remains that in this district no one is bussed across town. Kids who aren't assigned to one of their 7 school choices are assigned to the closest school geographically to their home with openings. That may not be your neighborhood school, and it may not be a school you ever considered for your child, but it's probably not across town."

    I responded to that (untrue), and then added a few other responses to other popularly bandied-about notions that I cannot bear.

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  48. "but the fact remains that in this district no one is bussed across town."

    The "fact" ? Huh? That's just not true. Kids in Hunter's point are routinely bussed across town. Perhaps kids in Now Valley are not, but it depends where you live.

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  49. uh, NOE Valley, I meant.

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  50. personally, i think the entire house of cards that is SFUSD's assignment system is predicated on middle-class parents' willingness to courier their kids -- by car -- all over the damn place in order to exercise their "choice." it's just a (free to the district) substitute for busing. i hate this policy. it is bad for SF and for people generally.

    i know i'm beating a dead horse here, but take, for instance, the district's attitude when the flynnarados mostly refused to consider daniel webster seriously as an (involuntary) assignment option (only 1 of the 23 families lives in potrero hill, to my knowledge). their attitude was, whaddaya mean you refuse to buy a volvo cross country and drive your kid 45 minutes across the city every day by 7:50? yer, like, white and college-educated...why don't you have a car?

    re: registration. i can't decide. i've definitely regretted posting under my own name at times, but since you can have a false identity, that is no impediment to candor, really. i would hate to see the trash talk end [grin].

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  51. KIM GREEN! I LOVE YOU!

    THAT is what is frightening & makes my blood boil - the well-known, well-documented attitude of the SFUSD that Kim describes - one set of opportunities & circumstances & rules for educated white families, different set of set of opportunities & circumstances & rules for everyone else.

    Why should my kid have fewer chances & her parents more responsibilities because of race (white, born here) & national origin? That may not be the exact factors they officially use, but that is the result!

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  52. just get rid of anonymous?September 30, 2008 at 9:34 AM

    well kate, i see your point for wanting folks to register, but as others have said, there's no getting rid of trolls.

    personally i barely post- i just like to check in every once in a while to see what the latest k-files gossip is. if i had to register, well, the truth is i wouldn't bother.

    if we have to register, i do believe the heated debates will be lost, the people who work in the SFUSD system won't post, and this exciting forum will pretty much die away.

    the posters who deliberately try to stir things up are amusing. the people who get riled up are hilarious. sometimes it's a good thing. sometimes the issues are quite serious. i'd hate to see it go away.

    my only suggestion would be to have folks come up with a handle each time they post, so it's easier to follow their threads.

    i vote no on registering

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  53. 9:34 AM wrote: "the people who get riled up are hilarious."

    Really f-ing hilarious, to be told my kid has been assigned to John Muir & that my husband & I have a moral responsibility to send him there.

    So hilarious! Ha ha ha! We're not contributing to any retirement plans anymore so we can afford private school - HILARIOUS! We are now trying to figure out how to educate child #2, because we can not afford two private tuitions - which child will go to public..? HILARIOUS!

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  54. 9:41

    Take a pill. Sheesh.

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  55. 9:41, did any posters really tell you that you SHOULD send your kid to John Muir? I know some people have claimed I've said things like that, but I haven't. Another 0/15 recently reminded me that I urged caution on John Muir specifically, based on the fact that its PTA is run by community activist non-parents rather than parents in the school.)

    But if I didn't, were there folks who actually did?

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  56. I think Kim is absolutely right -- out entire choice system depends upon the ability of parents to get their child to a school that may not be the closest one to their house. I only began to think about the environmental ramifications of this last year looking at middle schools, and it really hit me hard school started again in August. I live just up the street from Fairmount School, and suddenly my relatively quiet street became crowded with cars as parents from all around came to drop their kids off at Fairmount, while I and my neighbors were packing our kids in the car to head off to our respective schools. And, Fairmount isn't even that bad --lots of kids walk there.

    There is no perfect solution to school assignment, but I am interested in the idea of zones with a guarantee of placement within that zone. The trade-off is you lose some choice, but you gain some certainty, and some increased air quality. I am guessing you would still have to run immersion or language enrichment programs separately though.

    Okay, a little off topic of whether Kate should require registration or not. For what it's worth, I tried to register, but was unable to get it to work because I already have a Blogger ID but can't remember what the password is. So far the Google messages in response to my lost password have not led to a solution.

    Anne

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  57. my only suggestion would be to have folks come up with a handle each time they post, so it's easier to follow their threads.

    Not a bad idea -- I wonder if Kate can set it so all options but anonymous are enabled.

    The Name/URL button is the same as posting anonymously (unlike registering your info with Google), except you give yourself a nickname.

    It can be a different name every time if you feel like it. Maybe you have a few different identities you would like to post under depending on the subject. Maybe you want to scatter the breadcrumbs that could otherwise lead to the revelation of your real identity. You could even call yourself "anonymous."

    This would be a fun way to suggest some semblance of community protocol, without killing off the blog for the imagined benefits of registering users. Of course someone could hijack your nickname...

    Trolls cannot be banned from posting. You might be able to stall the ones that we don't need to worry about, but not the ones we do. Certainly none of them can be stopped from lurking.

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  58. 9:41 here - I was told by some enrollment person at the school district that, as an educated, native English speaker, I had a duty to bring my involvement to John Muir, where my oldest was assigned.

    Verbatim. I am still reeling over that. I have met a few other parents who were told the same sort of thing, too. It is NOT an urban legend.

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  59. I thought you meant here on this blog, 2:40. Now I get'cha. I guess they think they're doing their job, but that's not a very effective sales tactic! Sheesh.

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