I used to write a thriving blog.
A month and a half ago.
But as soon as the New Year dawned, my readership dropped to the tiniest fraction of what it had been in 2021.
I went from about 1,000 readers per article to a few hundred.
How does that happen?
I suppose it could be that people are sick of me.
Maybe my writing just isn’t what it was and readers are tired of hearing about the same old topics over and over again.
Education and civil rights. That stuff is just so 60 days ago!
Yet look at the reality. School boards are banning Holocaust narratives like Art Spiegleman’s “Maus.” State governments are passing laws to restrict what teachers can say in the classroom or make their jobs more untenable so even more leave the profession.
I just can’t believe that in light of such a flame dancing ever more quickly down an ever-shorter fuse that people aren’t interested in reading about how to stomp it out.
From conservative scholars supporting standardized testing to local athletic leagues saying racism is a matter of both sides. From the effect on education of constantly depriving teachers of planning time to the continuing trauma of Coronavirus raging through our schools as decision makers refuse to take necessary precautions to protect students and staff.
It’s the method of distribution that’s the problem.
And that method is social media.
It’s been this way since I began the blog back in July of 2014.
I write an article then I post it to Facebook and Twitter.
The later platform has never been a huge draw for me. But until recently Facebook was my bread and butter.
My work was posted on message boards and in online forums and organizations’ pages focused on the issues I write about.
After the first year, the result was hundreds of thousands of readers annually.
But then as Facebook began trying to monetize the distribution of posts beyond a person’s local friend circle, those numbers started to drop.
I went from 446,000 hits in 2015 to 222,000 last year.
It’s demoralizing but not because of any need for fame.
I don’t need to have thousands of people hang on my every word. This isn’t about ego.
It’s about change.
I write this blog to get the word out about what’s really happening in our public schools. And to try to push back against the rising tide trying to destroy my profession.
Mass media is not particularly kind to educators like me.
Even when journalists are writing about schools and learning, they rarely ask classroom teachers their opinions. Instead, the media often turns to self-appointed experts, think tank flunkies, billionaire philanthropists or politicians.
It’s like they can’t even conceive of the fact that someone with a masters degree or higher in education who devotes her whole life to the practice of the discipline has anything worthwhile to say.
So many of us have taken to the blogosphere to circumvent the regular media channels.
We write out our frustrations. We tell our truths. We give a peek of what it’s like in our public schools, an educated opinion about the ills therein, and how to fix them.
But as time has worn on, more and more of us are leaving the field. We’re abandoning the classroom and the Web.
And even those like me who are still desperately sounding the alarm every week are being silenced.
Frankly, I don’t know what to do about it.
I know Facebook is trying to pressure me into paying the company to more widely distribute my articles.
If I give them $50-$100 a week, they promise to deliver my work as widely as they used to do when I didn’t have to pay for the privilege.
Actually, it wasn’t Facebook that delivered it. It was people on Facebook.
People who really cared about what I had to say would see it and share it with others.
But now there’s a strict algorithm that determines what you get to see on your page. And if it says you’re invisible, then POOF! You’re gone and the people who would most enjoy your writing and want to pass it on don’t get the chance.
It’s undemocratic in the extreme but totally legal because Facebook is a for-profit company, not a public service.
It’s not about the free expression of ideas. It’s about making money.
And so people like Joe Rogan make millions on their podcasts spreading science denial, vaccine disinformation and racist dog whistles.
A guy like me just trying to make the world a better place?
I get silenced.
I guess when money is speech, poverty is the real cancel culture.
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I’ve also written a book, “Gadfly on the Wall: A Public School Teacher Speaks Out on Racism and Reform,” now available from Garn Press. Ten percent of the proceeds go to the Badass Teachers Association. Check it out!