A joint production

I spoke this evening with a Harvard Extension School class taught by my friend and colleague Andy Sellars. The course, Internet & Society: Technologies and Politics of Control (syllabus here), takes a Berkmanish approach to cyberlaw. That’s to say, the course is wide-ranging and covers more than a strictly “legal” perspective. Justin Reich and I came in to speak about online education.

Even though I spend a lot of my time these days thinking about teaching and education, most of that time is spent on the details of one particular course. I have next to no knowledge (beyond what I’ve read/heard in the last year) of the scientific or theoretical side of education, and with the exception of serving as a teaching fellow for CopyrightX (which is a big exception), I’ve never been taught how to teach. So, talking alongside Justin was humbling/intimidating. Thankfully, I was able to stick to CopyrightX, which I know quite well.

While I was talking and leading discussion, and especially when Justin was talking and during Andy’s brief interventions, I found myself thinking about my parents and about my childhood. Why? Well, my mother is a middle school teacher, and my father is a journalist. For a long time, of course, I didn’t think of them this way. I had the privilege of occasionally riding along when my father went to interview a source or helping my mother correct homework, and I still remember where the candy was located at both workplaces. (At the school, it was in a box in teacher workroom–payment was on the honor system and the best snack was Circus Animals. At the paper,candy was in a vending machine located in a room to the right and in front of my father’s desk.) To me, this was what it meant to be the daughter of a teacher and a journalist. It also meant that, on hot summer days, Dad would come home smelling of woodsmoke from covering a forest fire. It meant Mom knew the kids on the other team at my soccer matches. And I’m beginning to think that it meant I would grow up to write this blog post.

It is only in the last few years that I have learned to think of my parents as people first and parents second. (They say this is part of growing up, right?) Part of that realization has also taught me to think of them as a teacher and a journalist, in a way I didn’t before. And I’m seeing myself, more and more, as the daughter of a teacher and journalist. Being at the Berkman Center has allowed me to engage with both of those professions from my own professional perspective as a lawyer. Especially because there are a couple of joint NeimanBerkman fellows this year, but also because of long-time Berkman projects like the DMLP (another shout-out to Andy) and blogs.law, I’ve gotten to talk about journalism a lot since last fall. On the education side, I’ve benefited from conversations with Justin and others at HarvardX, with Rey Junco and other ed-oriented Berkman fellows, and of course from conversations with the rest of the CopyrightX course team.

This all came together for me in the class today as we were talking about the bigger themes behind online education and tying this week into the other weeks of Andy’s syllabus. These themes included cyberlaw classics: the role of the state and the role of technology; the rights of the individual and the rights of the group; the uniqueness or lack thereof of a particular technology; etc. These themes shine through nicely in cyberlaw’s classic topics: privacy, speech, copyright, telecommunications.

These themes also come together nicely in journalism and teaching, which are quite rightly a big part of the “society” in the Berkman Center for Internet and Society. Here’s the part of being a journalist and teacher’s daughter that I didn’t realize until now. In addition to being fed Circus Animals, I was taught to respect authority and to question it. (Be good to your teachers. Don’t let the police search your backpack.) I was taught to champion inclusiveness, but I was also taught about the reality of scarce resources. I was taught to be tolerant, and I was taught to speak my mind. In other words, I’ve been training for this public interest tech lawyer gig a lot longer than I thought.

P.S. I can’t talk about education without mentioning Mrs. Olinski, another foundational influence on my thinking in this area.

P.P.S. Props to the excellent Digitally Connected symposium for getting me thinking about the nature of childhood this morning.

Updated to reflect a copy-edit contributed by said journalist father (benefited from*).

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