As a federal appeals court in Chicago put it in January, a teacher's speech is "the commodity she sells to an employer in exchange for her salary."My first reaction to reading that was amazement. Then it was disgust. Then I thought about the fact that I was bound, in my last job, not to publicly advocate anything that was in opposition to the teachings of the Catholic Church. And it hadn't bothered me. Of course, I don't publicly advocate much of anything. And I never felt that it limited my freedom to say what I wanted to about any topic in my classroom. My students always knew who I am and what I believe in. But in spite of my own feelings of freedom, I basically gave away my freedom of speech when I took the job.
What amazes me now as I think about it is the way I never really realized what was being asked of me. I just accepted it as something buried in the faculty handbook that didn't really apply all that much to me. And I am sure that Ms. Mayer never really thought about it either -- until she had lost her job.
But that is where the problem lies, I think. We need to be thinking more.