Monday, March 11, 2013

Protecting Interviewees in Teacher Oral History Projects- Additional Thoughts

The idea of doing teacher oral history project to document the damage being done to public education by midguided School Reform iniitatives, and the devastating impact they have had on teacher morale and student engagement, has taken off like nothing I've ever been associated with. In the last two days I have been contacted by people in more than 20 different communities asking how they can launch such a project. I have also had several people offering to post interviews on their blogs, and one organization, United Opt Out, which will discuss possibly providing a national repository for the interviews.

As this initiative takes off, with numerous local projects, I want to reiterate how important it is to protect the interests of people being interviewed. No interview should ever be done without a release form specifying the conditoins under which the interview can be made public. People who want their identities disguised should only be interviewed under strict conditions which assure that wish is respected, and with signed release form that specify that condition.

For people launching projects at universities, the question arises, do these projects come under the jurisdiction of IRB's ( Institutional Review Boards that cover research with human subjects). Oral History Projects, conducted by historians, such as the Bronx African American History Project which I founded and direct, do not normally come under the jurisdiction of IRB's. However, if you are a scholar in a filed such as sociology, or psychology, or even education, where your research is normally under IRB jurisdiction, you should seek IRB approval for this. project

\There is no single template or one size fits all model for Teacher Oral History projects. They should be adapted to local conditions and in ways that will best get the largest participation of teachers.

But one thing that that must be respected is the MORAL ObLIGATION to protect your interview subjects. That cannot be compromised.

That being said, please move forward! And let me know via Facebook or email ( when you actually have a project under way.

This is true demoracy in action. Oral History is one of the way that the voices of marginalized peoples have found their way into public discourse, as well as the writing of history. It is not only a way of flipping the script on those who confidently proclaim " Hsitory Belongs to the Victors., " it is a way of helping insure the victors share power or even relinquish it, to the vanquished

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