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Media: Who Are Education's Biggest Trolls (Besides Me)?

image from scholasticadministrator.typepad.comUsed to be, the term "troll" was a pejorative term limited to commenters who wrote inflammatory responses to blog posts, hijacking threads and getting everyone all angry and red-cheeked.

(v.) (1) To deliberately post derogatory or inflammatory comments to a community forum, chat room, newsgroup and/or a blog in order to bait other users into responding.

These days, as this Salon article points out (Everything is “trolling” now), bloggers and writers who tend towards inflammatory blog posts and articles are considered trolls, too.

It's a compliment, of sorts.

To some extent, the term's expanded use reflects the reality that publishers and respondents share many of the same goals these days -- to win your attention and response.

It's also a result of the flattening effect of social media -- publishers, writers, and respondants are all operating in the same spaces now (ie, Twitter, Facebook).

I'm as guilty of trolling as anyone else. A reader of my Chicago site wrote in not too long ago that I "trolled like a boss," which was meant as an insult but felt like a compliment.

So, who are education's biggest trolls? Read on for the list, tell me who I'm missing and I'll add them in an update. Yes, I'm trolling you with this post.

-The Fordham Foundation. Great headlines ("Opt-Out or Cop-Out"), counterintuitive arguments, and multiple voices. Humor goes a long way. Not your traditional troll, but the spirit is there.

-Caroline Grannan. An old-school comment troll, she's everywhere on Facebook, in comments, and on Twitter. Her Google Alert list must be pretty extensive.

-Diane Ravitch. Prolific, merciless, shameless at her saber-rattling and teacher-scaring. Now that she's got her own blog instead of just Twitter she's replaced The Washington Post's Valerie Strauss as the Glenn Beck of the liberal left.

-Xian Barrett. The recently laid-off Chicago teacher trolled his way to the front page of the Sun Times recently -- and deserved it.

-Robert Pondiscio.  Mostly on Facebook, Pondiscio has been trolling folks like Anthony Cody with impressive regularity lately.  I'm not sure if he can keep it up but I appreciate the effort and skill.  

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Hmm. In my many years as a volunteer organizer of Scholastic Bookfairs, I have to say I never expected Scholastic to pay someone to call me names. Life is strange sometimes.

Let's not leave out Andy Rotherham, who prides himself on being snarky.

As provocative as some published stories are, trolling is a separate thing entirely. It should not be considered a compliment to be called a troll because the point is to explicitly deviate from the issue at hand and make things personal. And for sure Caroline is NOT a troll.

As another longtime supporter of and volunteer at Scholastic book fairs, I also wonder what Scholastic is doing supporting gratuitous personal attacks. Mr. Russo may be happy to admit to posting "derogatory or inflammatory material" purely to provoke responses, but that's no excuse for tarring others with the label. I'm all for free speech and the right to express controversial ideas, but this doesn't seem to be advancing any goal that Scholastic might have.

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Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in This Week In Education are strictly those of the author and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Scholastic, Inc.