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I’ve been thinking on this situation for three days now and I’ve had many, many thoughts. (Basic recap: Ohio’s State Board of Ed prez, Debe Terhar, shared on her Facebook page a photo of Hitler that is accompanied by this quote, “Never forget what this tyrant said: ‘To conquer a nation, first disarm its citizens.’ — Adolf Hitler.” This quote has been debunked. Since its posting a few days ago, she’s taken down her Facebook page but is refusing to step down from the board or from the position of president of the board.)

Here are a few thoughts:

1. I work on a daily basis to get public officials to engage with, you know, the public. I don’t want less engagement between those two sets of stakeholders. I’m also an elected official, so I live this as well.

2. Engagement, like democracy, can be dangerous for public officials who do not comprehend that online engagement in particular wants to be public and, like heat seeking the highest points, engagement seeks out public forums.

4. I’m in my ninth year of engaging online and I trust its self-correcting nature, for me and for others. It’s why I don’t demonize it. But it requires humility and acceptance as well as confidence to stand up for what you’ve placed online, however you placed it there (including your original words or *just* sharing a photo or quote from another source, which then is open to being scrutinized, for that’s part of what social networking is all about – scrutinizing the networks of people or organizations we view online in order to understand the otherwise one-dimensional representations of themselves that they’ve placed online with their name attached to or affiliated with it) or apologize for it and explain yourself. If you are not prepared to do any of that, then get training before you engage online. If you are not capable of or don’t agree in doing any of that, please do not enter public office. Public office in the 21st century demands people who accept the public part and the public part, in the 21st century, includes the online public.

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By Jill Miller Zimon at 12:29 pm January 24th, 2013 in Politics | Comments Off 

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