About a year ago, a few young Germans set up an Internet forum, www.spickmich.de (G), that lets students anonymously rate their teachers. The ratings were divided into categories such as "good lessons," "knows his field," and "cool and funny." Oh, and you could rate how "sexy" your teacher is, until some teachers complained.
How did teachers react to the website? According to one of the webmasters, not very accommodatingly:
"At one high school in Cologne, the principal allegedly threatened the students with 'consequences' if they put any grades on the site; at a school in Karlsruhe, a letter was distributed to the parents, with the request that they sign it, certifying that their children did not use the site.
The teachers' lobby groups also attacked the site. The 'Philologists' Association' [the name of one German teacher lobby group] referred to Spickmich in the same sentence as mobbing-videos and porno-montages featuring teachers. And the head of the German Teachers' Association, Josef Kraus, even said that students were not capable of judging teachers' quality.
But that's not all. In Germany, people whose feelings are hurt when somebody says something rude about them in public can file a lawsuit on the grounds of "insult," among other legal theories. A teacher who got low marks in the online forum did just that. However, the Regional Court of Cologne just ruled (G) against the teacher on free-speech grounds.
As someone who actually is a teacher and presumably gets 'rated' by students all the time, I say 'Hooray for free speech!'