21st Century Censorship

July 11, 2010

In my last entry, I spoke of  the reasons why I was a horrible teacher last year and my expectations and resolutions for improvement for this upcoming year.

Today, however, as I was following the #edchat discussions on my tweetdeck, a question was posed that made me think about the possibility that my resolutions may not come as easily as I would hope.

The question was one of a school blocking certain web sites that this particular teacher had hoped to use in class.   And soon after that question, a discussion was posted regarding the use of skype in the classroom.  Something that I personally had hoped to do during the upcoming school year.

But putting the two together I realized something…

I started using twitter lightly for my classes at the end of last year as an experiment.  It took only one week for the site to be blocked for all teachers and students.

Youtube and Facebook have always been blocked — these facts make me wonder whether I’ll be able to use Skype or not. As a matter of fact…

Will I be able to use any of these sites for more than the first week?

This made me think about the larger issue of censorship overall.
I can understand the censorship of sites for students, but why do we feel the need to limit the teachers’ resources in the classroom.

I understand bandwidth issues as well, but there HAS TO be a better way to handle it.

But, back to the students.  We don’t teach netiquette. We don’t teach (for the most part) time management that includes the web.  We don’t teach how to evaluate sources.  We say “don’t use wikipedia,” but don’t explain why (speaking for my school, at least).

We don’t teach what needs to be taught — we teach what needs to be tested

and that’s a crime.

It is because of laws and programs like No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top that we must stick to traditions that are ineffective.  I truly believe that No Child Left Behind was written and enacted with the best of intentions…

But Washington has stepped too far into education and control (at least some level) has been taken from those who should have it.  To quote a favorite song of mine by Ari Hest:

“But that’s alright, after all, they had good intentions.”

But the best of intentions land you nowhere without the required level of thought, research, and follow-through.

We are doing our students an injustice through sticking with traditions and utilizing this level of censorship.  Rather than teaching the positive powers of social networks, we write them off as destructive time wasters and block them in school buildings.

Then we have seemingly skewed studies that come out and hurt the cause, like the ones addressed by Larry Ferlazzo, earlier today.  Yes, this study was about computer usage at home, but there’s not really a large leap in logic to get to the point of discouraging the use of social networks in schools.

So the solution then is to continue blocking sites that cause any kind of problem with wasting time.

Then we really need to block paper and pencil, because doodling can waste time too.

But both can be creative outlets (yet another thing we must begin to recognize, according to Ken Robinson).  We need to harness creativity and teach proper use of networks.

Socrates was put to death for “corrupting youth,” and we are doing just that by simply ignoring new technologies and basically disallowing creativity in some schools instead of teaching both pivotal subjects.  We are guilty of corrupting our youth through our negligence.

Does anyone else experience the problem of this censorship by blocking websites?



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