So here we go…let’s REALLY get around this messy job of educating our kids by just legislating away school access to not only MySpace but to any
…commercial Web sites that let users create public “Web pages or profiles” and also offer a discussion board, chat room, or e-mail service.
Including blogs, wikis, online gaming…
No joke. This is a bill offered up by a group of Republicans whose polling shows that now is the time to capitalize on the hysteria that a slew of fright-filled articles about social networking sites has wrought.
This is disturbing on so many levels that I hardly know where to begin. But let’s start with the name of this bill: the “Deleting Online Predators Act” or DOPA. (Too bad the last word isn’t “Edict” or something, huh?) Please…is there anyone out there who thinks that blocking access to these sites at school is going to do anything to “delete” online predators? That’s laughable on its face. Can we then also “delete” the magazine advertisers who regularly turn overly skinny girls into sexual objects by legislating away those pictures from our libraries? What happens when our kids go home and turn on the tv and see those same “models” of beauty selling everything from beer to bedroom clothes by blatant seduction? You want to really make a difference in our kids’ lives, legislate that.
Second, read the bill. Read the part where it says we need to do this to prohibit access to “a commercial social networking website or chatroom through which minors…may easily be subject to unlawful sexual advances, unlawful requests for sexual favors or repeated offensive comments of a sexual nature from adults.” I have two kids, and I can promise you the only way they will easily be subject to any of this is if I (or the school) haven’t educated them beforehand to know what to look for and to know what to do if it happens. And if I/we haven’t done that, then our kids will not be safe no matter what we block and filter. The “potential danger of commercial social networking websites and chat rooms” comes not from the technology but from the way we and our kids use it. Are we too embarassed to teach them to use it safely?
Third, the broader implications on speech and expression are really, literally, “chilling.” Just like all of the blog banning going on, there is a very slippery slope here that, thankfully, other’s are trying to combat. The time to mount up is nearing.
Finally, here’s the money quote from the article (assuming of course, we can believe C-Net’s interpretation, which I would tend to…):
The group, which is calling itself the “Suburban Caucus,” convened a press conference on Wednesday to announce new legislation it hopes will rally conservative supporters–and prevent the Democrats from retaking the House of Representatives during the November mid-term election.
Aye, there’s the rub. It’s not safety. It’s politics. It’s a hot button issue. It’s fear mongering. It’s power, or the potential loss of it.
It’s got to stop.
I’ve got two days left in the public school system, so I can still feel insulted. Insulted that I’m not trusted to make good decisions about the technology. Insulted that I’m not trusted to teach my students what they need to know to be safe. Insulted that my school space is being trotted out as a place where kids are running amok online all for the sake of political gain.
Talk about dangerous…
(Thanks to Renee Buker for the tip.)
Tom Hoffman says
You’d better start preparing your testimony… Mr. Richardson goes to Washington?
This precariously close to banning the internet using a similar type of logic and reasoning as people wanting to ban books (school and public libraries). Instead of focusing upon teaching students how to analyze and responsibly use the technology, let’s block access and make them more appealing because they are forbidden fruit.
I am curious. If a teacher/school district wants to use a commercial blog service, such as blogger, and chooses to host it on their own server with appropriate branding and web address, would it still be blocked?
I have the full points (and links to the rest of the articles) on “the suburban agenda” here:
there are other teacher requirements and reductions in student freedoms.
James Behnke says
Well, trying to block all of these sites from my WAN is going to be fun. I just hope that the legislation recognizes those sites and commercial social networking tools that are designed to be (relatively) safe for school use (I.e. Epals, Gaggle.net) as I have plans to introduce these resources in the near future.
I think that we are entering an age where it is safe to say that if a child wants to access information, he or she will find a way to do so whether it be on the school’s computers or by using a computer built into their eyeglasses on the town’s metropolitan wireless network. What matters, as has been stated in several of these comments, is what the child elects to do with the information or technology tool that is available to them. Education is the key.
Sarah Chauncey says
It’s called ignorance. Public education is supposed to teach children to become responsible citizens. September is “Constitution Month” and then we fail to teach children how to responsibly use the media they will use when they walk out of our schools at the end of the day. (Of course they could pass a bill to shut down the internet.) At sixteen I can’t blog. At eighteen I can go to Iraq and … well, sigh.
Darren Kuropatwa says
This reads like an episode of the Twilight Zone or a chapter out of 1984. How do you go about lobbying for the rights of teachers to teach and kids to learn? As a Canadian, I may be crossing a line here, but what kind of a government legislates away the most powerful tools for learning that have come along in generations just at the time when study after study shows the need for increased attention to education?
I just don’t get it.
The “bloggers” had a dramtic impact in your last national election. How do you go about orchestrating a similar effort here? If the opinion of a foreign national can be of any help just tell me who to write to.
Scott Bevill says
Wow, really. Freedom of speech for the win, here.
Sites that are designed to provide the youth of America with a voice and a personality…taken away because of idiotic, misplaced fears.
“We’ve all heard the stories of child predators…” Yeah, and we’ve all heard the one about the hitchhiker with the hook too, but I’m not going to pass a law about it. Its really unbelievable how far some people are willing to bend constitutional rights to further a political agenda. And this bill isn’t going to protect the children.
Sure, it may prevent access to a lot of questionable material on school grounds, but it will also block the ability for students to access even more worthwhile, educational material online as well. Not to mention the growing amount of kids who have access to the Internet outside of school…and out of any chance for supervision or guidance.
I know I’m preaching to the choir here…but seriously, have a little trust in your educators and parents to teach our children responsible behavior in the world, both on-line and off.
Brand Search says
I do not see how it can benefit the kids? Or i forgot who cares for them
Mobilize.org is launching a new campaign in response to Congressâ€™ attempt to censor the communication of our generation. We have created the action alert below and built a website, http://www.mobilize.org/SOS. We are hoping to get as much grassroots action as possible around this important issue, especially from the online community.
Legislation introduced this week will ban social networking, even sites used for educational and professional opportunities. Whatâ€™s next? HR5319 will censor the communication of our generation and tell us who we can talk to, when and how. Tell Congress that social networking is a movement that we built, a movement that we are going to fight for.
Visit http://www.mobilize.org/SOS, take action, tell your friends and get mad.
The bill blocks the use of these sites in public libraries, which is for many, the only access that they have to a computer. Our hope is to be able to amend the bill to take these facts into consideration. We agree that there need to be safeguards put in place for “sexual predators” and any of other crimes that might occur because of the accessibility of information on these sites, but to ban them in schools (including using school computers afterschool) and public libraries, is for many – banning social networking.
I am open to suggestions on how we should better craft our message to convey these facts and express the urgency of this campaign. Today is the first business day that we’ve been able to talk to people about it, as we just found out about it on Friday.