So I don’t know if I even want a blog in this fight (to continue the really bad puns) because I’ve been down the blog or ban road before without too much success. But the topic seems to be cropping up more and more again, especially in the case of poor old Myspace.com where what kids are posting is causing schools to basically shut down in Texas and causing blogs to shut down in New Jersey.
In Texas, they’re trying to hold myspace.com accountable for allowing kids to post threatening messages to their sites.
“It just seems to me that if you put up a public web site, and you allow students, teeangers, minors to post their thoughts and ideas, and not monitor it in an adult manner, you are asking for trouble,” Gonzales said. “This particular web site has been a pain for all Bexar County schools for a long time now, and it just seems that the owners of MySpace-dot-com should be held accountable.”
Here in my home state, they’re trying to protect the students.
“The step was taken to provide Internet safety for the students,” Thompson said. “It’s not about censorship.”
Neither, obviously, is it about education.
We can’t be banning access to Constitutionally protected content because we happen to think it’s inappropriate or potentially unsafe. If we were to do that, then we ought to ban all of the commercials and all of the television shows that by someone’s standards should be deemed inappropriate (What would there be left to watch?) And absolutely, we should keep our kids safe, and absolutely there is a threat that we need to be cognizant of. But, really, how would my students be safer should my school cut access to myspace.com? What about the 17 hours of the day when they’re not with us? The act teaches nothing other than as educators we don’t have the imagination or the gumption to deal with this issue.
My students would be safer if we worked hard to provide our students with some context for their actions and gave them some tools for making good decisions about what and what not to publish. They’d be safer if we educated parents to help them understand what their children are doing and how they can counsel them. They’d be safer if every teacher and administrator and staff member were modeling the benefits of publishing online. They’d be safer if we employed the “reasonable standard of care” that I mentioned yesterday.
I have an eight-year old daughter who, like it or not, is going to be exposed to much worse threats than those at myspace.com. Every day she walks into her school library she sees magazine covers of anorexic women being touted as beautiful. Every night as she grows up she’ll see pictures of human beings blown apart or starving or suffering on the evening news and wonder why we allow that to happen. Everywhere she looks she’ll see a throw away society that is more concerned with comfort and convenience than the future of the world she’ll be inhereting. Every day as she goes through adolesence and beyond she’ll be subject to the gender bias of a world that celebrates white male dominance and superiority at every turn. And my job is to make sure that she never becomes so accustomed to any of it that she no longer sees it. (And, by the way, the same teachings hold true for her younger brother.)
Because that’s the point. She has to see it. She has to be shown how to recognize it for what it is and how to deal with it in effective, intelligent ways. Trying to hide it from her will only render me irrelevant when she eventually finds it on her own, and that’s the scariest scenario of all.