The Firewall of Fear

In his reflection on the speakers from the first day at the Building Learning Communities conference, Jeff articulates beautifully a major stumbling block we have in American education: fear.

In this case, fear of allowing too much of the outside world into the classroom, and especially the fear of allowing almost anything from inside out.

“There’s no way my district will ever let us use any of these social tools, they’re scared.”

I’m sure many of you have either said this or have heard someone who has said this.

Alan November kicked off the conference today with one simple message:  We need to break down the Firewall fear

The same country that believes in free speech and the freedom of the press is the same country with some of the most restrictive filtering systems in its schools.

In our overly-large school district, for what seems like decades, we’ve been working on “internet safety” rules/regulations/curriculums to go with the web filtering system, all in the name of protecting kids from… well, no one can articulate exactly what.*

But, as Jeff points out, protection is something we can’t give them.

We need to break through this culture of fear, we need to empower students to make decisions, to analyze and evaluate good content and learn how to avoid the bad stuff. We need to empower students to protect themselves.

At the same time our politicians and administrators also talk about teaching “21st century skills” (like communication and collaboration), and about how students must be “globally aware” citizens of the world.

Making that happen is impossible when there is no direct interaction with that world.  When all feedback on what students do in school comes exclusively from within that closed environment.

And it certainly won’t happen when we teach kids (not to mention the adults in their lives – parents and teachers) that the web is something to be feared, instead of helping them understand how to deal with it, the good, bad, and ugly.

Jeff is exactly right that “Creativity and fear do not mix.”

Creative people, something else we say we want our students to be, take risks.  They learn how to deal with failure.  They learn from and respond to their critics.

The last thing creative people do is hide behind a firewall.


*Maybe to protect us from the lawyers? Often it seems that’s the overriding concern.