wasting bandwidth since 1999

Censorship, Book Burning and Prisons

It appears that a theme of censorship has developed around here in the last couple of days so let’s add one more to the pile.

Wes, one of the voices deemed not appropriate to enter our firewall, was having some filtering problems of his own this week.

While presenting to around the state of Oklahoma, he was prevented from using a variety of tools (Twitter, Yahoo mail, PBWiki, Skype, his own site and more) by the blocking systems used by the host schools.

[It’s interesting that the display announcing that the page you wanted won’t be displayed offers some suggestions of other sites to visit: Google, Yahoo, CNN, Fox News. I wonder how much those organizations had to pay for that placement.]

Wes goes on to compare these attempts to control human behavior with others from elsewhere in society.

In a purely analog world, censorship like this could be more visible. A book burning event was held in a public square, I think, to draw attention to the fact that the authorities not only philosophically opposed but physically opposed the reading of certain “banned works.”

In a digital world, censorship and content filtering like this is not as visible as a book burning event in the public square. The chilling effects of digital censorship on the sharing and communication of ideas can be just as severe, however.

If our schools look and feel like prisons (and certainly I’m not the first person to make this observation) that should serve as a wake-up call. I don’t really want to visit a prison, and I certainly don’t want to stay in one for long periods of time. Yet if we are forcing our students to remain in our schools for 13 years of compulsory, “free” education, but we are restricting them by cutting off their virtual arms and legs, is it any wonder dropout rates are so high and reported rates of boredom in schools are as well?

Some people will protest the comparison of school to prison. However, ask a high school student to describe their situation for seven hours each weekday and see if there are some striking similarities.

As to the book burning analogy, that match is far too close.

However, there is one great irony in all this. Schools are supposed to be institutions of learning where students gain the knowledge and skills needed to successfully live and work in the real world.

And then we spend large amounts of time, effort, and money trying to block that real world from leaking through the electronic walls.

censorship, school, prison, filtering

1 Comment

  1. Karen Janowski

    You said, “Schools are supposed to be institutions of learning where students gain the knowledge and skills needed to successfully live and work in the real world. And then we spend large amounts of time, effort, and money trying to block that real world from leaking through the electronic walls.”

    This summarizes the issue perfectly. How well are we preparing our kids for their world? And who are we kidding? Only ourselves!

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