wasting bandwidth since 1999

Random Censorship

If you’re tired of me whining about web censorship filtering, then you may as well head off to the next item in your aggregator because this could be a long rant.

Monday the IT folks in our overly large school district imposed the blocking system from our new vendor on all our elementary schools and the administrative offices. (I guess they think we act like children around here. :-)

As a result this site is now blocked since I’ve been tossed into the Message Boards and Forums category. Obviously, the writing around here is a threat to the youth of America.

I’m not alone, however. Also not permitted to corrupt our children are Will, Tom, Jeff, Wes, and Anne.

But Miguel, Vicki, Karl, David and Chris get through the electronic defenses just fine.

In my spare time this week I’ve been submitting requests to have a long list of sites unblocked (fortunately, my boss approved them) but it’s not that effort that bothers me.

It’s the totally inconsistent classification and blocking of web sites which is very much symptomatic of the arbitrary, sometimes knee-jerk rules we often impose on students in the name of keeping them safe.

Instead of using the electronic filters sparingly (there are certainly sites that need to be kept out of the classroom) and then teaching the kids how to evaluate and filter the rest for themselves, we throw up a porous chain-link fence, offering administrators a false sense of security.

While I have lots of criticism for the people who administer the web filtering system for our district, the larger problem here is the company behind the curtain that we’re paying large amounts of money to provide this piece of crap.

They are the ones who capriciously decided that certain blogs permitting comments (probably moderated) are the same as sites offering free and unrestricted discussions.

And who also ruled that similar sites, discussing the same topics, with the same comment systems are “safe”.

Ok. That’s enough on the subject for now.

However, this mess is probably only going to get worse.

schools, internet, filtering, censorship

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8 Comments

  1. See? I’m not a radical but rather, a darn subversive agent undercover.

    I’m so deep, I’m in the open and they still don’t know it.

    Peel the onion layers…

    Miguel
    ;->

  2. Filters suck. I don’t think I could ever bring myself to use one for a business, but I should never say never. Odds are that something will change, and filtering will make more sense, or will become so much less intrusive, that we won’t find the gall builds up enough to complain about it.

  3. Mark

    “Instead of … teaching the kids how to evaluate and filter the rest for themselves,”

    Tim-
    I agree with much of and respect almost all of what you say, but this remark strikes me as incredibly naive. Try hanging out in a high school for a while and see how much “filtering for themselves” the kids are willing to do. Next to none. And before you can teach them to evaluate for themselves, you have to have a staff that’s at least as knowledgable as they are. That’s not going to happen any time soon.

  4. Mark,

    That’s true that even with education and instruction, they’ll still go where they want and at times ignore the common sense and decency. But they do that already offline. How do we deal with that? We might have a rule against foul language but yet we’ll catch kids using inappropriate language and deal with it accordingly. We don’t tell them they can’t talk in the hallway for fear they might swear.

    I’m still apt to exclude the technology from these conversations and ask what make sense.

    I do agree that some form of filtering in schools can be appropriate but these tools, in my experience block way more than than ought to. I’d rather have no filter than some of the filters and policies that exist in many of our schools.

  5. Tim

    I agree with Mark that I can be rather naive sometimes. However, I’m not naive enough to believe that we can ever teach all high school students how to responsibly work online and to not accept everything they see as valid.

    At least not unless we start the process on the first day they begin using the internet. And, as you point out, unless we can also teach the adults who work with the kids (that would include parents) the same skills. Unfortunately, very little of this is part of the “standard” curriculum in most schools.

  6. They are already inappropriate offline, but many in my high school have unrestricted access to the Internet on their blackberries and iPhones all day long!

  7. Tom

    Oddly, my old school just had google and yahoo blocked today.

    People . . . don’t . . . know . . .where . . . to . . . go.

    The Internet might as well be closed.

    The rationale was that these sites were blocked was “students were able to access unauthorized site(s) through them, so the county had to tighten the filter.”

    Freaking amazing. I just wonder what the thought process in these situations is.

  8. I don’t know if there’s any thought to it. I think it’s just mindless fear & greedy control lust.

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