Filtering in School? A Response

Filter A recent post by Mike Gwaltney “Keeping Kids off the Internet – What’s With the Draconian Filtering Policies?” posed some important questions “Is filtering necessary? If so, why filter so aggressively? Is there a way to filter effectively that both protects students and allows them to use the Web to its potential? Aren’t we doing students a disservice by blocking the full internet?”

Here’s my response:

I grew up in a heavily curated information landscape. The news was limited to relatively few sources. I can even remember the days of the 15 minute evening national news cast. Schools were just another one of the information gatekeepers that ruled my life. But at the same time it was rather tough for me to get in trouble. (though at age 16, I did manage to read large portions of the newly banned “Fanny Hill” in the aisles of a progressive bookstore). 

Today, students are awash in text without context. They are only a click away from reading that the “Holocaust was a hoax.” Ironically many schools respond by filtering. Wouldn’t it make more sense opening up the internet at school – providing thoughtful analysis and responsible use?

Filtering teaches hacking, not responsible use. 

For more on this subject see my post “What Happens in Schools When Life Has become an Open-book Test?

Image credit: Flickr/GIANTsqurl

One Reply to “Filtering in School? A Response”

  1. You nailed it Peter. The real concern is not that students will find their way to porn or spend time messaging each other (the new ‘passing notes in class’), but that dubious internet sites that pass themselves off as legitimate will be readily accessible and misunderstood. I’m thinking of the notorious site that claims to be an education resource for students but is really a MLK-bashing effort run by Stormfront, a white supremacist/neo-nazi group. The fact that this site regularly appears in the top 3 results on Google should make us all take notice: we need to teach students how to navigate the open internet and how to evaluate sources. We do students a major disservice when we ‘filter’ the internet for inappropriate content (kids don’t need us to tell them they shouldn’t be looking at porn or passing notes at school) and imply that whatever the filter doesn’t catch must be ok. We would be better off giving every teacher and student training in how to use the internet wisely.

    Thanks for the response!

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