Is Internet Filtering In Schools Censorship?

This post was prompted from the following Tweet:

Twitter March 26, 2010: @mbteach RT @NMHS_Principal: A simple fix for Internet censorship in schools http://bit.ly/bjH5AQ

The article referenced above was based on an interview of Craig Cunningham, a professor at National-Louis University by the author, Mitch Wagner, entitled, “A Simple Fix for Internet Censorship in Schools”. The following are my thoughts on the article and especially the comments.

I can say that I am happy with most filtering as long as administrators and teachers have a way to access what they need when they need it and it has be previewed by the teacher. This allows individual communities to set their own boundaries on what they believe is acceptable for their children.

Schools and districts send a powerful messages to parents when they filter saying, “We are committed to taking care of your kids along the boundaries our community has set”. When I have something I want to show my students, I get it from home or I can use a code, given to me by my District that allows me to temporarily bypass the filter. The District keeps close tabs on what I am doing on their computers so no one need worry about what I might “slip in”. The truth is I like my job and wouldn’t want to jeopardize my position or reputation. A school district’s view is simple and I agree with it, students may be watching whatever they want on the Internet or on cable TV at home but we need to limit what we allow them to have access to in the school building. It’s the same reason why schools have rules and dress codes (some schools have dress codes, not mine, and I would like to see one). A child can say, do, wear, eat, drink or smoke some things at home because their parents are, presumably, OK with it but we limit these things in school. It’s not about censoring anyone or anything. It’s about setting boundaries and creating an atmosphere of safety and decorum in the school building that allows the community to function as a whole. I also think some teachers need boundaries set for them. Teachers who don’t like the rules and boundaries that your school has set for you should try to change it or change your job location. That’s why games have rules and towns have laws. We all need a baseline for behavior.

The truth is any 7th grader can tell you the “back door” access to any website in any district. I learned from my students. They know how to get what they want regardless of Internet filters. Many students say and do things amongst themselves that would horrify most parents. They come to school dressed one way and change in the bathrooms to look the way they want in school. They eat, drink, smoke and consume what they want behind everyone’s back, do drugs during the school day, cut classes, gossip, text inappropriate messages & pictures and can be incredibly mean & cold-hearted to their peers. I once watched a pretty little blond girl who was arguing with her stereotypical opposite wind up and punch the girl right in the face! If I had a nickel for every time I heard a parent say, “Not MY child”, I could retire early. What kids do at home is between them, their parents and their Creator. Parents, I ask you, when was the last time you went to your kids computer, opened the Internet browser and looked at the “history” of what they were looking up at home? How about contacting your cell service provider a get a record of their text messages? You pay the bill so why not see what they are using it for? Try opening their underwear drawer or look under the mattress and see what else you find. My advice, wear rubber gloves before you go looking. Good luck.

It might be hard for the commentators in the article referenced above to believe that I am a “liberal”, relatively young, urban educator that is quite fond of the NEA. For those of you who think that educators have some liberal and, dare I say, Democratic agenda and that there is some secret plot to take over the minds of young people I say “Get over your paranoid self”. Teachers don’t teach for the glamour or the money. We teach because we have a passion for our subject and are “called” to serve and educate young people just as doctors, nurses, and clergy have their calling. For the most part, individual teachers don’t have grand political or religious agendas that they are trying to push on young people. I can’t vouch for Texas with regard to their Social Studies curriculum and textbooks.

As a teacher, all I can do is set boundaries and standards that I hope my students can learn from. I might occasionally and accidentally let the “F” bomb slip out in class (Joe Biden and George W. Bush are real human beings) but there is a strict rule about recording vocals, sounds or music that is inappropriate. My Class Rules state, “This is a school and a place of business not the street or a nightclub”. Every weekend and before every vacation I say the same thing to every class before they walk out my door (some have heard it so many times, they say it with me), “Drive slower. Break sooner. Don’t drink and drive or get in the car with anyone who has been drinking including your parents and don’t do anything you know is going to piss me off”. Students have told me on more than one occasion, that they actually didn’t do something because they thought of me. If they never learn a thing in my class and have learned this, I am happy. What more can any teacher ask for?

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4 Responses to “Is Internet Filtering In Schools Censorship?”

  1. Mary Beth Hertz Says:

    Feel blessed that you have a code to put in to access sites you want to see. I cannot even access most Google Images and battle our Filtering Committee over sites on a weekly basis.

    What you didn’t mention in your post is that many schools don’t block sites out of goodwill, but rather to comply with the CIPA law.

    We do have a responsibility to teach our students responsibility and set limits for them. The difference, I believe, is that many schools and districts blindly block sites without regard to their educational value. In addition, it is also our job as educators to teach our students responsible use of computers and the Internet.

    I’m happy to hear that you are helping your students build a ‘moral compass’ outside of your classroom. Keep pushing your Democratic, liberal agenda on those kids while raking in those big bucks. ;oP

  2. MusicEdTech Says:

    Here’s a link to the Children’s Internet Protection Act (CIPA Law)
    p://www.fcc.gov/cgb/consumerfacts/cipa.html
    Thanks for your thoughftul comments!

  3. Carol Broos Says:

    I totally agree with you, the blocking issues are not helping students, just hindering the educational process. We need to be responsible digital educators. Many of the “higher ups” never taught one class with the computer or internet. They are more concerned about the two p’s – porn and predators. The fact is you cannot completely filter porn and the chances of students being involved with a predator on the internet is lower than going to the mall. I also wrote a blogpost about this issue – http://www.beatechie.com/archives/999
    My students all know the “back doors,” and the sites they want to use are all educational sites that they want to learn. Some even keep a “cheat sheet” of googles they want when they get home and the filters are off!

  4. Monday Morning Music Mix -Music Education News Weekly ~3-29-10 | MusTech.Net: Music Education, Music Technology, & Education! Says:

    […] Is Internet Filtering In Schools Censorship?: “I can say that I am happy with most filtering as long as administrators and teachers have a way to access what they need when they need it and it has be previewed by the teacher. This allows individual communities to set their own boundaries on what they believe is acceptable for their children. Schools and districts send a powerful messages to parents when they filter saying, “We are committed to taking care of your kids along the boundaries our community has set”. When I have something I want to show my students, I get it from home or I can use a code, given to me by my District that allows me to temporarily bypass the filter. The District keeps close tabs on what I am doing on their computers so no one need worry about what I might “slip in””.  […]


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