Tuesday, November 30, 2010

The Trouble With Filters

When my daughters were students at South Middle School and Morgantown High School they were members of what I think is the most marvelous student group ever, Technology Student Association (TSA).  Their main advisor was South's vocational arts teacher Paul Kimbrew.  I remember vividly sitting in a parent meeting at South as Mr. Kimbrew gave guidelines for appropriate non-uniform dress at the conference.
"What plays in Morgantown does not play in the rest of West Virginia.  Heck, what plays in Morgantown does not even play in Fairmont."
(Fairmont is a town about 20 miles south of Morgantown.)

Mr. Kimbrew's point was that Morgantown is a relatively progressive community and more forgiving of extreme fashion trends than many areas in our state.  He suggested, for the sake of students not being removed from mixers due to "inappropriate" attire, that discretion and parental oversight by used when packing for this trip.

Herein lies the problem with filters, particularly those that are imposed over a large geographic area.  Norms of one community may impinge upon the intellectual needs of others.  It is my belief that those who control the filters tend to do so for the more conservative, if not extreme, members of the community.  This limits the rights of others to explore topics that may be of interest to some for fear of possibly offending others.

There is a difference between political correctness and censorship.  In this blog I do not feel it is appropriate to share religious views or personal criticisms of...anyone!  In restraining myself, I am hoping my blog stays accessible to the widest range of educators. But education, lifelong learning in particular, is a personal experience for each recipient.  Ideas should not be censored.  We need access to a wide variety of ideas to learn how to make sound decisions.

There is growing concern that in schools, if we are to continue using the wide technology opportunities available to our students, the use of filters must be radically reduced. As Ian Quillen notes in Education Week's Digital Directions, no one in his right mind would advocate totally open access to everything, filtering restrictions must be relaxed in order to fully take advantage of the resources available to our students.  Quillen's post also notes that too often filters are set not to protect students from inappropriate content, but to protect administrators from inconvenient complaints.  A balance on the side of open access is needed.

No comments: