Saturday, June 30, 2007

Efforts to force Web 2.0 out of schools will never solve anything...

Congressman Mark Kirk (R-IL) of Chicago's North Shore has spearheaded Congressional efforts to criminalize the use of popular Web 2.0 websites such as MySpace and Facebook from computers in public libraries and public school computer labs. I have tremendous respect for Kirk, but the simple fact is that he and his colleagues would be severely damaging the yet untapped potential of these emerging technologies as a platform for fostering innovative educational experiences. Kirk's bill is very similar to another introduced in the Senate by Ted Stevens (R-AL), "Protecting Children in the 21st Century", which is focused on removing the revolutionary open source encyclopedia Wikipedia from classrooms.

Illinois State Senator Matt Murphy (R-Palatine) has taken up the fight against the future at the state level, with the "Social Networking Website Prohibition Act", which would make it possible for libraries and schools that permit usage of social networking sites to be sued by parents or the Illinois Attorney General. Hilariously, Murphy has held discussion forums on his own blog to debate the merits of the legislation!

Illinois Library Association Executive Director Robert Doyle has protested this unbelievable movement on the part of lawmakers to micromanage the learning experience and taken Murphy in particular to task for his efforts. He stated earlier this year on his ALA TechSource blog that, "(L)imiting access to social networking sites in schools and libraries will have little impact on the overall problem, since young people access these websites from many locations over a period of time. If children are going to get into trouble online, chances are it won't be at school or at the library." He continued by asserting that, "if people were better informed about social networking sites and knew and used basic internet safety tips, the cloud of fear may decline."

What bothers me about the efforts of the politicians to meddle in this sensitive area is that so far it is purely motivated by opportunism on the part of Republicans to appear as if they care more about children's safety than Democrats. To characterize a bill that essentially bans Wikipedia as "protecting children" is reprehensible and has led me to conclude that unless younger generations stand up for their rights now, we are surrendering our lives and the technologies which have become indispensable components of our personalities and identities to the whims of lawmakers who are too old to ever truly understand.There is no way an 80+ year-old Senator from Alaska is going to get away with judging the quality of anything invented post-1945, especially not something that has become so ingrained in the lives of young people all over the world.

1 comment:

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