Listening and watching a webinar on content filtering software recently, I had to laugh at how much has changed in the last few years. A few years ago, many–myself among them–were complaining that school districts blocked and censored the internet too much. Simply, the content filtering prevented access to critical learning resources that should be unblocked. Then, the spectacular debacle when a filtering vendor treated students as agents of evil to be defended against.
A short time later it seems, we were complaining that content filtering needed to be a community/digital citizenship decision, not a “network nazi” decision. Rather than technology being used to control human behavior, we developed a community ethic that moved away from inappropriate use to responsible use (and now, others are advocating another evolution).
I chuckled as I watched the content filtering webinar–most of the features would go un-used. That’s good, right? After all, you may own a weapon, but the most satisfying aspect is that you never have to use it…I don’t filter or censor you because we can have an open conversation about what is happening. Of course, it’s ironic that as this is happening in schools, other cultures are having problems about openness and transparency.
Not too long ago a school district near me systematically blocked any Web sites that dealt with homosexuality. It was only after the ACLU became involved that the school district backed down in a very public display of contrition which included having to pay the ACLU attorney fees, unblocking non-sexual pro-LGBT sites and reporting regularly about blocked Web sites to an outside party.
In both of the examples above, could the issues have been resolved had there been a collaboratively developed and board approved selection policy in place with a procedure for the reconsideration of Web sites? Of course we know that even with policies in place, a common problem with censorship challenges is that administrators don’t follow their own policies, but even so, having a policy is an important step.
Floyd Pentlin, “Banned Web Sites: Are Your Policies Up-to-Date“, Knowledge Quest, Septemeber 8, 2015 as cited by Doug “Blue Skunk” Johnson
I’m happy to report that some of us, because I’m quite sensitive to the fact that others have not, have arrived at our happy state. Let me tell you, as I look back, I’m pleased to report that all the bad things that we were afraid would happen, did not.
Does that mean that bad things won’t happen? No…only that we’re prepared to free the hard-boiled egg from the shell of experience and add some seasoning.