Had to see this coming: Republican representatives have
introduced a bill that would mandate that schools provide a filter that cuts students off from any website that may cause them to “easily be subject to unlawful sexual advances, unlawful requests for sexual favors, or repeated offensive comments of a sexual nature from adults,” among other things. The target is not email, but “commercial social networking websites” (which might, in effect, lead to distributed, non-commercial, open social networking systems–which might not be a bad thing). Also, it seems to aim to block off chat rooms and IM; in other words, they want students to be passive recipients of information from the web.
They also want a warning label on MySpace. No, seriously. The act would require the FTC to set up a site to warn users of the evils of MySpace, and similar sites. That sounds ridiculous, but, if done right, might be the only sensible part of the proposal. That is, if parents, teachers, and kids are aware of the potential dangers of the online world–just as they are told not to get in cars with strangers–it would allow schools to use the internet to their own benefit rather than cutting off their net to spite their educations.
And congresscritters wonder why they have such low approval ratings? This is just really, really dumb. And DOPA (Deleting Online Predators Act) is pushed by the party that is for personal liberty and small government? The CNet article above suggests that Republicans think this kind of restriction of student access to computing is what will help them keep a large chunk of their seats.
At a time when US businesses are worried that kids are unprepared in science and technology, one wonders what on earth cutting off the interactive pieces of the internet will do to our ability to compete in a global market. From a more practical perspective, if it makes any headway (very unlikely, I hope), it means teachers will have difficulty using sites like Blogger and Livejournal in their instruction.
I don’t want to be accused of being negative. What I would support is a significant grant that would support research into the effects of social networking sites, as well as other uses of internet use, in education. Once the facts were clear, Congress could decide whether legislative action was warranted, or whether a campaign of parent and teacher education was a smarter way to go.