Build a Bigger Wall?

Do you know what happens when you build a huge wall in front of students and tell them that they can’t? Yup. They spend all of their time and energy trying to find ways over, under or around that wall.

flickr photo shared by Dani_vr under a Creative Commons ( BY-SA ) license

And what happens when students are no longer constrained by those walls, because they’ve graduated or gone to another school or just gone home for the day? What happens when they go out into the “real world” without the self-control or the management skills or the sense of instilled values because the huge wall kept them “safe” so they never needed to learn these things and we felt like we never needed to teach them?

Yes, of course I’m talking about filtering and articles like this one in eSchool News make me sad and angry. I understand there are a lot of strings attached to E-Rate dollars (I’m looking at you CIPA) that I have the luxury of not worrying about because I’m overseas. But technological solutions to behavioral problems are not a sustainable or scalable way forward. Students (and teachers) will always – yes, always – find away to circumvent filters. [Side note: I remember teaching in LA in the late 90s and we had Bessie the internet filter. How did I get around it? I created an AOL account and used the built-in web browser. I think one of my students told me how to do it…]

Instead of building a bigger wall to keep our students sheltered safe, why don’t we teach them the skills they need to make decisions that are good for them and give them the opportunity to make mistakes (and learn from them!) in the relative safety of the institutions charged with helping them learn???