Students are not the enemy

The upcoming NYSCATE conference includes this session.

The Enemy Within: Stop Students from Bypassing Your Web Filters

So this session (by a security software vendor) sets up students as the  enemy. The job is not to educate the people who come to this session or help schools provide the best educational Internet experience (by those same evil students.) No, the idea is to create a climate of fear, demonize students, and imply that there is a war between students and IT administrators.

And why not? You need weapons to fight a war. Fear the children, buy our stuff.

Kids are not the terrorists, kids and teachers are being terrorized by outrageous IT policies and vendors eager to stir up fear to make a profit. Sad.

Sylvia

14 thoughts on “Students are not the enemy”

  1. Wow. Sounds like the head of our IT department would like to attend that session…because his primary responsibilities are network security and student safety. Yep. He really said that.

  2. I’m getting SO tired of this. Rather than asking ourselves why students feel the need to go around the restrictions – and treating those answers with the genuine respect and interest that they deserve – we treat our students like we might little street urchin pickpockets.

    Alfie Kohn said in The Homework Myth: “The way we think about discipline seems to assume, as educational psychologist Marilyn Watson remarked, that Thomas Hobbes’ famous characterization of life also applies to children: They are nasty, brutish, and short.”

    We are missing tremendous opportunities to foster efficacious, self-regulating, independent, thoughtful children. We reap what we sow…

  3. Districts, IT staff, Administrators, and most parents WANT Internet filtering in K-12 schools. Is the problem that there is filtering at all, or that the wrong type of filtering systems are in place? Or, is the problem that the teachers are not getting what they want or were not part of the process of selecting a filtering vendor.

    Do your own google searching to see what happened to the dozens of school districts who recently decided to completely turn off their Internet filtering. Teachers wanted it off and gone; now they all want it back.

    Most of the gripes I hear about filtering are because the teachers don’t know how to use it (open it up as needed, etc.), don’t care to learn how to use it, were not part of the process of selecting it, or just think everything in the world should be available to students at all times. Books are filtered “in” to our school libraries and no one seems to mind.

    Having maintained the Internet filter at a public school, I can tell you that many students ARE the “enemy”. When you look for ways to beat the systems put in place to protect everyone, you are not helping. Instead of hacking the school filter, if these students hacked into your faculty/staff email accounts, would you still not call them the “enemy?” Enemy can be a strong word as used in this proposed NYSCATE session, but what other word she the vendor use to describe these students? His session will most likely help IT admins and school staff figure out ways to prevent the students from doing what they should not be doing.

    If the students cut all the fences in the school yard, do you want to include those students in some kind of decision making process as to why they felt the need to cut the fences? No, you find out who did it, discipline them and try to prevent it from happening again.

  4. Schools have bathrooms. Students sometimes smoke in bathrooms. Therefore, i propose we close all school bathrooms to keep students from smoking.

    Same argument. Same wrong solution.

  5. If students are the enemy, then we have made them so.

    I truly believe that the percentage of kids who would willingly hack into the system to create havoc is much smaller than those who would not.

    Most filtering systems are put in place to “protect” our children. From what? Viewing something obscene? Seeing things they should not see? Reading something they shouldn’t read? Wrong. The filters that most of us work with on a daily basis are there to keep kids from playing games, visiting social networks… you know, those things that kids do in their everyday lives OUTSIDE OF SCHOOL.

    I’d much rather have a very limited filter that blocks kids from only the most heinous sites, and then TEACH them to do the right thing. Teach them to use those games and networking sites to learn.

    We seem to spend an awful lot of energy to “protect” our kids from the very things they will need to know how to use once they leave the school environment…. and, if I were attending this conference, I would probably sit outside this session and protest. Loudly.

  6. Each district situation is different. Sometimes it’s the IT folks who appear to be the “enemy”; sometimes it’s students. As long as there is a dialog to promote understanding, then issues can be solved. We need to listen to one another to discover & define those issues, then create a plan to address needs, while still following the law. It takes time and a skilled leader.

    I try to err on the side of wanting to hear both angles, before coming to a conclusion.

  7. I agree with Michelle. Kids don’t develop work-arounds for filters to view porn, but instead, to visit social sites.

    Why are we blocking social networks?

  8. It’s not surprising that a number of educators believe kids are the enemy. Schools have operated under this assumption, unchallenged, for a very long time. It is a difficult mindset to change, and unless a school has made a concerted effort to address that change, expecting IT departments to suddenly see things differently and start educating kids on responsible internet use is too much to expect. Even if they are enlightened enough to try, how does that play out in the context of the rest of school? We trust you to make good decisions about the internet, but we do not trust you in the classroom (see list of teacher/institutional rules), we do not trust you in decision making, outside of the classroom, etc. Not only does Alfie Kohn address this issue in The Homework Myth, but in all of his works–it is at the core of his vision of schools, of discipline, of classroom management. We live in a democratic society yet we model totalitarianism in our schools and wonder why we are not creating citizens interested in participating in democracy. If you teach kids democratic principles in the classroom, if you allow them a voice in their education, if you teach them responsibility, then you don’t view them as the enemy. And you don’t need filters.

  9. I believe that words are important. Words embody attitude and words are a part of the action that is generated in dealing with the children. Why start there.

    Most schools we work with find that by making students allies in word and deed, and not treating them as enemies, both sides gain respect for the other. If you tried it, I believe you would benefit so much more than you think you might be losing.

  10. Right on Sylvia.

    I would like to provide a wider context. What technologies are students using to bypass the filters and where else are these technologies being used? The bypass technologies have been developed, in part I understand with funding from the federal government, to allow ways for dissidents in eastern and middle eastern countries get around government filters. In fact Sen Specter just applauded these technologies: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/sen-arlen-specter/attack-the-cyberwalls-the_b_227114.html. Attack the Cyberwalls!: The Internet Is the Pathway to Democracy in Places Like Iran!

    Now, I am quite sure that the shah of Iran also considers people who bypass their filter to be enemies. So how about a new slogan for students: Attack the Cyberwalls!: The Internet is the Pathway to a 21st Century Education.

  11. It is interesting that we call our students the “enemy”. I think the students need to be safe, of course, However, it is our responsibility to teach them the skills they will need to be safe. I think we need a shift in some thinking… Think of all the great minds at work to get around the fire walls. (student and IT) Could we not look at our “solutions” and put everyone’s time and energy to moving us forward, instead of trying to hold on to something that doesn’t seem to stop our students anyway??

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