Students are not the enemy part 2

The response to the last post Students are not the enemy has been pretty overwhelming.

The NYSCATE wiki for this presentation: The Enemy Within: Stop Students from Bypassing Your Web Filters has been edited by several people with very cogent comments asking the company and presenter to rethink a declaration of war on students.

My original posting was not a criticism of NYSCATE – which is one of my favorite ed tech conferences. Vendor-led sessions are a fact of life at any conference, often informative, and NYSCATE does a good job of identifying them as such.

A quick search on the Google reveals that this company has a whitepaper with the same title which can be found on several security industry websites. It’s also been a session (same title and description) at more than one ed tech conference in Texas.

So it’s clear in this case it’s not just a matter of a single regional company representative clumsily trying to come up with a catchy title for a session. This is a well-thought out marketing plan from this company.

Perhaps conferences should read ALL session descriptions a little more carefully to make sure they promote the values of the organizing body.

Because really, this attitude does not start with companies. Sales 101 is about reflecting the language and attitudes of your customers. They wouldn’t be saying it if they weren’t hearing it. Sales 102 is creating a climate of need, fear-based if necessary, that if you don’t have whatever they are selling, something horrible will happen.

Teachers, tech directors, and superintendents talk about what they want and need, and companies simply take those problems, what marketeers call “pain points” and find ways to frame their solutions with that language. Marketing is about talking your customers language, so when you hear language like this, as Pogo said, “We have met the enemy and he is us.”


9 Replies to “Students are not the enemy part 2”

  1. Students are not the enemy and neither is the guy who is hawking a product teachers, IT directors and superintendents WANT.

    Thank you for pointing this out, though I’m afraid the point will be lost in the shuffle.

    We now have our target in our sights — the title of a presentation — and I don’t see the folks who have already taken over the presentation’s wiki refocusing their energy.

    I’ll be happy to eat my words, though.

  2. Sylvia – spot on points – AND metaphors packaging ideas really matter both inside organizations and at community events like conferences! Hopefully proposals will be more diligently reviewed for the messages and concepts they DO want promoted. This one was utterly disgraceful and insulting – that it is appearing on the circuit is appalling!

  3. For me, the “student as enemy” viewpoint is the primary consequence of putting nearly all organizational, decision-making power into the hands of people beyond the classroom.

    It’s easy to see students as the enemy when you never actually work with any! Generalizations are always drawn from under-informed positions.

    (Whew. Can you tell I’m not in a great mood today?)


  4. 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.

  5. John,

    You (mostly) had me until the last paragraph.

    When you say “try to prevent it from happening again”, unless you find out why they felt the need to “cut the fences”, you won’t prevent it from happening again.

    My guess is that you would just want to build a stronger fence. That won’t work. You have to find out why kids are cutting it before you can make any progress.

  6. I believe that words are important. That even if we don’t really mean “enemy” in the axis of evil sense, the intent comes across. 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.

  7. You people really have issues and have lost site of what is a problem. You people are the reason children are hurt and molested because you feel nothing can go wrong. What happens when the problem hits you and your kids. You find someone to blame, good job!!!

  8. @John D:

    “WE” people are educators. I teach in an elementary school. I do not believe that children in kindergarten need full access to an internet. However, the filtering systems in most schools are the same for a 5 year old, 16 year old, and 40 year old. We all live under the same filter.

    What’s more- I don’t have the opportunity to teach a child how to be safe on the internet, because he is already behind a fence. BLIND. I can’t teach him about the dangers he’s never allowed to see.

    Finally- WE people are most concerned with the culture, not the filters themselves. We are too afraid our children AND our teachers will make mistakes, so we just block them from everything and call them enemies. If you read more carefully, you would see that WE people are not blaming the vendors, but the very culture that lacks trust in students and teachers. PERIOD.

    I will admit that trusting too freely and without some guidelines is a mistake; however, I will strongly shout from the hilltops that not trusting at all is a bigger mistake.

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