Friday, January 13, 2006

The rights of a student - Internet censorship in Australia

Bill Kerr has kept the ball alive while others have fallen asleep on it. He is doing good leg work for the campaign to win back Internet freedoms in Australian (specifically South Australian) schools.
This issue isn't going to go away because with more great web apps coming on line everyday the educational importance of student ability to write to the web will grow commensurately.
Unfortunately for us in Australia, the use of Internet filters for censorship is becoming very popular. Australia has been gradually descending into a dark age these past 10 years, as fear, loathing and litigation weasel their way into our culture.

My opinion is, on the matter of filter use and the importance of the protection of a child, is that every teacher should be given the ability to block and unblock sites, thereby playing an important collective role in training the filter. If a case of ambiguity arises where one teacher wants it blocked and another doesn't, then I would want a system that sides on freedom - so a system that still allows an individual teacher to block and unblock it based on their own judgment for the particular context they are in.

I have made this suggestion in conversations about censorship in schools before, and amazingly I get a quick response along the lines of, "oh, but we can't trust teachers with this". Can you believe that! We can trust teachers to walk around in a classroom of 30 or more kids, but we can't trust them in a virtual setting.

Of course, this is if we must use filters at all. I agree with Bill. The better protection we can offer a child is to teach them how to manage and protect themselves.

Bill's effort is urgent though, which is why I think we must focus on getting teachers the ability to block and unblock. He tells me that the filter used by South Australia is effectively blocking anything web2.0, that is, anything where people can write to the web! Flickr, Blogger, MySpaces, OurMedia... all not accessible. So if Bill, and other teachers in SA can get that permission, then their good work in teaching kids how to actually use the Internet safely can continue.

South Australia, meet North Korea. North Korea, meet South Australia.

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