Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Censorship Education The Internet Your Rights Online

Fixing Internet Censorship In Schools 207

Posted by Soulskill
from the students-have-no-idea-who-our-former-vp-is dept.
jcatcw writes "Schools and libraries are hurting students by setting up heavy-handed Web filtering. The problem goes back for years. A filter blocked the Web site of former House Majority Leader Richard Armey because it detected the word 'dick,' according to a 2001 study from the Brennan Center of Justice. The purpose of schools should be to teach students to live in a democratic society, and that means teaching critical thinking and showing students controversial Web sites, says Craig Cunningham, a professor at National-Louis University. He quoted from a National Research Council study: 'Swimming pools can be dangerous for children. To protect them, one can install locks ... [or] teach them to swim.' Web filtering also leads to inequities in education based on household income. Students from more affluent areas have access to the Internet at home and, often, more enlightened parents who can let them access information blocked in schools and libraries. Poorer students without home access don't have those opportunities."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Fixing Internet Censorship In Schools

Comments Filter:
  • by Yvan256 (722131) on Friday March 26, 2010 @03:00PM (#31631476) Homepage Journal

    Swimming pools can be dangerous for children. To protect them, one can install locks ... [or] teach them to swim.'

    Won't somebody think of the lock makers!

  • ...because denying knowledge is such a great idea.

  • bad analogy? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Simulant (528590) on Friday March 26, 2010 @03:05PM (#31631552) Journal

    'Swimming pools can be dangerous for children. To protect them, one can install locks ... [or] teach them to swim.'

    I'm tired & slow today... someone please explain this analogy with respect to internet porn (which is the context from which the quote was taken). The possibilities seem endless.

    • by AlexBirch (1137019) on Friday March 26, 2010 @03:09PM (#31631618) Homepage

      'Swimming pools can be dangerous for children. To protect them, one can install locks ... [or] teach them to swim.'

      I'm tired & slow today... someone please explain this analogy with respect to internet porn (which is the context from which the quote was taken). The possibilities seem endless.

      The analogy is good, because once you learn how to swim, you can never drown.

    • Re:bad analogy? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Alaren (682568) on Friday March 26, 2010 @03:10PM (#31631630)

      The analogy is that the internet is like a pool. It can be dangerous for your children, so you should either keep them out of it, or teach them how to survive inside it.

      While I am in general agreement with the lock your pool/teach the kids to swim metaphor, I have to wonder if it distracts us from more important questions regarding internet usage in schools.

      I use the internet for research all the time--where there are gaps in my knowledge of home maintenance or repair, for example, or if I am just curious about the etymology of a word. In law school I used the internet for legal research. The internet is a fabulous tool for research.

      However, I don't remember doing any research in school, ever. Class time was instruction time. Research, when it was necessary at all, was done at the library or at home. Learning research skills is something that can be done without a computer. Those skills can then be generalized to the computer.

      While I think students should be learning something about computers, and computer research, at school, I doubt that filters actually hamper those lessons much. Filters undoubtedly do hamper the ability to get results, but that is not the point of doing research in a K-12 environment. So while I am not a fan of filters, I doubt that they pose nearly the problem that certain people think they pose. Rather, they provide a good opportunity to shout "censorship" which is a great way to draw attention to oneself.

      • Depending on what they filter, prehaps filtering should be used simply to not allow kids to waste their time "researching." If you're using a school computer for "research" then you should be researching your topic, not using facebook or whatever.

        Totally unfiltering/uncensoring is basically like giving people the option of "go outside and play" or "stay inside and study." Most kids choose to play rather than study by nature. That's why if you leave a kid to do what he wants until he's 15, you probably wo

      • by Simulant (528590)

        "The analogy is that the internet is like a pool. It can be dangerous for your children, so you should either keep them out of it, or teach them how to survive inside it."

        Sorry, I'm still not getting the analogy. Is he trying to say that it's just a matter of telling our children, "No, you shouldn't go to pr0ntube.com during class."? Even if that works for most, it wouldn't for a some, and school internet censorship is as much about preventing classroom disruption as it is about "protecting the children".

        Not that I'm for censorship... but I can't fault anyone for trying to block gonzo porn on school networks. It seems to me that allowing teachers to temporarily

      • by mqduck (232646)

        While I am in general agreement with the lock your pool/teach the kids to swim metaphor, I have to wonder if it distracts us from more important questions regarding internet usage in schools.

        I agree, for a different reason. The Internet can indeed be a dangerous place (identity theft, etc.), but the existence of pornography - which is usually the target of Web filtering - is not one of them. Not only is it futile in this day and age to try to block kids from accessing porn, but I'm *still* waiting for someone to tell me why it's so imperative to do so in the first place.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Locke2005 (849178)
      Different analogy: In the US, kids today are not allowed to even taste alcohol until they move out of their parents homes and into college dorms, upon which time most immediately start engaging in binge drinking because they have never learned what their limits are with respect to alcohol. Societies wherein children regularly imbibe wine with their parents during meals have far fewer problems with alcoholism. Want to really education your child? Take him/her out and get them totally puking drunk just once,
      • by jim_v2000 (818799)
        > In the US, kids today are not allowed to even taste alcohol until they move out of their parents homes

        That's actually not true across the board. In some states, parents can give their children alcohol.
      • by edmicman (830206)

        Haha when I drink I don't get stupid, I get AWESOME!

      • by severoon (536737)

        Disagree with the humiliation path on drinking. I think you'll find humiliation is rarely a good way to raise children.

        Just give them booze periodically. They won't like it when they're really young. When they get older, let them have the occasional beer or glass of wine as if it were no big deal, which is pretty easy to do, because it's not. Make sure they understand that these drinks contain alcohol, and it's not good in large amounts like sugar, or other drugs like caffeine. But most of the attention sh

    • It's simple enough, swimming pools and porn are both ways that the devil gets inside you.

    • Teach people how to get their studies done, even with access to loads of porn, swimming pools full of hot chicks, and computer games, and you will have much more successful people later, IN REAL LIFE!!

      Besides: How can a human with a working brain think that the word “dick” is bad for children?
      There was a study by the respected German scientist Prof. Dr. Kurt Starke, that examines the relation between pornography and the development of the youth, which does not find anything negative. On the cont

    • Where's BadAnalogyGuy? I hear he's an expert in such matters.

  • by John Hasler (414242) on Friday March 26, 2010 @03:06PM (#31631568) Homepage

    ...it is to protect teachers and adminstrators against religious zealots.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by thatblackguy (1132805)

      The only way to truly do that is to become as crazy as the zealots. Anything short of that and you will still find objections.

      Fuck them, drag them into 2010. Or at least (in the case of America) remind them that they can't simultaneously chant LAND OF THE FREE and omg, censor that.

      • by kent_eh (543303)

        The only way to truly do that is to become as crazy as the zealots.

        Any psychiatrist will tell you that it's pointless to argue with, debate with, or try to use logic against a person suffering from delusions.
        That person is not capable of being swayed by rational, sensible, or logical information. Unless it seems to them to agree with what they believe to be true.

        What to do with that sort of person?
        Save yourself. Do your best to not get dragged into their world. Try to minimize the harm to others that they do.

        • by BobMcD (601576)

          While this is true, any psychiatrist will tell you that you're way off topic. A 'zealot' in these terms is absolutely not a person suffering from any kind of psychosis, and you likely know it.

          Citing a psychiatrist alongside your own anti-religious zealotry makes my logic detector ache.

      • by couchslug (175151)

        Religion and freedom are mutually exclusive, because religion = submission.

      • So, you have no problem with an eight year old girl doing research on frozen water and doing a image search on the word "Snowball" getting porn images of two girls swapping man juice? No problem at all?

        Or is it just you're anti religious stance is so strong that you blame not getting everything you want exposed to children on "religious zealots"?

        You're just like those you claim you fear. You're a zealot.

      • Or at least (in the case of America) remind them that they can't simultaneously chant LAND OF THE FREE and omg, censor that.

        I'm assuming you're referring to the "Star-Spangled Banner" with your "land of the free" quotation. If so, do keep in mind that the "Star-Spangled Banner" that is always sung (i.e., only the first verse) does not declare anything about the U.S. and the "land of the free." It simply asks a bunch of questions ("Can you see...?" "Whose broad stripes...?"), concluding with the question: "Oh say, DOES that Star-Spangled Banner yet wave o'er the land of the free and the home of the brave?" In other words, is t

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Kingrames (858416)
      En Taro Adun, Jesus!
    • This is unfortunately become true. I repeat here a quote from a early child teacher at a pre-school center on the glass walls: "It is for the protection of the staff".
  • by areusche (1297613) on Friday March 26, 2010 @03:06PM (#31631570)

    Many kids I know nowadays have a phone with web access enabled. Why bother trying to block facebook when they can just simply browse over their cell phones?

    Heck when I was in high school I had a teacher use a wireless air card to get onto youtube since the district tech staff were blocking so many websites for no reason whatsoever.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by stephanruby (542433)
      Many schools do ban cell phones, or require that they at least be turned off while the kids are on school premises.
      • by IICV (652597)

        Many schools also have an entire student body that disobeys that rule.

    • by Amouth (879122)

      use a wireless air card

      Thanks... that made me feel old.. i remember high school and the filters - i also remember setting up my own proxies so i could log into some muds

      • by BobMcD (601576)

        use a wireless air card

        Thanks... that made me feel old.. i remember high school and the filters - i also remember setting up my own proxies so i could log into some muds

        Dear lord. I remember Winsock-Trumpet, Gopher, and PINE. Porn wasn't much of an issue as the internet was nearly entirely text. And YOU feel old...

        • by Amouth (879122)

          humm i was connecting to muds.. i don't know why you put porn as an issue.. (except for the ascii art at the start)... anyways.. the best porn came from bbs's

          • by BobMcD (601576)

            i don't know why you put porn as an issue..

            You don't suppose the present-day school filters screen porn?

    • Shheeet! When I was In school computers were in central Govt depts only. And our teacher had Naturist Magazines on his desk. Thats how things have changed.
    • by SheeEttin (899897)

      Heck when I was in high school I had a teacher use a wireless air card to get onto youtube since the district tech staff were blocking so many websites for no reason whatsoever.

      You don't even know how ridiculous the blocklists are. I once tried to show my physics teacher the XKCD comic "Centrifugal Force [xkcd.com]", but xkcd.com was blocked for "sexuality".
      Oh, and the time I ran the site for the Journalism class? For whatever reason, random files (like icons--I remember a gear icon in particular) would get blocked.

    • When I was in high school, we just used SSH to bypass the various firewalls and filters the school had in place. That is how we got our first lesson in freedom and democracy: you need to actively work to protect it from those in power.
  • by Angostura (703910) on Friday March 26, 2010 @03:08PM (#31631594)

    Doesn't let children under 8 enter the pool without an adult accompanying them. and staying close by. Seems a fair enough analogy.

  • by gandhi_2 (1108023) on Friday March 26, 2010 @03:09PM (#31631616) Homepage

    ...from someone who doesn't work for a school district, nor will be crucified by the politicians, school board (who are politicians), parents, and news media when little johnny pulls up something "objectionable".

    actually people loose their actual careers over this kinda stuff.... you have to at least *try* to filter.

    • And this is exactly the problem. The problem is in our overly litigious society, you have to cater to the lowest common denominator or they will sue you when they are unhappy. If we would fix that problem, then it wouldn't be such a danger for the school when something does happen.
      • by BobMcD (601576)

        If we would fix that problem, then it wouldn't be such a danger for the school when something does happen.

        There exists a really obvious solution - socialism. Surrender all notions of recourse against the government and there will be no issues of anyone bringing a lawsuit against the public schools.

        That would have drawbacks as well, clearly, but I guess you should be careful what you wish for, right?

        Otherwise we could retain the ability to sue and expect them to behave accordingly. That seems to be working out okay as well.

        • You appear to be confusing socialisim with totalitarianisim in the same way as some people confuse freedom with anarchy.
    • by SuperQ (431) * on Friday March 26, 2010 @03:56PM (#31632326) Homepage

      No, you don't. I helped run the network for a school a while back. We didn't filter anything. We logged everything using a proxy. We simply made it very well known to the students that anything they surfed would be logged. We never had any issues. This was even the school for "bad kids"

      We had a couple of the "bad hackers" from the highschool. We made them (with supervision) in charge of keeping the linux machines in the computer lab running.

  • Do a search for "yiff" or "yiffing" on a filtered computer or search engine. It'll glide ride past to some pretty amazing stuff. Also try going to rangarig.net on a filtered computer. You'll be stunned.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by slimjim8094 (941042)

      Do a search for "yiff" or "yiffing" on a filtered computer or search engine.

      No. No thank you. I'd rather not.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Sponge Bath (413667)

      Do a search for "yiff"...

      Geoffrey Chaucer:
      ...That yiff that god that hevene and erthe made
      Wolde haue a love For beaute and goodness
      And womanhede and trouthe and semelynesse ...

  • by synthesizerpatel (1210598) on Friday March 26, 2010 @03:12PM (#31631658)

    If you really want a kid to learn how computers work, put a filter between them in the internet. They'll figure out a way to circumvent it if they're smart. And if they're too stupid to break out, think of it as a your-kid filter for the internet and not an internet filter for your kid.

    Everybody wins!

    • Yes please. We need less how-is-babby-formed.

      "You must be this smart to ride."

    • If you really want a kid to learn how computers work, put a filter between them in the internet. They'll figure out a way to circumvent it if they're smart. And if they're too stupid to break out, think of it as a your-kid filter for the internet and not an internet filter for your kid.

      hehe. Funny, but painfully true. The smart ones get around the filters without blinking. And they're also a boon for the teachers whose jobs are impeded by these systems. I know some teachers who have been through it [thedailywtf.com]. (yes,

  • Critical thinking (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Dracos (107777) on Friday March 26, 2010 @03:12PM (#31631670)

    Children aren't taught critical thinking because they might grow up to be... critical thinkers.

    Unthinking, uncritical people are easier to control and/or coerce to your will.

    • Re: (Score:2, Flamebait)

      by BitZtream (692029)

      Aren't you witty and complex ... this most certainly backs up your conspiracy theory, whatever retarded one it is this week, I'm sure the government is out to get you and this is obviously proof!

      • by Toze (1668155)

        Actually, many of the major players in developing America's public education system had very positive views of the Prussian system. It's why schools are set up (probably by accident) to promote an emotional dependence on approval from authority. 10 years of training to speak only when permitted, of being told by a teacher whether you're right or wrong, of obeying even when authority is wrong or evil? Compare the Japanese high schools- not that they're necessarily better, 'cause guess where they got the scho

    • Children don't learn critical thinking in school because critical thinking can't be learned in a controlled environment.
    • Under Pol Pot, in the killing Fields of Cambodia, intellectuals were put in camps or executed. Ironic, that today, many first world govts desire dumbed down masses.
  • by rotide (1015173) on Friday March 26, 2010 @03:13PM (#31631680)

    No single solution will be perfect in a "for the children" argument.

    Here is what I would do/suggest.

    1) Make a sensible AUP for school computers. No Porn, etc.

    2) Have sensible punishments for breaking the AUP. (No cops, no expulsions. Detention sure, suspension/parental notification, if you have to.)

    3) Leave the net _wide open_ for each student.

    4) Log all activity so that in the event it is suspected a student broke the AUP you can verify the infringement took place and apply a sensible punishment.

    5) Break the AUP too many times and you can only use school computers under strict filters, or under direct supervision (read: someone watching over your shoulder) in addition to normal punishment.

    Don't coddle. Don't expell. Don't freak out. Just teach the kids what is and isn't acceptable and let them learn how to deal with rules and sensible punishments.

    Yes, this means kids might get exposed to hardcore porn from time to time. Big f'in deal. For me the net wasn't around and I saw good ol' VHS tapes. It happens whether you threaten death as a punishment or cookies as a reward. It will still happen.

    But in my opinion. School is there to learn, not stifle. Teach and use the full brunt of the tools we have to do it.

    Sadly, probably won't happen because little miss perfect's perfect mother will sue the school because her daughter heard that another student might have seen a naked picture on a school computer.

    • by BitZtream (692029)

      1) Make a sensible AUP for school computers. No Porn, etc.

      Uhm, already done ... everywhere ... and it pretty much limits access to school computers to school related purposes.

      2) Have sensible punishments for breaking the AUP. (No cops, no expulsions. Detention sure, suspension/parental notification, if you have to.)

      And since parents don't actually punish their kids anymore ... what do you do when no 'sensible' punishment works?

      3) Leave the net _wide open_ for each student.

      No this is retarded, no student nee

    • by westlake (615356)

      2) Have sensible punishments for breaking the AUP. (No cops, no expulsions. Detention sure, suspension/parental notification, if you have to.)

      Parental notification is essential.

      Parents will go nuclear when they discover that you have been covering up for their kids when were caught surfing for porn.

      Nothing can be so bad that someone else calling the cops won't make worse. You do not have the luxury of ignoring state and federal law.

      3) Leave the net _wide open_ for each student.

      It isn't going to happen. No

    • by gillbates (106458)

      You forgot step 6) Get counseling for the teenage girls who develop self-esteem issues because their bodies don't look anything like the ones in the porn the HS boys are looking at.

      Sure, the boys will get punished. But it's going to recur, every year, as a new class of students inevitably has a few who will look up objectionable content. And let's not forget the contingent of society who just doesn't care about breaking the rules. There's no reason kids should be subject to mandated, publicly funded s

  • CIPA Compliance (Score:5, Informative)

    by ohchaos (564646) * on Friday March 26, 2010 @03:16PM (#31631722)

    In order to receive Federal E-Rate discounts, public schools are required to have filtering mechanisms in place that meet the standards set by the Children's Internet Protection Act.

    I've administered K12 networks with internet access for over 15 years (both pre-CIPA, and post CIPA)... I personally preferred not having to filter and teaching personal responsibility, especially with high school students. Usually a couple times a semester a student would make a bad choice, and would be made an example of.... which would usually keep the rest of the students on the straight and narrow.

    But for now, CIPA is the law of the land, so if you want free choice and thinking on your school's internet connection, contact your senator and congressman, because local admins really have no choice in this matter.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by AldoRaine (1776690)

      I was just about to post this. CIPA requires that schools operate "a technology protection measure with respect to any of its computers with Internet access that protects against access through such computers to visual depictions that are obscene, child pornography, or harmful to minors."

      E-Rate offers school districts enormous discounts on certain products and services, so CIPA makes it cost ineffective to offer unrestricted Internet access to students.

    • Just about to make the same point. And it's not just public schools -- the Catholic school system in Philadelphia also participates in E-Rate, for example.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      "I personally preferred not having to filter and teaching personal responsibility"

      I prefer this method as well, but I also know that there is no such thing as "personal responsibility" any longer. Blame Parents, Blame Teachers, Blame the Superintendent Office, Blame Liberals, Blame Right Wing Religious Nuts.

      Sue!

      Doing nothing has its problems as does doing something. And I'm not sure which is actually worse (given the status quo).

      As long as there is a lawyer around, and money to be had, and someone to take o

  • Facts? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by blueg3 (192743) on Friday March 26, 2010 @03:18PM (#31631744)

    I like how a blog post that simply states, without evidence, that web filters lead to income-based educational inequalities is simply asserted in TFS as a fact. Also how TFS chooses to copy text directly from said blog post without using quotation marks.

  • So what? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Gothmolly (148874) on Friday March 26, 2010 @03:20PM (#31631778)

    Kids in poorer homes probably miss out on a lot of opportunities. Are you going to legislate that away too ?

  • by Anonymous Coward

    The purpose of schools should be to teach students to live in a democratic society, and that means teaching critical thinking and showing students controversial Web sites, says Craig Cunningham, a professor at National-Louis University.

    http://www.foxnews.com/world/2010/03/25/teachers-leave-boy-stranded-tree-school-policy/ [foxnews.com]

    That is a story about a 5 year old being stranded in a tree. The teachers "watched from afar" because of a school policy. A passerby stopped to help, and now faces possible legal a

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Mr. Slippery (47854)

      http://www.foxnews.com/world/2010/03/25/teachers-leave-boy-stranded-tree-school-policy/ [foxnews.com]

      That is a story about a 5 year old being stranded in a tree. The teachers "watched from afar" because of a school policy. A passerby stopped to help, and now faces possible legal action.

      An inaccurate story [fivechinesecrackers.com], as it turns out. It didn't happen that way at all.

      As usual, Fox is a source of negative information.

      Anyway, isn't it kind of odd to claim that the neglect of a child (which, I repeat, did not actually occur) m

      • A nanny state is a place where the rules of the land overwhelm and common sense, as happened in the scenario presented.

        It is ironic, is it not, that the 'Nanny' which is supposed to protect can in fact lead to situations where people are neglected.

        I have now read two accounts of the story (the one you posted and the one from idle) and as they don't match, I'll choose not to believe either of them. If I cared more I'd look for more evidence.

  • "The purpose of schools should be to teach students to live in a democratic society, and that means teaching critical thinking..."

    BWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHHAAHAHHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • "Swimming pools can be dangerous for children. To protect them, one can install locks ... [or] teach them to swim."

    If you fill one swimming pool with chlorinated water, and another with beer, which one will the kids want to be around? And what will they do when they get there?

    On the other hand, you need lifeguards at both, until the kids are sufficiently mature to not drown so easily. Which will happen much later at the beer pool. You'll need a curfew and age limits.

    So much for analogy.

  • Some laws says that libraries must trun it off request.

  • Poor guy. Not only did he serve under Bush, he's also the single most filtered guy on the Internet.
  • It is possible to educate kids about dangers without leaving access to that "danger" uncontrolled. Personally, I like to teach my kids to swim, AND lock the gate to the pool when it's unsupervised. It keeps really young kids out (who haven't yet learned to swim), and it's a discouragement to elementary-age kids to help them "remember" the rules, and the older kids know where the key is. I teach my kids not to talk to strangers, but that doesn't mean I'll leave my 4-year old alone in the mall (or playing
    • by Martz (861209)

      A couple of my friends work in school IT departments, and I've always argued with them the pointlessness of trying to filter the internet usage in schools.

      - It doesn't prevent the dangerous stuff like kids being groomed by weirdos on the internet
      - It's not perfect in terms of banned websites or URLs. False positives occur and how are you supposed to deal with kids aged from 11 through to 18 and all of their learning requirements/subjects, including biology?
      - Kids run or install proxi

  • Obligatory (Score:4, Funny)

    by dangitman (862676) on Friday March 26, 2010 @06:05PM (#31633896)
    Dick Armey? Who's his wife, Vagina Coastguard?
  • by jonwil (467024) on Friday March 26, 2010 @06:55PM (#31634364)

    Even if you DO teach the kids to swim, that doesn't necessarily mean its safe to allow young kids to swim without supervision.

  • Please make sure my kids can see all the anal porn, racism, bomb-making instructions and meth recipes possible. Thanks!

  • Someone should set up a demonstration. Get a computer, place it behind the best and most expensive filtering system money can buy. Demonstrate how easy it is to bypass the filter and access blocked content. Demonstrate that the filter does not block anywhere near all the "bad content" out there. Demonstrate the filter blocking legitimate content (content which even the most conservative parents would have no objection to and which has genuine educational value).

    Show the politicians and conservative parents

  • The problem is, we are talking about people accessing the Internet that do not understand the toxic nature of a nice friendly text article that has (snuff, cannibalism) in the title.

    Do you think that pre-teen boys will find this stuff, understand that maybe any story like this is just too utterly gross for them and skip it? No, sorry, they will not skip it. When the parent then is complaining to the school about the nightmares because of this exposure what happens?

    There are clearly three levels:

    1. People th

It's a poor workman who blames his tools.

Working...