One of the reasons I got into this whole social web movement was a great book I read by Will Richardson called Blogs, Wikis, Podcasts, and Other Powerful Web Tools for Classrooms suggested to me by Erik. Richardson has a great blog that I read occassionally. Today, he had a great post about how the Internet has such a bad stigma amongst educators.
And so there it is. Another one of those nasty little truths about all of this. The biggest shift is not the technology, not the practice, not even the implementation. It’s the cultural, social shift that moves us from the idea that we must prevent our kids from seeing and engaging with this “stuff” to the idea that says, look…it’s a different world…they’re going to find sex and porn and bad stuff and bad people no matter how hard we try to keep them from it, but when we weigh that fact against the incredible learning potential that the Web provides, we’re going to choose to educate rather try to block and filter it all.
What kills me most about all of this is that I have yet to see anyone cover the eyes of their kids when they go into a magazine store and every skinny, big-breasted super model or super actress is right at eye level, or change the channel when scantily clad women dance provocatively in front of half naked, muscle bound men in the name of selling beer or music or whatever else, or stop them from going to movies filled with violence, abuse, objectification and the rest. Why is there no outrage over that? Is it because that’s done within full view of parents? Is it because we’ve just become so inured to it that we don’t see it. (I doubt that.) Is the Web different because the kids are at the controls? What is the mentality that says seeing it all around us in public is somehow less “damaging” than seeing a word on a Website somewhere?
Richardson could not be more right. I can’t even say it better myself. As soon as someone sees a “questionable” word on a web site, the Internet is automatically seen as a scary place. If we educate our students and our children about the dangers of the web (like we would do anything else), they are going to learn how to use it responsibly. Everyone is so quick to step in and regulate Internet content and “protect the children” (like my father says) that we lose sight of the big picture. In the end, our children and students lose out because they are sheltered instead of being exposed to a tool that can expand their love of knowledge.