The Harbinger Online

Blocking our View

It all sounded very promising. Bursting with pride, SMSD announced its intention to put a MacBook into the hands of every teacher and high school student in the district, heralding the move as one towards the future.

It’ll prepare us, they said. We’ll be able to use the tools that define the modern professional world, they said. But what we couldn’t see that there was another force at play, one that pulled the district’s strings.

The Children’s Internet Protection Act, passed by Congress in 2000, was waiting to keep the One to One Initiative from fulfilling its goal. CIPA requires schools to block minors’ access to material that is “harmful to minors,” according to fcc.gov. In other words, it’s what keeps us off Facebook and YouTube at school, and it’s what forced the district to equip each MacBook with BlueCoat before handing it to a student.

The Harbinger believes that CIPA should be amended to only impose restrictions on children below high school age. Not because we’re itching for free access to distractions, but because, to us, the goal of preparing students us for the real world is defeated by a law that wishes to make our choices for us. After all, if the age of consent in Kansas is 16, then it’s safe to say that high schoolers can be trusted to function properly online.

When it comes to BlueCoat, SMSD’s hands are tied. CIPA requires that any school-sponsored computer prevents students from accessing a site that might have “harmful material,” and so the district had no choice.

But for us it’s not a matter of protection. If the government was so worried, they should think of violent and offensive movies and TV shows before turning to censor the Internet. For those of us about to enter the real world, it’s more important to learn how to be responsible online for ourselves, and not always have the decision made for us.

We can use Google Classroom and email all we want, and still be unprepared for the real world if we don’t know how to exercise our own judgement online. We can’t learn Internet competency when the sites we can visit are so locked down that there’s no judgement call to be made.

It strikes the Harbinger as counterintuitive that the computers that are supposed to make us feel at home with the technology that defines the modern workplace are unable to teach us a skill more imperative than knowing how to navigate Google Docs.

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