There is no doubt that the internet provides enormous educational potential. Teachers have known this from the very beginning. Unfortunately, the “bottom feeders” of the internet have been equally aware of the potential for wealth from the “Sleaze Factors” of (1) plagiarism, (2) unethical and unsafe issues, and (3) pornography. Until there is a way to eliminate, or at least control these issues, allowing open access to the internet for anyone under the age of 18 should be considered negligence; and schools simply will not be able to use the internet to its full educational potential. I dealt with the first two “Sleaze Factors” in other articles. This article will concentrate on the pornography issue.
I discussed this issue a little bit is another article, but pornography is such a serious issue for schools that it can’t be discussed too often. Obviously there is a great deal of money to be made in pornography, because pornographers spend so much time, money, and effort in creating sites for people to stumble upon. It isn’t sufficient for the thousands of interested people to go to published sites for their pleasures. Instead, these site owners also have to trick other people into going to their sites as well. This should be a crime!
As soon as schools could afford to do so, they started creating computer labs and adding internet access to those labs and classroom computers for the benefit of students and teachers alike. For a short time, the ability to find educationally sound websites was, indeed, wonderful. We had a new resource at our fingertips that would revolutionize education. Some people were predicting the end to schools and elimination of the need for teachers within a very few years. These predictions never take into account the “bottom feeders” of the world, who, for whatever reason, must destroy everything good.
Before this process of creating computer labs with internet access was even complete, students started finding that if they misspelled the name of an educational site or accidentally made a wrong keystroke, porn sites appeared. Needless to say, parents were NOT happy! Schools immediately started installing filters on their systems that would not allow certain sites to be accessed. Then, all likely misspellings needed to be added to the list of “cannot be accessed.” Then, frequently researched topics brought porn sites instead. So schools started adding seemingly harmless words to the “cannot be accessed” list.
I taught mathematics. Seems like a safe topic, doesn’t it. Wrong! I know I am naive, but I really don’t understand what these people get out of forcing word after word off the acceptable list. Schools have no choice but to continue this process. Our tax payers very much resent having schools providing porn to their children, and rightly so. Parents have also been forced to put filters on their home systems in order to protect their children. Now, we have schools starting to buy class sets of iPads–the newest technology, but again filters become an issue. It is all very sad!
With all of these “Sleaze Factors” at work at the same time, legitimate research sites are becoming few and far between, plagiarism is more of an issue than most students and parents even realize, and using unfiltered computers is just plain dangerous for our children.
There are no simple solutions in sight. Certainly First Amendment Rights are important and need to be considered, but the safety and educational importance for our children are at least equally important. As a society, we need to be making some very important decisions related to the hierarchy of importance of these concerns and we need to do this sooner rather than later.