— Zac Chase (@MrChase) February 21, 2016
E-rate funding has been the driving force of technology purchasing in schools for the last couple decades. It has encouraged more schools to think more strategically about their device purchases as well as their connectivity needs. I believe in the program and it its very real outcomes for kids around the country.
And yet, there are limitations on how you can use connectivity and devices if you decide to take E-rate money. The legislation known as CIPA is responsible for ensuring filters and fear rule many of the technology decisions within schools and school districts. It isn’t the legislation itself, but rather the chilling effect it has had on student access that I most quibble with.
To be clear, I am not in favor of pornography in schools.
Rather, I am in favor of humanity in schools.
To be more human in schools means that we should institute human filters rather than technological ones. It means that we should teach children digital citizenship and adults classroom management for learning with mobile devices.
It means we should allow inquiry-driven children to have time of guided exploration rather than closing off any discussion or understanding of sexuality because it is “obscene.”
It means we should stop believing that people outside of the classroom are better equiped to determine what “lacks serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value as to minors” than teachers and students.
Finally, it means that we stop holding access ransom for a draconian (and many times, puritanical) understanding for how the internet works.
CIPA denies that the Internet is fundamentally different from keeping nude magazines or videos behind the counter or in a protective sleeve. It tries to simplify all visual content into designations of acceptable or obscene. This is not how the internet functions. It is infinitely expanding and complex and should be treated as such. And, by holding the funding for upgrading essential learning tools until highly inefficient filters are put in place, we are holding back children from all of the possibilities for learning and discovering new tools and resources from around the world.
The internet is open. So should our schools be.