So I wanted to post a link to a site on this blog and then talk about some of the powerful resources that are available to us and our students on the web, and how much access to these resources changes everything. But the site I was going to link to contains graphic images and language. While that would be okay for the teachers that this blog is setup for, I know that students also read this blog. So even though this blog was originally intended as a discussion blog for our staff development, I feel constrained by the knowledge that some of our students (as well as the web at large) could be reading it.
And this is complicated by the fact that I think the site I wanted to link to would actually be appropriate (and beneficial) for our high school students to look at. While the images and language are graphic, it’s probably not any more graphic than many of the movies they’ve seen and the video games they’ve played. Yet the reason that I think they should view it is the same reason that distinguishes it from the movies and video games – these images are real. Real photos, real video, real issues, real people. I wouldn’t want my six year old to view these images – because I don’t think she could understand them. Yet I think that our 15-year old freshmen are old enough to handle it (and should reflect on the issues the site raises). But this means that – at least in my mind - somewhere between six and fifteen is where I’d draw the line. But how do we determine where that line is? For many the answer would be that the student’s parents decide, but it’s not practical to ask all the parents for permission (or practical to deal with the different responses), so we end up not using the resource. We end up not utilizing something powerful because it might be offensive or controversial to some people. By posting the link I’m not making them follow it or, once they see what it’s about, continue to view the images. (And, of course, my not linking to it doesn’t mean they might not run across it on their own anyway.) But as we’ve recently seen here in Colorado with the social studies teacher at Overland who was recorded giving an “unbalanced” presentation, and the music teacher in Bennett who showed Faust to her elementary students, posting it could be a career decision for a teacher.
Ironically, if I did link to it I’d be violating the blogging guidelines that we recently posted that I helped write. (I know the pace of change is accelerating, but doesn’t it seem a bit much if I want to violate guidelines that I helped write less than a month ago!) So, the point of all this is, I think we are going to have some major issues ahead of us as we deal with the implications of the resources available on the read/write web. It’s about much more than the issue du jour of blocking access to MySpace, I think it’s a fundamental change in the relationship of our students (and ourselves) to information and the world at large. I think it’s going to get very messy for a while and – while I usually think I have an answer for everything (the “right” answer of course!) – this one’s going to be tough. Does anybody have any words of wisdom on how we should try to develop policies to deal with these issues? How are we going to utilize all the resources available to us, provide the best possible education for our students, and prepare our students for the connected world they are going to live in – without “crossing the line” and offending people? How do we determine what is “appropriate?”