Monday, May 15, 2006

DOPA or Dopey?

The blogosphere is completely riled up about DOPA, but since I know many of you are not paying close attention this time of year, I thought I would share some information. Some of our esteemed Congresspeople have introduced the Delete Online Predators Act of 2006. What does this fine piece of legislation do? I'm glad you asked. This affects all schools and libraries receiving federal money and, among other things, it
prohibits access to a commercial social networking website or chat room
with a social networking website and chat room defined as
The term `commercial social networking website' means a commercially operated Internet website that--

      `(i) allows users to create web pages or profiles that provide information about themselves and are available to other users; and

      `(ii) offers a mechanism for communication with other users, such as a forum, chat room, email, or instant messenger.

      `(K) CHAT ROOMS- The term `chat rooms' means Internet websites through which a number of users can communicate in real time via text and that allow messages to be almost immediately visible to all other users or to a designated segment of all other users.'.

    In other words, students at school couldn't use blogs. Or Or Flickr. Or Gmail. Or Hotmail. Or Yahoo Mail. Or students' personal email accounts. Or Bloglines. Or video or audio conferencing sites. Or web page creation sites. Or any website creates by a website creation site. Or online help sites that are forum based. In fact, depending on how you interpret this definition, you could argue that students wouldn't be allowed to access the vast majority of websites - since almost all websites have some kind of commenting/feedback/forum component to them. It's like proposing legislation to turn off the Internet for all those under 18 (at least while they are at school or in a public library). And, since the logical way to implement this is through our existing Internet Filter, the end result is that all these things will be blocked for staff as well.

    So, any guesses on where I stand on this? If you have an opinion, I suggest you write your congressperson. Or email them - while you still can. (I'd suggest calling them, but only if you don't mind the NSA listening in.) I'm sure glad Congress is helping us prepare our students to be successful in the 21st century . . .

    Note: I'm no longer going to include a link to the podcast in each post (sometimes I don't have time to record the podcast right away, so it delays the post itself). I will continue creating the podcasts and they'll be accessible on the right side of the blog (or via iTunes if you subscribe), but they may show up a little bit later (when I get a chance to record).


    1. That is unbeleivable. They are really taking the extreme approach when they hear about some of the bad things that can happen with websites like myspace. We should probably have them stop using cell phone too, so they cannot communicate with each other at all.

    2. It seems the best way to protect students is to limit their contact. Or so someone who is writing the laws thinks. I agree with karl and James. This is unbelievable. I too think that this is what happens when only one side of some stories is published. I think that this is something that we need to talk about as a group.

    3. Dopey is right! The power of technology to help prepare our students for their future is greatly diminished with such a "paranoid" piece of legislation. I am disgusted.

    4. And if we ban trench coats, they won't be violent. And if we ban sex education, they won't have sex. And if we "just say no"...

      In other words, I can't ever say that politicians surprise me with their ability to define complex issues in simplistic terms (are you watching immigration debates?) or find simplistic and usually unsuccessful solutions to the problems they prroly defined. Nor am I ever surprised that the public simply nods and
      says " ." By the time most see a news report or read a news article about legislation, the law has been passed. That is, unless you are in D.C., read the Washington Post or Roll Call, or really use the internet to track debate (all of which few Americans do). Most are left with, at most, a "how did that happen?" comment.

      So what can you really do? Write an email and call your representatives. Tancredo (or if you prefer...any of the other Colorado representatives), Allard, Salazar. You can do so as a teacher, but know the realities. Many who need to vote well on this tend to see teachers as the problem, not the solution. So write as a parent. That will get much farther. Speak of how, once agin, we legislate away potential in the name of legislating parenting.

      No matter what we pass for campaign finance, those who want to impact polttics will find loopholes. No matter what we do with tax laws, those who want to will find loopholes. And no matter how much we want to protect our kids, predators will always find (and often create) their own loopholes.

    5. Brad, you hit it absolutely right. Parents fear that they little precious might be tainted by what's on the web when so often, it is they that are doing the tainting. Several folks in our department have had to make phone calls regarding information on myspace (info given to them from parents). The overwhelming response was: oh gosh, my son or daughter would never mean it that way. They are just saying they do "those things" to be cool and fit in. This may be true, but goodness, the naivete is amazing at times.

      So, let's ban it all because it must be horrible...if one such site is, it all is! Educators make a few steps forward in technology and then we will be yanked back. Lovely.

    6. Even aside from the fact that that law is so one sided and simplistic, it's a bit scary. I know a lot of students who send backup copies to their own email account the day it's due, just in case something happens. And as I've vehemently expressed before, I hate it when all students under 18 are lumped into one big category. There is no real line between 17 years and 364 days and 18 years. It should be up to the parents, have an opt-out policy rather than an umbrella policy.