"I'M Eddie Chiles and I'm mad!" I used to see the bumper stickers all the time in Texas, and Wikipedia says they reached many other states as well. My life was so busy in those days that I never really bothered to wonder what he was mad about, but the phrase stuck in my mind. Now I have a bumper sticker on my file cabinet at work that says, "If you're not outraged, you're not paying attention." The irony is that these almost identical phrases come from opposite sides of the political spectrum. Eddie, a conservative, was mad about big government; and the second phrase is a current liberal mantra.
I think it is time for some of us to co-opt both quotations and come up with something like, "I work in a school. I'm mad about filtering, and I'm not gonna take it anymore!" So why do I think we should be so angry? I am mad about the ridiculous internet filtering going on today in so many schools. I believe it is past time to stop letting paranoia, combined with laziness, block teachers, counselors, administrators, and students from the internet resources they deserve to access at school.
Let's review history a little bit:
* Children's Internet Protection Act (CIPA) was passed in 2000.
* It's been 4 years since Tim O'Reilly coined the phrase "Web 2.0."
* According to Wikipedia (and who is more qualified to know?) the very first social networking sites appeared around 1996.
* I, along with many others, have been presenting and writing about Web 2.0 for more than 3 years.
Yet here it is 2008 and we still have districts that go so far as to block text containing words such as "blog," "MySpace," "wiki," and other similar terms. Thus, not only can we not participate in social networking sites, which in some instances may be justified, but we cannot even read and learn about these resources. It's time to say "Wake up!" to our masters (whoever they may be) ... Collaborative internet sites aren't newfangled or faddish anymore. They are part of the fabric of our students' daily lives!
I am more than aware that it is not easy to speak out against the status quo when you are laboring in the trenches as a school librarian or a teacher. In some cases it is downright dangerous to one's employment. And nobody likes a complainer anyway. You may think it is easy for Mary Ann Bell to say that people should get mad, sitting in her office as a tenured university professor. I agree that it's a whole different matter for the working teacher with a family to feed. That is why I am going to stop being so passive and speak out more strenuously in presentations and articles, in the hope that in some small way I can help with progress.
I am not the only person who is trying to educate people in this manner. I got the idea from Nancy Willard, lawyer and educator, who writes and presents about cyber-safety, cyberbullying, and internet filtering. Her words carry special weight because of her legal as well as educational background, and she inspired me recently when I met her at the Texas Library Association (TLA) conference. She spoke at a round table sponsored by the TLA Intellectual Freedom committee, along with two other very compelling speakers, Barry Bishop, Spring Branch Texas ISD library coordinator, and Carol Brey-Casiano, director of El Paso Public Library.
All three spoke out for reasonable access to the internet at both school and public libraries. One thing Nancy emphasized was that she understood the risks of "making waves" as schoolteachers and librarians, when jobs are at stake. She promised to use her position and credibility to speak out on behalf of teachers and students, in the hopes that her efforts can raise consciousness and encourage administrators to take a second look at overly restrictive parameters for internet access in schools. My goal is to lend a voice to this effort, and I hope that my writings and conference presentations can do some small bit to move things along. …