I have been saddened but also enlightened to learn in the last couple of weeks that this blog, Moving at the Speed of Creativity, is censored (blocked) within some– and perhaps many– Texas school districts. The reason? I have blogged in the past about the social networking site MySpace, and some (I don’t know how many) school district Internet filters are set to automatically block NOT ONLY outgoing links to MySpace pages, but also EVERY WEBPAGE that even mentions the MySpace site.
Are we living in the United States here, or totalitarian China? This is something we should be really concerned about as educators and citizens. I have titled this blog post “censored for relevance” because that is what I think is taking place here. Should educators be talking about social networking sites like MySpace? Of course. They should be reading blogs about MySpace, blogging themselves about MySpace, and even visiting MySpace. I think educators (even principals) should even create and maintain their own MySpace websites. I have started. Why?
Simply put, because as educators we should strive to remain relevant to students and engaged in their development of literacy skills. Social networking websites are going to continue to grow FAST in the months and years to come. We need to help students make better decisions about the information they share about themselves online, in MySpace and elswhere. In some cases, it is hard to speak intelligently about something if you have little personal experience about it yourself. I am not talking about illegal drug use here– I am talking about blogging and use of social networking sites. And blogging is not a short term trend. This is a world-changing phenomenon. Think I’m exaggerating? Consider the case of China.
I watched most of an excellent PBS special this evening titled, “The Tank Man.” The accompanying PBS website is superb. Its subtitle:
After all others had been silenced, his lonely act of defiance against the Chinese regime catalyzed the world. What became of him? And 17 years later, has China succeeded in erasing this event from its history?
During the episode, the creators interviewed four extremely intelligent university students in Beijing. THE PHOTO OF THE TANK MAN MEANT NOTHING TO THEM. One of them said something about 1989. They did not have schema for Tiananmen Square. This is shocking, and should be abhorrent to people around the globe who care about values like human rights, self-determination, and free speech.
I read the book “Almost a Revolution: The Story of a Chinese Student’s Journey from Boyhood to Leadership in Tiananmen” by Shen Tong in the early 1990s. That book was a real eye-opener. I readily admit my knowledge of China is extremely limited, but I would definitely put the 1989 student-led revolution in Tiananmen Square as one of those historical events that EVERYONE on the planet should know about– in the same spirit of “Cultural Literacy: What Every American Needs to Know” by E.D. Hirsch. Except I would not say, every “American.” I would say “every human being on planet earth.”
What other voices are being censored by your school district’s Internet filtering system? Should mine be included on that list? Do me a favor and check, and comment here to let me know the results. Maybe this is a phenomenon limited to a small number of conservative, Texas school districts. I am not so sure, however.
Are our students studying about the student-led revolution in China as part of their social studies lessons? Are we teaching students about the dark side of capitalism unhampered by governmental regulations that protect worker rights? Or are we ignoring these very pressing and important problems, because they are pretty “ill-structured” and our primary task is helping kids solve “well-defined” problems on a multiple-choice examination?
We need to prepare students everywhere to exercise their rights (which are admittedly debatable) as well as fulfill their duties as global citizens of planet earth. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights is UNIVERSAL because it applies to EVERYONE. People who happen to have been born and live in China are not exempt. These are issues worth caring about, teaching about, and taking action about.
Has this post just made Moving at the Speed of Creativity a banned blog in China? I hope not. But if that is the cost of being relevant, it’s one I’m willing to pay. There are thankfully proxy paths around the government censors trained by Cisco and aided by Yahoo.
For more on these issues, checkout the PBS Frontline “The Tank Man” roundtable on “The Struggle to Control Information” in China. I predict that despite their draconian efforts to try and control the information genie, the Chinese policos are going to fail in my own lifetime. We are going to see political change in China, which will hopefully bring about reforms like worker rights protections, guarantees of free speech, respect for due process, and respect for other basic human rights possessed by every Chinese man, women and child just as they are possessed by every citizen of the United States.
Want to be part of the solution? You can be. Listen to other global voices talking about these and other issues. Keep blogging. And keep inviting others into these conversations.
The world is a’changin. Ideas are powerful. Words are powerful. Don’t settle for mere content consumption. Insist on content creation, in your own life and in your classroom. It’s essential as we struggle to prepare students for the roles of leadership we need them to play in the century to come.
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On this day..
- STEM, iPad & Google Workshops in June 2015 - 2015
- Technology & Innovation in Education by Jaime Casap - 2012
- Using ARIS to Create Interactive, Multimedia Enhanced Field Trips by Wes Molyneaux - 2012
- Why Every Teacher Should Become an App Creator by Chris Thompson - 2012
- Blended, Continuous Learning in the 21st Century Military - 2011
- Finger Puppet Videography with the iPad2: Lessons Learned - 2011
- Celebrate National Library Week with Fabrarians: Freeze-n-Read! - 2010
- Wilson Rawls: Author of Where the Red Fern Grows - 2010
- Who Will Save Journalism? We will! - 2009
- Google Sites as a classroom learning portal - 2008