Yesterday, Cory Doctorow posted a link to 26 pieces of advice for educators about the internet. It's on a blog called Dangerously Irrelevant, which I think I'm going to follow now, and here are some of my favorite points:
E. Why are you penalizing the 95% for the 5%? You don’t do this in other areas of discipline at school. Even though you know some students will use their voices or bodies inappropriately in school, you don’t ban everyone from speaking or moving. You know some students may show up drunk to the prom, yet you don’t cancel the prom because of a few rule breakers. Instead, you assume that most students will act appropriately most of the time and then you enforce reasonable expectations and policies for the occasional few that don’t. To use a historical analogy, it’s the difference between DUI-style policies and flat-out Prohibition (which, if you recall, failed miserably). Just as you don’t put entire schools on lockdown every time there’s a fight in the cafeteria, you need to stop penalizing entire student bodies because of statistically-infrequent, worst-case scenarios.
This is, I think, the most vivid explanation in the piece about the hypocrisy of many schools' (including my high school's) approach to the internet. Perhaps even more so than most of the other tools school educates us about, the internet is a major way that people interact with the world now, and the above method entails teaching it wrong.
I. Students and teachers rise to the level of the expectations that you have for them. If you expect the worst, that’s what you’ll get.
T. When you violate the Constitution and punish kids just because you don’t like what they legally said or did and think you can get away with it, you not only run the risk of incurring financial liability for your school system in the tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars but also abuse your position of trust and send messages to students about the corruption of power and disregard for the rule of law. [emphasis mine]
These two reflect the major problems with the approach of "Think of the children!" paranoia that seems to be the standard of the American education system. It's like they're deliberately trying to anti-educate students into being bad citizens.
The whole list is awesome, and it illuminates one of the biggest issues in the US today -- we have serious education problems, that we're pretty much ignoring.