Thursday, April 01, 2010

Dear Dept of Education

To whom this may Concern:

I've written to you before, but I feel compelled to write again with one very simple request. Before you spend another dime on Education reform, please consider doing the following:

Publish instructions on how to test our school filters for CIPA compliance.

That's it. Just tell us what sites you use to make that determination. Such an easy thing to do, but something that would do more for advancing public education than ANY new law or tweak you can make on NCLB, for example. I'll tell you why.

Around this country there are as many different interpretations of that law (with respect to what should be or need not be blocked) as there are districts. We'll assume that every person who is making that decision has the very best intentions at heart, in that they want to provide a safe, secure network that facilitates learning as we currently define it. Yet, access to the tools and information on the Internet isn't the same across the country. The haves and have nots aren't defined so much any more by their access to technology, but by the access that their technology has to the world's information, and to the online tools that allow them to create and collaborate.

And the saddest part of this, from my experience, is that it seems that the poorer the area is, the more likely it is that their filter will lock them out of the very resource that will help to educate their children. In some of the poorest areas in Pennsylvania we can find districts that block Google Docs, for example, because they fear that a specific kind of abuse of the tool falls under some definition of CIPA that would put them out of compliance. (I don't get it, either. I'm just telling you how it is.) So, the children whose lives are already so geographically restricted due to their economy also cannot even READ about what is going on in other parts of the world. (See this post) Some children are learning with and from other children from around the world, while others are not permitted - because of one person's definition of CIPA compliance.

Giving us that list would level the playing field in this country between those WITH broad Internet access and those with limited access. What a SHAME it is to allow that to continue - for no good reason. There is NO REASON why we should be operating in the dark with this. Simply publish the instructions on how to test our networks. You'll be able to hear the cheers rise up from the far corners of the country. Think about the immediate impact that would have on the education of ALL children in this country.

PLEASE, publish those instructions! WHY keep us guessing, when the losers in that guessing game are our children - and the very future of this great nation?

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