education, technology, and everything else

Like living in China

Posted by Miranda on May 25, 2007

My son was pretty upset the other day when I got home. He and some friends were, he tells me, in study center, using the computers when one of the friends followed a link from a news story to the DEA website. He got a message that the site was not allowed and someone from the administration sent him to the school counselor for a long talk on drug abuse. The school my son goes to has a person who’s job it is to monitor all the student desktops via remote monitoring software, I assume Apple Remote Desktop since the school has mostly Macs. My son also told me that this year the school has started using filtering software. “Mom”, he said, “it’s like living in China!”
I emailed the head of school and asked for some insight into the decision to use the filtering software and what exactly they used. I asked if it was network based or if it was installed locally as a client allowing students private laptops to bypass it. She replied that they hadn’t filtered for several years after the regulations came out tying federal funding to installation of filtering software but had recently found filtering software they could live with.

The Systems Administrator addressed my question on the software itself. It is an open-source proxy server product called Dan’s Guardian. They do not currently have a way of forcing student laptops to use the proxy server but plan to implement a method of doing that during the summer.

I understand the thinking behind using filtering software. I also understand that it may filter out lots of things that students may find useful or informative, that may just be the breaks. But I have to say that I don’t understand having someone looking at student desktops all day long and locking up the screen if the person thinks the material being accessed is “inappropriate”. For instance my son tells me that a student looking up guitar tabs had his screen locked and got a message that looking up guitar tabs in study center was not allowed.

I told my son that perhaps he and his friends might want to got to the administration and ask for a list of what was appropriate material to research in study center and what was not. I also told him that unless someone challenged the system, the system will stay as it is. He does not want me to challenge it, he is sixteen and I know that at that age one hates to stand out in a crowd.

What does this teach them, these young adults? That they are not capable of deciding for themselves what is inappropriate. That they are not to be trusted. That someone is always watching them, reading over their shoulders. That the administration of their school is to be feared and evaded.

It does sound a lot like living in China.

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