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Friday, July 28, 2006

The uneducated pass laws restricting our future: DOPA continues



DOPA passed in the US House of Representatives last night 410 - 15.

Texas Republican Ted Poe says, “social networking sites such as MySpace and chat rooms have allowed sexual predators to sneak into homes and solicit kids.”

The DOPA legislation (Deleting Online Predators Act) will not prevent sexual predators from sneaking into homes, it will increase it, in my opinion. In fact, one of my students says it best on her personal blog,

"The only way to protect children from online predators is to arm them with the information to protect themselves. In fact, probably the best place for kids to have access to these sites is in school where they can be monitored. Not to mention all the educational benefits that come from these sites these lawmakers are trying to ban. Wikis are the new way to do classroom collaboration. Blogs are the new way to do classroom discussion. So no, DOPA is not protecting the children, in fact, all it is doing is hurting them by continuing to promote the idea that ignorance is bliss. These kids are ignorant of how to protect themselves from Internet predators. These lawmakers need to ban ignorance not promote it."
For those who haven't followed the debate, I"ve been writing on this for some time:

I think this is a classic case of ignorance. Kids as young as two are surfing the Internet on a weekly basis.1 Are we teaching them privacy, safety, and ethics?

Most schools ALREADY block myspace which allows the school to ferrett out certain sites it deems unacceptable. They don't need Congress telling them to block it, they already are! What will happen is that schools will be blocked from using wikis and blogs, and other social networking technologies that are valuable educational tools!

Do you know that many public school teachers cannot even read this blog? It is considered a social networking site and my blog will soon be banned in all public schools and libraries if this passes!

What? I am encouraging and promoting good education and educators cannot read it. I wonder how many legislators have read a blog? I wonder how many have read a wiki? I find it interesting that Trent Lott was considered a casualty of blogs and that now blogs are on the hatchet list for Congress.

I want my readers to understand something: I often vote Republican. This is not a partisan issue. This is an education issue.

I'd like to propose an alternative to DOPA:

The Online Safety Act (OSA). This would be legislation that would promote online safety. We would look at the statistics for when students began to use the internet and would teach them lifetime Internet safety and privacy skills. We would create safe, anonymous reporting mechanisms to law enforcement where predatory behavior could be reported and followed up on. We would add teeth to the methodologies used by law enforcement against such criminals.

It would be modeled after "Stranger Danger" education programs and "Drug Education" programs.
We outlawed drugs, but drug use reducation only happens through drug education. We outlaw kidnapping but the only thing that reduces kidnapping is teaching kids about "stranger danger." We can outlaw social networking sites (and get rid of some very useful teaching tools), but the only way to prevent identity theft and predatory behavior is to educate children. That is how we will reduce victims!

That is the only legislation that will truly make a difference. For now, we are promoting online ignorance. Ignorance breeds victims. Knowledge breeds safety.

I am saddened that legislators are making such a mistake. My students have been calling me asking what they can do! They want to go to Washington! They see the amazing blogs and wiki that they are participating in being limited to only America private schools! How sad!

Fortunately, I teach at a private school and this legislation will not keep my students from using these sites. Unfortunately, those who want to make public schools more competitive, are putting another nail in the coffin. Sadly, I learn so much from my public school counterparts and will miss their blogging, their sharing of best practices, and their student participation with my students. They are going to be left out of the cutting edge of educational innovation.

We finally had tools to bring America together! And a wedge is being driven in again.

Remember, that I am an advocate for eradicating predators on myspace. You do no eradicate predators by sending naiive, uneducated children home to myspace at midnight. You teach them privacy. You educate them.

I have been frantically working on a book this summer: Safe Online Success. I wish that I could print the first several chapters here because it is needed. Unfortunately, I probably won't finish until the end of September and that may be a little late. I have already completed the first four chapters and propose guidelines for online education. Right now, I'll be self publishing, but have been encouraged by my editors to submit to a publishing house. We'll see.

For now, I'm just in shock. I'll have to get my thoughts together and post more later.


Footnotes:

1A recent Department of Education study that analyzed Internet use of Americans by age shows that sixty per cent of 6-8 year olds are using the Internet on a weekly basis. Almost 80% of 9-12 year olds and over 90% of children ages 12-18 go online weekly. Almost 40% of children aged 2-5 use the Internet weekly! http://www.ed.gov/about/offices/list/os/technology/plan/2004/plan_pg7.html

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