Are We Inside the New Iron Curtain?

Alan November at NCETCBefore I get to the point of that title, I have to say something about the great day I had, yesterday, delivering four presentations: video games, wikis, a new session about SecondLife, and a featured address about the future, our kids, our information environment, and flat classrooms.  It was a great day because I had so many opportunities to engage in conversations about barriers and leverage points to pry those barriers away.  Conference planners sometimes seem surprised when I say that I want to do follow-up sessions.  It’s through interactions with educators and education leaders that I learn, that I get my ideas tested, stretched, and refined.

I got to see Debbie Silver, and to roll around in the floor laughing for an hour.  And, in addition to all of that, I got to see Alan November do a keynote, the first time I’ve seen him in several years.  I love Alan’s style, his ability to be so conversational in his presentation.  I wish that I could do that.  My formal presentations are often more performance than conversation — scripted and, to some degree, rehearsed.  I do better when I take my Ritalin, though I don’t that much any more.  Not sure why — just don’t!

Anyway, Alan said something that was a bit provocative — and something that I firmly believe.  He said (and these are my words) that the United States runs what is probably the most represive education system on the planet, especially when compared with the access to information that learners have outside the classroom.   “Students in China have e-mail,” he said.  “Do your students?”

15 thoughts on “Are We Inside the New Iron Curtain?”

  1. David, I heard the same keynote. I agree with Alan and I do everything I can to promote less “blocking”. But Alan also described going into the Chinese classroom and having all of the students silently standing by their desks and bowing in unison. There was some cognitive dissonence for me there.

  2. > But Alan also described going into the Chinese classroom and having all of the students silently standing by their desks and bowing in unison. There was some cognitive dissonence for me there.

    You mean… like when they recite the Pledge of Allegiance?

  3. Classic example, I was trying to google a student’s paper yesterday and check it for plagiarism. The position paper was on legalizing marijuana and the phrase I used to check it contained the word “marijuana”. I was given a message that marijuana was an adult search term and is therefore blocked by our content filter (I work in a high school). I guess my frustration comes from having someone else determine for me what is acceptable and what is not. We cannot teach our students acceptability or evaluation issues if they are in such a controlled environment. I realize that there are sites that students shouldn’t be on; however, I don’t believe such strict controlling of the environment is the answer. Teaching and educating them can be a start in the right direction. This dictatorship type control is what bothers me. I don’t understand why education cannot have a system like some businesses where the powers that be can track individuals usage on the Internet. That way the individual gets punished for wrong behavior rather than keeping the masses locked behind the filters and not being able to do much of anything. Is it a money issue? I do realize that some protection needs to be there, but the solution has to be something besides total blocking of everything that could potentially lead to a lawsuit, offend someone, or take away tools or sites that could be beneficial to the learning environment.

  4. I guess I reacted to the Alan November quote about students in China and email by thinking that yes, the have email, but they have a repressive government that will throw them in jail if they use it to voice a contrary opinion.
    And re: Steven Downes comment. In one of my schools (and I have never blogged about this nor voiced this formally on the job), one of our best teachers builds on a school wide theme of ‘respect’ by having students recite, after the flag salute, the respect pledge. You make a sign language R by crossing your tall finger over the index finger and raising your hand straight out to the flag and saying the words in unison. 20 second graders, fingers crossed, arms raised to the flag, mouthing the words. Just like Hitler Youth. I have to bite my tongue hard, and leave with a sad, sad, heart when I see it happen.

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