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.1Are 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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6 thoughts on “The uneducated pass laws restricting our future: DOPA continues

  1. Commiserations to you and all those like you who are trying to teach kids the safe navigation of cyberspace. I guess the sort of sensationalism that is behind initiatives like DOPA convinces people that they are protecting our precious children. I am nevertheless stunned by the margin. Obviously the voices that have been so loud on the blogosphere have gone unheard by the unconnected.

    Perhaps there is a lesson for us here. Am I right in thinking that protestors against the Vietnam war descended on the Whitehouse lawns? We need to go where we can be heard, take our battle to the most effective battleground. Raising our voices online against an initiative like DOPA isn’t going to work, because the people who need to hear what we have to say aren’t reading blogs. Perhaps what was needed was a real life delegation of people with skin on. People who could be seen to be rational, caring, forward thinking educators – not radical anarchists.

    If you’ve ever seen the movie Field of Dreams (“If you build it they will come”), you may remember the scene where Annie Kinsella (Amy Madigan) takes the battle to the PTA. She stands up and argues her impassioned case and opens the eyes of the people to the blinkered view being presented by the woman wanting to remove Terence Mann’s (James Earl Jones) books from the curriculum. They, too, thought they were protecting the children.

    You’ve said it yourself: book burning, blog burning – it’s the same thing in the end, and it is driven by fear. We need to overcome the fear, and people like you are the best ones to do it. You are so obviously a dedicated, nurturing teacher of the best kind and not part of the lunatic fringe.

    You may have lost the vote, but it’s not over, yet. Good sense (please God) has surely got to prevail in the end, or forward thinking schools will choose to walk the path of civil disobedience.

  2. Earlier you asked if you could use my post about DOPA in your book, and you certainly can. I want to do whatever I can to prevent this law from going through.

  3. Karyn –
    If bloggers could unseat Trent Lott, perhaps they can stem the tide for this bill, but I don’t feel optimistic.

    Marshall –
    Thanks for encouraging me from the beginning.

    Kyli –
    Your blogging has proven to me that these tools are vital and life changing. Thank you for blogging over the summer! Great job! I look forward to seeing you in two weeks!

  4. This was an excellent summary of comments that we can make in every day conversation when the topics about on-line predators comes up. We aren’t at this stage in Canada yet, but I am glad for resources like this in case theses arguments are needed. Hopefully not!!!

    Thanks for taking the time to give an excellent overview of the issues!

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