Wednesday, April 27, 2005
School technology facilitator Janet Erbe knows a lot about computers. So do more than 1800 students at Kennedy High School in Cedar Rapids. They also know one certain computer blog site is off limits. Erbe says, "it's frightening. It's frightening. That's why it is filtered here at school."
Erbe is talking about Xanga.com. An online diary blog site popular amongst Eastern Iowa teens. Erbe says, "kids use it to vent. And sometimes they say good things, sometimes they say inappropriate things."
You can see the problem that the school has -- like employers, it does not want its computers used for "inappropriate things." In a normal world, we would hold the user of the computer responsible, not the institution. But we have spent forty years spreading and diffusing responsibility in our society. Now schools (and employers) are responsible when others use their assets "inappropriately," even if identical computers and phones and other such items are readily available outside of school (or the workplace). The school's (or employer's) ownership of the computer somehow infects the school (or employer) with culpability for the "inappropriate behavior" of the user of the computer. It is entirely asinine, if you think about it, but also entirely irreversible.
That having been said, the school in this case is obviously trying to avoid a "blog scandal" that would upset parents who are too ignorant to know that their children will blog on Xanga.com whether the school blocks access or not. If I were a school administrator, I wouldn't want angry and naive parents screaming at me, so I'd probably do the same thing.