***UPDATE... As Principal Sousa himself, in addition to several other people, pointed out, he did not ban "blogging" per say... just access to myspace. However, I still stand by my opinion that this isn't the right way to go. First of all, who is anyone to judge that what goes on at MySpace doesn't have value in its purpose as a social network and a platform for self-expression. Certainly the school promotes socializing during school hours, right? Are the students not allowed to talk to each other in the hallways either? Not everyone expresses themselves in the school play, and for some students, its important for them to be able to express themselves on MySpace... and the site's heavy use underscores the need for proactive education on responsible maintainence of a public online identity. Blocking the site isn't the answer... especially because students can just as easy write e-mails or, as I've learned, blog elsewhere with the same exact content. So, no, this principal didn't ban blogging... he singled out one blogging site and decided that the kind of self-expression that was going on at MySpace wasn't appropriate for school use. This, I fundamentally disagree with. For many students, their MySpace pages, much the way LiveJournal pages act, are an integral social support network and an outlet. Its not for adults to read and understand, and certainly not for them to judge. So, I correct myself, but I still disagree with his actions. As you can see, my letter is not nasty.... its actually agrees with some of the Principal's concerns, and just offers some alternative, proactive solutions. It was met with a curt, unfriendly response that I will not post.***
Thanks Danah for bringing this to our attention. I'm sure Principal Christopher Sousa of Proctor Junior - Senior High School in Vermont, the school administrator who blocked his students' access to blogging sites, is going to get lots of blogger hate mail, so I sent him a note with some constructive comments and positive suggestions for a more proactive approach to his situation. This reminds me of when Our Lady of Guadalupe, my elementary school, banned Bart Simpson t-shirts on dress down days.
I've included my note below. If anyone else would like to write Mr. Sousa an equally constructive letter telling him about how positive and educational the use of blogs can be, he can be e-mailed at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please, no profanity or blogger hate mail. Keep it professional.
I heard about your recent blogging ban and
I would like to offer some alternative suggestions. I agree with you that there are lots of ways
that young people are blogging that are not particularly educational. And, there are certainly risks associated with
the public posting of personal data on the web. However, an outright ban does nothing to solve the problem. It only pushes off this non-educational,
potentially dangerous behavior to non-school hours.
As an alternative, I would suggest
holding a series of classes, potentially
for both students and parents, on productive uses of blogging and the proper
way to safeguard personal information over the web. Blogging is not just about putting one’s
favorite bands on MySpace. I run a
website called www.successblogging.com
that talks about how blogging can be used as a career tool. I just had a speaking engagement at the New
York Society of Securities Analysts with 50 financial professionals interested
in this new communication platform. Blogging can be a great marketing and self promotion tool, as well as a
great source of industry information. As
an investment analyst for a venture capital firm, I subscribe to over 75 blogs
related to technology, marketing, and investing and regard it as a vital source
of up to the minute information and commentary. Many of these bloggers are experienced professionals that maintain
impressive offline credentials as well.
I am also mentoring a student from my alma
mater, Fordham University, and we are currently developing some ideas on how
she can use a blog as professional journal in order to record her internship
search and career interests, not only as a way to promote herself, but also to
have a place on the web where prospective employers can be impressed with her
drive and insight. Students need to
realize that they will be “Googled” in the future when they go out looking for
jobs, and the blogs they are creating will become permanent parks of their
record. Without such teaching, they will
fail to take advantage of an important opportunity.
Many schools, when first instituting
computer networks, hesitated to even connect students to the internet, for fear
of them accessing illicit sites and using it for non-educational purposes. Now, it is a qualification for just about any
professional job to do research on the web or be able to communicate via
e-mail. Instead of covering their eyes,
why not show them a positive, educational approach to blogging, as many other
schools are already doing.
Charles E. O'Donnell