Saturday, July 29, 2006

Melville in July

happy hops
Originally uploaded by mahlness.
So why in the world would I be outside on a beautiful summer afternoon in Seattle, admiring my incredibly prolific hops - reading Herman Melville? I mean what are the odds? The only thing of his I ever read was Moby Dick, eons ago. I wasn't an English major, I read exciting stuff like Freud and Jung as an undergrad... Why would I start reading Melville?

Well, because the world has changed, is changing, so very fast. And when politicians make decisions that punish and cripple the communities they are in theory trying to help, those communities know instantly, and respond with almost one voice in outrage. It has to do with DOPA.

I am part of the community affected by DOPA, just passed overwhelmingly by the US House of Representatives. I am a third grade teacher. This past school year I have seen and tasted the promise of what web 2.0 can bring to our classrooms - IS bringing to classrooms all over the world. The US already is woefully behind nations like Canada, the UK, and Australia in embracing these new technologies. DOPA will essentially shut the door on web 2.0 in US schools and libraries. The reaction of educators and librarians is resounding; the blogosphere is ringing with our anger and disgust.

Those who are in favor of DOPA seem to feel it is the job of parents to teach online safety. This is simply not going to happen. The ONLY place it will happen is in the classroom. I know. I teach, and I have eyes and ears. I have 25 years of experience teaching, working with kids and their families. It will happen at school, or it wll not happen at all.

Where should Internet tools be used on a daily basis, as part of regular instruction, integrated into everything that happens there? In every single classroom of the 21st century. I cannot believe the number of blog comments I've read in support of DOPA that question the very existence of computers in schools. Some folk would have our students using nothing but slates and wooden benches, giving kids a "good, solid, fundamental education".

Which brings me back to… Herman Melville. Writing back in the days of slates and benches in schools, he painted a tale of fear and panic. Count on an elementary school teacher to go all literate in the middle of the summer (well, he always is), and basically force me to read Melville’s "The Lightning Rod Man" to see the connection. Doug Noon posted Too Safe to remind us that the reaction which produced DOPA is nothing new. We need to use our common sense to see through the fear - and remind others to do so.
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