Fwd: Re: [Fwd: LOGO-L> Papert and the Internet]

Coby Smolens (cobys@webtv.net)
Sun, 2 Mar 1997 16:03:49 -0800

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Dear Dale,

I am no expert on what is happening in the public library scene. I will
not be surprised to find out that various public libraries, just like
public schools, are indeed engaging in varying degrees of censorship -
in fact I will be more surprised to find that they aren't, given that
library boards must of necessity be composed of members of local
communities which have vastly differing views on such juicy subjects as
the effects of exposure to pornography, violence or political/religious
indoctrination on the young. It is not to engage in that particular
discussion, however, that I respond to your last posting.

I am one of six founders of a new Sudbury-type school in Marin County,
California. As part of the process of learning about these schools prior
to making the committment to become involved in one at the founder's
level, all of our group so far have gone to visit existing SVS schools
in operation to see at first hand how just such decisions are made in
practice. I admit to having had the lingering feeling somewhere in the
back of my mind that, "Yeah, it looks great on paper, sounds wonderful
in conversation -- does it really work that way?"

My first visit was to Santa Clara Valley School (write to
freekids@aol.com), where I was priveliged to sit in on the weekly School
Meeting, presided over at this time by a twelve-year-old girl. The
issues on the agenda for that meeting were almost all pertaining to
violent war games on the computer: Should a particular one be allowed
because of it's graphic and audio content (you have to kill all the baby
fur seals to get to the next level, as I understood it, you need to
raise money for the troops or something, and the sounds of bashing their
little heads in was deemed quite unacceptable by certain members of the
school community -- mainly the teenage girls).

There was much discussion about finding a way to have the game in
question be there in a way that would not disturb those who were
affronted -- could the computer be moved to a different area, could the
game be played without the sound? Another point of view, expressed by a
six year old girl, was "I don't understand why they just don't ignore
it, if they don't like to look at it. They don't have to pay attention
to it, do they?"

In the end the Pro-Wargame faction won the day -- that day. I have since
heard that the Pro-Baby-Seal camp gained back their own a few weeks
later, but that is already old news.

The point is that the no adult involved (who were all present and active
in the meeting I witnessed, expressing their views just as everyone
else), had any more influence over the outcome of the decisions reached
that day than the kids. It didn't even ocurr to me while I listened and
watched that there were "adults" and "kids" in the room -- I was
watching a roomful of fully functional human beings interacting with
one-another on a basis of true mutual respect.

What would not work in this school, or in any other replicating the
Sudbury Valley model, would be an edict about censorship of the
internet. Although the school has as part of it's by-laws provision that
the laws of the land shall be observed (including the First Amendment)
it could be argued -- as it is being argued on the very highest level in
the land -- that the internet and it's questionable content were not
what the founders had in mind when they wrote about abridging the right
of free speech. It is of utmost importance that the members of the
school get to fully participate in the decisions that are made regarding
these weighty matters, and that these decisions are honored completely.
This is not an "exercise" in democracy we're talking about here. There
is no brigade of adult cavalry waiting over the hill to rescue the kids
from themselves in case they make a "bad" decision.

In this model, the members of the school community, acting as a group
according to democratic principles they have defined for themselves, get
to play with EVERYTHING about their world. Whether the majority decides
that pornography should be banned from the school's computer, or whether
it is deemed sacrosanct, for example, so it shall be -- and they get to
experience the consequences of their action.

And, those who lose the field today get to hone their arguments and
return to the fray another day!

Hope this is useful. Warmest regards!

Coby Smolens

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Date: Sun, 02 Mar 1997 13:35:13 -0800
From: "Dale R. Reed" <dale-reed@postoffice.worldnet.att.net>
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Subject: Re: [Fwd: LOGO-L> Papert and the Internet]
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Benjamin A. H. Owen of the Salt Lake City Public Library wrote:

> You should know better than to make a statement like that. This is an
> important issue and it deserves intelligent discussion, not false
> generalizations and paranoid accusations.

Well it is happening in our King County Library System(I attend some of
the library board meetings and read all the board meeting minutes) and I
will be interested in what you will have to say a year from now. I talk
to the librarians about the issue and of course they have mixed feelings
but for sure they no longer can claim that that they do not censor.

By the way it is an issue in the public schools also. The new methods
of communicating are going to turn the old institutions on their heads
in America just as it is doing in Russia and all over the world. Power
is being handed to the people including the children. And I thought
that was "alternative" schooling was all about.

But what I really was trying to find out is rather the student directed
schools on this list censor or let the students surf where they will.
If no one answers I will have to assume that the schools are not as
student directed as some of them claim to be. Dale