Schools and libraries are hurting students by setting up heavy-handed web filtering policies that block access to potentially educational sites, writes Computerworld blogger Mitch Wagner. Instead, educators should trust teachers and librarians to oversee schools’ internet access. So says Craig Cunningham, a professor at National-Louis University, with whom Wagner talked about internet filtering in schools. Web filtering software should be configured so that, when a student stumbles across a site that is blocked, the teacher or librarian can make a judgment whether the content is appropriate for study, and if it is, the teacher or librarian can let the site through, Cunningham said. “If a student tries to show something that’s part of a presentation and it’s blocked, the teacher types a password and everyone sees it,” he said. “Why should teachers not be in charge of what to teach?” Ultimately, the purpose of schools should be to teach students to live in a democratic society, and that means teaching critical thinking and showing students controversial web sites, Cunningham said. That includes sites that web filters might classify as hate speech, or sites discussing same-sex marriage—both for and against. Students need to access this information under the guidance of teachers and librarians, in the process of learning how to think about these issues…

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Maya Prabhu