Paul the Pre-Industrial Poet and his wife Gloria invite us over for dinner. I take a copy of the Acceptable Use Agreement with me so that I can grill Paul on his approach.
"Paul, do your students sign a Acceptable Use Agreement?"
"They do. I pass it out on the first day."
I hand him mine and ask him for his thoughts. "I don't like it much, I admit. It's not like we have a Acceptable Use agreement for math class. Yet, we hand out protractors that can quickly turn into shanks."
My wife adds, "And we lie to kids about language arts. We're not teaching them the art of language. It's all science the way it's taught. Why isn't there an Acceptable Use Agreement on the dangerous dark art of words? Last time I checked, nations still go to war over words. Couples still fight over words. Sticks and stones will break bones, but words can crush a soul."
Gloria points out, "Kids in your school mix chemicals in science. Which is more dangerous: a pencil or chemicals that could potentially be fatal?"
I turn to Paul and ask him why he bothers. "Look, I'm not against the Acceptable Use Agreement, per se. I'd love to have a Acceptable Use Philosophy that covers all classes. Let's be honest, don't we want kids to use the resources effectively?"
"Yeah, I guess. But it should go without saying."
"You use that word 'should' but reality is reality. People 'should' avoid adding raisins to desserts and salads, but they do. All the time. So, you have to work around it."
"What is your approach?"
"Oh, I just pull the raisins out of the cookie or the carrot cake."
"No, I mean, what's your approach to the Acceptable Use Agreement?"
"My students have their parents sign the Acceptable Use Agreement and then we develop our own agreement. The first part is a guarantee of academic freedom. It spells out their rights and it includes aspects that connect with pencils. The second is a Code of Ethics that they promise to adhere to as they approach learning. We create a new document each year and we sign it collectively as a reminder of both the individual and social responsibility."
"Do kids understand that it applies to pencils?" my wife asks.
"They realize that it applies to all learning and to all learning tools. So, they can't snap a pencil and they can't stab someone with a protractor and they can't use words to tear a student down."
"What do you do with the Acceptable Use Agreement?" I ask him.
"I turn them in to the district where they remain in a file folder. Students forget about it, but often we go back and visit our rights and Bill of Rights and Code of Ethics."