As we cross the road, we face a barricade sponsored by SiteSense, the same folks who keep us away from "unnecessary field trips."
He kindly tells us that the district has restricted us from this site and that we can go elsewhere, but he will not permit us to take any steps forward. I stare at his baton and assume he means business. The Paper World is full of such posturing and though I never test it out, I assume it is correct. Years ago, I would hand-write addresses incorrectly and the postal worker would send it back with a stern "You have performed an illegal operation." I kept expecting the Paper and Parcel Police to pound on my door and take me to prison.
On the way back, a student tells me that it's what she expected.
"Our district slogan is 'Learning for Life,' but life is the very thing they try to avoid."
"One of our values is community, yet we have huge walls that keep us in and the community out."
* * *
After school, I stop by the district office. The Assistant Superintendent of Paper-related Learning explains the issue to me.
"Oh yeah, you're supposed to publish all student work to the iSites. We paid good money and we're going to use it."
"Yes, but the Plogger site is free and easier to customize and kids can visit it when they aren't at school."
"But the iSites works with the iParchment and it flows seamlessly in a system. We know the company and we trust them. Besides, I heard that there might be pornographic plogs across the street. Gertrude was tell me a story about . . . "
"Look, I highly doubt it. But if there is, you can always fill out a Report Abuse card for the curator and she will throw the plog in the trash."
"Quite honestly, we are worried about your approach to safety. Your students never even signed the Fair Use policy."
"What do you mean?"
"We have a distinct code explaining how paper and pencil must be used."
"No one told me that."
"Well, you never asked."
"So, do they have a Fair Use Policy in the wood shop? I mean, it seems that they are much more likely to lose a hand in woodshop than, say, gouge out an eye using pencils."
"No, shop class doesn't have the same rules."
"Do we block the choir from singing at the town square? I mean, I heard there is drinking and gambling that goes on over there."
"But that is supervised, Mr. Johnson. Your students could be meandering through a site that SiteSense considers potentially dangerous. They have a scientific process . . ."
"Science is about reason and skepticism. It's about inquiry and exploration. This is hysteria. It's not science. Technology, perhaps, but not science."
I leave with a stack of Fair Use forms for students to hand out to their parents. I am struck by the notion that our community is afraid of all the wrong aspects of pencil and paper. No one questions the proper age and development of a child using a pencil. No one asks whether it is a good thing for a child to have a community audience. No one looks at the death of an oral culture when we embrace all things print-related.
I'm not opposed to having some guidelines or even some paperwork. What scares me is that we get so hung up in creating structures of security that no one seems interested in protecting paper freedom.
(note: I was influenced on this post by a comment made by Josie)