If I start laughing like a fiend when someone says we live in a free society…

…or that technology is an inherently liberating force in education or in daily life, it’s because I’ve read too many stories like this one.

Like Stephen Downes, it took me a while to believe this wasn’t some sort of internet-based urban legend:

A substitute teacher is told not to turn off the computer (because she won’t be able to log in again). Searching for hair styles, she or a student clicks on a link that launches adware. because the computer’s security has been allowed to lapse, the adware installs itself and begins sending a steady stream of pornographic images. The substitute teacher is charged with willfully exposing minors to pornography. Investigators did not look for adware on the computer, and defense testimony showing how the adware was installed is not allowed to be presented in court. She is found guilty and faces 40 years in jail (presumably, her teaching career is a shambles as well).

I keep waiting for something like “justice” or even that nebulous concept of “common sense” to kick in at some point. How much evidence do I need before I stop expecting these things? I might as well hope for Santa Claus to help this poor woman. No wonder so many educators are afraid of the web and resistant to using it more.

And of course politicians continue to that find demonizing the web and launching mindless sledgehammer assaults on freedom in the name of children’s safety are surefire vote-getters, right across the spectrum — on this issue at least, liberals and conservatives have no trouble finding consensus. People who laud the organizational and communicative power of the web can’t seem to raise the slightest bit of resistance to the kingdom of fear, even with these wondrous new tools.

3 thoughts on “If I start laughing like a fiend when someone says we live in a free society…

  1. This makes me think of the beginning of Sam Peckinpah’s The Wild Bunch. In the opening scene, a group of children are foregrounded cheering as thousands of red ants devour two scorpions (before they proceed set them both ablaze). At the same time William Holden and the rest of the wild bunch march by into town to rob a bank and proceed to leave a sea of carnage in their wake. I think Sam Peckinpah understood that the idea of protecting children from the society in which they live ignores the fact that they are constituitive elements of this society. This bizarre notion that children somehow exist outside of society and need to be “protected” from the reality we all inhabit serves to prove that innocence, fear and terror are political fault lines that often explain away our own collective failings by focusing upon controlling the individual subject remotely by highlighting their perceived weaknesses. This may not be a urban legend, but it is certainly the worst kind of moral play.

  2. D’Arcy, hadn’t seen that story. Now I’m even more depressed and angry.

    Jim, I think your point about individuals being targeted for our shameful and shamefully unexamined collective failings is important.

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