Censorship High

By Daniel Silverman

Published June 15, 2001 7:00PM (EDT)

Read the story.

Bravo for Daniel Silverman! His courage, integrity and creative thinking mark him as the kind of young man I hope my own sons will grow up to be.

Appropriate parent and teacher supervision, rather than mindless filtering software that cannot tell the difference between an XXX pornography Web site and a Super Bowl XXX Web site, is the only way to make sure kids get all the information they need from the World Wide Web. Our home computers are in our family room, where my husband and I can keep tabs on what our kids see and explain anything they don't understand or that we deem unsuitable at their ages.

As Silverman discovered, it has become difficult to defend free speech on the Internet without appearing to support pornography. I hope he perseveres in protecting our rights and is not beaten into submission by those who fear knowledge instead of venerating it.

-- Karen Kasper

Excellent article! I applaud the courage and conviction of the writer. Too often schools are indoctrination centers, not places of intellectual growth and discovery. Do you want to know why U.S. schools lag behind the schools of every other industrialized country? It is because our schools are more concerned with maintaining control and limiting their own liability than providing an atmosphere that lets students grow and learn. I hope there are more students who are willing to stand up to petty authority figures in order to promote the free and unfettered discovery and discussion of new ideas.


-- Andrew Michaud

Children need to be controlled while they are in school. That means on the playground, in the hallways and while on the Net. Children do not have any rights in this area. They are at school and the teachers, principals and school boards will decide what's best for the kids. If Daniel wants freedom, then he should go home and use his parents' computer, not hack at the school's. I work for a very large corporation and we have the same firewalls and blocks. If I hack around these blocks, the network Nazis will fire me and I'll lose my job. What good would that do? The Net is a tool to help me do my job, not to be my primary concern. It should be there to help a student learn, not be the primary focus of his high school education. School networks need to be filtered, just like they are in the real world of work. Welcome to reality, Daniel.

-- Roderick Sanders

The school district followed standard security procedures, including blocking insecure services such as FTP and Telnet, using a proxy. All of these things are important to reduce the liability of the school district. Even the filtering, while never really accurate, reduces the liability of the school district. Imagine someone suing the district for not protecting their children from something or another on the Internet.

I fully support the Electronic Frontier Foundation and anti-censorship, but we should all remember that while the principal function of a school district is to educate children, it is also responsible for protecting children. This includes protection from certain ideas and images.

Given the requirements that the school district must follow, I doubt that any responsible adult would have done anything significantly different than what the school district has done. Still, given my knowledge of computer security issues and my love of freedom, I would probably have done something similar to Daniel's passing instructions to bypass the filters. (Although Daniel needs to learn that some things are just bad on the Internet, such as Telnet with its clear text passwords!)

-- Mathew

A part of me feels for Silverman. I once was called into the principal's office for writing a rather passionate editorial against certain school reform laws. But the fact of the matter is that he didn't try to change the policy first. If there was some concerted attempt by people to change the way things were done, Silverman doesn't tell us about it. Rather, he created a way around the policy and then (commendably) communicated it. But presenting people with a fait accompli is no way to get them to see your side of the issue.

In truth, his precipitous actions provide the school with all the justification it needs to continue the policy. If an intelligent and reasonable-sounding kid like Silverman cannot be trusted not to "just do it," then who can? Certainly not the kids I went to high school with.

-- Jim Roberts-Miller

By Salon Staff

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