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March Letter

Sticking Up for Filters

Nancy Willard couldn't have gotten it more wrong in “Keeping Safe, Staying Smart” (January 2003, p. 28). Her prescription for the problem of Internet safety will only lead to many more examples of the tragic crime that opened her article.

She asserts that administrators should not be asking “Are we protecting students?,” but rather “Are we providing our students with the knowledge, skills, and motivation to use the Internet in a safe and responsible manner?” By this logic, districts should stop all spending to create safe schools and simply instruct students in the proper use of Kevlar vests. It’s true that filters cannot do it all, but on the other hand, believing the job of protecting students from Internet dangers can be done without the use of filters is shear folly.

It also seems more than a bit disingenuous to claim that handling an occasional override of a filtering system is a burden too heavy for districts to bear while at the same time we are assured that if filters were removed, sufficient resources exist to protect the safety of students through training and supervision.

If the point of the article was that Internet education, like education in general, is more than simply creating a safe environment for learning, who could disagree. Unfortunately, Willard’s “comprehensive approach” would put all children at serious risk by leaving a loaded gun in every wired classroom while “protecting” children only through the fig leaf of policy and instruction.

—Kyle A. Warner

Network/Systems Services Manager

The School District of the City of Saginaw Saginaw, Michigan

Right About Research

Bravo to you for your article on the Web researching capabilities of students (“Technology and theCollege Admissions Process,” February 2003, p. 23)! Let’s not confuse Web comfort with Web researching literacy.

After six years of teaching high school and college students, I can assure you that they do not search the Web better than the general public. They do not know about or how to use search engine advance search features like Boolean and proximity operators, field searching and link checking. Normally they will only review the first ten results and usually only the first page on each Web site. As you noted, they are good browsers but they have not developed the research skills to take bits of information from Web documents and develop additional search queries.

Research by the Pew Center, UCLA, and Northwestern Mutual Life confirms what librarians see every day-the Web is the primary information resource for high school and college students. Librarians should take the lead and teach students and other educators how to search the Web more efficiently, how to evaluate Web resources, how to develop beyond Web browsers to Web researchers, to become truly Web literate. That skill will be continue to be of use to them long after they graduate from high and college.

—Paul Barron, MLIS

Technology Director

Rockbridge County Schools Lexington, Virginia

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