I just finished my three-day stint at the High School’s New Face conference and I have to say I’m impressed and encouraged by the conversations here. Last night at dinner, people said their eyes had been opened and that for many at least, they felt had a real chance to make some changes at their schools. There was a lot of excitement about the technology, about the willingness to consider different models of schools (like The Met) and about the strategies for bringing those changes about.

But there was a moment in today’s last workshop session that captured the road ahead for this group and for the others that have gone down this path. I was just finishing up an hour on podcasting, showing them how to save Skype calls and mix them with music and other mp3 files, and showing them how easy it is to create an audio post and a podcast with Odeo. It was great, I mean, they even broke into semi-spontaneous applause at how easy it all was, and it was obvious they were getting juiced by the potentials. Life was good…

…until, of course, someone noticed that the number 9 listed podcast on Odeo is called “Open Source Sex.”

“So much for that,” the teacher who noticed it said. “They’ll never let this site through.” Talk about air going out of the balloon. I think I rescued it by reminding them how easy it is to do this with Audacity and OurMedia, but the point was clear. We may have great ideas and be thinking differently about learning, but it ain’t gonna fly when implementation time comes.

And so there it is. Another one of those nasty little truths about all of this. The biggest shift is not the technology, not the practice, not even the implementation. It’s the cultural, social shift that moves us from the idea that we must prevent our kids from seeing and engaging with this “stuff” to the idea that says, look…it’s a different world…they’re going to find sex and porn and bad stuff and bad people no matter how hard we try to keep them from it, but when we weigh that fact against the incredible learning potential that the Web provides, we’re going to choose to educate rather try to block and filter it all.

What kills me most about all of this is that I have yet to see anyone cover the eyes of their kids when they go into a magazine store and every skinny, big-breasted super model or super actress is right at eye level, or change the channel when scantily clad women dance provocatively in front of half naked, muscle bound men in the name of selling beer or music or whatever else, or stop them from going to movies filled with violence, abuse, objectification and the rest. Why is there no outrage over that? Is it because that’s done within full view of parents? Is it because we’ve just become so inured to it that we don’t see it. (I doubt that.) Is the Web different because the kids are at the controls? What is the mentality that says seeing it all around us in public is somehow less “damaging” than seeing a word on a Website somewhere?

Just to be clear, I don’t like it at all that this is a much more difficult, complex world for all of us to have to navigate. I’ve said this before, but every time I think what my own kids see and hear just in the course of their normal day, I get just totally disgusted with what we choose to subject them to as a society. But that’s the reality. And I deal with it by pointing it out at every turn, by making sure they have the editorial skills they need to deconstruct the image and get to the message and understand the motives behind it. And to frame all of it in a larger context of what beauty and health and happiness really is. I can’t keep them from that bad stuff. But I can help them understand it and to at least have a chance of making good decisions about it when they are confronted with it.

But we’re just not willing to deal with that in schools, it seems. Why is that?

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