So, I saw a thread about Net Neutrality this week, and came across the following tweet:

The majority of Americans realize the absurdity of this statement, even if it isn’t for the exact same reasons. For matters of employment and business, most people under the age of 40 know that’s absurd, which is why there is such strong support for net neutrality, overall. In the area of education, however, an awful lot of ignorance still abounds.

This is a common variation of the trope and poorly considered critique of kids that reflects more on the adults in their world than on they, themselves. “Kids these days” aren’t better or worse than any other generation. Rather, they are doing what kids always have—they are adapting to the world in which they live, something their elders are rarely recognizing, let alone appreciating to any serious extent.

It’s no secret that young people have more flexible brains, overall. They are literally designed to adapt faster, which has allowed homo sapiens to successfully overtake our planet to the point where we are now on a crash course for environmental destruction so great that it threatens the political and environmental stability of their adult lives, something no other species has ever done before. Even then, our young people are the ones recognizing this dire fact, and adapt.

In the meantime, many  adults remain suckers for the propaganda telling them to “Keep Calm” and “The planet is fine.”

If you want to think about who is the smarter generation, the older adults are the ones failing them, not adapting to these rapid changes and lacking a broad understanding of the world they live in. This is no less true than when it comes to the value of having access to technology and the internet in the classroom.

As I told this Twitter user, “…you can’t prepare kids for a technologically advanced & connected world by failing to give them the opportunities to learn how to navigate it productively.”

What this means is that students need access, and secondly, they need practice with technology and the internet, and a great deal of it.

The problem I see when I see people critiquing education is that they really have no idea what is going on in schools today. They assume that education hasn’t changed significantly, even when society has, and they are rooting their perceptions in their own schooling, while the concept of public education, itself, has evolved, even in many schools serving the most disadvantaged student populations.

Perhaps the fault for this error in public perception lies with the education establishment, ourselves. We’re failing on messaging. The public doesn’t have a very broad understanding about what we are doing in this essential institution of American life. Teachers also happen to be fairly opinionated, in a sense because they are professional know-it-alls. As a result, sometimes when teachers are complaining about the problems in their field, we do a poor job educating the public about what we are doing right. The reality is that we probably aren’t telling people enough about what we are doing with technology and so the public naturally underestimates its value in the classroom.

For example, it’s doubtful that most people realize when I teach a lesson that I often will pull out a web-based piece of technology, have the kids pull out their one-on-one devices, and play a quiz game, similar to the quiz games people have watched on television for fun, for years. These games can be quite motivating, so much so that when kids are tired and starting to fall off in their attention spans, it re-engages them and suddenly rather than “me” wanting them to remember something, they work hard to remember it, themselves.

The public often doesn’t realize that when kids use a source on the internet, their teachers are the ones telling them that they can’t just plagiarise,  and students are being taught how to recognize credible sources on the spot, something many adults are demonstrably not capable of. We’re the ones coaching young people to write arguments that are coherent and logical, something that not only helps them understand the content, it helps them understand some of the ins and outs of healthy civic engagement, a skill many grown adults fail at utterly.

Of course kids benefit from this environment. A sizable number of today’s adults could benefit from this kind of educational environment, as well.

In fact, the OP on this thread began because we have too many adults, who apparently don’t know what the internet is for, making decisions about it’s delivery based on their own rather limited understanding of how it’s used, rather than making decisions based on the breadth of knowledge that you only get from significant use.

Well, that’s perhaps a bit too naive. These politicians are without a doubt also benefiting somehow from these decisions. Still, we have to realize that a large part of the reason they are so vulnerable to any kind of persuasion is that they have such limited insight into why the public is angry about this matter to begin with. They are so completely out of touch with how people use the technology itself that they think they can write off the rage and ride it out, thinking it will go away and soon enough people will find themselves apathetic, yet again, about things that are beyond their control.

Had these men (and they are men, all of the men on the panel) used the internet while they were growing up and going to school, this would have been beyond the pale of their considerations and they would have immediately seen this as the Ludditical policy it is to begin with. It is their clear lack of comprehension due to lack of education that created this disconnect to begin with.

Most people under the age of 40 today know that even applying for a job requires the use of the internet. Even when you are 16 years old, applying for a job at McDonald’s, filling out a job application is done via the internet. Sending a resume is done via the internet. Even if you meet in person and are asked to bring a hard copy, most employers want these documents digitally, as well.

The idea that someone could even get a job in this day and age without an effective understanding of how to use basic web technology is absurd, let alone keeping a job without that knowledge. Employers aren’t looking to hire people who are awkward and confused around technology, because everyone needs to use it in one way or another to get their jobs done.

It would be downright irresponsible not to teach students how to understand and use the internet in today’s world.

In the education field, using technology and the internet has become a foundational expectation. People don’t graduate from any reputable school of education today without an understanding of basic Microsoft and Google products and how to navigate the web, locate credible sources, or being able to run some kind of networked classroom system. It’s unheard of. When kids have questions that are unusual and I haven’t planned for, I also demonstrate how to find the answers from a credible source, demonstrating a critical life skill, and that brings me to Mint’s next objection:

Just whoa! Did she really say this? Checking Siri and Wikipedia is what adults and kids will do outside of an educational setting. You think this is what we teach people to do at school? Do you think they really get away with any kind of irresponsible use of sources in the classroom of any self-respecting educator? Really?

This part of the debate is where the rage rather boiled over the top for me. See, we have, and use, educational standards to achieve these things.

In regards to critical thinking, we’ve adopted Common Core and NGSS, both of which put heavy emphasis on it.

Competency-based standards that require kids to learn important things like how to act with integrity, develop self-management skills, and cooperate with others, among other things, are currently being developed on the fringes of education, to be adopted as more data becomes available. Even though historically schools expected parents to teach values,  or schools individually and haphazardly did so, making certain values part of their stated their school culture, today’s educators are quite literally working on developing a system of standards right now, with some of us actually already implementing a formative version of these standards as we did in both my induction and in the school where I now teach.

There is no reason to discourage kids from asking Google or Siri questions if they are feeling insecure about asking them in class, feeling embarrassed that they might lack basic skills, don’t know a fact, need the definition of a word (how many of us were told to “look it up” when we asked an adult), or need some help trying to say a new word properly. The internet can be fantastic for those kinds of things. That being said, I am certainly not instructing them to do so this for even a significant portion of their learning in a classroom setting.

Instead, I’m using programs like quizlet.live to get kids practicing saying words and learning new ones at a rapid rate, in an enjoyable, collaborative fashion, and helping them identify programs to practice important skills like “Build an Atom” games to work on helping them build, and maintain over time, their understanding of the mass and net charge in an atom. You take these things away, and you hobble my students’ learning and understanding of critical words and concepts.

We really are at a bit of a crossroads here. You can’t claim that you have critical thinking skills that are better than that of the next generation while exhibiting this kind of stilted thinking yourself, expecting people to take you seriously, unless they really don’t understand what you are talking about, either.

And that’s where we are with the current regulations being pushed in the areas of science and technology. You have a sizable group of people who don’t know what they don’t know, exhibiting extreme cases of the Kruger-Dunning effect, running about, electing people who are just as bad, or worse, electing corrupt politicians delighted to take advantage of their ignorance, creating a regulatory system that allows them to make money off the poor and middle class, hand over fist.

Then these people, who don’t know what they don’t know, are now running about calling people who disagree with them “snowflakes,” “libtards,” and “cucks,” because they are too ignorant to see how they are being played by those in power, by people delighted to take basic protections and rights away from the American people, people who are lying about what it means to have freedom and liberty, all while they play to the ignorance of the masses in order to get an even bigger piece of the pie for themselves—people’s whose share is already extortionistically high to begin with.

We, the taxpayers, paid for the development of the internet and we have every right to equal and fair access to it as a result, just as we have free and easy access to nearly every street, road, and highway in America. Anyone else who says differently is lying. Want to talk toll roads? That’s the price you pay for accessing services on specific sites, or specific content on sites, to the owners of that site and nothing more.

The American people paid for the development of this utility, and the American people deserve better.

If these corrupt politicians are going to attack our basic rights and freedoms, I say fight back and demand more. Don’t just ask for net neutrality. Go on the offense. Make the internet a public right, wireless, and paid for in every city in America through a local sales tax. Visitors in town using the internet? They are paying for it when they purchase anything or stay in town. You live here? You pay for it as you go.

The internet would be cheaper that way, individually, for all, and could be more consistently delivered. A sales tax would guarantee that local usage was being paid for by those using it.  Don’t just fight this attack on information freedom defensively. Let’s go on the offense and ask for what everyone really wants, and then ask for a bit more.

I’m sick of the Luddites winning. It’s time for the average American to be on the winning side of politics.

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