November 17, 2017

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What You Should Know About Banned Websites Awareness Day, September 24

BannedWebSite_illustAs part of the American Library Association’s (ALA) Banned Books Week campaign to raise awareness about the impact of censorship on intellectual freedom, the American Association of School Librarians (AASL) is designating Wednesday September 24th, 2014 as the fourth Annual Banned Websites Awareness Day (BWAD).

AASL is to be commended for taking the lead on this intellectual freedom issue. It is increasingly evident that access to participatory media is essential to teaching the frameworks set forth by the Partnership for 21st Century Learning, dedicated to fostering 21st-century readiness among students and, more specifically for school librarians, AASL’s Learning for Life (L4L) standards. Yet these resources—those that create opportunities for students to contribute and publish online—are often blocked in K–12 schools.

Internet censorship is most often fueled by fear. Federal legislation, costly litigation, online predators, network security, and privacy breeches are commonly cited as justification for aggressive filtering practices. While these concerns are legitimate, denying teachers and students a chance to experience online participatory learning together verges on professional negligence. When schools fail to teach students how to learn and publish on the World Wide Web, they deny students fundamental instruction that is necessary for success in today’s world and even more so in tomorrow’s.

Students are entitled to guidance and supervision by vetted, certified professionals when learning to navigate the participatory Web. This is how they learn responsible use. School should be the training ground for online interaction, the place where digital citizenship instruction is embedded across disciplines – not the place where students are sequestered from the real world. In most cases, students have access to what is blocked in school once they leave the school building, and students in censored schools have to learn how to negotiate this unregulated landscape unsupervised and on their own. Educators have an obligation to correct that, even if it seems frightening to do so.

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