Friday, October 22, 2010

Gatekeepers Through the Ages

Once upon a time in the long long ago, parents were the gatekeepers of knowledge for kids. Sharp knives and matches were dispensed to kids on a need to know basis by grown-ups.

Over many generations, that dribble of knowledge begot kids doing their own thinking and writing books which begot libraries. Libraries begot gatekeepers called librarians who could say things like “ask your parents,” when kids wanted to check out bomb-making instruction manuals.

Then the little bomb-makers grew up and begot television which blew up a lot of gatekeeper duties until that medium begot the FCC which also gatekept things like movies and music which begot a lot of frustration among the next generation of bomb-makers. So they begot HBO and kids suddenly had full frontal answers to all their questions. This begot parent controls about the same time the Internet was being begot (begotten?) and that begot file sharing and blogging and that exploded old gatekeeping traditions such as editors and editorial standards and that begot a lot of nervous parents who rushed to their school boards who begot sheets of educational standards designed to limit the fire hose of knowledge streaming into the brains of our kids.

These school boards begot a lot of regulations limiting what teachers and textbooks could discuss with kids. But then the Internet begot knowledge gold-mines such as Google, Amazon, and the Discovery Channel. Of course the Internet also begot a lot of fool’s gold, so often when kids of all ages are doing research they have to act as their own gatekeepers in ascertaining if information contained therein has any merit beyond the perimeters of the Land of Urban Myth.

Which brings us to today where the Texas School Board has begot regulations dictating the number of times the word “Islam” is mentioned in a text book hoping this will limit kids learning about Muslims and begot the removal of udders from cows in textbook pictures to limit kids' HOLY COW knowledge of natural functions. A school district in OH can claim victory after winning their court case to limit teachers from deviating from the dictates of her school board and for letting kids read and discuss in a structured setting fiction that students could easily find themselves through a “if you liked this, you might like this” search on Amazon, whereupon that same student might buy the novel to be downloaded onto his/her phone and read or listen to it on the (gasp) school bus, without the guidance of a grown-up (a teacher, with Dancing with the Stars on, what parent has time for novels?) helping said student sift through the words to find what's true.

This outcome might beget frenetic knee-slapping, jester jumping hilarity if it weren’t so pathetic.

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