The Arms Race

Social networking sites have sent schools around the country into a tizzy. People have been shocked to see the type of material being posted by students.

In response, many schools with well-thought-out policies on filtering, have started to block many of the sites in question. For some this is a liabilty decision, for others, school is a place for school-designated use of the web, and not much else.

Deeper look: filtering itself creates a new set of challenges. Students are drawn to these websites for reasons many adults can’t understand. Removing access to the sites becomes a small technical hurdle for many students. Their answer, using a web proxy to outsmart the filter, and they are back on their favorite social website. This is a battle that network technologists can’t win. They block more sites, and students find more workarounds; then it begins again.

I call this The Arms Race

Suddenly, the relationship between technologists and students has shifted from collaborative to combative. And in an education context, this is a huge hurdle.

We want students to come with us when they are concerned about online issues, not worried about hiding from us. Yes, of course we think it is a bad idea to post pictures of yourself in your underwear. Yes, it is an awful idea for a 14 year old to post information about where s/he lives. And yes, we still want to know why they do it and how we can all come to an agreement on what would be a more constructive use of these sites.

p.s. a colleague of mine first used the words “the arms race,” but I am trying to expand the context for it

arvind s. grover

I am a progressive educator, a podcaster (, a blogger, and dean of faculty of JK-11 school (building a high school) in New York City.