Creating High Temptation Environments
Head for the Edge, September 2000
With apologies to C.S. Lewis
From: “Screwdisk” <firstname.lastname@example.org>
To: “Wormwood” <email@example.com>
Subject: Creating a high temptation environment
Date: Mon, 18 Sept. 2000 11:10:19 -0500
X-Mailer: Microsoft Outlook 8.5
My dearest Wormwood:
Once again it is my unpleasant duty to report that your quota for new student souls lured to the “dark side of the force” (their argot, not mine) was again not met during the past school year. Agents consulting with districts similar to yours are consistently meeting and usually exceeding their goals. But I am sorely afraid that your performance has simply not been smokin’.
Since you were apparently sleeping during the last inservice, I will remind you of some of the ways the Internet can be used most elegantly to tempt young sinners to greater sin. Much of the Internet truly is a devil’s playground. Hate groups, bomb-making instruction, views of sexual practices even we down here had not imagined, and access to a wide assortment of wildly deviant individuals are all online beckoning to troubled souls.
Unfortunately some schools (like yours!) have managed to keep access to these dark resources extraordinarily limited to their students. But here are some fiendish ways you, Wormwood, can help the schools in your circle create high temptation environments:
1. Install an Internet filter. Oh, the wonderful thing about these faulty programs is that they lull well-intentioned adults into thinking they are preventing access to our sites. (The irony makes my tail positively curl with delight!) Install and walk away – how simple. But as we both know, no filtering program totally blocks all “our” sites. New nasties are added each day and the URLs for old nasties often change. Some of our best sites have absolutely no textual indicators that can be picked up by even the most sophisticated algorithms. Sites like Peacefire <http://www.peacefire.org/> devote themselves to teaching users how to defeat such blockers. Wormie, nothing helps our cause like a false sense of security.
Filters give us added bonuses too. We pick up a good number of children who have never been taught to be self-filtering as soon as they leave their “safe” school havens. Oh, and the blocking of sites deemed “controversial” helps prevent schools from creating informed decision-makers. Happily we have the full support of many parents and politicians on this one. How would many of our legislators get voted in if they came from districts of thinking voters? Humans capable of independent thought and informed decision-making? Scary enough to make these hairy old knees knock.
2. Make unsupervised computers available. In their rush to make sure all students have Internet access, well-meaning adults have put such access on all the computers in their schools, not just those easily monitored. Sad to say, humans are far less likely to do bad things when they know they are watched. Make sure that even computers not easily seen from a teacher or librarian’s desk have Internet access.
3. Disregard security issues. Humans are such trusting souls – thank Beelzebub. They keep the same password (child’s name, pet’s name, phone number) from year to year, from application to application. Teachers even give their passwords to students. Secretaries willingly give passwords to complete strangers on the telephone if those individuals claim they are checking network security. Our more adept pupils can install hidden programs that record keystrokes, including those used to type in passwords. How delicious – it’s like leaving the door to the candy store unlocked. Make sure there is no uniform school policy on mandatory password changes!
4. Make sure your district has no clear curricular uses for the Internet. Ahh, idle hands always were and always will be the devil’s tool. Ever since Old Smoky coined the phrase “surf the Net,” great numbers of young users under the dubious learning objective “learning to use the Internet” have been surfing into some quite hellish places. And the incredible thing is that they are, as the teacher would put it, on task! Take a class to the public library to research, let’s say, countries and little Johnny heads to the adult fiction section and opens Harold Robbins. The teacher can say, “Johnny, get back on task.” Take a class to the public library to “surf the collection” and little Johnny rides a wave over to Harold Robbins. Now the teacher can’t say “Johnny, get back on task.” He is on task – the task of exploring the library. Remember Screwdisk’s Observation: Nonguided technology use is even better than misguided technology use.
5. Forget appropriate use as a part of staff training. Be very careful about staff development in your schools, Wormie. A teacher or librarian wise in the ways of the Internet is a most dangerous opponent. Hell help us when adults finally figure out what chat rooms, MP3 files and sites like <www.schoolsucks.com> actually are! Let’s hope schools keep up the fine work in restricting teacher technology training to “How to Create a Web Page” and “PowerPoint Basics.”
Ignorance leading to the blind observance of a particular belief has always been our greatest ally. This free will business has turned into a real double-tined pitchfork when young people are taught to do the right thing. Yet with diligence and just a little effort, ignorance is surprisingly easy maintain.
Fire up, Wormwood! Fire up! Follow these simple instructions and you’ll meet your quota yet.