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Celebrate Banned Sites Day!

The freedom of students to watch YouTube videos in school is in peril!

In addition to the usual nonsense of Banned Books Week, where ALA minions insist to the world that the United States is full of censorship and oppression, this year we can add to the hoopla Banned Sites Day. Whoopee!

It’s the brainchild of school librarian in New Canaan, CT, who is protesting the restrictions on student use of the Internet during school hours, which keeps the kiddies from using Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube, at least on school computers during school hours.

The poor dears, I don’t see how they can possibly get a good education without using Twitter and Facebook at school. It’s a terrible tragedy, and I’m glad someone is doing something about it!

The librarian is quoted as saying that she sees the restriction “as similar to banned books in that there are other voices telling people what they have access to in relation to what people are reading.”

If by “other voices,” you mean “teachers and librarians,” and if by “telling people what they have access to,” you mean “guiding them in their education,” then isn’t what schools are supposed to do?

Except that it’s not similar at all, since “reading” has very little to do with Twitter or Youtube.

Even the librarian acknowledges that implicitly when she says, “What’s important is that students have an opportunity to share information with the world in a supervised setting and share and use social media for learning.”

I’m not sure how reading a book and sharing information with the world are equivalent, especially when most of that information being shared is irrelevant to their education.

The justification is that education should be partly about the “real world,” which is “Facebook ridden.” “This is the kind of culture they’ll be in once they get into the workforce.”

Teaching how to use Facebook is sort of like shop class for the upper middle class.

There are a few things to say about that. First, since when does education have anything to do with the “real world,” if by real world we mean the grown up workaday world of most people.

Think I’m joking? When was the last time you solved a linear equation? Calculated sines, cosines, and tangents? Dissected a live frog? Named the capitals of every country in Europe?

See what I mean?

Second, it’s not like these kids aren’t getting their share of Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube when they’re out of school. New Canaan is one of the wealthiest towns in the country. The kids are probably accessing all those sites on their iPhones when the teachers aren’t looking.

If anything, schools should be reducing the distractions of the real world so that students might be able to concentrate on learning how to do all the things they won’t be doing incessantly with their friends as soon as school ends.

It’s like taking a class in how to watch television or how to smoke pot. Maybe they could add beer pong to the curriculum, so that the New Canaan students would have yet another advantage when they go to college.

Third, while many people’s workdays might be ridden with Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube, almost no one’s actual work has anything to do with sites like this. They are a distraction from work for the most part, a plague on efficiency and attention.

Why introduce this same plague into the life of the students?

I’m assuming the ALA won’t be adding this to Banned Books Week. That celebration is already silly enough. If they do, maybe in addition to “READ” posters, they could make posters of celebrities watching their favorite YouTube videos or reading their favorite tweets.



  1. The justification is that education should be partly about the “real world,” which is “Facebook ridden.” “This is the kind of culture they’ll be in once they get into the workforce.”

    This sort of justification is laughable. I don’t know what sort of work environment this school librarian has, but most everywhere that I’ve worked has actively discouraged the use of Facebook and other social networking on the company dime.

    Those workplaces that did allow it did so grudgingly, and there definitely wasn’t anything in the way of company business taking place via Facebook or Twitter. That was all done via good old fashioned internal email. Why any company would want to outsource internal communications like that to an unsecure and disinterested third party is beyond me.

  2. ExistentialLibrarian says:

    “…the “real world,” which is “Facebook ridden.” “This is the kind of culture they’ll be in once they get into the workforce.”

    In fact, many private companies do more than actively discourage Facebook, etc. use on company time…they actually BLOCK these sites.

    Andrew’s previous comment is right on.

  3. Studies have shown that blocking sns doesn’t increase productivity- it simple shifts those people to playing spider solitaire.

    As for the bannings- I can understand if a teacher wishes to use these sites in class- showing a youtube video of science experiments, following the shakespeare bot on twitter for english class, etc.

    Also, you might not solve linear equations for a living, but some people do. Also, you probably use the skills and thought process behind such tasks every day.

    You’re selling yourself short here. What blocking these sites in schools really does is the same as zero tolerance policies- it makes it so educators don’t have to think and patrol the class to make sure they’re doing what they should.

    • “As for the bannings- I can understand if a teacher wishes to use these sites in class- showing a youtube video of science experiments, following the shakespeare bot on twitter for english class, etc.”

      The answer to that is rather simple. Give the teacher one set of access rights and give the students a second more restricted set of access rights. Then the teacher can reap the benefits of the social web without wasting time policing students and keeping them away from its more distracting aspects.

    • that would make sense- but it’s not what happens. Also, it doesn’t address the fact that these sites could possibly increase productivity in the workplace. Do we not think this could carry over into the school environment?

      I think it’s treating the modern symptom and is silly, versus finding a way to keep the students engaged.

    • I’m really trying to not sound like a smartass here, but could you maybe elaborate on a situation where Twitter and Facebook increases rather than decreases productivity?

    • I linked to the CNET article above that reports on the study.

    • See all I’m reading in that CNET article is that even CNET is calling into question the researcher’s methodology and conclusion. You’ll have to forgive me if I’m not willing to throw out a mountain of anecdotal experience showing that social networking tends to decrease productivity on the basis of one questionably sourced study out of Australia.

    • follow the links below in response to @Techserving. And I think calling into question and having a question about are 2 different things altogether. They simply stated they didn’t know about the possible difference they brought up. i would, as I wrote below, like to see data backing up annecdotal evidence that these are productivity killers. And, if this is the case, then why is measurable academic achievment static for the last 30+ years in the face of such new time wasters?

  4. Techserving You says:

    “Second, it’s not like these kids aren’t getting their share of Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube when they’re out of school. New Canaan is one of the wealthiest towns in the country. The kids are probably accessing all those sites on their iPhones when the teachers aren’t looking.”

    Don’t you UNDERSTAND, AL, that this is not only keeping students from learning about the real world, it is oppressing those who are already most oppressed? Those students who have NO ACCESS to the internet ANYWHERE other than school?

    Of course I am joking and I’m not sure there’s a single kid, even a poor kid, left anywhere in the US who doesn’t have some sort of internet access, be it on a computer or a smart phone the parents can’t actually afford.

    Anyway, I really don’t know where to start with this. I was getting enraged at the ridiculousness just reading it, so I don’t think I can even dive into critiquing it.

  5. I’ll give you Facebook and Twitter as being not all that necessary for education– and possibly a detriment to it, but YouTube is a different story. One example– have you noticed that some of the help functions in Office 2010 link out to YouTube videos? Personally, I hate it and would rather not sit through a video to get an answer to a question about how to do something in Excel, but oftentimes it is the only place the topic is addressed. I would think a teacher would want to encourage students to use the help functions to figure out how to do things on their own instead of just asking, but if YouTube is banned, you’ve taken many of those options away.

  6. Techserving You says:

    Also – I have never bought claims about social media sites increasing productivity at work. I never “friend” people I work with, but I have “friended” them after leaving. Many of them spend hours every day posting about anything but work (unless you count complaining about work to be work-related posts.) It’s all great in theory, but these sites do NOT, in reality, increase worker productivity. They are a HUGE time suck.

    And, I don’t buy the claim about bans being the easy way out so teachers don’t actually have to monitor the kids. Even 15 years ago the internet did not exist in a state anything close to what it is today, and social media barely existed until about 2004. Teachers have to deal with all the old problems, as well as NEW problems which can be on an overwhelming scale. Do you know how much time gets wasted trying to keep kids focused on the teacher or other instructor, rather than on their computer screens, or smart phones? Practically every kid in school today walks around glued to a smart phone, and most have their own laptops – nevermind the issue of what they do on school computers. This is a whole new set of problems for educators. Containing the problem at least SOMEWHAT is not a case of them not wanting to do their jobs.

    And while yes, there are some people who actually solve linear equations for a living, they didn’t get those jobs based on their high school math education. (And besides, the AL was clearly joking a bit.)

    • It’s good that you can dismiss studies so easily- but it doesn’t dismiss the data. It also doesn’t dismiss the fact that TIME is scarce. With only so many minutes in the school day, kids can’t be wasting time the way they used to AND wasting that same time in new ways. Test scores are static- not declining- since the onslaught of social media (since the 70’s really)- so this leads me to think that the “new kids” are getting better at learning more in less actual time (since they would be using more time on SMS in addition to the old ways they goofed off)- or this simply replaces the old goof off practices.

    • Again, spenc, one link to a CNET article describing a poorly conducted study that they themselves had to later call into question in an Editor’s Note does not a trend make.

    • @Andrew,

      Please see links below and response above.

  7. Techserving You says:

    (Also, restrictions on use does not necessarily mean that the sites are blocked and CANNOT be accessed at all.)

  8. Randal Powell says:


    1. The schools are a sham.
    2. uses YouTube.

  9. Techserving You says:

    Spencer – did you present any studies? Apparently you think you did, but in reality, you made some vague statement “studies have shown….” Forgive me for dismissing these “studies.”

    Actually, kids CAN be wasting time in the old ways as well as in new ways. You making a claim to the contrary does not make it so. In addition, more kids today are wasting time than was true in the past. It’s not just a matter of individual students wasting time in the “old ways” and in new ways. You used to have a few trouble-makers who were talking or passing notes. Now, you’ve got most kids distracted by smart phones, laptops, etc.. With all due respect, you have no idea what you’re talking about when you say that teachers (or school librarians) must just want to ban technology to avoid doing their jobs.

  10. Techserving You says:

    I’ll also add that that CNET article to which you link is NOT a study. It is a brief piece reporting on a study, and it raises one good question about the results (9% increase in productivity – is that before or after the 20% loss of work time to internet surfing?) The underlying message is also merely that taking a break from work every now and then keeps you from burning out and allows you to stay sharp. You could get up and walk around for awhile, too. The results are not specific to using the internet or social media.

    It also showed that a not-insignificant percentage of the sample – 14% showed signs of internet addiction and lost productivity.

    This study, already fraught with issues, was of Australian workers, not necessarily applicable to US workers.

    Not surprisingly, you are clearly unable to look at nicely-packaged articles in even a remotely critical way. (I’m not even going to bother to get to the actual study report, because even on the surface there are problems trying to make the leap you’re trying to make.)

    • @Techseerving

      If getting up and walking around can help, why not social networking? Oh yeah, no reason. Also, Australian workers habits are applicable to American workers habits? Really? REALLY?! C’mon- Don’t take it personally.

      Those 14% that showed signs of internet addiction (that you site as being fraught with issues without having- as you complained about me doing- actually reading the study) are interesting, but I wonder if these are the people that are already addicted or not, and what impact taking away the subject of addiction has on that person’s productivity.

      I showed you a link that reports on the study because I was simply showing that studies have shown (or have been reported to show) an increase on productivity. I believe linking to an article that says basically that suffices.

      Now, onto the topic of students wasting time and being distracted. “n addition, more kids today are wasting time than was true in the past.” Where are the stats for this? Hell, I’ll even take a link to an article that talks about a study that shows these stats. And, if that’s the case, then why, oh why, have test scores remained static? Why haven’t we seen a massive drop in scholastic achievement- especially amongst those students with means to procures such devices as to distract them so much more? Where are the studies that show the positive changes in these schools that ban these sites compared to previous results?

      Now, as to the thought of mine that teachers and admins (I never said librarians, but I guess the school ones could be lumped in here)ban them to avoid doing their jobs- that was anecdotal on my part from discussions with teachers. Now, I was also giving them the benefit of the doubt. I guess, in my mind, it would be WORSE for them to think this would actually make a difference at all.

      Here’s another link to check out.

      The bottom line is, this study and the static state of test scores for the last 30+ years, shows that banning these sites probably won’t help.

  11. Techserving You says:

    Spencer – have you ever travelled to Australia? How about Britain? I have travelled to both, and my husband has made many business trips to Britain to work with the UK office of his company, in addition to remotely managing that office. He has described the dramatic differences between his US workers and UK workers. I can assure you that employee culture is NOT the same across all English-speaking countries of the world. I used to live in Canada – even workers there are different. You’re dismissing out of hand the possibility that workers in a completely different region of the world might be different from American workers because you want this “study” to be generalizable.

    My point is that all they “found” was some small increase in “productivity” when workers took breaks. That’s pretty firmly established in the management literature. There is no evidence that some special quality of social media increases productivity, but rather, taking your eyes off your real work for a little while helps energize people. I’d actually venture to guess that doing something that DOESN’T involve continuing to sit at your desk and stare at your computer (as you do while doing real work) and getting up and moving around might increase productivity more. This “study” doesn’t do much to advance the idea that workers need social media, in particular, to increase productivity.

    Social media and the internet (as even this “study” showed) has the potential for causing addiction. There’s also the potential for people to use it a LOT more than 20% of their total work time (and don’t try to claim that people don’t do that.) I hope that even you will admit that if there is some small increase in productivity at a moderate level of use, there is a line one can cross into WASTING TIME AND NOT GETTING REAL WORK DONE.

    I don’t need a study to tell me that kids waste more time now than in the past, although I suppose I could find one if I wanted to. I’ve spent time working at one of the top prep schools in the country – cream of the crop kids – and their smart phones are extensions of the arms, and they sit there zoned out not paying attention in a way which was impossible in the past.

    How can I put this… you cannot compare SAT scores from 1972 with those from 2007. There have been a number of “recenterings” over that time period. In 1995, for instance, the test was “recentered” so that a score from the last administration of the “old” test would be about 100 points lower than equivalent scores of the “new” test. Averages have been inflated. And, regarding the SAT – over the time period you show, in addition to the changes in scoring, test prep companies emerged and increased in popularity. The SAT is also not really a good metric of intelligence OR specific knowledge. Although I have no problem with the SAT and did well on it, I bet that in another context, you’d be the first to claim that test scores are misleading or meaningless.

    I’m done “sparring” with you on this, because your inability to think analytically is frightening. People who throw around links to “studies” and “data” without questioning it in any way or addressing any kind of flaws, as though the links speak for themselves and prove a point, are not worth debating.

  12. I’m not sparring, I’m trying to show someone data that contradicts their own personal beliefs on a subect. Right now, you have shown nothing but belief based on what you observe.

    I have lived in England, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Japan, Costa Rica, Belize, Mexico, and others. So, my observation- though I don’t have to go on that alone- is that people are people. You’ve got your time wasters everywhere and there’s not that much difference- certainly not enough between here and OZ to give any thought to your “they aren’t us so the data is useless” argument.

    However, you are a believer in your annecdotal evidence over data- an no amount of data, I’m afraid, will convince you otherwise.

    (also, not to be too personal, but you shouldn’t assume another’s argument, especially when it contradicts their current one. I believe testing is the best and most valuable metric of student achievment and learning).

    So, I will leave you alone to believe instead of know the facts. All I can do now is hope that you are not in the position to make the type of policy decisions that will have absolutely no positive impact on the students you are restricting.

  13. Public Librarian says:

    I have a friend who teaches in a public high school. He uses an illegal device in his class room that disrupts cell phone service. It is the only way that he can teach his class of 3 dozen students without interruption. He makes his own movies which he shows to the class on his laptop, and also uses the internet during instruction. He just got sick and tired of having the kids zoned out on their phones. His general comment is that most of his student appear to be functionaly illiterate although they own the latest in technology.

  14. AL said, “I’m assuming the ALA won’t be adding this to Banned Books Week. That celebration is already silly enough.”


    AASL designates Wednesday, September 28, 2011, as Banned Websites Awareness Day,” by Jennifer Habley, American Library Association, 9 August 2011:

    “CHICAGO – In an extension of the observance of Banned Books Week, the American Association of School Librarians (AASL) will highlight censorship awareness by designating Wednesday, Sept. 28, 2011, as Banned Websites Awareness Day. By doing so, it is AASL’s hope to bring attention to the overly aggressive filtering of educational and social websites used by students and educators.


    I love the way the ALA knows what’s better for students than local school boards.

    So now BBW is even sillier. The ALA did indeed add this to Banned Books Week. AL, the ALA is even sillier than you predicted it could be.

    See also “The Silliest Celebration,” by Phyllis Schlafly, Eagle Forum, 4 December 2009. And don’t forget “National Hogwash Week.”

  15. To some, banning websites is a way to keep students on topic. To others, it is a very real, constant and present reminder that students, especially primary and secondary students, are second-class citizens and primary and secondary students who belong to minorities are even further down on the list.

    As we’ve seen across the nation in the last year, marginalization of transgender, bisexual, lesbian and gay students can lead very directly to self-loathing, depression and suicide. Not many people – even librarians and paraprofessionals – are aware that among the sites most commonly blocked are LGBT advocacy sites. While some sites are blocked in libraries for valid reasons, others are blocked for frivolous ones, and still others solely because the information on them makes litigious moral guardians uncomfortable, even though that information may save lives. It is highly irresponsible to simply promote the wholesale, blanket banning of websites on school library computers, especially sites which center on civil rights activism.

    Banning websites about GLBT topics may be a good way to avoid lawsuits, but it is also a very good (i.e. horrible and irresponsible) way to teach GLBT students that they are unwanted and unwelcome.

  16. I Like Books says:

    Next thing you know, they’ll say the students shouldn’t be talking to each other while the teacher is lecturing!

    Banning distracting web sites at school helps to prepare the students for the real world of employers banning distracting web sites in the work place.

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