Blocked internet restricts countless useful websites

December 17, 2008 — by Gautham Ganesan and Ketaki Shriram

Venturing into the library, one is confronted by a vast array of students attempting to access standard sites on school computers, but to no avail. YouTube? Blocked. MySpace? Forbidden. Facebook? Access denied.

The district has gone overboard in its quest to, according to the filter that appears when students attempt to access the aforementioned sites, ensure that students “should only be using school computers for educational purposes.”

While pornographic sites should decidedly remain inaccessible, through the blocking of pages such as Addicting Games the school is sending clear signals that it lacks trust in its students. This is disheartening considering the excellent API scores accrued and top college admissions received by the same students the district is inhibiting through these means. Students should be allowed to make such basic decisions as whether or not to spend their tutorial, lunch period or break surfing the web or doing something of a more productive nature.

The urge for SHS to block ostensibly time-wasting websites is understandable as there likely exists a considerable amount of parental pressure on school authorities to do so. However, with the sites in question permeating every facet of students’ lives, cutting off their access at school will only promote the use of proxies and the like to gain access.

VTunnel, a proxy often used to access sites including Facebook and MySpace, has become a common way for students to access blocked websites on campus. This method has surfaced in retaliation to the administrative crackdown on Internet use at Saratoga High. As these sites become blocked and therefore elusive, students are more likely to seek them out as YouTube, once a fun pastime, becomes a forbidden fruit.

The school filter is also hard to fathom, often blocking sites students attempt to access for research projects. This blocking of useful websites hinders students’ academic performance and generates apathy among normally industrious workers. Students can always request site be unblocked, but few have the time to undergo that arduous process. Thus, hampered students are more likely to spend their class periods in the Research Center talking with friends or completing homework for other classes. If the Internet allowed freer access, a stronger collective work ethic would be easier to maintain, strengthening the quality of research at Saratoga High.

Instead of denying students access to websites arbitrarily deemed unfit for academic endeavors by a filter, the district should attempt to demonstrate confidence in the exemplary performance at Saratoga High by allowing broader Internet access—thus fostering a more trusting environment and nurturing a happier student body.

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