As part of our thinwalled collaboration, we are doing research on World War 2. Everything is being posted to our Hive Thinking site as students from Wingham and Snow Lake learn about this topic.
This has got me thinking about filters again.
As I’ve walked around my classroom I’ve seen students this week watching original footage posted to Youtube of Hitler’s speeches. I’ve seen students watching Canadian soldiers roll onto the beaches of Europe on D-Day, facing withering enemy fire. Others have been searching through archived photos of what are virtually human skeletons standing behind the barbed wire fences of concentration camps.
Taken piece by piece, it has been a disturbing week for many students as many of them faced for the first time some of the horror of human history. We have talked and talked about these things. We have discussed the holocaust, the causes behind the war, Canada’s role in it and the horror of battles and death.
Much of this has been made possible by the technology that we have access to. Original footage of powerful marches through Germany. Terrible photos. Things we simply would not have access to without technology. But even, having the technology, we could be locked out of this kind of work by our filters.
Yet, we aren’t.
As much as I rail against filters at all, I have to admit that ours are quite loose. Kids have been searching for information on “Nazis,” “Adolf Hitler,” “the holocuast,” etc etc. Not a single time this week have we run into the filtering system at our building.
I believe education is not always a gentle and easy process. Students need to learn about terrible things humans have done to each other. We must confront our history and it’s horror in order to learn from it. Now of course there are proper ways, times and ages to do this with kids. Grade one students do not need access to graphic pictures and videos. But the fact is, as teachers, these are the paths that we sometimes need to lead our students down.
How different this week would have turned out if, when my students Googled words like “Nazis,” they ended up with the blocked screen so many people are so familiar with. The chance for education, learning, debate and understanding would have simply been cut off at that point. If filters are closing off students from difficult information like this, they are not in place to protect them, they are instead doing all they can to keep people immature and uneducated.