It may seem like lately I’m just attacking everybody. I feel like that’s what I’m doing1 but I keep running into things, unintentionally, that provide perfect ways to talk about some of the things I’m thinking about lately.

If you don’t want to read all my nonsense below, I not only understand, but encourage that notion. I would, however, beg you to keep bringing up the following question – “Does rule X address a real problem or simply attempt to mask a symptom caused by a more fundamental problem?”


image source: Mr Tickle

The following quote is from a post which seems to advocate the continued blocking/filtering of YouTube in schools2.

1. copyright infringement: it’s so easy to get videos that were posted to YouTube illegally. You can’t expect students to do their own work when you showed them a pirated video yesterday. However, I am afraid that the temptation will be too great for many teachers.
2. students waste time: YouTube is the ultimate playground for procrastinators. Students can waste class period after class period wandering through videos.
3. teachers waste time: like we’re any better- have you even been emailed that “must-see” video? Now imagine this stuff streaming into you classroom.
4. sucks up bandwidth: with everyone in the school browsing through video after video, network speeds at you school will come to a crawl.
5. inappropriate material: everything from pointless to tasteless- much of YouTube is not appropriate for school
6. here today, gone tomorrow: not all the videos on YouTube stick around forever- you might send students off on a wild goose chase that leads them to videos that you weren’t expecting
7. spam and scam: spammers and scammers are posting video all over YouTube to entice people to click over to a website that may contain viruses, malware or worse
8. lies, lies and more lies: 9/11 conspiracies, miracle water, the real truth about the Holocaust- anyone can make a high quality and convincing video for YouTube that can fill your students’ heads with lies

from Dale Basler

My first point is you can take that whole list and replace YouTube with Internet and things don’t change at all.

Secondly, and far more important is that all of these problems with YouTube are really expressions of very different core issues. This is the perfect example of what Schwartz was talking about in his TED talk.

Rules and procedures may be dumb but they spare you from thinking. When things go wrong we reach for two tools- rules and incentives. Neither rules nor incentives are enough to do the job. Rules may improve problems in the short term but they usually create a worse long term situation. Moral skill is chipped away by an over reliance on rules and moral will is destroyed by incentives to do the right thing.

This reliance on rules and incentives is the equivalent of a war on wisdom. (not an exact quote- see source movie here)

We keep treating symptoms and never even glance at root causes. It’s like treating a brain tumor patient with aspirin to cure his headache.

The rationale behind these reasons to block YouTube really scares me.

1. copyright infringement: it’s so easy to get videos that were posted to YouTube illegally. You can’t expect students to do their own work when you showed them a pirated video yesterday. However, I am afraid that the temptation will be too great for many teachers. – I guess question one is – do students care whether the pirated video clip is obeying fair use guidelines or not? Does the fact that a movie company says it isn’t obeying copyright impact the morality of our students? Not only could I expect students to do their own work after seeing things that violate copyright, I have done it. I’d be willing to bet just about any teacher you know has done it.

Over years and years, teachers have repeatedly and consistently broken copyright laws- only it was done with copiers. Now that it’s being done with the Internet, it’s scary and will hopelessly corrupt our students. Unless the teacher is claiming they created that YouTube clip they used to illustrate content X, they’re just using some media. The students could care less how it was obtained. I might say, if the teacher didn’t upload the clip but found it and used the clip in an educational setting for non-profit educational purposes then are they violating copyright?3

2. students waste time: YouTube is the ultimate playground for procrastinators. Students can waste class period after class period wandering through videos. What is going on in your school that students can hang out uninterrupted and watch videos all day? This points to a very fundamental issue with what’s going on with your teachers and in your classroom. Seriously. Sure students can flash between pages quickly but that’s a sucky way to watch a movie and messes up games. If your teachers are up and moving, requiring student participation and product then this scenario is simply impossible.

3. teachers waste time: like we’re any better- have you even been emailed that “must-see” video? Now imagine this stuff streaming into you classroom. I manage to survive having YouTube outside of school (in addition to more alluring diversions). Thinking like this does two things- it infantilizes and demoralizes people who are professionals. The fact that you can’t trust an adult who’s responsible for the safety of 20 to 160 or so children on a daily basis with a video site is insane.

I’m not saying there aren’t people who’d waste time but once again it’s a different issue. It goes back to supervision and culture. What’s happening in your building? What are the expectations of teachers and how they teach? Good teaching would make this deadly menace go away and you’d have the added benefit of addressing a core competency as opposed to a technological pimple.

4. sucks up bandwidth: with everyone in the school browsing through video after video, network speeds at you school will come to a crawl. See 3 and 4. This shouldn’t happen. It doesn’t make sense that you’ve got that many people with nothing to do but browse video unless your school is dysfunctional at a core and massive level.

5. inappropriate material: everything from pointless to tasteless- much of YouTube is not appropriate for school This is something of a point but not one that’s restricted to YouTube. There are lots of bad things all over the Internet. I’d argue that it’s very hard for you to judge what I might find useful in a class. I might use Scary Mary as a way to introduce the idea of theme. I might use the mentos diet coke stuff to discuss chemical reactions or pressure. Yet, you’d probably block all that as pointless.

The tasteless, I agree with.

6. here today, gone tomorrow: not all the videos on YouTube stick around forever- you might send students off on a wild goose chase that leads them to videos that you weren’t expecting Nothing on the Internet is permanent. Nothing on Earth is permanent. That’s pretty much common sense. That’s a silly reason not to use something. People die. Should I make no friend for fear of being hurt? What if the library book I sent my student to read is checked out? Do I worry they’ll now read books I’m not expecting?

Honestly, due diligence will take care of 99% of these issues. Check your links the night before.

7. spam and scam: spammers and scammers are posting video all over YouTube to entice people to click over to a website that may contain viruses, malware or worse Aren’t we directing student use of YouTube if they’re too inexperienced to recognize this kind of thing? We should be. We should be talking to them about this. These problems aren’t stuck in YouTube but a part of just about every web based experience from email to IM.

8. lies, lies and more lies: 9/11 conspiracies, miracle water, the real truth about the Holocaust- anyone can make a high quality and convincing video for YouTube that can fill your students’ heads with lies I find the same to be true of web pages, email, our popular media and most importantly real people. The worst misconceptions I see, the ones that really fill our students’ heads come from their parents and their community. The way to ensure students recognize the truth is not to pre-strain their food so they never have to chew. They need to gnaw on things, to develop muscles, to decide what to swallow and what to spit out. It’s part of learning. It’s an essential part of media literacy today. We have a nation of people who eat what they’re fed by our media and that food is often riddled with bias, stupidity and lacking in essential facts. If we’re not equipping students to assess slick media and decide whether it’s factual or not then we’re doing our students and our future a grave disservice.

I don’t care about filtering. I accept that we’re going to have filtering but we better start looking at our rationales for filtering and for all the other “this is the rule” things we do in education. We have created a place where wisdom goes to die, a mediocre land where we’re scared of any mistake. That’s awfully sad.


1 I am trying to keep everything as honest and real as possible while not being rude to the various people I’m disagreeing with.

2 Maybe it’s just link bait, I don’t know. It is the way a number of people think though and I see the mindset repeated in schools at a variety of levels.

3 Youtube might be because they’re making money, but the teacher? Is the teacher immoral because of YouTube’s business model? I don’t think so.

8 thoughts on “I don’t care about filtering . . .

  1. Pssst, Hey Tom- I wrote “Eight reasons to use YouTube in school” first.
    http://www.dalebasler.com/?p=164

    Both posts were written in December when my school district was wrestling with the idea of scaling back our filtering. YouTube quickly became the poster child for the debate. I used both posts to stir up a healthy conversation and I’m happy to say that our school has moved forward by broadening our access. (Now I can get your blog at school! Big fan BTW)

    Give me a second chance- try these posts on for size:
    http://www.dalebasler.com/?cat=9

    I hope you’ll conclude that I’m on your side.

    Oh, as for Jim above: Morons shoot first and ask questions later

  2. Dale,

    Sorry, didn’t mean to offend, although how could that not. But I was simply joking about Tom’s tone in the posts he’s writing these days which I dig. So, your context makes me feel all the more bad for shooting off a comment, which is precisely what I did, my bad.

  3. Some of those reasons seemed odd. I guess that explains my suspicion of link bait, right instinct but wrong rationale. I’m the moron, not Jim, he’s just having faith in the way I presented things.

    That is one thing about the fragmented way we can end up viewing information these days. The tiny pieces can sometimes be too loosely joined and lose context. Something I, obviously, should keep in mind.

  4. Jim-

    first, what the hell are we both doing commenting at just before 5 AM (must fix time zone setting)?

    Secondly, what are the odds it’d be within one minute of each other?

    Thirdly, it’s my fault. I apologize to you both.

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