"If something bad can happen to even one child it shouldn’t be done" – paraphrased comment from meeting of a variety of DECS and AEU (Australian Education Union) representatives, Al Upton, and his Principal
In order to protect their beloved daughter, the King and Queen in "Sleeping Beauty" took the extraordinary step of banning spindles from their kingdom. Never having seen or handled such a tool, the young woman had no idea of either its utility or danger.
"The years went by, the little Princess grew and became the most beautiful girl in the whole kingdom. Her mother was always very careful to keep her away from spindles, but the Princess, on her sixteenth birthday, as she wandered through the castle, came into a room where an old servant was spinning.
"What are you doing?" she asked the servant.
"I'm spinning. Haven't you seen a spindle before?"
"No. Let me see it!" The servant handed the girl the spindle ... and she pricked herself with it and. with a sigh, dropped to the floor." - Charles Perault, La Belle au Bois dormant (The Sleeping Beauty in the Wood)
Sleep, ignorance, inexperience are no substitute for vigilance, knowledge, guided practice. Graham Wegner wonders about the nature of risks:
If one child could slip and possibly fall with injurious consequences, then there is risk. But the benefits of the playground far outweigh the negatives - the learning, the gaining of skills, the creation of games and the friendship of playing with your mates. And we are careful with the playground environment - no sharp edges, designs that cater for a variety of skill levels, soft fall on the ground, rules for safe play, teacher supervision - so that the risks are managed and lead to beneficial learning of physical skills.
Why would we treat the risks regarding, say, the use of blogs in the classroom any differently? Why do risks associated with technology seem to be so threatening that shutting down and banning is seen as the appropriate way to deal with it? And are those responsible for recommending or enforcing these methods really in touch with real or perceived risks?
Although both Al Upton and his Australian colleague, Sue Waters, stress that "They [Upton and his principal] are after constructive helpful comments and thoughts; and a balanced discussion of the issues," comments from the meeting seem to indicate that the miniLegends blog would have to be stripped of all interactive components to pass muster.
"Their key concerns are to make sure everyone is protected against all risks." Is such a thing possible?
The hedge of thorns that protected the sleeping princess will not spring up to shelter our students. The spindles in their world may not be as dangerous as the measures taken to ban them.
If schools are not allowed to teach children Internet safety and digital citizenship, how and when will they learn?
"Sharp Thorns" by katmere
"Familie mit Frau am Spinnrad" by Hermann Sondermann
"The Sleeping Beauty" by Sir Edward Burne-Jones