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Article: See You on Saturday Morning…

by on December 18, 2007

Remember the old days when you were in high school (well, you might still be in high school, so pop in your favorite John Hughes movie for reference) and getting in trouble usually was a result of doing something really bad? Well, we came across a story about an 11th-grader in Pennsylvania who was originally reported to have been in trouble because he was using Firefox in a computer lab.

The story itself reached all over the web in a matter of hours including some major tech sites. It seems that instead of using Internet Explorer, the student chose Firefox and got into a dispute with the teacher over it, earning him two hours of after-school detention. However, there was more to the story. Boing Boing Gadgets reported that this initial story was not all:

I just spoke to the principal of the high-school — nice enough fellow. According to him:

  • The kid altered the document after scanning it
  • The kid was punished for mouthing off to the teacher, not for using Firefox
  • The kid had been asked to work in Word on a résumé (the assignment) and kept looking at the Web instead (and this was a recurring problem)
  • The kid has admitted this and will be posting a followup/correction/retraction today

After hearing that, my faith in American public schools was slightly restored. I know quite a few people who are fighting the uphill battle of maintaining technology in academia the right way, since many people will not look for more reliable or secure alternatives. At 11th grade, someone should be able to make adult decisions and I think in many cases teachers recognize this. As some commenters on the various sites have stated, if the student is using Firefox, he should be able to back up his reasoning—turn it into a class discussion. However, if someone is blatantly not following directions or being disruptive, then he did get what he deserves.

In my years in education, I’ve often been called out for using a Mac and being a supporter of Apple. I use it as a chance to explain why and hopefully dispel some myths, but not turn it into a commercial for Apple or turn it around that I’m ignorant and think that everyone using a PC is an idiot.

The interesting thing is that in this day and age, someone can take anything, turn it over to the Internet (especially on a slow news day) and make a big stink out of it. In many cases, things get published with no fact-checking, and we just have to applaud Boing Boing Gadget’s Cory Doctorow for taking the time to do a bit of investigative journalism before the entire web called foul.

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