Teach Your Politicians Well

Over the holiday weekend I saw several stories predicting that “bricks and mortar” businesses will soon roll over their Internet counterparts. Maybe it’s a new Labor Day tradition.

Over the next few weeks they will be joined by stories about politicians promising to rein-in the Internet. Elizabeth Dole was just the first – she wants to make sure poor people get only filtered access to the Internet, so they’re not damaged by content local governments deem unfit for them. We’ll see a lot more of that kind of thing.

The fact is that most people are not yet on the Internet, let alone making their living here. These people are frightened of what the Internet is doing to their kids, their jobs, and their futures. They’re ripe for demagoguery. That’s a vacuum that will be filled.

But rather than asking what they can do to the Internet, maybe it’s time to ask what the Internet can do for them. There are a host of issues where the databases, instant feedback, and universal connectivity of Internet resources must and (inevitably) will change how we approach important public issues.

Education is just one example. Many politicians over the next few weeks will offer education programs. They will talk about phonics, or local control, maybe new ways of funding. They won’t talk about what the Internet does for, and to, the education process. Rather than just taking this Clueless nonsense, you should Clue them in.

The Internet lets us test everyone regularly, and maintain the results without adding personnel. Management flattens naturally with the Internet, so we don’t need big schools to save money. The idea of “one size fits all” education should go the way of the Model T – Internet resources let every child’s day be customized. All the world’s knowledge can be in every classroom with the Internet – so can all the world’s teaching techniques. The online world can liberate students, teachers, and communities, but only if we let it.

Instead, politicians across the spectrum are looking for ways to limit the Internet’s reach in education. Whether it’s liberals trying to halt distance learning or conservatives trying to “protect” kids from cyberspace, all the political traffic is going one-way. That needs to change. You can change it. But you can only do so if you’re willing to be educated, and willing to be heard.

I spent much of the summer summarizing various Internet issues, looking for hyperlinks to interested groups, and producing a series of articles for VoxCap.Com, which will debut in a few weeks. They are far from finished. The articles are just skeletons, waiting for you to explore them, comment on them, and take action based on them. That’s what makes the Internet unique – hyperlinks let you go in any direction you choose from one starting point. Politics can be the same way.

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