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Teach the Children Well

Videogame and recording industry associations are again after elementary schools to develop curricula that would scare children into not becoming pirates.  I mean, teach them to act ethically and responsibly when they encounter copyrighted works!  Their approach draws indirectly on a copyright vocabulary that confuses “users” of creative works with “users” of narcotics.  When I was in elementary school, we were forced to watch “scared straight” film loops brought in by the local police.  Don’t smoke, because smoking leads to using dope and then reds and greenies and syringes and pretty soon you’re in the gutter.  All by the time you’re 12 years old.  Is modding Pokemon Red similarly a gateway to a dissolute life?  It is, if you ask the Entertainment Software Association.  Here’s an overview of their proposal.  Play by the rules, kids, and no one suffers.

Rather than exploit kids’ anxieties about mistakes they might make, I prefer to recognize their enthusiasm for the new.  I much prefer school curricula that explore the possibilities of innovation and creativity.  The National Inventors Hall of Fame produces Club Invention, an after-school curriculum for elementary schools that encourages learning about both science and the arts through hands-on investment.  When my son was in the 4th grade, with his classrooom teacher I co-taught a pilot version of this program.  We talked about how inventors identify problems to be solved.  We talked about exploring ways to solve the problems.  The kids went home and found problems and built prototypes of solutions.  It was an amazing experience to watch the kids’ eyes light up as they talked about the inventions.