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.

4 thoughts on “Teach the Children Well

  1. Andrew Torrance has a new game of “patent simulation” that could make this sort of thing even more accessible; it was presented at the IPSC in DePaul and WIPIP at American.

  2. “I much prefer school curricula that explore the possibilities of innovation and creativity.” Well, who doesn’t, but how exactly would that teach children not to infringe?

  3. Well, it doesn’t, right? But that’s part of the point. I’m pretty skeptical of the proposition that “children” (insert point about what age range we’re talking about) can be taught not to “infringe” (insert point about what “infringe” means, since that’s a legal concept).

    The difference, to me, is our default understanding of what it means to raise and teach children, especially the young ones. I’m an optimist about kids. And I say that notwithstanding the fact that I’m a parent of two teenagers.

  4. Lots of rules are difficult to teach. E.g., “Be nice to others,” which has vague terms and all sorts of exceptions. I think the difference is in whether one thinks it’s worth the hassle.

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