10 19 07
At the beginning of this school year we discussed, as a community, the Jewish value of shemirat halashon (guarding the tongue) – the constructive, and often, destructive power of speech. For many of us, how we speak and what we say varies depending on where, why, and to whom we are speaking. This past Wednesday was a day of communal learning about one of the most fast-changing and complex places where we communicate and interact more often than ever before – the Internet. We invited guest educators Doug Fodeman and Marje Monroe to join our communal conversation about Internet Safety and the role of the Internet in our lives. As a participant in the conversations myself, I want to share the two strongest impressions that I took away from the day.
First, the medium of the day was the message. We did not simply bring in two outside “experts” to lecture to our students about what they should or should not do (although I’m sure some of our students might have experienced it this way!). Instead, Doug and Marje shared observations, opinions and experiences, and then entered into a dialogue with not only our students, but also with teachers, administrators and, in the evening, over forty parents. The medium was in fact the message because while there are practical steps we can take to make our use of the internet more safe, the first and perhaps most important step is for us to engage each other – parents, students, teachers, administrators – about the challenges we face and the choices we make when using the Internet.
The message from the day that resonates most deeply with me, and I think with vision and values of our school, is that the conversation about Internet safety and behavior is not in fact about technology. It is about values, it is about character, and it is about relationships. How much time we spend on the Internet, which sites we visit, with whom we communicate, and how we communicate are choices that reflect who we are and the kinds of relationships we want to be in. And these questions – about our values, our relationships, and our community – are at the heart of family and at the heart of education.
May we continue these challenging but essential conversations – whether in carpool, at the dinner table, or in our classrooms – as they help us to grow as individuals and as a community.
Rabbi Marc Baker