The creator of the World Wide Web, Sir Tim Berners-Lee, one of the giants of our time, just looked back on the Web’s twenty-five years of history and is not entirely pleased. That’s because the Web is built deeply into everyday life, and is under threat:
Our rights are being infringed more and more on every side, and the danger is that we get used to it…
Unless we have an open, neutral internet we can rely on without worrying about what’s happening at the back door, we can’t have open government, good democracy, good healthcare, connected communities and diversity of culture.
Which threats? The list includes: surveillance by security agencies; obsolete copyright laws and overreach by IP owners; balkanization of the Web by corporations and by nations.
Sir Tim and the Web We Want group are calling for a digital bill of rights, a kinda of Magna Carta for netizens (not aristocrats).
All of which is terrific, and I support it. But my question now is: where is education? How are colleges, universities, K-12 schools, and cultural heritage institutions responding?
- Will the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) call for strengthening the open Web, and ask its member faculty for support? Will the National Education Association (NEA) ask its K-12 teachers for the same?
- Will the United States Department of Education present thoughts for this digital bill of rights?
- The American Association of Colleges and Universities (AAC&U) is keenly committed to linking liberal education to good citizenship. Will they ask participating campuses to help students learn the emerging world of digitally-based politics?
- Will educational technologists and academic computing leaders help their communities participate in, and defend, the open Web?
- The threat list I mentioned above is very familiar to some of us. Will educators learn it, and who will help them?
I can mention other organizations, and I leave that as an exercise for the reader, should you be so interested. That’s not the point, really. The main thing is for the vast sector of education – teachers, support staff, administrators, students, education policymakers – to reflect on the Web after 25 years, and to see if they really want it to continue.
Do you think we will?