"Ex abusu non arguitur in usam"

Or, the abuse of a thing is no argument against that thing’s use is a hard proverb to keep in mind, especially amidst what one considers extreme circumstances. When a person perceives him/herself as threatened, putting a situation in proper perspective can be tough. When a coordinated team of teenaged terrorist attacks Mumbai, targeting American embassies and tourists, it could seem that an extremely forceful response and Guantanamo Bay are the way to go. If you as a classroom teacher saw students taking up sharpened pencils and hurting themselves or others with them, you could consider restricting pencils. But when cooler heads prevailed, you’d see that addressing the roots of the terror networks, rather than imagined alliances, and trying to fix the reasons for the student violence, instead of banning graphite, would be in order. So when a few students use a school’s internet to carry out evil, the responsible administrator could be tempted to return extreme abuse with extreme policy: filter this absolutely from students henceforth! restrict student access; not letting them even think about doing this crap! In the heat of the moment’s crisis, such responses are understandable. But the same technology responsible for libel and for idle doodling is also responsible for the creation of The Sun Also Rises and other literary masterpieces. We need not throw out a new way of doing things when instances of its abuse surface. We, the educators, are supposed to be smart enough to distinguish the important from not so important problems. We should see what engages our students, use it to help them learn what they will need to succeed, and do what we can to control any abuse of technology. No system is perfect. But with built-in feedback, the possibility of continuous improvement exists, and if not for the better, why are we building? Let us remain calm in the face of technological malfeasance, and place it in context, weighing its documented benefits against the severity and rarity of its misuse.

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