A friend of mine who works in television mentioned to me the other day a surprising observation: Those upsetting videos that make their way across YouTube, posted by high schoolers, of fighting and other somewhat uncivilized activities, are really well done. These are budding auteurs. "If only we could teach them a better way to vent," she lamented. From her lips to Slate's ears: Nicholas Bramble wrote a very well argued plea for something similar.
Schools have had a nearly unanimous response to Facebook, MySpace, and YouTube: repression and silence. Administrators block access to these sites because they think it's important to keep classrooms free from the perceived harms associated with social network — harassment, bullying, exploitative advertising, violence, and sexual imagery.
But this is shortsighted. Educators should stop thinking about how to repress the huge amounts of intellectual and social energy kids devote to social media and start thinking about how to channel that energy away from causing trouble and toward getting more out of their classes. After all, it's not as if most kids are investing commensurate energy into, say, their math homework. Why not try to start bridging the worlds of Facebook, YouTube, and the classroom?
It's not even that modest a proposal — the more you make something off limits, the more kids (people, really) are curious. Maybe now is the time to confront, rather than deny.