25th sep, 2013

How hard is it to tell the complete IP story in schools?

The answer is: very hard. IP is one of the more complex concepts for people to understand. The more you simplify the more wrong you seem to do. The more one sided you are the more unfair you present your case.

That must be the learning point from the new elementary school curriculum that is being developed in the US. Wired tells that the California School Library Association and the Internet Keep Safe Coalition in conjunction with the Center For Copyright Infringement are developing materials for use in schools in California. The material that Wired calls near complete, may be needing an overhaul even before its done. Wired has obtained comments on the material from the EFF which calls the material “This thinly disguised corporate propaganda is inaccurate and inappropriate,”

The material I have seen is not as bad as the EFF wants us to believe. Of course it promotes IP protection, but not in a bad way in my opinion.

One thing I lack though is a focus on private use. The material for 6th graders ask ” Have you ever used these kinds of materials online in a school project? Do you know if you used this artwork the way the artist wanted? Did you check for copyright?”. The follow-up discussion should be one of private use compared to professional use.

The challenge is that to understand even a piece of IP you need the complete picture, which is impossible to explain to a class of 6th graders. Some time ago I explained the mechanisms of climate change to my kids and ended up using almost an hour explaining the basic stuff (and some of the advanced too). This shows that if you insist on people actually understanding a complex subject you need to take the whole tour.

Teachers do not have the luxury of time and therefore often have to limit their teaching to the basics…knowing that some things are left out. It is clear that our kids have to be taught subjects in a balanced approach, but it is equally clear that the ambitions should not be to make the 6th graders full blown IP counsels.

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