High School Censors RichardDawkins.net

Granted, it might have been more beneficial for me to be paying attention in class, but I’ve always thought that the RichardDawkins.net website was pretty darn educational (it is the website of an educational foundation, after all). They have podcasts about evolutionary science, links to stimulating articles, a banner asking non-believers to donate to Haiti. Today when I tried to access RichardDawkins.net today from my school’s Internet network I got a message that said that the website was blocked.

Observe (click to embiggen)

Perhaps it was an honest mistake… I’ve very politely e-mailed the peeps who do this stuff so maybe they will unblock it. If not, I shall update here.

Update: Somewhat unrelated, but I just thought I’d share the mission listed in my school district’s twitter page.

To inspire every student to think, to learn, to achieve, to care

Far as I can tell RD.net does three of the four.

Update: So the school unblocked it (yay!). The e-mail I got was that the site was categorized as “social opinion” which ordinarily wouldn’t have been blocked for the high school but apparently the network was accidentally set on the elementary school filter which does block social opinion.


  1. By bringing this to their attention I actually fixed a broader mistake
  2. I’m wondering how corrupting an influence a social opinion website really can be on the elementary schooler mind… Given the assumption that critical thinking is generally not present in elementary school (not that it becomes rampant in high school) I shall tentatively accept that somehow RD.net and other websites of a similar vein are inappropriate in elementary school.

30 responses to this post.

  1. During school hours you do not belong on a forum. The school is well within their rights to block internet access to anything they choose.

  2. I wasn’t trying to get on the forum. I was looking up articles (and it actually was somewhat related to class). You can make a case for blocking chat rooms and Facebook on those grounds but the point of having Internet access at a school is to access educational content from the Internet.

    Even if RD.net for some reason does not fall under educational content then why not censor stuff that is equally not useful? Hell, if they allow Twitter why not allow RD.net?

  3. No, the point of having internet access at a school is so access is there to help teachers AND allow students some access to help with assignments and classwork. Unless a task on the internet has been assigned by a teacher, a student has no business surfing any website. The access is provided by the school and the school can restrict whatever sites it wants.

  4. In this day and age educators recognize the value of having students seek educational resources outside of the classroom. The teacher is not the only source of information.

    Obviously my school does share in this philosophy as it does not block many websites similar in content to RichardDawkins.net, and allows access to many websites that have far less educational content. If my school believed, as you do, that the Internet should only be used when assigned by a teacher then why would they provide access to:

    1. Twitter
    2. Non-school e-mail
    3. Amazon.com
    4. AnswersInGenesis.org
    5. News websites such as the BBC

    but not RichardDawkins.net?

  5. Is your entire argument because they blocked a site you wanted to surf?

  6. Your ability to willfully continue missing the point is breathtaking. Even if we ignore the point that the Internet actually can enhance an education by allowing a student to further explore a subject individually, you fail to see that if you are to block a student from accessing such websites you really ought to block it all equally. If, as you say, the Internet is only for access to assignments and communication between instructors and students then it would follow that the school would block everything except for the e-mail service they subscribe to for the students, and Blackboard. As it is, the school allows access to blogs, Twitter, hotmail.com, and Internet shopping websites that I can hardly think of a reason for teachers to desire their students access to, even for independent study of a subject. The school has paid particular attention to RichardDawkins.net. If it is to allow for any intellectual ideas then let them all be presented. If it sees no value in intellectual ideas then block the entire Internet.

  7. Yet if they blocked twitter instead of a site you wanted to view you wouldn’t be whining. Do yourself a favor. Write about another topic.

  8. No, I can understand why they might have chosen to block Twitter. I don’t “whine” about them blocking Facebook because I can understand why they chose to block Facebook. Social networking has no place in school.

    I “whine” about them blocking this because it actually is a wealth of educational resources and I suspect that they only blocked it because it’s offensive to somebody, and blocking something out of offense is a threat to any form of free speech. Oh look! I have an actual principle I’m trying defend!

    Might I suggest that you make a little more polite word choice?

  9. Right on the front page is a list of educational and informative articles. http://richarddawkins.net/archive,page1,All,All,All,All I searched for “climate change” and found a wealth of information. For example: http://richarddawkins.net/articles/4724 This editorial would be far more difficult to find online if not for the RichardDawkins.net archive. This is legitimate school-related material, and I see no need for them to ban the entire thing.

    On the other hand, if they had banned the forum at Forum.RichardDawkins.net, I would understand that.

  10. Noreligion, Elles has a valid point. Schools should be a little more accurate when blocking material so that they don’t block valid educational sites. There are more important things to nitpick. Maybe you should continue your vigilantism against religion! Make sure to throw the baby out with the bathwater while you’re at it.

  11. Schools don’t usually block specific sites. Schools usually subscribe to category lists maintained by third parties. If the third party has labelled rd.net as offensive, subversive, etc, for whatever reason, it would be automagically blocked by the school.
    Often (but by no means always) teachers will have the authority to request a site be unblocked, but students, probably not.

  12. noreligion, are you a teacher? If so, I feel sorry for your students. Open ended inquiry is a really effective learning tool, and the internet is the biggest enabler of that. A teacher who is trying to control students access to information (at least in high school), is doing those students a huge disservice. Censorship decreases credibility.

    Disclaimer: I teach future teachers and am disgusted by your stance.

  13. Josh, you teach future teachers and you can’t read for comprehension? Where did I say anything about a teacher blocking access to anything? How can you presume to teach anybody anything if you can neither read for comprehension nor understand the difference between teachers and the school administration.

  14. This sounds a lot like when teachers ban a particular toy: you know, every kid is spending all of recess and free time playing with Lego Star Wars characters or Yu-gi-oh cards, and they ban that in the absence of all toys. Do a lot of your fellow students check rd.net?

    Whatever the case may be, whether a keyword-based ban like Bipedal Tetrapod suggests or an individual-site ban, it’s silly. There are plenty of less educational sites you could choose to look at, and most high-schoolers write something about religion, or lack of, at some point. At least here in the Great White North.

    G’luck, Elles!

  15. Posted by Dave on February 11, 2010 at 9:18 pm

    Thanks, noreligion, for proving that atheists can be dicks just like everybody else.

  16. Dave that is the most idiotic and moronic non-sequitur ever. What does my being an atheist or theist have to do with anything?

  17. Posted by Jeffrey Shallit on February 11, 2010 at 9:51 pm

    The access is provided by the school and the school can restrict whatever sites it wants.

    What an authoritarian creep!

  18. Posted by Dave on February 11, 2010 at 9:56 pm

    You being an atheist wasn’t the point. The point is that you’re acting like a dick. The atheist part was mainly because I don’t usually see atheists being dicks to each other like that. That part of the comment was kind of a joke. I’m serious about you being a dick though. You probably go around pissing on people’s blogs and youtube videos all the time, I’d wager. I encounter people like you all the time. If you look at the comments they leave, they generally tend to be of the antagonistic for the sake of being antagonistic type. It’s a sign of a sociopathic mentality.

  19. noreligion, Dave probably assumed your chat name means you have no religion, i.e. that you’re an atheist. You have shown though your responses that you are a “dick”, i.e. mean spirited, and unintelligent. Therefore, if your chat name means what it is easily assumed to mean, you have demonstrated that atheist can be dicks. QED.

  20. Posted by Donna on February 12, 2010 at 12:34 am

    Okay, lets just suppose for the sake of the argument, he was surfing during down time during a class (which does happen once in a while) or during lunch? Would that make a difference? The problem (and I’ve had this argument with my daughter’s HS) is that if a parent or teacher finds something offensive for whatever reason, most schools just ban the website without question — even if one parent requests it. Getting a site off of the banned list takes an act of Congress. Example, my daughter was doing a paper for her government class on DADT. Several of the websites that were affirmative for the suspension of DADT were blocked under the “obscene” category. Now, mind you– I cannot get an explanation about this classification other than ‘someone has complained’. I’m sure that if I complained that Focus on the Family or some church website was obscene, I’d be laughed at…

    Click to access filtering.pdf

    Richard Dawkins website was blocked for a similar reason. (Her high school issues laptops to all students. All laptops come with this monitoring software which prevents access to websites even during off time. We have since purchased her a personal laptop for her use, but to use it during the school day at school, we’ve been informed that we have install their monitoring software.

    The problem is that the power to block or unblock a website is tightly controlled by the school with no particular rhyme or reason. The timing of his internet search is completely irrelevant but the blatant censorship of a website without explanation is. If someone could tell me that Richard Dawkins is a secret porn site that also had a copy of the Anarchist’s Cookbook available for download which included free malware, then by all means. But to simply say “Well, someone complained” is not acceptable.

  21. Posted by Tom on February 12, 2010 at 1:42 am

    “Unless a task on the internet has been assigned by a teacher, a student has no business surfing any website.”

    Your proposal is unworkable. Plenty of schoolwork gets done using search engines. Are you saying that if a student searched for (say) “evolution” on google at school but in their own free time, then any links displayed should be blocked, but if they teacher said “find out about evolution”, then those same links should miraculously be unblocked?

    “Do yourself a favor. Write about another topic.”

    Having a blog on WordPress does not make you the boss of everyone else’s blog.

  22. Posted by a person on February 12, 2010 at 11:57 am

    Obvious troll is obvious.

  23. Posted by noel on February 12, 2010 at 5:01 pm

    noreligion is not only a dick, it is probably wrong even on its own terms. The school is a public institution; it should not censor sites for religious reasons, which may be the case here. What if sites dealing with biology, geology, or global warming, for that matter, were banned? Of course that would not be OK. The idea that a school can do whatever it wants would sure make my principle chuckle.

  24. Good Grief, no religion! What makes you think that you have the right and privilege to decide what someone else’s school policy should be regarding access to the internet?! Are you so removed from modern education as to think that a blanket “Teh Internetz is Bad, mkay?” statement has any value. Have you never heard of teachers such as Stacy Baker, who actively promotes and encourages blogging and social networking for her science classes?

    Students have no business on the internets at school, eh? Then they also have no business talking among themselves and socializing during school, either, unless what they are discussing has been pre-assigned by a teacher or a school administrator.

    Schools have a responsibilty to block inappropriate content from being viewed at school, of course, just as they have a responsibility to deflect or prevent bullying and other inapprropriate behavior. You seem to have this authorian notion that if left to their own devices and access the internet through individual time they are just oing to waste it on gaming sites or stupid youtube video sites, or somehting. Responsible schools allow for a degree of self-policing among pupils because it teaches them how to manage their own behavior and make decisions. Blocking a site such as richarddawkins.net makes no sense because for one, it is fairly well moderated, and it is freakin’ educational. There is this problem though, that Dawkins is an atheist, and some parents just don’t thnk that children should be aware of atheism.

    Also,. get your own blog if you want to decide what should be written and not written and stop trying to direct other bloggers. That demand is nardiness and why people are being mean to you.

  25. Posted by Αιφε Νι Χηοχηλαιν on July 1, 2010 at 3:46 am

    To the various commentators:
    Noreligion-Shove off you asshole. You’re acting like a Orwellian-style authoritative creep who would probably help “Big Brother” monitor private phone conversations if a program of such intent existed (as it might in the future or even at present).

    Splendidelles- All I can suggest is to try Tier 1, Tier 2, and Tier 3 as suggested on the site you were redirected to, and possibly to petition a teacher to do the same thing.

    Cassie- You made plenty of sense. I must assume that the fact that noreligion cannot understand your comment is because of his, as splendidelles put it, breathtaking “ability to willfully continue missing the point.”

    Josh- In your comment, you made enough sense. Teachers are definitely realizing open-inquiry is far more advantageous to students and teachers alike. Although noreligion has a valid point, he fails to realize that the school administration and the teachers are often one and the same, and, if not, they are both substantially influenced by each other.

    Donna- You said it better than I ever could have. ‘Nuff said.

    Tom- Circular logic is circular.

    a person- Absolutely.

    Frank Cornish- Thank you for, once again, demonstrating the amazing power of sarcasm, skepticism, and logic. *salutes*

    Cynically yours.

  26. […] Splendid Elles High School Censors RichardDawkins.net […]

  27. Obvious troll is obvious.

  28. LOL, the school trolled you.

  29. Posted by Phillip Faulkner on January 26, 2014 at 3:24 am

    I posted a comment to Richard Dawkins 10 points about what he didn’t want to hear Christians say. I covered all ten points, I used no bad language, or insulted no one, but when I had finished my commenting my account was immediatly cut off. When you tell lies about people it doesn’t matter that much, it is when you tell the truth about people is when they get really bad.

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