Nice piece in Slate arguing that we really need a  To which I say: amen.

My older son, who is 6, also likes to watch amateur Star Wars Lego movies, such as the minor comic masterpiece “An Average Death Star Day.” But I don’t leave him alone on YouTube, because I never know if some strange-ass video will appear in the “Related Videos” section. You would not believe some of the things people do with Legos. And, yes, I know that a 6-year-old should not be left unattended with a computer, but it would be nice, on occasion, to just let him roam around on YouTube and watch stuff that he’s curious about while I “do the dishes” by having a beer in the kitchen…

These two examples lead to my modest proposal: Google should create Google Kids, a search engine that filters the Web for children. Think back to when you were a kid and your parents dropped you off at the library. In the children’s section, the only “inappropriate” stuff to be found was Judy Blume’s Forever, which someone’s older sister had usually already checked out anyway. Similarly, Google Kids would be a sort of children’s section of the Web, focused on providing high-quality results based on age…

For starters, Google needs to establish That URL lets our sleep-deprived brains know that we’re in the right place, and, more importantly, it provides a playground, a gated-off space that parents can help Google watch over. In return, we agree to tell Google our age, such as “I’m 6” or “I’m a 37-year-old parent searching with a 4-year-old.” (Not unlike buying an airline ticket.) By inputting our age, we are giving Google another “signal” with which they can personalize search results. The system wouldn’t be perfect at first, but as Google watched the search behavior of kids or parents-with-kids it could see what we click on and what we don’t. The results would become better through all of the myriad and proprietary ways Google uses to judge a result’s usefulness. Naturally, Google would also show us more precise ads, the “price” that we pay for free search.

Sounds great to me.  David is 11 and our two computers are in places where we can pretty easily oversee what he’s doing, but we’ve nonetheless run into some problems.  I did notice that he was becoming guilty of the tell-tale quick close of the open window when I walked into the room.  Most notably, he went through a phase of making silly powerpoint presentations.  On one with a volcano/lava theme, he did searches for: melting hot woman.  That did not turn out so well.  Since then, the way over-zealous Norton Family Online has surely prevented further problems because it prevents Kim and me from going to the websites we want to half the time.  That, and now that he’s got Spore working again after a long series of problems, there’s much less interest in finding melting hot women and other such things.  Still, I do love the idea of Googlekids.

Classroom bias

I got a kick out of Gawker’s interpretation on a new study of perceptions of bias in the classroom.  Insider Higher Ed’s decsciprtion is more accurate and level-headed, but this is more fun:

A new study at an anonymous Southern university compared students’ own level of resistance to personal and political change with their perceptions of how biased their teachers are. Surprise: correlation!

The study found that students — even in the same classrooms — didn’t perceive bias in the same ways (or at all), and those who perceived bias were those who were resistant to changing any of their views. The finding extended to some who identified themselves as being far on the left and resistant to change, and who believed that they had some biased conservative professors. But among both left-leaning and right-leaning students who didn’t score high on resistance to new ideas, there was little perception of bias.

To clarify this, for the dumb students who will, with any luck, compose outraged emails to us after being forwarded this post: while the research accompanying this study “found no evidence of real bias,” it did find that kids who are very resistant to change thought their professors were biased, because the professor, perhaps, challenged the student’s views. Since the student is paying money to the professor to teach the student with the implicit understanding that the student knows far less than the professor about the subject at hand, these findings indicate that the students in question—who mistake the educational process for “bias”—are dumb.

I wouldn’t go that far, but on my own purely anecdotal level, I don’t recall ever having a problem with my smarter conservative students thinking I am a “biased” professor (I prefer to think of myself as transparently subjective), but rather the knee-jerk Hannity/Limbaugh followers are the one’s who tend to share their frustration about facing liberal indoctrination.

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