Actually indoctrinating schoolkids: the RIAA

Earlier this month, parts of this country devolved into chaos when President Barack Obama made a speech to kids about such controversial issues as staying in school and achieving things.

While that tyranny was not allowed to quietly pass, far fewer people are aware of the RIAA’s foray into American classrooms. Giant corporation, vested interests in one-sided information prolifigating- what could possibly go wrong? The RIAA introduced curriculum for usage in schools to teach kids about the evils of “piracy” and “songlifting.” And though the message is not surprising, it’s not an accurate depiction of copyright concerns in the digital era, by any means, and instilling a sense of guilt in children who will do a large portion of their learning and research online is not just a disservice, it’s a handicap.

As the RIAA sues the posteriors off single moms and students, kids these days would be well-served to understand which content will and won’t get their cute little behinds dragged into a courtroom one day. And the RIAA does a bang up job in basically saying “file sharing bad, giving us money good.” All you need to know about these people comes in the form of a blog entry lauding the end of wonderful things like summer, mondays off, and spending less time immersed in dry cleaning chemicals:

While I haven’t been “back to school” in years I still enjoy the phrase in a non-academic setting. In the working world employees head “back” every Monday. Here in D.C., members of Congress and their staffers who’ve left for August recess also head “back” in September. Even my dry cleaner, who’s happily displayed a “Summer Hours” sign in her window for months, must return to longer working hours in the fall. And although heading “back” means a little more work (and a little less play) for most of us, there’s something refreshing about it that I look forward to every year – the reminder that we all have something to learn.

The problem with this whole scenario is that education should be largely objective. While, as Ars Technica points out, the words “piracy,” “bootlegging,” and “songlifting” come up frequently, not once did the term “fair use” get a mention. The RIAA is not-so-subtly trying to establish a precedent of sharing=stealing, and don’t seem to realize the world is not theirs to take a cut from. And then the RIAA brings the math, essentially turning the curriculum into a lesson in protecting their revenue.

But that doesn’t mean schools should be adopting it, free or not. Consider the very first suggested activity, one targeted at students in grades 3-5. It’s about “songlifting,” a term we have never seen before, and it suggests that students calculate how much harm songlifting does to copyright owners. This is “educational” because, as the program notes, students “will be using their math skills to investigate songlifting.” Unfortunately, critical thinking skills will be left at the classroom door.

The exercise asks students to “choose a realistic number of songs they would take if they could get them all for free.” With a teacher’s help, students then calculate how “big a problem” songlifting is—by multiplying the total number of songs by $0.99. The included worksheet calculation shows that 7,800,000 songs equate to $7,722,000.

Indeed, this particular brand of “education” is not the sort we need to be exposing our children to in a classroom setting. Remember, we’re in a time of flux in regard to which way the pendulum will swing for protecting the free exchange of information as well as your own rights as far as managing, storing and using content you paid for. Every inch of ground gained by corporate shills, especially with children who will likely end up accessing various forms of media in order to learn at some point in the not to distant future, is a step towards restricting all of our rights with digital content.

Take a look at what the RIAA is trying to teach your kids at the Music Rules site. Are you okay with your kids signing a “vow” to the RIAA “respect all forms of intellectual property,” “obey the copyright laws that protect intellectual property,” “always use computer technology responsibly,” “always use Internet technology safely,” and “never accept illegal copies of songs online or on disc?”

[Source: Ars Technica]

to American schools thatth