We realize that SparkNotes was blocked for years before the school switched to a new blocking software.
We realize that the school has blocked it again, and we realize why.
But we realize one more thing. They are wrong.
They were wrong to block it before, and they are wrong to block it now.
SparkNotes is a legitimate educational tool that is helpful to students and does far more good than harm.
The same could be said for the unblocked Wikipedia, and, in fact, the two are no different.
They are both sites that are fundamentally intended for education, and even though they can be used to avoid reading a book or avoid finding real sources, they are still useful.
Yes, a student could escape doing their class reading by using SparkNotes, just as they could avoid in-depth research by using only Wikipedia.
But if they want an alternative to reading, they could just as easily use BookRags or GradeSaver or any of the hundreds and thousands of other sites dedicated to the same thing.
Yes, a student could cheat on a quiz, especially one given on a laptop like those in sophomore English, using SparkNotes.
But they could do the same thing with their notes or someone else’s.
If they could cheat just as easily using any site dedicated to book notes—why is SparkNotes alone being singled out?
This cannot be a bandwidth issue, as is the case with YouTube. SparkNotes takes up no more bandwidth than any other text-based site.
But most importantly, SparkNotes is an educational tool.
It provides a massive resource for concise and easily understandable material that can be incredibly helpful to struggling students.
Its summaries and analyses are valuable tools that help students read and comprehend difficult material when used as intended—to complement, supplement and enhance reading, not replace it.
It could be abused and it has been, but that is not reason enough to deny students access to an educational resource.
Isn’t educational material the one thing the school intends to provide with Wi-Fi?
Isn’t that the reason they give for blocking thousands of other sites? They wish to provide only educational content through the school Wi-Fi, and they have every right to do so.
But the administration also needs to be consistent in this policy—that means they shouldn’t deny students access to a useful educational resource simply because they fear it could be abused.