It has been a fact for quite a while that some school districts will attempt to usurp the rights to intellectual property and creative work from the teachers who actually created them even when those materials were created off school grounds, without school materials and off the clock. School conditions, in most public schools today, are not at all conducive to creativity as in most cases nearly every second of a teacher’s day is taken up in mandatory meetings, collaborations, duties, or with students. This lock step adherence to schedule and prescriptive tasks has made educational creativity and true innovation the red headed step-child of our current too often, on task on time curriculum. A curriculum design that has effectively co-opted the use of the teacher’s skills, experiences, and control of their own classrooms in deference to something a college professor who hasn’t taught for 30 years or politician who never set step in a classroom after 12th grade believes to be workable. And so most if not all creative teaching ideas today are created off the clock. Indeed, I will admit that some of those ideas may be enhanced and facilitated by collaboration with colleagues or in a meeting but I am a firm believer in the idea that a “camel” is a horse designed by a committee.
The stifling of creativity by stealing the ownership of the product is an old problem for teachers but that is not the problem that the school board of the Prince Georges Schools in Maryland wishes to acerbate ( yes I know acerbate is a loaded word) Now we find that a school district has taken a cue from the use of traffic cams (ostensibly placed to make our roads safer and just coincidentally raising money) and the lottery( designed to fund public education, Ha Ha!) and has decided to extend the dampening effect of copyright law one step further to cover the children in its care as well. Ergo a proposal has been created that is designed to steal the creative products of their students (to no doubt protect them) as well as their teachers. Under the policy proposal in Prince Georges, as it is currently written, “Works created by employees and/or students specifically for use by the Prince George’s County Public School or a specific school or department within PGCPS, are properties of the Board of Education even if created on the employee’s or student’s time and with use of their materials.”
Note we are not talking worksheets here we are talking about the creations of student minds their writing, their ideas, their art and their music. Under this policy innovations or productions created in such activities as Invention Convention, poetry competition, or a skit for Odyssey of the Mind would become the property of the school. I can only assume a monetary motive as there can be no other real reason for this attack on the creativity of students and teachers.
I wonder would it be true then that if they gain the copyright to all student created material then they may also gain the liability for that same material. Sexting and instructions for making methamphetamine come to mind. Would Junior Achievement get a cut of any student drug sales or conversely be blamed for an increase in marijuana sales or held liable when a student is fired from their part-time job. , Could Prince Georges District, under the work product rules gain responsibility for unwanted pregnancies and overweight children both situations of which are student creations.
Truly on this one the Prince Georges’ district is indeed on the “Dark” side of the force of creativity. The school board says in hindsight it was not their intent to confiscate the rights to student work ( teachers were not mentioned in this intent statement so it is okay to confiscate their work) but then the school board is left with one of two choices to explain the genesis of this rather clearly stated, and mis-directed proposed policy. Either the board is lying now about their original intent or they have provided prima facie evidence that they are incompetent to write school policy. Either way they prove Twains, “God created idiots for practice and then moved on to school board members.” Oh and by the way if you are looking for motivation for the proposed rule, can you say, “Bill Gates?”
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