Sunday, January 11, 2004

Zero Intelligence: You may be aware of the latest "zero tolerance" situation involving the high school kid who, upon discovering an antiquated command line program for sending instant messages across his school's computer network, sent the one word message "Hey!" to about eighty people. Since the so-called adults at the school didn’t understand how he did it, he was promptly suspended for three days amidst dire warnings about the seriousness of his transgression.
At first, Principal Tommy Rollins didn't think much of it. "I saw it," he said. "It didn't say who it came from. I just deleted it."

Beverly Sweeney, a computer teacher and campus computer liaison with the district, entered Carl's computer class and quickly figured out where the message originated and who sent it.

According to Carl, Sweeney asked him, "Did you do this?"

"Yes," he replied.

"Do you know that this is serious?" she asked him, according to Carl.

"No," he replied.

Then she asked how he did it, and he showed her.

There's a hacker mastermind at work.

This kind of idiocy goes on regularly now, and there have been a lot worse cases of zero tolerance including expulsions and lawsuits. But the big difference is that in most cases, when confronted with how incredibly stupid their actions are, the school administrators rarely try to justify them, they simply shrug and say it's all a matter of policy and there's nothing they can do. Not in this case. The "teacher" involved here, Beverly Sweeney, actually believes the action was justified and explains thusly:

Having been a computer teacher in the real world of public education for many years, let me say that suspension of students who are guilty of such tampering sends a message to all students that is beneficial and necessary.

Students should not be of the opinion that it is acceptable to abuse the privileges that are afforded them by the taxpayers. If they are allowed to experiment and do things on the computers that the teachers have not specifically given them permission to do, we would never get any computer education accomplished.

I'm pretty sure this woman is a big admirer of Dean Wormer.

If this woman has so little understanding and perspective that she cannot see how harmless and clever the student was being, I seriously doubt anything resembling computer education is actually going on at that school. The fact of the matter is that as long as she is in charge the taxpayers will probably get more for their money if the kids do just experiment at will.

Looking deeper, we get a fair understanding of why. This is Beverly Sweeney's web site. If she is instructing unsuspecting high-schoolers in making sites such as that, she should be hung. And I think we an all agree that her taste in music brings her mental health into question.

Note her educational background: "BA in Sociology, a BA in Anthropology and an MA in Sociology." She also has a teaching certificate and claims she has "certification" in some computer fields like "digital graphics" and "multimedia." I have no idea what it means to be certified in "multimedia," but it appears her only expertise with actual computers involves learning some Microsoft applications like Power Point and Front Page. No wonder she was so threatened by a student who knew all sorts of "hacker" tricks, like using the command line. Lucky she didn’t call Homeland Security.

Judging from the little animation on her site, Sweeney has some hostility issues. She obviously works them out by bludgeoning her students with her ignorance.