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Why I’m vehemently opposed to most filters

A question posed for our discussion this week: Is it possible that filters are being used to get around the issues of online safety?

If you’ve been in class with me previously, you might have heard some of this before. I apologize! I’m passionate about this issue. The issue of school filters matters a great deal to me, and I do think that we’re using filters as a replacement for teaching students internet safety and responsibility. (I don’t filter my own children’s accounts at home, but I HAVE taught them internet safety and etiquette, and I DO monitor their activities to some degree.)  In other words, schools can avoid the whole issue of teaching students how to use the internet responsibly. The filter makes all the choices for them, and students fail to develop any meaningful skills.

In the worst cases, filters not only replace education; they also promote specific political and religious perspectives that may stand in direct opposition to rights and values we champion in public schools. Several years ago, my school district had a very restrictive filter, which seriously interfered with legitimate research and also blocked sites dealing with LGBT issues. For example, any student researching Harvey Milk got a message saying the site was blocked due to “Lifestyle.” Students researching white supremacy groups like the KKK found sites blocked because of “Hate Groups.” (This created nightmares for teachers working on Holocaust-related projects, too.) The Health teacher had a terrible time when she had her students doing research on drug and STD topics. Sites were blocked, but not because they weren’t safe. In fact, sites were blocked that students needed to access in order to fulfill curricular requirements! We eventually got rid of this filter, but the new one has other problems. It blocks wikispaces, for example. I can’t access this very WordPress blog from school. (Blogs are blocked.) In order to get a specific site unblocked, I would have to submit a proposal in writing to be reviewed at a tech committee meeting.

I’m currently teaching William Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying in my AP English Lit course. I had heard that James Franco was planning to direct a film adaptation of this novel, I knew I had to share that with my students. When I tried to search for information about it at school today, one site (which is devoted to film and film news) was blocked due to “Adult content/pornography”! (I can’t imagine a less pornographic novel that As I Lay Dying…).

Looking forward to hearing my classmates’ thoughts on this issue!




3 Responses to “Why I’m vehemently opposed to most filters”

  1. I remember exactly what you mean about your school district’s restrictive filters when doing research on the school computers! 🙂 I do remember several instances when I had to wait until I went home to complete assignments because I couldn’t get access to the sites I needed while at school.
    I really agree with your comment about educating about appropriate internet etiquette instead of restricting access, as you have done with your children. It makes sense for students in schools too!

  2. I think it should be part of freshmen orientation and should be built into the high school curriculum–across the curriculum, too. (Often, social studies and English teachers get stuck with teaching all writing and research skills, rules about academic integrity, etc.)

    Jillian! As your former teacher, I think you should be sleeping at 3:25 a.m., not posting blogs! ha ha!

  3. Haha 3:35 a.m. blog posting would be rather ridiculous! I think the clock must have been off, I was blogging last night at the healthy time of around ten and was in bed by eleven. It was a very well-rested night! 🙂

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