Iowa schoolchildren shielded from Hotmail, The Onion and

Joe, a high school teacher in a northeastern Iowa town, reports that The Onion, Homestar Runner, Hotmail and are among the sites proscribed by the school system’s “Bess Internet filtering software,” which “helps protect more students & library users online from inappropriate or illegal Internet content than any other filter.”

Due to the frequency with which “fuck” and other four-letter words are bandied about on these pages, I’m not surprised to see my site banned (a fellow blogger informed me months ago that it’s off-limits in Kentucky state offices). But Hotmail? The Onion?

Joe’s email about his job and the filtering software is excerpted below (after the jump):

I’ve been getting my book news from you and others for a few months now after I stumbled upon your site one school day. You see, in order to keep my house warm and my stomach full, I work as a state-owned whore, teaching English to seventh, ninth, and twelfth graders in a very rural, red-state public school. (Whenever someone says, “Git ‘er done!” I cringe and bite my lip because I, at least, have some teeth with which I can bite my lip.)

For fun, I’ll paint you a quick portrait of some of the characters — and they are exactly that — with whom I work:

They all drive pickup trucks. These pickup trucks have gun racks mounted in the back window. These racks are holding guns. These guns are loaded. These loaded guns are in the school parking lot. This is not a concern because the guns will be used to shoot deer, pheasants, turkeys, squirrels, raccoons, ‘possums, polecats, regular cats, stray dogs, sister-wives, and cameramen from Cops; not other high school students, unless those students have slightly liberal viewpoints.

A common conversation follows:

A high school kid: Vote Bush!!! Yip, yip, yip, yee-motherfucking-hawwwwwwww!!! Fuck gays!!! (I actually once heard a guy say, “Fuck gays.” I don’t think he realized the irony of the double-entendre suggesting that he wanted to sex-up other dudes.)

Me: I hate life.

Kid: We hate Blacks and Jews.

Me: Please God, take me away from here.

Kid: Morals and values; war on terror (pronounced “terra”), etc.

Me: Warmongering, deception, who’s Tara? etc.

You can see where the conversation goes from here.

By the time the kids are seventeen, they’re addicted to the meth that they make in their own basements while their parents are at the bar. Then they stop going to school, get a job serving spat(or worse)-upon food in the local drive-through, and procreate.

Sure, there are some good kids, but they go off to college never to be seen again.

I teach these kids grammar and writing, yet I hear “ain’t” and “I seen … ” on a daily basis. Imagine trying to discuss split infinitives and dependent clauses with them.

Naturally, I sometimes feel the longing to be around other people who have graduated from high school, maybe even college, and I’m drawn to the internet, where the smart to dumbass ratio is a lot better (that’s really saying something).

This, Maud, is where you come into the equation. I found you, and you brought books! Wonderful, amazing, enlightening books!

But you see — and I’m finally getting to the point of all of this — because I work in a school, I’m poverty-stricken and therefore have no internet access at the dump I call home. While I do have access at school, the school subscribes to a filtering system called Bess, a cartoon bitch (really, it is a female dog) who keeps me and the kids from looking at porn, communist propaganda, hotmail, Homestar Runner, The Onion, and anything else that could be classified as “dangerous” in any way at all.

This category now includes (I really don’t know what it’s like to be a suppressed voice of the media. Is it somewhat flattering? I imagine it would be at some level — to know that someone doesn’t like what you say and he’s shaking his fist at the computer screaming, “Damn you, Maud Newton! Damn you to hell!” If you’re like me, you like pissing people off. But I’m sure it is also infuriating — to know that you can reach even fewer people.)

Anyway, I just wanted to let you know that I’ll miss you, Annie, and the rest of the gang.


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