I am slowly being allowed to breathe again by people who have control over such things. Once long ago (almost three years ago, to be precise) I posted too much identifying information at a website. It was stupid if unintentional. No predator actually took the inadvertent bait, but authorities trying to catch and/or prevent illegal activity came across it and sent men in suits to my school. Please note that using a proxy server to bypass a school's filtering (censoring) system may grant a student access to blocked sites, but if it is worth their time, the goon squad can and will tell the fascists at your school everything that has been accessed and even by whom in many cases . . . such as, unfortunately, mine.
The men in suits didn't arrest me, or even do anything close to that, because I wasn't involved in any sort of illegal activity. At this point, my blog probably sounds like an introduction to a life of crime in the making, while nothing could be further from the truth. All I did, besides make potential contact too easy for the nonexistent deviant, was violate The School District's Technology Policy. Therein lies the major source of my difficulty for the past nearly three years.
If you have been a student or parent for the past fifteen years or so, you are probably quite familiar with The Packet. Every year the school district sends it home to be completed and returned. It's sometimes handed out at some sort of orientation. If not, it's sent home with the student on the first day of school, and expected to be completed and returned by midnight, or at least by the following school day. The school district asks for information which they already have from the previous year, and for which they have no possible use. (Realistically, all they need to know is any change in address, phone numbers, or emergency contacts.) I don't qualify for a free lunch, so why does the district need my parents' annual income for the past three years, and the social security numbers of my entire family? The district even questioned the validity of my and my brother's photocopied social security cards because we are twins with the same birthdate, but only the first three digits of our SSNs are in proximity to one another. Another year, my mother filled out The Packet for me while my father completed my brother's. They listed slightly different household incomes. The district fascists picked up on the discrepancy and pounced on it. They treated my parents like suspected terrorists who were intentionally perjuring themselves in The Packet even though my mother is an administrator in the district and my father is a respected (?) physician. These people trust no one.
This is beside the point, but my parents have endured many difficult times throughout their marriage, including the virtual disownment of my father by his own parents (which included an aborted lawsuit by his parents in an attempt to recover the costs of his undergraduate degree when he left their church), medical school (father), graduate school (mother), the death of twin preemies (both), the birth of living twins (my brother and me), Graves' Disease (my mother), Thyroid Eye Disease (mother), leukemia, (mother), and midlife crisis (father). They weathered these events, some of which would be considered life-altering if not downright tragic, without the slightest threat to the strength of their marriage. The only times my brother and I have ever been worried about a divorce looming on the horizon were when they argued over who had to fill out The Packet for each of us. (After the year when they were accused of quasi-terrorism for providing discrepant data, they decided that for any given year, one parent would take care of both Packets. That was the year my mother threw a plastic bottle of Aunt Jemima Pancake and Waffle Syrup at my father, which he caught, and which is the closest either of my parents has come, at least as far as I know, to perpetrating domestic violence upon one another; what they do behind closed doors is strictly their own business, and I want no knowledge of it.) The Packet has that effect on the most stable of families, and, in my opinion, was deliberately designed with that object in mind, but I digress; that is a subject for another blog on another day.
Anyway, The Packet asks for so much information -- often the same information over and over on multiple forms, in an attempt to trip parents up by seeing if they answer the same questions differently on different pages -- that after about an hour of filling out the forms, the brain of anyone supplying such redundant and often irrelevant information has turned to Play Doh and the reader/writer is not aware of anything which he or she has signed or to which he or she has agreed. At about that point, one comes to The District Technology Policy, which is to be signed and dated by both the student and the parent. It is typed in a font size no larger than three. Even if the parent could read it and knew that it authorized the district to cut off all fingers and toes of any student caught in violation of The District Technology Policy, the parent has, in all likelihood, been worn down to the point of blind submission and would willingly sign the document just to be rid of The Packet. Students, who can actually read fonts that small, don't read The District Technology Policy just because they could not possibly care any less what it says and think none of it applies to them, and they're right 99.999995% of the time. For me, unfortunately, I was one of the five in one-hundred-million for whom it would ultimately matter.
The school district officials took a very martyred stance to my Misuse of Technology, informing my parents of all the damages for which they could be forced to pay but were, out of the goodness of the district officials' collective hearts, being waived. For the record, there were no damages. If anything, I did the district a favor by exposing them to flaws in their filtering (censoring) sytem.
My parents, likewise, took a martyred stance, informing me that they had every right to beat me but were, out of the goodness of their hearts, deferring that right in favor of not letting me near a computer for the foreseeable future.
This may seem a small price to pay; however, I was, for all practical intents and purposes, isolated from the world. I was reduced to face-to-face contact with friends, as my parents' archaic style of parenting didn't even allow my brother and me to have cell phones at the time. To the other students at our school, my brother and I were viewed similarly to the way most of today's teens would view the adolescents at Warren Jeffs' Yearning for Zion or Colorado City/Hillsdale compounds. (No one ever actually said this to me. They didn't need to, because I could see it in their eyes.) Furthermore, who in his or her right mind would attempt a worthwhile conversation on a land line with parents eagerly hanging on to each spoken word?
I will say for myself that I used my time of virtual incarceration wisely. The most significant of my achievements was to expose the woeful inadequacies of the libraries of the middle and high schools I attended. As I was not granted access to computer-based research, I was relegated to relying upon encylopedias and other ancient primary sources. I once authored a paper on the topic of "The Lunar Expedition." My concluding sentence was something to the effect of, "Some day man may actually land and walk upon the moon." My teacher, of course, tried to give me a failing grade on the paper, but was forced to concede when he could not find a single piece of non-computer-based writing in the school library that contradicted my concluding sentence. The only actual encyclopedia the library offered was printed in 1968, and was kept as sort of a relic for the purpose of showing students how research was collected in prehistoric times. No books on the topic were kept; because students tended to rely upon the internet for scienctific or historical research topics, nearly all non-fiction books were sold at district auctions. The only actual books the library held were works of fiction.
As I was required to write research papers without the use of technology, I had the unfortunate experience of using a typewriter. Most people have no idea just how difficult it is to use a typewriter. My style of keyboarding is to type at an extremely rapid rate but to make almost countless errors. This works perfectly well when using a computer if a person proofreads well, but when typing on a typewriter, corrections must be made using either a correction ribbon on the machine or with liquid paper, both of which add thickness and weight to the paper. When someone makes as many errors as I usually do, each sheet of paper weighs around ten ounces by the time the corrections have been made. I eventually made a deal with my brother to take all of his turns at doing the dishes for two weeks for each of my papers he typed. At the expense of belaboring the FLDS analogy, with the exception of Warren Jeffs' wives and other females at the compound, I was one of the youngest people in the nation with dishpan hands.
My parents eventually allowed me extremely limited computer access. I was first allowed to use the computer to type school assignments, then to do limited Internet research when a parent was in the room with me. Less than a year ago I was allowed to have a Twitter page giving only the vaguest indication of my geographic location. (For the record, I used and continue to use my actual first name but a different surname.) My parents have put some sort of control (censorship) on all of our home computers so that every keystroke I make is recorded. They said that they really didn't care what awful things I say about them as long as Chris Matthews or whatever that "To Catch a Sexual Predator" guy's name is doesn't show up with his producers and say they want to film an encounter with me and the predator with whom I've been in contact.
That's what they said again, along with the warning not to disclose any names, school names, or locations when they gave me permission to blog . . . They obviously think I'm a complete moron. The truth of the matter is: A) they know that hardly anyone will ever read this blog, so it's a harmless way for them to give in; B) that everything I write here can and will be used against me. They're probably deliberately setting me up, but I'll make it not quite so easy by writing some things that are true and some that aren't quite true, and I'll leave it to the reader to sort fact from fiction. At least 90% of what is written will be the Gospel truth, but I reserve the right to revert to fiction when it is necessary for self-preservation.