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Nanny software irks me fiercely

20 January, 2010 (17:48) | Failure | By: Glenn

I like my school district, I really do. I think they try to focus on the learning of kids more than other districts (granted, I haven’t taught in other districts but my district doesn’t do some silly things I have heard from other teachers).

But, and this is giant, big but, they use some really restrictive software for their filtering. And before you think this is a rant against filtering YouTube or other sites, read on.

Our district’s filtering modifies the SSL certificates of all sites. That means every time they upgrade or update their filters, every teacher who uses Gmail, Google Docs, Google Reader, myYahoo, or any other site that uses SSL for the login has to re-download the SSL certificates.

No big deal right?  Unless you happen to use Firefox. Then you can not do it. Firefox doesn’t let you just re-download the certificates. You have to go to Tools, Options, Advanced button, Encryption tab, and then hit the “view certificates” button, then the Servers tab.

6 clicks to get there, and then FIND all relevant Google certificates and delete them. THEN go to the site and re-download the certificate which is clicking yes to several prompts that say things like “This site is not trusted” “It is trying to steal your data” “Are you sure you want to accept this, it will steal your babies and eat your heart!”

Well, okay, slight exaggeration.

And yet, after doing this 5 times today, Firefox still won’t let me into Gmail because the certificate is invalid. Chrome just yells at me, Explorer says it is not trusted, but goes there, but Firefox is a no-go entirely. Thank you school district for keeping me safe from … nothing? You just blocked my email, the one every one of my learners uses to communicate with me. And you did this during finals, no less.

But it gets worse. Probably the most useful and depended on piece of software I use is Dropbox, which uses SSL to send the files back and forth.  Yup, you guessed it, it is severely broken now as well. Crap.

Is it really necessary to do block sites at all? It really does make me think of Tom Johnson’s Pencil Integration site. This posting says it all. We want to teach our learners to think, but we don’t dare let them think too much. And we don’t dare let our teachers actually use judgment. Imagine the chaos!