Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Guest post: Big Brother gets bigger

Chris here from ABlogAboutSchool. FedUpMom suggested that I might cross-post some of my thoughts over here from time to time, so here’s my first guest post.

Glenn Greenwald, probably my all-time favorite blogger, writes this week about “how children are being trained to give up all privacy, and to be good, dutiful Surveillance State citizens, through constant, pervasive surveillance in schools,” which are “[t]raining children from an early age to have no expectation of privacy -- to live on the assumption that their every move and even thought (which is what Internet activity is) will be monitored and recorded by authority figures . . .”

Greenwald cites this article:

Whether it is a district surveilling students in their bedrooms via webcam, conducting random drug or locker searches, strip-searching students, lowering the standard for searching students to “reasonable suspicion” from “probable cause,” disciplining students for conduct outside of school hours, searching their cellphones and text messages, or allegedly forcing them to undergo pregnancy testing, student privacy is under increasing threat.

The other day I mentioned a Connecticut school district that wanted to require students to carry an ID card with an RFID chip so that they could track their location. The surveillance capability included locating the student if they were off school premises and in town. . . .

It strikes me that schools are grooming our youth to simply accept being tracked and monitored wherever they go and that anything they do, anywhere, can be used against them in school or elsewhere. Is this really how we want to raise our children? . . .

It’s time for a national dialogue about student privacy, while there are still some remnants of it left.

Isn’t this of a piece with all the emphasis on being quiet obedient hard workers, with the treatment of children as objects to be manipulated, with the conception of children as future employees, with the use of recess as a coercion tool and parents as homework police, with the medication of kids who won’t sit still, with the devaluing of the humanities, with the neglect of qualities like curiosity, skepticism, and the ability to ask a good question -- that is, with all the things that follow from a system rooted in high-stakes testing? If you were trying to make America a more authoritarian, less democratic place, isn’t high-stakes testing exactly the educational approach you would choose?

(Cross-posted here.)


  1. Chris, terrific post. Thanks so much.

  2. Chris, thank you for your post. What is being described isn't a school, but a prison. I believe schools and even parents want the children monitored by a system , so they don't have to. I see this as well in a health care facility I visit on a weekly basis...no one is really watching, so everything must be watched.

  3. Here's a more exact link to the Glenn Greenwald article:

    Debating America's Surveillance State

  4. This brings to mind (to my mind anyway) Michel Foucault, especially his book Discipline and Punish. I've been thinking about Foucault recently in relation to a post I'm writing about how, despite the progressive rhetoric of the past twenty years or so, schools have actually become much more repressive, authoritarian, and controlling than when I was in school. I feel sorry for today's school kids, mine included!

  5. northTOmom, would you like to be a guest blogger here? Let me know -- thanks!

  6. FedUpMom: I'd be happy to do a cross-posting from my blog if that would work. Should I just let you know when I get the piece written?

  7. northTOmom, however you'd like to arrange it works for me!

    schools have actually become much more repressive, authoritarian, and controlling

    This is so true.

  8. There's so many issues here, it will take me a while to think about them. Chris' post brings to mind what I consider the central problem of our times, the hollowing out of the middle class and the way our country is turning into two countries, a small country of the rich and a larger country of the poor. It's clear that everything about our schools, even the ones in middle-class areas, are designed for the country of the poor.

    Hmm ... this is becoming a post ...

  9. Hi FedUpMom,

    I just posted a piece on my blog that you are welcome to cross-post here if you decide it's suitable. (I don't know how to post it here myself, as Chris did, and I don't know how to contact you other than through the comments.) Check it out and see what you think. If you do copy it and re-post it here, please provide a link to its original location on my blog. Thanks!