Big Teacher is Watching


I get plenty of spam advertising high school students on webcams… but Biloxi, Miss. has done the spammers one better and webcammed their entire school system. Amusingly enough, the two groups most concerned about the new setup appear to be privacy watchdogs (no surprise there) and the National Education Association, which is made slightly uneasy by the thought that its membership's performance will be subject to such regular scrutiny. (Via Slashdot)

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  1. Mitch: Don’t get me wrong. My point was not that teachers are exemplars of model citizenship, let alone designed for nationbal patriotic consumption. But they aren’t the evildoers many others on this comment list apparently believe them to be.

    As for Peter, Zoop and Gagny, what can I say? I had some crappy teachers — both lazy and stupid — when I was going through public school. (Not to worry, I survived just fine.) But at what workplace is that not true?

    Frankly, I just fail to comprehend the level of vitriol being directed at public-school teachers. It strikes me as beyond bizarre.

  2. When I was in college, the education majors ranked dead last in academic preparation, SATs, intellectual curiosity, and everything else. Their curriculum (even leaving out PE) was renowned for gut courses. Most teachers have their major hours taken up with intellectually stimulating fare like “Audiovisuals 101,” with only a minor in their actual subject area (if that).

    A batchelor’s in education is the ideal solution for a mediocrity who wants the status of a “profession.”

    I’m not saying that even a majority of teachers are necessarily like this, but certainly a very large minority are. The “public” schools tend to be very attractive to pathological authoritarians. Some teachers will put any kid on Ritalin who looks at them funny. As if that’s not bad enough, they’re coming up with a new “disease” called Oppositional Defiance Disorder.

    Any kid of slightly above average intelligence and any genuine curiosity at all is going to feel imprisoned by mediocrities from the time he’s twelve years old. The schools’ job is to drug them into submission and turn them into properly processed “human resources” for their ultimate consumers.

  3. Two of my best friends on the planet and my sister are public school teachers. They range in age from 23 to 26, and have 5 college degrees among them (none in education). While I’ve never sat in on their classrooms, I have no doubt that they are all exceptional educators, because I know how bright they are and committed they are to doing the job well.

    And to a one, they will tell you that the majority of their colleages and administrators are incompetent. I have my doubts that any of them will still be teaching in 10 years’ time, which is a real shame.

    The system is broken on all levels…greater accountablity for teachers is essential, but webcams in the classroom is roughly equivalent to applying a bandaid to severed limb.

  4. actually, it seems more like the equivalent of masturbating onto a bandaid and then placing it onto a broken limb. it’s just asking for trouble…

  5. Kevin Carson – sadly, you are right about Ritalin and ODD and such. I mean, seriously folks, “Oppositional Defiance Disorder”? What the %^&* is that? Isn’t that just some sort of fancy American Psychological Association mumbo-jumbo for teenage rebellion? So, nowadays it’s considered a disorder if a kid stands up to or opposes authority in any way, shape, or form? Is it any wonder that our public schools turn out class after class of unthinking sheep? Sad. Really, REALLY sad.

    On a happier note, though, it reminds me of an episode of The Simpsons…

    “That’s two independent thought alarms in one day!”

  6. What bothers me is not so much WHO teaches, but WHAT is being taught!

    What’s the stuff that gets put into your kid’s head over there? — day by day, semester by semester, year by year — until finally, 15 years later, you don’t even recognize what comes out at the other end.

    And you thought you had created a child in your image? (With your values?) Think again. If you’re kid’s in a public school, you can say g’bye to its independent mind.

  7. “If you’re [sic] kid’s in a public school, you can say g’bye to its [sic] independent mind.”

    Oh right, I forgot; the public schools are an evil plot by the State designed to assimilate otherwise free-thinking children into the Borg collective. The bastards!!!!

    Like I said above, a lot of people need to crawl out from under their ideological shells. Life is real, not just a series of paranoid fantasies.

  8. “You’ve, in essence, got a complete record of your teaching.”
    The possibility of holding public employees accountable for their actions looms on the horizon. My God! The horror! Will the country survive?

  9. AND SO IT BEGINS. (In the schools.)

    Why did George Orwell pick that date for the title of his book? Was that just arbitrary?

    I guess no one can really predict the future (accurately), can they?

  10. Good God, Leftover! You think those views are limited to some inbred right-wing “anti-gummint” culture? Ever hear of Paul Goodman or Ivan Illich? The educationist literature of 100 years ago is full of statements to the fact that they are molding human raw material to fit the oligarchies they’ll be serving. Check out Gatto’s online history of the public education movement; or the New Leftist Joel Spring’s “Education and the Rise of the Corporate State.”

    You’re reacting viscerally to a critique of the publick skools that’s shared by the libertarian right AND left, and responding with a Clintonoid reflex.

  11. Kevin,

    You’re quite right in saying that both the left and the right have a similar critique of the public schools. But I don’t think that diminishes what I posted. I would make the exact same comments on a left-wing discussion board.

    The essential point of many of the posters — and of many left and right critics of public schools generally — is that you cannot trust any state-sponsored institution with the education of children. For any number of reasons, I disagree with that point. (NB: It becomes especially easy to disagree with that proposition when it is couched in terms suggesting evil plots and the like.)

    Look, if people don’t want to have a quality public-school system in this country, that’s fine. In that case, there’s lots of failed countries around the world we can model ourselves after. But there’s a reason why this is the best country on Earth, and I think our system of mandatory public education has a lot to do with it.

  12. I have been obligated to sit in on my son’s classrooms for the past five years now. I would love to see webcams in his classrooms.The abuse of students at the hands of these ‘teachers’ is a sight to behold. Public schools were never instituted to educate, they are there to break children. If parents could see how their children were treated, I could see many good outcomes. The immediate dismissal of incompetent, or abusive teachers would just be a start. The undue respect that many public teachers now garner would evaporate. The demand for privatization would escalate. The stranglehold that the teachers unions have over us would melt like the wicked witch. Oh yeah, and the whole thing would end before it would ever begin because the teachers and their representatives would realize this also, not to mention the government. Good idea, too bad it’ll never happen.

  13. “Oh right, I forgot; the public schools are an evil plot by the State designed to assimilate otherwise free-thinking children into the Borg collective. The bastards!!!!”

    Err, no. But they are essentially monopolies to the majority of people who can’t readily afford to pay double to send their kids to school, and as such, suffer greatly in quality. Is that an unreasonable opinion?

    Did you go to public school? Did it seem like a good use of your youth? I’m not sure how anyone who sat through 12 years of that could defend the system.

    Yes, I do know public school teachers. The bright ones complain about the beauracracy and all want to quit, the not so bright ones complain about the kids and want to make it to their sweet government retirement deal as fast as possible. They like the beauracracy, since they can always know what to do without having to figure it out on their own. I also know one private school teacher. He’s both bright, and loves his job. Whodda thunk it?

  14. If only someone would sue to get (a) cameras in schools where they’re not yet in place, and (b) the camera feeds put on the web for us all to watch these “teachers.”

  15. I get spam for college girls on webcams. High school? That seems like something the authorities need to look into.

  16. I think spam for girls in “High School” is a better description. Some of them might be, but most are gonna be the same skanky 35-year-old prostitutes that populate the rest of the porn industry. Oh, but they’ll be in pigtails.

  17. I saw this on Good Morning America today (for some inexplicable reason, my boyfriend likes to watch Joan Lunden while he eats his cereal. To each his own, I suppose). Apparently, several of the parents have called the school worried that pedophiles are somehow going to get ahold of the tapes and think dirty thoughts while watching the 6th graders learn algebra. That thought is especially troubling when you consider that, apparently, some teachers and schools are making the tapes available to the public with no barriers, and families who don’t like it have little recourse. And now I read in this article that they’re taping gym classes and sports practice? If my daughter were on the gymnastics team, I’d be freaking out right now.

  18. What is the deal with all this teacher bashing and kid-victimizing? Seriously, do any of the teacher-haters on this comment board actually know any teachers and what they go through in the classroom all day? Do any of them know (or care) what their precious little angels are like while they are in class?

    But right, it’s always those damned public employees; far from being civic-minded individuals willing to work for less for the service they perform, actually they are public-teat-sucking monsters. A lot of people here need to get out their ideological shells and grow up.

  19. “But they are essentially monopolies to the majority of people who can’t readily afford to pay double to send their kids to school, and as such, suffer greatly in quality. Is that an unreasonable opinion?”

    No, it’s not an unreasonable opinion at all. In fact, I agree with school choice, at least in theory. My point here simply has been that the religious hatred of public schools and public-school teachers exhibited by some on this board is unwarranted. Public schools in the U.S. often deserve criticism, but not knee-jerk hyperbolic rage.

    Did I go to public schools? Yes, I did, in an economically mixed suburb of an industrial city in the Midwest. Did I have some mind-numbing classes taught by lazy jerks? Yes. Was the curriculum frequently a waste of my time? Yes. But I also received instruction by many wonderful teachers who did care about the students and who did try very hard to help us succeed. And by attending a school with students of many different backgrounds, I learned valuable life skills.

    My parents — both lifetime civil servants — didn’t have the money to send me to private school, and wouldn’t have done so even if they could because they believed in public education(unless they lived in DC perhaps 🙂 ).

  20. I wasn’t aware that teachers had any privacy rights in what occurs in their classrooms.

    For that matter, I wasn’t aware that kids had any privacy rights in what occurs in their classrooms. Exactly what is private about sitting in a room with 30 other people being supervised by a government employee?

    If I want to see how my tax dollars are being spent by monitoring a classroom, why shouldn’t I be allowed to? If you don’t want your kid’s classroom being monitored, send them to a private school, where there is at least a marginally better argument for privacy, and where individual customer preferences for monitoring or not are likely to be of some interest to the staff.

    I can see one benefit of this monitoring – all those sanctimonious parents raising undisciplined brats will finally be forced out of denial about what self-centered little hellions they are bringing forth. If you doubt that the worst-behaved kids have parents who will defend them to the death against any attempt at discipline and accountability, just ask a teacher. Any teacher.

  21. “My parents — both lifetime civil servants …

    Well, that explains it then.

    No wonder they call you “Leftover.” Left over from what? The Tories?

  22. “What is the deal with all this teacher bashing and kid-victimizing? Seriously, do any of the teacher-haters on this comment board actually know any teachers and what they go through in the classroom all day? Do any of them know (or care) what their precious little angels are like while they are in class?”

    My history teacher last year was convinced that Churchill was Premier when WWII broke out, wouldnt hear any argument to the contrary. Other teachers are just as incompetent.

    As for “going through” anything, i find that hard to believe. Any comment that might possibly be considered derogatory to anyone is punishable, as is any dissent with the teacher, as on the Churchill issue.

  23. ” A lot of people here need to get out their ideological shells and grow up.”

    Um, ditto. How many teachers do you know? I know several, and I work indirectly with a few hundred.

    Let us now say this for the record: teachers are no longer our best and our brightest. They frequently start out as people of good will and ideals (though usually low academic achievement) but those who stay in the system become embittered or do just enough to get by like any other government employee.

    Teachers’ colleges tend to reinforce this trend–I was amazed at the “homework” and “papers” assigned in pedagogy classes. A paper on a supposedly complex pedagogical concept could be presented with cutouts and posters. That’s fine if you’re practicing class presentations, but pedagogical theory is mite more complex than that.

    Yes, teachers have a tough job–for the 6 hours they have it per day, and the 9 months of the year they work at it, for salaries that are commensurate with or better than bachelor-degree-holding people in other walks of life who get only 2 weeks off and work 10 hour days. And no, they don’t get adequate support from administrators–who are generally failed teachers. And lawsuits from the morons who send their parenting mistakes to be taken care of by the government insure CYA teaching among those few who care.

    However, the challenges they work under should not negate the fact that they routinely avoid monitoring, testing, and are not the selfless talented do-gooders as the popular mythology goes. Maybe they were 30 years ago, but in my education and in my professional life, I have only seen a handful I would describe as ‘competent’ and only a precious few I would describe as ‘good’ or even ‘excellent’.

    You want somebody who’s underrated and underpaid? Try secretaries in the private sector. But teachers? Try getting to know them and looking with a critical eye at what they are doing and what is required of them.

  24. I think teachers are overpaid and failing. I had several teachers who did nothing except show movies, a teacher who told the class that Cleopatra was an “African-American”, who hated kids but were holding out for their retirement, who went into teaching because they found they couldn’t cut it in the private sector (one failed too many classes to go into marketing, one was a failed DJ, one wanted to be a DJ but went into teaching because it paid better).

    I’ve had administrators who wanted to toss gifted children in the same special ed classroom as retarded ones (only average people deserve a real education, I guess).

    That’s my own experience, not some parental over-protectiveness. And beyond that, I know what sort of students go into teaching, because I’m an English major and about 90% of my classmates are going into elementary or secondary education, and they are the worst students, the laziest students, the most cliquey. They plague our English department because they don’t care about literature at all, they just want something easy (and, by and large, the education-centered emphases give it to them).

  25. Leftover,

    We need to have cameras in the classroom so we can see these Stakhanovs of education in action, and thereby inspire the rest of the People to work as hard and as efficiently as they do. “She corrected 102 book reports in a 6 hour shift, comrade…”

  26. You pro mandatory public education people have absolutely no idea what you are talking about. If public education was any good, they would have wanting customers clamoring for their services. Did you ever give one iota of thought as to why we are forced to pay for them, and send our children. It’s because they could never compete in a free market. They are not ther to provide an education, the are ther to create robots that will not think for thamselves. Put this on a more personal level. I once owned a lawn service. Say some customer decided he didn’t like the quality of my work and decided to go to a different service, but because I had the govt enforced monopoly in his area and he would still have to pay me wether I actually did the work or not, how much do youthink I would care if he left, and how good of a job do you think I would care to do. The public school systems still exists because they have that monopoly. T hey could never compete in a free society>

  27. Leftover-

    Just a snarky quibble, but your second criticism of privatize’s spelling was a mistake. “Its” as a possessive never, ever has an apostrophe. Only in the contraction form does it have one.

    And no, I didn’t learn that at school. Like I did with all but a handful of wonderful teachers, almost all of whom quit the public school system, I payed attention in class and then went home to actually learn something.

    My vitriol against the modern public school teacher is not religious, but learned. It is evidentiary. It is experiential. It is phenomenological. But it is not religous.

    I wish it were otherwise, but when I help a nonprofit that works with public school educators and environmental activists, and the educators need help reading the instructions but the activistst don’t despite similar levels of education and income, well…what am I to think? When the NEA or AFT thunders against competency tests, am I to think it’s (note the contraction) because they have some other reason than fear that their membership will be found wanting?

    As for which professions and workplaces don’t have bad eggs, none do. However, only in rare instances of government service have I encountered the sheer 66:34 or worse ratio of bad eggs to good that I have in teaching.

    If you really value mandatory government education, then a simple fix is to raise the standards of teachers in teacher’s colleges. If they cannot pass, the resulting shortage will raise salaries (as it has done in several school districts around the country, a story carefully untold as it doesn’t serve to preserve the mystique) and attract better and brighter candidates to the field. True, they won’t have the selfless, underpaid aura, but competence casts a brighter shadow, no?

  28. “My parents — both lifetime civil servants — didn’t have the money to send me to private school, and wouldn’t have done so even if they could because they ***believed in public education***”

    So who’s ideology is getting in the way of reasonable debate? (Not yours necessarily, but certainly your parents…)

    I must have missed out on the “wonderful” teachers during my sentence at the public school I went to. There is definitely a decline in public education. Maybe things are still not so bad in the heartland.

  29. Right on, Zoop! Well said.

    And “lawnmower” Mark hit the nail on the head. Great analogy, Mark! Mind if I use that analogy for other such gubmint “services” in my book?

  30. Zoop, you might want to read it again.

    I was not referring to the lack of an apostrophe. The proper possessive pronoun of “kid” is not “its,” but rather “his” or “her.”

    Next time, don’t be so quick to snarkiness.

  31. Casper

    Feel free to use that or any other analogy I draw in my attempt to simplify these ‘complex’ ideas to all the publicly edudated simpletons that I waste my time trying to enlighten. I’d love to discuss this with you, of course, credit would be nice. Please feel free to contact me if you wish

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