There recently have been calls by some on the right to install cameras in classrooms as a method of oversight, stemming from concern that teachers are indoctrinating children. While favoring expanded education oversight, I wonder about this specific prescription’s safety, legality, and efficacy.
What I think the pro-surveillance voices get right is that we should hold teachers accountable for their actions and lessons. The public should be privy to what is being taught in the classroom, as we have a vested interest in the quality of education that children receive and the proper application of tax dollars.
From a certain angle, the implementation of recording in classrooms is equivalent to the use of police bodycams. Agents of the state — teachers and officers — are allowed extraordinary opportunities to impact the citizenry. As a countermeasure, they must be held to higher standards than the average member of society. This concept of tempering power is Madisonian in nature and quite good.
An unforeseen side effect of classroom oversight for concerned parents also would be the likely revelation that their children are not, in fact, darling, but little hellions. Much like police bodycams have overwhelmingly vindicated officers’ accounts of the criminal element’s deranged behaviors and dangers, so too would teacher-cams confirm that little Timmy is a Calvin-esque ruffian who screams at the faculty and is known to throw a chair or three because he is incapable of controlling himself. Because of laws barring physical teacher intervention, the room needs to be vacated by all other students while he rampages. While anecdotal to my wife’s teaching experience in a rural school district, I do not doubt that similar, formerly dismissed instances of horrid behavior by children that were once brushed aside by blinkered parents would be recorded, much to parents’ embarrassment.
However, the similarities between the police and educators stop there.
My primary concern with this video proposal is that of student safety. Public access via video to classrooms would be open to all sorts of abuse by child predators. Through the audio and video feeds, faceless members of the public could learn not only the names of students but also their habits and personal information. Certain safeguards could indeed be established to reduce the possibility of such a thing — access codes, video-by-request, etc. Still, I’m leery of local, state, and federal governments adequately maintaining and protecting records.
What’s more, established student-safety guidelines are stringent. In education courses I am enrolled in at my university, we must fill out legal paperwork stating that we will speak not of our students, their names, or their home lives to people outside the class. If even passing references to students are disallowed, how in the world would video surveillance be permitted? If the cost of student safety is not having video oversight of classrooms, then I think it’s a worthy price to pay.
While A/V surveillance isn’t the answer, parental involvement could be. It’s no surprise that the progressivist bent of public educators was discovered by American parents during a year when children were learning from home. This new reality had parents working alongside their children learning, and what parents saw of public education understandably worried many of them. That said, critical race theory is nothing new; it and its attendant philosophies have been part of the teacher-education pipeline for years. Apologies for the discharity, but parents have largely outsourced the academic formation of their children to others and are only now realizing the results. Don’t be shocked when the kids come home with heads full of things you disagree with if you haven’t bothered contributing to their intellectual development. A few parent-teacher conferences a year does not an involved parent make.
Better than digital observation is physical observation. Volunteer at your kids’ schools. Obviously, many parents work during school hours and cannot do so regularly, but I’m sure you know at least one like-minded parent who can take the time to go in and spend time helping the faculty and getting to see how the school operates. I’ll freely admit to being a private-school kid — so you can take my suggestions with a grain of whole-grain, vegan, Himalayan salt if you feel like it — but it was not uncommon to have parents sit in on classes. Private schooling may be an especially apt example, as parents have literal buy-in on the quality of the education and are understandably insistent on direct oversight. My teachers never blinked an eye or appreciably altered their lessons under parental scrutiny and were compensated far below public educators. If perennially broke private educators can handle parents in the classroom, the pensioned public educators have no excuse not to. Direct parental volunteerism at the school, coupled with observation, would lessen the educator’s load while also alleviating parental concern about politically charged lessons.