Across the country, school districts are bemoaning the decline of student scholastics, the manufactured hysteria about bullying and the cutting of budgets to public school systems that already cost way to much as is. However, simultaneously, we are seeing an absolutely terrifying rise in Orwellian technological privacy violations in public schools.
A teenage hacker apparently hacked into the San Antonio school district’s system last week to protest the use of microchip-embedded cards that students must carry in order for the school district to track their every movement.
I am still relatively young but even I can hardly recognize the changing face of the modern public school system.
The student has not been identified, but his motives have been made clear. According to CBS in Houston,
“Starting this fall, all students at John Jay High School and Anson Jones Middle School are required to carry identification cards embedded with a microchip. They are tracked by the dozens of electronic readers installed in the schools’ ceiling panels.
Northside has been testing a ‘radio frequency identification’ tracking system for the two schools to increase attendance in order to secure more state funding, officials have said. The program, which kicked off at the beginning of this school year, eventually could be used at all of Northside’s 112 campuses, officials have said. The district is the fourth largest in Texas with more than 97,000 students.”
I’m not sure how the tracking of humans with microchips can be so easily and calmly explained as if this is a normal thing to be doing. I, too, want students attending class, but I find myself asking, “At any point during the staff meetings, did nobody stand up to point out that this is not only a tremendous violation of privacy, but also something straight out of ‘1984’ and, at the very least, creepy and unsettling?”
Apparently, I’m not the only one that thinks so.
“One John Jay student refused to wear the device, citing religious reasons, and then filed a lawsuit after Principal Robert Harris threatened to remove her from the school and stopped her from petitioning against the ID badge. Last week a judge said the principal’s actions violated the student’s speech and religious rights, and granted a restraining order barring Harris from removing her from the school, San Antonio television station KENS reported.”
Good for her. However, there is a bigger trend occurring. Schools are now implementing palm scanners as a means of ID for such things as the lunch line and are being used by 50,000 students at 17 high schools and 20 middle schools. Soon, the program will expand to 60,000 more students at 80 elementary schools.
While palm scanners are not as bad as tracking devices, the bigger issue is that school districts are now putting the burden on parents to explain why they would not want their children tracked or their privacy otherwise violated.
When I went to school, we had numbers. You said your number and the money was deducted from your account. There’s nothing wrong with this system and I am of the firm belief that the real value of these unnecessary and costly technological intrusions is to create the illusion of being watched and monitored in children early so as to make them unable to notice possible privacy intrusions later on.
Is there a massive conspiracy where all the principals get together to plot the programming of the next generation? No. Just like there is no conspiracy whereby all teachers plot to indoctrinate children with liberal propaganda. Still, all the same, it’s happening with astonishing efficiency.
If we create an atmosphere of normality around authoritarian intrusions, how can we expect this next generation to regard freedom, liberty or independence as anything but vague, esoteric concepts? We must help create a generation of freedom-loving independents and, to do that, we must object to intrusions as we see them.