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Friday, September 22, 2006

Find Them Guilty

I have read many articles recently dealing with the issue of submitting teens to constant invasive surveillance. People are screaming about phone taps of international phone calls to terrorists and a government maintained list of our library books, while at the same time invoking the name of safety to spy on our own kids.

The most obvious of these violations is mandatory drug testing. Private schools, because they don’t have to deal with a pesky Constitution, are requiring drug tests of all students. The assumption of guilt is supposedly anathema to the ideals of the American people, yet this is exactly what we are doing. Even public schools do an end run around The Constitution by only giving drug test to students in extracurricular activities. It’s a little embarrassing for them because they have to test the National Honor Society even though we all know that it is the athlete’s that have the drug problem. It has now gotten to the point that some teachers are willingly submitting to drug test to show solidarity with the students.

Even parents are getting into the act with over the counter drug tests. Before everyone sits down to the dinner table we need all of the teens to please pee into this cup. Hopefully, the fit of laughter caused by the mention of family dinner didn’t distract you from the last half of that sentence. What kind of trust relationship can you have with a child if you are carrying around a cup of their pee? Of course you could just surreptitiously extract hairs from their combs and brushes and maintain the façade of trust.

The façade could be shattered like the windshield of a car if a parent decides to create a GPS link with their child while they are in his or her car. A prying patriarch can log on to a website and track the location and speed of the car. I’m assuming that these computer chips can also tell if the window defogger has been activated. This would of course circumstantially prove that the driver and any passengers might have been involved in some heavy breathing. The technology also exists to turn that car off. Now I will admit that I did not always drive to the agreed upon locations when I was an adolescent, but at least my parents had to have an inkling, if not suspicion, before they would go out and check the odometer or gas gauge.

In the classroom the presumption of misdeeds has led to the increase in the use of services such as those offered by Turnitin. For a small subscription fee these company's will check student writing against an enormous database to fish out any plagiarism. In some districts all student papers are submitted to process. Should we be working under an umbrella understanding that forestalls accussations of copying until the teacher has at least read the paper? A good teacher, or parent for that matter, should have a good enough relationship with the student to be able to spy text of questionable origin without relying on such an impersonal system. Students cheat because they feel like they can't do the work. We should be building confidence not flunking transgressors.

Parenting and teaching involve monitoring the tension between freedom and responsibility. If children grow up in a world where freedoms and privacy are only vague intangible ideas, then they will think nothing of giving up those freedoms when the government decides that it is necessary. There should be a difference between the student roster and the terrorist watch list. Students need independence in order to think independently. With that said I think I’ll head on down the “humane” society and have my three year old neutered and micro-chipped.

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