Skin in the Game in Education

The idea of cameras in classrooms has come up recently in the US as part of the ongoing discussion of Crititical Race Theory (CRT) anti-White racism. Here is a short article from Breitbart by John Nolte responding to an article from Huffington Post which I didn’t bother reading. Apparently, public school teachers in America are outraged at the idea of their student’s parents being able to see into their classroom. This shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone with even a passing familiarity with a public education. Accountability is something to be avoided at all costs and teacher’s unions have done a truly commendable job of making sure that they aren’t β€” especially it appears in America.

Now I want to get the usual stuff out of the way before continuing. Teaching can be a very demanding job and I would say the average teacher (at least in my experience), is earnest and hard working enough. The main problem I’ve found generally is an inflated sense of self-importance. This is partly the fault of society but the education industry is also rife with ghastly self-congratulatory propaganda despite what is an ever lowering bar of educational attainment. As Joe Sobran much more starkly puts it:

β€œIn 100 years we have gone from teaching Latin and Greek in high school to teaching Remedial English in college.”

Despite what we hear to the contrary, educating children shouldn’t be all that complicated and there are very simple ways education could be improved. As far as silver-bullets go, having cameras in classrooms would be worth a try. Though I don’t think it will happen, the outraged reaction to the suggestion is very telling.

I say this as a teacher who is used to being observed by the parents of my students. Not just on a camera that they may or may not be paying attention to but sitting at the back of the classroom. Anyone doing any job can be uncomfortable being observed but increasingly it is the norm for people to be working with a camera on them. Anyone in a casino has been used to it for decades and the same is almost true of retail. The reason I’m not particularly uncomfortable with parents watching me is because I am being paid to teach their children and whether public or private my salary is paid by them. Their children are not mine nor do they belong to the state. I am accountable to them. So teacher’s shouldn’t be worried about their parents knowing exactly what their children are being taught in class. If they are, that should set off alarms for any responsible parent.

The other issue that isn’t generally any individual teacher’s fault is the indiscipline. There are enormous problems in many schools (especially in the United States) with disruptive, anti-social and even violent and abusive behaviour from students. It has also become increasingly difficult to remove such students from schools. Having cameras would be a blessing to decent teachers working in classrooms with such students. The parents of such children wouldn’t like it but the other parents observing such behaviour could well generate enough righteous outrage to do something about it. In the worst class I ever taught, I would have loved to have my parents see what went on and have them ask the leadership why they allowed it.

To present a possible counter, if such a system were adopted, I wouldn’t be surprised if many parents didn’t take advantage of it at all. The most disruptive and difficult students also often have the most indifferent parents that only care when something causes them problems. They couldn’t care less what their children are taught (though they wouldn’t say as much) and look at teachers as de facto parents. Everything is the teachers responsibility and also everything is the teachers fault. This is why I don’t necessarily blame teachers for wanting to be less accountable to such parents. Of course if teachers had been less complacent, then the ever increasing numbers of parents with this attitude wouldn’t be happening.

This leads to the real solution which is hinted at it the title. Large schools (whether private or public), are simply not working. It is a model that dates back almost two centuries and is well past its used by date. Perhaps putting a “progressive” spin on this would help though people who define themselves as such are the most hostile to genuine change. Teachers often call for smaller classrooms but smaller schools would be a much better option.

If students went to small schools, located in communities with people they knew and were taught by people who also lived there, then everybody would be accountable. Here I’m covering ground already trod but it is worth repeating.

Much like having cameras in schools, changes like this aren’t very likely. Indifferent or passive parents, giant schools with layers of bureaucracy and limited accountability seem likely to stay the norm for a while yet. Parents who don’t like it, should try starving the beast by not allowing it to devour their children.

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