Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Cameras in Classrooms... Why Stop There?

Reading & Discussion
Originally uploaded by mdt1960
This is an open letter to Wyoming State Legislative Representative Steve Harshman from Casper regarding his proposal to bring cameras into the Wyoming classrooms.
I just read the story in the Christian Science Monitor regarding your proposal to bring cameras into the classroom for the purpose of teacher evaluations as well as monthly written reviews.

I find it a bit ironic—maybe even hypocritical—that such a proposal is being handed down in a state that is notorious for its resentment of anything that has to do with “big government.” Pardon me for saying, but what you’re proposing smells like big government even if it is a long way off.

As an instructor in the graphics/printing field, I’m OK with cameras in my classroom. Perhaps a few administrators and politicians like yourself will truly learn something useful, and perhaps even develop a real skill that will result in earning an honest living.

That said, my question to you is, why stop there? Let’s introduce the same monitoring equipment into the offices of educational administrators. Along with that, subject them to anonymous evaluations from the body of faculty every semester much like the instructors experience from their students. If you’re looking for dead wood, this will surely produce results—high-paying dead wood at that!

Come to think of it, bringing cameras into the homes would surely curb domestic violence, abuse and neglect as well. And, as a taxpayer and voter, I wouldn’t mind listening in on recordings from the monitored phones of our elected officials too. You’re OK with that aren’t you? As the article stated, you’ll get used to the equipment in no time, and after awhile, it will be like it was never there.

‎“There was of course no way of knowing whether you were being watched at any given moment. How often, or on what system, the Thought Police plugged in on any individual wire was guesswork. It was even conceivable that they watched everybody all the time. But at any rate they could plug in your wire whenever they wanted to. You had to live—did live, from habit that became instinct—in the assumption that every sound you made was overheard, and, except in darkness, every movement scrutinized.” —Orwell’s 1984.

And this...

Harshman responds:
Dear Mr. Morgan,

I have not read the article. In regards to cameras in the classroom; as you know there is a semi-mob mentality regarding education in the Wyoming Legislature this session. Some of it can be contributed to a national trend or mood that is sweeping the country. My proposal is an attempt to fight “fire with fire” so to speak. The proposed tenure bills (where teachers lose their tenure and have at-will employment status where we can be fired for any reason that is “not illegal”) have me moving in order to counter the proposals. I have promoted cameras as a “teacher protection” measure. In addition, increased evaluations would get the principals back in the schools.

In response to the Orwellian comments that your letter drifts of to…? I am not going there. I would focus my efforts on the Senate Education committee where the real threat is. I can assure you, I am working behind the scenes for a favorable outcome.

Thank you for writing,

Warm Regards,

Steve Harshman
House District 37
(R) Natrona County


Bob Becker said...

Apparently we have to destroy the village to save it.

Kory Rountree said...

In sending you his warm regards, this arrogant douche reveals the insidious double-bladed attack favored by Republican assclowns: Devise a devious approach to limit personal freedoms, and then devise another even more devious alternative to counter, or "fight fire with fire", as he puts it. Talk about an Orwellian shitstorm, this guy is Inner Party as they come

Anonymous said...

The one thing faculty that have tenure forget is that once they are hired, every effort is made to keep folks from monitoring them in any way. Is every faculty member trustworthy enough for this approach? When you say put cameras in staff offices, that is their workplace just as the classroom is yours. Many offices are open for someone to come in any time of the day and see what is going on. If an administrator were to step foot in a faculty classroom, the shit would hit the fan. Tenured faculty need to understand, most staff live their job day by day anyway. This is a normal process for the way we work. We dont have the luxury of sitting behind tenure. This alone makes staff not paranoid about their jobs like faculty are. While i respect the right for any teacher to be able to teach my child due to their freedom, I also want the school to have items in place to protect my child as not every faculty member is perfect and academic freedom does have its limits. http://chronicle.com/article/The-Limits-of-Academic-Freedom/49354/

Morgan said...

"The one thing faculty that have tenure forget is that once they are hired, every effort is made to keep folks from monitoring them in any way."

That's a bit over-generalized. I am a tenured faculty and I've never resisted the monitoring that I'm subjected to every semester. In fact, I request additional (anonymous by the way) evaluations beyond what is required; especially when I'm teaching a new class or I've made changes in a class. I don't think I'm unusual in that sense either.

I'm OK with an administrator stopping in my class unannounced too, but an acceptable number of visits should be agreed upon for every semester/year so there is no questions about crossing over into harassment.

There's many closed doors in academic administration. So if cameras can be installed in my classroom, I'd expect the same in all administrative offices—especially high-level positions.

"Luxury of tenure..." I think more untenured people believe this than those that are actually tenured. If administration wants to get rid of someone bad enough, tenured or not, they'll find a way. It's been going on for years.

Anonymous said...

Thats funny, you work at a public institution where my taxes pay your salary. You had better be acceptable to pretty much anything legal that would allow for job performance based evaluations. Tenure needs to go away. Faculty are scared to hear this because parents might get upset. Grow a set, its called life deal with it. I have no sympathy for any faculty who hides behind their tenure to act like a jerk.

Anonymous said...

What faculty fail to realize is that when they hide behind tenure to keep their jobs, they do not rely on anyone but themselves to keep those jobs. Administration helps protect the best interest of the institution, and all that does is cost everyone time and money when tenure must be fought through in order to take care of a faculty member who is not effective anymore. Should faculty drop tenure, the appearance of "we are better than you" to everyone else across the country might change and the embracement of those at the school specifically administration just might be beneficial.

Morgan said...

"Grow a set..." is your chest puffed out too?

Go ahead and put cameras in the classroom. You had better hope all the other states follow, because I'd wager to say a large percentage of the good teachers will leave along with the dead wood while Wyoming will be lucky to find 18-year-old babysitters to manage any given classroom.

Yet, cameras could work for the teachers too. We all get a chance to see just how dumb and inattentive Johnny really is and we'll have sufficient proof to hold him back (or just kick him out when he's 18). Perhaps a high school diploma will truly come to mean something again when every dullard isn't given one just for going through the motions.

Cameras in the classroom equal having someone stand over you all day as you go about your job—any job, and no one likes that—much less tolerates it. I've worked in the printing and publishing industry for ten years before entering education and I never was on the end of such over-bearing supervision.

Anonymous said...

In the printing and Publishing industry did you speak to your supervisors and act the way you do today? I bet not or they would have fired you. Your words right there, dumb and dullard, do you use those in the classroom to a student? Possibly an insecure student out on their own for the first time learning about life? Why dont you just hand him the gun instead of trashtalking him. If you really believe the problem is at the high school level, then go down to that level and try to make a difference instead of complaining about it at the college level.

Morgan said...

I've never been shy about expressing my thoughts to anyone. I suppose getting fired comes with the territory of speaking your mind. That's nothing new. Fortunately for me, I always worked with people that were competent and had a good handle on the workplace. Can't say that about everyone I've worked with in education.

"Dumb" and "Dullard" ...I save such colourful language for this space, not the classroom.

As far as stepping down... I did a bit of substitution work at the high school level years ago. Didn't like it then, I surely wouldn't like it now. Blaming it on bad teachers is only the tip of the iceberg.

In a similar discussion on Facebook I read a comment from someone that said, "Show me a student who does well in his/her high school classes and I'll show you a good parent who demands achievement from their child—whether it be public, parochial, or private school."

Another person chimed in saying, "Sadly, many of this next generation of kids are more focused on "Snookie," American Idol and and their damn cell phones. Imagine what could transpire from this youth if the parents would teach basic values and work ethic! The foundation to an education begins in the home and is nourished in the classroom!"

Anonymous said...


Morgan said...

Don't forget to watch this too...