Thursday, October 19, 2006

Stand-up guy

I used to tell my brother-in-law that I was going to steal his woman - Jed's sister - away from him.

I wasn't joking, really.

But now I'm finding myself in the preternatural position of wanting to abscond with the entire set, including the cutest little almost-two-year-old this side of ours truly.

Eric's blog, thinair, discusses lots of geekage I will never even pretend to understand. As a programmer, he writes about something called a lisp, and it has nothing to do with speech impediments. The end. Game over. Remedial math for me.

But his dedication to ideas outside the inner workings of a computer has me so inspired that I often find myself nodding my head in agreement and wanting on the bandwagon.

As I was a little embroiled (like being a little pregnant?) in debate today over the role of parents in their children's education, 'thinair' pops up on my RSS reader.

Now Eric, who's aforementioned almost-two-year-old will attend a neighborhood school that's been abandoned by most of its affluent neighbors, is taking the bull by the horns and diving in to make education better for all students before his son ever steps sneaker inside a classroom.

My debate had to do with the role parents play in their kids' education, and more often than not that it seems it's not the lack of involvement that's the problem, it's the type of involvement.

We all hear-tell of parents who could care less about whether their kids attend school or not, whether they do their homework. We know there are parents who don't read to or even talk to their kids. We know logically that when they get to school, these kids are going to have problems.

But it seems as if even more of a problem to the educating sect are the parents whose little angels can do no wrong. The parents who fight legal battles to make sure their kids get every break unbecoming to them, and that's tying their hands as educators as much as kids whose parents are non-existent.

His debate concerns a recent development at his school in which the school board implemented fingerprinting to better keep track of student lunch accounts after a number ID system failed when the younger students couldn't remember the six digits assigned to them. And his little school isn't alone in this growing trend towards modernization. Programs like it are being adopted around the country and around the world.

This is the part where I almost spit coffee all over the keyboard ...

Aside from the obvious worries about privacy, here's the rub: The school district didn't tell parents. In fact they told parents they could opt out of the program two days after the kids had already been digitally printed.

See folks, your fingerprints are forever and it would seem digital files can be, too.

These parents can't be terribly assured that the records will be completely destroyed. And say 20 years from now when police are investigating a crime, they can go to the schools and demand such records. Currently fingerprints are only available on folks who have previously been arrested, and controversially, people accepting public assistance. If this printing of school children becomes commonplace, schools will be vast data pools for police.

So here's where the two debates collide. You have parents who aren't involved in school at all, parents who are involved in the wrong way and schools that are making decisions that will affect everyone, forever, without parental involvement or without parents who fully understand the consequences. And in doing so, society changes in places we cannot predict.

I'm not sure where this is going, but I'm afraid it won't end well if folks who can and do advocate for their own don't step in and advocate for the ones whose parents can't or don't.

And hey, School District: Why can't you cross reference the kids' names against the number you've assigned them? Oddly enough, I bet most kids will know their names. Computers have the power to do that, no?

Nevermind, School District, I'll ask Eric. He'll know.


UPDATE: For those who, like me, were waiting with bated breath for the next installment of thinair.


Anonymous said...

RFID chips aren't that far off. Bank on it.

Melissa said...

Fingerprinting?! At my daughter's school, the kids only have to remember what their name is. As far as I know, there are no account "numbers" just account "names." The fingerprinting seems a bit much, especially when you're not informed beforehand.

Andrea said...

I had a hard enough time remembering my 6 digit student id number in college, for crying out loud. This scares me. On so many levels. Next, someone will offer me the blue pill or the red pill and I'll be deciding if I want to see how deep the rabbit hole of government surveillance goes.

Gail said...

The school I attended didn't provide lunch, we had to bring our own. If I were a parent, I'd rather send a lunch with my kid than unknowingly (or, knowingly!) participate in a fingerprint ID system.

It's bad enough at the airports, this is out of hand. (Sorry about the pun, there.)

wordgirl said...

Yes, yes...that's a very lovely baby, but SWEET LORD...the father is pretty enough to cause an irregular heartbeat. I'm just saying.