Keeping tabs on our kids

There was a time when, on school athletics days, pupils would have cards pinned to their shirts so teachers could record their performances on them.

So now the question may be asked: is it really so very different for a North Canterbury school to plan to fit students with microchip bracelets that can be scanned to record the buildup of good-behaviour points?

And the question may be answered. Yes. It is different.

The school had earlier been considering issuing the children with electronic cards. To have fitted bracelets instead may very well be more efficient. Perhaps not as efficient as the way dogs are microchipped, under the skin, but that's presumably something to be considered for another day. That's the thing.

This is less the start of a trend than the continuation of one - the electronic monitoring and regulation of our lives to the point where the distinction between human individuality and mere componentry becomes blurred.

This just isn't a notion that can can be assessed in in terms of efficiency alone. Saying so will strike some relaxed types as perilously close blind fear of technology; a distrust of and distaste for the thought of "microchipping" children that harks back, if not to biblical Mark of the Beast or Orwellian Big Brother foreboding, then at least to sheer a sense of disrespect.

As one mother, Emma Goodin, said, she did not want her children treated like grocery items. Indeed, the Maggie Simpson supermarket checkout experience in the opening credits of The Simpsons does leap to mind.

This is not about outdated sensibilities. Much as the school insists that the purpose is solely to ensure good behaviour is rewarded, it is hardly a big conceptual leap to realise that it simultaneously offers the framework for a bad conduct to be similarly monitored. Again, that would be efficient. As would a police and judicial system that operated on the same basis among all the citizenry.

In this matter, Swannoa School is essentially saying: trust us. But this would be the same school that fitted the children for their bracelets without having briefed parents first. So, no, let's not be all that trustful. Maybe try the idea with parents bestowing their electronic feedback on braceleted teachers.

The Southland Times