Classroom Cameras are a Bad & Lazy Idea

Photo: SPmemory/iStock

In the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, parents were stuck at home in the same room with their children. As kids logged into virtual classrooms, parents overheard some rather disturbing things: children told that their skin color made them great or guilty, that elementary students needed to know how to masturbate properly, and a host of other radical drivel. Not shockingly, parents were upset, and took to social media, school administrations, school boards, and policymakers to rectify the problem. Indeed, many parents have taken their students out of public schools altogether, choosing private or homeschool options for this academic year.

One “solution” suggested by many right-leaning groups, pundits, and some politicians is to place cameras in classrooms—recording each word and movement of teachers throughout the day, given to parents for their private perusal. The idea is simple:
“I as a parent will make sure my teacher knows I am watching their every move to prevent the indoctrination of my child, they will know that I am in charge.”

This is a blisteringly terrible idea in almost every fashion. It fails to prevent indoctrination, it’s an entitled and lazy form of parenting, breaks privacy laws, and harms the education process. 

Placing cameras in classrooms does not prevent children from being “indoctrinated by the left.” The vast majority of studies agree that students obtain their social views from home and social media, not the classroom. Students with internet access via smartphones or tablets have likely seen tens-of-thousands of memes, videos, and infographics arguing for leftist policies—bolstered by the millions of likes and shares from their peers. Sure, you can place a camera to make sure Mrs. Apple isn’t giving your children a lecture on BLM riots, but that won’t stop your children from taking in hundreds of short-form Tik Tok videos, Reels, and Tweets arguing the same point. 

The clear answer is to anchor your child in the home. It’s not the school’s job to supervise your child’s personal life; that role falls to you. Having conversations at home about these issues goes farther than a conversation with the 7th grade English teacher ever could. 

Placing cameras in classrooms breaks privacy laws. There is no feasible way to place a camera in a class setting without capturing the video and audio of minors, both of which are protected by federal law. Furthermore, I just don’t want you to have a video of my kid. Even if one makes the argument that a camera could be placed in a specific location to only capture the teacher, any seasoned educator will inform you that a great teacher moves around the room to provide individualized feedback and instruction. A counter-argument I’ve often heard is that students who are absent often have access to a recording of the lesson. This is for student use, not the parent. Recording for the purpose of evaluating the teacher is completely different than an algebra student watching equation examples from his sick bed. 

Cameras in the classroom are terrible for the education process. It both harms the relationship between the parent and the teacher, and places an extreme amount of stress on the educator (diminishing their effectiveness). Consider this, your boss comes up to you and informs you that they don’t trust you. They don’t have a specific case of you doing anything wrong, but some employees like you have been caught in wrongdoing—so you’re going to be constantly recorded from now on. The resentment you’d feel towards the recorder would be palpable, and your work would likely suffer. 

Parents and teachers need to have a trustworthy relationship so that the teacher can communicate concerns and compliments to the parents as a reinforcement of the home. No individual who is constantly told they are untrustworthy is going to make any effort to maintain a positive relationship, resulting in a very fractured partnership. You might figure that leftist teachers don’t like you anyway, so no big loss? You’d be wrong.

The last survey we have of educators states that only 1 out of 3 educators consider themselves “on the Left”. Threatening conservatives, moderates, libertarians, and independents to scare the left is a flawed strategy. When I was in the classroom, I had weekly conversations with hundreds of parents—taking their concerns into consideration and assuring them that I was carrying out and supporting what they did in the home. I developed some very close relationships with these parents, and provided anything they wanted in return. Mutual respect is earned, not demanded.

Finally, demanding that cameras record every second of class is lazy parenting. There is no effort to determine which teachers are good or bad, no conversations with your kids about what they’re learning, no investment in the system to which your kids are sent. Conversations with teachers, administrations, and students will do far more to prevent leftist indoctrination than any other option. Critical Race Theory and Social-Emotional Learning have been in K12 schools (both public and private) for more than a decade, but we rarely saw parents in an outrage. We can find the answer by pointing to when parents started speaking out en masse about these issues: during the lockdown. 

Many parents who often didn’t look at students’ work, talk about what they’d heard in class, or what they were looking at on social media were now hearing very strange and horrible things in the occasional class. Instead of focusing on the clear gap between many parents and their children, and then making it clear to administrations that CRT, SEL, etc. would not be tolerated, many have decided to ignore the personal lives of their children and go straight for the jugular—recording every class, just in case.

Mandatory recording is a begrudging threat masquerading as accountability. Children deserve personal attention, and in order to facilitate a proper education parents and teachers need to have a trustworthy relationship. Breaking privacy laws, threatening your teachers, and whistling past the graveyard of kids on social media will not repair the dam—it will just move the crack to a different location.

Tony Kinnett
Tony Kinnett is the Co-Founder and Executive Director of Chalkboard Review. He is an award-winning science teacher, and the former science coordinator and head instructional coach for Indianapolis Public Schools, until he was fired for whistleblowing information concerning the school system's use of racist material. In February, he was appointed the director of the education nonprofit Choice Media, now Chalkboard Media.

The views expressed in this article are the opinion of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the Chalkboard Review team.

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