Schools under Surveillance: Cultures of Control in Public Education

Schools under Surveillance: Cultures of Control in Public Education

Schools under Surveillance: Cultures of Control in Public Education

Schools under Surveillance: Cultures of Control in Public Education

Synopsis

Schools under Surveillance gathers together some of the very best researchers studying surveillance and discipline in contemporary public schools. Surveillance is not simply about monitoring or tracking individuals and their data- it is about the structuring of power relations through human, technical, or hybrid control mechanisms. Essays cover a broad range of topics including police and military recruiters on campus, testing and accountability regimes such as No Child Left Behind, and efforts by students and teachers to circumvent the most egregious forms of surveillance in public education. Each contributor is committed to the continued critique of the disparity and inequality in the use of surveillance to target and sort students along lines of race, class, and gender.

Excerpt

The imperative to protect children is seldom questioned. It would seem degenerate to do so. But one must wonder what it means when armed police officers roam school hallways, when students line up for more than an hour before class just to get past security screening checkpoints, when fingerprinting is required for students to enter schools or use school cafeterias, or when schools look more like prisons, with barbed-wire perimeters, video surveillance, and police cars parked on campus. Sometimes public schools are even located in former prisons.

Public education is one important domain where the perceived need for greater security has given rise to new formations in school discipline, primarily for students but increasingly for teachers and administrators too. Some of the well-known mechanisms of student and teacher discipline include high-stakes standardized testing, zero-tolerance policies for violence, rigid schedules, and architectures of visibility and containment. Less obvious is the host of new institutional arrangements and technologies that augment these existing disciplinary mechanisms: on-site police officers who routinize experiences of crime control and effectively interlink public education and criminal justice systems; advanced surveillance technologies that are used to subject students to constant monitoring and to demand that they engage in ritual performances—such as submitting to metal detectors—to demonstrate their innocence; and new bureaucratic developments in so-called decisionsupport systems and performance audits, by which students and teachers are evaluated from afar and micro-managed or disciplined accordingly.

Most school surveillance today is of the kind just described, though it must not be forgotten that face-to-face human surveillance in schools is far from extinct. Examples of such surveillance include simple observation, watching, listening, and following; the use of human spies, undercover operatives, and informers; and mandatory drug tests and searches. Some peer-to-peer surveillance occurs when students use cell phones or social networking Web sites to find out about each other’s activities, allowing for social bonding but sometimes creating distrust and violence among students. The most intensive . . .

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