By Danny Zeng
Using RFID technology to track students whereabouts is about the most perverse way to reap the benefits of the RFID technology imaginable, but that is exactly what two schools in San Antonio are currently doing according to the Texas Tribune – and they are thinking about importing that concept into ASID! These schools will have data and knowledge about whom students contact, what they do, whom they hang out with, etc. Sounds like big government yet? The alleged goal is to reduce truancy, but if we are willing to sacrifice privacy rights and common decency of treating school children as human beings, by frankly tagging and tracking them like animals, then what is the point of sending students to school in the first place? Schools will in effect evolve from a center of gravity for civic education, where students have opportunities to gain community service experience, learn social skills, hone on leadership abilities, practice communication and organizational savvy, to a indoctrination factory that campaigns against personal liberty and privacy. Instead of educating students about personal responsibility and care for one’s community, we are introducing students to a new world of technocracy, the worst kind, where we cultivate this notion that every problem can be solved by heartless, brainless, emotionless machinery and gadgetry for cheap.
Currently, the program affects more than 6,700 students. If successful – seems to be framed purely on a cost ground – the program can be potentially expanded to 112 schools with a reach of over 100,000 students across the state. According to the schools, the new “smart” chip intends to increase safety and security, increase attendance, and to provide “multi-purpose” student IDs to students. The schools emphasize the cost-saving potential of the technology and the improvement to safety. I call that unnecessary playing with emotions; parents can be easily demagogued into throwing money and liberty away in the name of safety for their children. These goals simply ignore the real issue: encroachment of privacy rights. I would go as far as to argue that there should be constitutional cause of concerns for these types of programs, namely First and Fourth Amendment violations. If we have a truancy issue, I say we try to resolve that by engaging the parents. If we have a safety issue, I say we encourage more PTA actions, student awareness and collaboration with neighborhood police. If we are bleeding money away as result of truancy, I say we self-reflect and go after the root cause of the problem – how to draw students back to school – and to not ignore the tough issue and make a weak attempt at curing the symptom and not the disease all the while poisoning the civic culture of next generation of leaders for our state and our country.