As you know, the Mississippi State Legislature has been in session since the beginning of the month.The state is in the best financial position compared to the past few years, and you’d think the senators and congressmen would give it their all A surplus of $3.9 billion.
In true politician fashion, the introduction of the Vanity Act was a waste of precious time. A bill with little practical use. A bill that does more harm than good. What really caught my attention was House Bill 278. HB-278 proposes installing cameras and monitoring equipment in Mississippi classrooms. Perhaps, for security purposes, the law might be justified. Classrooms are becoming more and more dangerous for various reasons (guns).Rather, the grounds listed in the bill are district-specific “Supervising classroom instruction, supervising classroom interactions, and teacher observation“ A red flag was raised.
My question is why. Why do you need to record class lectures and possibly review them? Why do classrooms need 24-hour real-time observation? It sounds like a nightmare for teachers, students and school districts. Monitoring would give students a high level of awareness of what they are saying, which is not ideal for a learning environment. Not because high school kids are making dangerous statements, but because they’re self-aware kids who don’t want to embarrass themselves. If anything, this silences an environment that is supposed to be empowering. It’s worth noting that wording in the bill makes it difficult for people to access the footage. Having said that, the physical presence of surveillance cameras will undoubtedly change classroom behavior.
For teachers, I would worry about saying the wrong thing and possibly facing punishment. Even though the Act does not list impacts, It does suggest that, where appropriate, disobedience will be viewed and dealt with at the district level. Then, each region must define disobedience because the bill doesn’t. Such varying and vague definitions can overwhelm a teacher’s individuality and make classrooms feel less like think tanks and more like prison cells.
For regions, I get stressed.According to the Act, regions are Install and maintain surveillance systems with contracting companies, District staff will be responsible for reviewing the footage.
For taxpayers, I get confused. There are a million things bigger than this pseudo-issue: the water crisis, the lack of hospitals, a struggling health care system and education reform, to name a few.
We often compare surveilled education to Russia, China or North Korea. Through our red, white and blue tinted glasses, it is a totalitarian policy that looks alien. Apparently, it’s closer to home than we thought.
The problem is, HB-278 has gotten little traction, nor is it a pressing topic. There’s no denying that it increases security and deters bad behavior. However, it is expensive, impractical and unnecessary. Honestly, I believe it was introduced mainly for images. Image politics may be a defining issue in US policymaking. How much is to address legal issues, how much is to secure re-election and earn Twitter credits?
Justice Ross was the Opinion Editor. He is a sophomore journalism major from Madison, Mississippi.