Measured Against Reality

Friday, January 11, 2008

Distressing News from my Hometown

Via Ed Brayton comes this stunning piece of news, School district plans chip to track students:

A tech company with ties to a school district plans to test a tracking system by putting computer chips on grade-schoolers' backpacks, an experiment the ACLU ripped Monday as invasive and unnecessary.

The pilot program set to start next week in the Middletown school district would have about 80 children put tags containing radio frequency identification chips, or RFID chips, on their schoolbags. It would also equip two buses with global positioning systems, or GPS devices.

The school and parents will be able to track students on the bus, and the district hopes the program will improve busing efficiency, Superintendent Rosemarie Kraeger said. The devices are intended to record only when students enter and exit the bus, and the GPS would show where the bus was on it's route.

On the plus side, parents can opt out (but I think these things should usually be opt-in).

I have a feeling that this kind of thing will become more and more common (sort of like that South Park Episode where the parents all freak out over child abduction and place trackers on everyone). It's a beautiful combination of technology, insane and inane parental and administrator fear, and a hyperbolic media.

But what really struck me is that this is happening in Middletown RI. I went to one of the schools where this is likely taking place (the article didn't mention specific schools, but I went to elementary school there for a year, before moving one town over to Portsmouth). One reason I can safely call this insane is that Aquidneck Island is incredibly safe, I haven't heard of a single case of a missing child the entire time I've been there. In fact, car accidents are the cause of nearly every childhood death I've ever heard of in the area. Granted, I could be missing something, but the point remains that this is very, very far from a high-crime or high-danger area.

Beyond all that, one must ask, "Is this a necessary use, or even a good use, of taxpayer money?" I think there's no rational argument for answering "Yes". We've survived just fine for a long time without needing to Lo-Jack our children, and exercising a modicum of parental responsibility would likely be far more effective anyway.

But we're not rational creatures (not fully, anyway), and fear of disasters, no matter how unlikely, will usually trump sound judgment in the long run. It's hard to take a good look at the current state of our country, with all of its hyper-inflated fears, and come to a different conclusion. Maybe GPS-tracked children is our future, but I certainly hope not.


  • I am all for it. Just so damn tired of looking for his backpack.

    By Anonymous trailrider, at 8:19 AM, January 11, 2008  

  • This will not only make it easier to find childeren but also to determine if they are alone.

    Can't see how that will go wrong.

    By Anonymous PrimevilKneivel, at 8:06 AM, January 15, 2008  

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