My son asked me to teach him how to code today. Why? Because he wants to hack his MacBook into a robot that will automatically keep a public tally of every person’s good and bad actions. It will plug into a big box that has a list of all the actions a person might do so we can see if a person is good or not.
I generalized the ethics of the requirements he gave me, and I think I talked him out of it.
My son’s school uses an app called ClassDojo to micromanage student behavior. I get multiple updates daily on how my kid is doing. Each student gets points added for good behavioral choices and points removed for poor ones. At first I thought this was cool, but now I think it is terrible.
- It makes children think it is just fine for someone to monitor their every action.
- It makes children think it is just fine for their every action to be assigned a positive or negative value.
- It makes children think it is just fine for others to be able to see a list of the merits and demerits they’ve received.
- It encourages confirmation bias.
- It treats subjectivity as objective data.
I started to micromanage him and ask him about his demerits. I want him to succeed — so I want to help. To error-correct. I’d praise for merits too, but the time spent on praise was not equitable. No one needs to micromanage a second-grader. Elementary school children shouldn’t think that it’s okay for their every error or success to be recorded and distributed. They’re young, but they’re not too young to feel resentment to a system that seems arbitrary and unfair.
And then, decide to retaliate by inventing their own panopticon.