When Your Son Invents A Panopticon

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.

  1. It makes chil­dren think it is just fine for some­one to mon­i­tor their every action.
  2. It makes chil­dren think it is just fine for their every action to be assigned a pos­i­tive or neg­a­tive value.
  3. 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.
  4. It encour­ages con­fir­ma­tion bias.
  5. 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.