On Tuesday night, Fox News host Tucker Carlson went on an unhinged rant in which he argued that body cameras should be strapped to every teacher in the country to prevent classroom discussions on historical racism. But despite Carlson's frantic pleas, the idea of constant school surveillance is not as far-fetched as many would hope.
While the practice is not widespread, several schools in the UK have already introduced teacher body cameras, albeit for very different reasons than Carlson proposed. And the evidence suggests there are very few kinds of surveillance schools won’t embrace.
Even before the pandemic, companies were pushing a wide array of cameras and spy tech into schools. Over the last year, the switch to remote learning, and the subsequent concerns about how to reopen schools safely, led to an explosion of sales pitches for other tools previously reserved for cops. Following Carlson’s segment, other conservative commentators jumped on the body camera idea, making unsubstantiated claims about an “epidemic” of sexual abuse by teachers and even suggesting that any teacher that doesn’t want to be filmed—or to film their students—may be a sexual predator.
Surveillance companies have been using similar fear-mongering tactics for years, claiming that their expensive technology will prevent bullying, sexual harassment, and school shootings. There is little to no evidence to back up those claims, but schools have nonetheless purchased the products anyway—more recently with the promise of COVID relief money to balance budgets.
Many teachers have already been on camera while doing their jobs for the last year, due to the widespread use of video conferencing software during the pandemic. Some have also embraced the use of invasive and discriminatory test-proctoring software to police their students.
Carlson’s ravings about body cameras protecting students from critical race theory drew new attention to the prospect of constant teacher monitoring, but the truth is that companies and schools have been actively searching for high-tech ways to do that for years.
However it manifests, advanced surveillance tech is already a part of many school systems, and hysterical fears over critical race theory will only serve to drive up the demand further.