Monday, 18 April 2011

Chris Port Blog #213. The Biometrics of How Schools Work

© Chris Port, 2010

 Marty was curious about all the illegal hidden CCTV cameras and microphones

Government guidelines 'recommend' the introduction of biometric systems in schools. Systems are bought and paid for at substantial expense. After the money has already been spent, it is then 'realized' that consultation should have taken place. Staff are then invited to register any concerns that they may have in writing to the governors via the Headteacher. Assuming that the letters are indeed forwarded on to the governors, you are not entitled to read the minutes of the debate. No response to any of your specific questions is given and the system is immediately introduced. Perhaps we could imagine some truthful responses...

Dear Sirs

Re: Proposed Biometric Hand Scanning of Staff

I would be grateful if the Governors would provide me with clarification and consider my concerns about the proposed biometric system on the following grounds:
  1. Will biometric scanning and registration be voluntary or compulsory? (Voluntary, because we can't legally make it compulsory. Your employers might see your legal rights as being 'unhelpful' though).
  2. If voluntary, will there be any negative consequence if I choose not to participate? (On the record, no of course not. Off the record, we'll get you...).
  3. If compulsory, what legal precedent is being cited to enforce compliance? (None... yet...).
  4. There is a ‘slippery slope’ argument that compulsory biometric scanning and registration is the start of something more sinister (e.g. constant CCTV surveillance of lessons, electronic tagging of staff and students, etc.). Declarations of lack of intent are not the same as safeguards since intentions may change and precedents grease the wheels. If compulsory, and staff refuse to comply on the grounds that compulsory submission to biometric scanning and registration, against their will, erodes both their civil liberties and their professional integrity, what sanctions may be applied? (Don't you trust us? We are deeply... irritated).
  5.  I hope that the governors see a difference between effective monitoring and distrustful surveillance of staff. I think that this measure gets the balance wrong. It further undermines the professionalism, integrity and moral authority of teachers and thus contributes to our problems rather than solving them. (We see no difference).

Thank you for your consideration in this matter.

Yours faithfully

(Sign own death warrant here)

5 comments:

  1. 'Texas School District Reportedly Threatening Students Who Refuse Tracking ID, Can't Vote For Homecoming'
    HuffPost Education, 10/08/2012
    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/10/08/texas-school-district-rep_n_1949415.html

    ReplyDelete
  2. 'Texas schools punish students who refuse to be tracked with microchips'
    RT Question More, 9 October, 2012
    http://rt.com/usa/news/texas-school-id-hernandez-033/

    ReplyDelete
  3. The case for Big Brother...

    'Caught on camera: could CCTV transform your lesson observations?'
    Andrew Jones, The Guardian Teacher Network, 31 August 2013
    http://www.theguardian.com/teacher-network/teacher-blog/2013/aug/31/cctv-transform-lesson-observations

    And the case against...

    The underlying issue is one of trust. So the real question is "Should teachers trust the agenda and methods of management?"

    Here's an analogous case study on biometrics to help you decide:

    The Biometrics of How Schools Work

    Government guidelines 'recommend' the introduction of biometric systems in schools. Systems are bought and paid for at substantial expense. After the money has already been spent, it is then 'realized' that consultation should have taken place. Staff are then invited to register any concerns that they may have in writing to the governors via the Headteacher. Assuming that the letters are indeed forwarded on to the governors, you are not entitled to read the minutes of the debate. No response to any of your specific questions is given and the system is immediately introduced.

    Perhaps we could imagine some truthful responses...

    Dear Sirs

    Re: Proposed Biometric Hand Scanning of Staff

    I would be grateful if the Governors would provide me with clarification and consider my concerns about the proposed biometric system on the following grounds:

    1. Will biometric scanning and registration be voluntary or compulsory?

    (Voluntary, because we can't legally make it compulsory. Your employers might see your legal rights as being 'unhelpful' though).

    2. If voluntary, will there be any negative consequence if I choose not to participate?

    (On the record, no of course not. Off the record, we'll get you...).

    3. If compulsory, what legal precedent is being cited to enforce compliance?

    (None... yet...).

    4. There is a ‘slippery slope’ argument that compulsory biometric scanning and registration is the start of something more sinister (e.g. constant CCTV surveillance of lessons, electronic tagging of staff and students, etc.). Declarations of lack of intent are not the same as safeguards since intentions may change and precedents grease the wheels. If compulsory, and staff refuse to comply on the grounds that compulsory submission to biometric scanning and registration, against their will, erodes both their civil liberties and their professional integrity, what sanctions may be applied?

    (Don't you trust us? We are deeply... irritated).

    5. I hope that the governors see a difference between effective monitoring and distrustful surveillance of staff. I think that this measure gets the balance wrong. It further undermines the professionalism, integrity and moral authority of teachers and thus contributes to our problems rather than solving them.

    (We see no difference).

    Thank you for your consideration in this matter.

    Yours faithfully

    (Sign own death warrant here)

    See also:

    Texas School District Reportedly Threatening Students Who Refuse Tracking ID, Can't Vote For Homecoming
    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/...

    Texas schools punish students who refuse to be tracked with microchips
    http://rt.com/usa/news/texas-school-id-hernandez-033/

    ReplyDelete
  4. JOB OPPORTUNITY FOR STARVING PHILOSOPHERS
    http://www.samharris.org/blog/item/the-moral-landscape-challenge1/

    Sam Harris (world famous neuroscientist philosopher) is offering his critics a chance to put up or shut up. He's offered a cash prize of $20,000 (about £12,800) to anyone who can convincingly refute his central argument for a scientific morality.

    Assuming no-one can refute him, there's a consolation prize of $2,000 (about £1,280) for the most interesting response.

    See FAQs in link for further details. Closing date for entries is 9 February 2014, so you've got time to buy his book and boost his royalties.

    INITIAL THOUGHTS

    Hmmm… Traditionally, science has been regarded as descriptive and morality as prescriptive. But science is also predictive. So, in Sam’s moral landscape, do good* predictions = good** prescriptions?

    * Falsifiable
    ** Beneficial

    Possibly. But if they’re truly equivalent, does it work vice versa? This leads out onto some very thin ice…

    The real question is always “Cui bono” (to whose benefit?). So I suspect that Sam’s thesis could only be refuted by reference to de facto cynicism rather than de jure principle (i.e. selectivity and performativity)

    Postscript

    I don’t actually want to refute Sam’s thesis (fortunately for me). I just want to qualify it (modesty is my only flaw). But, in order to qualify it, I’ll have to fail to refute it in a way that grabs his interest. So, all I’m really looking for is a fascinating aesthetic conundrum at the heart of his argument…

    See also:

    Can Science Answer Moral Questions?
    http://martygull.blogspot.co.uk/2011/05/chris-port-blog-250-can-science-answer.html

    First Draft PhD Proposal
    https://www.facebook.com/notes/chris-port/first-draft-phd-proposal/397025593660968

    Woolwich Threads
    https://www.facebook.com/notes/chris-port/woolwich-threads/620407134656145

    A Crash Course in Aesthetics
    https://www.facebook.com/notes/chris-port/a-crash-course-in-aesthetics/510545425642317

    Metamodernist Case Notes on a Think Tank Thread: Why Us and Why Now?
    https://www.facebook.com/notes/chris-port/metamodernist-case-notes-on-a-think-tank-thread-why-us-and-why-now/478080715555455

    Notes on Metamodernism: The Pit and the Pendulum...
    https://www.facebook.com/notes/chris-port/notes-on-metamodernism-the-pit-and-the-pendulum/431728890190638

    The Name of the Ghost
    https://www.facebook.com/notes/chris-port/the-name-of-the-ghost/431724480191079

    Teachers Talking Rot (1 of 2)
    https://www.facebook.com/notes/chris-port/teachers-talking-rot-1-of-2/606322266064632

    Teachers Talking Rot (2 of 2)
    https://www.facebook.com/notes/chris-port/teachers-talking-rot-2-of-2/606331422730383

    See also: "Perhaps description is the key?"

    Marty Solves One of the Problems of the Universe
    http://martygull.blogspot.co.uk/2011/03/chris-port-blog-114-marty-solves-one-of.html

    ReplyDelete
  5. WG: If morality evolved for the purpose of fostering community, can we deduce anything about what is moral/immoral without committing the naturalistic fallacy? If so, what?

    Naturalistic fallacy
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Naturalistic_fallacy

    CP: Assuming evolution (and discounting intelligent design) we would be committing a teleological fallacy if we claimed that morality evolved for any purpose.

    See Teleological Argument
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Teleological_argument

    It would be less erroneous if we simply claimed that community evolved as a successful survival strategy. From this we can deduce that morality evolved from a natural hierarchical pecking order into etiquette.

    See Etiquette
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Etiquette

    The problem of the 'Naturalistic Fallacy' arises because of a manmade distinction between natural and manmade.

    This distinction seems to be an inverted form of the anthropomorphic/pathetic fallacy.

    See Pathetic Fallacy
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pathetic_fallacy

    Man (i.e. homo sapiens) evolved IN the natural world. However, our intelligence evolved as another successful survival strategy. Eventually, this sapient differential resulted in misrecognition. We began to see ourselves as SEPARATE from the natural world.

    However, this separation is a fallacy. In (physical) reality, sentience is an emergent phenomenon. The artificial is still part of the natural world.

    From our initial premises, we can deduce that morality (i.e. evolved etiquette) can only exist in higher level consciousness. Therefore, we can deduce that morality is a complex emergent property.

    After that, we can only deduce that we are playing Wittgensteinian language games.

    See Language-game (philosophy)
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Language-game_%28philosophy%29

    In 'The Moral Landscape', Sam Harris proposes we should discard cultural relativism and quantify these language games in terms of 'the well-being of conscious creatures'. It's a logical deduction and a valid premise.

    See 'The Moral Landscape'
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Moral_Landscape

    Whether his arguments are sound is still up for grabs though.

    Addendum.

    CP: If morality is ‘the well-being of conscious creatures’, then consciousness must precede well-being.

    This is a one-way logic gate. We can talk of consciousness without well-being, but it makes no sense to talk of well-being without consciousness.

    Ergo, existence must precede essence (sans Sartrean Free Will).

    Ergo, survival must precede morality.

    But survival of what? Individuals, communities, genes, or memes?

    These qualities are entangled and interdependent. But which is most important?

    Ironically, we cannot be equitable from first principle here. Unfortunately, we do not live in a deathless paradise. Therefore, in the physical universe, we can only talk of survival and morality in terms of priorities (e.g. dilemmas or conflicts of interest).

    The scientific method can quantify well-being. But can it qualify existential priorities? If not, then a scientific morality without aesthetic qualification has no system of prioritization.

    Ergo, does ‘scientific morality’ encounter similar inconsistencies to those identified in Gödel's Incompleteness Theorems?

    Raatikainen, Panu, "Gödel's Incompleteness Theorems", The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Winter 2013 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.)
    http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/goedel-incompleteness/

    ReplyDelete