Wednesday, March 9, 2005
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Clayton News Daily
This week in the national news there was an incident at a New Jersey high school where a teacher was caught on video yelling excessively at his students to stand up during the National Anthem. The footage was recorded secretly on a student's mobile phone. The teacher was basically arguing with one student who refused to stand. Captured by a device that fits in the palm of a hand, this footage has now been beamed out from the small classroom across the nation to millions of slight-minded television viewers.
In the video the teacher certainly does appear quite feral, but I don't blame him. People are quick to pass judgment on sensational videos such as this. Before you react to the footage, consider what went un-filmed in the minutes, or days or weeks before this particular incident. If this classroom had been filmed non-stop everyday, I'm sure we would witness kids being undisciplined brats more so than we would see a teacher with a hot temper. And is it any wonder if teachers do have a short fuse these days as deadbeat parents treat public schools like a daycare center; teachers as baby-sitters.
Teachers are there to teach, not constantly discipline your child. Sure kids are preprogrammed to act up and misbehave, but if parents do their jobs (i.e. raising a kid with some sense), then teachers can do their job.
Viewers should also be aware of the subjective nature of video. What we witness of this footage is at the pleasure of the student with the camera-phone. It would not serve his purposes to record the antagonistic behavior of his classmates. In photography, the vantage point and exact moment one chooses to click the shutter have everything to do with how people will react to the finished product. You can make a subject out to be a hero or vilify them in the space of a few seconds; depending on their facial expressions.
I don't believe the cell phone camera itself is the problem though. It's how it is used. As cell phone use grows and grows, we can't limit its technological advances or ban people from bringing them to school. I say bring on more video in the classroom. I'm a fan of video surveillance and if a camera had been mounted on the wall in this classroom we could rewind the footage and replay the whole story.
Video surveillance should be used like a blackbox in an airplane. It would not be for the pleasure of administrators to look in on employees . People still have to trust one another to be decent and do the jobs they were hired to do. But if a question should arise about any dirty pool, then the camera could be reviewed for the play by play.
Zach Porter is a photographer for the News Daily. He can be reached at (770) 478-5753 or firstname.lastname@example.org