by John E. Bonfadini, Ed.D.,
Professor Emeritus, George Mason University
John E. Bonfadini
Who’s watching over your shoulder? Yesterday it
seemed like everyone was watching my every move. In a world that’s
becoming ever more centered on the use of technology, we have become
oblivious to having our every move recorded by someone’s camera.
Yesterday morning I left the house and headed to the bank. As I pulled
into the drive-in a camera was pointed at my face recording my actions. It
didn’t matter that I’ve banked at this institution for some 30 years
— they still needed my picture. To make matters worse, the new teller
also requested to see my driver’s license. It also has my picture. I
guess she wanted to make sure she was giving the money to the proper
person. The one thing I hate about banks is the high bank-teller turnover.
left the bank and went to mail some E-bay-sales documents. Seems the post
office also needed my picture. I hope it wasn’t to be posted on their
bulletin board, although being one of the top 10 of something does have
some appeal. From the post office I headed to Lowe’s to purchase some
plumbing supplies for the bathroom I’m rebuilding. Being a former shop
teacher is a curse. There’s always another “honey do” job, and you
can’t say, “I don’t know how to do it, call a plumber.” After
purchasing the supplies I headed to the checkout line, and I do mean line.
During the checkout process I noticed all the new small black domes
hanging from the ceiling in front of each line. The ceiling looked like
something from a Star Wars
movie.There were many more
of these black domes monitoring each aisle. Lowe’s certainly wasn’t
going to miss recording any of their customers on film. The cashier even
asked for my phone number, which she promptly recorded on the computer.
When I requested to have the home number of “Mr. Lowe” she seem
confused. I guess asking for personal information is a one-way street. I
didn’t want to ask for her telephone number for fear of being accused of
sexual harassment. Besides, I’m too old to know what to do with it
anyway. I just took my bags and headed for my next stops. Would you
believe that every major store I went to that day also needed to record my
picture? It made me feel like some movie star ... really important.
the way home I had to stop at an intersection, since the light was red.
There, high in the air, was another camera. I got the feeling that local
law enforcement really didn’t believe that I knew red meant to stop, so
they were just providing me a friendly reminder by taking my picture. I
guess I’d also receive some form of picture in the mail if I failed to
stop on red. I also noticed an officer recording a driver he had stopped
on the opposite side of the highway.
When I got home I decided to go fishing. I caught
some really nice fish, which I released, but my friends had to take my
picture before I flipped one “big-un” back into the Chesapeake Bay.
The picture ended up on a Web site, Tidalfish.com, for the whole world to
see “Dr. Bee” and his boat the “Jon Bee.” The Web technology is
wonderful if you’re the type of person who wants the whole world to know
about you. Yes, I have my own Web site at doctorbee.com if you want to
know more about me. That evening I had a cooperative meeting. Northern
Virginia Electric Cooperative also wanted my picture even though there is
already one hanging on the wall along with the other cooperative
directors. Nice to be wanted.
Obviously, there are
at least two sides to every issue. Do you have a different view? This column is meant to
provoke thought, so keep sending comments. Each one is read with the utmost interest. Send
e-mail to: email@example.com, or send written
responses to the editor. Mail will be forwarded to the author.
Society has accepted the broad use of cameras in
monitoring and changing behavior; how about using the camera to monitor
student and teacher behavior in the classroom? I taught in the technology
lab at George Mason University. There was a camera mounted on the wall,
which was connected to the Internet. The world could view my teaching in
real time. I didn’t feel threatened, but often wondered how my students
Having spent some time as a principal, I could
envision the principal’s office of the future. It would look something
like the security station at a major airport with cameras monitoring every
classroom, hall, outside entrance and parking lot. No need for teachers to
send a disruptive student to the office. I could instantly spot classroom
problems and request the disruptive students be immediately sent to the
office. With the hall and outside door cameras I could follow the student
as he made his way to the office. If he attempted to escape I would have
school security on his trail in an instant. No more need to have parents
come to my office, just forward the imagery to their house over the
Internet. No more long discussions debating the guilt or innocence of the
disruptive child: the evidence would be on film.Teachers might have some concern that they too would be watched,
but as noted above, we’re being watched all the time anyway, so “get
used to it baby,” it’s progress. The school superintendent could watch
the principals. Everybody could be watching each other — what a great
I just saw on the TV where we placed another
satellite in orbit designed to take pictures of our neighboring countries.
Don’t be too concerned — only a few other countries have the technical
ability to watch the U.S. You should probably be more concerned that
almost every neighbor has a video camera. Nothing escapes being recorded,
as the 9/11 disaster has illustrated. Last night a family having a
birthday party for grandma filmed me at the local buffet. I even decided
to pose with the group. I wanted them to have a good shot of their new
eating neighbor. During some future viewing of the party, someone will
probably ask, “Who’s that?” No one will know, but they’ll quickly
find out by going to the Internet and having the picture processed by
face-recognition software. The computer will tell them it was John E.
Bonfadini and ask if they would like John’s family history, medical
records, voting record, driving record, favorite music, tax returns, vita,
Society faces some real challenges as we move into an
era in which we relinquish some of our personal freedoms in order to find
and identify the few who seek to do harm to the masses. I don’t have
answers, only concerns ... hope you’re also concerned.
In our January issue we asked our readers to
nominate their best teachers for our teacher honor roll, and the
mail came pouring in! We will publish a few each month until we
have acknowledged all of our fine educators.
Nominator: Barbara Hicks
Teacher’s Name: Sam Wilson, Jr.
School System: Prince Edward County HS
Primary Subject: English
Before Mr. Wilson, I was a
“C” English student and with his guidance I
have become an “A” student. Through his
enthusiasm and love of teaching English, Mr.
Wilson brings new and innovative teaching methods
to the classroom —- allowing his students to not
just learn, but to experience and excel.
Furthermore, he is a friend who reassures his
students daily that writing is a process, and had
I not experienced it, I would not be the person I
Nominator: Betty J. Keys
Teacher’s Name: Frances Helms
School System: Prince William County
Primary Subject: Biology
This lady was a kind,
caring, no-nonsense teacher who was a great
influence on me.
Teacher’s Name: Mary Hartsell
School System: Fauquier County HS
Primary Subject: Choir, Music Appreciation
She taught perfection, and
would accept nothing less. She taught us to try
harder and to strive for perfection.
Nominator: Brian Smith
Teacher’s Name: Mrs. Hill
School System: Chemung Co., NY
Primary Subject: 6th Grade
Mrs. Hill woke me up by
believing in me. She turned around years of poor
performance. I owe where I am now and where I’ve
been to her. God Bless her.