The real threat is to our country is dissolving into distrust
"Do we really need this?"
That's what a mom from Idaho wrote to me, forwarding a note from her local school district about a new security system it's installing: Raptor Technologies' visitor management system.
The note featured a video of how the system (basically a government ID scanner) works. It shows a mom arriving at her kid's school. She enters with a big grin and goes to the office where she exclaims, "Hi, Maureen!" and receives an equally enthusiastic, "Hi, Cindy!"
Cindy tells Maureen she is here to see the college counselor, and Maureen, bubbling with warmth, says, "Great, I'll just need a valid ID to sign you in."
Wait -- why?
Can we press pause to think about what this level of scrutiny does in terms of actual safety? And what it does in terms of changing the way we look at the people we interact with? And what happens when we believe we must start outsourcing our humanity to our tech (and government) overlords?
No. 1: These people know each other, so they already have identified each other. Why trust a machine and not our own familiarity?
No. 2: Clearly, the scanner exists to access the visitor's criminal history. But what if the mom had committed a crime? Is she no longer allowed to visit the school?
No. 3: What info from the mom's past would predict something like her arriving to blow up the building? "It says you were busted for pot in college," or even, "Wow, you committed a bank robbery in 2002!" So? Would those indicate she is now a terrorist? Should she not be allowed in to talk to her child's college counselor? What are the actual odds that a past crime means she can't be trusted in school?
No. 4: And let's be honest. This is probably really about discovering whether someone is on the sexual offense registry. That presumes that merely letting a registered person into the school poses a threat to the kids. But how? Will they assault a child in the halls? That's extremely unlikely. Or will they use this visit to initiate the lengthy process of "grooming" a child to become their friend and, eventually, victim?
It is so disgusting just writing that phrase that we should be mulling what it means when we, through our actions, are asked to think that way. We are tasked with constantly fantasizing about rape and murder. That is not healthy. (And that's without my getting into the whole thing about how the sex offender registry itself is a terrible idea, labeling people who have done their time and are unlikely to reoffend, and how literally -- statistically -- it has not made kids any safer.)
My point is: Now that these new security devices exist, we're supposed to embrace them. As if nothing is lost in terms of community and compassion when we start automatically distrusting both strangers and friends. "Hi, Cindy, you possible school-shooting, child-raping terrorist, good to see you!"
Those are the thoughts I sent to the Idaho mom, who wrote back saying, "Thanks. I couldn't pinpoint why it was bothering me. I suppose I don't enjoy feeling like I'm entering the Pentagon just to have access to my own children."
When we stop giving each other the benefit of the doubt, the real threat is to our country, dissolving into distrust.
Lenore Skenazy is president of Let Grow, founder of Free-Range Kids and author of "Has the World Gone Skenazy?" To learn more about Lenore Skenazy (Lskenazy@yahoo.com) and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.
----Copyright 2020 Creators Syndicate, Inc.