Laying Down House Rules for Home Learning–Productive or Invasive?
For the past six months, our work, school, and home lives have lost any semblance of separation. The kitchen island likely triples as your office, your daughter’s school desk, and your family’s dinner table.
While we don’t know how long this way of living will last, we’re certain that it’s here to stay for a while—which means it’s time for a new set of ground rules. Or at least some online educators think so.
Recently, there has been an onslaught of YouTube videos created to educate children about proper home learning etiquette. Don’t sit on the floor, sit at the table, they say. Don’t eat or drink during lessons. These videos provide guardrails to help families comply with the chaos of living and working from home. And they normalize a new world with digital tools at its center.
But hidden behind the bright colors and catchy music is a dictation of what you should and shouldn’t be doing in the privacy of your own home.
This concept doesn’t sit well with NYT’s Carina Chocano, who draws disturbingly accurate parallels between these YouTube videos and Foucauldian theory in her recent article, Distance Learning, With Shades of Big Brother. According to Chocano, “Private, unregulated space has now been breached and is in the process of being transformed into a space of surveillance and control—a kind of digital panopticon.” TLDR; your personal space is no longer your own.
Given Foucault’s interest in the power dynamics between social life and societal institutions, bringing his theories into the equation stimulates some much needed thinking around who is really in control in our current situation.
When your children are on school property, they’re subject to the rules that govern it. But the question now lies in how those same rules translate when class takes place under your roof. This invasion of personal space Chocano alludes to comes under the guise of keeping things as close to normal as possible. But nothing feels normal right now. So where do we draw the line between maximizing at-home productivity and maintaining in-home privacy?
It all comes down to acknowledging that digital is a double-edged sword. On one hand, digital is an incredibly helpful medium for learning and communication. But it can also exert far too much authority over our daily lives. While we need structure and order to make this work, we shouldn’t have to give up control of our homes and behaviors to give our kids an effective education.
So sit on the floor while you’re learning, and have a snack while you’re at it—but only if you want to.