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As I approached The Aegis building Monday morning, I had a sinking feeling I’d forgotten something — my swipe card that gives me access to the newsroom area, the kitchen, the bathrooms, the back door. We don’t need a card to get in by the public entrance in the front, but you can’t leave the lobby area to get to the rest of the building without it.

I tend to forget my card every two or three weeks. When that happens, it’s a simple matter of asking my colleague Joe White to program a temporary into the computer. But, can you imagine giving these cards to 1,000 to 1,500 teenagers and expecting them to remember to bring them to school each day? That’s what the Harford County public school system is on the verge of doing. Last week, the school board agreed to a pilot program at two high schools to install something called SWIPE K12, a computerized student attendance recording system based on the swipe card principle.

Our story about this plan generated quite a bit of chatter on our Web site, www.exploreharford.com, with several writers feeling SWIPE K12 represents a terrible infringement of people’s rights, Big Brotherism at its finest, thank you very much George Orwell. One of my fellow editors hypothesized the system will be a logistical nightmare, kids losing their cards, teachers forgetting to input the necessary information into the system, computer crashes — everything we imagine with computers. Another editor thinks the system will be a huge waste of money, money better spent on textbooks or some other cost related to actually teaching kids something useful. Our education reporter, Rachel Konopacki, said the first thing that came to her mind when she heard about SWIPE K12 was how somebody could get around the system, so maybe there is an educational aspect to it, after all.

My own view is somewhat ambivalent. If you had to swipe your card to enter and exit every classroom, the locker rooms, rest rooms and cafeteria, as well as entering and exiting the building, a system like this would certainly give the people running the school a powerful tool in determining where everyone is at a particular time and who’s not where they should be. Of course, that would still mean a lot of checking and rechecking, which I suspect would necessitate more people doing something besides teaching. Still, I don’t put much stock in the Big Brother argument, simply because this is school, a place where you don’t really attend voluntarily and where keeping an eye on the students is an integral part of keeping order.

There was another piece of news out of the school system last week that caught my eye, a proposed new grading policy that would remove a student’s behavior as a component of his or her course grades. Actually, I thought they got rid of that eons ago when social promotions came in and, boy, wouldn’t it have been great to have a grading policy minus deportment back in my school days?

When you think about it, SWIPE K12 and the new grading policy seem to be moving Harford County’s public schools in the direction of education utopia, though I suspect some of the realists and purists would find these changes setting a direct course to pedagogical hell.


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Three hundred members of the Maryland Department of Juvenile Services staff are receiving training on adolescent brain science, the psychology of trauma and cognitive behavioral therapy.
This week in the Orioles’ farm system saw Gunnar Henderson become baseball’s top prospect, an offensive onslaught in Bowie and an impressive organizational debut from one of the pitchers acquired for All-Star closer Jorge López.
A new plan to prevent damage in Baltimore from storms like Sandy in 2012 and Isabel doesn’t include sea walls of storm surge barriers, except for the city’s tunnels, and instead recommends property owners flood-proof their homes and businesses near the Patapsco River.
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Patricia Owens, a retired Red Cross public relations director who was a potter and accomplished gardener, has died. She was 93 and formerly lived on Guilford Avenue in Charles Village.
Glenelg senior kicker/punter Michael J Fernandes has grown immensely since first beginning football his freshman year and spoke with the Howard County Times about his development entering his final varsity season.
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