“It is such an honor to be taught by someone who won the Fields Medal in computational agriculture,” commented Ayla.
Photo by Maria Dhilla
In San Diego county, like many other counties all across the nation, schools are faced with a new casualty of the pandemic: teacher shortages. Some have described the scarcity of teachers as being due to “them darn vaccines,” “these gremlin children,” and “underpaid workers being stuck in the exhausting, perpetual cycles of capitalism.”
To meet the rising demand for teachers, some schools have resorted to using scarecrows in place of teachers. When asked for his reasoning, Doug Gardenister, the superintendent for the San Diego County Board of Education and the first to employ this interesting method, said, “Well, I grew up on a farm in Kansas, and the one thing I used to be scared of as a little boy was them dang scarecrows they put up in the field to keep the birds away. I figure it should keep them kids on edge enough to keep quiet and do the work projected on the board for ‘em. We even programmed the scarecrows to whisper ‘I can hear your thoughts,’ at random moments throughout the day, just to keep them kids ill at ease. It’s like I always say, ‘The moment kids start to feel comfortable is the moment they stop learning.’”
A few students from La Jolla High School also shared their comments. Ayla, a senior, said, “I really do not give a flip. Teacher or no teacher, I just have to finish my college apps and pass my classes. What do I care if the thing sitting at the desk is Mrs. Nelson or a scarecrow? Both have a stick up their ass.”
Trevor, an incoming freshman, stated, “I hope I get a human. Also, what really is a scarecrow? A robot? Are our exams going to be replaced with CAPTCHA tests? All of this is very confusing. How are they going to grade our work if they don’t have working arms?”
The parents of students in districts using this new tactic are also of varying opinions. HunterGreene, father of two grade-school girls, said, “Back in my day, teachers used to beat us with rulers when we misbehaved. Now, students just get everlasting emotional trauma and mental scars from robot scarecrows. It’s practically the same.” His wife stood behind him, pacing and mumbling imperceptibly about property taxes and how “no one wants to work anymore.”
After two years of online, hybrid, and in-person learning, most parents thought education would finally return to normal. However, if there’s anything to be learned from the past two years, it might just be that “normal” is a constantly-changing definition. As a La Jolla High School student reflected, “You never know anymore. One day you’re studying in class like a normal student, and the next you’re protecting yourself from robot scarecrows that read your mind. What a world.”