The classroom as we know it, invented by the Prussians a hundred and fifty years ago, and adopted across Europe and America as Germany rose to world power status, features a teacher sitting before a chalkboard while the pupils sit and face the teacher. As the center of attention – and the master of the environment – the teacher has absolute power, controlling, containing and managing the behavior of the students under supervision.
The power relations of education have reversed. The student can instantly summon parents – or any professional – to support any efforts to resist the teacher’s negativity. Teachers can’t throw their weight around anymore, because students can now hold those power games in check with powers of their own. The new power relations of the classroom already extend throughout the entire world. Now that perhaps a billion and a half people carry networked video cameras in their pockets, the opportunities for a sudden turning of the tables have multiplied furiously. This fundamental reconfiguration of power relations has been even less remarked upon than the sudden upswing in human connectivity. This redistribution of power comes as the inevitable consequence of our sudden omnipresence.