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I was in the store today with my one year old in the stroller. A stranger stopped, bent down to him and said, “You still use a pacifier, huh?” She then flashed me a condescending smirk and continued on with her shopping. I wanted to yell out, “I’m a great mom!” I wanted to tell her that he is still teething and it helps his gums feel better. I wanted to tell her that I have a perfectly adjusted four year old that voluntarily gave up her pacifier at two. I wanted to hug him and tell him that it’s okay that he still uses a pacifier.

Having a complete stranger judge me and my parenting was infuriating. I wondered what she inferred about him, me, and our family that was untrue. Did she think I just gave it to him to keep him quiet in the store so I could indulge my shopping habit? The reality is that he rarely cries, and I rarely shop. What are her credentials that certify her to pass judgment? Is she even a parent herself? If so, is she good at it? This woman saw a snapshot of our life; a quick image of a baby with a pacifier. From that, she made inferences and deemed me worthy of a patronizing comment. This was rage-inducing, and unfortunately, an occurrence that I need to get used to it if our school district signs on to use inBloom, an organization that collects and shares data about students. It will take snapshots of my children and make inferences about our life and family.

inBloom is exactly like the judgmental stranger at the store. Before inBloom, if I decided to take my child out of school for the day because our family had the opportunity to work for a day at our local farm, my child’s teacher would be thrilled. Knowing my child, she would know how much she loves her garden and all things agricultural. She would know how well my child does when she is physically engaged in an activity. She would know how my child devours knowledge every chance that she gets and she would anticipate a full report to the class from my daughter about everything that she learned and experienced upon her return. She would also know my husband and me, and would be confident that work missed would be made up.  She would know that we would undoubtedly end our day at the farm by reading books about farming, comparing it to our experience,  and writing a thank you note to the farmer.

After inBloom, a data-mining stranger would note an illegal absence from student #8754790. A note would be made. We would be put on a list.

This is unacceptable, but it is becoming a reality in more and more districts. We need to stand up and speak out against data miners judging our children and our choices (yes, even your political preferences can be tracked by inBloom).  The time for seeing how this will all pan out has passed.  Trusting that oraganizations like inBloom have the best interest of our children in mind is foolish. We need to take action now in order to protect our children and their shot at a valuable, meaningful education.

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