Along with phrases appropriated directly from the so-called alt-right, a small group of neotraditionalist educators have invented the concept of ‘school shaming’ to make their reactionary politics seem, well, less reactionary. Criticize a school for how it treats students, and you’re ‘school shaming’. Talk about structural racism and curriculum, and you’re playing ‘identity politics’. Oppose calls to shore up the authority of teachers in the face of supposedly out-of-control youth, and you’re ‘virtue-signalling’.
‘Slut shaming’ is an attack on women and their identity in a patriarchal society; it’s part of a power dynamics meant to keep women in their place. By extension, we might imagine that the phrase ‘school shaming’ similarly works to expose a harmful power dynamic where schools who publicly advocate for ‘zero tolerance’ policies towards students are somehow oppressed by people who criticize those policies on social media. However, the concept of ‘school shaming’ gets the power dynamics exactly backwards: schools that shame students through authoritarian discipline policies should be open to criticism. Ironically, those who use the phrase ‘school shaming’ are looking for a nuanced and sympathetic treatment of ‘zero tolerance’ schools that the students who attend those schools are denied. Unlike the empty concept of ‘school shaming’ which seems to have been invented by Andrew Smith (@oldandrewuk), ‘student shaming’ functions as a critical concept to name what has long been called ‘deficit thinking’ about students. When a school looks for teachers who “know how to act appalled over the little stuff”, that’s in effect asking for teachers who know how to shame students.