I don’t own an Alexa, but my father does, and my children absolutely love interacting with it whenever we visit. They ask it to tell jokes, read stories, what her favorite candy is, lots of random trivia… that sort of thing. But on this past first Tuesday in May, my daughter wanted to use the Alexa for one of its actual intended uses: to look up information. Shortly after breakfast, in her trusting little voice, she queried, “Alexa, what does Teacher Appreciation Day celebrate?”
A picture of a smiling lady perched on a desk popped up on screen. Then an instant later came the audio explanation. I wasn’t able to make a recording, so this is not a perfect quote, but me remembering as best I can.
Teacher Appreciation Week celebrates our country’s educators. This year, we honor great teachers like Ms. ………..., who was killed while protecting students in her classroom when an active shooter—
At this point I yelped “Nope!” and told my 9 year old — who having grown up outside the gun-crazed United States is unaware of the existence of school shootings, mercifully, I might add — to leave the room right away while my husband scrambled to turn the damn Alexa off as quickly as he could.
I was furious.
Firstly — and you can call me a snowflake if you like — because my daughter had just been exposed with no warning whatsoever to some very scary content delivered in a setting, or from a device, rather, that should be, and that I understood to be, designed as “family-friendly”. I should not have to worry about my elementary schooler finding out that kids like her might die a terrifying, violent death in a classroom, with all the legitimate fear that might spark.
Secondly, I was and am still shocked and offended that the content creators over at Amazon’s Alexa division thought flashing a picture of a woman who was murdered at her place of work and talking about her as an example of a great teacher because of that fact is in any way showing gratitude for American teachers. This woman had her life disrespected in the most forceful, permanent, final way possible. It’s horrifying to me to think that becoming the involuntary victim of someone else’s violent act is a good way for a teacher to gain the public’s appreciation. Teacher’s aren’t bodyguards or soldiers. That’s not their job. That should not be accepted by the public as part of their duties. And the fact that they are sometimes forced to take on that role, whether they want to die for someone else or not, is not something to be celebrated or honored. Far from it. It seems to me that a truer way to show appreciation for teachers would be to do everything possible to prevent them from being placed in that circumstance, to do everything possible to make them feel safe at the schools they teach in, so that they can focus on the job they did sign up for.
So I’d just like to say: Zip it, Alexa. Quit scaring my kid and quit playing into the narrative that a teacher dying for their students is laudable. It’s tragic and horrible. Full stop.