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Education Reporter

Federal Data Collection System
Threatens Privacy

A Student's Guide to Nosy Questions
A Student's Guide to Nosy Questions
WASHINGTON, DC-Federal bureaucrats are on the prowl. They are collecting personal information on students in the public school system, and even on students who are homeschooled and private-schooled. The blueprint for this action is the 226-page Student Data Handbook for Early Childhood, Elementary, and Secondary Education (NCES 94-303), published by the National Center for Education Statistics.

This Data Handbook states in Chapter One: "Accurate and comprehensive information is needed in order to make appropriate cost-effective and timely decisions about students within both public and private schools. . . . These information needs are being met in an increasing number of instances by automated management information systems that allow data to be analyzed in a variety of ways to address the questions and needs of the decision-makers. . . . "

The goal of these bureaucratic planners is to create a central database where all student information is stored, computerized, and made available for transfer to other schools, colleges, or government agencies. Maureen O'Connell, a leader in the fight against the Massachusetts Educational Assessment Program (MEAP), explains, "Goals 2000 legislation will show that data collection is expected in return for federal money. In accordance with this law, the data will be available to all government departments."

Sam Blumenfeld's October 1995 "Education Letter" explains the kind of data this computerized system will collect: ". . . the most detailed personal information about the individual in all aspects of his life. . . . The system uses a number code for each specific piece of information." For example, codes 001 to 012 refer to the student's name; codes 013 to 036 apply to the student's background, which includes ID number, driver's license number, health record number, a professional certificate or license number, and a school assigned number.

In the Religious Background (030) section, the student has 25 religions from which to choose. The traditional three choices of Protestant, Catholic, and Jewish are no longer sufficient for the intense curiosity of this giant computer. Even homeschoolers (03) and private schoolers (05) have their own designated codes under Category 076. Under the section "Discontinuing Schooling Reason" (112), they list subcategory 19 - Religion: The student quit the school because of religious convictions.

Under the section "Non-Entrance Information" (reasons why the student didn't enter the public school system), subcategories (03) Homeschooling and (05) Religious are listed as two possible reasons. No stone is left unturned! Under the section "Assessment Type" (189), there are 16 assessments for the students to complete. Besides (01) Achievement Test, (02) Advanced Placement Test, and (03) Aptitude Test, (04) Attitudinal Test is included. The Handbook calls this subcategory "an assessment to measure the mental and emotional set or patterns of likes and dislikes or opinions held by a student or a group of students. This is often used in relation to considerations such as controversial issues or personal adjustments." These kinds of questions have nothing to do with academics.

Subcategory (12) Personality Test is described as "an assessment to measure a student's affective or non-intellectual aspects of behavior such as emotional adjustments, interpersonal relations, motivation, interests, and attitudes." Most parents don't believe that these intimate aspects of their children's personalities and attitudes are the business of government bureaucrats.

There is even a section that requires information on the student's teeth! The category Oral Health (under Health Conditions) has questions on (230) Number of Teeth, (231) Number of Permanent Teeth Lost, (232) Number of Teeth Decayed, (237) Number of Teeth Restored, and (235) Gingival (Gum) Condition.

Under category (322) Student Support Service Type, the feds demand to know the "type of related or ancillary services provided to an individual or a group of individuals within the formal educational system or offered by an outside agency which provides non-instructional services to support the general welfare of students. This includes physical and emotional health. . . . " There are 39 subcategories in this section.

It is difficult to imagine a more thorough data collecting system than the one set forth in this Handbook.

What kind of student will such an invasive and thorough "educational" system produce? Blumenfeld predicts that "American children will be serviced to death by their government, which will surround them with teachers and specialists tormenting them in subtle, abusive ways with endless tests, emotional probing, strip searching and required politically correct performances. . . . This is a system designed to turn healthy youngsters who enter it into academically crippled, emotionally damaged adults."

No confidentiality surrounds this highly sensitive information. Despite the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974 (FERPA), the law still allows information in student records to be given without student or parental permission to school employees who need to know, including schools to which a student is transferring, those receiving financial aid, and organizations doing certain studies for the school. In point of fact, all governmental agencies will be privy to all student information.

Critics assert that this entire data-collecting system must be eliminated if America is to remain a free society. The system is a tool of the social behaviorists who seek to change and control human behavior according to their own world view. Schools have no reasonable need for such detailed, privacy-invading information in order to make "effective decisions" for their students. Blumenfeld says, "What it all adds up to is a tool of behavioral control and management of the American population by the controlling elite. The government of a free people does not go about creating the most detailed and thorough personal dossier on each citizen from date of birth to be stored in government computers on the pretext that it is needed to provide that citizen with an education."

Benjamin Bloom, one of the original gurus of Outcome-Based Education, stated in his 1964 book Stability and Change in Human Characteristics, "Efforts to control or change human behavior by therapy, by education, or by other means will be inadequate and poorly understood until we can follow behavior over a longer period."

Released in January 1995, the Student Data Handbook was published under the auspices of the U.S. Department of Education, the Office of Educational Research and Improvement (OERI), and the National Center For Education Statistics (NCES). The Council of Chief State School Officers, under contract to the NCES, coordinated this national effort.

The Acknowledgments state: "The Handbook owes its existence to the members of the National Task Force on Education Data Elements." This 28-person task force is made up of bureaucrats from the U.S. Department of Education, the Bureau of the Census, Council of Great City Schools, and other governmental and non-governmental organizations. Six members are from state departments of education. Funding for the Handbook came from the Hawkins-Stafford Amendments of 1988, from which followed the Standards for Education Data Collection and Reporting. Under this law, President Clinton issued Executive Order #13045 mandating that the Federal Interagency Forum on Child and Family Statistics collect specific personal data.

Reported by Joan F. Langenberg

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