Sep 21, 2019
ELW

Talking Points Against the SAFE HOME Proposal of High Tech Red Flagging 

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A new agency called the Health Advanced Research Projects Agency (HARPA), under the umbrella of the Department of Health and Human Services is being discussed at the White House to promote research on complex health problems including gun violence and mass shootings. According to the Washington Post[1] , HARPA would include a $40-60 million project called “SAFE HOME” — “Stopping Aberrant Fatal Events by Helping Overcome Mental Extremes.” This would use data from Apple Watches, Fitbits, Amazon Echo and Google Home and data collected by health-care providers like fMRIs, tractography and image analysis to identify “neurobehavioral signs” of “someone headed toward a violent explosive act.” The article noted the president’s interest in HARPA overall, but was not sure that he was briefed on the SAFE HOME aspect. HARPA would require congressional approval.

While grateful for the president’s desire to work on the issue of mass shootings, these SAFE HOME types of efforts have been historically ineffective[2]and would pose grave dangers to constitutional rights and privacy:

  • There are no known standardized neurobehavioral signs of violence specifically or of mental illness in general. Artificial intelligence is only as good as the algorithms it uses.
  • A 2016 study from the American Psychiatric Association[3] showing that “mass shootings by people with serious mental illness represent less than 1% of all yearly gun-related homicides” and “the overall contribution of people with serious mental illness to violent crimes is only about 3%.”
  • Despite thousands of studies there is no evidence regarding genetic and neurological chemical imbalances for mental illness.[4]
  • This research will do nothing to examine the known connection between psychiatric drugs and violence.[5]
  • Mental-health diagnostic criteria are readily admitted by experts[6]to be subjective and difficult to use, especially in children and teens, who are all undergoing rapid developmental changes.
  • Psychiatric experts trained for years readily admit that their efforts to predict which patients will become violent are only slightly better than chance, saying things like “But unfortunately, it’s impossible for any of us to predict who is going to go from being troubled and isolated to actually harming others”[7]
  • Mental screening is notoriously inaccurate, with one commonly used instrument having an 85% false-positive rate.[8]
  • Even though this is discussed as a research project currently, give both the federal government’s and Google’s extremely poor record on data privacy, this subjective data, used the wrong way, could have life-altering consequences for people throughout their lives not only affecting 2nd Amendment rights, but 1st Amendment rights, freedom of conscience, higher education and employment.
  • There is also the known anti-gun and general anti-conservative bias of Google and of many thought leaders within the psychiatric profession.[9]

UPDATE – White House domestic policy sources have stated that HARPA is not going to happen, but this research project must be opposed and never funded:

A PDF version of this document is available at Talking Points Against the SAFE HOME Proposal of High Tech Red Flagging.

[1]https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2019/08/22/white-house-considers-new-project-seeking-links-between-mental-health-violent-behavior/

[2]These failures include the National Institutes of Mental Health in the 1990s (https://tinyurl.com/y54d4cn8), France in 2007 (http://www.edwatch.org/updates07/110707-Frenchw.htm), the University of Minnesota (http://www.edwatch.org/updates06/081406-mhr.htm) and now in Texas (https://thenationalpulse.com/commentary/parents-beware-mental-screening-students-ramps-up-texas/)

[3]https://psychiatryonline.org/doi/pdf/10.5555/appi.books.9781615371099

[4]Faraone et al. (2008). The New Neuropsychiatric Genetics. American Journal of Medical Genetics Part B (Neuropsychiatric Genetics) 147B, 1–2 and Lacasse, J. & Leo, J. (2005) PLoS Medicine

[5]https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0015337

[6]http://edlibertywatch.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/11/SEL-Child-Mental-Health-Quotes-and-References3.pdf

[7]https://www.latimes.com/science/sciencenow/la-sci-sn-florida-shooter-psychology-20180226-htmlstory.html

[8]The Columbia Suicide Screen has a false-positive rate of 84 percent. (https://www.jaacap.org/article/S0890- 8567(09)61129-1/fulltext) This percentage is obtained by subtracting the low positive predictive values, which mean that a person actually has the condition being tested or screened, from 100 percent.

[9]https://townhall.com/columnists/michellemalkin/2019/09/04/stop-mental-health-data-mining-of-our-kids-n2552567

Jul 24, 2019
ELW

The National Pulse: How States Can Fix Math Education Post-Common Core

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Here are some recommendations from Dr. Effrem’s latest post at The National Pulse about how states can fix math education after the Common Core debacle based on the National Expert recommendations that were developed by Dr. Ted Rebarber, Ze’ev Wurman, J.R. Wilson and based on the writings of Dr. James Milgram:

1) Math standards should promote the actual performance of math problems in a much higher percentage than understanding, thinking about, or communicating about mathematical concepts, especially in the earlier grades.

2) Ensure that new standards provide a reasonable progression of skill and knowledge attainment to the completion of a full Algebra 1 course by the end of 8th grade, as is done in other high-performing countries. This should be universally available to allow all students to pursue a STEM degree who want to, but not universally required for those that do not want this college focus.

3) To be of high quality, math standards must include necessary math content standards that Common Core fails to include.

4) There should be no requirement for specific instructional strategies, especially for some of the experimental ones used in geometry, with the exception of the standard algorithms for the basic operations in the early grades, which are generally the most efficient and universally practiced.

5) As discussed in our Pioneer Institute White paper and in the FSCCC recommendations, there is little to no research basis for social emotional learning parameters like “grit” and a “growth mindset,” and these should not be included in new math standards.

Read the whole article here. Listen to the excellent podcast by Dr. Lawrence Gray, professor emeritus of the University of Minnesota, who helped develop Minnesota’s excellent math standards and saved that state’s students from suffering under Common Core math here.

Jul 11, 2019
ELW

The National Pulse: 2020 Democrats Outline Big-Government Education Plans at NEA Forum

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Dr. Effrem recently described the education platforms of the 2020 Democratic presidential candidates as discussed at the July 5th education forum of the National Education Association. Here is the list of topics discussed:

Eliminating High-Stakes Testing

Slowing or Stopping Charter School Growth

Expanding the Federal Role in Education

Universal Government Preschool

Social Emotional Learning and Mental Health

Increasing Government Control Beyond Education

Details of the way the candidates would handle these issues is available in the full article.

Jul 3, 2019
ELW

The Federalist: Meet ‘Social-Emotional Learning’: New Education Fad, Same As The Old Fads

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The Federalist recently published an op-ed about social emotional learning by Dr. Effrem and Harvard trained attorney and researcher Jane Robbins. Here is an excerpt:

In a nutshell, it’s the latest fad to send the same old message pushed by progressives for more than a century that education should focus less on knowledge of academic content and more on student attitudes, mindsets, values, and behaviors. Does Emily demonstrate sufficient leadership? Does John show the right amount of empathy? SEL cheerleaders also seem hopelessly mired between the competing goals of promoting government-determined, standardized attitudes and assessments, and assuring everyone that they care about children as individuals.

The federal government is pushing SEL on state and local education systems through prescriptive school accountability requirements, grants, and other programs—more than 100 federal programs in seven federal departments and a myriad of agencies, helpfully listed by proponents, even as they say SEL should be a state and local endeavor.

As admitted by the U.S. Department of Education and national special-interest groups, SEL is an integral part of the Common Core State Standards and Competency-Based Education (CBE) movements. CBE digitally documents attainment of SEL and other skills to declare a student ready to move on in his or her “personal learning path,” and supplies data for corporations wanting employees with attitudes fitting their plans. Both these movements are failing academically, and SEL further dilutes the already sub-standard academic education of both.

Please read the full article here.

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