Apr 15, 2016
ELW

Robert Holland Describes Federal Psych Profiling in Town Hall Column

Robert Holland interviewed Dr. Karen Effrem about the growing dangers of federal psychological profiling in multiple federal education programs in an excellent article entitled  Do Parents Want Their Children on Uncle Shrink’s Couch?. He discussed how the US Department of Education is psychologically profiling our children in preschool programs like Race to the Top, Head Start, and now ESSA; via the reauthorization of the federal education research bill, SETRA (Strengthening Education Through Research Act – S 227), and planning to test subjective, non-academic, psychosocial “mindsets” via the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP). The government’s term for all of this is social emotional learning (SEL).  We have frequently discussed this topic in relation to child mental screening, Common Core, and preschool. Here are some excerpts:

One of the most influential ways the federal government is molding young minds is through “social and emotional learning” (SEL) programs, a prominent feature of the omnibus Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), which was signed into law by President Barack Obama in December 2015.

SEL has no clear definition in federal law, but many education sites tout SEL as instilling in students the necessary attitudes and skills that will supposedly enable them to manage their emotions, which in turn theoretically helps them do good things, such as showing empathy for others.

Very much in the same vein is the Strengthening Research Through Education Act (SETRA), which is currently being considered by Congress and will likely be passed soon. SETRA is a reauthorization of a George W. Bush-era law that extended the U.S. Education Department’s research arm into the collection of personal data about students and also authorized the use of linked state longitudinal databases.

Proceeding so far with minimal debate in Washington, DC, SETRA would expand federal education research to pupils’ “social and emotional learning, and the acquisition of competencies and skills, including the ability to think critically, solve complex problems, evaluate evidence, and communicate effectively.”

This kind of subjective probing of children’s attitudes, beliefs, and behavior amounts to psychological profiling that (thanks to electronic dossiers) could haunt an individual throughout a lifetime.

Dr. Karen Effrem, a pediatrician who has tracked this trend for years as the president of Education Liberty Watch, laments, “Parents are expected to submit their children to this kind of government profiling and psychological experimentation with no explanation, no way to express concern, [and no way to] opt their children out.”

Effrem also says SETRA is incredibly problematic because parents are afforded “no way to see the federally mandated assessments or to find out what private, sensitive psychological data was collected on their children as part of some online assessment and shared with some third-party vendor without their consent.”

Starting with the 2016–17 school year, the exploration of what education theorists call “the affective domain”—meaning feelings and emotions, as opposed to actual thought—will spread to the fairly well-respected National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), also called the Nation’s Report Card. A background survey accompanying NAEP will attempt to assess a child’s grit and motivation, among other qualities.

Holland goes on to describe the preschool programs and the family engagement rule draft that are both very heavy on SEL and what the effects would be:

In plain language, this means the government will assess children every single step (or crawl) of the way, from cradle to career, to be certain they acquire all the attitudes, beliefs, and dispositions the omniscient, omnipotent government deems they must have. SEL, baby, SEL.

The plan to assess children and have this life long dossier determine their futures has been the plan for a very long time – at least as far back as Mark Tucker’s infamous 1992 “Dear Hillary” letter:

His vision is “…to remold the entire American system” into “a seamless web that literally extends from cradle to grave and is the same system for everyone” that is coordinated by “a system of labor market boards at the local, state and federal levels” where curriculum and “job matching” will be handled by counselors “accessing the integrated computer-based program.”

It has continued through the tenure of Arne Duncan’s tenure as Secretary of Education:

 We must as parents stand together to protect the lives, privacy and futures of our children.

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