Apr 23, 2018
ELW

The American Spectator: The Latest Creepy Orwellian Education Tactic

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Jane Robbins, a senior fellow at the American Principles Project, and Dr. Karen Effrem analyzed the latest example of psychological experimentation and manipulation of our students at the American Spectator. Here is an excerpt:

The failure to obtain consent from the research subjects — a tactic that SEL proponents didn’t deem even worth mentioning — illustrates the dangerous road that lies ahead for students from pre-K through college. The SEL pushers seem to simply assume that corporations and their allied government schools have the right to conduct psychological experiments on unsuspecting students.

The point of the Pearson experiment, as well as other SEL schemes, isn’t just to help students do their best — it’s to change their behavior and indeed their personalities in fundamental ways. The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), which wields tremendous influence over education practices globally, plans to use data from its new SEL profile for “personality development.” For instance, OECD identifies extroversion” as one of the “Big Five” personality traits that schools should assess and develop. So now the government has determined that introverted children are defective, and that SEL tactics should be employed to turn them into something they’re not?

As British professor Williamson noted, “’It’s concerning that forms of low-level psychological experimentation to trigger certain behaviors appear to be happening in the ed-tech sector, and students might not know those experiments are taking place.’”

The Pearson report doesn’t see the problem. The report touts “the possibility of leveraging commercial educational software for new research into the emerging science around students’ attitudes, beliefs, and ways of thinking about themselves.” Indeed. And when corporations and the government learn how to influence “attitudes, beliefs, and ways of thinking,” is there any limit to what they can do? Can they counteract the effect of family and faith on political or social issues? Can they mold students to be passive, uncritical receptors of information — information carefully monitored by the same corporations and government?

This is another reason that the federal student privacy law, FERPA, must be overhauled – so that American students are not forced to participate in these kinds of unethical experiments that have life-changing consequences.

Read the full article here. (Photo credit – The American Spectator)

Apr 21, 2018
ELW

Education Liberty Watch Co-leads Over 100 Groups Requesting FERPA Rewrite

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This week Education Liberty Watch, American Principles Project (APP), and Eagle Forum, along with leaders from more than 100 organizations, both nationally and in 31 states, called on Congress to rewrite the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA). In a letter to the House Education and Workforce Committee, these organizations strongly urged Congress to recognize that it is not the role or right of government to probe a child’s most personal and sensitive attributes, as well as to protect the property interest that citizens have in their personal data.

“General education and labor databases should not be collecting and storing sensitive, subjective social, emotional, psychological and behavioral data,” said Dr. Karen Effrem, a pediatrician, President of Education Liberty Watch, an education writer at APP’s news publication,  The National Pulse, and Director of Education for Eagle Forum. “Psychological data related to behavioral, mental health, or special education concerns should be gathered after informed consent and treated with the same care and confidentiality as medical data, with appropriate sharing with law enforcement as needed under current statutes. If this had been done in the Parkland situation, that horrific tragedy could have been avoided.”

“Personal data collection without consent is an affront to freedom,” said Emmett McGroarty, senior fellow at American Principles Project and co-author of the new book, Deconstructing the Administrative State: The Fight for Liberty. “The federal government has no right or authority to vacuum up mountains of personal data on its citizens without their consent, with only the vague intent to “help” them or others make decisions. This is especially true for children.”

The letter submitted five recommendations for the FERPA rewrite:

Do whatever is possible to decrease the amount of data collected on students, especially social-emotional learning (SEL) data. Collection of such data should be eliminated or at the very least a) not collected without informed opt-in parental consent and b) be treated as medical data.

Treat whatever mental health, social emotional, or behavioral data collected for special-education evaluations or any other related program, such as Positive Behavioral Intervention and Supports (PBIS) or Multi-Tiered Systems of Support (MTSS), as medical data that cannot be housed in longitudinal databases.

Use aggregate rather than individual data to the greatest extent possible.
Obtain parental consent if data collected for one purpose is to be repurposed or shared with another federal agency.

Eliminate the current language in FERPA allowing predictive testing.

It is incredibly important to fix FERPA and protect student data and psychological privacy as we have seen on multiple occasions in the recent past:

The Facebook/Cambridge Analytica scandal is affecting students and the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development is  testing and planning to manipulate the same personality traits in students involved in the Facebook dust-up.

 

Just this week, there was another major scandal with Pearson committing psychological experiments on college students without consent.

 

The National Commission on Social, Emotional, and Academic Development is pushing for social emotional learning  (SEL) to be involved in school safety issues, which will not help.

 

Mental screening programs with all of their subjectivity and inaccuracy are starting to pop up all over the country, such as those discussed in Texas.

 

Efforts to increase data sharing with corporations, researchers and among federal agencies without consent in Congress through the  Foundations for Evidence-based Policy Making Act and the College Transparency Act are also being pushed by the data grabbers.

The letter also received excellent coverage by Dr. Susan Berry at Breitbart.

Here is the  link to the full letter. Please use it to contact your members of Congress and congressional candidates. so that we may protect the privacy and minds of our children and our freedoms as Americans.

Please also help us continue this David vs. Goliath fight by making your most generous contribution HERE. Thank you!

Apr 16, 2018
ELW

The National Pulse: Expanding Unproven “Social Emotional Learning” Will Not Make Schools Safer

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The national social emotional learning commission from the Aspen Institute is pushing SEL as a way to deal with school violence. Dr. Effrem discusses the problems with this approach:

First, public schools and universities were not created to be the monitors and promoters of emotional safety and growth. While, of course, the learning environment should not be abusive (as it has often become, especially for students trying to maintain traditional, Judeo-Christian values or learn the principles of freedom that founded this nation), the emotional development of children is supposed to be under the primary purview of families. One of the main reasons the American education system is having so many problems is because schools and teachers are being asked or, in many cases, forced to take on the roles and duties of families. This trend is in turn caused by the government-induced epidemic of single-parent families. The evidence is clear that two-parent families and religious involvement are far more effective at closing the achievement gap and preventing social emotional distress than any school-based SEL program could ever be.

Secondly, there is nothing in any of these documents about maintaining firm, consistent discipline, which is integral for creating the school climate called for in these documents. As has been previously discussed (here, here, and here), the lax Obama school discipline policies — imposed upon schools via threats of extensive civil rights investigations or via bribes of million of dollars in School Climate Grants — have dangerously decreased school safety for both students and teachers. While it is true that behavior incidents are higher in African American students than for other races, this, as the research clearly shows, is not due to discrimination, but to the fact that children raised in single-parent households, especially boys, are more likely to have behavioral problems or be involved in criminal incidents. It is hoped that Secretary DeVos will continue the move to rescind this policy as the work of the School Safety Commission proceeds.

Thirdly, significant studies show that SEL is not as important for success as academic achievement — and some show SEL doesn’t work at all:

“Early math skills have the greatest predictive power, followed by reading and then attention skills. By contrast, measures of socioemotional behaviors…were generally insignificant predictors of later academic performance, even among children with relatively high levels of problem behavior.” [Emphasis added — Duncan, et. al., School Readiness and Later Achievement – Developmental Psychology, 43(6), 1428-1446]

To create SEL standards and assess progress toward those standards presupposes that we agree about what SEL is. Yet neither researchers nor practitioners nor policymakers have come to such a consensus.

Finally, the individualized, inclusive, multi-cultural perspective that teachers are requesting in the teacher document has several major problems. It distracts more from academics when there are already so many distractions and academic performance has stagnated. And it is very difficult to see how teaching and learning can be further individualized when the Common Core standardizes teaching, curriculum, and assessment; machine-based “personalized” learning (competency-based education) severely diminishes the student-teacher interaction; and a multi-cultural emphasis can further balkanize students instead of creating unity.

Read the full article HERE.

Apr 13, 2018
ELW

The National Pulse: Parents Beware: Mental Screening of Students Ramps Up in Texas

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After Florida’s misguided school safety law passed, be on the lookout for similar harmful mental screening programs. Dr. Effrem discusses two programs in Texas:

There are so many problems with the foundation of these programs, it is difficult to know where to begin. Let’s start with the admitted subjectivity of mental illness diagnostic criteria. As the latest version of the American Psychiatric Association’s (APA) diagnostic handbook was about to be published, Dr. Dilip Jeste, APA’s president at the time, admitted:

At present, most psychiatric disorders lack validated diagnostic biomarkers, and although considerable advances are being made in the arena of neurobiology, psychiatric diagnoses are still mostly based on clinician assessment.

There are many similar quotes, but this one from the World Health Organization (WHO) is very important, because it deals with the even more complicated developmental issues that prevent accurate psychiatric diagnosis, especially in children and teens:

Childhood and adolescence being developmental phases, it is difficult to draw clear boundaries between phenomena that are part of normal development and others that are abnormal.

If the WHO, which is hardly a conservative, pro-family organization, admits that pediatric diagnosis can be confused due to normal developmental changes, this UT Southwestern program — featuring group psychotherapy sessions in schools that have the potential to amplify normal adolescent angst and blues into full-blown mental illness — hardly seems like a great idea.

The accuracy of mental screening instruments is also important to discuss given that both programs are doing mental screening in the schools. The Columbia Suicide Screen has a false positive rate of 84 percent. Others recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics have false positive rates of 71 percent and 59 percent. [Those percentages are obtained by subtracting the low positive predictive values, which mean that a person actually has the condition being tested or screened, from 100 percent.]

In addition, the use of Texas students by UT Southwestern as guinea pigs for “developing blood and brain tests for diagnosis to identifying effective treatments and interventions” raises many troubling issues. The studies want to analyze “socio-demographic, lifestyle, clinical, psychological, and neurobiological factors.”

This raises issues of patient and family consent, data privacy, and freedom of conscience. This is especially true when there is already a troubling overlap between academic data that lives forever in state longitudinal data systems (SLDS) and medical, social emotional, and psychological data collected at schools that does not seem to be protected by medical confidentiality law (HIPAA). These changes have come about due to the gutting of FERPA, the federal educational privacy law, during the Obama administration and changes in ESSA, the replacement for No Child Left Behind.

There is definitely a need for more effective treatments for adolescent depression. The current record for children and adolescents is awful. According to the government-funded STAR*D study in which the doctor in the UT Southwestern article is involved, the standard medications used to treat depression, SSRI antidepressants, are only effective for about one third of patients. These drugs are associated with suicidal thoughts and attempted suicide in children and teens. In fact, these medications are under the FDA’s black box warning, the agency’s most serious warning short of a ban. The SSRI drugs are also associated with violent reactions, including murderous rampages like school and other mass shootings.

If combined with other classes of medication like antipsychotics, the effectiveness only increases to about half of patients. However, these other drugs have very serious additional side effects, including permanent abnormal movements, brain damage, obesity, diabetes, and heart attacks.

All of these dangerous efforts are ramping up after school shootings like those in Newtown and Parkland. As previously discussed, the focus on mental screening, especially by poorly trained teachers and school officials, which can lead to inaccurate diagnoses and dangerous, ineffective medications, should be strongly opposed. Students in Texas schools, or those in any other state, should not be used as lab rats for government or pharmaceutical industry researchers.

Root causes like family breakdown and the use of academically inferior, developmentally inappropriate, and psychologically manipulative standards in schools (i.e. Common Core) need review and solutions. Using mental screening and medication for these issues is like trying to put a bandage on broken leg.

Read the full article HERE.

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