Apr 7, 2018
ELW

The National Pulse: OECD Pushes Facebook-Style Personality Profiling of Students Worldwide

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As we hear more about the data mining operations of Facebook and Cambridge Analytica, we are also finding out that Facebook and other organizations are data mining and psychologically profiling our children. Here is an excerpt from Dr. Effrem’s article at the National Pulse discussing this newest threat to student data privacy:

Now we are also learning that even financial publications are warning about the cancerous spread of social emotional learning (SEL) assessment and profiling on a global scale. The eight-hundred-pound gorilla in this process is the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), the developer of the PISA international comparison test. The Middle East North Africa Financial Network (MENAFN) has chronicled OECD’s machinations in this realm in an article entitled, “Why education is embracing Facebook-style personality profiling for schoolchildren.”

The article describes how both Facebook/Cambridge Analytica and OECD have developed and are using personality surveys based on the “Big Five” personality traits — “openness,” “conscientiousness,” “extroversion,” “agreeableness,” and “neuroticism” or (OCEAN). The brand new, upcoming 2019 OECD international Study on Social Emotional Learning for middle and high school students is described as a “computer-based self-completion questionnaire” that will assess students on these traits. The common foundation of this new OECD test and the Cambridge Analytica personality test are the same.

The purpose of the OECD test is for workforce development, which uses inaccurate predictive testing of this subjective SEL to steer students toward career paths they may not want and close off others:

The assumption behind the test is that social and emotional skills are important predictors of educational progress and future workplace performance. Large-scale personality data is therefore presumed by the OECD to be predictive of a country’s potential social and economic progress.

Several of the dangers of this concept were discussed:

There are of course many dangers and problems with this approach that we have frequently addressed, such as here and here. These include:

Lack of agreement by researchers on what SEL really is and how to measure it;
SEL’s subjective nature;
The danger of this inaccurate data having eternal life in longitudinal databases endangering future schooling, careers, military service, and gun ownership;
That SEL data can and has been used for political purposes, endangering freedom of conscience; and
Sharing of data without consent between government agencies and between government and private entities.

Interestingly, the MENAFN article also lists some important problems, which is somewhat surprising given the usual focus of these types of publications on markets and profits:

It risks reframing public education in terms of personality modification, driven by the political race for future economic advantage, rather than the pursuit of meaningful knowledge and understanding. It treats children as little indicators of future labour markets, and may distract teachers from other curriculum aims.
As education consultant Joe Nutt wrote in the Times Educational Supplement last year, ‘If you make data generation the goal of education then data is what you will get. Not quality teaching.’

I also have covered the effort by OECD to begin this personality molding, assessment, and data mining in the preschool years. Even more dangerous is the idea posited in their 2015 report about coordinating between government and family to develop the proper, government-required attitudes:

Policy makers, teachers, parents and researchers can help expand children’s growth potential by actively engaging in skill development within the domains that they are responsible for. However, given that “skills beget skills”, education policies and programmes need to ensure coherence across learning contexts (i.e. family, school and the community) and stages of school progression (i.e. across primary, lower secondary and upper secondary schooling). This is an important way to maximise the returns to skills investment over the life cycle.

We must protect our children’s privacy and our national sovereignty at the same time!

Read the whole article HERE.

Apr 4, 2018
ELW

The National Pulse: One Thing President Trump Can Do Now to Make Schools Safer

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The President’s School Safety Commission held it’s first meeting and the focus was on the Obama-era lax discipline policies. Here is an excerpt from Dr. Effrem’s review of the meeting and the dangerous situation for students and teachers due to this ill-considered  and unconstitutional guidance:

Review of the guidance and grants have all shown that the Broward County Public Schools and Sheriff’s office have ignored a great deal of criminal behavior — including that of the Parkland shooter — in concert with receiving this guidance, the Promise program, and millions of dollars in School Climate grants.

Although Superintendent Robert Runcie has protested in a Sun-Sentinel op-ed that this cause of the shooting is “fake news,” an interview of Max Eden, a school violence expert from the Manhattan Institute, by Dr. Susan Berry strongly refuted that notion:

“Runcie’s careful formulation contains a falsehood, several omissions, and obfuscations,” Eden says. “It doesn’t cover middle school, where Cruz racked up about two dozen offenses and was transferred into an intensive behavior management school – without ever getting an arrest record.”

“Runcie claims that PROMISE only covered ‘non-violent’ offenses,” Eden observes. “That’s just straight false. The 2013 version covered assault and fighting; the 2016 version covered ‘affray,’ i.e., fighting. That means Cruz’s fights were only deemed non-PROMISE eligible based on administrator discretion, not policy.”

“Given that Cruz is alleged to have threatened students, it’s also worth noting that ‘threats’ are a PROMISE-eligible offense,” he continues. “Perhaps those incidents weren’t recorded as threats. Students have reported that Cruz brought bullets and knives to school. Perhaps those incidents weren’t recorded at all. Or perhaps they were and Runcie’s statement eludes them; the discipline matrix doesn’t highlight Class B Weapons as a PROMISE-eligible Incident.”

Ann Coulter quoted the threats that Cruz allegedly made to kill other students at school that were ignored by school officials:

At least three students showed school administrators Cruz’s near-constant messages threatening to kill them — e.g., “I am going to enjoy seeing you down on the grass,” “Im going to watch ypu bleed,” “iam going to shoot you dead” — including one that came with a photo of Cruz’s guns. They warned school authorities that he was bringing weapons to school. They filed written reports.

The excellent testimony of Eden to the U.S. House Judiciary Committee on School Violence painted a stark picture of the dangerous atmosphere for students, especially vulnerable students and staff, created by the Obama guidance that threatened and started investigations in hundreds of school districts for “unlawful discrimination” if students of different races broke the rules at different rates — all without even a regulation:

At Lincoln High School in San Diego, a male student with cerebral palsy was raped in the bathroom. The teacher who caught the rapist in the act tried to raise the alarm. But the administration downgraded the event to an “obscene act.” They did not even attempt expulsion. For their part, the police did not even inform the mother that her son had been raped.

Eden also quoted teachers from around the country who have dramatic stories of the life threatening environments in which they are forced to work:

“Students are threatening teachers with violence and in many cases are physically attacking teachers without consequences.”

“School environment is unsafe. I do not feel safe. Teachers are afraid. Students have little or no consequences for behavior that is often outright violent toward students and staff. Please help us!”


…Given all of the damage this policy and these grants have done to student and teacher safety, local control, and school district costs, repealing this guidance is an incredibly wise idea. It is something that the Trump administration can do without pursuing the complicated legislative process and will have great benefits.

Read the full article HERE.

 

Mar 24, 2018
ELW

The National Pulse: Congress Explodes Deficits, Expands Nanny State with Disastrous Omnibus Bill

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The final outcome of the 2018 budget process warned about by Dr. Effrem a few weeks ago was revealed in a 2000+ page bill that members of Congress had less than 24 hours to review:

Tragically for our children’s futures and freedoms — but predictably, as we warned here and here — Congress heeded very few general principles or President Trump’s good ideas about preserving freedom and privacy, decreasing the federal footprint in education, supporting programs that work, or maintaining fiscal discipline. The House yesterday passed the $1.3 trillion omnibus-spending bill — that will only fund the government for six months — by a vote of 256-197. The Senate followed early this morning with a vote of 65-32.

The damage this bill will do the nation’s fiscal health and to issues outside of education is well discussed elsewhere (also here). Instead of restoring local control by giving federal bureaucrats less to work with, as the President’s budget had suggested, Congress increased funding for the U.S. Department of Education (USED) by $2.6 billion.

Areas of the budget discussed in the full article include:

  • Data Privacy
  • Mental Health
  • Preschool
  • After School Programs
  • Competency-Based Education
  • School Choice
Mar 9, 2018
ELW

The National Pulse: Florida “School Safety” Bill Would Make Schools Anything But Safe

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A follow-up to the recent article by  Dr. Effrem on the Parkland shooting discusses the dangers of knee-jerk legislative responses in this excerpt:

But the most dangerous and unrecognized part of this bill is the increased psychiatric screening of “at-risk” students and the training of teachers to recognize the signs of mental illness and violence, imposing on them the responsibility to intervene.

Both sides used mental health issues as a scapegoat. Leaving the gun issues aside for a moment, not only will the mental health provisions do little to protect students in schools, they will harm essential liberties like freedom of speech, freedom of conscience, data privacy, and parental autonomy. By greatly increasing the potential for more students to be labeled and drugged with medications like ADHD drugs (which the Parkland shooter was reportedly taking) that are known to be associated with increased hostility and violence, it may also increase the incidence of these horrific events.

There are two aspects of the mental health issues in this bill that especially need more attention.

First is the hypocrisy of saying that it is wrong, dangerous, and too burdensome to give teachers and other school staff the voluntary option to be trained to carry weapons if the sheriff and the school board agree, but not saying the same of turning already overburdened teachers into psychologists to recognize mental health challenges and intervene. It is illogical and dangerous to the majority of other students to have teachers, who are unqualified in this realm, try to do — after only a few hours of training — what psychiatric professionals, who are trained for years, freely admit that they cannot do: predict who will become violent. Here is Dr. Julian Ford, professor of psychiatry at the University of Connecticut, who had extensively analyzed the life of Newtown shooter Adam Lanza, speaking to the Los Angeles Times about the similarities between Parkland shooter, Nikolas Cruz, and Lanza:

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…

…It really means we can’t rely on prediction and identifying the bad guys. Because we’ll misidentify some who aren’t bad guys, and we’ll fail to identify others who may become bad guys.

Professor Ford also discussed the other huge issue in the Parkland case — intervention when there was already a diagnosis and clear signs of someone being a danger to themselves or others:

Fortunately, in most cases, people who have come to that extreme juncture [that violence in is the only solution] don’t have the access to weapons, or there are people or institutions that intervene to help them.

After Cruz lost his mother, the institutions in his life clearly failed him. Mental screening would not have stopped him, because he was already identified as mentally ill and under treatment for both ADHD and depression. The school, the sheriff, the FBI, and the Department of Children and Families were all notified and yet failed to deal with his actions — which were both felonious and qualified him for involuntary examination under Florida’s Baker Act.

Ann Coulter quoted Cruz’s social media posts threatening to kill various classmates:

At least three students showed school administrators Cruz’s near-constant messages threatening to kill them — e.g., “I am going to enjoy seeing you down on the grass,” “Im going to watch ypu bleed,” “iam going to shoot you dead” — including one that came with a photo of Cruz’s guns. They warned school authorities that he was bringing weapons to school. They filed written reports. (sic)

Threatening to kill people is a felony. Either the felony arrest or the involuntary mental health exam under the Baker Act would have caused him to fail the background check and prevented his firearm purchase. The reason these crimes were ignored have nothing to do with a lack of mental screening, but rather terrible, failed liberal policy.

As Coulter, Jane Robbins and Erin Tuttle of the American Principles Project, and Dr. Susan Berryhave all detailed, the failure of the school and the sheriff to act had much to do with federal coercion and bribery via a horrible Obama-era policy to not report, arrest, or otherwise intervene in the crimes of minority or disabled students — all in the misguided name of equity. Here is a great summary of what we know from Robbins’ and Tuttle’s detailed review of this terrible program:

One: The federal government established a policy to dismantle the school-to-prison pipeline by keeping troublesome students in school and out of jail. Two: Several federal agencies collaborated to leverage educational efforts, formal guidance, and federal money to incentivize states and local districts to implement this policy. Three: BCPS took bold steps – including entering into an agreement with law-enforcement and judicial authorities – to implement the policy, as a result of which it was awarded several million dollars in federal funding. Four: BCPS was proud of its reduction in contacts with law enforcement after implementing the collaborative agreement and had committed to USED through the School Climate grant to keep those numbers down. Five: A boy with a long history of disturbing behavior throughout his time at the school murdered 17 students [and staff].

You can read the full article HERE.