Losing Privacy Through Your Children

The NSA scandal involving your private information has rocked the nation. Your privacy, and the reputation it cradles, is your prized possession—your property, like your house and car. It is constitutionally protected. Your privacy could come under assault from another source: the data collection system connected to Common Core Standards, the federally endorsed and funded education program. Through data mining, your children could be used to get information about you.

Common Core is reportedly about achieving uniform national standards in education. For many states, the national standards lower rather than raise the bar. Utah’s standards fall both ways, depending on the subject. The potential to improve standards draws Utah teachers to Common Core, but there are better, safer ways to elevate education.

States choose their participation in the four key elements of Common Core’s reform, but federal money rewards them, and Utah bought into the data gathering process. Concerns about privacy revolve around both the data collected and its storage and use. Student tracking is connected to but is not directly required by Common Core. However, the organization pushing data collection, the Council of Chief State School Officers, is a co-holder of the Common Core Standards copyright, intertwining the two. States get federal stimulus money to “establish and use pre-K-through-college and career data systems to track progress”. The actual questions to be asked are still being developed, but suspicious parents, burned by past government overreach, fear the questions could be invasive and are mobilizing.

According to the Department of Education’s February 2013 report titled “Promoting Grit, Tenacity, and Perseverance: Critical Factors for Success in the 21st Century”, educators want “new opportunities” for “complex affective data”, whatever that means. If data on behavior—dealing with challenges, frustration, and failure, help-seeking, tenacity, and delayed gratification—are collected, the state just created a psychological profile on your child. That smacks of George Orwell’s “1984” and parents don’t like it.

Some sources, such as Mallory Sauer, of The New American, say the 2013 report opens the door to collect “sensitive” information on politics, religion, sexual preferences and income. Even if this doesn’t happen initially, the mechanism to collect that data in future would be in place. The requirement for parental permission is supposed to protect students, but that has been sidestepped before. Farming such information from young Junior and Sally would be prejudicial and biased, not to mention unethical.

Nine states, including Massachusetts and Colorado, are pilot-testing data mining. Once gathered, information is stored with third party private businesses, who aren’t committed to your privacy. Will fears that collected information will be sold or made public materialize? InBloom, the privately owned data storage source of the progressive Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which will make big bucks off this, says, in effect, No, but when it is……. Only limited protections are in place, though states are said to control the information, which gives potential oversight.

Sauer insists the 2013 education report reveals plans for future biofeedback monitoring and says the report admits that “users may or may not be aware” the data is being mined. The report declares that “Educators have the potential to get…feedback…that [has] never been available before.”

Data mining could be benign if collectors were, and remained, impeccably ethical. Stored data might be harmless if public perceptions of appropriate behavior never changed, but they do, on everything from disciplining children to morals. Today’s acceptable may be tomorrow’s unthinkable, leaving you in jeopardy.

Proponents tut-tut these fears, but we’ve been burned in past. You should be concerned. There is no place in a free society to track and predict children. Our children are not data sources, and your parenting should not be determined by what your children might say during data collection. We all have the inalienable right to privacy and its attendant freedoms.

About a national education standard, even when partially state led, this basic rule prevails: never nationalize anything outside the 26 powers granted to Congress and the president in the Constitution. It is not outdated. Don’t be blinded by the normalcy bias—the desire to believe it will all be OK—that tempts you to let this pass. Educate yourself and tell your friends. Call Governor Gary Herbert at 801-538-1000. Tell him to get us out of Common Core.