How will President Obama’s multiple initiatives increase federal control over American technology and data mining –and how will these initiatives affect children?
There are several new initiatives to consider.
I. NET NEUTRALITY
Yesterday the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) passed the Obama-approved definition of “Internet Neutrality.” Proponents made it sound as if “neutrality” meant openness and freedom for individuals, but the ruling increases federal power over the internet.
The notion that fairness and neutrality should be government-defined and government-enforced makes me roll my eyes. The term “net neutrality” sounds just like Harrison Bergeron, with the FCC playing the part of the Handicapper General to enforce equality by handicapping achievers and punishing success.
So now that the federal government has increased power to define and enforce its one definition of neutrality, how will this advance the goals of Obama’s ConnectED initiative? Will “neutrality” aim, like ConnectEd aims, to strap tax dollars and children’s destinies in education to Bill Gates’ philosophies and coffers? I ask this in light of Microsoft’s alignment with the FCC’s ruling, Microsoft’s celebrated discounting of common core-aligned ed tech products and Microsoft’s promotion of ConnectED. Add to that question this fact: Microsoft’s owner, Gates, funded the Role of Federal Policy report, which found (surprise, surprise) that the power of federal groups, to “research” children/education without restraint, should be increased using ESRA reauthorization. More on that below.
How does all of this work with the SETRA bill’s student data collection goals?
First, a quick ConnectEd review: Obama is bringing the now-neutralized internet to all schools while behaving very non-neutrally himself: he’s officially favoring and partnering with Microsoft/Bill Gates/Common Core so the uniform customer base (children) will only receive the One Correctly Aligned Education Product (and likely will thank Gates for what they see as kindness, deep discounts). Microsoft’s website explains: “Partnering with the White House’s ConnectED Initiative, we’re helping provide technology for education, at a fraction of the cost.” Pearson, Inc. is doing the same thing here and here and here to lay those near-irreversible foundations for the future.
What Microsoft, Pearson and ConnectEd are doing could be compared to offering free or discounted train tracks to your city. They’re fancy tracks, but customized to fit one sort of train only. By accepting the offer, you are automatically limited to using only the kinds of trains made to run on your new tracks.
States and schools ought to be saying “no, thanks” to Gates and Pearson if we want to have the freedom to later use education and ed technology that might be Common Core-free.
(As an important aside: one of the stated aims of Obama’s ConnectEd is to catch up to South Korea where “all schools are connected to the internet… all teachers are trained in digital learning, and printed textbooks will be phased out by 2016.” I’ll never join the chorus of “Let die traditional, print books”. But ConnectED has. )
The Internet has been, until now, unregulated by the federal government. It’s been free. The controllistas think of free as “unfair,” however.
“The main excuse for implementing the new invasions is the statists’ favorite complaint: Internet service providers ‘discriminate’ …[F]acilitators seeking to benefit from less competition, such as Facebook, Google, and Netflix, ought to be beige in color, have identical horsepower, the same number of doors, and get the same gas mileage no matter how far or fast they may be driven” (from Bob Adelman, New American Magazine).
In the FCC’s ruling, Bob Adelmann pointed out, there’s been dramatic change without transparent vetting. Adelmann wrote, three days ago: “On Thursday consumers will finally be able to see and read the FCC’s (Federal Communications Commission) planned new rules to regulate the Internet. Deliberately hidden from public view, the 332-page document … [was] demanded by President Obama… he told FCC … to adopt the “strongest possible rules” in regulating the Internet.”
Why was Obama bent on getting the “strongest possible rules” to control the Internet– and why did he confuse people by calling this move one toward openness and freedom? I don’t know why.
The “why” is not so important.
What matters most now is that Americans recognize that he is, in fact, aiming for ever increasing control at the expense of our freedoms, and that he’s partnered with private corporations who share his aims. History teaches that many people seek to control other people; whether for kindly intentioned or malicious intentioned reasons, they always have and always will. That’s why our Constitution is so sacred. It protects individuals from others’ controlling tendencies by decentralizing power.
Government-imposed equality, or “neutrality,” is a theme Obama has promoted in many ways prior to yesterday’s “Net Neutrality” punch.
- Think of common “College and Career Ready Standards” –a.k.a Common Core, which his administration promoted to U.S. governors –and reported about to the U.N.— in 2009-10: “President Obama called on the nation’s governors and state school chiefs to develop standards and assessments,” said Secretary Duncan.
- Think of Common Education Data Standards (CEDS) for all students and for every state database, data standards which his administration partnered in creating.
- Think of his administration’s funding and promotion of common SLDS state databases that now track and grade the nation’s schools, teachers and students using interoperable systems and common, national data models.
- Think of federally-promoted, aligned testing for all states and students. Same, same, same.
Match that to the speeches of Bill Gates about building the uniform customer base of students using Common Core.
In each of the Obama-promoted, standardizing measures, no one may soar. No one is allowed to meander into creative or superior or innovative paths because of that devoted mindset: no failure– not allowing anyone freedom, if that includes the freedom for some to fail. This commonizing of the masses under the banner of “fair and equal” once upon a time used to be called communism, but that’s not a politically correct term anymore. You can’t even call it socialism. Instead, the p.c. terms are “social justice” or “playing fair.” I call it theft. Legalized plunder.
And it’s never actually fair: There is nothing fair about elites centralizing power to take freedom from individuals. Also, for those who decide that they are above the law there are exceptions; the ruling elite still get to choose.
When I say, “elites centralize power to take freedom from individuals,” I don’t mean metaphorically or theoretically. It’s real. It’s no theory. The micromanagement of schools, children, teachers to minimize parental “interference” and parental “opportunity” is a large and extremely well oiled machine.
On its federal hand, there’s the Obama Administration’s “National Education Technology Plan“. On its private, corporate hand, there’s the Bill-Gates-led “Evolving Role of Federal Policy in Education Research,” explained out a report written by Aspen Institute and funded by the Gates Foundation. It says, “there is a broad consensus that federal investment in education research, development, and dissemination is vital” and “the pending reauthorization of ESRA creates new opportunities to better harness the tremendous research capacity we have in America to turn broad consensus into broad benefit,” and even: “the Obama Administration has proposed to create a new unit of ED, called ARPA-ED, that would be analogous to the high-profile Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) in the Department of Defense. ”
III. SETRA – The Reauthorization of ESRA
We need to study the “pending reauthorization of ESRA” that hopes to “harness” students’ data. The SETRA bill now on-deck, bill S227, is the data collection bill that American Principles Project warned America about in a press release. SETRA is a direct answer to what the both the Evolving Role of Federal Policy in Education Research and the National Education Technology Plan had requested: more power to the federal government over student data.
The history of educational data collection by federal/private forces is very boring. I only bring this up because we need to see them for what they are: public-private-partnerships, with unclear dividing lines between federal and private controls. That means that we can’t easily un-elect them or influence the power that they wield. It’s data collection without representation. That’s not only unconstitutional; it’s also very creepy.
The boring but important history of these public-private-partnerships is detailed in the Evolving Role of Federal Policy in Education Research report, as well as on websites from the REL/WestED groups. WestED, a now-nonprofit, explains: “The roots of WestEd go back to 1966, when Congress funded regional laboratories across the country to find practical ways to improve the education of our nation’s children. Charged with “bridging the gap between research and practice,” a number of the original Regional Educational Laboratories grew beyond their initial charge and developed into successful organizations. Two in particular—the Southwest Regional Educational Laboratory (SWRL) and the Far West Laboratory for Educational Research and Development (FWL)—evolved beyond their laboratory roots, eventually merging in 1995 to form WestEd.”
Why it matters? Ask yourself this: How does a parent protect his/her child from data leaks, privacy breaches and unwanted government intrusion or “guidance” when the data collection machines are not run by elected representatives, and they are paid to run well by the unstoppable force of taxes?
How does a parent protect his/her child when federal FERPA (Family Ed Rights and Privacy Act) has been altered so that it’s no longer protective of parental rights and student privacy?
How does a parent protect his/her child when the new SETRA bill allows power to go to regional commissioners, rather than residing in local schools, districts, or even states? Regions take precedence over states under SETRA.
But the public does not know this because proponents of SETRA reveal what they want to reveal in their “pro-SETRA” talking points.
I hate talking points! Give me truth in the form of direct quotes and page numbers from a bill next time, Congressman Boener.
Proponents fail to reveal the details of the bill that alarm opponents of SETRA. I’ll share a few.
For example, page 28, section 132 reveals that data to be collected on students may: “include research on social and emotional learning“. Social and emotional learning means psychological testing! This is promoting the same creepy biometric data mining methods that the Dept. of Education was pushing two years ago in its “Promoting Grit, Tenacity and Perserverance” report of 2013 (see report pdf page 44).
This SETRA bill’s language empowers the government to create a profile on your child, psychologically (emotional learning) and politically (social learning).
I do not support allowing the government to keep psychological/political dossiers on children.
Reliance on a wet-noodle FERPA for privacy protection
But I have no power, they tell me, despite being a mom, a voter, and a taxpayer. Recall that there is no requirement under federal FERPA any longer to get parental consent over the gathering or sharing of student data.
Likewise, in Utah, there’s no protection for student data. The state longitudinal database system (SLDS) gathers data about each child from the moment he/she registers for kindergarten or preschool without parental consent.
The state has said that no Utah parent may opt an child out of SLDS and legislation to create protections for children’s privacy in Utah has not been successful.
Utah’s legislature and school board continues to allow the SLDS to run wild, unaccountable to parents or to anyone. Students’ data in Utah is unprotected by law. If the board or an administrator tells you differently, ask them to show you the law that provides protection in Utah. Then send it to me.
In fact, the Utah Data Alliance promotes the sharing of data between agencies such as schools, higher ed, workforce services, and other agencies. If the board or an administrator tells you differently, ask them to show you the law that provides protection in Utah. Then please send it to me.
Parental Rights Dismissed
Soon, if federal SETRA passes, student data will be even more unprotected. Zero parental rights over student academic data (thanks to shredded federal FERPA protections and wrongheaded Utah policies) will be joined by zero parental rights over student psychological data (thanks to power-hungry SETRA).
In section 208 (see page 107) the SETRA bill reauthorizes the federal government “to align statewide, longitudinal data systems [SLDS] from early education through postsecondary education (including pre-service preparation programs), and the workforce, consistent with privacy protections under section 183;’’
SLDS is the very set of databases that deny parents their rights to be the main authorities over their own children’s data. Do we want to reauthorize the federal government to use our tax dollars for that purpose, moms and dads?
“Privacy protections under section 183,” as we discussed above, equals no privacy at all. Why? There used to be confidentiality standards, such as those seen in the 2002 data privacy code. But all of that changed. Now, confidentiality and parental consent have been reduced to “best practice” status, and parental consent prior to sharing data is not required by federal FERPA.
REGIONAL EDUCATION LABS MAY SUPERCEDE STATE AGENCIES IN POWER
Under SETRA section 174, “REGIONAL EDUCATIONAL LABORATORIES FOR RESEARCH, DEVELOPMENT, DISSEMINATION, AND EVALUATION” the power of the regional educational laboratories is expanded. This whole section is worth reading, but it’s hard to read because of the many interruptions where the bill alters definitions and phrases from the original ESRA bill. Try it.
I have to say that in this section, the repeated use of the term “laboratories,” in the context of “regional educational laboratories” gives me the creeps. Am I the only one? Our children as guinea pigs in laboratories of educational and now psychological experimentation –organized by region and not by state? No, thank you.
When Regions Rule, States Lose Constitutional Strength
Another important thought: how can states’ rights over education ever be defended and protected when education is being restructured to function in regional, not by states, divisions? Is this why the regional laboratories of educational research are growing to become more powerful than state boards?)
On page 57 of the pdf the R.E.L. Commissioner is given a lot of power. “Each eligible applicant desiring a contract grant, contract, or cooperative agreement under this section shall submit an application at such time, in such manner, and containing such information as the Evaluation and Regional Assistance Commissioner may reasonably require.” The Commissioner can deny funds, or give funds, to people who “shall seek input from State educational agencies and local educational agencies in the region that the award will serve”. Hmm. I see. People may seek input from state agencies, but the regional laboratory commissioner is The Man.
The Regions aim for that power.
I’m not finished with my SETRA analysis. I’m just sick of it right now.
I’ll be back.