Archive for the ‘advocate for children’ Tag

LDS Church to Independently Teach Both Religious and Secular Education Classes   148 comments

ces

 

This is very good, very big news.

Even though the fight for freedom in education is fought by freedom-loving people of many different religions, I share this great news, which comes from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, hoping it will inspire other people and other churches as it has inspired me.

In February 2016, in an all-employee meeting at Brigham Young University’s Idaho campus, the Commissioner of Education of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Elder Kim B. Clark, gave an address, “CES: The Lord’s Educational System for His Church”.

The 54-minute talk can be viewed here.

Elder Clark announced that the church is launching a new initiative in fall 2016 that will eventually offer secular and religious education courses, from Master’s degrees down to high school, to people wherever the church is organized.

Elder Clark began by saying, “Whatever level of spirituality we now enjoy in our lives, whatever degree of faith in Jesus Christ we have, whatever strength of commitment or consecration we have, whatever degree of obedience or hope or charity is ours, whatever level of professional skill or ability we may have obtained, it will not be sufficient for the work that lies ahead.  Brothers and sisters, you and I need to be much better than we are now, in every aspect of our lives.  The scriptures teach us that the world is now, and will be, in commotion and we can see it all around us. Wickedness and darkness will increase.  It seems hard to imagine, but it will.  Yet in that darkening world, there’ll be increased light, divine light.  The Lord Jesus Christ has a great work for us to do with the rising generation.  It’s a greater work than we’ve ever done before…  The Lord is working in power to strengthen teaching and learning in his true and living church.  He’s hastening his work.”  (minute 2-3)

He said that last October, the presidents of the Church’s universities counseled together and then proposed a new initiative that was soon approved by the church leaders. (minute 13-14)

It is this: “The Church Educational System (CES) will seek to provide opportunities for education to the members of the church wherever the church is organized.

The church has long operated universities, seminaries, institutes, education weeks, high school classes through its universities and through its churches.  But now, the Church will be rolling out a new program that will use all its resources to increasingly provide both secular and religious education to all its members, wherever the church exists.   Elder Clark speaks of Master’s degrees down through high school classes being offered, both online and inside church buildings; I hope, and guess, that in the future, junior high and elementary classes will also be offered.

At minute 16:37, we learn that the first principle for the church’s new initiative is:

“Education is a spiritual experience”.  It explains, “Education– the struggle for perfection– is a spiritual experience and is essential for building the Kingdom of God and establishing Zion. Religious instruction, gathering experiences and a spiritual focus to online learning will be essential.”

The second principle is: “The initiative will be a collaborative, system-wide effort involving all CES institutions.  We will also partner with Self Reliance Services (SRS) and other Church departments as appropriate and will build as much as possible on resources, courses and programs that already exist”.

The third principle is:  “Instruction will be delivered online and in local gathering activities at Institutes and chapels.  Study at local schools, combined with religious education at an Institute, is an important part of this initiative.”

The fourth principle is:  “Students will access programs through their local Church units, guided by priesthood leaders, supported by CES and Self Reliance Services.”  Elder Clark emphasized the fact that these classes are to be held under the direction of local priesthood leaders; he added:  “We felt really strongly about this.”

Even though Elder Clark said, “We’re talking about a global audience that numbers in the hundreds of thousands,” (minute 44) he felt it was important to make this educational program locally driven by local leaders.

In closing, Elder Clark reminded us that Ephesians 6:12 states:  “We wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.”  He asked those in attendance to rise to the challenge, to repent daily, and to meet the great opportunities and responsibilities before us by receiving greater spiritual power from Christ.

He said, “The rising generation in this marvelous worldwide church needs education, including the plain and simple truths of the gospel…. the rising generation will learn deeply and they will rise up.  We know this will happen.”

What a great message.  What great news.

 

 

clark

Elder Kim B. Clark

 

Protecting Kids: Pioneer Institute’s Call to Action for Parents, Schools, Congress   Leave a comment

stealth assessment babyI’m posting today to draw attention to Cogs in the Machine, an important white paper published last year by Pioneer Institute, written by Jane Robbins, Joy Pullman and Emmett McGroarty.   It’s about public-system-assisted big data collection –and how Americans can protect their kids.  The paper includes specific, effective action points for parents, schools, state- and nationally-elected representatives.  The length of the white paper, though, makes me think few will read down to find these treasures, so I’m posting just the final recommendations here.  Please read (and share)  the whole white paper when you can.   If you click here and scroll down to the end, you can read the whole paper, and much more easily.  Pasting from the pdf is causing tight spacing that I don’t know how to fix.
apple books

The white paper’s policy recommendations for parents, schools, state and national lawmakers:
This report  has discussed dangers that unchecked data-collection poses to individuals and the United States as a whole. 
What are some ways to check these dangers?
 
PARENTS: 
• If your child has any sort of computer login or participates in any computer program (say, a computer vocabulary game or computerized tests) as part of school, his or her data is being automatically logged and compiled through these devices. If this concerns you, ask your school to explain how they will protect your child’s privacy. If these protections are not satisfactory, ask the school to modify its contract with the technology provider to guarantee it will not sell or indefnitely compile your child’s information.
• If your child’s school is implementing digital-learning platforms, insist on an explanation of what kinds of information will be compiled through those platforms. Will the software record data about your child’s behaviors and attitudes ratherthan just his academic knowledge? If so,and if you object to this data-collection, opt out.
• If you child is using a vendor’s education apps, verify that the vendor is not mining your child’s data to use for marketing or other purposes.
• As always, be vigilant about what happens in your child’s classroom. Read all notices schools hand out about data-and information-sharing, and don’t sign off on anything you don’t understand. Choose not to provide information when the reasons someone wants it are not explained to your satisfaction.
• When your child takes a standardized test, demand to know what data the assessment will collect and to whom it will be disclosed. Find out if the test measures non-cognitive attributes such as self-control, home environment, etc. If any answers are unacceptable to you, opt out.
• Be especially wary of having healthcare services provided to your children at school. These are not subject to thetighter privacy protections required of non-school healthcare providers.
You are entitled to know what information your school has already collected about your child, and to correct any errors in that record. All you have to do is ask someone in charge at your child’s school.
Demand that state lawmakers pass strong legislation protecting your child’s information.
SCHOOLS:
When you sign contracts with technology providers, include clauses that require the vendor to erase student-level information after the contract term has ended, forbid the vendor from selling or sharing student information with any other entity unless mandated by law, and as far as possible provide for student anonymity by using ID numbers and random logins rather than personal identifiers such as names, email addresses, and especially Social Security numbers.
STATE POLICYMAKERS:
• Introduce and vote for legislation to correct the relaxation of FERPA.  The legislation should include penalties that will make it not worth a company or nonprofit or agency’s while to disobey the law. It is also essential for states to pass student-privacy laws because, even if FERPA is restored or strengthened, the more bulwarks against excessive data-collection, the better. Further, laws made closer to the people who must follow them offer better protection to citizens and the ability to tailor laws to the needs of each state.
• Require state departments of education, local school systems, and schools to include tight privacy protections in all contracts with vendors, contractors, cloud computing services, and so forth.
• Limit the information the state demands that schools collect to the least data required to comply with federal mandates in exchange for federal funds.
• Prohibit state departments of education from accepting federal grants that include any data-collection mandates without prior review and public approval by the legislature.
Be wary of investing in and implementing any digital-learning platforms without understanding exactly what capabilities they have for compiling data on students, such as measuring psychological resources and other affective assessments. No such platforms should be used without full explanation of their data-collection capabilities to, and consent by, parents.
Amend any state laws that require parents to opt out of automatic data-collection and require them instead to opt in. Also amend state laws that penalize parents or children for choosing to opt out of state tests.
• Hold town hall meetings on private and government data-collection.
• Pass comprehensive laws to address the state’s authority to collect, whether directly or through private sources, personal data and its authority to pass that data on to others, including the federal government and private entities. 
NATIONAL LAWMAKERS:
Immediately reaffirm the original privacy protections of FERPA and seek to strengthen that law with one fit for the digital age, which affirms individuals’ ownership of their own private information.
Prohibit federal agencies from demanding or accepting student-level data from, or disclosing such data to, any private entity or any health, labor,workforce, social services, education, or other agency.
• Replace demands for data in exchange for federal education funds with federal laws that block grant such funds to states with freedom to spend their education dollars as they see fit. This is the model of the A-PLUS Act, a good step toward sending unproductive and intrusive federal education mandates at all levels.
• Pass legislation that recognizes the right of the individual to exploit (i.e., prohibit the exploitation of) his or her personal information. Such legislation would, ofcourse, have to specify at what point such a right of action vests in the individual (at what point of data collection and manipulation may an individual take action).”

Utah’s Fight for Student Data Privacy is On   4 comments

 

Sharing my letter, send out today.

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Dear [State School] Board,

I am gravely concerned about the “emergency vote” that was taken by the board last month, which decreased the amount of student data privacy protections that were previously in place, in order to cater to corporate education vendors, and in order to align with unlawful federal regulatory changes to federal FERPA– which harmed parental rights and student privacy, giving third party vendors unwarranted trust and access to student data.  Where were the student advocates and parent testifiers, when the corporate testifiers had their day to speak and to influence this board?
http://www.utah.gov/pmn/files/135221.pdf
I request that the “emergency vote” be immediately dismissed as unethical and unlawful, because it aligns exactly with the unethical and unlawful alterations that the Dept. of Education has made to family privacy rights without Congressional approval.  I request that a deep and probing study be taken on this weighty issue prior to a vote.  Allowing vendors this easy data-access aligns with the abuses of the Department of Education, and are not in harmony with vital principles of individual rights, family rights, and freedom from essentially handing oversight of education and student records to unelected vendors.
Christel Swasey
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(I’ll keep you posted.)
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anderegg

Utah Rep. Jake Anderegg

 

 

Why I wrote the letter?

I compared the student privacy protection bill  that Utah Representative Jake Anderegg is running right now, with the summary of a recent public hearing –in which corporate education vendors pushed for decreased student privacy and for increased student data sharing.  I realized that the fight is truly going on right now in Utah.  Most people don’t know the fight is on; it doesn’t make news headlines, though it should.  So few people speaking up.  And the board assumes it’s okay with all of us to keep loosening and loosening student data protections.

Should students and families maintain individual rights over student data privacy or not?  

Which side are you on?

Have we as an informed electorate, as neighbors, and families and friends, discussed what happens when students and families do  –or do not– have data privacy protection?  These are weighty matters with long term consequences.

The board’s having had a seemingly quick and one-sided “hearing” followed by an “emergency vote” seems hasty and even dangerous.

Let’s think and talk and debate thoroughly before we automatically align with corporate agendas.  Let’s ask ourselves how these alignments and their possible unintended consequences may affect our children in the long term.

Both the bill and the summary report are wordy and  un-reader-friendly, true. But we can’t know what side to support if we don’t study it out. So here are the links and abbreviated screenshots –of the two sides– to get started.

Anderegg’s privacy protection bill  calls for increased privacy protections, particularly in reference to third party vendors:

anderegg bill

 

 

The corporate education vendors call for decreased privacy protections.  They say that the former provision that a school/district was to be the only entity authorized to collect and store school records is “overly restrictive and does not allow Third Party Ventors to collect and access records…. the rule does not reflect the actual practice”.

(If it does not reflect the actual practice, that is because federal agents have been unethically altering what Congress held the sole right to alter: Federal FERPA privacy law.  Do we in Utah want to align with federal abuses, in order to cater to education vendors?  Sure, the vendors testify that it’s a great idea.  It makes their businesses run better. But the board ought to place the needs and rights of students and their families above corporate education vendors.  Who is advocating for individual privacy rights for children at the corporate level? Nobody.  The businesses want that data, and they don’t want to be inconvenienced by parental or student rights.)

Here’s the link to that report (and the first two pages, screenshots).

 

 

 

state report on third party data sharing

 

screenshot two of utah report data

Here’s my “explain it to a fourth grader” summary of the situation:   “When the government lets business people run the schools, the business people want to store records of what students do, so the government says OK.  It is not good because the voters lose power over their rights.  Voters can change the laws of government and can un-elect those we’ve elected to govern schools, but we cannot influence what business people do nor who gets to run businesses, by our vote.  We have no control over them.  That gives them control over us and over our records/privacy rights.  We need to keep control of ourselves,  our children, and our privacy rights.  We should not give business people power over our schools, no matter how nice they are.

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