A news bomb about the theft of student data exploded in Utah’s Deseret News last July, but nobody noticed, apparently.
The article’s headline — “Wrongful Termination Lawsuit Puts Spotlight on Utah Autism Rates” — focused primarily on things other than the data theft. It highlighted former University of Utah research professor Judith Zimmerman’s allegations that university researchers were falsifying Utah’s autism rates.
But to me, the unheadlined bomb that the article dropped was the 750,000 students who had their data and their families’ data stolen by unauthorized “researchers”. The families now have no way of knowing this happened.
Zimmerman was fired for raising concerns about protected student data that she said the researchers had “compromised and accessed without proper authority.” She told the Deseret News that unauthorized individuals took 750,000 sensitive records with neither parental nor schools’ consent. This private “medical and educational information” included “names, birthdays, information about medical characteristics… special education classification and parents’ names and addresses,” reported the Deseret News.
How would these families now be notified? I wonder: with the whistleblower fired and with a years-long lawsuit and likely gag orders pending, the only people who now could potentially contact those families would be still employed at the university –who, being accused of the wrongdoing, certainly won’t go out of their way to inform the affected families right now.
I’m not going to discuss the ways in which the stolen records, and the children they represented, are vulnerable to potential crimes of credit card fraud, health insurance identity theft, crimes of predatory stalkers or the mandates of well-or-ill-intentioned governmental activists.
I’m here to ask –and answer– a very simple question that I hope readers are asking: how could this have happened? How were three quarters of a million records of children just lying around under the noses of any unscrupulous university researchers?
It’s simple. Utah has a STATE LONGITUDINAL DATABASE SYSTEM (SLDS) and it’s managed by the UECP at the University of Utah.
You, your children, and your grandchildren are in the SLDS whether you like it or not –unless you pay 100% of your own money in tuition for a 100% private school, and always have. There is no other way to opt out. I’ve tried.
Don’t get me started about how blindly stupid Utah is (all states now are) for having –and continuing to support– the SLDS.
We’re subject to this SLDS data surveillance system simply because in some USOE cubicle, some clueless grant writer responded to Obama’s mess of pottage and decided that the state of Utah might exchange students’ privacy for a $9.6 million dollar federal grant.
Utah traded all students’ data records, longitudinally (permanently) into this data-slurping machine, euphemistically titled the State Longitudinal Database System, which the feds designed and oversaw— all for the love of money and nonconsensual research.
Without parental consent, Utah children’s data now is daily being collected –using schools to vaccum it up. This is not a legitimate situation, but you can’t blame schools. They are being used. They have to give daily data to the state/fed system, or they lose funds/grind to a halt. In a recent Utah rulemaking statement, we read: “all public education LEAs shall begin submitting daily updates to the USOE Clearinghouse using all School Interoperability Framework (SIF) objects defined in the UTREx Clearinghouse specification. Noncompliance with this requirement may result in interruption of MSP funds.”
So we can’t believe the ear candy we’re told, about how this data mining is about keeping data on kids so teachers can do their best teaching. It’s not staying in the local school for teachers and administrators to legitimately peruse, but it goes into the federally designed, federally interoperable SLDS database held at UECP/U of U which many state agencies can peruse and which the feds can already partially peruse.
(Side note: the feds are feverishly working to get much greater unit-record access as we speak. If you’re interested, livestream the CEP’s federal public hearing on that subject today: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bvvatB_NBWI )
Every state has an SLDS system. The feds paid the states to build them. The feds told the states how the SLDS’s had to be built. Utah got nearly $10 million to make Utah’s federal SLDS in 2009. And the grant’s been renewed to keep trading cash for students, in recent years.
Utah children and their families thus have their data sucked away to where unelected, unaccountable “researchers” are entrusted with data via SLDS. The University’s “Utah Education Policy Center” (UEPC) is a founding partner in the Utah Data Alliance, which controls Utah’s SLDS system. According to UEPC’s website:
“Five other partners include the Utah State Office of Education (public education), Utah System of Higher Education, Utah College of Applied Technology, Utah Education Network, and the Department of Workforce Services. UEPC serves as the research coordinator for the Utah Data Alliance. UEPC coordinates access for individuals and organizations interested in collaborating with the Utah Data Alliance, or researchers interested in accessing data for research purposes.”
That’s a long answer to a short question. That’s how the data got stolen.
Here’s the follow up question: what’s keeping the other millions of records of students from going the same way that those 750,000 records went?
Ask your legislator that question. Ask him/her to show you any proper privacy protections that are actually in place. (FERPA was shredded; don’t let them pretend there’s protection anymore under FERPA.)
We do not even have the freedom to opt out of SLDS tracking. But all of this can change– if more good people speak up– act.
How did the fox persuade the gingerbread boy to get on his back? The fox said that he would never eat him, but would surely protect the gingerbread boy from everyone who was trying to eat him on the dangerous side of the river.
On shore stood the hungry horse, the farmer, the dog, the others– and the fox said that he could help the gingerbread boy to get away. The fox protected the gingerbread boy like the federal government is protecting your child’s personal data.
Every time I read an official promise like this recent CEP statement (and there are so many; even the federal alterations to FERPA sounded like the CEP statement) –I think of the gingerbread boy. The CEP (federal “Commission on Evidence-Based Policymaking”) promises that the government only wants more individual “data in order to build evidence about government programs, while protecting privacy and confidentiality.” I think of the fox “protecting” the gingerbread boy.
That fox wanted to eat the boy just as much as the dog and the farmer and everyone else did. Even the gingerbread boy probably suspected it, but he really, really wanted to cross that river.
When the government says that it can and will protect privacy while accessing greater amounts of data, I think:
River = money
Gingerbread boy = a child’s sensitive data
Horse = educational sales corporations
Farmer = educational researchers
Fox = federal government
Dog= state government
The oven where the boy was born = SLDS database
An Idaho grandmother, Yvonne Hyer, recently wrote a letter to legislators. She didn’t just confront her own representatives about Common Core and student data mining; she signed, stamped, and mailed her letter to one hundred and five members of the Idaho legislature.
On this eve of her ninetieth birthday, Yvonne Hyer told Idaho legislators that she remembers what she was doing when America’s Pearl Harbor was bombed, on a day when the current Idaho legislators weren’t even born.
Her letter warns, “We had all better remember. If we don’t learn from the past, we are bound to repeat the same horrible mistakes.”
(I have added some historical photos to illustrate Yvonne Hyer’s points.)
Yvonne’s letter explained that is was a mistake to give in –during a climate of dissatisfaction, unemployment and economic insecurity– to the comforting lies of collectivist power-grabbers, focused on transforming schools.
Actual illustrated children’s textbook from 1941 Germany (notice Hitler’s agenda embedded in curriculum)
The mistakes seem to be repeating themselves, wrote Yvonne Hyer: American leaders have begun to walk the school-transforming path sketched out by current elected officials and their corporate allies. This reminded Yvonne Hyer of how many listened to the then-heroic young leader of the 1940s, Adolph Hitler, and how nobody stopped him from taking over the schools.
“He gained control over the minds of the German children who became known as Hitler’s Youth. This he did in the school room…” she wrote.
Her letter further explains that one reason the German government mandated what went on in the classroom was to indoctrinate students with “politically correct” idealogy. But there was a second reason.
It was student (and family) data mining which took place in large part the German educational system:
“They were taught that it was their duty to report anyone who spoke against the government or its leaders, even their own parents….There was a lot of spying, to keep them in line… If Hitler had had access to Common Core’s data mining in that day, it would have been a snap to get what he wanted…”
“…Please don’t think I’ll believe you or anyone else who tells me that this data mining is strictly for educational purposes. As I told you in the beginning of this letter, I was not born yesterday…. Please do all you can to get us out of Common Core….the data mining of our children, by way of the State Longitudinal Database System, and the complete disregard for the child’s privacy (and their family’s privacy) are uppermost in my mind and heart“.
Yvonne is correct.
But will her legislators ponder the wisdom of this woman’s observations –and take action?
Are they aware that no student or family is permitted to opt out of the state longitudinal database system, which does collect massive amounts of student and family information without parental consent– and that this database system has been built in exactly the same, federally-prescribed, interoperable way, in every single one of the fifty states?
Do they realize that she’s completely correct– that Common Core is no different from the power grabbing that’s taken place throughout history, where always, the would-be elites have sought and gained access to and control over the school room?
Do they take a moment to think about the fact that the reason so many were successfully deceived and used as pawns in the widespread power-taking agendas of the past (not limited to Hitler’s Reich; including countless historical examples, past and present, around the world–) the reason for that success was that the official marketing lines sound so very, very appealing?
Will these legislators take a moment to fact check Yvonne’s claims and to fact check the claims about Common Core that gush forth, with exactly the same phrasing, from Boards of Education, federal grant application documents, official federal speeches, corporate educational sales speeches, poised-for-riches Chambers of Commerce and crony moneymakers’ speeches? Why doesn’t any legislature or state school board use its research team to fact-check and motivation-check?
This wise woman’s call for the legislators to wake up and stop the takeover of our schools and our students’ data privacy could not be more important.
Here’s the letter:
Dear Senator ________________,
In just four months, I will be 90 years old. Why is that important and why do I mention it to you? It’s important because I remember World War II.
Most of you serving in the legislature at this time had not even been born then. I remember what I was doing on Dec. 7th 1941, the day the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor! Most of us living then, still remember, just as all of us living now remember what we were doing on Sept. 11th 2001, the morning the Twin Towers were attacked. We had all better remember! If we don’t learn from the past, we are bound to repeat the same horrible experiences. I see many things going on in our country today, not identical, but reminiscent of an earlier time in a different part of the world.
After World War I, much of Europe was in shambles. Millions of men had died in the trenches and open battle fields. As those who survived returned home, they found the additional human cost was staggering. The length of the war, four long years, brought all kinds of problems, starvation not the least among them, along with unemployment, industry having almost shut down, with so many men at the front. In this climate of dissatisfaction, a group calling themselves the “Workers’ Party” was formed.
A young corporal was sent by his superiors to a meeting of the group to investigate. Dressed as a civilian, he blended in and heard a speaker convincingly describe how to get rid of capitalism. He was given a pamphlet called “My Political Awakening” which resonated with his own feelings. In challenging a statement made by own of the workers, he learned that he had a voice and passion that could sway his listeners. He joined the Worker’s party and advanced in its ranks, learned how to work a crowd and thus he entered into politics and in time became one of the most infamous world figures. He used whatever means and schemes, regardless of morality or legality, to achieve his objectives.
Adolph Hitler! What a hey-day he would have had with Common Core’s data mining! He gained control over the minds of German children who became known as “Hitler’s Youth”. This he did in the school room.
They were taught that the Third Reich was supreme and that its leaders had unquestioned authority; this was drilled into them from the earliest grades up. They were taught that it was their duty to report anyone they heard talking against the government or its leaders, even their own parents, and they did; it was so ingrained in them. There was a lot of spying then to find information on people, to keep them in line. If Hitler had had access to Common Core’s data mining in that day, it would have been a snap to get the information he wanted.
I know this sounds paranoid because this would never happen in America, but lots of things have happened in our country that we would never have dreamed of.
Of what possible use is all that data that is being gathered through Common Core tests or assessments, and to whom is it important? Ask yourself that question, and while doing so, let the fact cross your mind, that some of the items of information from your child or grandchild’s “data back pack” might just end up biting you. Please don’t think I’ll believe you or anyone else who tells me that this data mining is strictly for educational purposes. As I told you in the beginning of this letter, I was not born yesterday.
Please do all you can to get us out of Common Core. There are many other things about this program that I am deeply concerned about, but the data mining of our children, by way of the State Longitudinal Database Systems and the complete disregard for the child’s privacy (and their family’s privacy) are uppermost in my mind and heart at this time.
We know that changing the name to Idaho Core didn’t change anything! We want out!
Those of you not on the Education Committee may not be aware that Common Core is a package deal. It’s either take all of it, or none. It is copyrighted by two private trade groups, “The National Governors Association” and “The Council of Chief State School Officers” the NGA and the CCSSO (check: http://www.corestandards.org/public-license ).
We can add a little of what we would like to the program, 15%, but none of that will be included in the assessments. So if an inquisitive student should choose to study some “outside material” on his own time, none of the knowledge he acquired, regardless of how much effort he put in, or the accuracy or the importance of what he learned, will be counted toward his grade, because it will not be on the prescribed assessment. When I went to school and even when my children went, students were encouraged to reach out and expand their minds, we even got extra credit. We were taught that that was the way people got ahead in the world.
If the teachers’ job and salary and the ranking of their school is dependent on how well his or her students perform on the assessment, who can blame them for “teaching to the test”? Many fine teachers in this awful predicament are disheartened. This was not why they chose a teaching career. Few of them dare to speak up against Common Core because they need to provide for their families.
Common Core is and will be more far reaching and intrusive in our lives than any of us can foresee at the present time. Loss of local control is frightening to me, not just in education, but particularly in education, because of the effect on the minds and hearts of our precious children, the future leaders of our Republic.
Can you please tell me, Senator, why an issue as important as almost completely changing our education system, did not come before the whole legislative body for discussion and debate– time and again? Is not your opinion on this subject, vital as it is to each of us, as important as that of those on the Education Committee? Were you not also elected to uphold Idaho conservative values? You were probably as much in the dark about this as the rest of us; the more people in the dark about it, the more likely it was to be passed, and I think that was planned.
As Common Core is actually being implemented in the classroom and as more people are becoming aware of what this program really is, you will see it becoming more of an issue.
“You can fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time; but you can’t fool all of the people all of the time” -Abraham Lincoln
Since Common Core affects all Idahoans, I’m sending this letter to each of you legislators, with my earnest plea that you will consider the ramifications inherent in such power and control as this program gives “somebody”.
Mrs. Yvonne Hyer
Thank you to Yvonne Hyer.