Tuesday, June 04, 2013
Thanks to its claims that a federal educational database is collecting information about parents' political affiliations, a column by Arnold Ahlert linked at Jewish World Review caught my attention this morning. In attempting to verify this claim, I discovered that there is a great deal of justifiable concern among Tea Partiers regarding such an effort. Here is part of the list of things Ahlert claims the state will be collecting in its attempts to compile data on students:
- Political affiliations or beliefs of the student or parent;
- Mental and psychological problems of the student or the student's family;
- Sex behavior or attitudes;
- Illegal, anti-social, self-incriminating, and demeaning behavior;
- Critical appraisals of other individuals with whom respondents have close family relationships;
- Legally recognized privileged or analogous relationships, such as those of lawyers, physicians, and ministers;
- An unique identifier for every student that does not permit a student to be individually identified (except as permitted by federal and state law);
- The school enrollment history, demographic characteristics, and program participation record of every student;
- Information on when a student enrolls, transfers, drops out, or graduates from a school;
- Students scores on tests required by the Elementary and Secondary Education Act;
- Information on students who are not tested, by grade and subject;
- Students scores on tests measuring whether they're ready for college;
- A way to identify teachers and to match teachers to their students;
- Information from students' transcripts, specifically courses taken and grades earned;
- Data on students' success in college, including whether they enrolled in remedial courses;
- Data on whether K-12 students are prepared to succeed in college;
- A system of auditing data for quality, validity, and reliability; and
- The ability to share data from preschool through postsecondary education data systems.
I recall from one article I scanned that a parent felt "powerless" in the face of such a proposal. What I do not recall seeing one whiff of was opposition to the whole idea of the government operating schools and excercising so much control over education. Rather, Tea Party opposition seems focused on these particular, easily-dismissed or dicounted allegations. Is this, perhaps, an early warning sign of the "political equivalent of an epileptic seizure" that Tom Bowden of the Ayn Rand Institute predicted a couple of years ago?
Meanwhile, however, the tea party’s “left brain” harbors the same moral impetus that has justified bigger and bigger government since the Progressive Era. The basic idea is that some people’s needs constitute a moral claim on the lives and wealth of others. The list of needs is endless: economic stability, job security, housing, health care, retirement funds. To satisfy those needs, government concocts regulatory and wealth transfer schemes that coercively subject the individual to society. Over the years, each new program – from the Federal Reserve to Social Security, Medicare, and beyond – acquires an aura of moral dignity that renders it politically untouchable by later generations. The needs of others permanently displace the freedom of the individual.Add "education" to Bowden's list of needs. Opposing government education outright would remove from the government any excuse to compile a massive database of the personal information of schoolchildren, because educating them would be recognized, properly, as none of its business. Supporting it in any form opens the door for the government to collect whatever data it claims, as educator, to need.
If Tea Partiers feel "powerless" in the face of such a government scheme, they should insist on ending the scheme, not "reforming" it. The idea that we can have government goodies without strings, or only with the strings we want, is pure fantasy. "Opposing" the strings to a government entitlement program will see the strings moved or replaced further down the road. Opposing the entitlement program is not (like any other effort) guaranteed of victory, but it is much a more promising way of getting untangled and staying that way.