“Hopefully, some day, we can track children from preschool to high school and from high school to college and college to career . . . . We want to see more states build comprehensive systems that track students from pre-K through college and then link school data to workforce data.”
– Former U. S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan
The last generation of free Americans has already been born. Those belonging to this generation are not infants as you might expect, but are in their mid-twenties and in their final year of college. They are the last, the end. Allow me to explain.
As you read this article, a bipartisan, legislative grenade lays patiently awaiting detonation in the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions. The bill is the just latest pineapple brought forth by Republican turncoats and data-hungry Progressives, traitors to the citizenry, launched for the explicit purpose of demolishing the last barricade securing the privacy of every American, the last blockade between liberty and tyranny. Once the pin is pulled, the Founders’ dream of a limited government will be obliterated, along with the free world. Support for the bill is growing.
Background: Bill Gates and the Pursuit of the Totalitarian “Benevolent” State
In my last article, I wrote about Bill Gates’ October 19th speech to the Council of the Greater City Schools in which he declared his dedication to ensuring that the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) remain in place. Gates then introduced several of his foundation’s new initiatives geared toward securing Nationwide CCSS uniformity and compliance. His big focus? Data. Lots and lots of data. And a shared database. And data teams. And schools and data teams all sharing the data on the database.
Behaviorists and totalitarians of all stripes have long desired to establish a national database on each citizen in order to track us, study us, and even to manipulate us from the cradle to the grave, our every move recorded and choreographed like an epic drama. Of course, we should have absolutely nothing to fear. Our own benevolent state would never bring about a 1984-esque reality. I doubt any “benevolent intentions” will lend comfort to the thousands of students spied upon in the privacy of their own home by Pennsylvania’s Lower Marion School District, where students were photographed through district-issued laptops. (Some students were even disciplined by school administrators for behavior carried out in the privacy of their own homes.)
A similar situation is occurring in Rhode Island in which breaches of privacy are so egregious that the ACLU has filed a report on the matter. In fact, the breaches of student privacy being carried out by technology companies and school districts across America are the subject of an intensive study by the Electronic Frontier Foundation. EFF released a scathing report on the state of student privacy in America in April of this year. Nevertheless, we are supposed to feel assured that none such events would ever come about, or, at the very least, would not worsen with the creation of a national database storing the secrets of our most intimate moments.
Fortunately for us, a federal ban on the creation and management of a centralized student-data system impedes Mr. Gates’ grand scheme. Ever persistent, Bill Gates, through his “philanthropy,” will create sub-national “networks of schools.” By focusing on the establishment of these “networks of schools,” the data-sharing can begin, without the involvement of the federal government, for now.
However, all of that is about to change.
College Transparency Act of 2017: euphuism* in action
Awaiting passage is the College Transparency Act of 2017, “which has bipartisan support in both chambers, would reverse a 2008 ban on creating a nationwide student data system and expand data collection while tracking a number of data points for all students” (NACUBO.org). In short, this bill authorizes the government to create a lifelong, postsecondary student data system: the government will track the careers (etc.) of all citizens for the duration of their lives. Thus, the transparency demanded in this bill is not that of dear, daddy government. The transparency is meant for you!
“Many states also gather precisely the information that the federal government is banned from seeking, some with support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.”
– John Marcus, The Atlantic, October 24, 2017
Perhaps this bill wouldn’t be of such concern had the Obama administration not gutted the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), making it possible for your information to be shared with 3rd parties, such as the “data teams” which will be involved in Bill Gates created “networks of schools.”
Turncoat Republicans, past and present
The bill is being sponsored by Senators Hatch (R-UT), Warren (D-MA), Cassidy (R-LA), and Whitehouse (D-RI). Sadly, this is just the latest in a long line of legislative attempts at subverting the American public’s right to privacy, and is merely the latest example of the Republican party betraying their limited-government platform. The following list, while far from being comprehensive, offers a brief timeline of the “benevolent” governments’ encroachment into the private lives of the citizenry.
- 1974: The Student Data Handbook for Early Childhood, Elementary and Secondary Education lists employed a three-digit-code to catalogue major categories of student information. The handbook specifically limits how the information may be used and by whom, in addition to strictly prohibiting the ability of 3rd parties to share private student information that was received. This handbook series, also known as the State Educational Records and Reports Series, was first begun in 1953. By the 2001 update, those privacy safeguards had been removed. For more information, see page 14 of the 1974 handbook (linked above).
- 1974: The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) was proposed by Senator Buckley and signed into law by President Ford. “In a speech explaining the Act to the Legislative Conference of Parents and Teachers, Senator Buckley said FERPA was adopted in response to ‘the growing evidence of the abuse of student records across the nation,’” (epic.org). FERPA granted students and parents the right to review their educational records, and limited schools’ abilities to share information, including data which could be used to personally identify a past or present student.
- 1989: The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) began construction of “an interstate student records transfer system” called ExPRESS (Exchange of Permanent Records Electronically for Students and Schools) (Blumenfeld, 2012).
- 1991: The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) awarded a three-year contract to the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO), also connected to the Common Core State Standards, “to facilitate the implementation of a national education data system” in what was called the Education Data System Implementation Project(EDSIP) (Blumenfeld, 2012).
- 2001: The Student Data Handbook for Elementary, Secondary, and Early Childhood Education (2001 edition), listed some 400 data points to be collected on every student in America. The following are quotes from the “handbook”.
- -“They also provide the flexibility necessary to supply aggregate data to school boards, state and federal governments, and other interested parties…[…] for all students, in all places, and at all times.”
- -“In addition, the Handbook may be useful to elected officials and members of the public interested in student information.”
- 2002: (20 U.S.C. § 9501 et seq) The federal government began the Statewide Longitudinal Data System grant to incentivize the states to build identical databases so that the data can be easily shared.
- 2004: Representing Microsoft, Bill Gates signed a cooperation agreement with the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) to “help remove barriers to digital inclusion,” according to UNESCO’s website. In addition to a shared commitment to developing global teacher curriculum, this unholy alliance focused on the creation of “web-based communities of practice, which will facilitate the pooling of intellectual resources independently of geographical barriers.”
- 2005: National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) carried out a feasibility study on the possibility of a national unit record system. Student data collected would be used “to evaluate trends within particular institutions in order to compare institutions’ performance and would include demographic and identification information (such as Social Security number, ethnicity, and gender), registration and program information (credits attempted, major, dates of attendance), graduation information (status and time to completion), and financial aid (net price paid, sources of financial aid)” (emphasis mine) (newamerica.org). Later that year, the Department of Education released a plan“that would create a national database of student records — with students identified by Social Security numbers,” (Jaschik, 2005).
- 2008: “The Education Department issued regulations amending the FERPA. These amendments made several significant changes to the FERPA regulations. For example, in light of the Supreme Court decision in Owasso Independent School Dist. No. I011 v. Falvo (534 U.S. 426 (2002)), the regulations exclude ‘grades on peer-graded papers before they are collected and record by a teacher’ from the definition of ‘education records.’ The amendments also changed the definition of ‘personally identifiable information’ to include a definition for ‘biometric record.’ Under the regulations, biometric information includes ‘fingerprints; retina and iris patterns; voiceprints; DNA sequence; facial characteristics; and handwriting.’ Additionally, the 2008 regulations permit educational agencies and institutions to disclose education records without consent to ‘contractors, consultants, volunteers, and other outside parties providing institutional services and functions or otherwise acting for an agency or institution,”’ (emphasis mine) (epic.org).
- 2008: In 2008, Congress passed a Student Unit Record (SUR) ban (20 U.S.C § 7911) as part of the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act. “The ban works by preventing individual-level data collected by different agencies from being connected. For example, individuals’ income history is collected by the IRS, but while the ban is in place, that information cannot be connected with that student’s level of education, college or university, major program, or use of financial aid for college in a national data system,” (newamerica.org). The ban also strictly prohibits the federal government from maintaining a centralized database.
- 2009: The Stimulus Bill of 2009, required states to construct particular student and teacher data bases in order to receive money from the State Fiscal Stabilization Fund.
- 2009: Obama’s Race to the Top program financially incentivized (paid) states to adopt the Common Core State Standards, to adopt assessment aligned with the CCSS, and to expandtheir data collection program. CCSS assessment consortia PARCC and Smarter Balancedboth signed cooperation agreements with the US Department of Education, giving the DoED access to all student-level data, on an on-going basis, for research.
- 2011: The federal government issued a notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) regarding the Family and Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974 (FERPA). The Electronic Privacy Information Center responded to the DoEd. In an article detailing the timeline of events surrounding the federal government’s eradication of privacy protections and EPIC’s sumsequent law suit against the DoED, EPIC states, “The proposed regulations removed limitations prohibiting educational institutions and agencies from disclosing studentpersonally identifiable information, without first obtaining student or parental consent. For example, the proposed FERPA regulations reinterpreted FERPA statutory terms “authorized representative,” “education program,” and “directory information.” This reinterpretation gives non-governmental actors increased access to student personal data,” (emphasis mine). The Department of Education’s proposed changes essentially gutted FERPA, making it little more than ink on paper. EPIC’s lawsuit was dismissed by the court, claiming that neither EPIC nor its co-plaintiffs had standing to file the lawsuit. TheEducrats won.
- 2012: An Education Department report, entitled Enhancing, Teaching and Learning through Educational Data Mining and Learning Analytics states, “A student learning database (or other big data repository) stores timestamped student input and behaviors captured as students work within the system.” The report continues, “A predictive model combines demographics data from an external student information system) and learning/behavior data from the student learning database track a student’s progress and make predictions about his or her future behaviors or performance.”
- 2012: “Senators Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Ron Wyden (D-OR) introduced the Student Right to Know Before You Go Act in February 2012. This bill did not seek to overturn the 2008 student unit record ban, but rather to tie existing state-level student unit record systems together. Institutions would report data to their state, which would then report the data to a third party. The third party would connect all data, add income information, and then report the connected data to the Department of Education. The House version of this bill was also introduced in February 2012 by Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-CA),” (newamerica.org). The bill stalled.
- 2013: An Education Department report, entitled Promoting Grit, Tenacity, and Perseverance: Critical Factors for Success in the 21st Century provides a vision for the future, a future in which databases are only the beginning. Interestingly, the report provides information on technology that is already in use through government-funded tutoring programs: what is revealed sounds more like a psychological sci-fi movie than a tutoring program. “Connections to neuroscience,” the report states, are “beginning to emerge.” It is effectively candy for behaviorists. The report then describes several technological tools already used by publics school programs “to get inside students’ minds and ‘measure’ the children using ‘four parallel streams of affective sensors.’ Among the devices is a facial recognition camera used to ‘detect emotion and capture facial expressions.’ The report explains that the camera is connected to software that ‘extracts geometric properties on faces.’ There is also a ‘posture analysis seat’ and ‘pressure mouse.’ Finally, the report describes a ‘wireless skin conductance sensor’ strapped to students’ wrists. According to the report, the sensors collect ‘physiological response data from biofeedback apparatus that measures blood volume, pulse, and galvanic skin response to examine student frustration’” (Blumenfeld & Newman, p. 216, 2014). Just imagine the possibilities, had this technology been available to the Cheka!
- 2013: “Senators Wyden and Rubio introduced a different bill,” the Student Right to Know Act of 2013, “that would repeal the student unit record ban instead of connecting existing student unit record data systems as the 2012 bill sought to do. This new bill called for one, central reporting organization for all institutions receiving funding for federal financial aid. Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-CA) introduced the House version of the bill,” (newamerica.org). The bill stalled.
- 2015: “In May 2015, the latest version of the Act was introduced in the Senate by Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR). The bill was co-sponsored by Senators Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Mark Warner (D-VA). After introduction and reading of the bill, it was referred to the Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions. In the same month, the House version of the bill, co-authored by Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-CA) and Mia Love (R-UT), was introduced. The bill was co-sponsored by Reps. John Carney (D-DE), Trey Gowdy (R-SC), Paul Ryan (R-WI), Susan Davis (D-CA), Jared Polis (D-CO), and Doug LaMalfa (R-CA). The bill was referred to the House Committee on Education and the Workforce,” (newamerica.org). The bills stalled.
“To know all this, of course, we have to know pretty much everything Johnny does, throughout his lifetime.”
– Jane Robbins, Truth In American Education
Opposition to the bill
The College Transparency Act of 2017, is such an egregious violation of privacy upon the American Citizenry that a coalition “of organizations, including the ACLU, Parents Across America and the Parent Coalition for Student Privacy recently sent a letter to the federal Commission on Evidence-Based Policymaking opposing any type of federal database,” (Tenth Amendment Center). The following quotes are drawn from the letter.
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“We strongly oppose any proposal that would lead to the creation of a central federal clearinghouse or linked data sets containing the personally identifiable information (“PII”) of all students, commonly referred to as a federal student unit-record system or national database. We cannot overstate the threat to student privacy that would be posed by the development of such a database, including breach, malicious attack, or use of student PII for purposes not initially intended.”
“Data collected ostensibly for the sole purpose of research but without the individual’s consent or knowledge would likely be merged with other federal agency data sets, to follow students into the workplace and beyond, and could include data from their military service, tax returns, criminal and health records. If this granular level of sensitive information were available in a universal U.S. student record database, it could quickly become a go-to repository for purposes that should never be allowed.”
This bill, which includes up to 700 areas of personal data (data points) is a dream come true for every want-to-be totalitarian, from Joseph Stalin to Nicolas Maduro to Bill Gates. The Tenth Amendment Center (linked above) has listed ways in which we can organize and oppose this encroachment into our private lives. I encourage you to read those suggestions, as well as explore the various resources which I have provided in this article (links). Call and write your representatives. It would certainly appear that the members of our legislature are in need a bit of education themselves, as they’ve evidently forgotten the values and ethics of Federalism. Above all, we must stand together to ensure that the last free Americans are not those already alive today.
Next week I will examine some of the new technology being employed in classroom across the country, as well as technology seeking its way inside of our schools and inside students’ minds (literally).
*euphuism: an artificial, highly elaborate way of writing or speaking.