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Company to collect brain wave data on 1.2 mil students in the classroom

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Company to collect brain wave data on 1

[This is part 4 of a series on education, student privacy, and technology in the classroom. You can read Part 1 HERE, Part 2 HERE, and Part 3 HERE. Each article builds on the previous ones.]

“Turning massive amounts of personal data about public school students to a private corporation without any public input is profoundly disturbing and irresponsible.”

~Donna Lieberman, New York Civil Liberties Union Executive Director

Data-mining is the new gold rush, with student data (which is sometimes referred to as human capital) forming the new mountain for conquest. Classrooms are the new West and grant money is the new pickaxe. Big Money, Big Tech, Big Philanthropies and start-up companies, along with the Big State comprise the ranks of the 21st Century’s “forty-niners.” Regardless of who is doing the mining and the collecting of our human capital – the Big State and its Big Beaurocracy, educational venture capitalists/companies like Knewton and DreamBox,  Big Tech companies like Amazon and Google, or “venture philanthropists” like Zuckerberg and Gates with their infamous “schoolhouse commercialization” – this get-rich-quick scheme will inevitably have big consequences for student privacy and for the civilian-to-government, government-to-civilian relationship going forward.

A CASE STUDY: BRAINCO, INC.

BrainCo

The technology: One company among modernity’s forty-niners is BrainCo, Inc. which has created a headband to measure and collect students’ brain waves, or EEG’s. Data collected will then be sent to a teacher dashboard as part of the company’s FocusEDU program. The company purports the technology measures students’ level of attention, and claims that the EEG data collected will help teachers and administrators determine when each student is paying attention during a lesson and/or activity.

China, where the communist regime is always in search of new ways to spy on and, thus, manipulate its citizenry into submission, has ordered 20,000 of these devices. “Our goal with the first 20,000 devices, each of which will be used by multiple students in schools, is to capture data from 1.2 million people,” stated the CEO of BrainCo. “This will enable us to use artificial intelligence on what will be the world’s largest database to improve our algorithms for things like attention and emotion detection.” A school in Long Island is set to roll-out a trial of the headbands this year.

Flaw #1 – science disagrees: As Sandra Loo, professor of psychiatry at the University of California, Los Angeles, has stated, there is no evidence supporting the idea of using EEG’s to determine attention level, as EEG data is not sophisticated enough to account for numerous variables, such as neurodiversity, which can result in “misleading assumptions about how an individual student is or what he or she needs” (Edsurge, 2017). Loo, who also directs Pediatric Neuropsychology at UCLA, explained, “Even in resting EEG, there are different subgroups [of brain activity]. It’s not just ADHD; there is variability in normal kids.”

Theodore Zanto, who directs OCSF’s neuroscience program, shares Loo’s concerns regarding the inaccuracy of BrainCo’s claim of using headbands to measure attention. “I haven’t seen any data indicating you can dissociate [in an EEG scan] if someone is paying attention to the teacher or their phone or just their own internal thoughts and daydreaming.” The students wearing the headbands “might be incredibly focused, but focused on the wrong thing, and you could get the same EEG measures.” It is also not uncommon, according to Johns Hopkins, for normal children between the ages of 4 to 14 to experience “absence seizures.” This could result in a faulty indication of inattention by BrainCo’s headband-generated data.

BrainCo, Inc. has been designated by the FDA as an Institutional Review Board (IRB) organization, giving the company permission, according to FDA rules, “to review and monitor biomedical research involving human subjects.” However, an FDA legal “assurance,” which requires the research subject’s consent, is only required for products currently regulated by the FDA and funded, in full or in part, by the Department of Health and Human Services. To date, no medical trial on BrainCo’s headbands has been conducted.

Flaw #2 – student privacy: BrainCo’s headbands are merely a single example of how the line between educational, bio-medical, and psycho-medical information is being increasingly blurred. How much of your medical information should be shared with your teacher or your school? When I taught, I certainly would not have considered accessing or viewing a student’s brain waves to be an appropriate or ethical activity. Nor would I have been comfortable strapping EEG recording headbands onto my Kindergarteners. Whereas a student’s food allergies are important to know, accessing his/her brain waves appears, for me, to cross the line of student privacy. While unethical, teachers who object to such unethical breaches of student privacy may possibly find themselves punished, according to a recent article at Missouri Education Watchdog.

There are presently no privacy policies listed on the company’s website. In addition, BrainCo, Inc. will not rule out the use of student EEG data for other purposes and, according to research scientist Max Newlon, the company intends to “use [headset] data for a number of different things.” “The hope is when we have this really big database, we will do some analysis that others haven’t been able to do yet,” Newlon added. Emily Tabatabai, a privacy lawyer, explained that, under the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA), “a provider needs to have procedures in place to address the collection of data, the deletion of data, how it will be used and shared.” Newlon has indicated that the company’s privacy policies are still being “ironed out.” Unfortunately, the matter of student privacy was muddied significantly after the Obama Department of Education gutted the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) in 2011. In addition, there is still no word on whether, or not, BrainCo, Inc. will need to comply with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) laws due to the medical nature of the data collected.

Flaw # 3 – time and training: Teachers and administrators are not medical practitioners and, thus, are unable to read or interpret EEG’s. In addition, there is frankly little, if any, time available to be devoted to analyzing brain waves for the said purpose of ascertaining each student’s attention level, which would then need to be retroactively synchronized with the teacher’s lesson to determine precise point at which the student’s attention decreased. As Max Newlon, a research scientist at BrainCo. has already acknowledged, “Teachers have an innate ability to know when their students are engaged…” This begs the question of what, then, would be the benefit of using BrainCo’s headbands?

The true agenda: As reported by Forbes, BrainCo, Inc.’s CEO stated that the company’s goal is to develop a “brain typing” tool, translating thoughts into text. The headbands, then, serve as EEG data collectors, sending large amounts of data to what the CEO hopes will be “the world’s largest brain wave database,” explaining that, “this will enable us [BrainCo, Inc.] to use artificial intelligence on what will be the world’s largest database to improve our algorithms for things like attention and emotion detection.” Thus, just as with far too many of the money-making “education” schemes, all supposedly designed to “assist teachers” and “improve learning,” the main agenda is quite different than what is marketed to the schools.

“I believe that data is the new oil.”

~Ajay Banga, president and CEO of MasterCard

(speaking Future Investment Initiative in Riyadh)

OTHER EXAMPLES OF BIG DATA TECHNOLOGY IN SCHOOLS:

Project EMAR, your “friendly” classroom robot: A $1 million grant was recently awarded to the University of Washington to develop and then deploy a robot named “EMAR” (Ecological Momentary Assessment Robot) which will collect data on high schoolers’ “mental health data in a public high school setting” including students’ “real-time stress and mood data,” according to the official document. In addition, EMAR is intended to contribute to the future development of omnipresent “social robots” serving as data-collectors. “The results of this project will be disseminated widely,” [emphasis mine].

“Smart” tutoring programs employing biomedical sensors: Computer science and psychology professor Sidney D’Mello enthusiastically stated, “Now, you can get a reasonable proxy of a student’s heart rate from a webcam.” Welcome to the world of biometrics, which Edutopia defines as the use of technology to “recognize humans based on specific physical or behavioral traits.” Students’ biomedical data collected via biometric technology may include “physical traits such as facial expression, heart rate, skin moisture and even odor” which “can be used to create detailed reports of student understanding and performance.” Biomedical information also includes, for example, “behavioral signs such as typing rhythm, gait and voice.”

Enter “Intelligent Tutoring Systems,” where private thoughts, emotions, and even how much a student perspires is prime gold to be mined. An article in Education Week illustrates the Big Data dreamers’ determination to violate long-established educational ethics and student privacy. The article shines a light on the ways in which technology is facilitating “new efforts to dramatically expand the types of data collected in the classroom and to focus more attention on responding to individual students’ ‘mindsets,’ non-cognitive skills, and emotional states.” Operating under the guise of “personalized learning experiences,” new forms of technology in the classroom are actively involved in the collection of data on students’ “individual emotions, cognitive processes, ‘mindsets,’ and character and personality traits.”

A 2013, Education Department report, entitled Promoting Grit, Tenacity, and Perseverance: Critical Factors for Success in the 21st Century describes “four parallel streams of affective sensors” already in use in government-funded tutoring programs. The devices include a facial recognition camera which is synced to software that “extracts geometric properties on faces,” and is used to “detect emotion and capture facial expressions.” 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!

A few more examples of biometric technology:

  • “It simply takes a picture of the iris, which is unique to every individual,” wrote the Polk County, Florida 2013 school board’s “senior director of support services” in a letter to parents. “With this program, we will be able to identify when and where a student gets on the bus, when they arrive at their school location, when and what bus the student boards and disembarks in the afternoon. This is an effort to further enhance the safety of our students. The EyeSwipe-Nano is an ideal replacement for the card based system since your child will not have to be responsible for carrying an identification card.” (The New American)
  • Since 2007, under the guise of improving school lunchtime procedures, more and more states are implementing in-school fingerprinting.
  • Radio-frequency identification devices (RFID’s) for “student tagging” have become more common. These devices especially allow schools to track students on and off school grounds. A San Antonio student was suspended from school in 2013, for refusing to carry the school-issued RFID card. Later that year, she lost her lawsuit against the school for the suspension.

WHAT DATA IS BEING COLLECTED?

“Just think George Orwell, and take it to the nth degree. We’re in an environment of surveillance, essentially. It will be an extraordinarily rich data set of your life.” Those were the words of Joel Reidenberg, director of the Center on Law & Information Policy at Fordham Law School, responding to Rep. Glenn Grothman’s (of Wisconsin) request to “provide a summary of all the information collected by the time a student reaches graduate school,” in 2015. He wasn’t kidding! As an article in the New York Times put it, “The collection of student data is out of control.”

Obama administration Department of Education’s bureaucratic gutting of FERPA, which took effect in 2012, made it legal for information about you and your children to be shared with “stakeholders” without your consent.  The Department of Education’s National Education Technology Plan defines stakeholders, by stating “stakeholders include leaders; teachers, faculty, and other educators; researchers; policymakers; funders; technology developers; community members and organizations; and learners and their families.” Tragically, most parents are unaware of how widely their children’s personally identifiable information (PII) is share, nor just how immense the scope of data is that is constantly being collected.  While the federal government is currently banned from creating a database for the compilation of student data, there is no such prohibition on states or private entities.

Below is a list of data often collected (and permanently stored) at the state and private level:

  • Medical information and juvenile court records (which, when shared directly by the school, does not have to meet HIPAA regulations or legal requirements for juvenile protections typically ensured by the courts), and other juvenile, adult, and family information (data) which is collected via various state agencies/departments, such as child services, the health department, and the department of corrections (Washington Post)
  • Demographics, disability status and diagnosis, housing status, as well as “student detentions, letters of apology, demerits, warnings, counseling, suspension and expulsion records, whether the student was involved in an incident that involved weapons, whether he or she was arrested, whether there was a court hearing and what the judicial outcome and punishment was, including incarceration” (Washington Post)
  • Affective data (non-cognitive), defined as “a state linked to ‘neurobiology, psychophysiology, and consciousness,’” including response to stimuli, habits, actions, response time, “smiles or frowns, changes in pupil dilation, eye-movement tracking, heart rate” and emotions (in order to learn how to regulate and alter a student’s affect) (The New American); motivation and mindset (2017 National Education Technology Plan)
  • “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; religious practices, affiliations, or beliefs of the student or the student’s parent; or income,” in addition to Social Security Number, date of birth, parents’ names, mother’s maiden name, and place of birth (The New American)
  •  Teacher observation on said student, teacher feedback for said student, student equity, scores, summative assessments, and data collected electronically through technological learning tools (2017 National Education Technology Plan)

SO WHAT? WHO CARES? WHAT IS THE BIG DEAL?

The collection of immeasurable amounts of data on individuals is a very big deal, and it creates a variety of risks for both individual citizens, as well as for groups of citizens. A discussion of these risks is warranted. However, for the sake of brevity, I will discuss the topic of risks at length in a following article. For now, I encourage you to learn which data points your state collects, as well as the data-sharing policy(ies) in place. I also encourage you to submit a request to view your own data and that of your child (without charge), which is highly recommended since erroneous information has been attached to individual citizens in the past (see the example of father John Eppolito). Also, keep in mind the 5 principles of student privacy when investigating and evaluating your state’s policies: transparency, no commercial uses, security protections, parental/student rights, and enforcement. Lastly, talk with your child’s school about any possible pilot programs that will be taking place in your child’s classroom, such as BrainCo’s “headbands”, as well as whether or not your may opt your child out of that pilot.

Paige Rogers is a Christian artist and author, and a former professional practitioner in the field of Early Childhood Development. She is the creator of ThePaintingPastor.org, a blog offering Christian reflection, exhortation and discernment alongside various artistic techniques visually documented through Paige's unique artistic endeavors. A lover of learning, Paige is an avid enthusiast of history, civics, political geography and human nature, physical geography and the sciences. She is an incurably inquisitive and chronically creative “egghead.” Paige is a strong supporter of America's service members and veterans.

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Education

A Tale of Two Shootings

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It was the best of times. It was the worst of times. Charles Dickens probably never thought of a shooting as the best of times, nor would anyone else. However, if you HAVE to have a shooting, then the obvious “best of times” is one where only the gunman dies. Unfortunately that isn’t always the case.

Today we had yet another, preventable shooting at a soft-target school, where the best defense the government can come up with is making the school a gun-free zone, and occasionally a couple of cops.

The facts will continue to play out, but while two police officers acted heroically today (take note, Broward County Sheriff’s Office) what we do know is that there were still far too many innocents killed. The first officer was shot before he knew what was happening, and the second seems to have moved as fast as he could, though no one can be everywhere at once.

This will obviously be a story that is played out in the press for days, while the talking heads on Fox News and CNN spout various “solutions” to the problems of mass shootings. Most of these talking heads won’t have the first clue what they are talking about.

I am a former military and civilian firearms instructor. I still teach friends and family who want to learn, but I don’t charge anymore. I was a Texas Concealed Handgun Instructor. I know the law in Texas. A 17 year-old having access to his father’s weapons like what happened today is a felony for the father. Yes, there is a DEFENSE to this charge if the gun was used in self-defense, but this was not the case here, and so the father can not use this defense in court, though I’m sure his lawyers will try if they’re paid enough. The father of today’s shooter (I won’t use his name and give him the fame so many of these killers desire) WILL see time in prison, if Attorney General Ken Paxton has anything to say about it. The father may have obtained his guns legally, but in no way was a 17 year-old legally using them.

Obviously, today’s shooting was the worst of times.

The best of times happened just yesterday in Dixon, Illinois, when a school resource officer shot a would-be school shooter. There were snippets about this in the NY Times and other major news outlets, but that story has already gone away, while this one will not. It SHOULD be talked about just as much as today’s shooting. We need to talk about successes in stopping school shootings just as much as we talk about failures. We need to have an honest conversation about what DOES and what DOES NOT work.

I’m not going to use this piece to go into a great detail on the gun-control debate, though I’m sure that’s where the Left will continue to take us, even though they admit there are no additional laws they want that would stop these horrific tragedies. I DO want us all to come to some common ground on this issue of school shootings though.

1. ALL of us (we, the common people) want these to stop. I say we the common people because there are a great number of politicians on both sides of the debate, but particularly on the Left, who make a great deal of hay when these incidents happen.

2. We have to have an honest conversation about what does and does not work. An HONEST conversation, by the way, Lefties, does not mean what levels of gun control we’re willing to accept.  And for those on the Right, yes, we need to talk about gun control. It’s our job to demonstrate to those who are ill-informed why gun control has not and never will work.

3. We need to approach this with logic and facts, not emotion.

This honest conversation has to begin with certain undeniable facts:

1. The shootings with the lowest body counts are those stopped by a good guy with a gun. It’s not ALWAYS a cop. Arming responsible teachers who both desire to carry and have demonstrated that they can handle a gun is something we need to talk about. I’ve heard good arguments for this, and one or two reasonable concerns against.

2. In nearly every incidence, mental health has played a factor, and could be seen BEFORE the shooting.

3. In MOST (not all) incidences, there were already mechanisms in place within current law that COULD have and SHOULD have stopped the gunman from obtaining firearms. Take today for example. Daddy is going to go to jail, and he should, for not having his firearms secured where his son could get them. I’m speculating here, but I’m willing to bet a lot of money as the investigation goes on, that the father of the gunman knew his son was disturbed, and should not only have kept his firearms secure from his son, as is the law in Texas, but also should have been seeking mental health for his son.

4. The Left is going to hate this one, but it’s an undeniable fact. Almost every one of these mass shootings, and ALL of them in schools, are in gun free zones. Those who know little to nothing about guns may think this irrelevant, but it is one of the most important points. They are soft targets that are chosen because most if not everyone there is completely defenseless.

There is more we could talk about on today’s shooting. We could talk about the explosives, the fact that neither of the guns used are ones the Left (currently) claims it wants to ban, or the instant calls for gun control. I did see something just yesterday that I found interesting from the Left. They were complaining that Parkland was disappearing from the news and it wasn’t getting any attention anymore, a month later. They wanted to push for gun control and nothing else.

Well, I have a solution for this. Adhere to the above rules for a conversation, and accept the undeniable facts above, and then engage us with logic and reason, instead of pure emotion. The kids from the Parkland shooting got famous not for their calm reason, but for their rage.

And before you think I’m not emotional ENOUGH about all this, just keep in mind I have two little boys in public school here in Texas. Yes, I’d love for the teachers and administrators in their schools (those who want to be) armed and willing to protect my kids. I’ll donate the time on the range to help them become proficient. I’ll even pay for the ammo and range time.

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Education

Hidden History: Colonial Rebellion Against Corporate Oppression

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Was “The Boston Tea Party” truthfully all about taxation?

It started with a famine-

Eight years after the Battle of Plassey in 1757, when British Major-General Robert Clive defeated the Nawab of Bengal (India), Clive granted British governmental powers of civil administration to the British East India Company in Bengal (BBC History Magazine, 2010).

As the functioning government over Bengal, the East India Company imposed taxes on goods, land taxes, and trade tariffs. A monopoly over tea and grains was achieved (Cambridge Forecast, 2006).

Laws were also passed prohibiting the Bengalese from “hoarding” goods, such as rice. “This prevented traders and dealers from laying in reserves that in other times would have tided the population over lean periods,” (Cambridge Forecast, 2006).

When a semi-regular dry spell, causing a decline in crop production, came upon the region in 1769, the peasantry’s surplus of staple crops proved inadequate for sustaining the population (Strasser, 2010).

Famine struck in 1770, “killing at least 1.9 million people – this was equivalent to half the population of the 13 American colonies at the time” (BBC History Magazine, 2010).

A plethora of bad press soon haunted the British East India Company.

The horrified public of Great Britain rightfully cast blame upon the East India Company for the man-made disaster.

Horace Walpole, the 4th Earl of Orford, wrote:

“The oppressions of India…. under the rapine and cruelties of the servants of the company, had now reached England, and created general clamour here,” (BBC History Magazine, 2010).

 

The American Colonies were slated to be next-

In 1773, the Crown devised a plan to aid the now economically flailing British East India Company in ridding itself of 17.5 million pounds of excess tea (BBC History Magazine, 2010).

The Tea Act was passed by Parliament in May of 1773.

The act imposed no new taxes.

Rather than imposing a new tax on tea, the Tea Act merely reinforced the taxes already in existence, put in place years before with the passage of the 1767 Townsend Revenue Act. Instead of imposing a new tax, the Tea Act of 1773 granted a full monopoly on the import and subsequent sale of tea in all American colonies.

This monopoly was granted to the British East India Company.

Americans feared that they too would suffer the fate of the Bengalese under the ruthless, corporate despotism of the East India Company.

“As Americans were well aware, the East India Company had turned itself into the actual government of east India, and there, the Company‘s irresponsible, ruthless, and inhumane greed had been directly responsible for millions of deaths in the Bengal famine of 1770” (Charleston Law Review, 2012).

In an impassioned objection against the East India Company, John Dickenson, a Pennsylvania lawyer, wrote:

“Their Conduct in Asia, for some Years past, has given ample Proof, how little they regard the Laws of Nations, the Rights, Liberties, or Lives of Men… cast their Eyes on America, as a new Theatre, whereon to exercise their Talents of Rapine, Oppression and Cruelty. The Monopoly of Tea, is, I dare say, but a small Part of the Plan they have formed to strip us of our Property. But thank GOD, we are not Sea Poys, or Marattas, but British Subjects, who are born to Liberty, who know its Worth, and who prize it high,” (BBC History Magazine, 2010).

For Americans, the issues at hand were quite simple:

“Would they allow England to press down upon America the corrupt class of royal toadies who would rule America by force, as they did east India? Would they allow England to siphon off the productive wealth of Americans and gladly watch Americans die in order to enhance their own corrupt profits?” (Dave Kopel, Charleston Law Review, 2012).

Their answer? No!

And so, on the evening of December 16, 1773, approximately 100 Bostonians –“supported by a crowd of thousands who safeguarded them”- boarded three ships filled with East India Company cargo and dumped 46 tons of tea into the waters of the harbor (Charleston Law Review, 2012).


Citations:

  1. “Bengal Famine of 1770,” Richard Melson, Cambridge Forecast, October 2006, Retrieved at http://www.cambridgeforecast.org/MIDDLEEAST/BENGAL.html
  2. “British East India Company and the Great Bengal Famine”, Strasser, 2010, retrieved at https://strassers.wordpress.com/2010/02/01/british-east-india-company-and-the-great-bengal-famine/
  1. “Defiance of The Patriots: The Boston Tea Party & The Making of America”, Benjamin L. Carp, (2010).
  2. “How the British Gun Control Program Precipitated the American Revolution, 6 Charleston L. Rev. 283, 2012, Retrieved at https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=1967702
  3. “The global origins of the Boston Tea Party”, BBC History Magazine, 2010 (Christmas Issue), Retrieved at https://www.historyextra.com/period/the-global-origins-of-the-boston-tea-party/

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Education

Hidden History: The Disarmament of Boston

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The first shots were fired in the American War for Independence on April 19, 1775, when 700 British Redcoats, led by Major John Pitcairn, attempted to seize American arms at Lexington and Concord (American Bar Association, 2012).

The patriots, however, had already moved their supply of arms to safety.

After an initial, successful battle against the patriots at the bridge at Lexington and Concord, the Redcoats were ambushed and eventually outnumbered 2:1 by American re-enforcements arriving from surrounding towns (Charleston Law Review, 2012, p. 310).

While some American fighters had arrived organized – illegally-formed local militias – a large number arrived and fought on their own, even taking up sniper positions whenever possible. Patriots who joined the fight even included a number of women and the elderly. Before long, the armed Americans harried Pitcairn’s Redcoats back into Boston (Charleston Law Review, 2012, p. 310).

“One British officer reported: ‘These fellows were generally good marksmen, and many of them used long guns made for Duck-Shooting.’ On a per-shot basis, the Americans inflicted higher casualties than had the British regulars” (American Bar Association, 2012).

Boston, where the Royal Governor, General Thomas Gage’s Red Coats were stationed, was now surrounded by armed American patriots.

Since their attempt to seize American’s arms at Lexington and Concord had gone badly for the British, and now finding themselves surrounded by armed patriots, Royal Governor Gage devised an alternate plan for disarmament.

On April 23, 1775, General Gage made an offer to Bostonians trapped within the city: turn in your arms and you can leave Boston.

“The Boston Selectmen voted to accept the offer, and within days, 2,674 guns were deposited, one gun for every two adult male Bostonians,” (American Bar Association, 2012). Arms collected included: “1778 fire-arms (muskets or rifles)… 634 pistols… 973 bayonets (bayonets attached to the long guns)… and 38 blunderbusses (short-barreled shotguns),” (Frothingham, 1849).

However, after “having collected the arms, Gage then refused to allow the Bostonians to leave. He claimed that many more arms had been secreted away than surrendered,” (American Bar Association, 2012). While inhabitants of Boston were supposed to receive certificates permitting departure from Boston, this rarely occurred in practice. Indeed, before long, “passes to leave issued by Gage quickly dried up,” (Halbrook, 2008).

Further complicating the matter was the fact that those Bostonians who were permitted to leave, were prohibited from taking any belongings with them (Halbrook, 2008).

The situation for Bostonians worsened over time, as food shortages began to take effect.

As one Bostonians wrote, in a letter to an acquaintance in Philadelphia (New England Historical Society, 2014):

You request my writing freely, which I must be cautious of, for reasons which will naturally occur to you. As to the inhabitants removing, they are suffered to go out under certain restrictions. This liberty was obtained after many town meetings, and several conferences between their Committee and General Gage. The terms mutually agreed to were, “that the inhabitants should deliver up all their arms to the Selectmen.” This was generally done, though it took up some days. On this occasion the inhabitants were to have had liberty to remove out of Town, with their effects, and during this, to have free egress and regress. But mark the event: the arms being delivered, orders were issued by the General, that those who inclined to remove must give in their names to the Selectmen, to be by them returned to the Military Town Major, who was then to write a pass for the person or family applying, to go through the lines, or over the ferry; but all merchandise was forbid; after a while, all provisions were forbid; and now all merchandise, provisions, and medicine. Guards are appointed to examine all trunks, boxes, beds, and every thing else to be carried out; these have proceeded such extremities, as to take from the poor people a single loaf of bread, and half pound of chocolate; so that no one is allowed to carry out a mouthful of provisions; but all is submitted to quietly. The anxiety indeed is so great to get out of Town, that even were we obliged to go naked, it would not hinder us. But there are so many obstructions thrown in the way, that I do not think, those who are most anxious will be all out in less than two or three months — vastly different from what was expected, for the General at first proposed, unasked, to procure the Admiral’ s boats to assist the inhabitants in the transportation of their effects, which is not done, and there are but two ferry-boats allowed to cross. They have their designs in this, which you may easily guess at. We suffer much for want of fresh meat.

“After several months, food shortages in Boston convinced Gage to allow easier emigration from the city,” (American Bar Association, 2012).

In the end, it was the “seizure of these arms from the peaceable citizens of Boston who were not even involved in hostilities,” which ultimately “sent a message to all of the colonies that fundamental rights were in grave danger” (Halbrook, 20008).

Citations:

  • “The Founder’s Second Amendment: Origins of the Right to Bear Arms”, Stephen P. Halbrook, 2008.

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