As I stated to our Board one night in open session, “In the 20th Century, this Nation built some of the largest dams, buildings, and bridges ever constructed, built the most powerful military ever assembled, and won two World Wars, built the most extensive highway system spanning the entire Nation, created the world’s most prolific manufacturing capability (and lost it!), constructed and delivered to every home the most extensive electrical and communications systems in the world, harnessed the atom, went to the moon, invented the transistor, the computer, and the network that the entire world is now using to communicate, developed virtually every technology being used globally – and we did ALL of this at a time when comparatively few attended college and many didn’t even finish high school – with the knowledge and capabilities imparted by school teachers and slide-rules. NOW, with four times the population than we started that generation with, look around – do you see ANYTHING like this going on in America today?? WHAT could possibly be the rational reason for justifying a “need” for usurping the lives of kids and families by conscripting them to “full-day, full-year, ‘womb-to-graduation’ public education”, and asking the people of this nation to not only tolerate this insanity, but also to pay for it?! If you listen to the intentions of government actors, our teachers will be changing diapers and the “family summer vacation” will be just one more American casualty! (Young parents seem to LOVE this, stating “GREAT! We don’t have to worry about baby-sitting!”) Already we’ve allowed our schools and our government to declare that something that a parent wants to do with their kids is an “illegal absence”! When did WE give our government and OUR SCHOOLS that “authority”; when did we allow the interests of the people running our schools, to override those of its stockholders, the people paying for it and for whom it supposedly exists?
In ten consistent rulings since 1910, the US Supreme Court has ruled that “the Rights and interests of responsible parents in the education of their children EXCEED and take precedence over the interests of the State”; where do you see that in practice in this State today – where do you see those considerations in even our school district?? That same institution has always held that “the responsibility to educate children rests with their parents”; public education’s role was to assist in that task, NOT to usurp it, to ignore the rights and interests of parents, and constrain their involvement.
Superintendent Mc Grath, in (3) consecutive public meetings whose purpose was to “sell” the community on the $35M Renovation Bond, started his narrative with “100 years ago, the parents and other members of this community chose, rather than to send their children out of the community to school, to fund the building of a local school district ….” We, the members of this community, have continued to pay every dime since and to send our most cherished there; the school doesn’t belong to the Administration or the Board – they are trustees! It certainly doesn’t belong to the Commissioner of Education (a political appointee), the Regents (more of the same) or the Governor (an individual whose ego has confused “significance” with ‘how horribly he can disrupt people’s lives’), or to the feckless politicians who gutted-out the “Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act” (FERPA) and the “Child Internet Protection Act” (CIPA), legislation enacted by previous, far more responsible Congresses to protect the interests of families and children, just so that government and private sector actors could stream and warehouse the most intimate details of child and family privacy directly from our schools and use that information to affect and render them vulnerable for the rest of their lives. And it doesn’t belong to (just another!) President who wants to leave his ‘brand’ on humanity either. (The federal government has no Constitutionally authorized role in public education; since the 1960’s they have ‘bribed’ and blackmailed their way into controlling it using our money!)
When “911” occurred and the suggestion was that the ‘threat’ had come from within the Nation , our ‘Praetorian Guard’ panicked. Abuses by the FBI and other government agencies in the mid-’70’s had caused Congress to enact strong safeguards to protect the American citizenry from predation and invasion of privacy by powerful government intelligence capabilities that had been built to watch our external enemies (the same agencies I’d spent my military career as part of). They put teeth in those protections, and indeed, almost nothing was collected on innocent Americans (by government). Following “911”, the ‘Patriot Act’ dissolved all of those protections, Congress also panicked, and in their haste, threw the ‘baby’ (of protecting the essence of American freedoms) out with the wash! Overnight, the American ‘security’ apparatus got the green light to spend whatever it took to gather anything and everything possible on every nook and cranny of America, and any consideration or hint of personal protections from exploitive abuse vaporized – the floodgates of money were turned full-on and any sense of limits vanished. The only entities that had anything were the commercial marketing organizations that had been building sophisticated data warehouses of personal data for commercial purposes since the formation of the internet, and government instantly became their ‘partner’. That partnership included “I’ll BUY yours and give you mine, and with my ‘legal authority’, I can force people to give up ‘private’ information that you can’t get any other way”! The Department of Defense became one of the primary collectors and holders of that ‘data’, and NSA and more than a thousand private-sector contractors became the collecting tools (all of that stuff that government officials denied that Edward Snowden blew the whistle on). But FERPA and CIPA prevented the private sector AND government from collecting the sensitive private info on children and families. (What did “Common Core” obliterate? BINGO!) Initially, faced with the limits imposed by those laws, DOD bought all of the info that the private databases held. In the middle of the first decade of the new millennium, when the privacy community learned what DOD was doing, there was an uproar, and the New York Civil Liberties Union sued them. They won a few concessions on how the data would (ostensibly) be used, but they didn’t stop them from collecting it or of disseminating it widely among the ‘partners’.
Childhood has always been acknowledged to be the period whereby children learn by making mistakes, and part of that included that most mistakes would remain between the school and their parents. Now, every mistake, every action, every part of their developing aptitude, trait, and recorded thought has become a byte in a perpetual government database that ‘remembers’ far more than even the individual will, and that ‘data’, shared with plenty of private entities, will become a major source that influences and determines, without their knowledge, their opportunities for life. The government – OUR government – has decided it will own our kids from birth, and is using their latest “educational enhancements” to make that a reality.