NATIONAL REVIEW ONLINE
February 21, 2014 12:00 AM
Common Core ‘Paranoia’
Parents are right to demand answers about the data-mining of kids’ sensitive, personal info.
By Michelle Malkin
This week’s award for Biggest Common Core Jerk goes to Missouri GOP state legislator Mike Lair. Parents, teachers, and administrators who object to the government education-“standards” racket — which usurps local control, impedes academic achievement, and undermines family privacy — have politicians on the defensive. The only response these Fed Ed flacks and hacks have offered is their cowardly condescension.
Lair, chairman of Missouri’s House Appropriations Committee on Education, inserted an $8 budget line item to mock Common Core critics as tinfoil-hat-wearing conspiracy theorists. Lair’s item reads: “For two rolls of high-density aluminum to create headgear designed to deflect drone and/or black helicopter mind reading and control technology.”
Common Core jerkitude is a bipartisan disease. Lair’s ridicule of grave parental concerns about Common Core data mining follows in the footsteps of Democrat Arne Duncan, the U.S. Department of Education secretary, who derided opponents as “white suburban moms,” and Republican Jeb Bush, the former Florida governor who derided opponents’ motives as “purely political.” It’s all a snitty, snotty smokescreen that will backfire as more families from all parts of the political spectrum discover the truth about Common Core’s invasive nature.
Common Core is inextricably tied to the big business of data collection and data mining. States that took the Race to the Top bribes in exchange for adopting Common Core must now comply with the edutech requirements of two private testing conglomerates, the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium or the Partnership for the Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers. Common Core states also agreed to expand existing statewide longitudinal database systems that contain sensitive student data from pre-kindergarten through postsecondary education.
Will Estrada and Katie Tipton of the Homeschool Legal Defense Association conclude that “it will become increasingly difficult to protect the personal information of homeschool and private-school students as these databases grow.” In addition to stimulus and Race to the Top enticements, both the Education and Labor Departments have funded several other initiatives to build and make various interoperable student and teacher databases.
“Before our eyes,” Estrada and Tipton warn, “a ‘national database’ is being created in which every public school student’s personal information and academic history will be stored.” It’s no laughing matter.
Just this week, SafeGov.org, a watchdog group for computer privacy, reported that Google has admitted in recent court filings that “it data mines student emails for ad-targeting purposes outside of school, even when ad serving in school is turned off.” The newly exposed documents explicitly “confirm in a sworn public court declaration that even when ad serving is turned off in Google Apps for Education (GAFE), the contents of users’ emails are still being scanned by Google in order to target ads at those same users when they use the Web outside of Google Apps (for example, when watching a YouTube video, conducting a Google search, or viewing a web page that contains a Google+ or DoubleClick cookie).” Last month, I reported on how Google is building brand loyalty through a questionable GAFE-certification program that essentially turns teachers into tax-subsidized lobbyists for the company.
In New York, opposition from left, right, and center has forced education bureaucrats to delay uploading personally identifiable student information to the Common Core–linked inBloom data cloud, a partnership of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp.
In Colorado, Jefferson County families from both sides of the political aisle forced the district to withdraw from a meddling inBloom pilot project adopted without parental consent.
As I’ve explained before, the exploding multibillion-dollar education-technology sector is driven by Common Core’s top-down digital-learning and testing mandates. Remember: Under the Obama administration, Grand Canyon–sized loopholes in the federal Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act have already opened data mining of students’ personally identifiable information (Social Security numbers, disciplinary records, biometric data, etc.) to third-party private entities.
Dr. Gary Thomson of the Utah-based Early Life Child Psychology and Education Center, a father of four and a clinical psychologist, is asking the fundamental questions politicians refuse to ask — and continue to scorn — regarding the Common Core–driven data collection:
“For what EXACT purpose will this sensitive data be utilized?”
“What organizations will have access to identifiable academic records? Other than generic information regarding race, age, gender, and geographic location, why does the federal database require identifiable information to be accessible?”
“If the political responses to these questions are ‘all information contained in the database is unidentifiable and security stored,’ then why were changes made to FERPA to allow an exemption to educational privacy rights when it comes to the implementation of the Common Core State Standards?”
When politicians want to evade accountability, they go on the attack. They don’t loathe anti–Common Core parents because these parents are “paranoid.” They fear them because “paranoid” is the political demagogue’s word for active, alert, and well-informed.