I reported previously on Scotland's "named person" law, which assigns a non-parental busybody to monitor the well-being of every single child in Scotland until age eighteen.
Not only is that plan going forward, but schools and "named persons" in Scotland are going to start using questions and interrogations in the form of games to gather information about children's homes. That information will then be entered into a large database and used to evaluate children's well-being.
There aren't a lot of details available yet (that I could find) but here's what we have so far:
Younger children will be encouraged to divulge information about their home life in lessons which include prompt cards, games and songs to familiarise them with the Scottish Government’s definition of well-being.
Older children will face a series of questions, on areas ranging from home life to sexual health, which ask them to rate experiences on a scale from zero to ten.
Teachers across the country are now being trained to transfer the children’s answers into the database. One of the tests, a Scottish Government-endorsed tool called ‘What I Think’, is designed to tease out details of pupils’ family lives with leading questions, even in nursery schools.
A number of sample scenarios involving children are given to teachers to help them with filling in online sections correctly. Examples include a male child, ‘J’ mentioning that he did not miss his mother when staying overnight with his grandmother.
Another describes how he ‘burst his lip at the park’ when he was there by himself but when he went home his father shouted at him, telling him he was ‘a big boy and I shouldn’t cry like a big baby’.
Others refer to him telling feeling scared in his room sometimes and, while his mother allows him to keep the light on sometimes, ‘if I’m not good she puts it off’.
In Angus, pupils are being given prompt cards which include questions such as: ‘Who cleans your house? Is it cosy? Who makes the tea? What does your bedroom look like?’
Prompt cards have also been produced for parents, encouraging them to ‘behave in a way that sets a good example to your child’ and ‘participate in community activities’.
Named Persons must judge each youngster’s well-being against a government checklist that includes indicators such as a pupil needing fillings at the dentist, being disruptive in class or failing to carry out voluntary work.
An investigation involving social workers could follow if a youngster is not ‘generally optimistic’, fails to display ‘positive attitudes to others’ sexuality’ or is injured playing sport.
Each of Scotland’s 32 local authorities is already given software to keep track of pupils’ attendance, performance and behaviour on a system called SEEMiS, with information shared with the Scottish Government and the NHS.
But the system was upgraded last Thursday to include a section with a ‘Well-being Application’ which will act as a repository for data which will be accessible only to designated state guardians.
Now, here's an interesting question: Scotland does allow home schooling. In fact, I seem to remember reading some years ago that some home schoolers in England actually moved to Scotland because the home schooling laws in Scotland were more free than those in England. I'm afraid they must now regret that decision! Home schoolers cannot escape the Named Person intrusion (including compulsory home visits), but what about these questionnaires and prompt cards? Will it be more difficult for the government to collect this data on home schoolers, since most children will be questioned at school?
As I said in the previous post about this insanity in Scotland, I don't see the U.S. going to a Named Person system soon, though that might happen eventually. Here are some things I do think are likely in the U.S., and I see these as accentuating the difference between home schooling and virtually all bricks and mortar schooling as far as privacy is concerned:
1) Databases will rev up tremendously via Common Core for centralized educational tracking of children in the school systems, including all private schools that accept public funds. This is already happening.
2) My crystal ball predicts that within ten to fifteen years some kind of individual well-being indicator will be added to those databases without parents' knowledge or consent. During that same time period, however, I predict that there will be no way to gather that data for home schoolers. (Because the U.S. doesn't have a "Named Person" system.)
3) I predict that nearly all private schools will be roped into the data-tracking system, either by tempting with public funds or, if that fails, by direct regulation. The last to succumb will be the tiny, little private schools that take no public funds and do not accredit their teachers for reasons of independence from government interference. They will have to be brow-beaten into compliance with tracking their students or driven out of business.
4) Eventually all of this tracking of children, including their well-being, will be accepted (I predict). At first there will be an outcry when it comes out how much data your child's school is collecting and how it is being used, but people will feel a combination of helplessness and a desire not to look like wacky conspiracy theorists, and little will be done. Gradually having strangers hundreds of miles away have access to your child's information and evaluate "how he's doing" via computer will come to seem normal.
5) Once this happens, the calls will go out to rope home schoolers into this system. We see already how the leftists are shocked, shocked to find that home schoolers' educational progress is not monitored more carefully by the state. That will only take on more urgency as more monitoring for other children becomes the norm. The general totalitarian opposition to home schooling will find a handle and a focus once it is the norm for other children's well-being to be "objectively" evaluated according to "common standards" and "norms" which are not being applied to those pesky home schoolers.
What happens after that depends entirely on how much political clout home schoolers retain both in Washington and in their own states.
When I originally wrote about the Scotland Named Person fiasco, I said this in comments:
The instinct against totalitarianism is surprisingly easy to lull into somnolence. Cliches like "child safety" and "not letting children slip through the net," especially coming after a couple of decades during which people have become accustomed to Nanny statism and to giving up their privacy, and you end up with a surprising number of droids who don't yell, "What??? The hell you say!!" when they hear of a plan like this. The love of freedom is not actually an unquenchable burning in the heart of every man. A surprising number are willing to sell that birthright for a mess of pottage in the form of "safety for the children" or what-not.
The point should be especially instructive to those on the slightly more traditionalist right. We should be careful about "dissing" freedom, talking like freedom is the bad guy, and accustoming people to think that authoritarianism is really a good thing. That just softens them up for collectivism.
In my opinion, while libertarianism is poor as a totalizing Philosophy of All Politics, every conservative should have a strong libertarian streak in him. There should be seen to be something valuable about freedom and privacy from government intrusion. Americans have had, in the past, that sense of independence, that "Get off my land" instinct, and I think we should keep it, not try to stamp it out as some sort of "bad individualism" or "liberalism."
It is worth noting that Quebec, a long-lived, self-consciously Catholic province, is one of the worst for educational freedom and parental freedom in all of Canada. Even home schoolers are supposed to use a curriculum on moral and religious matters dictated by the state. And the bishops were hardly helpful in fighting it.
By sheer empirical observation, we should note that the "individualistic" country of America has retained a more vibrant Christianity than many a confessional state, including the freedom of Christians to raise their children.
The fact of the matter is that an approach that generally opposes governmental intervention in the raising and education of children has served Christians well, again and again. Yes, that means that there are going to be Wiccan parents who raise their children to do spells. Yes, that means that there are going to be negligent parents who don't give their kids enough education. But I maintain that the cost of giving the government the power to oversee and prevent those abuses is too high and that freedom is the better way. Is this a prudential judgement? Yes, in part. But it's a prudential judgement with a principled basis in the natural family and its rightful sphere sovereignty, which shouldn't be easily tampered with.
I therefore suggest to anybody with an authoritarian impulse on the right that he should consider the lessons of history and ask himself whether, after all, it turns out that there is something to be said for freedom as a value. And something to be said for Acton's dictum. Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power tends to corrupt absolutely.
The power to take away your children, and the power to threaten to do so as a means of controlling your behavior, is right up there on the scale in the direction of "absolute power."