Written by Phyllis Schlafly
What is it about bureaucrats and school personnel that they want to pry into the personal life and habits of American citizens of every age? There seems to be no end to the imperial demands by government and schools to require both grownups and kids to reveal personal information.
The use of nosy questionnaires by the public schools has been a bone of contention between schools and parents for years, but New Jersey recently came up with a question that has parents up in arms. Third-graders were asked on a standardized test to reveal a secret about their lives and explain why it is hard to keep.
This question was asked of 4,000 third-graders in an official test called the New Jersey Assessment of Skills and Knowledge. This test is supposed to judge elementary school students on their proficiency in math and language arts and determine whether or not a student ends up in basic skills classes.
The school wasn't eager to answer parents' questions such as, What if a kid answered "my dad smokes marijuana" or "my mom drank a beer while driving me home"? Would the school report that to the "child protective" agency?
This question about a secret should have been banned as a violation of the New Jersey law that requires prior parental consent before a student can be required to reveal personal information. That law was sponsored by then-state legislator (now Congressman) Scott Garrett.
It's not just school kids who are the victims of nosy questionnaires. The U.S. government has zeroed in on 250,000 Americans and demanded that they answer nearly a hundred nosy questions about their living and work arrangements and habits.
This is called the American Community Survey questionnaire, and the cover letter states ominously, "You are required by U.S. law to respond to this survey." Here are some of the questions.
When the recipient of this Community Survey fails to respond, the government uses a variety of intimidating tactics to compel obedience. The government tries repeated mailings and phone calls demanding a response, and sometimes the government employees walk up and down the street asking nosy questions about you from your neighbors.
In response to public demand, Rep. Daniel Webster (R-FL) introduced a bill to defund the American Community Survey, calling it a "breach of personal privacy, the picture of what's wrong in Washington, D.C.". He obviously touched a nerve; it quickly passed the House 232 to 190.
Webster's bill was immediately denounced in editorials by the New York Times and even the Wall Street Journal. Indeed, big and intrusive government has its allies.
Webster's House victory was followed by the introduction of another bill that would make answering the nosy questions voluntary and decriminalize any refusal to participate in the survey. The sponsors are Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) and Rep. Ted Poe (R-TX).
This bill will not please the government busybodies who delight in building databases with personal information on Americans and vehemently resist state laws that require parental consent before making schoolchildren answer nosy questions. The bureaucrats protest that "if it's voluntary, then we'll just get bad data."
Phyllis Schlafly has been a national leader of the conservative movement since the publication of her best-selling 1964 book, A Choice Not An Echo. She has been a leader of the pro-family movement since 1972, when she started her national volunteer organization now called Eagle Forum. In a ten-year battle, Mrs. Schlafly led the pro-family movement to victory over the principal legislative goal of the radical feminists, called the Equal Rights Amendment. An articulate and successful opponent of the radical feminist movement, she appears in debate on college campuses more frequently than any other conservative. She was named one of the 100 most important women of the 20th century by the Ladies' Home Journal.