Vital Signs

Socialization as Schooling

For 30 years, elementary and secondary education has been taking on a new orientation, away from substantive subject matter toward a mental health agenda. Personality development—i.e., the "whole child" concept of education—has become the primary focus of schooling. Collection of psychological data on minors, and its storage in nonsecure, cross-referenecable facilities, without the prior notification much less the consent of parent or guardians, has launched a new era in the debate over privacy rights, while undermining traditional parental prerogatives in directing the education and moral development of their children. An ever-increasing nationalization of policy and management structure has further weakened involvement in education through such outlets as community associations and school boards.

In short, public education today is directing the bulk of its energies toward such pursuits as "self-esteem," "intervention," condom distribution, and social services rather than developing proficiency, literacy, or the tools for financial independence. Eventually, even the most dedicated parents tire of the battle and decline to participate further in the education process.

On an unprecedented scale, education policymakers at the national and state levels are infusing subject-oriented curricula with materials referred to in the vernacular as "strands." These are intended to...

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