Vital Signs

Terms of Empowerment

Imagine, if you can, thousands of parents last January insisting that the Fairfax County, Virginia, school board distribute a 169-question sex survey to their 13-, 15-, and 17-year-olds.  Envision legions of taxpayers falling all over themselves to divert $60,000 earmarked for educational purposes to ask students about oral sex, number of sexual partners, depression, and suicide.

Children behaving badly isn’t news, of course.  The question here is, Who—and, more importantly, how many—are those promoting tell-all polls in the classroom?

A close examination of news accounts reveals the answer: special interests, especially social “service” agencies and other organized causes feasting on greenbacks from federal, state, and local governments.  Every foundation, association, and Center-for-Whatever—from the Sex Information and Education Council of the United States (SIECUS) to Planned Parenthood—is hot to get its pet nonacademic program into the schools, particularly if it focuses on sex, race, the failures of parents, or mental illness.

Powerful incentives exist to goad as many children as possible into “confessing” antisocial and unhealthy attitudes.  Kevin P. Dwyer, president of the National Association of School Psychologists, defends psychological pop quizzes, explaining that this “valuable information [is] almost...

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