A 100-question values appraisal is making the rounds at schools in at least five states, including Oregon, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, North Carolina and California, causing alarm among students, parents, and some educators. This questionnaire is being used at various grade levels and in classes as diverse as technology, home economics, and social studies.
Though the design and appearance of the questionnaires vary, the information they seek is consistent. The 100 statements probe children about their religious beliefs, relationships with parents, feelings about money, and attitudes toward health care, careers and other topics. Students are required to rank each of the statements as "Definitely True, Mostly True, Undecided, Mostly False, or Decidedly False."
The questionnaires include the following statements:
"I will regularly take my children to church services."
"I have taught a Sunday school class or otherwise taken an active part in my church."
"I have a close relationship with either my mother or my father."
"I believe in a God who answers prayers."
"I like to spend holidays with my family."
"I have a regular physical checkup by my doctor every year."
"I have a yearly dental checkup."
"When I am ill, I see or call a doctor."
"I believe that tithing (giving 1/10 of one's earnings to the church) is one's duty to God."
"I pray to God about my problems."
"It is important that grace be said before meals."
"I care what my parents think about what I do."
"I read the Bible or other religious writings regularly."
"I love my parents."
"I believe God created man in his own image."
The answers are scored and recorded under 10 categories: money, religion, fame, spirituality, humanism, family, health, aesthetics, creativity, and sociability. In at least some of the cases, the survey results become part of the students' portfolios.
Pamela Hobbs-Hoffecker, an expert on Outcome Based Education (OBE) and co-author of Outcome Based Education, The State's Assault on Our Children's Values, sees a danger in questionnaires of this type beyond the obvious invasion of students' privacy. "This survey is alarming," she says, "because in the 1995 school psychologists' Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, the category, 'religious disorder,' was added." She reports that when she was a guest on a program in California, a school psychologist called in to agree that the questionnaire is dangerous because of the new category.
In Cottage Grove, OR, parents were outraged when they found out that the questionnaire was being used at their high school, and took their concerns to the local board of education. None of the board members was aware of the survey. After discussions with school administrators, the survey was pulled. Cottage Grove High School is one of several in Oregon that is piloting Outcome-Based Education, and parents are now questioning the state's educational reforms.
A mother in Sacramento, CA, opted her son out of participating in the survey after he refused to take it in his 9th grade technology class. The boy read the first few questions and realized it "was not right to take this test." He was eventually given an alternative assignment.
Later, in a written response to an inquiry from the Pacific Justice Institute, the school district's general counsel tied the survey to School-to-Work standards that the district had adopted.
Though the letter stated that the sur-vey was intended "to provide students with the opportunity to learn self-awareness skills in order to make career choices," it added that the school district would use a written notice and release form allowing parents to opt their children out of the assignment.