Ethics Dunce: New Jersey Department of Education

“All right, children: Tell…us…everything!”

This year’s New Jersey ASK test, given to grade schoolers to assess their skills and knowledge, required some third graders to reveal a secret about their personal lives, and to explain why that secret is hard to keep. Surprisingly, many parents had a problem with this.

Here is what Dr. Richard Goldberg, a father of twin third grade boys told reporters:

“…To ask an 8-year-old, a 9-year-old to start revealing secrets in the middle of an exam  I thought was really inappropriate.  These children, they want to answer the question, they want to answer it correctly, they don’t want to get a bad grade. But at the same time, think about the things a child might know – about themselves or their family.”

Yes, let’s think about that:

“My daddy isn’t really my daddy.”

“Mommy turns tricks when Daddy isn’t home.”

“Mommy keeps a bottle hidden in the hamper.”

“Uncle Joe sells heroin to pay the bills.”

“Grandfather says I French kiss like a pro.”

“I like killing birds and kittens.”

“I am the spawn of Satan.”

Oh, the possibilities are endless. And what business does a school system and the state have to probe young children for personal and family secrets? Absolutely none whatsoever.  This is an abuse of power, an abuse of trust, and just plain abuse. Does one have to be a conservative to wonder what the next stages will be as government gets more and more arrogant about its right to intrude into every corner of our lives? Are you all completely comfortable with the idea that the secrets revealed to the State by innocent third graders will be ignored, and never used by authorities, no matter how provocative?

I am certainly not. I am not because officials so irresponsible and insensitive to the proper limits of their authority that they  invade a family’s privacy by exploiting the youth and weakness of children are either incompetent, arrogant or sinister, any of which makes them untrustworthy and dangerous.

On the New Jersey website where I read this story, readers were polled regarding whether such a question was inappropriate for third-graders. Such a question is inappropriate for any students, on any test. This apparently isn’t obvious to New Jerseyites, which is frightening and sad. More sad, and incredibly frightening, is this: nearly 50% of those polled had no problem with the State using tests to pick the brains of young children regarding what goes on behind closed doors in their homes. Yes, Big Brother is gaining in popularity. I’ll leave it to you to ponder on who is to blame for that.

Before I am hauled off to the re-education center for asserting that there are some parts of my life and my child’s life that the government is not welcome to invade, let me make a clear statement that I desperately hope more than 50% of Ethics Alarms readers will concur with: the question is an intrusion on privacy and an abuse of power, and the attitude that would lead anyone in authority to approve such a question needs to be purged from the school system, New Jersey, and government in general.

I’ll go quietly now.


Pointer: Jay Marshall Wohlman (Thanks, Jay!)

Source: New Jersey 101.5

Graphic: David Icke

Ethics Alarms attempts to give proper attribution and credit to all sources of facts, analysis and other assistance that go into its blog posts. If you are aware of one I missed, or believe your own work was used in any way without proper attribution, please contact me, Jack Marshall, at

7 thoughts on “Ethics Dunce: New Jersey Department of Education

  1. I may have disagreed with you last time (or, rather, you with me), but I couldn’t agree more here. The only question is whether the question is the product of insidious arrogance or mind-melting stupidity. You sound like you’re favoring the former; I might lean a little more to the latter… but “both” is certainly a response I can live with.

  2. So when some of these kids become future politicians, we can be sure that the Washington Post will be interested in these answers if their politics leans the wrong way.

    First it’s outlawing bake sales, now this.

  3. Yes, that’s a horrible question, and the potential fallout is nasty.

    But “Big Brother is gaining in popularity,” based on the results of a one-time poll? Don’t be sloppy — this isn’t evidence over time, we didn’t see the same question with a 30% approval last year — and heck, for all we know, the app doing the polling is broken. Make me happy, milk the story for all its real evidence of stupidity, irresponsibility, inane testing (what’s the purpose here?!) but please don’t weaken your point by manufacturing what isn’t there.

    • No, Big Brother IS gaining in popularity; the web poll results are unreliable, of course, but still consistent with the trend.
      Most people I have consulted think the question was designed to ferret out child sex abuse. There’s always a good reason for Big Brotherism.

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