|And should parents have knowledge of their student's required participation in research about morals?|
I received a call from an Illinois parent regarding a test her 16 year child was required to take in a Language Arts class. It was entitled "The Morality Test" and can be found online. The student did not want to take the test as the student thought many of the questions were invasive and had nothing to do with language arts. It asked the student's opinions on such issues as:
abortion, euthanasia, homosexuality, belief in God, birth control, stem cell research, adultery, pre-marital sex, divorce, separation of church and state, gun control, if the government should do more to protect us from corporate corporation, if the government needs to do more to reduce the income gap between the rich and the poor.
The student was told the test was required, so the student completed it and then informed the parents about the test. The test's self-description:
The following survey assesses your moral attitudes, particularly as they relate to your religious and cultural background. By “moral” we mean those aspects of thought and behavior that relate to commonly accepted notions of right and wrong, and to selfish and unselfish actions. One need not be religious to be “moral,” although religions do tend to espouse moral codes of behavior. There are no right or wrong answers to these questions, and your responses are anonymous, so please be as honest as you can.
You will receive feedback about your moral attitudes, relative to those of other respondents to this survey. You will also receive feedback about your personality, relative to other survey respondents. Read our consent form, which explains your rights as well as the benefits of this free, anonymous test.
If you read the consent form above, you will read:
There are no foreseeable risks to you from participating in this research, the results of which are free. The possible benefits to you consist of feedback about your moral attitudes and personality, which may provide you with greater insight about yourself. Your participation in this research is completely voluntary, and all responses to this survey are anonymous and will be kept confidential. You may refuse to answer any of the questions, and you may withdraw your consent and discontinue participation in this study at any time. You must be at least 18 years of age to fill out this questionnaire.
This student is 16 years old. Oops. Is the school in a bit of possible legal trouble? The student is not old enough to take this test, was not allowed to refuse to answer any of the questions, the student was not allowed by the teacher to withdraw consent and discontinue participation in the study.
From the website:
...your participation helps researchers at universities learn more about personality psychology. Curious to learn more? Read a short history of this site and learn about the research and results.
The history of the site states:
Psychology test data is recorded for psychology tests on this web site and is used for academic purposes by professors and research staff at accredited universities and reviewed institutions. The results of this data is analyzed and released in aggregate statistics, usually in academic journals and conferences.
- Is the developer of the test being paid for the information he then sends to institutions for "academic research"?
- Why is the school requiring this survey on morals be taken online for language arts?
- Does it/should it bother the parents, school officials, students, that the developer of the test keeps records of web log files detailing which web pages are visited and psychology data recording visitor's replies?
- Shouldn't a parent have to sign permission for their underage child to have information used in a research study?
- Shouldn't parents/students receive payment for such a study?
- Did the school pay Mr. Potter to receive results of the test or are these results to be used in a language arts assignment?
- Is the use of this survey a violation of the Protection of Pupil Rights Amendment (PPRA)?:
Surveys Funded by Sources Other than U.S. Department of Education
The new provisions (contained in subsection c) apply (as does FERPA) to educational agencies or institutions that receive funds from any program of the Department of Education. Thus, public elementary and secondary schools are subject to the new provisions of PPRA. Here are the new requirements:
- Schools are required to develop and adopt policies - in conjunction with parents - regarding the following -
- The right of parents to inspect, upon request, a survey created by a third party before the survey is administered or distributed by a school to students.
- Arrangements to protect student privacy in the event of the administration of a survey to students, including the right of parents to inspect, upon request, the survey, if the survey contains one or more of the same eight items of information noted above.
- The right of parents to inspect, upon request, any instructional material used as part of the educational curriculum for students.
- The administration of physical examinations or screenings that the school may administer to students.
- The collection, disclosure, or use of personal information collected from students for the purpose of marketing or selling, or otherwise providing the information to others for that purpose.
- The right of parents to inspect, upon request, any instrument used in the collection of information, as described in number 5.
- In the notification, the LEA shall offer an opportunity for parents to opt out of (remove their child) from participation in the following activities:
- Activities involving the collection, disclosure, or use of personal information collected from students for the purpose of marketing or for selling that information, or otherwise providing that information to others for that purpose.
- The administration of any third party (non-Department of Education funded) survey containing one or more of the above described eight items of information.
The survey also inquires about the relationship you had with your mother and father, your age, your religion, your rate of worship, your socio-economic class, your parents' socio-economic class, your gender, your ethnicity, your country, your zip code where you currently reside and your zip code where you spent the majority of your life, how many children in your family, your marital status.
If a person over 18 years old wants to take this test and some of Mr. Potter's other tests:
he/she should be able to do so. But to take a required morality test in school for unknown purposes, a test designed for adults (not for those under age 18) and without active permission/waiver from a parent is questionable legally and ethically.