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Character Education

April 8, 2003

The following letter concerns the implementation of what is being referred to as "Character Education" in one state, Arizona. This bears close oversight, as Character Education comes to us through federal law, No Child Left Behind. And it certainly has a nice sounding name.

Keep in mind, however, that the core curriculum of the national standards (federal curriculum) is the belief that there are no absolutes of any kind -- except the idea that there are no absolutes. Consider what character education becomes in such an environment. What morality are we foisting upon our children in place of genuine right and wrong?


7 April 2003

Dear Representative Gray,

As a concerned parent, I am writing to encourage withdraw of support for values based initiatives like Character Education and diversity/multiculturalism objectives. Simply put, these avenues are being used to bring psychotherapy into schools on a large scale. Programs are employed that use the "change process" to break down kids, with the intention of putting them back together in a new form. The invasive exercises used can induce extreme emotional stress, "unfreeze" a participant's stable equilibrium, and lead to personality collapse. [1]

It is my hope that a tragedy will not have to occur before attention is drawn to this issue. The ethics and benefits of group psychotherapy in schools need public scrutiny. Following are examples of what occurred in a Tucson Unified School District high school this year.

On March 21, 2003, an Anytown workshop called "Personal Stereotypes and Leadership Opportunities" was conducted with T.U.S.D.'s University High sophomore class. [2] Exercises required students to join one of a predetermined selection of stereotype groups, which included: Jewish, Gay/Lesbian/Transsexual, Anglo, Asian American, Native American, African American, Middle Eastern, and Hispanic.

As a result of workshop exercises, kids learned all kinds of nasty racial slurs and cultural stereotypes for each segregated category. There were students who broke down crying during an activity where they were told to read a list of slurs compiled for their group. Because of workshop activities, tension and division were created among UHS sophomores that previously did not have major problems getting along. Additionally, several related conflicts occurred on campus after the program.

Poor time management resulted in the lack of "process" completion for the last and largest group (Anglo). Failure to provide closure left many students distressed. A hint was dropped that kids could finish the exercise if they attended the Anytown summer camp. (The Arizona Anytown website lists the camp fee at $435 per participant.)

On January 16th, an Anytown "Gender stereotypes" workshop was conducted for the UHS junior class. Students were asked to acknowledge personal experience related to abuse, sexuality, drugs, violence, and more. Girls were asked whether they had ever been: hit or assaulted by a man; said yes to a man for fear of saying no; expected to be responsible for birth control; stopped themselves from hugging, kissing, or holding hands with a woman for fear of being called lesbian; sexually pressured by a man; and more.

Boys were asked whether they had ever been: hit to make them stop crying; called a wimp, queer, fag; hit by an older man; physically injured and hid the pain; stopped themselves from showing affection, hugging, or touching another man because of how it might look to others; drank or took drugs to cover up feelings or hide pain; been wounded by a knife or gun; hurt another person physically; and more.

"OPT-IN" requirements for the workshops did not exist, though parents of sophomores received an "opt-out" letter/form. The information provided about workshops was of a promotional nature, and did not include explanation of the "change process" and the potential harm to participants. [3]

Outside organizations with self-interest agendas are being allowed to consume valuable class time. Public money is being spent on unnecessary programs when everyday classroom needs are not adequately funded. Public schools are being used for abusive activities to occur with our children. Please do not support legislation that allows these things to occur in our schools. Do support legislation that protects the privacy of students and families, and the right of parents to direct the values of their children.

Thank you for your time and consideration,

Debbie Niwa


[1] Sensitivity Training and Communist Thought Reform

Excerpt: "Dr. Harlan McNutt had been Director of the Pierce County Health Department (Washington). He had spent 16 years as a psychiatrist in private practice, and was on the staff of Western State Hospital. In private practice, he had dealt with more children than most other psychiatrists had. His following statements printed in the Auburn Globe News 2/14/71 is pertinent to these encounter groups. The headline was "Intermediate school members told Sensitivity training can be very dangerous, psychiatrist warns".

"He said he knew of more than one instance of adults going into some type of sensitivity training, in full possession of their faculties, and coming out, in some way damaged. It is confrontation, in which able people tear each other apart."

"The types of casualties of personality collapse, resulting from sensitivity training for adults, according to the psychiatrist, include depression, withdrawal, reactions, psychotic reactions, and suicidal states. These are major mental problems which should not be brought about, if possible, he said."

"As a rule, said McNutt, psychiatrists are much more conservative about meddling in peoples' minds than any other group. He observed that psychologists are less conservative in this way, and counselors even less so. And now, he said, teachers are becoming involved."

"The trouble is, he said that clinical training, clinical judgment, and the ability to put the pieces back together is not a part of teacher training or background, and it takes great responsibility ".

"...local school districts were being pressed to adopt sensitivity training, and the National Education Association was reported at the board session to be pushing for its use in the schools".

[2] Tucson Unified School Districtıs University High School paid $2,000 for four Anytown workshops. Each workshop (one per grade level) was conducted on the UHS campus and consumed four periods of class time on four separate days.

[3] The NTL Institute (formerly the National Training Labs) conducts seminars using the "change process." An NTL registration form (2000) warns: "There may be considerable emotional stress involved in an NTL program. Participants must take responsibility for self screening if stressful situations are a concern. NTL's programs must not be used as a substitute for psychotherapy. Attendance should be discussed with a therapist if a participants is currently in therapy." NTL participants must sign a disclosure statement: ² I understand that my participation in this NTL program may involve considerable stress. I have made an informed decision that my participation is appropriate for me at this time. In signing this registration form, I state that my participation is voluntary and I take full responsibility for my decision to attendS" A 1985 NTL brochure notes: "Persons who are experiencing personal emotional crisis should forego attendance at NTL programs."


Diversity and multiculturalism: the new racism | by Michael S. Berliner, Ph.D., and Gary Hull, Ph.D. ARI

Excerpt: "...The diversity movement claims that its goal is to extinguish racism and build tolerance of differences. This is a complete sham. One cannot teach students that their identity is determined by skin color and expect them to become colorblind. One cannot espouse multiculturalism and expect students to see each other as individual human beings. One cannot preach the need for self-esteem while destroying the faculty which makes it possible: reason. One cannot teach collective identity and expect students to have self-esteem. ..."

Individualism: the only cure for racism | by Edwin A. Locke, Ph.D.

Excerpt: "...If diversity is the cure, however, why, instead of promoting racial harmony, has it brought racial division and conflict? The answer is not hard to discover. The unshakable fact is that you cannot cure racism with racism. To accept the diversity premise means to think in racial terms rather than in terms of individual character or merit. .... People are individuals; they are not interchangeable ciphers in an amorphous collective. ..."


(Note: The process work used in Anytown workshops is similar to those conducted in "Challenge Day" and "Breaking Down the Walls" programs)

Warm embrace for kids, or merely 'psycho cry fest'? |by Keith Ervin | Seattle Times 4/10/02

Breaking down the wills | by Brent Duncan, MaOM | Letter to the Editor | Santa Cruz Sentinel

Excerpt: "The Breaking Down the Walls program seems to be a strong case proving that we are willingly allowing a government-mandated educational system to co-opt authority over our children. This "edgy" (emotionally abusive) program uses powerful behavior control techniques and peer pressure to make your developing child question his or her individual worth and values, then seek for esteem among a collective according to the values of an anonymous organization. In short, your child's will and your parenting are the walls the program seeks to break down. ..." -- Brent Duncan, MaOM, teaches Organizational Behavior and management courses at the University of Phoenix School of Business and Management."

Schools shouldn't endorse psycho-fests | Seattle Times Editorial 4/12/02

Excerpt: "It is alarming that nearly 300 Seattle Public Schools students have already participated in Challenge Day workshops. These 12- and 13-year-olds went through sessions reminiscent of est, or Lifespring encounter groups, courtesy of a for-profit company. While the goal of the seminars has merit < to create a safe school environment free of teasing and harassment < their methods don't belong under the imprimatur of public education."

"The emotional intensity of the workshops is troublesome. Schools should not assist in placing children in situations where adults break them down emotionally and, purportedly, rebuild them into better people. Better to leave intensive character building to parents. If parents endorse this therapy, they can arrange it privately for their child."

"Another disturbing aspect of encounter groups in the schools is their commercialism. The district has an anti-commercialization policy. Yet, students participating in Challenge Day received information packets about a seminar offered in Seattle next month by Resource Realizations, a Scottsdale, Ariz., company best known for its controversial work in residential behavior-modification for troubled teens."

Crossing the Line crosses the line, some parents say |by Donna Jones | Santa Cruz Sentinel | 4/12/02

See Dick and Jane weep | by Michelle Malkin | Townhall 4/19/02

In-class encounter sessions | Freedom 21 Santa Cruz


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