Child labor has been officially illegal in the United States since the late 1930s; that is, except for the U.S. Census Bureau. The bureau is embarking on a massive, well-funded plan to use schoolchildren in grades k-12 across the country to serve as salespersons for the 2010 census.
In recent decades, the census has become more than the counting of people the Constitution envisioned. It has morphed into a multibillion-dollar project, backed by thousands of bureaucrats and designed to gather for Uncle Sam as much information on as many people as possible.
In one respect, this phenomenon is a not-unexpected outgrowth of the natural tendency of government to increase and retain power. As the amount of taxpayer dollars flowing into and out of the federal government has expanded exponentially in recent years, so also has the carrot-and-stick the feds employ to pressure states and local communities to do its bidding. Thus, the census is now marketed to states, counties, cities, families and even individuals as a way for the benevolent government to make sure everyone gets their “fair share” of federal largesse.
Viewed thusly, it is perhaps understandable the government has decided that limiting itself to a single, decennial census is inadequate. Enter the perennial census. Now, in addition to the required decennial census, we have the “American Community Survey,” which includes page after page of probing questions about income, employment, driving habits, household appliances and much more.
Apparently the process of gathering all this “vital” information is just too much for the overburdened government to handle, so the Census Bureau brainiacs have decided to tap into America’s vast labor reserve — our schoolchildren.
While the government used schools to a limited extent in the 2000 census, the bureau’s new program, called “2010 Census: It’s about us,” takes “us” to a new level. Students in all grades would study the census using government-provided materials. They would discover the “value” of the census to their families and to their communities. They would engage in “celebrations” about the census; and would be given take-home materials with which to “encourage census-related conversations at home.”
Public schools will be easy to reach and enlist in this program; but the bureau recognizes that for maximum impact, private schools and even home-schooling parents need to be brought on board. Therefore, the official Web site includes in its plan getting materials to all private schools and even home schoolers via the Internet. Parent-teacher associations are encouraged to become “official partners.”
The government says it wants to “encourage students to collect data on their own,” but under this program it will be teaching young children how to be government collectors of information. The bureau even has plans to enlist Sesame Street characters to enhance the learning experience of becoming a government snoop.
The feds increase the likelihood of squeezing every bit of information possible out of everyone filling out the census form by reminding us that failure to comply can be considered a criminal offense. With this in mind, perhaps the administration will be deputizing the new cadre of junior bureaucrats.
This truly is no laughing matter, and parents across the country should stop this thinly veiled effort to teach their children the fun of gathering information for the government. At a minimum, parents should keep their children home from school during “Census in Schools Week” (to occur sometime between January and March 2010, according to the “It’s about us” Web site). There are any number of conversations that ought to occur around the family dinner table that are far more important than why government-funded programs are so vital and why we should happily give to the government all the private information it wants.