School Apologizes Over Harvard Survey’s Invasive Questions


Families of middle school students in Massachusetts were recently issued an apology from their school superintendent after a survey was distributed to students asking questions pertaining to the views of their parents on such topics as racism and economic equality.

Christopher Farmer, the superintendent of Triton Regional School District, apologized earlier last week to anyone who had been offended by the questions contained within the survey written by students of Harvard’s Graduate School of Education, writes Alexandra Klausner for The Daily Mail.

Part of the “Making Caring Common Project,” the goal of the survey is to help parents, teachers, and communities “raise children who are caring, respectful, and responsible toward others and their communities.”

The questions which had parents up in arms dealt with issues of race and economic equality, asking students to select responses ranging from “unfair” to “very fair” or “not sure.”

One question had students answering about issues of fairness concerning some people having lots of money while others had less.

The question went on to ask students about their own parents’ actions toward offering aid to those in need, writes Liz Carey for The Newburyport News.

Parents argued that the survey was “bogus” and schools should not be inquiring about personal beliefs expressed within the home.  Parents were given prior knowledge of the survey, adding that information given would remain anonymous.

“My kids have no idea how much money I make and how much money I give to people,” the parent, who wished to remain anonymous, said.  “And frankly, it’s none of the school’s business or Harvard’s for that matter.”

The parent added that the sample questions offered by Harvard on their website were not at all like what was actually asked on the survey.

According to Farmer, students could opt to not participate in the 15-page survey, or could omit questions they did not want to answer.  However, he did agree with the concerns presented by parents that some of the questions should not have been included in the survey.

‘I am contacting you to apologize for the fact that a survey authored by Harvard’s Making Care Common program and recently taken by high school and middle school students contained questions which at times intruded inappropriately into family matters,’ Farmer said in a statement on November 17.

In response to the outpouring of emotions, Harvard agreed to remove the data that had been submitted by students in the Triton School District, although the graduate school continues to support the survey, saying they do not believe a mistake had been made.  Instead, Harvard psychologist Richard Richard Weissbourd said they tried to collect information that would support discussions on the topic of racial and economic inequality between students and teachers.

Weissbourd added that while students can opt to not answer a question or choose to not single a parent out, survey creators worried that fathers were not “pulling their weight.”