The American Experience:
For those who say, ''It could never happen here''


In March 1984 a remarkable real-life drama took place in seven American cities as hundreds of parents from all over the U.S. attended Hearings on the proposed 'Protection of Pupils' Rights Amendment'. Thirteen hundred pages of testimony were recorded from parents, public school teachers and citizens, giving eyewitness account of the psychological abuse of children in public schools.

They related how classroom courses had confused children about:

  • Life
  • Standards of behaviour
  • Moral choices
  • Religious loyalties
  • Relationships with parents and peers

There was no good way to express the anger and disappointment expressed by the grieving parents over what was being done in the name of education.

The Hearings explained how schools had alienated children:

  • from their parents
  • from traditional morality
  • from the ten commandments

leaving the children emotionally and morally confused.

The Hearings show how children learned to:

  • be sexually active
  • repudiate their parents
  • rationalise anti-social or immoral conduct when it feels good in a particular situation.

The Hearings spoke with a thunderous voice of how children had been emotionally, morally and intellectually abused by psychological and behavioural experiments in the classroom, while the parents thought they were being taught basic knowledge and skills. The teachers had become "agents of change" and were using the children for fads and experiments that had been substituted for real learning.

Back in 1978 the American Senate had been warned that schools were becoming vehicles for a new heresy that rejects the idea of education as the 'acquisition of knowledge and skills', but instead regards the fundamental task in education as 'therapy'. In other words the replacement of cognitive education (addressing the intellect) by affective education (addressing feelings and attitudes), spending time on psychological games and probing personal questionnaires.

In practice this 'therapy' education is a system of changing a child's values using techniques which dig into the privacy of the child and his family, forcing the child to have adult thoughts and responses on such matters as suicide, murder, marriage, divorce, abortion etc.

The Hearings showed that the promoters of such programmes of therapy education spoke in a jargon designed to prevent parents from understanding either the purpose of the programmes or the methodologies. It's a language that seems to mean one thing to the health professionals but another to parents, [rather like the publicity booklets for parent on RSE given out in Irish schools.]

The jargon included:

  • Values Clarification
  • Behaviour Modification
  • Moral Reasoning
  • Decision Making
  • Higher Order Critical Thinking Skills

These phrases identify "therapy techniques" which were generally to be integrated throughout the curriculum, but were especially evident in:

  • Sex Education
  • Drug Education
  • Family Living
  • Parenting
  • Character Education

This type of education by therapy was first peddled in the 1930's, but it was in 1965 that it really caught on when the Federal Government began to fund nationally CURRICULUM AND TEACHER TRAINING.

So serious were the complaints that in 1978 an amendment, which became known as The Hatch Amendment, was passed. It required that no student be required, without written parental consent, to submit to psychiatric or psychological examination, testing or treatment in which the primary purpose is to reveal information about:

  1. Political Affiliations
  2. Mental or Psychological problems potentially embarrassing to the student or his family
  3. Sex behaviour and attitudes
  4. Illegal, self incriminating or antisocial behaviour
  5. Critical appraisal of one's family
  6. Legally privileged relationships e.g. with a minister, priest or physician
  7. Family income.

The amendment passed easily because politicians thought that nobody could object to providing children with this protection. It was ignored by the Department of Education and proved unenforceable. It was widely violated. Finally, under the pressure from pro-family groups, the Department agreed to Seven Days of Hearings.


  1. The Hearings showed that what carried the disease of child abuse in the classroom across all of America was

  3. The Hearings showed that the teachers, who, out of fear and under duress, had administered this "psychological treatment" or "therapy", were victims as well as their pupils.
  4. It was important that teachers be again given a chance to follow their chosen profession, teaching knowledge and skills to the children they love.
  5. Not one single parent came forward to testify to the benefits of therapy. Not one educational administrator opposed to the Hatch Amendment, not one teacher, school principal, academic psychologist or author of the therapy programme came forward to defend the theory, practice or purpose of the curriculum.
  6. The regulations that were finally adopted made it mandatory that all instructional material, including teachers' manuals, films, tapes, must be made available for parental inspection.
  7. One of the successes of the Amendment was that it cut off the activities of the N.I.E. which had spent millions of dollars developing controversial, objectionable programmes in the area of curriculum development and teacher training which were not appropriate areas for the Federal Government.
  8. The American people discovered that they did not want Federal Agencies developing textbooks and curricula, and that this kind of Federal thought control was inappropriate to a free society.
  9. Federal funds can now be withdrawn from any school system violating the law.

The above material taken from the introduction to

Child Abuse in the Classroom Edited by Phyllis Schlafly (3rd Ed. 1985)

Excerpts from Official Transcript of Proceedings


In the Irish context today, July 2002, it is worth observing that virtually all the factors mentioned in the above account from the U.S. are now present within the Irish educational system:

  1. Already many of the characteristic adjustments to curriculum and teacher training have been put in place. The same assumptions, highlighted in the article by Vince Nesbitt (See “The Humanist Educators”) that children coming from the family home are 'sick' and in need of therapy, are being used by the N.C.C.A. (i.e. the Irish national curriculum body) to bring about change.
  2. The production of text books by (State) Health Boards, written by an army of psychologists, using probing questionnaires, trance and guided imagery, role-plays, psychological games, behaviour modification and various techniques of psychotherapy, is now commonplace.
  3. The teacher / would-be psychotherapist, without proper qualification, relying on some in-service course he or she was summoned to, practicing his or her craft upon unsuspecting students or pupils is becoming increasingly the order of the day. Is it ethical? Is it safe? No one appears to care. There are no safeguards laid down and little or no public debate has taken place.
  4. There is massive funding involved from the source and inspiration of the strategy - Europe. It is a case of Federal funding once again drawing down the disease, namely a plethora of untested, experimental programmes for which there is no real sanction, using children, young men, or students in general, as guinea pigs. The objective appears to be to produce a model, pliable, gender neutral, homogeneous citizen of Europe for a global economy.

It is in the public interest that this state of affairs is known about and debated, sooner rather than later. At some time in the future Irish parents will require answers from their public representatives, from civil servants within the Dept. of Education (and Health!), from school principals, teachers, educational psychologists and programme developers. The precedent, evidence and public record of the failed nature of such programmes, available from America, may ultimately render their position less tenable than that of their counterparts in the U.S.!