When I saw an article last summer about a woman who took to social media to expose and essentially pressure a school to stop asking questions perceived as too personal on a kindergarten application, I didn’t read it. I thought it would pertain to one school, or just a handful of schools that maybe don’t have it together, and one parent making a mountainous outrage out of a question she could just as easily have ignored.
Then I took my kids to the dentist, and I was asked during the intake process if there were any complications with the pregnancies. Not exactly the place I’d expect to ever get that question.
I’m not opposed to answering questions like this when it comes to my children – not in a protected privacy setting like the doctor’s office. After all, there’s lot of research that what happens in the womb and even during birth can have lasting lifetime effects on children – from chance of obesity to reaching developmental milestones – which is presumably why there’s a question on the kindergarten registration. But teeth? Really? And, who cares? Teeth can be fixed, right?
So when I’m asked the question, I quickly dust off my elevator speech. “Intrauterine growth restriction.” The nurse, who was sweet, kind, and only asking questions as they popped up on her computer screen, continued, “Do you know what caused it?” “I have a unicornuate uterus.” I could tell by her pause that she hadn’t heard it before. “I basically have half a uterus,” I finished. She smiled and thanked me for the explanation. No more questions.
Now, I still kind of doubt that a dentist would really need to know about that but maybe there’s a reason for it. And why wouldn’t a school want to know if a child is coming in at a disadvantage compared to other kids, particularly if that child might need additional services? And wouldn’t you as a parent want to advocate for your child?
I think if I were to put this into perspective, imagine for a moment that it’s 1985 and the question on the form was instead, “Did you smoke while pregnant?” A loaded question, for sure, but at the time lots of people still smoked around kids and didn’t think there was anything wrong with it. Three decades and lots of research later we know better to the point that legislations abound protecting kids from second hand smoke and a horde of other ills; but would you have blamed phys ed teachers in the 80s for wanting to know if a kid might have asthma?
So I went back to read the New York Times article after my experience at the dentist. If suddenly people are probing into your kids’ health history as far back as birth then maybe there’s more I need to consider. And it seems that the author of the article saw the question as an egregious invasion of privacy and didn’t like that the registration form wasn’t kept locked up under lock and key. Okay, maybe that’s a valid point. But is that really more egregious than search engines using information they know about you to sell customized ads and make money? More egregious than apps on your phone wanting access to your identity, pictures, text messages, and location? How do you think Google knows when stores are busy, or Instagram knows when one of your friends creates an account, or your phone gives you coupons for the supermarket you just pulled up to? Is anybody wondering how secure any of that information linked to you is, where that is stored? And I think my pictures, my messages, my email, my location are more valuable to me to protect than knowing if my kid was born through a C-section or not. Especially if said information can actually help my child.
Here’s the original article about the kindergarten questionnaire. And yes, my school district’s questionnaire asks the same question.