Monday, January 10, 2011

Informed consent

Received the second copy of a consent form from the school today. Apparently a Grade 6 wants to do a science fair project on how well Grade 2s recall music.

There's a consent form for it.

I didn't sign it the first time it came around, so it came back.


If the Grade 6 wanted to take Kid's blood or urine, or subject him to electric shocks, or deprive him of light and oxygen for several minutes at a time, then I would want to be informed and sign away my rights to complain later if I saw fit.

But -- REALLY?

DH, playing devil's advocate (I know, shocker) says that any time a Grade 6 wants to experiment on a GRade 2, parental consent must be obtained. And what of the results of this observation? What if kid is determined to be sub-par in his ability to retain musical memory? Will this lead to persecution, a failed grade, deportation to an ice gulag?

Honestly. We can really go overboard on these kinds of things. Think think think, what could go wrong? What, in a science fiction universe ruled by gelatinous meany-brain mutant creatures, could go wrong?

Then invent a consent form for that.

I wish kids could just go to the zoo with their class without moms having to sign that they recognize their kid could be eaten by a leopard, be killed in a bus crash, break a leg on an icy walkway, hear a grown-up using a cuss word, etc.

Not that I would want to swap places or anything like that, but children do grow up on the Gaza Strip. In Delhi. Sudan. Tchad. They grow up. They live. They are not eaten by caged tigers, nor exposed to the depravities of Grade 6 science projects gone horribly wrong. If those vulnerable children can live and survive, then my pampered, well-fed and privileged child shall certainly survive a trip to the zoo. Or a music recall experiment performed by an 11 year old.

Lighten up, for the love of all that is good in this world. Just relax, breathe, and take it easy. We will live through this leafy suburban fat and waxy hellhouse, and so will our kids.

Just sign here, will you?


  1. My guess, is it is part of the learning for Grade 6 kids. That in doing studies with human subjects you must obtain consent.

    I kind of love they are doing Psychology at all, and especially thrilled it is following prescribed methodology.

    I don't think it is about your child's safety! Unless there is some probing going on. I think parental consent for probing (even in the ear) is pretty standard. Did you read the fine print?

    (Also, now I am chuckling thinking about what your little man might come up with to study when HE is Grade 6! Start sucking up to that teacher now to get him the Chair of the Research Proposal Committee in 4 years. We could see something groundbreaking out of it! Perhaps with some probes?)

  2. Schools here in the US are so lawsuit averse that they always err on the side of caution. That being said, I listened to a very disturbing This American Life segment today about how 10-year-olds go to Ronald Reagan Library and are basically taught (coerced) to see what happened during the Invasion of Granada from Reagan's perspective. The whole time I was screaming inside my head: Did they ask for parental consent?! Did they explain what the kids would be doing?!