Tuesday, July 26, 2016

UK: The NUS turns its back on Jewish students. Again

The governing body of the National Union of Students (NUS), the National Executive Committee (NEC), met this week to discuss matters that have arisen since the national conference in April and the election of controversial president Malia Bouattia.

Her election sparked a national debate about the pervasiveness of anti-Semitism on the left and gave rise to several disaffiliation referenda in universities nationwide. Since her election, four universities have disaffiliated from the NUS. One of the disaffiliators’ key concerns was Bouattia’s views, especially on Jewish issues. She once described the University of Birmingham (a campus with a large Jewish community) as a ‘Zionist outpost’ and has complained about ‘mainstream Zionist-led media outlets’. She was also involved in the scrapping of an NUS motion to condemn ISIS. At NUS national conference this year, there was applause for speeches against a motion to commemorate the Holocaust.

On the agenda at Monday’s NEC meeting was a motion saying that ‘Anti-Semitism on campus is rising’. Unfortunately, however, the NUS apportions blame for this anti-Semitism, not to those on the student left who use ‘Zio’ as an insult and speak of Zionist-led conspiracies, but to the EU referendum. After specifically identifying anti-Semitism as a problem on campus, the motion goes on to say that ‘in the wake of the EU referendum, racism in all its forms is rising and it is vital that NUS provides leadership in tackling racism’. ‘It is a top priority for the NUS to unite all students to root out [the] evils of racism, Islamophobia and anti-Semitism’, it says.

Even worse, in its final form the motion removed the ability of Jewish students to choose a representative on the Anti-Racism and Anti-Fascism committee (ARAF). The resolution passed, with a deciding vote from Bouattia herself, creating a situation where the ARAF committee is now appointed by the NEC of the NUS, rather than being chosen by students from the groups it is meant to represent. The Union of Jewish Students responded with a statement pointing out that it is now ‘down to NEC to elect the ARAF committee and therefore to decide on behalf of Jewish students who represents them. This decision is undemocratic and excludes the 8,500 Jewish students we represent. It was no surprise that the NUS president, Malia Bouattia, who had the deciding vote, once again showed that she has absolutely no interest in defending Jewish students’ interests by voting to remove the ability of Jewish students to shape for themselves the student movements’ fight against racism and fascism.’

The NUS’s chequered history with Jewish students was brought to the fore when Bouattia became president. But it stretches far back, most notably in the NUS’s preoccupation with Israel, which has led to some bizarre decisions. From the No Platforming of Zionist speakers to the shutting down of pro-Israel meetings to the NEC’s motion last year to boycott Coca-Cola over its apparent ties to Zionism, student leaders have had a strange and worrying take on Jewish issues for a long time.

The latest developments will lead many to wonder why the NUS, which so often paints itself as progressive, has a blind spot when it comes to Jewish students. In other areas of their liberation programme, the NUS has a dedicated Black Students’ Officer, Disabled Students’ Officer, two LGBTQ+ Officers, and a Women’s Officer, each heading up sizeable teams. And yet even as the NUS officially recognises that anti-Semitism is a growing problem on campus, it decides to take away Jewish students’ ability to choose their one representative on the ARAF committee.

After her election, Bouattia responded to her critics by saying: ‘One of the most important steps is to meet with everyone, to talk about these concerns, to heal the divisions.’ This week suggests that students are still right to lack confidence in her leadership and in the idea that the NUS is an institution capable of representing all of its members.


Calling the cops on kids: the hunt for playground racism hits a new low

The hunt for hate is getting out of hand. This week police figures revealed that 138 incidents of racial or religious abuse, committed by children under the age of 10, were reported in England and Wales last year. One case, in Manchester, involved a three-year-old, who was said to have caused ‘harassment, alarm or distress’ to his ‘victim’.

Let’s get one thing straight: children cannot really be accused of racism. By investigating children for racial abuse, the police are granting children a level of political agency that they simply do not possess. If they sometimes utter racist speech, it’s most likely because they’ve regurgitated it from films, TV, song lyrics, or perhaps their parents. Children do not see the world through the racially tinted lenses that some adults do.

The focus on rooting out racist, homophobic or sexist kids has been a feature of education for more than a decade. And it is completely detached from reality. Playgrounds are not ridden with prejudice. Young children often use language that adults finds offensive or problematic. Often because they don’t know any better. It’s adults’ job to guide them in their development, not criminalise them.

This obsession with policing children’s speech is extremely damaging. Before they have learned freely to consider the world and express themselves, children are being taught to watch their words and see those of a different skin colour as different to them. The increased involvement of the police is even more worrying. We commit a great disservice to children if we allow them to be branded racists and harassers before they’re even out of primary school.

There is also a clear risk of children being used as a political weapon. It is a shameless practice, but it is all too common. A panic is created by a shock statistic, a policy or initiative is launched, and said statistic is used to bat away any criticism of it. After Brexit, we have already seen many politicians and commentators exploiting the alleged spike in post-Brexit hate to serve their own political ends. If we’re not careful, they will do the same with schools, too.

In the end, the obsession with racist kids speaks to the desperation of anti-racism campaigners. Now struggling to find explicit racism in society, they look for ‘unthinking’ racism, ‘hidden’ racism – and racism among children. They claim they want to root out future hatemongers, but in reality this only benefits anti-racist charities in desperate need of things to do. Having slain the big dragons, they turn their attention to small, irrelevant issues – like children using slurs in the playground. We can’t let the police get in on the act, too.


Science or advocacy?

Students are learning energy and climate change advocacy, not climate science

David R. Legates

For almost thirty years, I have taught climate science at three different universities. What I have observed is that students are increasingly being fed climate change advocacy as a surrogate for becoming climate science literate. This makes them easy targets for the climate alarmism that pervades America today.

Earth’s climate probably is the most complicated non-living system one can study, because it naturally integrates astronomy, chemistry, physics, biology, geology, hydrology, oceanography and cryology, and also includes human behavior by both responding to and affecting human activities. Current concerns over climate change have further pushed climate science to the forefront of scientific inquiry.

What should we be teaching college students?

At the very least, a student should be able to identify and describe the basic processes that cause Earth’s climate to vary from poles to equator, from coasts to the center of continents, from the Dead Sea or Death Valley depression to the top of Mount Everest or Denali. A still more literate student would understand how the oceans, biosphere, cryosphere, atmosphere and hydrosphere – driven by energy from the sun – all work in constantly changing combinations to produce our very complicated climate.

Unfortunately, the U.S. Global Change Research Program’s definition of climate science literacy raises the question of whether climatology is even a science. It defines climate science literacy as “an understanding of your influence on climate and climate’s influence on you and society.”

How can students understand and put into perspective their influence on the Earth’s climate if they don’t understand the myriad of processes that affect our climate? If they don’t understand the complexity of climate itself? If they are told only human aspects matter? And if they don’t understand these processes, how can they possibly comprehend how climate influences them and society in general?

Worse still, many of our colleges are working against scientific literacy for students.

At the University of Delaware, the Maryland and Delaware Climate Change Education Assessment and Research (MADE CLEAR) defines the distinction between weather and climate by stating that “climate is measured over hundreds or thousands of years,” and defining climate as “average weather.” That presupposes that climate is static, or should be, and that climate change is unordinary in our lifetime and, by implication, undesirable.

Climate, however, is not static. It is highly variable, on timescales from years to millennia – for reasons that include, but certainly are not limited to, human activity.

This Delaware-Maryland program identifies rising concentrations of greenhouse gases – most notably carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide – as the only reason why temperatures have risen about 0.6°C (1.1º F) over the last century and will supposedly continue to rise over the next century. Students are then instructed to save energy, calculate their carbon footprint, and reduce, reuse, recycle. Mastering these concepts, they are told, leads to “climate science literacy.” It does not.

In the past, I have been invited to speak at three different universities during their semester-long and college-wide focus on climate science literacy. At all three, two movies were required viewing by all students, to assist them in becoming climate science literate: Al Gore’s biased version of climate science, An Inconvenient Truth, and the 2004 climate science fiction disaster film, The Day After Tomorrow.

This past spring, the University of Delaware sponsored an Environmental Film Festival featuring six films. Among them only An Inconvenient Truth touched at all on the science behind climate change, albeit in such a highly flawed way that in Britain, students must be warned about its bias. The other films were activist-oriented and included movies that are admittedly science fiction or focus on “climate change solutions.”

For these films, university faculty members were selected to moderate discussions. We have a large College of Earth, Ocean and the Environment, from which agreeable, scientifically knowledgeable faculty could have been chosen. Instead, discussion of An Inconvenient Truth was led by a professor of philosophy, and one movie – a documentary on climate change “solutions” that argues solutions are pertinent irrespective of the science – was moderated by a civil engineer.

Discussion of the remaining four films was led by faculty from history, English and journalism. Clearly, there was little interest in the substance of the science.

Many fundamentals of climate science are absent from university efforts to promote climate science literacy. For example, students seldom learn that the most important chemical compound with respect to the Earth’s climate is not carbon dioxide, but water. Water influences almost every aspect of the Earth’s energy balance, because it is so prevalent, because it appears in solid, liquid and gas form in substantial quantities, and because energy is transferred by the water’s mobility and when it changes its physical state. Since precipitation varies considerably from year to year, changes in water availability substantially affect our climate every year.

Hearing about water, however, doesn’t set off alarms like carbon dioxide does.

Contributing to the increased focus on climate change advocacy is the pressure placed on faculty members who do not sign on to the advocacy bandwagon. The University of Delaware has played the role of activist and used FOIA requests to attempt to intimidate me because I have spoken out about climate change alarmism. In my article published in Academic Questions, “The University vs. Academic Freedom,” I discuss the university’s willingness to go along with Greenpeace in its quest for my documents and emails pertaining to my research.

Much grant money and fame, power and influence, are to be had for those who follow the advocates’ game plan. By contrast, the penalties for not going along with alarmist positions are quite severe.

For example, one of the films shown at the University of Delaware’s film festival presents those who disagree with climate change extremism as pundits for hire who misrepresent themselves as a scientific authority. Young faculty members are sent a very pointed message: adopt the advocacy position – or else.

Making matters worse, consider Senate Bill 3074. Introduced into the U.S. Senate on June 16 of this year, it authorizes the establishment of a national climate change education program. Once again, the emphasis is on teaching energy and climate advocacy, rather than teaching science and increasing scientific knowledge and comprehension.

The director of the National Center for Science Education commented that the bill was designed to “[equip] students with the knowledge and knowhow required for them to flourish in a warming world.” Unfortunately, it will do little to educate them regarding climate science.

I fear that our climate science curriculum has been co-opted, to satisfy the climate change fear-mongering agenda that pervades our society today. Instead of teaching the science behind Earth’s climate, advocates have taken the initiative to convert it to a social agenda of environmental activism.

Climatology, unfortunately, has been transformed into a social and political science. There is nothing wrong with either of those “sciences,” of course. But the flaws underpinning climate science advocacy are masked by “concern for the environment,” when climate is no longer treated as a physical science.

Climate science must return to being a real science and not simply a vehicle to promote advocacy talking points. When that happens, students will find that scientific facts are the real “inconvenient truths.”

Via email

Monday, July 25, 2016

California Soon to Be First State to Teach LGBT History in Public Schools

The California State Board of Education has unanimously voted to implement a 2011 state law signed by Governor Jerry Brown that mandates including LGBT history in public school curriculums as early as second grade.

Last Thursday, the board adopted the History-Social Science Framework for California Public Schools, which will include “the contributions of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) Americans and people with disabilities to the history of California and the United States,” according to a press release issued by State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson.

Peter Tira, an information officer for the California Department of Education, told CNSNews.com that this new policy will go into effect immediately across elementary, middle and high school social science and history classes.

However, teachers will have to attend several workshops to learn how to include these topics in their lessons.

The board’s goal is to have the curriculum changes in place by the start of the 2016-2017 school year, Tira said. He added that there is a 2017 deadline for school textbooks to include the LGBT content.

California is the first state in the nation to include LGBT history in its public school curriculum, according to Equality California.

Discussions and lessons in the new curriculum will include different family structures, gender roles, California’s role in LGBT history, and the U.S. Supreme Court decision that legalized same-sex marriage in all 50 states in 2015.

“The adoption of this Framework today is an important part of our instructional program,” said board president Michael Kirst.

“Hundreds of people representing broad perspectives contributed to the development of this important tool for teachers and classrooms. The new Framework will help guide classroom instruction at each grade level and will be used with other instructional resources to ensure all students have a broad understanding of history,” Kirst continued.

In addition to LGBT history, the Framework also mandates the inclusion of other minority group history in public school curriculums, such as the “comfort women” in World War II, the Bataan Death March and the battle of Manila, the Armenian Genocide, and discrimination faced by Sikh Americans.

"This is a priority when fewer than three out of 10 kids in California public schools are taught to read proficiently?" asked Randy Thomasson, president of SaveCalifornia.com, a pro-family group.

"This anti-family sexual engineering demonstrates how government-controlled schools have replaced academics with political correctness," Thomasson said in a statement.

"Parents with moral values must rescue their children by exiting the government schools for the safe havens of homeschooling and solid church schools" to "escape the mental molestation of 10 state school sexual indoctrination laws teaching sexual lies to impressionable boys and girls," he said.
California Gov. Jerry Brown (D). (AP photo)

Gov. Brown signed the Fair, Accurate, Inclusive and Respectful (FAIR) Education Act into law in 2011, which added “lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Americans...to the economic, political and social development of California and the United States of America, with particular emphasis on portraying the role of these groups in contemporary society” to his state's existing Education Code.

The bill, which went into effect in January 2012, required the inclusion of LGBT history in the curriculum. However, it took years of public debate and a number of revisions to reach a final decision on what that history would include.

According to the Associated Press, budget cuts, competing educational priorities and attempts to overturn the law contributed to its long implementation timeline.

“People are passionate about the way they are portrayed in history,” Torlakson said. “We are glad so many people and groups participated in our lengthy public comment and review process.”

The Pacific Justice Institute drafted a referendum to stop the law from going into effect, but failed to reach the required amount of signatures, according to a 2011 press release.


Schoolboys wear skirts in protest at shorts ban

It's been very hot in Britain lately

Four UK schoolboys found a creative way to stay cool after they were told sports shorts were not part of their uniform – turning to the girls’ uniform rules and wearing skirts instead.

The four Year 9 students from Longhill High School in Rottingdean, East Sussex, were part of a group who were reprimanded for wearing shorts instead of pants to school last Tuesday.

Head teacher Kate Williams said the school had “high standards regarding uniform” and would not condone the rules being “challenged”.

After finding a potential loophole, the boys attended school on Thursday wearing skirts that were part of the girls’ official uniform.

Michael Parker, 14, told The Argus “boys should be able to wear shorts in extreme weather, in the summer”.

His mother Angela Parker told the newspaper the group’s parents were “fully in support of them”.

“I think what the headmistress is doing is discrimination and I’m extremely proud of Michael and his fellow protesters,” she said.

“It’s taken a heck of a lot for teenage boys to go to school wearing skirts.”

The boys vowed to continue their protest the following day, which was the last day of term.

Their story has been highlighted by several media outlets around the world, and they were praised on the Today show’s Sunday Jury this morning.

Sunday Jury guest and radio broadcaster John Stanley said he thought the protest was “fantastic”.

“As long as this doesn’t get looped into the Safe School’s argument...” he said.

Another guest, journalist Tracey Spicer, said it opened up a wider debate about uniforms.

“Girls are often lauded for what are traditionally ‘male’ things, I think it’s great these boys are wearing skirts and not feeling ashamed,” she said.


Australia:  Changes to Senior High School exam in NSW -- including greater focus on Indigenous Australians

There is a vast amount of important things to learn about in  world history -- so why waste time studying Aboriginal history?  They are of no importance to anyone but themselves

The Board of Studies is overhauling the curriculum for Higher School Certificate (HSC) students in NSW, placing a greater focus on Australia and Aboriginal leaders in history, and significantly changing maths and English courses.

President of the Board of Studies Tom Alegounarias said in English courses, the recent tradition of comparing classic texts to modern adaptations will be dropped to allow for a return to a single-text focus.

"We never abandoned the canon but what we did have was frames through which students could study a text, so 'journeys' or 'belongings' were overarching concepts that would be used to create a reference point for kids to help them engage with a text," he said.

"That's seen to be a bit limiting now."

Mr Alegounarias said from now on, he wanted students to have the freedom to focus on "what makes a quality text".

"That may vary from book to book; if it's the subtlety and wit of Jane Austen, then that should be the focus," he said.

In history, there would be a greater emphasis on Australia including Indigenous leaders such as Eddie Mabo and Charles Perkins.

"Those are options for case studies at the beginning of Year 11 where we're introducing to students how to study history," Mr Alegounarias said.

"They're not the central focus of the changes; the central focus is that World War II becomes a core mandatory unit for all."

Maths scaling system to change

The board's president said the scaling system would change for maths students.

"We're creating what we call a common scale, that is we're ensuring that each level of course is on a hierarchy of difficulty and by the time you get to extension two these are really brilliant students," Mr Alegounarias said.

"We're giving them the opportunity to stretch themselves further - it's becoming slightly more complex."

State Opposition spokesman Jihad Dib said he did not think the changes were as significant as they sounded.

"This is what contemporary society would expect - the evolution of the HSC to meet the modern needs of society," he said.

But he questioned the thinking behind dropping the comparative approach in Year 12 English, one that for many years has seen thousands of students study Jane Austen's Emma alongside the 1995 film Clueless.

"In English, I don't think it's such a problem to be able to study the difference between time and place and to compare and contrast," he said.

The former high school principal is also wary of changes to scaling for maths students.

"We have to be careful so we don't set kids up to fail and ask them to choose subjects that they think will get them a better HSC mark regardless of whether they're capable in that subject or not," Mr Dib said.

Earlier this week, the State Government announced that from 2020, students would not be able to get their HSC without first meeting minimum standards of literacy and numeracy.


Sunday, July 24, 2016

Amid Complaints From Parents, Virginia School Board Pauses New Transgender Policy

After facing significant resistance from parents, a school board in Northern Virginia has decided to temporarily suspend the implementation of new regulations for accommodating transgender and gender nonconforming students.

“Fairfax County Public Schools will keep handling transgender student matters with privacy and dignity in the way they always have…case-by-case, which is exactly what we wanted them to do in the first place,” Fairfax County School Board member Elizabeth Schultz told The Daily Signal.

The decision, announced in a press release Tuesday, came after the Fairfax County Public School Board held an “extensive” closed-door meeting to discuss new guidelines that the school board quietly released on July 1.

The guidelines, which would allow transgender and gender nonconforming students to use locker rooms, bathrooms, and other sex-segregated facilities based on their gender identity, caused a rift among parents in the affluent Virginia suburb.

The Fairfax County School Board voted in May 2015 to include gender identity under the district’s nondiscrimination policy. While the policy will remain in effect, regulations clarifying how the policy will apply to showers, locker rooms, sports teams, and other areas is temporarily on hold.

“While the regulation is temporarily on hold, Policy 1450 remains in effect, and the board remains committed to this policy of nondiscrimination,” school board Chair Sandy Evans said in a press release. “Consistent with the policy, and current practice, FCPS continues to accommodate the needs of transgender and gender nonconforming students in a way that protects the dignity and privacy of all students.”

The issue of accommodating transgender and gender nonconforming students gained national attention in May, when the Obama administration issued a directive requiring public schools allow transgender students access to the facilities that align with their gender identity.

Nearly two dozen states are challenging that directive in a lawsuit against the Obama administration.

Jeremy Tedesco, a senior attorney at Alliance Defending Freedom who is involved in a number of lawsuits regarding the transgender issue in public school districts, said the decision by the Fairfax school board to delay implementation should send a message to school districts nationwide.

“Schools think they have no choice,” he said of the pressure to implement gender identity policies. “They feel like they have to do this.” Now, he said,

    "Schools ought to look at this and say, ‘If Fairfax is even putting this on hold’—and they were one of the first ones out of the gate saying, ‘We have to do this, the federal government’s forcing us to do this and schools don’t really have a choice,’—we do have a choice".

Supporters of the regulations in Fairfax County said they were necessary to protect transgender and gender nonconforming students from being bullied and discriminated against. The guidelines, they argued, would make the Fairfax County public schools more welcoming to students of all backgrounds.

Opponents felt the guidelines were being forced upon families with little to no public discussion. They worried how the new regulations would affect nontransgender students, and said the school board was evading answering their questions.

For these parents, the decision to delay the new policy was a welcomed announcement. But having lost a great deal of trust with some school board members, they celebrated with skepticism.

“While it appears that the Fairfax County School Board’s decision to ‘temporarily put on hold’ the review of the proposed transgender regulations is a victory, in reality it simply allows the board more time to strategize on how to continue to push their liberal agenda forward,” said Bethany Kozma, a Fairfax County mother of three.

In announcing the decision to delay the regulations, the board said that it needs “additional time to evaluate the legal issues surrounding the regulation, including a case now pending before the Supreme Court on this topic.”

That case involves another Virginia school board in Gloucester County, which is fighting to keep bathrooms, locker rooms, and showers segregated by biological sex. The plaintiff involved is a transgender student named Gavin Grimm, who was born female but identifies as male.

On July 13, lawyers for the school board asked the Supreme Court to block Grimm from using the men’s facilities until the court decides whether to hear the case.

“Depriving parents of any say over whether their children should be exposed to members of the opposite biological sex, possibly in a state of full or complete undress, in intimate settings deprives parents of their right to direct the education and upbringing of their children,” attorneys for the school board wrote.

Grimm’s attorney, Josh Block from the American Civil Liberties Union, said in a statement to Fox News that it was “sad that the school board members and their lawyers have so little regard for the impact their misguided actions are having on a real teenager’s life.”

In addition to letting the legal cases play out, the Fairfax County School Board said it plans to also address the community’s questions regarding the regulations.

“Prior to any implementation, or formal adoption of the regulation, the board will provide additional information and further opportunity for public comment on this important topic,” a press release reads.

Kozma, a Fairfax County parent who is fighting this issue both locally and nationally, said she “sincerely” hopes the board will hold true to its word.

“I sincerely hope they do what they say and actually listen to the parents and citizens who are concerned for their children’s safety, security, and privacy,” she said.


How many non-teachers does a school district need?

Since 1950, public schools all across America have added staff at a rapid rate—much faster than their increases in students.

Sure, there have been some increases in lead teachers that resulted in large declines in class sizes. However, there were even greater increases in the hiring of administrators and all other staff over these six-plus decades.

Given the prior exclusions of special needs students from public schools and other historic inequities within the public education system, perhaps these dramatic staffing increases were warranted in the 1950s, 1960s, 1970s, the 1980s, and into the 1990s.

But, these increases in staffing—especially in administrators and others who are not teachers—are still going on all around the country, including in the District of Columbia.

According to data that the District of Columbia Public Schools submitted to the U.S. Department of Education, the District’s public schools experienced a 3.1 percent decline in its student population between the 1993-94 and 2013-14 school years. Despite this decline in students, D.C. Public Schools increased its staffing by 7.7 percent (all increases are in full-time equivalents).

Who were these new D.C. Public Schools staff?  Well, the teaching force declined by 1.1 percent over this period.

While the number of students and teachers were declining, D.C. Public Schools increased its employment of administrators and all other staff (all those who were not lead teachers) by a whopping 19.3 percent.

Put differently, as shown on the chart below, while the number of students they served was declining, D.C. public schools increased administrators and others who are not lead teachers by almost 20 percent.

For historical context, this tremendous increase in D.C. Public Schools staff who are not lead teachers since 1993 came after a decades-long staffing surge, where both teachers and especially administrators and other employees were added at rates far above increases in students.

This staffing surge may give us insight into why D.C. Public Schools have the highest per-pupil revenue in the country, at $29,400 per student per year.

The long-term bloat of public school staff in the District of Columbia shows that parents across the country need innovative and more effective ways to control education spending for their children, instead of letting the school district continue to fritter it away with hiring non-lead-teachers. As researcher Matthew Ladner has documented, those students who choose to attend private school instead of the struggling public schools in D.C. get far less money to spend on their education:

    "From an equity standpoint, it is difficult to justify the District’s school finance system. The system routinely provides $29,000 for high-income students attending regular public schools. It provides $14,000 for high-income students attending charter schools but only a maximum of $8,381 for some low-income students who would like to attend a private school system that improves the chances for graduation by approximately 21 percentage points".

Ladner concluded, “Instead of attempting to restructure or ‘reform’ [D.C. Public Schools], policymakers should free District parents to reform education from the bottom up.”

Students in the nation’s capital would be much better served by empowering them with control over their share of education funding through a system of universal education savings accounts Through this option, parents would receive a portion of the funds spent on their child in the traditional public school system, and could then use those funds to pay for a variety of education-related services, products, and providers, including private school tuition, online learning, special education services and therapies, textbooks, and host of other products.

Instead of financing bloat and relegating students to schools that might not be meeting their unique learning needs, a system of universal education savings accounts in the District would empower families to match learning options to their children’s unique needs, and enable them to allocate existing resources better.

As economist Milton Friedman explained, the public school bureaucracy, by its very nature, engages in what he called category four spending—the worst type of spending—whereby someone spends somebody else’s money on somebody else. That is, public schools spend somebody else’s money (taxpayer dollars) on somebody else’s kids.

As Jason Bedrick and one of us (Lindsey) explain:

    "Public-school officials, like all government bureaucrats, primarily engage in the worst kind of spending: They spend other people’s money on children who are not their own. As competent and well-meaning as they may be, their incentives to economize and maximize value are simply not as strong as those of parents spending their own money on their own children…. Though education savings accounts are still taxpayer funded, the way they are structured makes for a dynamic closer to the one involved in spending your own money on your own children: Parents still insist on the best quality education but have more incentive to find a bargain".

That mindset helps explain why D.C. is spending so much on administrative positions in recent years: D.C. bureaucrats don’t have the same urgency parents do to make sure each child receives the best education possible, and that the financial resources used are spent to maximize the child’s education.

Administrative bloat over time in the District is just one more indicator that a K-12 education financing system that funds the child – not school systems – can better serve students and taxpayers.


Australia: Schools in crisis as student numbers explode

The inevitable result of high levels of immigration

The Education Department's key formula for predicting student growth has been slammed as wildly inaccurate, with several schools already doubling their projected demand for 2031.

Nearly half of inner-city schools assessed by the department have already surpassed their projected demand this year, a Fairfax Media analysis has found.

The Lord Mayor of Melbourne, academics and parents who have been forced out of the city in pursuit of public schools, have criticised the department for lax planning in the wake of exploding student numbers.

Demand for 38 schools was forecast in a series of school planning reviews for the municipality of Banyule, the suburbs of Preston and Docklands, and their surrounding areas. These documents have served as a blueprint for the provision of new schools.

The student boom has proven so great that 10 schools have already surpassed their projected demand for 2031, some by hundreds of students.

These projections relate to the number of state school students within a school's catchment area, but do not take into account that a large number of students travel to attend a school outside their zone.

Michelle Styles, spokeswoman for lobby group City Schools 4 City Kids, has accused the department of underestimating enrolments in a bid to hose down pressure for new schools.

She said forecasting growth based on the number of students within a zone was unrealistic, and only served to shadow booming demand.

"Of course it is not only the the immediate local families that are going to attend those schools," she said.

"Parents often travel in towards the city to drop their children off at schools ... for example, a new school in Ferrars Street in South Melbourne is not only going to serve Ferrars Street, it will serve demands from anywhere, including families travelling from outside of the city."

The City of Melbourne is facing the most severe schools shortage among inner-city municipalities, and is set to experience a 62.9 per cent increase in school-aged children in the next decade – or almost 7500 extra students.

Lord Mayor Robert Doyle said Docklands urgently needed a state school, and cautioned the department against relying on the private school sector to accommodate growth.

"Haileybury College opened a large campus in King Street …. what does that tell us about what they see regarding population projections in the inner-city?"

Grattan Institute's Peter Goss said the department's key data set should project growth across a broad region rather than single school zones.

"Looking at each school in isolation or each school zone in isolation is flawed ... the overall picture of growth is the right way to look at it."

Department spokesman Steve Tolley said the organisation's preferred forecasting model "minimises the fluctuations" in enrolments resulting from school choice.

However, he said the department also takes multiple factors into consideration when planning new schools, including how many students outside of the zone may wish to enrol.

Docklands parents Neeti and Alok Chouraria are moving to Williams Landing, near Laverton, due to the absence of a local government school. They are one of seven local families they know who have abandoned the Docklands for this reason.

The couple work in the Docklands and have enjoyed sending their three-year-old child to a child care centre nearby.

"There is space for hundreds of thousands of apartments but for some reason, we can't find the space for a school. It's really very sad ... we both loved living in the city."


Friday, July 22, 2016

At GOP Convention, Even Some Delegates Clueless on Trump's Education Stance

Are you mystified as to where Donald Trump stands on education policy?

So are some of the people attending the convention here, where Donald Trump officially received the GOP presidential nomination Tuesday.

"I don't know what his views are on education," said Sue Sharkey, a member of the board of regents for the University of Colorado and a delegate from the Centennial State who supported Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas in the Republican primary. "I don't think he's really put a lot of thought into it. And I think his understanding of Thumbnail image for electionslug_2016_126x126.jpgeducational issues is probably pretty shallow."

Jonathan Hayes, a 20-year-old alternate delegate from Pennsylvania, is on the same page.

"The bombastic rhetoric of Donald Trump has overtaken" any talk of education, said Hayes, who had been hoping that Florida Sen. Marco Rubio would get the GOP nomination. "I don't think he has education listed as an issue on his website. So I'm very disappointed in that."

Hayes, a history buff who wore a hat with a button celebrating every GOP Hat.jpgnominee from President Theodore Roosevelt to former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, the 2012 nominee, is a first-generation college student. He sees education as critical to advancement, which is why he's especially disappointed about the lack of specificity on the issue from Trump.

So far, the convention speeches haven't helped matters, even though some of Tuesday's speakers, such as Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey and Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, the Speaker of the House, have long education records. In fact, the biggest K-12 moment of the night came from Donald Trump, Jr., who said his father would go big on school choice and attack teacher tenure.

Even some members of Congress here are in the dark. 

Rep. Rodney Davis, R-Ill, said he "didn't know" where Trump stands on education, but quickly added that he's hopeful that a possible President Trump would embrace the local-control spirit of the bipartisan Every Student Succeeds Act, the law to replace No Child Left Behind that passed late last year.

"He's an unknown as a candidate, and there are positives with that," Davis said in an interview at a small reception hosted by the National Education Association for Republicans with whom it has a good working relationship. "Hopefully he's going to listen to the folks who have worked in public policy before he got into politics."

Davis isn't the only lawmaker in wait-and-see mode. The two most important Republicans in Congress on K-12 issues—education committee chairmen and ESSA architects Rep. John Kline, R-Minn., and Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn.—told me earlier this summer they didn't know where Trump stands on K-12 policy.

Alexander, though, sounded more optimistic in an interview in Cleveland this week. He told me he asked Trump about ESSA when the mogul met with Republican senators, and got an assurance that the presumptive nominee was "very much for local control." 


Profit and Education Aren't Mutually Exclusive

Are for-profit charter schools a friend or foe of K-12 education in the United States? The question has taken on a sense of urgency within the past year as public commentary about them has largely been comprised of horror stories, including a case of false attendance reporting by Ohio Virtual Academy last May and, last week, a case of academic negligence by California Virtual Academies and Virginia-based K12, Inc. (Though California Attorney General and U.S. Senate candidate Kamala Harris' public account of that case has been forcefully disputed in The Wall Street Journal.) These cases have encouraged criticisms of for-profit charter schools and calls to close down the entire for-profit sector.

Of vital importance to this call is the notion that for-profit schools harbor a motive that makes them incapable of educating children – namely, a profit motive. Adults who aim to make money cannot have children's best interests at heart because they will look for opportunities to cut costs in an effort to pay shareholders rather than direct all available funds toward children's education. The conflict of interest created by this profit motive renders for-profit schools incompatible with public education.

This is nonsense. Education is not the only sector that provides public goods. Indeed, there are many public goods handled by private companies: hospitals, prisons and transportation systems operated by for-profit providers ensure public health, public safety and public transportation. In none of those cases does profit motive necessarily dispose the company to abdicate its mission of serving the public. In these cases, companies' ability to provide the best product possible is aligned with their ability to make money and pay their shareholders. Far from giving up their social missions to seek profit, they need to serve the public both to accomplish that mission and gain profit. Without mission, no profit. The mission is and must be primary.

The circumstances in the education sector do not nullify this logic. If an education company has a mission to provide excellent schooling for students, then it either fulfills its mission or it doesn't. If it does, then it is a worthy contractor and its charter should be renewed; if it does not, then its charter should be revoked. The for-profit K-12 charter sector can't be dismissed wholesale through the fallacious "profit motive" argument.

Facts on the ground bear out that for-profit education providers are capable of performing admirably. Charter Schools USA, a for-profit founded in 1997 that operates 70 schools across seven states and serves 60,000 students, had one of its Florida schools named in The Washington Post's 100 Most Challenging Schools. SABIS International Charter School, a for-profit charter high school opened in 1995 in Springfield, Massachusetts, has received a Silver Medal in the U.S. News rankings for the last eight years. And BASIS.ed operates two out of the top five high schools in the country, according to U.S. News.

But both supporters and critics of for-profit charter schools can toss examples back and forth to support their arguments. There are good and bad actors in every sector, and there are successful and failing schools in every sector. The goal of any person of good will engaged in molding the future of American public education should be to figure out the factors and best practices used by schools that are successful regardless of tax status and type. Those who pigeonhole for-profit charter schools because of a misconception about profit motive, as well as those who defend failing schools simply because of the fact that they are public, are failing students who need adults to have a frank, serious conversation about every mechanism for success at their disposal.

To that end, figuring out whether for-profits are friend or foe depends on figuring out what mechanisms they offer that nonprofit charters and traditional public schools do not. Mickey Muldoon, in his 2013 essay "The Costs and Benefits of Nonprofit and For-Profit Status," explains that for-profit status often means "investment money is easier to raise, growth and organizational agility are more natural, and there is more flexibility to attract top talent." There are no doubt circumstances that render for-profit status less desirable from an entrepreneur's perspective than nonprofit status – for example, easy access to philanthropic funding and political pressure that puts for-profits in low esteem in the eyes of the public – but the entrepreneurs Muldoon spoke with (and who represent a variety of political positions across the spectrum) ultimately recommended that educational entrepreneurs should consider for-profit status when starting out.

In many industries, successful companies tend to fly quietly underneath the radar while news of bad actors gets loudly proclaimed. But the story isn't as simple as that in education, and dismissal of the benefits for-profit companies might bring to a troubled education landscape risks short-changing students. Not all for-profits use their unique capabilities for good, but not all of them use them for ill, either. Bad actors that hurt kids should have no place in the conversation or the educational landscape, but good actors and success stories should. Perhaps we shouldn't be asking if for-profits are all friends or all foes; instead, we should ask, what do the successful for-profits have to teach us about improving K-12 education?


Australian school bans clapping and allows students ‘silent cheers’ or air punching but only when teachers agree

WTF is silent cheering?

CLAPPING has been banned at a Sydney primary school which has introduced “silent cheering”, “pulling excited faces” and “punching the air” to respect students who are “sensitive to noise”.

The school now only allows its pupils “to conduct a silent cheer” when prompted by teachers and says the practice “reduces fidgeting”.

Elanora Heights Public School, which is on Sydney’s northern beaches, announced its new “silent cheer” policy in its latest school newsletter.

The latest example of a political correctness outbreak in Australian schools, which have banned hugging, singing Christmas carols, celebrating Australia Day and singing the word “black” in the nursery rhyme “baa baa black sheep”.

The ban on clapping at Elanora Heights Primary School emerged on the same day that an exclusive girls school banned teachers from calling “ladies” or “women” in favour of “gender-neutral” terms.

In its July 18 newsletter, the Elanora school has published an item under the headline “Did you know” that “our school has adopted silent cheers at assembly’s” (sic).

“If you’ve been to a school assembly recently, you may have noticed our students doing silent cheers,” the item reads.

“Instead of clapping, the students are free to punch the air, pull excited faces and wriggle about on the spot.

“The practice has been adopted to respect members of our school community who are sensitive to noise.

“When you attend an assembly, teachers will prompt the audience to conduct a silent cheer if it is needed.

“Teachers have also found the silent cheers to be a great way to expend children’s energy and reduce fidgeting.”

The ban follows a direction at exclusive Cheltenham Girls High School in northwest Sydney for teachers to avoid discrimination and support LGBTI students by avoiding the words “girls”, “ladies” or “women”.

Elanora Heights Public School’s ban on clapping in favour of silent cheering comes after several schools have banned hugging.

In April, hugging was banned at a Geelong primary school and children were told to find other ways to show affection.

St Patricks Primary School principal John Grant said “nothing in particular” had caused hugging to be replaced by high fiving or “a knuckle handshake”.

“But in this current day and age we are really conscious about protecting kids and teaching them from a young age that you have to be cautious,” Mr Grant said.

He said he had spoken to teachers about his decision to ban hugging and then the teachers had spoken to classes, instructing the children on different methods of showing affection. He had not sent any correspondence home to parents but said there would now be a letter going home on Monday.

“There’s a range of methods including a high five or a particular knuckle handshake where they clunk knuckles as a simple way of saying ‘well done’,” Mr Grant said. “There are also verbal affirmations and acknowledgments.”

Children at the school have been enthusiastic huggers, he said, with hugs given out to teachers and other children.

“We have a lot of kids who walk up and hug each other and we’re trying to encourage all of us to respect personal space,” Mr Grant said. “It really comes back to not everyone is comfortable in being hugged.”


Thursday, July 21, 2016

Higher education associated with reduced heart failure risk after myocardial infarction

But why?  Easy:  Whenever it is examined, high IQ people are healthier -- and they also do best in the educational system.  This is an IQ effect.  High IQ is just one part of general biological good functioning

Higher education is associated with a reduced risk of developing heart failure after a heart attack, reports a study in more than 70,000 patients published today in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology.

"Heart failure is a serious complication of acute myocardial infarction and substantially increases the risk of death," said lead author Dr Gerhard Sulo, a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Bergen in Norway.

He continued: "Previous research has shown that patients are more likely to die after a heart attack if they have a lower educational level, but information on the mechanisms involved is sparse. Heart failure is the most important incident in the chain of events leading to death after a heart attack and we hypothesised that it might contribute to the observed educational disparities in survival."

The current study investigated the association between educational level and the risk of developing heart failure after an acute myocardial infarction (AMI). The study included 70 506 patients aged 35 to 85 years who had been hospitalised with a first (incident) AMI during 2001 to 2009 and did not have a history of heart failure. Patients were identified from the Cardiovascular Disease in Norway (CVDNOR) project, which contains data on all hospital stays with a cardiovascular disease-related diagnosis in Norway since 1994.

Information on the highest attained education level was obtained from the Norwegian National Education Database. Education was categorised as primary (up to 10 years of compulsory education), secondary (high school or vocational school), or tertiary education (college/university).

Patients were followed for an incident episode of heart failure until 31 December 2009. Based on its timing in relation to the incident AMI, heart failure was classified into two mutually exclusive categories; early-onset (heart failure on admission or developing during the hospitalisation for the incident AMI) and late-onset (either a new hospitalisation with heart failure or death due to heart failure after discharge from the incident AMI hospitalisation). Separate analyses were conducted for early and late-onset heart failure.

Of the 70 506 patients included in the analyses, 17.7% were diagnosed with early-onset heart failure. Patients with secondary or tertiary education had respectively 9% and 20% lower risk of heart failure compared to those with primary education.

Another 11.8% of patients were diagnosed with late-onset heart failure during an average follow up time of 3.4 years (interquartile range 1.5 to 5.9 years). Patients with secondary or tertiary education had respectively 14% and 27% lower risk of heart failure compared to patients with primary education.

When analyses were restricted to patients who received coronary revascularisation to clear blocked arteries after their AMI, those with secondary or tertiary education had respectively 16% and 33% lower risk of late-onset heart failure compared to those with primary education.

Educational differences in the risk of early-onset and late-onset heart failure were similar in men and women.

Dr Sulo said: "Education per se cannot be considered a 'protective exposure' in the classical sense but represents a clustering of characteristics that influence health behaviours and outcomes. It has been shown that patients with lower education tend to delay seeking medical care when heart attack symptoms occur and they have poorer access to specialised care. Both of these factors increase the risk of developing early-onset heart failure after AMI. Those with lower education are more likely to have coexisting medical conditions and unhealthy lifestyles which also increase the risk of heart failure."

He continued: "Patients with lower education are less likely to be prescribed medication after a heart attack to prevent heart failure, and they are also less likely to take their medication. This may explain the increased risk of late-onset heart failure."

Dr Sulo concluded: "Focused efforts are needed to ensure that heart attack patients with low education get help early, have equal access to treatment, take their medications, and are encouraged to improve their lifestyles. This should help reduce the socioeconomic gap in the risk of heart failure following a heart attack."



Three current articles below

A new Leftist horror coming to Australian education

The press release below is fairly bland and cautious but the Australian organization concerned is an acknowledged branch of the "Ashoka"  organization.  And if you read here you will see what that is all about.  Ashoka is  a movement to turn universities away from being mere educational institutions and making them into centres of agitation for "change".  No particular change is called for, just change for the sake of change apparently.  That rather makes it change as entertainment. 

But neophilia is indeed a major Leftist motive, as I showed long ago.  Conservatives by contrast want there to be good reasons for change.  They don't need to abuse the whole society for childish entertainment

One therefore rather wonders whether the taxpayer should be paying for Leftist entertainment.  The taxpayer already pays for a lot of Leftist propaganda in the universities. Is that not enough?

Given the vast expense of the Australian university system, one would hope for it to be used for serious purposes -- such as transmitting and developing knowledge.  Taking energies away from that can hardly be a right use of university facilities

 A visitor from Glasgow Caledonian University, Julie Adair is keen to expand her ‘Common Good First’ project into Australia, capturing stories of community social impact across a wide range of areas.

 Ms Adair is Director, Digital Collaboration for GCU and also has an extensive background in broadcasting with the BBC and the Walt Disney Company, with experience across several continents.

 Common Good First is a digital exchange of grassroots solutions to pressing social problems, both in the UK and around the world. The Common Good First team has worked with a range of community projects to, first, promote their objectives online and then to investigate how cross-disciplinary academic networks could input innovative approaches to social change in response to the challenges the projects are facing.

 “Stories take us beyond our own limited experiences and allow us to walk in the shoes of others, building knowledge of unknown places and understanding of diverse peoples,” Ms Adair says.

 As her home institution is registered as an ‘Ashoka U Changemaker Campus’, Ms Adair is this week visiting the Melbourne Campus of CQUniversity, which has recently become Australia’s first approved Ashoka U institution.

 She will talk about the project she started in 2015 with two small teams in Scotland and South Africa, each focusing on identifying and capturing stories of community social impact.

 The project focused on individuals within communities who had found innovative ways to solve problems in their community.

 “These activities ranged from re-educating prisoners to raising aspirations for young people in areas of high deprivation; from tackling dementia to supporting orphans and vulnerable children,” Ms Adair says.  “Now in Australia I’m keen to express the importance of storytelling and its role in driving social innovation and also why I’m keen to gather and curate stories from around the world.

 “I’m keen to let people know how they can become part of our exciting project.

More via this

Calls for intervention over Sydney girls’ school gender neutral language policy

A LEADING Sydney girls’ school’s decision to eliminate gender-specific terms from its teachers’ vocabularies has prompted calls for sackings and government intervention at the exclusive institution.

Teachers at the prestigious northwest Sydney school, Cheltenham Girls High School, have been asked to stop referring to students as “girls”, “ladies” and “women”, and use only gender-neutral language, The Daily Telegraph today reported.

The request was put to teachers at a staff meeting earlier this year discussing the implementation of the Safe Schools anti-bullying program, the newspaper reports.

It was suggested to teachers that by using such language they could be seen to be breaking the law and could be at risk of being sued by LGBTI students.

Discussing the article on Sydney radio station 2GB, talkback shock jock Chris Smith described the arrangement as “deplorable”.

“They’ve been scared into doing this by whoever’s pushing that twisted bible the Safe Schools program, and they’re scared of somehow being sued,” he said.

Smith took calls from listeners calling for the minister responsible to step in and the teachers, principals and administrative staff to be sacked and the school taken over by administrators.

He said if the school was serious about its new language policy, it should take its signage with white paint, eliminating the world “girls” from its title.  “You just wonder what world we’re talking about, we’re talking about our suburbs,” he said.

Speaking on Seven’s Sunrise program, former news presenter Ron Wilson described the situation as “ridiculous”.  “Let’s step in and put a new board in place just like Parramatta,” he said.

There has been similar commentary on Nine’s Today this morning, with Sunday Mail editor Peter Gleeson telling the program the initiative was “overreach at its worst”.

“I am all for diversity and making sure that our younger generation understand exactly what is going on within the community, but to implement something like this, it’s just ridiculous.”

NSW Education Minister Adrian Piccoli has asked his department to investigate.

In an interview with Macquarie Radio, the Minister confirmed there was a meeting at the school reminding teachers of discriminatory language and denied it was connected to Safe Schools. “I don’t think there’s anything improper about that,” he said.

A spokesman for the NSW Department of Education told news.com.au gender-specific terms would still be used by teachers at the school.  “Gender-specific terms will continue to be used by Cheltenham Girls’ High School when referring to students.

“As the Education Minister has asked the Department for a report on public claims raised in relation to this matter, it is not appropriate to comment further on them at this time.”


UK takes new technical education track

The British government’s recent plan for English technical education is a rejection of markets and competency-based training. It also reverses the convergence of vocational and academic education that has been a major trend for decades in Australia, Britain and the US.

What the British government describes as the most significant transformation of post-school education in 70 years is likely to be influential here because of the extensive policy borrowing between Australia and Britain.

Both countries have followed each other in establishing and then abolishing university grants commissions, establishing polytechnics (colleges of advanced education), collapsing polytechnics into universities, introducing income-contingent loans, establishing associate degrees or foundation degrees, and establishing research excellence assessments.

Britain’s Post-16 Skills Plan proposes to collapse 21,000 qualifications into 15 technical education routes. In Britain, vocational qualifications are awarded by 158 organisations, many of which are private for-profits that multiply qualifications to increase their market share. In a passage that could have been written about Australia, the plan rejects the market in qualifications: “Instead of competition between different awarding organisations leading to better quality and innovation in the design of qualifications, it can lead to a ‘race to the bottom’ in which awarding organisations compete to offer qualifications that are easier to pass and therefore of lower value.”

The plan establishes two educational tracks for students after age 16 by building a technical education track to complement the already well established academic track. The technical track, in turn, will have two options: college-based technical education that will include industry placements, and employment-based technical education such as apprenticeships, which include at least 20 per cent college-based education.

College-based technical education will extend to diploma level, and employment-based technical education will extend to bachelor level, incorporating the 1000 degree apprenticeships that have been established since 2013.

The government’s plan closely follows a report by an independent panel that was chaired by former science and innovation minister David Sainsbury and included Alison Wolf, a professor at King’s College London, who has influenced both sides of politics.

The panel rejected basing qualifications on national occupational standards, Britain’s version of our training packages. Again in a passage that applies directly to Australia, the panel states that national occupational standards “have been derived through a functional analysis of job roles and this has often led to an atomistic view of education and a rather tick-box approach to assessment. As such we do not consider them to be fit-for-purpose for use in the design of the technical education routes.”

The panel also rejects public funding being allocated to for-profit providers. Recent Australian statistics show that last year private providers offered 46 per cent of government-funded vocational education in Australia and 69 per cent in Queensland.

The British panel estimated that at least 30 per cent of technical education funding was allocated to private providers.

The panel argued: “Given what appears to be the highly unusual nature of this arrangement compared to other countries and the high costs associated with offering world-class technical education, we see a strong case for public funding for education and training to be restricted to institutions where surpluses are reinvested into the country’s education infrastructure.” The panel also stated that “publicly subsidised technical education … should be delivered under not-for-profit arrangements”.

This would be a significant reversal for Australia, where private provision has exploded from 29 per cent of government-funded vocational education in 2011.

Britain will implement its Post-16 Skills Plan while the country introduces an apprenticeship levy from April next year. This levy is similar to Australia’s training guarantee, introduced a year after HECS in 1990 but discontinued in 1994. It will require employers with a payroll of more than £3 million ($5.2m) to spend 0.5 per cent of their payroll on apprenticeships.

These changes will be undertaken by a restructured bureaucracy. New British Prime Minister Theresa May has moved responsibility for further and higher education from the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills to an enlarged Department for Education.


Wednesday, July 20, 2016

On MIT blog, black students complain about racism

The discussion below is very shallow.  Nobody seems to ask WHY whites are wary about blacks.  Perhaps the answer is too obvious:  The high rate of criminality among blacks.  On some estimates, one third of black males will have spent time in jail during their lives, and they are only the worst offenders.  So whites have very good reasons to minimize their contact with blacks.  And that is mainly what is complained about below: not persecution but social reserve.  It was once much worse. 

White society has made great efforts -- with affirmative action and otherwise -- to improve the lot of blacks but many blacks have not picked up the ball.  And while blacks by their own behaviour alienate whites, there will be very little real acceptance of them.  It is racism of a sort but it is racism born of realistic caution.

For decent blacks, the situation is of course galling but getting angry about it will achieve nothing at the best and will deepen racial division at the worst.  The recent shootings of police show how disastrous black anger can be.  If there is much more of police shootings, it is not hard to see that many police will refuse to go into black-majority areas -- thus leaving innocent blacks to the black thugs.  Police refusing to go into black areas is relatively rare today but we may not be far off from it becoming an epidemic.

We all at times have to "swallow" slights and blacks need to swallow the fact that whites will always be wary of them.  There is no other healthy way forward.  Blacks have to accept the reality that their very faces are faces of fear

And police feel that too.  When they pull up a black, they are on hair-trigger alert for black aggression towards them. And sometimes the trigger gets pulled on the basis of a mistake.  An innocent action by a black can look like pulling a gun.  And in that case an innocent man may die from a police bullet -- as a result of what it essentially a mistake or an accident.  That is how Philando Castile died.  If blacks became generally co-operative rather than hostile to police, far fewer would die of police bullets.

But who can see that happening?  I can't.  So the time when many black areas will become no-go areas for police cannot be far off.  And the big losers from that will be blacks

Just before he took a dinner break at work earlier this month, MIT senior Vincent Anioke scanned the Web for news and stopped on the graphic video of the July 6 shooting of Philando Castile by a Minnesota police officer.

As he read comments below the video, Anioke grew angry. He forgot about his dinner. Instead, he sat at his desk at Google in Kendall Square and in 45 minutes, pounded out a strongly worded essay about his own struggle as a black man in the United States.

“There is no nuance, there is no complication,” he wrote. “There is no subtlety. There is a problem. We feel like dogs. We feel like we don’t matter.”

His words went viral, among the MIT community and beyond — part of an uncommonly open discussion being fostered at MIT about the racial tension gripping the country.

Anioke’s post — like others that poured out after the spate of violence — appears not on Facebook or Medium, but on MIT’s official admissions website, a resource for prospective students. His became the most viewed in the past six months.

“We want to let our students speak, because we know that’s the best way to tell the story about MIT,” said Kirk Kolenbrander, an MIT vice president. “There is no decision by the institution, by MIT, about what gets printed.”

In the wake of the shootings in Minnesota, Louisiana, and Texas, the university has also encouraged other types of discussion about racial tension.

MIT’s president, L. Rafael Reif, wrote a letter in the days after the shootings, urging people at MIT to talk with each other about the violence, and then use their smarts to “help right the ship of our society.”

MIT held a lunch at which more than 600 students, professors, staff, and alumni sat around tables, ate chicken sandwiches, and talked. They talked about feeling anxious, sad, helpless, angry, guilty, and frustrated that they can’t change systems that seem broken, said DiOnetta Jones Crayton, associate dean for undergraduate education and director of the MIT office of minority education, who spoke at the event.

And of course, being scientists, people talked about experiments, and hypotheses, and solutions Jones Crayton said. Could technology help end racism, they wondered?

“We have expertise that we can lend to this dialogue,” she said in a phone interview after the event. Another student blogger wrote about the lunch.

Many colleges have student bloggers, but those at MIT are unusually candid. The school encourages the bloggers it selects each year to write what they want, so among entries about cooking, dormitory drama, and math problems are posts about depression and suicide, about sexual assault, and recently, about racism.

When Anioke’s post went live July 8, he was nervous about the response. He had written about his struggle to find community at MIT because, as someone from Nigeria, he didn’t totally identify with African-American culture.

“Because we’re mostly black [in Nigeria,] ‘being black’ was never a term that was part of my daily vocabulary. You were tall or short or fat or skinny or intelligent or a complete and utter idiot, but you weren’t black. It was as weird as saying ‘you’re human.’ ”

Then one day, he wrote, he was walking home from the Central Square post office in Cambridge and a white man grabbed him, accused him of stealing someone’s wallet, and hurled a racial slur.

“I can’t hide under some fancy little idea that there’s a barrier between black and African, because what matters to these people — you know who these people are — is that they can take one look at the color of your skin, and populate their minds with the entire back story of you,” he wrote.

“They can take one look at you, and before they’re even looking away, they’ve put you — they’ve put us — in this mental catalogue.”

As his post went live, he watched as the social media tickers at the bottom of the page spun. Five thousand, then 10,000, then 26,000 likes, and 1,320 tweets. His post is the blog’s seventh-most-viewed in the past six years, MIT said.

Other posts also have students talking. Sophomore Ben Oberlton’s July 11 post, “Life of a Black Person,” generated lots of conversation. In January, in response to other race-related events on other campuses, rising junior Selam Jie Gano wrote about training the eye to see color, and training people to respect each other. She followed up last week with a post called “Alien in America.”

“The difference between seeing and not seeing incidents of discrimination that happen to others is also about practice,” wrote Jie Gano in the earlier post, which even generated a comment from Reif.

For Anioke, the best part of writing was reading the comments. Unlike the shallow reactions on Facebook that had prompted him to write — comments that implied Castile was somehow partly to blame for being shot — these were thoughtful, filled with people sharing personal stories and messages of understanding.

“I sort of just kept writing and writing until I was done writing,” Anioke said in a phone interview last week. “I felt like I had spoken honesty.”

“Sometimes I wonder, can things change? Can things ever change?” Anioke said. “I do think things can change, we just need enough people to come together.”


University Receives $3.3M For Fruit Promotion, Cooking Classes

An odd use for Higher education

The University of California San Diego School of Medicine Center for Community Health recently received a $3,384,909 grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to increase affordable food access to participants in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).

“Working in conjunction with Northgate González Market, the Center will develop a program to increase the purchase of fruits and vegetables among SNAP participants by providing incentives at point-of-purchase at markets in Los Angeles, Orange and San Diego counties,” The UC San Diego website says.

The website claims the effort “will include financial incentive rebates on fruit and vegetable purchases, special fruit and vegetable promotions and in-store cooking classes, store tours and education on food labeling. The program will also provide researchers with key data to better understand healthy purchasing behaviors.”

The multi-year large-scale project at UC San Diego is part of the $16.8 million in grants to help SNAP under the Food Insecurity Nutrition Incentive (FINI) program announced in June.

“This funding will enable us to significantly increase the number of consumers participating in nutrition incentive programs and the amount of USDA dollars spent on healthy eating,” said Joe Prickitt, senior director of the Southern California Nutrition Incentive Program with UC San Diego School of Medicine Center for Community Health.


British schools are told to call transgender children 'zie' rather than 'he' or 'she' in case they cause offence

Teachers are being told to call transgender children 'zie' rather than 'he' or 'she' to avoid giving offence under new official guidelines.

The Boarding Schools Association has told teachers to learn a 'new language' as part of official guidance which is aimed at 'queering the education system'.

The advice aims to help teachers navigate the 'minefield' of gender identity and deal with children and young adults who do not want to be referred to by male or female pronouns.

As part of it teachers have been told to address children by their 'pronoun of choice', including they or 'zie'.

Alex Thompson, deputy chief executive of the Boarding Schools' Association, said the guidelines hope to help school staff who may be 'in the dark'.

He told The Telegraph: 'Teachers, heads and deputy heads were asking questions about these issues and they felt they were in the dark on what was politically correct and had fears of causing offence as young people largely between the ages of 13 and 18 were questioning their gender identity.

'There was a strong understanding when it more obvious and direct when someone came out as gay but not in the area where young people were asking 'who am I?' to a member of staff and these were questions they had not been asked before.

Mr Thompson added: 'It's amazing how complicated the whole thing is in a community where the norms are the ones we have accepted for years.

'It's tricky for individuals that are having difficulty accepting there is something beyond the binary system of gender we take for granted.'    

Last month teachers at Britain's leading girls' schools were told to stop calling pupils 'girls' or 'young women' in case it offends those questioning their gender identity.

Head teachers belonging to the Girls' Schools Association were instructed to use gender-neutral words like 'pupils' or 'students' to avoid discrimination.

The advice also banned the phrase 'young ladies' and recommended the creation of unisex lavatories.

Caroline Jordan, President of the GSA and headmistress of £33,000-a-year Headington School in Oxfordshire, backed the advice saying it affects an increasing number of young people questioning their identity.

'In assemblies, instead of saying 'Girls, go to lessons,' staff should consider saying 'Pupils, go to lessons,' or 'Students, go to lessons,'' she told the Sunday Times.

'I do not want anyone to think that girls' or boys' schools are invested in one way of being a girl or one way of being a boy.

My view is that where you can use gender-neutral language about people that is a good thing,' she added.

The advice was given to the GSA by Gendered Intelligence whose chairman, Jay Stewart, branded the phrase 'young ladies' sexist and 'transphobic'.

He said about one per cent of the population were transgender and that the new guidance helps them to not feel like 'freaks.'

Some schools have  already introduced gender-neutral uniforms, including Brighton College in the private sector and a further 80 state schools.

Brighton College said it scrapped its traditional uniform to accommodate 'gender dysphoric' pupils.

The college said it has axed the 170-year-old code to meet the needs of youngsters who see themselves as the opposite sex from their biological gender.

Instead, the school is introducing a 'trouser uniform' and a 'skirt uniform' for pupils up to age 16. Girls who have gender dysphoria will be able to wear a tweed blazer, tie and trousers, while dysphoric boys will be able to wear a skirt, bolero jacket and open-neck blouse.

At least one pupil has already taken up the option, Brighton College said, while a handful of other families have made inquiries on behalf of their own children.


Tuesday, July 19, 2016

More Gladwell stupidity:  Attacking Bowdoin College

It's been said by someone who has studied him that "There is more of reality and wisdom in a Chinese fortune cookie than can be found anywhere in Gladwell’s pages"

That the college has a legitimate interest in attracting the brightest students is overooked. Bright students tend to have lots of options so marginal advantages like better food might attract them to one college versus another.

Bowdoin is a school not a charity agency so there is no in principle reason why it should give anything to anybody.  Nonetheless it does already give free enrolment to many bright but low-income students. Bowdoin claims to be among the most economically diverse liberal arts colleges in America

Author/essayist Malcolm Gladwell has said that his new podcast, “Revisionist History,” is “about things forgotten or misunderstood.” It’s familiar terrain for the frizzy-haired New Yorker writer famous for imparting counter-intuitive wisdom.

In the latest episode, titled “Food Fight,” Gladwell argues that some liberal arts colleges, notably Bowdoin, located in Brunswick, Maine, spend too much money on the food served to students at the expense of financial aid that might enable a greater number of low-income kids to attend the school.

As you might imagine, Bowdoin disagrees and posted an angry response to Gladwell’s podcast on its website Friday.

“Malcolm Gladwell’s podcast ‘Revisionist History’ (aptly named) takes a manipulative and disingenuous shot at Bowdoin College that is filled with false assumptions, anecdotal evidence, and incorrect conclusions,” the statement says.

The podcast episode, which includes interviews with Bowdoin students marveling at the gourmet food served by chef Ken Cardone — Orzo and tofu salad! Smashed chickpea, avocado, and pesto sandwiches! — is a brutal takedown of the college’s alleged priorities.

“The food at Bowdoin is actually a problem, a moral problem,” Gladwell says.  By contrast, he claims, Vassar College, located in Poughkeepsie, N.Y., is an example of a liberal arts school that serves ordinary — and sometimes, according to some Vassar students, crummy — food because the focus is on education.

“There’s only one solution if you’re looking at liberal arts colleges,” Gladwell says. “Don’t go to Bowdoin. Don’t let your kids go to Bowdoin. Don’t let your friends go to Bowdoin. Don’t give money to Bowdoin or any other school that serves amazing food in its dining hall.”

In its online response, Bowdoin says that Gladwell never inquired about budgets or financial aid practices: “Gladwell and his producer focused only on Bowdoin’s food in a manner that was disingenuous, dishonest, and manipulative. Their only questions were about food and were directed at dining service staff and students, not the president, not the chief financial officer, not the dean of admissions, and not anyone else.”

The school posted its response on Facebook and Twitter, and alums immediately flamed Gladwell for the podcast that one person called “asinine drivel.”

Gladwell isn’t backing down. In an e-mail Friday, he told us Bowdoin is deflecting. “Bowdoin College is a school with a rich and privileged alumni group, over a billion dollars in the bank, a tiny student population, and every conceivable material advantage — that nonetheless ranks 51st nationwide in offering opportunities to low income students. If I am ‘disingenuous’ in pointing out that disgraceful fact, then what is Bowdoin in choosing to deny it?”


How a teacher bombed the SATs

I HOLD A PhD in English from the University of California, Berkeley. I’ve taught students to write at Emory, Berkeley, and Harvard and picked up three teaching awards along the way. I have published more than two dozen pieces in national publications, including The Atlantic and Vanity Fair.

In May, I bombed the essay portion of the SAT.

Did I mention that I’ve also been prepping students for the SAT as a teacher and tutor for the Princeton Review for almost 20 years?

This spring, the College Board, which administers the SAT, introduced a new, optional essay section of the test. Almost two-thirds of spring test-takers opted in, even though less than 10 percent of colleges require the essay. The College Board believes the new essay looks “a lot like a typical college writing assignment in which you’re asked to analyze a text.” It is scored from 1 to 4 by two graders in three areas: reading, analysis, and writing. The scores are added together to generate totals between 2 and 8 in each category.

In May, I took the SAT because it is part of my job to be up on the test. We had to analyze an op-ed by Eric Klinenberg decrying the use of air conditioning. The directions explained, “Your essay should not explain whether you agree with Klinenberg’s claims, but rather explain how [he] builds an argument to persuade his audience.”

I followed the directions and wrote what I thought was a decent piece, particularly after having completed a three-hour exam. And I didn’t bomb everything. I received a 7 in reading, which, according to the College Board, measures how well I understood the passage and used textual evidence. I also got a 7 for my writing score, which measures how “focused, organized, and precise” my essay was, as well its use of “an appropriate style and tone that varies sentence structure and follows the conventions of standard written English.” But when it came to analysis, which demonstrates an “understanding of how [an] author builds an argument,” I landed a 4.

A 4. Despite my half-dozen peer-reviewed articles published in academic journals, I scored in the bottom half of the range. According to the score, I will need to do some serious work before I go to college or maybe I should just major in math (I hit 99th percentile on the math section, as well as on the evidence-based reading and writing section).

After absorbing the blow to my ego, I was left wondering how I could have done so badly on the essay, particularly after publishing an op-ed in The Wall Street Journal that argued that students who prepped for the exam would simply use a new formula for writing their essays.

It’s my own fault that I did not employ the template we teach students to use at Princeton Review, a fact painfully brought home when one of our students let me know he scored an 8 in reading, 7 in analysis, and 7 in writing.

Was my essay really as bad as my graders thought it was? I needed to know, so I contacted two experienced teachers of college writing to get second and third opinions.

My first grader, Kevin Birmingham, not only taught for several years in the Harvard College Writing Program, he also won the Truman Capote Award for Literary Criticism this year for “The Most Dangerous Book,” a gripping examination of the publication of James Joyce’s Ulysses. The second grader, Les Perelman, spent 25 years at MIT directing undergraduate writing programs; he was a strident critic of the old SAT essay but thinks the new assignment represents an improvement.

I gave Perelman and Birmingham three essays, marked simply A, B, and C. Essay A was mine. Essay B was written by a colleague in the test prep industry and received a 7 in reading, an 8 in analysis, and an 8 in writing. Essay C was the aforementioned student’s essay (8-7-7). Neither of the graders knew I had written one of the examples. They were provided the prompt and the official scoring rubric and asked not just to score the essays using the rubric but to rank them for their overall quality.

I did not sleep well as I waited to see the results.

Both Birmingham and Perelman ranked mine first out of the group, and my re-score came out to 7-7-7. Birmingham scored and ranked the student essay (C) the lowest of the bunch. Perelman, who graded the essay according to how he expected it to be graded by official scorers, gave it the highest score in the group and ranked it second. Without prompting, he explained in an e-mail, “I scored C, a classic, mechanically produced five-paragraph essay higher than I normally would because standardized testing loves this form because it is easy to get consistent scoring.”

Neither of the graders knew I had written one of the examples.

My personal failure matters very little in comparison, however, with the failure of the new SAT essay to distinguish actual writing skills from the ability to employ a template that lends itself to quick grading by ETS employees making $15 an hour to start.

The SAT essay assignment and the five-paragraph format it encourages will likely do students little good after graduation. In a recent survey of K-12 and college teachers, ACT found that college teachers considered the ability to generate ideas the most important skill for their students to possess, twice as important as the ability to analyze texts. The problem with the College Board’s new SAT essay, as Perelman said to me, is that it “rewards nonthought and mechanistic writing.” Bombing it might not be so bad after all.

It is perhaps too apt that at the top of each page provided to write the SAT essay it reads, “DO NOT WRITE OUTSIDE OF THE BOX.” I only hope students do not take this warning too much to heart.


White working-class boys are being put off university by success stories of celebrities who never went such as Richard Branson

They're known as some of the most inspirational businessmen in history.

But the success of industry giants such as Sir Richard Branson and Lord Sugar is actually putting working-class boys off of further education.

A new report, that is released today, has analysed why so few young white working-class men now choose to go on to higher education.

According to The Times, the report, commissioned by King’s College London, suggested that one method of increasing the number could be to target parents.

It also said that efforts to encourage white working-class boys to attend further education should begin at primary school.

The report quoted one head teacher who discussed the influence of celebrities.

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, who dropped out of university, is also cited as an inspiration to many.

‘He said that white working-class boys at his school are exposed to two messages, via the media and peer networks, that have a particularly strong influence on their perceptions of university,’ the report said.

‘Firstly, they are aware of highprofile cases of entrepreneurs who have not gone to university, or who have not completed their courses, and have still gone on to achieve success.

‘Secondly, they have friends who have gone away to university and returned to the same low-paid jobs they were doing before they left for their studies, only now saddled with debt.’

The issue of so few choosing further study has been made worse by the fact that there is no agreed definition of the term ‘white working class,’ making it difficult to monitor the group.

According to The Times, a manager at another school explained that the positive financial benefits of further education were not always known: ‘One of the really important things for white working-class students . . . is to be able to see what the earning potential of their next step is.

'They simply cannot see how it’s a worthwhile trajectory to pick A levels.’

Another report by the University of Bristol also found a gap between boys and girls aged five in literacy and language.