Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Finland's forested classrooms

There is no mention below of the national character of Finns.  Finns are in fact quite emphatic that they have a national character -- which they call "sisu". It means endurance, resilience, tenacity. Finns have an ability to face adversity and always overcome.  That it might help in their educational achievements would seem obvious. 

The ideas below may be helpful but they don't seem to be too different from  the "progressive" (low discipline) schools of Britain and America -- e.g. A.S. Neill's "Summerhill" and Bertrand Russell's awful experiment.  And such schools have rarely been good at imparting knowledge and skills.  I taught in one such school and half of the pupils learned nothing.  Their skill at card games improved, though.

So the caution below about whether Finnish methods could be succesfully copied in other countries is well warranted.  I suspect "sisu" is needed to make them work

It is lunch time at the University of Eastern Finland's teacher training lab school in North Karelia, a lush forest and lake district on the Russian border.

Fourth-grade children race to the cafeteria in their stockinged feet, laughing, hugging, practicing dance steps and cavorting as they head for the cafeteria. One girl does a full handstand in the hallway. A distinguished-looking professor beams at the procession and doles out high-fives to the children. He is Heikki Happonen, head of the school and a career childhood educator.

As chief of Finland's association of eight national university teacher training schools, he is, in effect, the Master Teacher of Finland, the country that still has, despite many challenges and a recent slide in global test scores, the best primary school system in the world, according to the World Economic Forum's Global Competitiveness Report 2016-2017.

According to Happonen, the hallway scene reveals one of the secrets of Finland's historic success in childhood education.

Children's brains work better when they are moving, the master teacher explains. Not only do they concentrate better in class, but they are more successful at "negotiating, socialising, building teams and friendships together".

Finland leads the world in its discovery that play is the most fundamental engine and efficiency-booster of children's learning. The nation's children learn through play until age seven, and then are given guaranteed 15-minute outdoor free-play breaks every hour of every single school day (regardless of the weather) until high school.

"Children must feel like their school is a home for them, it belongs to them," says Happonen. "They are very clever, they feel and appreciate an atmosphere of trust. We offer them an environment where they understand, 'This is a place where I am highly respected. I feel safe and comfortable here. I am a very important person.' My job is to protect that environment for children. That's why I come to work every day."

Happonen designed much of the Nordic-modern school building himself, a network of traditional classrooms linked by spacious hallways, cinematic soft lighting and warm colours, a palatial teachers lounge for coffee and collaboration (complete with a sauna for teachers), and comfortable scattered nooks, crannies and couches for children to relax and curl up in with a buddy or a book.

Connecting all the pieces, flanked by the high-tech science lab, a fireplace and plush sofas, is a modular, wide-open library of books and magazines for children to enjoy.

It is the focal point of the school. On a recent visit, a teacher from Spain was nearly speechless after a few minutes inside the school. "It's so beautiful," she said. "In Spain, our schools feel like prisons. But this - this is like a dream."

Happonen points to a colourful assortment of hand-carved wooden boats mounted on his office wall, featuring different shapes, sizes and types of vessels.

"I saw those boats in a shop," he recalls. "They were so beautiful. I decided I had to buy them, but I didn't know why. I put them up on my office wall so I could see them all day.

"Then I realised what they are," he continued. "They are children. They represent the fact that all children are different, they start from different destinations and travel on different journeys. Our job as teachers is to help children navigate their journeys through storms and adventures, so they move safely and successfully into society and the world."

Some aspects of Finland's primary schools may be culture-specific and non-transferable to other nations. But many other features may in fact be minimum "global best practices" for childhood education systems in Harlem, Tokyo, Shanghai, Paris, Los Angeles, Dubai, Mexico City, South Africa and elsewhere.

These practices include early learning through play, equitable funding and well-resourced schools, highly professionalised teacher training, a research-based and whole-child approach to school management, warmth and respect for children and teachers, learning environments of strong academic focus with low stress and high challenge, high-quality testing run by teachers and not standardised data collectors, comprehensive special education, and treating all children as gifted and cherished individuals without sacrificing their childhoods to overwork or cram schools.

Why would any of our children, especially those from high-poverty backgrounds, deserve any less?

In the United States, decades of botched attempts at education reform have led to little or no improvement in schools. As one of the founding fathers of the education reform movement, Chester Finn of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, recently declared: "If you look over the past 25 years at all the reforming we've been doing and all the spending we've been doing and still see flat [achievement] and slow slog as the main outcome, it's pretty discouraging."

For any parent, teacher or policymaker looking instead for inspiration on how we can work together to actually improve our children's education, they can start by coming to Finland's dream school in the forest.


UK: MPs quietly vote against compulsory sex education in schools

Conservative MPs have voted to block plans for sex and relationship education (SRE) to be made compulsory in schools.

Under increasing pressure from campaigners over the past year, Education Secretary Justine Greening repeatedly suggested she was open to reforming the current Government guidance on SRE, which currently allows free schools and academies to opt out of teaching the subject in class.

As the law stands, state schools are obligated to cover sex education from a biological aspect.

But no British schools are required to teach pupils about the social or emotional aspects of sex, or make classes LGBT inclusive.

Debating the matter in Parliament this week, an all-female group of MPs tabled an amendment to the Children and Social Work Bill to make lessons on “sex and relationships education, same-sex relationships, sexual consent, sexual violence and domestic violence” mandatory in all UK schools.

The new law would require schools watchdog Ofsted to evaluate schools on their SRE as part of regular inspections, judging “whether the information provided to pupils is accurate and balanced, age-appropriate, inclusive or religiously diverse”.

In a vote of ten Conservative and five Labour MPs, the amendment was rejected – with the vote divided 10-5 between parties lines.  No other party was represented on the bill committee.

Conservative MP for North Dorset, Simon Hoare told Parliament that the amendment did not offer enough protection for faith schools who oppose homosexuality.  He said: “Some form of protection is needed for those who run faith schools, all faiths, to make the position absolutely clear.

“I have little or no doubt that I will receive emails from constituents who happen to read my remarks. They will say that this is all about promotion, and this or that religion thinks that homosexuality—or another element—is not right.

“To provide a legislative comfort blanket, for want of a better phrase, the new clause needs to include a clear statement that we are talking not about promotion, but about education, and where sex education is delivered in a faith school environment, those providing the education should not feel inhibited about answering questions such as “What is the thinking of our faith on this particular aspect of sexuality?”

Recalling his own faith school upbringing, Mr Hoare said he was much in “support” of the intentions behind the clause, but pointed out that it was tabled “solely in the name of Labour Members of Parliament who all happen to be women.”

Addressing Labour MP Stella Creasy, who led the amendment, he said: “A father, a husband and a boyfriend have as much interest in ensuring a high quality of PSHE as women do."

He added that she "might want to think about that point, which is why I hope that she will not press this new clause to a vote today but instead think about some proactive cross-party working on Report.”

Junior Education Minister Edward Timpson said the government would be bringing forward its own plans to reform SRE in schools, but agreed the amendment was incomplete, with “lots of repercussions that need to be thought through”.

He added: “We hear the call for further action on PSHE and we have committed to exploring all the options to improve delivery of SRE and PSHE.

“We are actively looking at how best to address both the quality of delivery and accessibility to ensure that all children can be supported to develop positive, healthy relationships and to thrive in modern Britain today.

“We welcome the support in delivering this in a timely and considered manner.”

Pressing the new clause to a vote, Ms Creasy said: “Millions of children in our schools right now are simply not getting the right sort of information about relationships, consent and sensitive issues such as their relationships with the other sex and with the same sex, domestic violence and abuse, female genital mutilation and forced marriage.

The rejected amendment comes amid fresh criticism from charity campaigners, who claim present teachings are seriously out-dated for the “smartphone generation” of children who are exposed to the internet and influenced by social media.

SRE guidance for schools has not been updated in close to 17 years - making the current legislation older than the majority of pupils learning about the subject.

A recent survey of more than 1,000 children conducted by Barnardo’s children's charity found that seven in 10 pupils aged 11-15 thought the government should ensure that all children have  age-appropriate SRE in school.

Barnardo’s Chief Executive Javed Khan called for the government to “give children the knowledge that will help keep them safe”.

He said: “It's time to listen to children who are clearly telling us that they need help in understanding the digital dangers and the risks of sharing images of themselves with strangers.

“Online grooming is a very real danger facing all children and nearly half of the girls polled said they were worried about strangers contacting them online.

”Compulsory SRE lessons for all children must be introduced as soon as possible- it will help prevent children being groomed and sexually exploited.”

Calling the vote "shameful", HIV charity the Terrence Higgins Trust said the vote was "another missed opportunity by the government to make SRE statutory in schools".

An Ofsted report in 2013 found 40 per cent of schools required improvement or were deemed “inadequate” in their provision of sex and relationship education.

A Department for Education spokesperson said in a statement: “High-quality education on sex and relationships is a vital part of preparing young people for success in adult life – helping them make informed choices, stay safe and learn to respect themselves and others.

“Education on sex and relationships is compulsory in all maintained secondary schools, and many academies and free schools teach it as part of the curriculum. We are actively considering what further steps we could take to improve the quality and availability of sex and relationships education.”


University language policy: Not safe, just absurdly soft

As if Australia Day isn’t dangerous enough for the culturally insensitive, we are now advised not to celebrate the Australian belief in mateship and the fair go. The language police at Macquarie University have declared these are dangerous stereotypes, generalised images of a person or group that “may have potentially harmful real-world consequences”. The university’s latest guide on correct speech also instructs Queenslanders not to stereotype those living south of the Tweed as Mexicans, implying that they are ”hot-blooded, irrational, untrustworthy”.

Extreme linguistic governance of this kind was once restricted to religious sects and the political fruitcake fringe. Today it is chillingly mainstream; universities see it as part of their duty of care to offer written guides, training courses and counselling on “appropriate” and “inappropriate” language.

Since one can never be sure about the latest rules, every utterance is potentially suspect. Irony and sarcasm must be avoided at all costs. “To talk about a ‘huntsperson spider’ is an ostensibly humorous ‘non-discriminatory’ act of renaming,” the Macquarie University guide intones. “The joke here nonetheless mocks serious uses of non-discriminatory language and the struggle for gender equity.”

Incredibly, this is a statement of official policy at a major university, signed off, presumably, by the dean and other serious people. If perchance it is slipped past their guard they must remove it forthwith from the university’s website, for the damage imposed by this passive-aggressive chin-stroking is considerable.

The regulation of speech is one of the maladies of academe investigated by British sociologist Frank Furedi in a new book exploring the infantilisation of students.

The notion that people in their late teens and early 20s could not be trusted to act as adults, and that university authorities should protect their moral welfare in loco parentis, disappeared in the wake of the campus radicals in the 1960s.

Furedi, once a campus radical himself, says today’s academic paternalism is far more insidious. The baby boomer generation was taught that “sticks and stones may break my bones but names will never hurt me”. The millennial generation is warned constantly of the harm language causes “vulnerable” people. Indeed, they themselves are vulnerable and must be protected from the psychological damage presumed to flow from linguistic aggression.

To explain how yesterday’s student militants evolved into today’s moral guardians, Furedi describes the rise of a risk-averse culture where precaution and safety have become fundamental moral values.

“The term ‘safe’ signals more than the absence of danger: it also conveys the connotation of a virtue,” he says. “The representation of safety as an end in itself is integral to a moralising project of monitoring both individual and interpersonal behaviour.”

Censorship became unfashionable in the late 1960s when it was seen as an instrument of repression. Today it has become a form of therapy, underpinned by a cultural script of vulnerability.

The adjective “vulnerable” has mutated into a noun. The downtrodden have been recast as “the vulnerable”; the wretched have become “the most vulnerable”; universities have been transformed from an intellectual adventure into safe spaces for “vulnerable students”.

We are right to worry about the resilience of those who emerge from these cosseted, hypersensitive campuses. The vulnerable are inclined to fatalism, since vulnerability presents as a permanent feature. They are seldom encouraged to draw on inner strengths to make themselves less vulnerable. Indeed, to suggest they should toughen up is condemned as victim-blaming, denying the vulnerable the ritualistic empathy to which they feel entitled.

Vulnerability, together with the ethos of survivalism — the modern belief that danger lurks around every corner — are the narratives that bolster the infantilisation of students. Hence the semantic tsars at Macquarie deem that the expression “Australians believe in the fair go” is not just distasteful but “potentially harmful” to non-Australians or to Australians who don’t think that way. The purpose of their rules is to develop “a university environment characterised by sensitivity to cultural diversity, and in which the number and seriousness of discriminatory experiences are reduced or eliminated”.

Censorship, like compulsory seat belts or fences around swimming pools, is a matter of public health and safety. So, when activist Maryam Namazie was banned from speaking at Warwick University, the student union justified itself with “language that would have done any risk manager proud”, writes Furedi.

“Researching Namazie and her organisation had raised a number of flags,” declared the students. “We have a duty of care to conduct a risk assessment for each speaker who wishes to come to campus,” they wrote. It is not the intended meaning of words but their supposed impact that matters. “Verbal purification is not simply directed at cleansing politically objectionable words but also at providing psychological relief,” Furedi concludes.

It may be too early to predict what lasting effect the censorious, mollycoddled environment of modern academe will have young graduates.


Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Canada: School board allows Muslim sermons in schools

Despite the foundations and long tradition of Christianity in Canada, any accommodation of it — even at Christmas time — is largely rejected in the public school system, which supposedly adheres to secularism. But there is a single exception to the rule, as one religion seems to stand supreme:

Muslim students in the province of Ontario are entitled to hold weekly prayer meetings, held on Friday.  These “Jumm’ah” prayer and sermon sessions have been the focus of intense criticism as the provincial public school system is not supposed to be promoting any religion or hosting any religious instruction.

The Peel school board in Mississauga (near Toronto) is not only allowing Islamic sermons, but it is also refusing to monitor the contents of those sermons. This is despite the very real risk of the jihad doctrine being spread. The Toronto Star reported that “Islamic schools, mosques in Canada are filled with extremist literature, according to a study.” More troubling was that “the authors of the study say what worried them was not the presence of extremist literature, but that they found nothing but such writings in several mosque libraries and Islamic schools.”

Back in November, a large assembly of the Peel District School Board listened to the lamentations from the Muslim community “that Muslim students feel stigmatized and targeted” because their Friday prayers were restricted to pre-approved sermons, whereas previously, Muslim students were free to use any sermon they chose that was approved by an administrator. The identity of the administrator and his or her knowledge about Islamic sermons was not disclosed. The complaints from the Muslim community led to the reversal of the policy: the practice of allowing Muslim students to choose sermons was resumed.

The board also bent over backwards, working for over a year “with 10 local imams to develop the six sermons to be used during Friday prayers”; these were intended to be used “as a starting point,” to be developed to “a collection of hundreds of sermons available to students.”

Muslim Friday prayer is the only group-prayer activity that is allowed by the Peel District School Board.

Peel board members “justified the policy reversal” not to monitor the Islamic sermons “by insisting it represented a commitment to inclusiveness”; but its singling out of Muslims for preferred treatment above all other faiths was not an exercise in inclusivity, but rather a demonstration of the appalling exclusion of all other faiths. Even worse, when protests erupted, Peel police intervened as though they were Sharia police, and bullied a female protester outside:

Protesters were told to remove their signs because they were deemed anti-Muslim and one woman was taken outside by police after she interrupted the meeting with her objections.

It is also worthwhile to note that Omar Alghabra, who ascribes to Sharia, is the Member of Parliament for Mississauga; upon his election, someone on stage at his victory party exclaimed:

“This is a victory for Islam! Islam won! Islam won!… Islamic power is extending into Canadian politics.”

The Peel District School Board’s genuflection to one community is a slap in the face to all Canadians who aren’t Muslim. It represents a new low in Canadian organizations’ descent toward dhimmitude. It’s alarming that such imprudent administrators are awarded with the trust to educate children and to serve as their role models.

“Board To Allow Muslim Sermons In Schools, And Protesters Aren’t Happy”, by David Krayden, Daily Caller, January 11, 2017:

Local residents expressed their anger Tuesday night at a decision by a school board in a suburb of Toronto, Canada to reverse its policy on monitoring Muslim sermons.

Last September, concerned about the potential for radical Islamic propaganda infiltrating religious meetings, the Peel Regional School Board had insisted that students read prayers and sermons from an approved text. The board’s decision to allow students to write their own sermons resulted in angry residents storming a public meeting held to discuss the policy change.

Protestors were told to remove their signs because they were deemed anti-Muslim and one woman was taken outside by police after she interrupted the meeting with her objections.

Anger over the move was evident on social media. Protestor John Goddard wrote: “Anti-sharia activist Sandra Solomon, born a Palestinian Muslim in Ramallah but [who] left Islam, disrupt[ed] a Peel District School Board meeting on Tuesday night. The board tabled a staff report recommending expansion of Muslim religious privileges in public schools.”

Muslim students in the province of Ontario are entitled to hold weekly prayer meetings, held on Friday.  These “Jumm’ah” prayer and sermon sessions have been the focus of intense criticism as the provincial public school system is not supposed to be promoting any religion or hosting any religious instruction. Many schools will not even host Christmas music concerts in deference to non-Christian faiths who may be offended by the observance.

Board members justified the policy reversal by insisting it represented a commitment to inclusiveness:

“The board has always been committed to an inclusive approach in all activities related to religious accommodation for students and staff of all faiths,” director of education Tony Pontes said in a statement released Tuesday night.

Muslim students and their parents argued the ban on personalized sermons negatively impacted the religious freedom of the students while suggesting a stereotyped view of Islam….


A liberal arts college without English majors?

NEW LONDON, N.H. — Colby-Sawyer College has all the hallmarks of a classic New England liberal arts college — the rural setting, the small classes, and quaint traditions like Mountain Day, when students and professors hike side-by-side up Mount Kearsarge.

What you won’t find on this campus, as of next year, are two majors once considered cornerstones of a liberal arts education: English and philosophy.

The small private college announced last month that it was scrapping those programs, laying off 18 people, and cutting the hours of a dozen more to fill a $2.6 million budget gap.

As middle-class families struggle, so do small schools that have traditionally drawn from a regional, middle-class pool of students. They face a set of problems you don’t see on the campus tour: mounting debt, dwindling enrollment, and virtually no endowment.

Many students seek technical skills that will guarantee them a job, rather than a well-rounded liberal arts foundation. Small four-year colleges have to work harder to convince families they are worth the $50,000 tuition most schools charge.

Some, like Marion Court College in Swampscott, have closed. Others have merged. Still others, like Colby-Sawyer, are trying to survive by reinventing themselves, but with that reinvention has come soul-searching about what it means to be a liberal arts institution, and whether such places have a future.

Colby-Sawyer’s new president, Sue Stuebner, is still passionate about producing graduates who can write, read, think, and analyze, but she said the English and philosophy majors just aren’t popular anymore.

“If we try to do it all we’re not going to do it all well,” Stuebner said in an interview in her office in the school’s central brick building.

Instead, she has a two-pronged plan: narrow the school’s focus to its most successful programs, like nursing, business, and sports management, and market them aggressively. She hired a consulting firm to recruit students and determine how much financial aid to award each to increase their likelihood of attending. So far, it’s working.

“I think we have to focus on the things we can control,” she said.

News of the impending cuts has elicited mixed reactions from students at the school, which has about 1,100 students. Some spent time in classes discussing the cuts, which also include majors in accounting, health promotion, and health care management. Others have said they are disheartened. There are 18 English majors and no philosophy majors, the school said.

On Monday, as Stuebner outlined her success strategy, prospective students gathered outside her office for a tour of the 200-acre campus. They crunched over frozen snow as the guide showed off amenities and described programs you won’t find at most larger public schools, many of which cost half the price.

Colby-Sawyer’s five-story library is an architectural wonder, made from two renovated barns where light illuminates exposed beams and potted plants make the space feel alive.

Outside, the tour guide unlocked the door to a sugar shack that becomes the classroom for a two-credit course on sugaring.

High school senior Alexandra Doliber of Wolfeboro, who was on the tour with her mother, Jennifer Guldner, loved the library. She also liked the idea that professors would know her name.

Doliber, who already has been accepted to Colby-Sawyer, would have to pay $40,000 a year after financial aid. Plymouth State, which has also offered her admission, would cost around $10,500 annually. The private school price tag worries her mother.

“It’s a huge expense, and it’s kind of scary,” she said.

But the expense at small private colleges wasn’t always so huge. The cost has risen faster than the income of the middle-class families who have traditionally attended them, and students are increasingly wary of taking on debt.

Many of the problems small schools face are a result of the 2008 economic recession.

Wealthy small privates like Williams and Amherst saw their endowments tank overnight, but the effect was delayed for schools like Colby-Sawyer that rely on tuition revenue rather than investments.

“We really felt the middle-class hit a few years delayed,” said Thomas Galligan, president of Colby-Sawyer from 2006 until last year. “That hit us hard.”

Galligan, now dean of the Louisiana State University Law Center, called his tenure a roller coaster ride. Without a large endowment, the admissions office agonizes every year over whether the school will enroll enough students to balance the budget. A difference of as few as 50 can spell trouble.

The main way Colby-Sawyer attracts students is by offering sizable aid packages — as much as 67 percent off the $54,000 tuition. But that requires a balancing act, because the school so sorely needs revenue.

Adding to the pressure, these schools have found themselves increasingly locked in an amenities arms race. Students want the latest technology, the best professors, the most modern gymnasium, and gourmet food, and as much as schools are stretched thin, they lose students if they don’t keep up.

Some have criticized Colby-Sawyer’s president for supporting a new $7.4 million performing arts center at a time of staff layoffs. But, she says, it’s important to stay modern, and the building was funded almost entirely by donations for that project.

Just as these schools didn’t get into trouble overnight, it will take years for them to recover, experts say.

Ed MacKay, director of the New Hampshire Higher Education Commission, said their fate is very much tied to the struggles of public schools. As state legislatures cut funding to public colleges, those schools have begun to aggressively recruit the students who traditionally attended the privates.

In addition, the number of high school graduates is expected to drop annually between now and 2023, according to a report released last month by the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education.

MacKay also sees the fate of small colleges as an economic issue. Colby-Sawyer, which was founded in 1837, is integral to the economy of New London.

“These institutions are not appreciated enough for what they bring to their respective communities, and the loss of an institution to a small community can be devastating,” he said.

Colby-Sawyer alumna Mechilia Salazar looks back fondly on her time in New London. She graduated in 2000 with a degree in early childhood development and credits the school with teaching her how to pivot, when she switched majors and later when she changed careers.

Over the years she’s realized it was more than just her classes that made college special.

She still remembers “Marriott” Mike, who ran the cafeteria, and his wife, who taught water aerobics. She recalled how the school helped her start an after-school program for local elementary school students.

“The small intimate feel, it felt like one big family,’’ she said. “You can’t really hide on a campus, everybody eventually gets to know each other.”


Kangaroo courts won't solve campus sexual assault problem

Betsy DeVos is President-elect Donald Trump's pick for secretary of education. This past week, groups such as End Rape on Campus launched a #DearBetsy social-media campaign urging DeVos to continue the Obama administration's policies, under which schools across the country have defined sexual assault in expansive terms and scaled back protections for students accused of it.

Meanwhile, the American Association of University Women, among other organizations, has zeroed in on the $10,000 that DeVos gave to the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, an ACLU-like outfit that, among other things, supports due-process rules.

You might not like DeVos's financial conflicts or her family's record on LGBT issues - I don't - but the #DearBetsy campaign and the controversy over her FIRE donations show how ideological and unmoored the campus rape debate has become.

Let's be clear: Cases of horrific sexual violence occur in college communities. Last year, Stanford swimmer Brock Turner received a prison sentence, albeit a lenient one, for sexually assaulting an unconscious woman behind a dumpster.

More recently, 10 University of Minnesota football players were suspended after a confidential investigator's report detailed numerous acts of sexual aggression against a female student and specific evidence of players' culpability. The rest of the team threatened to boycott a looming bowl game - until the report leaked and they saw what was in it.

In 2011, in an effort to protect women's right to learn without fear of harassment or discrimination, President Obama's Department of Education sent out a "Dear Colleague" letter seeking tougher action against sexual violence, while leaving many of the details up to individual schools. In response, well-meaning campus administrators have responded by erasing due-process protections for suspected offenders.

That erosion becomes evident in the public paper trail left by a contentious case at Brandeis. In 2011, the student handbook there gave those accused of serious misconduct the right to be informed of the charges in detail, to confront them at a hearing, and to review "all evidence and reports" presented there. The burden of proof, the handbook said, rested with the accuser.

The next year, the university gutted those protections in sexual misconduct cases. It lowered the standard of evidence that it used to assess guilt, as the government's "Dear Colleague" letter had specifically demanded.

The university went further. In the 2012 handbook, "there was no requirement that copies of any `substantiating materials' submitted by the accuser, or the names of any witnesses, be shown or provided to the accused any time," wrote Judge F. Dennis Saylor, who reviewed Brandeis's procedures in connection with a lawsuit in federal court. Saylor went on, "The accused had no right to confront or cross-examine the accuser, no right to call witnesses, and no right to confront or cross-examine the accuser's witnesses. The accused had no right to review all the evidence."

In the context of American legal culture, this is crazy. When corporate polluters get sued, not even the most passionate environmentalist would deny them details of the accusations against them. While violent crime devastates a community, progressives in particular would be aghast at efforts to repeal the Fourth and Fifth Amendments for suspected armed robbers.

Campus disciplinary proceedings aren't court cases, but the underlying principle is the same: Standard rules of evidence and other protections for the accused keep things like false accusations or mistakes by authorities from hurting innocent people.

Instead, tales of murky, Kafkaesque proceedings have proliferated.

In the Brandeis case, a student identified as "John Doe" had sued Brandeis in federal court after being deemed guilty of sexual misconduct. (Saylor made a significant initial procedural ruling in Doe's favor, though the suit was ultimately withdrawn.) His ex-boyfriend, "J.C.," had filed a complaint against him more than six months after the end of a 21-month relationship.

A special examiner prepared a report, which, according to Saylor's summary, wasn't provided to Doe at any point in the investigation. Brandeis found him responsible for supposed misdeeds such as kissing J.C. while he was asleep, looking at his private areas when they showered together, and, at one point, sought to initiate a sexual act without formally asking permission. In other words, Doe behaved like normal, nonpredatory adults sometimes do when they're dating.

The examiner treated their relationship as irrelevant. Instead of just dismissing a patently flimsy sexual-assault complaint, Brandeis seemed to split the difference: It held John Doe responsible for some minor sexual infractions but stopped short of expelling him.

Then the outrage-amplification machine kicked in. "Brandeis University Punishes Sexual Assault With Sensitivity Training," a Huffington Post headline declared, after J.C. publicly decried John Doe's penalty as overly lax. The case was one of two mentioned on the influential liberal website ThinkProgress in a piece entitled "Universities Keep Failing To Actually Punish Rapists."

In an information vacuum, all sexual assault cases look the same. As Harvard Law School professors Jacob Gersen and Jeannie Suk Gersen declared in the Chronicle of Higher Education earlier this month, "In essence, the federal government has created a sex bureaucracy that has in turn conscripted officials at colleges as bureaucrats of desire, responsible for defining healthy, permissible sex and disciplining deviations from those supposed norms."

Any backtracking by Trump's administration will be greeted by suspicion at liberal colleges.

Yet those of us who generally believe in governmental activism, and think public and private schools alike should look after their students to the best of their abilities, should also recognize the limits of a university's omniscience.

In the Stanford and Minnesota cases, the involvement of local law enforcement was crucial in establishing facts - and the gravity of the situation. Far more often, universities handle accusations of sexual assault on their own, in opaque proceedings that take the place of criminal investigations, rather than complementing them.

On their own, schools have never done this job well. While the Minnesota investigator did thorough work, most schools lack expertise in collecting evidence and evaluating witnesses. To avoid adverse publicity, schools have an incentive to keep all proceedings quiet, which means it's impossible to tell from the outside whether they're adjudicating cases fairly.

When students like John Doe are labeled as sexual assailants, while many victims of serious crimes still feel ignored, the problem is that colleges and universities are being pushed to do a job they're not cut out to do. Sexual violence is a crime. Federal policy should press students and schools to involve law enforcement in every case. It shouldn't just make harried college bureaucracies take on more investigations - only with ever more draconian rules.


Monday, January 16, 2017

UC Davis cancels speeches by far-right commentator Milo Yiannopoulos and 'pharma bro' Martin Shkreli after angry students 'throw dog feces' and clash with police

Speeches by far-right commentator Milo Yiannopoulos and former pharmaceutical executive Martin Shkreli were canceled after heated protests erupted at the University of California, Davis.

The school's student-run Republican group called off the talk on Friday night after large crowds gathered outside the Science Lecture Hall, shouting 'shut it down'.

According to club leaders canceled the event after consulting with the UC Davis Police Department.

'The decision was made initially because the lives of the officers were threatened, the lives of the students were threatened as well as the property of the school,' Executive Director of the Davis College Republicans Andrew Mendoza said.

Interim Chancellor Ralph J. Hexter said he was 'deeply disappointed' by the outcome and emphasized the importance of engaging with opposing views, 'especially ones that many of us find upsetting or even offensive.'

Shkreli posed for selfies with fans, and claimed he was going to serve as a counterpoint to Yiannopoulos' 'anti-feminism' and 'tear him to shreds'

The Davis College Republicans consulted with the campus police and other school officials and cancelled the event at 7pm, half an hour before it was scheduled to start.

Protesters blocked access to the venue, and several students held a banner that read: 'Hey you, your fascism is showing'. 

Hexter issued a statement on Wednesday, announcing a 'safety plan' had been established in preparation for the event on Friday.

He defended the First Amendment, and told students: 'I suggest, for your consideration, that one strategy for disabling [Yiannopoulos'] message is simply not to attend.'

On Friday, he said he was 'deeply disappointed' by the outcome, and wrote: 'As I have stated repeatedly, a university is at its best when it listens to and critically engages opposing views, especially ones that many of us find upsetting or even offensive.'

Yiannopoulos attributed the cancellation to 'violence from left-wing protesters' on Facebook. He said: 'There are reports of hammers, smashed windows and barricades being torn away. The campus police can't guarantee anyone's safety so I'm not being allowed anywhere near the building. Stay safe, everyone.'

But the school issued a statement that said: 'Despite some reports, there were no broken windows or other property damage during the protest.

'Earlier in the evening, one person was arrested inside the venue. No further arrests were made.'

Yiannopoulos is the darling of the alt-right movement, an offshoot of conservatism mixing racism, white nationalism and populism.

He often refers to feminism as 'a cancer' and was permanently banned from Twitter after leading a harassment campaign against 'Ghostbusters' actress Leslie Jones

Martin Shkreli, was the former CEO of Turing Pharmaceuticals,increased the price of price of a life-saving drug from $13.50 to $750 after his company acquired it.

Shkreli was suspended from Twitter last week after harassing a Teen Vogue writer Lauren Duca, after she turned down his invitation to Trump's inauguration.

He was looking for a date to the president elect's ceremony on January 20 and asked the journalist if she would join him over a social media direct message.

In a scathing refusal, she tweeted out her response to her 129k followers which said: 'I would rather eat my own organs'.

He then filled his account with photos of the 25-year-old - including one picture where Shkreli photoshopped his face over her husband's. 


Islamists Find Willing Allies in U.S. Universities

Two graduate students and two undergraduates recalled personally experiencing the July 15, 2016 coup attempt against Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's government at a December 7, 2016, Georgetown University panel, before a youthful audience of about fifty. As crews from Turkey's TRT Haber television network and Anadolu Agency (AA) filmed/recorded, the panelists praised the coup's popular foiling as a democratic victory, irrespective of Erdogan's dangerous Islamist policies.

Such willful blindness mirrors that of other American-educated Middle East studies scholars whose actions and pronouncements lend a veneer of legitimacy to Erdogan's dictatorial policies, including mass purges and arrests of academics and teachers throughout Turkey. Erdogan's personal spokesman is Ibrahim Kalin, a George Washington University Ph.D. who serves as a senior fellow at Georgetown's Saudi-funded Alwaleed bin Talal Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding. He joined Juan Cole of Michigan, Cemil Aydin of UNC Chapel Hill (Harvard Ph.D.) at an October 2016 conference in Istanbul even as innocent educators languished in prison or faced academic ruin.

Islamism certainly colored the experiences of the panel's two graduate students, Harvard University Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations doctoral student Rushain Abbasi and his wife Safia Latif, who were in Istanbul during the attempted coup. Abbasi is a former member of the Muslim Brotherhood (MB)-affiliated Muslim Students Association and a former teacher at the Boston Islamic Seminary, an affiliate of another MB group, the Muslim American Society. His previous writing stereotypically attributed Islamist violence to the "histories of colonialism, imperialism, and economic exploitation that still plague the non-Western world," maintaining, "[i]t is not the texts of Islam . . . that are in need of reform."

Latif, a Boston University doctoral student in religious studies who earned an M.A. in Middle East studies from the University of Texas, was like-minded. She previously participated in a conference chaired by the notorious Islamist and UC-Berkeley lecturer Hatem Bazian at California's Zaytuna College. Having witnessed Egyptians in 2013 overthrowing the Muslim Brotherhood-led government of President Mohamed Morsi, she despaired of the same thing happening in Turkey. "To see another democratically elected government with an ostensible Islamist president fall was almost too much to bear. My first reaction was a religious one; I took to the prayer mat and I began praying for the Turkish people."

Latif blasted the "shameful Western reactions to the coup," such as media reports of its popular support and then-presidential candidate Donald Trump tweeting that Turks are "taking their country back!" She complained that after the coup, a "lot of the media focus was on political grievances against Erdogan, him consolidating [sic] power, [and] his authoritarian, totalitarian, dictatorial nature," all of which are, in fact, critical concerns under Erdogan's Islamist rule. Instead, she blamed the West, claiming that it "doesn't support democracy and freedom overseas, especially when Islamists are in power," as "it seems to threaten the universality of the West and its political hegemony."

Abbasi agreed: "If the coup was successful, we would be very happy" in America. In contrast to reporting on coup casualties, "all the headlines the next day I had seen were about freedom of speech and Erdogan. What are we talking about?" he asked, implying that free speech is trivial.

His comments about the American-based Turkish Muslim leader Fethullah Gülen, who is widely considered (albeit without any evidence) in Turkey and among the panelists as the coup instigator, were intriguing. Many of his friends became religious through the Gülen movement, but left after having "realized the cult nature of the group" and "the hidden motivation, essentially setting up a parallel state, which was displayed on that night" of the coup. The Gülen movement has a "nice veneer to it, but there is very kind of dark underside to a lot of it, in the same way that so many colonial regimes set up schools," he said, referring to the movement's worldwide private school network.

Unanimously expressing relief at the coup's failure, the panelists showed a misplaced optimism in Turkey's future under Erdogan, whose threats to democracy remained unmentioned. Latif gushed about seeing "Turks defeat the coup across the entire political and religious spectrum" without the slightest indication of dissent from or dissatisfaction with Erdogan. Likewise, after the coup Abbasi emailed to his friends worldwide that "we are essentially going out every night and partying with Turks" amid a "huge sense of camaraderie and brotherhood." Social media reports demonstrated to him that "every single person was inspired that night in other Muslim countries," although it's unclear whether a supposed victory for liberty or for Erdogan's Islamism was the inspiration.

The Georgetown panel, sponsored by the university's Turkish student organization, marked another chapter in the hagiographic apologetics for Erdogan's Islamism prevalent in American Middle East studies. Hypercritical of the West's established democracies but indifferent about majority-Muslim countries like Turkey rapidly losing any remaining vestiges of democracy, the panelists exposed their pious confidence in Islamism. They were oblivious to why some informed observers, including Middle East Forum President Daniel Pipes, rooted for the coup.

Abbasi described his visit to a mosque the morning following the rebellion. The "salawat, the prayers of the prophet, were being sent out from all the mosques, and it was a very inspiring feeling." Yet any attempt to combine the panelists' faith with freedom in countries like Turkey, Egypt, and Abbasi's native Pakistan will require critical self-reflection, not disdain for the West and its freedoms.


Academics should teach students – not look after them

The new year has barely got underway and universities are already making headlines for all the wrong reasons. Students have been ridiculed after it emerged that the University of Glasgow has issued theology students with trigger warnings about the crucifixion. It’s hard to know what’s more bizarre – the assumption that theologists have so little knowledge of the Bible that they need plot spoilers about the crucifixion, or the permission they now have to opt out of classes covering it if they are upset. Presumably Herod and the massacre of the innocents is omitted entirely. It’s not just Glasgow: at universities throughout the country students are now routinely warned that they may find the most fundamental elements of their course, such as blood in forensic science or rape in the study of law, distressing.

Despite the outrage directed at the snowflake generation, for the most part it is not students who are clamouring for trigger warnings. Instead it is a band of overly sensitive academics, administrators and diversity officers who pre-empt distress and trauma. In a statement, the University of Glasgow said: ‘We have an absolute duty of care to all of our students and where it is felt course material may cause potential upset or concern, warnings may be given.’ This view of young people as vulnerable has already been projected on to prospective students by schools and mental-health campaigners, who teach students to see themselves as unable to cope with the stresses of everyday life.

Glasgow’s recourse to ‘duty of care’ is revealing. In the UK, universities stopped having formal in loco parentis responsibilities for students when the age of majority was lowered from 21 to 18 in 1970. Since then, institutional duty-of-care policies have been used to guard the safety and wellbeing of students. Over time, duty of care has expanded to encompass not just physical but emotional safety. Increasingly this means protecting students from what would, not that long ago, have been considered integral aspects of student life, such as negotiating sex and relationships, dealing with exams and challenging course content, or living away from home for the first time.

Yesteryear’s draconian curfews and single-sex dormitories were ridiculed and flouted by rebellious students. Today, in contrast, supposedly radical students demand universities better uphold duty-of-care legislation. Having internalised the notion of vulnerability, they campaign for more consent classes, more puppies for de-stressing sessions, more trigger warnings, and the removal of nasty statues. They demand white philosophers be relegated and course content be judged not on intellectual merit, but on biology. They want disciplines to encompass diversity of skin colour rather than the best that has been thought and said.

In what’s become a vicious circle, such demands have traction because universities need, above all else, to have satisfied students. Institutions treat the annual ritual of final-year students completing the National Student Survey with absolute seriousness. Despite having been roundly and frequently criticised, the survey results, interpreted crudely as a measure of satisfaction, are used to rank universities in the league tables – which are crucial to securing the next intake of fee-paying customers.

Universities, competing for students, sell higher education. For anxious parents, duty of care has become a product: universities ease the transition from childhood to adulthood. Students, meanwhile, can expect not just to be cared for but to be ‘satisfied’ with their student experience. This is what students are told to expect in return for their tuition fees.

This week, the latest Higher Education Bill is currently making its way through parliament. This legislation proposes, among other things, plans for a new Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF) to rank universities according to the quality of teaching they offer, and to allow those judged to be performing better to charge higher fees. The bill also proposes lowering the threshold that private providers must meet to become degree-awarding institutions – in other words, it opens up the higher-education marketplace to new entrants.

The opposition the bill is meeting in the House of Lords is being loudly cheered on by many within universities. The chief criticism is that it will force ‘market dogma on universities’ that don’t want further commercialisation. Students have protested against the bill, demanding instead a ‘free, liberated higher education system which values education as a social good’. Academics have argued the bill undermines ‘the autonomy and vigour of Britain’s universities’.

The Higher Education Bill should be opposed. The TEF in particular spells disaster for academic autonomy and university teaching. It returns us once more to a groundless equation of satisfaction with quality. But those who care about higher education must not delude themselves that an unpopular government proposal getting a kicking by a few unelected lords will turn the tide on the marketisation of universities, or transform the student consumer into the scholar of yore. The legislation currently before parliament stems from an instrumental view of education that has become entrenched over decades by successive governments of all colours.

It is not tuition fees or different types of institution that create customers and markets. Rather, it’s the view enculturated in prospective students, long before they end up at a university, that their satisfaction is paramount – that whatever they demand will be acted upon and their emotional safety is all important. The message that students can dictate the content of the curriculum and be protected from all unpleasantness – be it Bible stories or discussions of rape – socialises students into seeing themselves as consumers and higher education as a product. But challenging this requires many academics to go beyond criticising the current government and question their own beliefs about what higher education is for.

At the moment, higher education in England has to meet the demands of both fee-paying student customers and state regulation that determines everything from what counts as research to recruitment in the form of widening-participation initiatives. Institutional autonomy and academic freedom require a broader cultural shift away from seeing universities as therapeutic finishing schools for the vulnerable, and reclaiming the idea of higher education as an intellectual project.


Sunday, January 15, 2017

School uniforms are sexist? Oh, please

By Jane Fynes-Clinton (The fine Clinton is one of Australia's many excellent conservative women journalists.  As in Jennifer Oriel, Grace Collier, Miranda Devine, Rita Panahi, Janet Albrechtsen, Judith Sloan, Caroline Overington, Corrine Barraclough etc.  Eat your heart out, feminists)

An academic from Queensland University of Technology this week hurled the first of the school preparation grenades, contending that school uniform requirement should no longer be split along gender lines.

The focus in the school uniform discussion should be about climate and occasion appropriateness, not sexism. (Pic: iStock)

Cultural learning senior lecturer and psychologist Amanda Mergler pointed out in her piece on The Conversation that some parents felt requiring their daughters to wear dresses and skirts was outdated and amounted to gender disadvantage.

To this, I say piffle.

Dresses are not passe. Skirts are not discriminatory or symbols of sexism. They do not limit female power or confidence.

And having our boys and girls dressed the same — as boys, effectively — does not make them the same.

They are not, never should be, and clothes do not make the man (or woman). Celebrate difference, because difference between genders does not mean better or worse and schoolchildren should not be encouraged to see themselves as a homogenous, genderless blob.

Dresses are not by their nature sexualising creations.

Dresses and skirts are cooler in the heat of summer, have more wriggle room for wearers and are more easily kept looking neat.

But there are naysayers. A Journal of Gender Studies paper published in 2013 said dresses and skirts as school uniforms “ritualised girling” and affected the performance of the wearer.

Proponents of homogeny say dresses require girls to be more demure, and to walk, run and sit differently.

Dresses have a habit of ballooning in a breeze and girls are always at risk of showing their underwear.

The anti-dress brigade also argues dresses make girls more quickly available sexually. Yes, they seriously say that.

It is not sexist to wear a dress, just as it is not sexist to call someone a woman, as if by saying that, it is all she is. It is discriminatory to act as if wearing a skirt delegates that person to a lesser station, which is effectively what is contended by Mergler.

This is political correctness gone loopy, a distraction from the core issues around school uniforms. Surely, they are about practicality, appropriateness and, because this is a world where we seem to require it in every facet, choice that are subjects of discussion, not whether girls should wear dresses.
Girls are not being “disadvantaged” by wearing skirts as their school uniform. (Pic: Getty Images)

School uniforms have a long tradition in Australia.

They level the playing field and stabilise a school’s community branding. They provide certainty at a changeable, important time in a human’s development. They are here to stay.

The focus in the school uniform discussion should be about climate and occasion appropriateness. And given school should be a relatively formal, learning-focused place, surely discussions should hinge on practicality and comfort,

as well as presenting an appropriate public face of the school.

I think school uniforms should not be overly fashionable and not because of a dislike of fashionability or disregard for style, but because a school’s core purpose is the delivery of learning experiences.

And if skirts are done away with in coeducational settings to mitigate the risk of sexualising females, it follows that girls at same-sex schools would be left out on a rather provocative limb.

I attended an all-girls school in Brisbane. We wore unflattering dresses for lessons and unattractive skirts with undershorts (never to be seen in public except on the playing field) for sport. We were told how long they had to be.

The uniform and the rules are the same at that school today.

We were constantly told we were girls, or young ladies, that we must act with integrity and modesty, as all young people should. The uniform regulation was uniformly unforced.

Sure, our box pleats meant we had to take special measures in stiff winds and deal with sweaty, slidey seats in summer. And yes, we were forbidden from sitting cross legged on the ground in public, lest the good name of our school be erased in a thoughtless flash.

Fair enough. We were girls and girls wore modest dresses and skirts to school. No contest. If we didn’t like it, we could leave.

It was a slice of life and we expressed ourselves elsewhere and in other ways.

I am old enough to recall a time when female members of the public who attended Brisbane City Council meetings were forbidden from wearing pants. I also recall a female journalist in the 1980s attending in slacks to push the envelope and make a point. She was excluded.

And a public relations firm in Brisbane forbade its all-female staff from wearing trousers in the early 1990s.

Those who require such things now enforce the wearing of a uniform to get around claims of discrimination.

Surely the point now is that choice is key, not demonising the dress and skirt as old-school, sexist creations that are vehicles for lust and degradation?

Please, let common sense prevail in any discussions about school uniforms.


Three campus rape accusations fail when tested in court

What does that say about untested claims?  Could it mostly be just a beat-up

A third Durham University student in a year has walked free after being charged with rape.

Alastair Cooke, 23, said last night that he was ‘delighted this nightmare is over’ after the case against him was dropped.

Mr Cooke, a third-year geology and geophysics student, was weeks away from an expected first class degree when he was arrested in 2015 on suspicion of raping a 23-year-old student in her home when she drunk.

But jurors could not agree on a verdict, and yesterday Durham Crown Court was told that the prosecution would not seek a retrial on the three rape charges faced by Mr Cooke and that his accuser agreed with that decision.

‘We therefore offer no evidence on these counts,’ said prosecutor Paul Cleasby.

After the decision Mr Cooke’s barrister warned that attitudes towards sex and alcohol needed to change in universities.

The student was the third undergraduate to be cleared of rape in the past 12 months. Last January Louis Richardson, then 21, the former secretary of the Durham Union debating society, was cleared by a jury in less than three hours.

The history student, from St Helier, Jersey, and his family said they had been put through ‘15 months of absolute hell’.

Engineering student George Worrall, 22, from Cromer in Norfolk, faced three counts of rape, but last July after he had been under suspicion for 18 months the Crown Prosecution Service dropped the case before it went to trial, citing ‘inconsistencies of the victim’s account’.

Mr Cooke, who denied the charges, did not attend court yesterday and was at his family home in Truro, Cornwall, when he heard the news.

He said: ‘This has been a really difficult time for all those involved on all sides. I am delighted this nightmare is now over. I am looking forward to trying to piece my life back together.’

Mr Cooke, who now plans to complete his degree, was accused of raping the woman at her student house in June 2015 when she was very drunk and unresponsive.

He had known the woman, who cannot be named for legal reasons, for two years. It was alleged that he stalked her back to her home from a house party, let himself in and raped her three times in her bedroom.

During the original trial, the geography student was accused of following the woman home from a party in June 2015
During the original trial, the geography student was accused of following the woman home from a party in June 2015

But his barrister, Cathy McCulloch, told the court last month that the allegation arose from ‘regret which got out of hand’.

Jurors were also told that the woman had a tendency to exaggerate and that the ‘willowy’ Mr Cooke was too weak to throw her around ‘like a rag doll’ as she claimed.

It was alleged during his trial that the woman’s friends were a ‘mob’ who knew ‘exactly what it took to get a rape conviction’. Mrs McCulloch said: ‘They were all working together to help their friend.’


Time to take a wrecking ball to an utterly corrupt educational status quo

“Beginning in the 1960s, from Boston to Berkeley, the teachers of America’s teachers absorbed and taught a new, CliffsNotes-style sacred history: America was born tainted by Western Civilization’s original sins — racism, sexism, greed, genocide against natives and the environment, all wrapped in religious obscurantism, and on the basis of hypocritical promises of freedom and equality. Secular saints from Herbert Croly and Woodrow Wilson to Franklin Roosevelt and Barack Obama have been redeeming those promises, placing America on the path of greater justice in the face of resistance from the mass of Americans who are racist, sexist, but above all stupid. To consider such persons on the same basis as their betters would be, as President Obama has called it, ‘false equivalence.’” —Angelo Codevilla, “The Rise of Political Correctness”

If there is a better summation of the cultural divide, one is hard-pressed to imagine what it is. And while the election of Donald Trump represents a repudiation of the insufferable elitist mindset cited above, it may only be a brief reprieve. As the daily depredations by the Leftmedia and its allies in Hollywood, academia and the corporate world indicate, our “betters” will not go quietly into the night. Moreover, they will do everything possible to undermine the current “aberration.”

Nonetheless, an opportunity, no matter how brief, exists. One that requires laser-like focus on the one entity whose co-option by the Left has paid them the greatest long-term dividends. In short, a Trump administration must work diligently to eviscerate the Democrats' Education Complex. Unless this de facto monopoly of leftist indoctrination factories is leveled, America will remain oppressed by leftist hegemony.

“Fear of the Trump administration’s nascent education policy has coalesced around the idea that Trump’s pick for education secretary, Betsy DeVos, is the agent of a furtive movement for ‘privatization’ that seeks to destroy the public-school system,” explains National Review columnist Paul Crookston. “Teachers' unions and liberal pundits and academics claim that mass defunding of public schools is the real goal behind ‘school choice.’”

Decent Americans should pray that this is so, and a recent New York Post article reveals exactly why. It talks about the United Federation of Teachers, whose budget increase from last year’s $168.7 million to this year’s $181.2 million pays for such “education-related” expenditures as Yankee and Met tickets, trips to New Orleans, Orlando and Las Vegas — and Cadillac salaries for union bigwigs, 65 of whom earn more than $165,000 each. Union boss Michael Mulgrew, who opposes charter schools and anything resembling genuine accountability, earns $283,804.

Moreover, while these hacks are living quite comfortably, courtesy of required teachers' dues, they’re also busy solidifying their political clout by donating to hard-left political organizations like ACORN, which was defunded by Congress in 2009 after undercover videos revealed counselors advising a “pimp” and “prostitute” on how to commit tax fraud.

What does this toxic mix produce? “A scathing state report flunked 91 city schools Thursday for eye-poppingly low graduation rates and test scores — and cited 40 of them for a decade of teaching futility,” reported the Daily News in 2015. The paper further notes at least 50,000 children, 90 percent of whom are minority and/or indigent, attended schools “where less than half the students graduated and fewer than 1 in 10 were proficient in either English or math” — all despite an average spending boost of 13.8%.

New York is hardly an outlier. Millions of children across the nation are trapped in virtually identical union-run hellholes, all beholden to one contemptible idea that should be tossed on the ash heap of history: where one lives determines what school one attends.

To realize just how contemptible that concept is, one need only imagine a real world equivalent. Imagine needing a new car and only being allowed to purchase one from the car dealer you’ve been “assigned” based on your home address. Imagine the kind of price and service one might get when that dealership knows it has a captive customer. Now imagine certain groups of elitists who aren’t bound by the same restriction.

Those are the very same leftist elitists who wouldn’t dream of allowing their children to attend the public schools they so heartily support for everyone else. They support school choice — for themselves — while the “little people” get no choice at all, lest failing schools face defunding.

Or parent-empowered competition.

Education Secretary nominee Betsy DeVos is a staunch supporter of charters, vouchers for private schools, and tax credits for homeschoolers — or everything anathema to the status quo-ers, exactly because it transfers power from government bureaucrats to education “consumers.”

Hence, the predictable attacks. “Betsy DeVos lacks the qualifications and experience to serve as secretary of education,” insists American Federation of Teachers (AFT) president Randi Weingarten. “Her drive to privatize education is demonstrably destructive to public schools and to the educational success of all of our children.”

More like demonstrably destructive for an AFT/Democrat alliance whereby the union donates 100% of its campaign funding to the Party in every election cycle.

As for the educational “success” of our children, the title of an article by NPR says it all: “America’s High School Graduates Look Like Other Countries' High School Dropouts.” American students are average in literacy, woeful in math — and dead last in technology, according to a Program for International Assessment of Adult Competencies study.

Thus, the leftist-dominated status quo is all about keeping “stupid” Americans stupid. And given the achievement gap between minority and white students that has existed for more than 50 years, keeping minority Americans “stupider” than everyone else appears to be an acceptable part of the equation.

In other words, the same leftists who reflexively accuse everyone else of racism have arguably been engaged in maintaining perhaps the most enduring racist construct in the history of the republic.

Unfortunately, bad education is only half the equation. “A study by the National Association of Scholars, released on Tuesday, reveals how Obama’s ultra-liberal progressives have begun to turn American higher ed into a vehicle for left-wing activism and propaganda,” reveals columnist F. H. Buckley.

As NAS puts it in “Making Citizens: How American Universities Teach Civics,” today’s civics courses are all about teaching students that a good citizen “is a radical activist,” political activism is “at the center of everything that students do in college,” and that it is more important to learn “how to organize protests, occupy buildings, and stage demonstrations” than understand the foundations of American government.

“What is to be done with a political system in which no one any longer believes?” asks Codevilla.

Answer: Take a wrecking ball to an utterly corrupt educational status quo that spawned and nurtured that political skepticism.

The bottom line is that our nation can withstand virtually anything other than a leftist-cultivated loss of faith masquerading itself as public school and college education. Nothing less than a paradigm shift is required to restore that faith, one that wrests control of our educational system away from the Democrats' Education Complex. Otherwise, the attempt to restore American exceptionalism will amount to little more than a brief detour on the road to permanent, leftist-dominated serfdom.


Friday, January 13, 2017

Scotland: Parents left baffled and excluded by jargon in school reforms

Parents say they have been left puzzled and excluded by the Scottish government’s school reforms which were intended to give them more power over their children’s education.

They have also rejected John Swinney’s moves to give greater responsibility to head teachers, saying they have not been given any evidence that this works, and called for control to remain with councillors.

The Scottish Parent Teacher Council (SPTC) also says that hundreds of people keen to express their views were baffled by jargon in the Scottish government’s schools consultation.

In its submission to ministers, the organisation questioned many of the assumptions underpinning the education secretary’s proposals, which will involve handing more power to heads, the establishment of school clusters and a funding overhaul.


UK: New Ofsted chief fires broadside at Brexit and grammars: Amanda Spielman dismisses plans for new schools as a 'distraction'

The new chief of Ofsted yesterday dismissed plans for grammar schools as a ‘distraction’ and voiced fears over the ‘national preoccupation’ with Brexit.

In her first interview since taking up the post as chief inspector of schools in England, Amanda Spielman said efforts to boost school improvement could be sidelined by political debates over the EU and selective education.

The comments will be a blow to Theresa May, who is grappling with negotiations to leave the EU and signalled this week that the UK would pull out of the single market.

The Prime Minister is also planning a wave of new grammars in the neediest areas, overturning a ban imposed by Labour 20 years ago.

The Government believes such schools could improve the life chances of bright working-class children who do not come from aspirational families. But in an interview with the Guardian, Mrs Spielman said she could not see how new selective schools would contribute to improving the system as a whole.

‘For me it’s a distraction from our work,’ she said. ‘I don’t see it as something that has much to do with making the most of every school, of Ofsted making the most of its work and contributing to system improvement.’

She said she expected it would be a relatively small initiative, but said it would have an impact on multi-academy trusts – groups of state-funded schools that are independent of local council control – which may introduce selective elements.

She said: ‘It’s certainly a complication. I hear stuff anecdotally about how they are going to react, I don’t know what will happen in practice.

‘I hear that some are poised and ready to go, and others who say they won’t actually will, and others will keep themselves distant.’ However, in an apparent attempt to distance herself from the debate, she added: ‘It’s not something I want to get involved with.’

Mrs Spielman’s comments follow controversy over the decision in July by then education secretary Nicky Morgan to appoint her to the £195,000-a-year role as head of the education watchdog.

Mrs Morgan forced through the nomination despite opposition from the Commons education committee, whose members said Mrs Spielman lacked ‘vision and passion’. Teachers’ unions were opposed to the appointment because she has no teaching experience.

Mrs Spielman also used her interview yesterday to voice concerns over the impact of the Brexit debate on education policy, although Ofsted sources stressed she was ‘not expressing a view’ on the merits of Brexit itself.

‘The next few years are not going to be an easy time in any of our remits,’ she said. ‘Brexit is obviously a huge, huge – distraction’s the wrong word – national preoccupation. In terms of government thinking and government action, it’s something that’s going to be absorbing so much time and attention that it may be harder to get the focus sometimes that we need.’

Asked if she thought education could be neglected, Mrs Spielman said: ‘Neglected may be putting it too strongly but it may slide a bit further down the priority list.’

Mrs Spielman, 55, was previously chairman of exam regulator Ofqual and policy director at Ark academy chain after spending many years in corporate finance and consultancy.

She has taken over at Ofsted from Sir Michael Wilshaw, a former headmaster with a record of turning around troubled schools. His outspoken views were not always in line with the Government’s.

Mrs Spielman, who has two teenage daughters, was born in Kensington and attended a state school in Glasgow, followed by a boarding school in Dorset. She studied law at Clare College, Cambridge.

A Department for Education spokesman said: ‘This government wants this to be a country that works for everyone, not just for the privileged few, and education lies at the heart of that ambition.

‘Thanks to our reforms, there are almost 1.8million more children being taught in schools that are rated good or outstanding than in 2010. We are building on our reforms, backed by record levels of school investment.

‘We have consulted on proposals to create even more good school places, for more parents, in more parts of the country, by lifting the ban on new selective school places.’


May God help these cotton wool kids

Kevin Donnelly writes from Australia

IT doesn’t surprise that private schools are spending millions on wellness centres because students are stressed and lack resilience. It also doesn’t surprise that one of the fastest growing activities in primary schools is teaching meditation and mindfulness.

According to the latest Mission Australia survey, close to 22,000 young Australians rank mental health issues among their top three concerns.

And according to Beyond Blue, one in four young Australians aged between 16 and 24 has experienced a mental health issue some time in the past 12 months.

Instead of optimism, confidence and resilience it ­appears that more and more young people are suffering insecurity, anxiety and stress.

Why are so many students and young Australians at risk and unable to cope, and what’s to be done?

The first thing is that parents have to stop wrapping their children in cotton wool. Free-range children are a thing of the past and long gone are the days when kids were allowed to take risks.

Trampolines now have safety nets. Instead of walking or riding a bike to school children are chauffeured by a parent, and reprimanding or punishing a child is now politically incorrect and equivalent to child abuse.

Many children are so spoilt and indulged that at the first sign of not getting what they want, they collapse in tears or manufactured rage. The Asian tiger mums are far from perfect but at least they discipline their children and teach them the benefits of application and hard work.

Progressive, new-age education is also to blame as teachers are told that nurturing self-esteem and making sure all are winners are more important than teaching children to be competitive and to overcome adversity.

For many years it was forbidden in Australian classrooms to grade students 10 out of 10 or A, B, C, D and E (where E meant fail). Instead teachers had to use meaningless ­descriptions such as consolidating, not yet achieved and ­satisfactory.

Instead of optimism, confidence and resilience it ­appears that more and more young people are suffering insecurity, anxiety and stress.

Compared with top performing Asian education systems, where students regularly face high-risk tests and exams, the first time Australian students are pressured is at Year 12. And even then, each year more and more Year 12 students are ­applying for special consideration as a result of the stress and anxiety caused by the fear of being ranked in terms of performance and not doing as well as expected.

Growing up during the ’60s when at primary school we loved to play British Bulldog and Stacks on the Mill. Such games have long since been banned as too dangerous even though they taught us to overcome fear and that there was nothing special about a sprained wrist or a grazed knee.

A number of local councils are also getting rid of monkey bars and swings because of the risk that children might be hurt. Add to that the fact that in many junior sports no one is allowed to keep the score and it’s understandable why many children lack ­resilience and the will to succeed.

The American author ­Joseph Campbell, who helped to inspire George Lucas to produce Star Wars, argues that children must learn about the archetypes, myths and fables that teach how to deal with challenges and loss and how to overcome adversity.

Tales such as the Iliad and the Odyssey, where the hero overcomes fear and doubt, teaches children, especially boys, to be resourceful and brave. Norse legends such as ­Beowulf and stories like Queen Boadicea should also be compulsory reading.

Unfortunately, such traditional legends and stories are now considered old fashioned and students are more likely to be fed a diet of contemporary stories about dysfunctional families, teenage substance abuse and gender confusion and dysphoria.

Even though religion is often sidelined and ignored, it’s also true that Christianity provides an anecdote to anxiety and depression. Stories such as David and Goliath ­illustrate how ingenuity and faith can beat what appear to be insurmountable odds.

Believing in something spiritual and transcendent also counters the emptiness and sterility of secular ­society’s focus on commercialism and self-interest.

No amount of social networking on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram can replace the very human need for a deeper and more lasting sense of fulfilment.


Thursday, January 12, 2017

Australian Senator attacks credentialism -- to gasps of disbelief

The constant march towards more and more schooling for just about everything is mostly pointless.  The jobs concerned are not being performed noticeably better but uncritical people don't ask about that.  Teaching, for instance, was once just an on-the-job apprenticeship.  Now it requires a 4-year college course.  So have educational standards improved?  Quite the contrary. Education standards were MUCH higher in the past.

The one certain thing from it is higher costs to get anything done.  The Lion's Helm ( Senator  Leyonhjelm) is one of the few who are blowing the whistle on the stupidity and gullibility of it all.

The Project viewers were left stunned when Senator David Leyonhjelm described childcare workers’ roles as “wiping noses and stopping the kids from killing each other” in an interview on Tuesday night.

The Liberal Democrat Senator made several comments that outraged and offended childcare workers in an interview on the Channel Ten show about the Federal Government’s new $3 billion childcare reform package.

Senator Leyonhjelm said he would not support the package without amendments, criticising the bill for not reducing subsidies to higher income families.

He then suggested a way to reduce the cost of childcare would be to cut back the required credentials of workers, adding that women didn’t need training to take care of children.

“Apart from the fact you want to make sure there aren’t any paedophiles involved, you have to have credentials these days to be a childcare worker,” Senator Leyonhjelm said.

“A lot of women, mostly women, used to look after kids in childcare centres.”

“And then they brought in this national quality framework and they had to go and get a ‘certificate three’ in childcare in order to continue the job they were doing – you know, wiping noses and stopping the kids from killing each other.”

Senator Leyonhjelm said “a lot of women just quit” because of the introduction of minimum qualifications.

"The ones who got certificate threes said, ‘OK, I want more pay now that I’m more qualified’. All we did was drive up the cost because of this credentialism."

The panel appeared stunned by his flippant description of childcare worker's role.

Seeking to clarify, co-host Peter Helliar told the senator he thought a lot of people in childcare might be offended by his remarks.

"This is a very tough job that they do," Hellier said.

Senator Leyonhjelm maintained that workers did not need the credentials, saying there were no improvements in standards when the minimum standard of training was introduced.

"Yes it is, but there are an awful lot of people who are very good at it, but they didn't need a sheet of paper to say they were very good at it," he said.

"I don't think we corrected any errors, any errors, any problems, any deficiencies adversely affecting the kids when we brought in that national quality framework."

Panellist Scott Dooley joked with the senator, asking if his vision for the future of childcare was a "bunch of 30 kids on a leash drinking out of a saucer while a grandpa watches?"

Senator Leyonhjelm said that any dropping of qualification wouldn't see "a reduction in childcare standards".

Following the interview, co-host Gorgi Coghlan commented that the senator's benchmark seemed to be, "'Make sure they’re not a paedophile and then everything from there is OK'."

Coghlan also pointed out that mums feel confident leaving their kids in care when they know they are in qualified hands and more workers wouldn't be attracted to the industry if they weren't valued.

A clip of the interview was viewed on Facebook more than 183,000 times, garnering 1300 responses, mostly of anger and disbelief.

"Disgraceful to say this man is an elected member of the state? What an attitude," wrote one Facebook user.

"This is really quite unbelievable, how can you possibly believe that studying a subject of childcare won't and can't improve the care given to children?" commented another.

One user pointed out how "critical" the first five years of a child life were to their development.

"It takes education - knowledge and skill to learn and understand key child developmental needs to ensure a child grows to their fullest potential. Sure we can have anyone wiping a nose or stopping children from killing each other but is this all that children deserve?" she wrote.

Meanwhile, others agreed with the senator.

"It's childcare. It's not school, it's not college. It's literally group babysitting, and that's all I want it to be. I agree with the Senator's position," one user wrote.


Republicans Should Rethink Plans to Privatize Student Lending

Americans are concerned about rising college prices and student
debt levels, and the Republican Party has proposed a solution: bring the private market back into student lending.

Prior to 2010, most federal student loans were originated by private lenders under the Federal Family Education Loan Program (FFELP). But Congress eliminated that program in 2010 and all subsequent loans were originated and administered by the U.S. Department of Education. Since that time, many Republicans have called for a return to market-based federal student lending.

But there’s just one problem with that: FFELP didn’t function at all like a market. Under FFELP, the federal government set the terms for how private lenders were to issue loans. Lenders did not screen borrowers based on creditworthiness and they did not offer better terms to borrowers who were more likely to repay their debts – two hallmarks of competitive lending. Instead, they offered loans to anyone who met prescribed eligibility criteria and offered terms that were dictated by legislation. In fact, the chance of being repaid mattered little to these lenders because the loans were guaranteed by the government such that they were repaid even if borrowers defaulted.

The lenders did all of this in exchange for a fixed payment from the Department of Education. The payment amount, which was pegged to a benchmark interest rate, was also set by legislation. Unfortunately, the payment amount was never quite right, which led to a number of problems so severe that they required a legislative fix.

During the years leading up to the Great Recession, the government payment to lenders yielded such significant profits that some lenders were offering kickbacks to financial aid officers in exchange for sending students their way. These abuses were stopped when the payment was adjusted downward in 2007, but that fix didn’t work for long. By the fall of 2008, FFELP lenders were in Washington asking for more money to keep them in the business of making these loans. The fallout of the early stages of the mortgage crisis led Congress to quickly pass legislation to keep FFELP lenders from quitting the program.

Policymakers that want to inject more market discipline into federal student lending should find better ways to do so than returning to a failed policy that created more problems that it solved. We suggest three such ideas for Congress to consider when it takes up the overdue reauthorization of the Higher Education Act next year.

First, Congress could dramatically scale back the existing federal lending program to focus on undergraduate students. These are the students for whom guaranteeing access to postsecondary education is most important. But out of the roughly $100 billion of loans made by the government each year, $30 billion go to graduate students and another $10 billion to parents of undergraduate students.

Scaling back or eliminating federal lending to graduate students and parents of college students would create an opening for private lenders. This would almost surely reduce lending to students who attend graduate programs that are unlikely to produce a large enough economic return to justify the cost and risk. But such an outcome may be more desirable than taxpayers being on the hook for loans to graduate students that go unpaid or are forgiven under current policy.

Second, Congress could establish a regulatory framework to support innovation in alternative financial products such as income share agreements (ISAs), in which students agree to pay a share of their future income to investors that finance their college tuition. ISAs are likely to remain a niche product, but could play a role in expanding access to higher education financing for some students, such as those who need to borrow more than the federal limits. They could also substitute for federal lending to graduate students if the availability of loans to graduate students was scaled back.

Finally, Congress could improve the market for higher education by increasing the availability of data on college quality. If we want consumers to “vote with their dollars,” then we need to arm them with the information that they need to make good decisions, such as better access to information on the outcomes of previous students who attended particular programs of study. A market without information is no market at all.


Draining the Swamp to Help American Schools

Among the many hot topics since Donald Trump won the election is America’s education system. Once at the top of the nations of the world in educating its young, America has lost serious ground, and it’s time to rectify that.

Jon Guttman, Research Director of the World History Group, wrote in 2012, “As recently as 20 years ago, the United States was ranked No.1 in high school and college education.” Furthermore, “In 2009, the United States was ranked 18th out of 36 industrialized nations.” He attributes that decline to “complacency and inefficiency, reflective of lower priorities in education, and inconsistencies among the various school systems.”

This despite because of the unifying mandates of No Child Left Behind, Common Core, Race to the Top and whatever other repackaged program statists impose upon our education system. Not to mention trillions of dollars poured into the system.

In 2010 at a Paris meeting of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), Barack Obama’s first secretary of education, Arne Duncan, who served from 2009 through 2015, said this:

“Before the 1960s, almost all policymaking and education funding was a state and local responsibility. In the mid-1960s, the federal role expanded to include enforcing civil rights laws to ensure that poor, minority and disabled students, as well as English language learners, had access to a high-quality education.
"As the federal role in education grew,” Duncan continued, “so did the bureaucracy.” In fact, he added, the U.S. Department of Education often “operated more like a compliance machine, instead of an engine of innovation,” and that it concerned itself with the details of formula funding, and not with educational outcomes or equity. The latter terms are leftist double-speak.

Duncan went on to say that the United States needed to challenge the status quo, and to close the achievement and opportunity gaps. Five years later, the U.S. still lagged behind many other countries.

The findings in the 2015 Program International Student Assessment (PISA), which is an international benchmark for education systems, finds the U.S. education system improved since the last assessment in 2012 in the areas of science, math and reading.

However, that alleged improvement still leaves American students ranked behind the students of 24 other countries, among the 72 participating nations. Teens in Singapore, Japan and Estonia led the more than half a million 15-year-olds in the 2015 assessment, the primary focus of which was science, with math as the primary focus in 2012.

Jimmy Carter signed the federal Department of Education into law in 1979, and since it became active the following year, American education has steadily worsened, as measured by these international assessments. President-Elect Donald Trump, like Ronald Reagan before him, has called for abolishing the Department of Education, citing the need to cut spending.

The Founders established only four cabinet level activities: foreign relations through the State Department; national defense through the Department of War (now Defense); taxation and spending through the Department of the Treasury; and enforcement of federal law through the Attorney General (now the Department of Justice).

The increase of federal agencies has arguably produced some benefits, but does their performance justify the costs incurred? They have produced tremendous growth in government control of our lives, and enormous expense, both direct and indirect. Today there are nearly four times as many cabinet level agencies as the Founders thought necessary.

The federal education effort has many sins on its list, but the primary one is the shifting of control of schools to Washington by dangling federal dollars in front of state school officials — dollars they can earn only in return for relinquishing control over their schools. Federal influences also contribute to the infestation of standardized testing, which in moderation can provide benefits, but when a typical student takes 112 mandated standardized tests between pre-kindergarten classes and 12th grade, that is over the edge. Eighth-graders, it is estimated, spend an average of 25.3 hours on standardized testing.

It’s in this context that Trump named Betsy DeVos to become education secretary. Her bio explains that in education she “has been a pioneer in fighting to remove barriers, to enact change and to create environments where people have the opportunity to thrive,” and that her political efforts are focused on advancing educational choices. She currently chairs the American Federation for Children.

Like all of Trump’s cabinet selections so far, the Left portrays DeVos as unqualified and criticizes her lack of experience. One particularly unflattering New York Times tome lamented that she has pushed to “give families taxpayer money in the form of vouchers to attend private and parochial schools, pressed to expand publicly funded but privately run charter schools, and [tried] to strip teacher unions of their influence.”

Perhaps the contrary is true, however. Given the lackluster performance of the Department of Education when run by supposedly qualified people, someone with other strengths just might be able to turn the department into a positive influence — or at least minimize the damage — on what is broadly considered a mediocre education system.

Schools are best operated by those closest to the students, so returning control to states and localities will be a good first step.