Wednesday, September 28, 2016

SFSU Links with Controversial Palestinian University Troubles Pro-Israel Advocates

A row over a relationship between San Francisco State University and a university in the West Bank has reached Congress, where a memorandum of understanding between SFSU and An-Najah National University is being challenged.

An-Najah has been accused of fostering an environment of violence and terror, and is broadly seen in that light by Israelis. The largest university in the West Bank and Gaza, An-Najah has a long history of politically extreme connections.

In 2013, Hamas was re-introduced to student council elections through students with strong ties to the terrorist organization, Al-Monitor reported at the time. The move was seen to signal a return by Hamas to West Bank politics, as Palestinian universities are traditionally closely tied to Palestinian political life.

This month the Middle East Forum (MEF), a Philadelphia-based conservative nonprofit group, alerted Congress to the relationship between the two schools. MEF argues that the relationship presents a potential security risk due to exchanges between faculty members and students.

“An-Najah is a hotbed of Islamist radicalism,” the organization wrote in a letter to the House Foreign Affairs Committee. “Going back to at least 2001, clear documentation exists that prominent current and former students from An-Najah were directly involved in terrorism, as well as pro-terrorist propaganda and incitement.”

An-Najah is based in Nablus, a city of about 120,000 people in the northern West Bank that was a violent flashpoint during the second intifada. Fighting and skirmishes there between 2001 and 2005 left scores of bullet holes in walls and windows that are still visible today.

Posters of people from Nablus killed during that period and since then, including some who carried out terrorist attacks, are still plastered on the outside of buildings around the city, which Israeli citizens are strictly forbidden from entering.

During a reception with faculty in April 2015, SFSU’s president, Leslie Wong, publicly lauded the memorandum of understanding (MOU) with An-Najah.

“It was really easy for me to sign the agreement with An-Najah University,” said Wong. He added that after a trip to the area in 2013, he decided he wanted SFSU to be one of the first universities to sign an agreement with An-Najah or “any of the other universities in the Arab world.”

“I feel deeply that it was not only the right thing to do, but this university should have done it twenty years ago, fifty years ago,” said Wong. “We are playing a little bit of catch up, but that’s okay.”

State law gives university presidents within the California State University system the authority to sign agreements such as MOUs with foreign institutions. Despite criticism over the relationship, Wong said he stands behind the decision.

Still, the relationship between An-Najah and SFSU is not listed among the numerous official international partnerships on SFSU’s website.  A search, however, does bring up references in the university’s mentions in the media, referring to “a memorandum of understanding that SF State has with Al-Najah University, a Palestinian university in the West Bank.”

Rabab Ibrahim Abdulhadi, associate professor of “race and resistance studies” at SFSU, is a major proponent of the relationship. Rabab is director of the Arab and Muslim Ethnicities and Diasporas Initiative and an adviser and mentor of the General Union of Palestinian Students at SFSU. Her academic profile page features a list of published papers dealing with Palestinian issues and an image of a raised fist with a call for a “third intifada” in Arabic.

According to the Canary Mission, a database documenting people and organizations that promote hatred of the US, Israel, and the Jewish people on campuses in North America, Abdulhadi has publicly “defended branding radical advocacy as scholarship and her alignment with avowed terrorists.”

A copy of the MOU obtained by MEF through a public records request shows that it was signed by both university presidents in late 2014. Neither SFSU nor An-Najah responded to requests for comment, emailed to their respective public affairs departments.

According to the MEF, the silence about the partnership is typical.

“This has been going on for two years,” MEF director Gregg Roman said by phone. He said the stonewalling hasn’t stopped his organization from pursuing the issue. “We took our time, we did due diligence. No one responded to us.”

Roman said that since sending the letter to Congress, the MEF has been in touch with relevant congressional offices whose “opinion of this has been quite negative.”

“They are concerned, especially in a time of combatting extremism,” said Roman. “It’s quite absurd that there is a relationship between these universities.”

Cinnamon Stillwell, the West Coast representative for MEF’s Campus Watch program, added that there are genuine security concerns. Stillwell,  a graduate of SFSU, has written extensively about the university’s engagement with Palestinian universities.

“I personally witnessed anti-Israel behavior on campus, in particular the controversy in the 1990s surrounding anti-Semitic symbols in the original Malcolm X mural,” Stillwell said in an email. “So I see the MOU with An-Najah as a continuation of an established pattern.”


History Teacher Stomps on U.S. Flag in Classroom

A North Carolina history teacher is facing a firestorm of controversy after he allegedly stomped on a U.S. flag inside a public school classroom.

The incident happened Monday at Massey Hill Classical high School in Fayetteville, home to Fort Bragg and one of the most patriotic communities in the nation.

“What that teacher did was a gut punch to all the military kids at that school,” one outraged parent told me. “More so to the ones with deployed parents and unforgivably so to Gold Star kids who lost a parent who fought under that flag. It is indefensible.”

A spokesperson for Cumberland County Superintendent Frank Till Jr. told me they are investigating the allegations and will not comment until the probe is completed.

“Clearly there are other ways to teach First Amendment rights without desecrating a flag,” the superintendent said in a statement to television station WRAL.

The Fayetteville Observer identified the teacher as Lee Francis.

A Facebook user identified as Sara Taylor posted a photo online that showed Francis at a lectern with the American flag crumpled on the floor.

“That flag might not mean anything to that teacher, but it means a lot to us and it means a lot to the family’s (sic) who had their service member come home to them in a casket with that flag draped over it,” Taylor wrote.

WRAL quoted students as saying the teacher tried to burn and cut the flag before dropping it on the floor. They also report that at least two students walked out of the classroom during the demonstration.

An active duty Army officer who has children in the Cumberland County school system told me not only was the teacher disrespectful but also a bully.

“I believe the teacher should be fired,” the officer said (asking not to be identified). “And if the principal defends him, she should resign and go to a non-military community.”

The fact is that many children of our brave fighting men and women attend that school and they deserve better.

I was especially moved by the patriotism of the teenagers in that classroom. Ms. Taylor wrote on her post that one of the students took the flag out of the classroom and asked that it be properly take care of.

God bless those young people.


UK: Let’s put the campus sex panic to bed

Freshers, ignore the fearmongers and enjoy your newfound freedom

‘You know you want it’, sang Robin Thicke in ‘Blurred Lines’. This, of course, was the song that was banned by 25 students’ unions in 2013 because its lyrics didn’t fit the NUS-approved narrative about sex. And yet, if you’re starting university, chances are Robin is right: you do want it.

After all, alongside broader horizons and better job prospects, sex has long been one of the major draws of going to university. For most students, freshers’ year is the first time they’ve lived away from home. And they tend to make the most of this newfound liberty by seeking out the pleasures that were previously denied to them: namely, staying out all hours and having some sex.

This is all to the good. But, sadly, student sex has been getting a lot of bad press of late. According to student newspaper the Tab, sexual harassment and consent workshops will be running this term at nine universities, including Oxford. Some of these workshops will be compulsory for all first-years.

Royal Holloway has signed up to the National Union of Students’ (NUS) ‘I Heart Consent’ campaign, and will be carrying out workshops covering the legal definitions of rape and sexual assault, in between asking students to give examples of ‘slut-shaming’ and ‘prude-shaming’. Meanwhile, Bristol students will get to enjoy a mandatory quiz, laying out sexual scenarios and asking them to judge whether they are consensual. And the bar staff at the University of East Anglia are being trained to stop lewd behaviour (wouldn’t you have loved to have been a fly on the wall at that training day?).

So, why the panic about students’ sex lives? Well, much of it stems from the NUS’s 2010 Hidden Marks report, which claimed that one in seven women experience ‘serious physical or sexual assault during their time as a student’. But though Hidden Marks sparked a flurry of scaremongering headlines, it doesn’t stand up to much scrutiny. The central statistic lumped together a range of experiences, from ‘touching over clothes’ to general physical assault – effectively conflating clumsy come-ons with serious crimes.

But campus ‘rape culture’ is the myth that just won’t die. This year, students have returned to university to find yet another sexual-harassment campaign. Launched by Drinkaware, ‘You Wouldn’t Sober, You Shouldn’t Drunk’ aims to encourage #GropeFreeNights. A report about the campaign on the BBC’s Victoria Derbyshire show included students talking about examples of sexual harassment they’d experienced on a night out. They describe ‘unwanted attention’, ‘someone coming up to you when you’ve given no signal you’re interested’, and ‘creepy guys’ who stand too close. That’s not sexual harassment – that’s just bad flirting.

And yet, despite all the evidence to the contrary, the idea that campuses are hotbeds of sexual violence is still taken as gospel. Sports teams have been disciplined or banned altogether for promoting so-called lad culture through sexist banter. What it all amounts to is a wholly inaccurate picture of campus life, where women are at constant threat of being harassed and men are only ever a couple of drinks (or jokes) away from turning into sexual deviants.

The NUS, along with various fearmongering campaign groups, seems to want students to believe that sex is scary. I wouldn’t be surprised if next year’s campaign was simply titled, ‘Abstinence – just do it!’. But, if you are a fresher, there are two very important things to remember. One, sex is fun; that’s why it has silly synonyms like ‘shagging’ and ‘bonking’. And two, your sex life is no one’s business but your own.

The world the anti-sex-brigade seeks to conjure up – one where women are victims and men are sexual predators – simply doesn’t exist. This is certainly not the norm on campus. And female students are as proud of the notches on their bedposts as their male counterparts. Flirting, come-ons, one-night stands that you’d rather forget… these are all part of the student experience. For many students, freshers’ is a great opportunity to get some experience in. And, best of all, it’s a fantastic source of stories to keep up your sleeve for ‘I have never’-style drinking games.

Here’s hoping most students ignore the campus sex panic this freshers’ week and cheerfully get on with getting their leg over – in and around their other scholarly commitments, of course.


Tuesday, September 27, 2016

High school student is suspended for posting 'concerning' picture of discolored water coming out of a restroom sink on social media

A teenager was suspended for posting a photo of discolored water that was coming out of the sink at her school on social media.

Hazel Juco said the water concerned her and she 'just took a picture of it' and then talked about it with other students in her newspaper class, WXYZ reported.

Juco, who is a senior at John Glenn High School, posted the photo on Facebook and Twitter.

She told the station that she hoped 'someone will see it and want to help us' because she said, it's obvious that her school 'doesn't have money'.

Juco was then given Out of School Suspension (OSS) as she said school officials told her that she inappropriately used 'electronics in the restroom'.

But Juco said she believed that she was being singled out because 'no one has gotten in trouble' for taking 'selfies in the bathroom'.

After students found out about it, many protested by tweeting photos they had taken in the bathroom and didn't get in trouble for them.

Wayne-Westand Community Schools Superintendent Dr Michele Harmala, told the station that after looking into what was happening she found out that the high school's administrators didn't report the issue to maintenance. Harmala said: 'They sent a plumber out right away.'

Maintenance crews discovered that there was a pipe leading to that faucet that needed to be replaced.

Harmala also told WXYZ that the rule against cell phones in bathrooms was implemented to prevent students from taking inappropriate photos of other students.

'The punishment is inappropriate. I am going to make sure the out of school suspension is expunged from the student's record,' said Dr. Harmala.

She added that she wants students to know that if they spot a building problem, they can report it to building maintenance or administration directly.


How College Costs Lie to Us

When I graduated high school, my parents and I decided that I would go to community college before proceeding to university. This was to sharply reduce the cost of college (two years of tuition, rather than four), and thereby keep us from taking out college loans. Surprisingly, this economical choice is made by fewer students and parents each year, despite the ever-rising cost of a college degree.

Common sense seems to dictate that the more expensive college becomes, the fewer people will enroll and take on that financial burden. But that is not what currently happens; in fact, the opposite seems to occur. Why?

The Supply and Demand of Knowledge

In 1996, a year of private university tuition cost $19,117 on average. In 2016, that increased to $32,405 (a 70 percent increase). Similarly, a year of public university tuition cost $4,399 in 1996, and raised to $9,410 by 2016 (a 114 percent increase). At the same time, inflation increased 53 percent, meaning the cost of a public school rose twice as fast as inflation. Are college graduates today 114 percent better educated than college graduates two decades ago? Doubtful, yet today’s graduates pay tuition as if they are.

Knowledge is a commodity, just like a coffee bean or an iPhone. Like any commodity, knowledge can be sold, and therefore has a price.Students and their parents continue to pay for universities, both public and private. More correctly, students, their parents, and government loans pay. In 2000, 32 percent of students received a federal government loan, with an average loan amount of $2,486. In 2014, that rose to 45 percent of students (a 41 percent total increase), with an average loan of $4,531 (an 82 percent increase).

What is this money buying? Knowledge is a commodity, just like a coffee bean or an iPhone. Like any commodity, knowledge can be sold, and therefore has a price. That is why a professor has a job, and earns a salary for doing that job. The more knowledgeable the professor, the higher the salary.

Furthermore, universities are businesses, as are coffee shops and the Apple store, and knowledge is their commodity. Like those businesses, the knowledge that universities sell is subject to the law of supply and demand – the more people want something, the more expensive it becomes; the more that thing is made, the less expensive it becomes.

Universities have only a limited number of professors, or knowledge purveyors. As more students go to universities seeking knowledge (buying knowledge), universities will respond by increasing the amount of money it takes to be given that knowledge (selling knowledge).

By this economic law, there are only two ways to hold the price constant: 1) hire new professors faster than you admit new students (increase the supply of knowledge), or 2) admit fewer students (decrease the demand for knowledge). Since 1995, the total number of full-time professors in the United States increased by 44 percent. During the same time, total national enrollment increased by 43 percent.

This shows two things: universities have only added enough new professors to simply account for new students, and there are a lot more students. In other words, new supply has only kept up with new demand, and the imbalance remains.

To economists, this paradoxically implies that students and their parents do not believe that college is too expensive. Specifically, it indicates the benefits of paying for college outweigh rising costs. But that is not true, and it’s the federal government’s fault.

Encouraged by Illusion

Federal aid awards (federal loans) have kept pace with rising enrollment figures (41 percent increase and 43 percent increase, respectively). In so doing, the federal government has allowed students and their parents to largely ignore the rising cost of tuition. Rather than a student or parent having to pay 114 percent more for college today, federal loans allow that student or parent to only pay 33 percent more for college, a small price for “future job prospects.”

Federal aid awards have kept pace with rising enrollment figures, thereby allowing students and their parents to ignore rising tuition costs.The effect is that nothing keeps the price from going up. By its loans, the federal government (in conjunction with state governments) distort the cost-benefit analysis of college. Students and parents are shielded from the real cost of college, and never have to make the tough choices that result. The government is enabling – encouraging – poor decisions.

Experience shows that the law of supply and demand cannot be suspended, no matter how we wish it could. The price of a cup of coffee is only kept in check by people’s willingness to pay that price – if Starbucks begins to sell a tall cup of coffee for $4.39, fewer people will buy that coffee, and Starbucks will have to drop the price back to $2.95. The same should be true for college, yet it is not, because the government makes it look as if that cup of coffee is only $2.95, rather than $4.39.

Therefore, the only way – the only real way – to reduce the cost of college is to stop lying to students and parents about it. Only if the real cost is made plain will families be able to make good decisions about whether college is worth it. Likely, many will find it is not, and that there are great job prospects to be had at much lower cost.


The Infantilizing of the Academy

Recently, I was asked by an Italian author and journalist, working on an article for Il Giorno on the subject of “mute liberalism” and political correctness in the U.S., for my impressions of the “decadence” afflicting American culture. He wanted to know what the reasons were for what he saw as a political and cultural wasting disease and, in particular, when the inexorable slide began into self-censorship, pervasive hedonism, the debasement of the social and intellectual elites, the abandonment of republican principles and the reversal of traditional social roles.

This was a question too vanishingly large to answer definitively, but it did get me thinking once again about some of the factors that might have caused—as Québécois producer Denys Arcand put it in the title and story of his sadly amusing film—the The Decline of the American Empire, a film modeled on Edward Gibbons’ The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire.

Decadence, of course, is not solely an American phenomenon; no Western country is exempt from the vectors of degeneration at work in the liberal/democratic sphere today. But what happens to the U.S., as the guarantor of Western freedom and prosperity, happens to the rest of us. With America in decline, none of its dependents—and we are all its dependents, however loath we may be to admit it—will be spared. Indeed, most Western countries can survive their moral and political deterioration so long as America is willing and able to support them militarily, fiscally and politically, which is, for example, the story of ungrateful Europe since the Marshall Plan. Such is no longer the case. This is why the preoccupation of non-nationals—Italians like my interviewer, Canadians like me—with the fortunes of the U.S. is an issue of primary concern.

In any event, the “decadence” my interviewer was referring to obviously began a long time ago—when exactly is another question. One thinks of deconstructionist philosopher Jacques Derrida’s theory of receding origins, the elusiveness or “eclipsing structure” of all beginnings. On the American historical scene, one could go back to the slave plantations and the Civil War, to the Salem witch trials, or to the bitter duels inherent in the very founding of the Republic between central-government Federalists and states-rights Republicans, a dispute that remains a political fracture to this day. Differing understandings of the Greek and Roman classics regarding the nature of enlightened rule and the proper relation between the governing and the governed were also a locus of contention. As Ron Chernow writes in Alexander Hamilton, commenting on the discrepancy between intention and result that has never been fully resolved, “Today we cherish the two-party system as a cornerstone of American democracy. The founders, however, viewed parties as monarchical vestiges that had no legitimate place in a true republic.” But why stop there? If one wishes, one can go back to the Mayflower and the Arbella and before. A prior “originary” point of decay can always be found.

To focus on the contemporary, certainly John Dewey’s left-oriented “progressivist” and “child-centered” education program, developed mainly in Democracy and Education, which took root in the 1920s, is a reasonable place to start our investigations. Briefly, Dewey believed the child should never be “forced” to learn but rather encouraged to follow his own natal interests—a theory earlier elaborated in the Romantic school of poetry, for example, William Wordsworth’s Intimations Ode where we read that the youth “trailing clouds of glory” is “nature’s priest,” possessing an innate apprehension of the divine. Wordsworth’s exaltation of the child melded seamlessly with his revolutionary belief as a young man in the re-pristinizing of society. It comes as no surprise that the Movement’s enfant terrible, Percy Bysshe Shelley, who espoused similar sentiments, particularly in poems like Queen Mab and Prometheus Unbound, earned the praise of Karl Marx. Shelley yearned for the day, as he wrote in Mab, when the “hands/which little children stretch in friendly sport” would become the emblem of a renewed social contract. Dewey’s oeuvre was clearly influenced by the rejuvenative assumptions of his nineteenth century Romantic precursors.

Unfortunately, a return to origins or the projection of initial states isn’t how the world works. It escaped Dewey’s proselytizing ardor that prior learning and hard study, guided by erudite masters, are necessary for a young person to discover what it is in the world that genuinely interests him and what his condign aptitudes really are. This is the only route to maturity, competence and achievement. “Nature’s priest” has no future unless he is a prince of learning. Failing to understand the need for pedagogical and curricular discipline, for a wide-ranging and classically imposed syllabus, and opting instead for catering benignity in both the formative and later stages of education is a surefire recipe for producing the moral narcissist who is his only truth. The casualties of this retrograde approach, in Peter Wood’s succinct articulation from his online essay The Architecture of Intellectual Freedom, are “men and women capable of wise and responsible stewardship of a free society.”

Dewey’s ideas percolated slowly through American culture and took off in the incendiary '60s, with the free speech movement at Berkeley, the psychedelic dumbing down of the youth population, the takeover of the universities by student radicals, and the insidious inroads made by the destabilizing emigré Frankfurt School, especially Herbert Marcuse of “repressive tolerance” fame, who, in essence, popularized the Marxist theories of Antonio Gramsci and Georg Lukács. The world had to be purified by the exploited masses and remade in the image of youthful innocence, a revisionary project that inspired the young, the callow and the doctrinaire. These notions captured the American seminary and poisoned the minds of generations of students. After that, the die was cast, and America was on the road to becoming a European failure.

“Are we not witnessing,” asks John Agresto in Academic Questions (Vol.29, No.2), “something that looks to be the…purposeful eradication of what it has historically meant to be educated?” The mission of the university is now the inculcation of intellectual conformity, a duplicitous “inclusiveness” that banishes dissenting voices, “social justice,” and discursive closure, coddling students into a condition of protracted puberty as the academy devolves into “separate programs of grievance and outrage.” In this way, students, stunted in their development, become the shock troops of the new world order as they have been taught to see it. And as we know, and as university policies have made glaringly public, children throw tantrums and don’t like to be contradicted.

What we see today, then, universities as centers of leftist indoctrination, the shutting down of intellectual debate (cf. Allan Bloom’s The Closing of the American Mind), a generation of “snowflake” students who are preoccupied with frivolities like trigger warnings, microaggresssons, transgender bathrooms, and “safe spaces” where they will never be exposed to an unfamiliar or conflicting idea, and the sniveling infantilization of the entire academic cohort—flows directly from Dewey and his followers. These pedagogical dissidents prepared the ground for the subversive agenda of the Frankfurters by engaging in an act of cerebral softening, that is, promoting the student over the teacher, the child over the man (or woman), and feeling over thought—hence the continuing prominence of the “self-esteem” movement that slashed-and-burned its way through the educational landscape.

One also recalls the baneful influence of Brazilian educator Paulo Freire in his immensely popular The Pedagogy of the Oppressed, who argued against the “banking model” of education—students as vessels to be filled, like piggy banks with coins—and insisted that teachers have little to actually teach their students. Their job was to help them to understand their need for liberation from the engines of oppression—a more incendiary version of Dewey’s contestation. Adapting the theories of postcolonialist Frantz Fanon’s The Wretched of the Earth, Freire’s Manichean paradigm saw traditional teachers as the colonizers, students as the colonized. The student proletariat was to rise up and seize the means of academic production and, ultimately, the machinery of culture and state.

Thus, students were empowered, staff and administration were intimidated, cognitive regression was guaranteed, and the educational establishment at all levels, from primary to post-graduate, was critically breached. The K-12 level was populated chiefly by teacher-trained incompetents and fellow-traveling principals who served as the hoplites of the cultural left. The university was now home to a liberal professoriate comprising individuals who specialized in a single discipline, adopted the approved dogmatic convictions of the progressivist elect, acquired the appropriate exclusionary jargon, and proceeded to turn their classes into nurseries of ideological pap. With very few current exceptions, like Hillsdale College and the University of Chicago, universities have been unable to resist the annihilationist invasion of political correctness, typified by speech codes, rape hysteria, affirmative action mediocrity (evasively labeled “mismatching”), anti-Western sentiment, and the tendency to totalitarian forms of repression. The general decline in mental acuity, scholarly discipline and historical knowledge was a foregone conclusion, and we are reaping the blighted harvest of that Jacobin declension today.

Indeed, the adolescent fervor for “revolution” damn the consequences duly convected into the domain of adulthood, as the feral children of the left, whose minds were polluted by the sentimental and reductive theories of the Dewey-inspired and revisionist brigades, graduated into the various positions of cultural authority—media, education, entertainment and government. Our grown-up Magikarps—timid university presidents and academic leaders, the general run of invertebrate politicians and corrupted journalists, the great majority of Hollywood and sports know-nothings—are essentially children, and children cannot hope to survive in a world without real adults, or too few adults to manage the vast playpen that has become almost coterminous with society as a whole. The commonplace adage that the inmates have taken over the asylum is fundamentally mistaken. Rather, the children have taken over the crèche.

Such is the damage the educational institution has wrought in a culture spoiled by affluence and forgetfulness—a culture that has shucked the past and de-realized the future. The falling off from academic integrity and rigor explains why almost everything from political culture to cultural politics smacks increasingly of retardation. And it accounts in large measure for the descent we are observing. For children, who have no knowledge of the history of their civilization and no sense of an empirical future, cannot think rationally, they can only feel and act upon their feelings. They live in a realm defined by the present and the imaginary. They are the low-information voters, partisan pedants, liberal socialists, leftist ideologues, suborned journalists and entitlement parasites of the current day, living in a make-believe world that is running out of time.

As conservative thinker Richard Weaver wrote in Visions of Order, published in 1964, “without memory and the extrapolation which it makes possible, man becomes a kind of waif” mired in mere presentism. “Under the impossible idea of unrestricted freedom,” he continues, “the cry is to bury the past and let the senses take care of the present.” As the same time, the future takes on the form of a mythical construct, the dream of a golden age that exists only in the cradles of desire. The upshot is truly alarming: a juvenile public cocooned in the utopian silk of destructive illusions. The waifs appear to have won the day.

A culture or a nation run by children must inevitably falter and decline—unless it can recover its mind and purpose, an eventuality that seems less likely with every passing day. Children always leave a mess behind them that needs to be cleaned up by others, assuming there are enough others around to tackle the job. Children have by their very nature no sense of productive order and plainly no conception of the social, political and economic future. That is why we may not have one.


Monday, September 26, 2016

British Primary school scraps rule that children as young as three should walk with hands behind backs 'at all times' after parents' outcry

A primary school has scrapped a rule ordering children to walk with their hands clasped behind their backs 'at all times' after a backlash from parents.

The 214-pupils at St George the Martyr Primary School in Camden, north London, were told last year that they must walk in the 'correct way' in school corridors, which school bosses called the 'University Walk'.

The term is believed to derive from how students at posh universities - such as Oxford, Cambridge and St Andrews - were told to walk in bygone years.

Executive headteacher Angela Abrahams brought in the rule last year, much to the fury of parents, in a bid to 'strengthen pupil safety, maximise learning time' and 'raise their aspirations'.

Parents, however, were horrified, with some saying their kids looked like 'something out of a chain gang'.

Mrs Abrahams, however, left her job before the summer holidays and has been replaced by new headteacher Adam Young, who has 'quietly' dropped the order that kids walk with their hands behind their backs.

Mr Young is believed to have been alerted to the 'unpopularity' of the rule - which tells all kids at the school, aged 3-11, to walk with their hands 'clasped behind their backs' when on the school premises - by staff and parents.

Speaking this week, one parent - who asked not to be named - said: 'It was like the children were living in the 18th century.

'What so-called educators forget is that this is a primary school where children are just beginning to learn.

'There is so much going on in their heads that they do not need to constantly be reprimanded for walking in a perfectly natural way with their arms down by their sides.

'Children do not naturally walk with their hands behind their backs - they are not Lord Snooty, they are little kids trying their best to learn.'

She added: 'It's a blessed relief that all the nonsense has now been scrapped now that a new headteacher has taken over. 'Now kids can get back to being kids.'

Another parent, again unnamed, said the walk was 'akin to prisoners being moved jails', adding: 'School is for learning and developing your mind, not walking single file like prisoners on a chain gang.'

Mother-of-two Maisie Rowe told the Camden New Journal newspaper this week: 'They have quietly shelved the rule.

'I think it just faded away last year as teachers stopped enforcing it and then it has gone this school year.'

Speaking last November, former head Angela Abrahams said: 'Our recently introduced 'University Walk' inspires children to be the best they can be and to 'go shine in the world'.

'It was introduced to strengthen pupil safety, further raise the aspirations of pupils and to maximise learning time.

'Staff report that they appreciate the impact it has had on learning time and pupils continue to be very happy and excited about learning.'

The new headmaster has so far not commented on the scrapping of the rule.


U.S. Education Dept. Issues Guidance to Boost Academic Achievement of 'English Learners'

A fat lot they would know

In the last several decades, English learners have been among the fastest-growing populations in America's schools, now comprising nearly 10 percent of the student population nationwide, according the Education Department.

On Friday, the Education Department released non-regulatory "guidance" to help states, districts and schools "provide effective services to improve the English language proficiency and academic achievement" of those 4.8 million English learners.

“In too many places across the country, English learners get less access to quality teachers, less access to advanced coursework, and less access to the resources they need to succeed," Education Secretary John King Jr. said in a news release. "Together, we can change that reality."

King said that under the "Every Student Succeeds Act," the Education Department aims to "give students the gift of bilingualism and of multilingualism so they are prepared for college and career with a better sense of themselves, their community, their future, and a better appreciation for our diversity as a country.”

The new guidance promotes "effective, research-based language instruction programs" for the diverse English-learner (EL) population, which includes "recently arrived" ELs, long-term ELs and ELs with disabilities.

This guidance explains in detail how Title III funds may be used to provide supplemental services that improve English proficiency and academic achievement of English learners. Those funds may also be used to "increase the knowledge and skills of teachers who serve ELs."

The Education Department notes that all services provided to ELs using Title III funds must supplement, and not supplant, the services that must be provided to ELs under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Equal Educational Opportunities Act of 1974, and other state or local laws.

"The Department hopes that this guidance will strengthen State and local efforts to improve educational outcomes for ELs and immigrant children and youth; connect States, (local education agencies) and schools with promising practices and helpful resources; and promote effective LIEPs (Language Instruction Educational Plan) for all ELs."


Ringleader of Oxford University plot to remove Cecil Rhodes statue is accused of racism after admitting he wanted to 'WHIP' a fellow student because he was white

The ringleader of the Oxford University ‘Rhodes Must Fall’ campaign has been accused of racism after admitting he wanted to ‘whip’ a fellow student because he was white.

Ntokozo Qwabe, 25, was filmed using a stick to hit a student’s mobile phone out of his hands – and then ranted online that his victim was guilty of ‘white apartheid settler colonial entitlement’.

It comes after the activist, who has been a postgraduate student at Oxford, led a failed campaign last year for a statue of Cecil Rhodes to be removed from Oriel College.

He claimed that because the 19th-century politician was a colonialist, forcing ethnic minority students walk past it amounted to ‘violence’. The law student then completed his studies in Britain and returned to South Africa, but continued to stir up trouble there. He was recently widely criticised for making a waitress cry in his native Cape Town after refusing to tip her because she was white.

Qwabe’s latest torrent of abuse was written on Facebook after he led a campus protest at the University of Cape Town earlier this week.

Waving a big stick, he led a group of agitators who disrupted a final-year law lecture by singing and standing on tables. When the students refused to leave and one started filming the protest on his mobile phone, he hit it with a stick.

The video of the alleged attack went viral on the internet. Responding to critics who accused him of racism, Qwabe wrote: ‘It is NOT true that I “assaulted” and “whipped with a stick” a white student during our shutdown of the arrogant UCT Law Faculty!

‘Although I wish I’d actually not been a good law-abiding citizen & whipped the white apartheid settler colonial entitlement out of the b******.’

A petition signed by 40,000 people was delivered to Oxford University this year calling on it to revoke Qwabe’s Rhodes scholarship, which allowed him to study using the legacy money left by the politician.


Sunday, September 25, 2016

Muslim teacher quits her job after she was told she had to shake hands with male members of staff at Swedish school

A Muslim teacher has quit her job at a school in Sweden after being told she would have to shake hands with male members of staff.

Fardous El-Sakka had been working as a substitute teacher at the Kunskapsskolan school in Helsingborg, when she was asked to shake hands with a male teacher.

But the 20-year-old refused as her religion forbids her from touching any member of the opposite sex who is not related to her.

The man then reported Miss El Sakka to the school's principal, who told her that if she wanted to work there, she would have to abide by the institution's values of shaking hands.

However, she decided to quit rather than go against her religious beliefs and has now referred her case to the Swedish trade union Unionen.

She told the Local that it was the first time a man had taken offence at her refusal to shake his hand and that she can't see herself working at the school again.

Miss El-Sakka added: 'I haven’t received a reply from the union yet, they’re still looking at my case, so I don’t want to say too much until I’ve got some kind of information from them about what will happen with it.

'It's a special school for me because I was a student there. But I don’t think I can see a way back there now.'

Meanwhile the school put out a statement clarifying they did not sack the teacher and that she chose to leave.

They added: 'We would also like to carefully point out that the issue was not her religious beliefs, but rather it is about choosing to treat men and women differently by shaking the hands of women but not men.'

The case mirrors several similar cases around Europe, where Muslim boys in schools have also refused to shake hands with women.

Earlier this week, it was ruled a 15-year-old Muslim schoolboy will have to shake hands with his female teachers after he refused to do so because of his religious beliefs.

Amer Salhani lost his appeal on Monday after his school in Switzerland rejected his argument that the Swiss tradition of handshake greetings went against Islam.

The teenager and his older brother sparked a fiery debate earlier this year when they said they could not shake their teacher's hand because their religion forbids physical contact with a member of the opposite sex - unless they are family.


Black Education Leaders Fight NAACP on Charter Schools

A group of 160 black education and community leaders from across the country are pushing back against an attempt by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People to halt all future charter school growth.

The coalition, organized by the Black Alliance for Educational Options and the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, sent a letter to NAACP board members on behalf of “700,000 black families choosing to send their children to charter public schools, and the tens of thousands more who are still on waiting lists.”

The letter came in response to a resolution drafted by the NAACP that calls for a “moratorium on the proliferation of privately managed charter schools,” arguing that charter schools have “weak oversight” and put schools in low-income communities “at great risk.”

A NAACP staffer provided a copy of the proposed resolution but was unable to comment.

In the response letter, dated Sept. 21, the coalition of 160 black education and community leaders wrote:

A substantial number of black parents want to have the option of enrolling their children in high-quality charter schools. For many urban black families, charter schools are making it possible to do what affluent families have long been able to do: rescue their children from failing schools. The NAACP should not support efforts to take that option away from low-income and working-class black families.

Charter schools are publicly funded schools that are required to follow state standards such as Common Core. They do not charge tuition but instead of being run by the government, charter schools are operated by private nonprofit or for-profit organizations.

Typically, local and state school boards are in charge of granting private or nonprofit organizations the ability to launch a new charter school. If charter schools do not meet strict achievement standards, the organization’s charter is revoked and given to a new organization to operate.

In exchange for that responsibility, charter schools generally have more autonomy over their daily operations, including hiring, firing, budgeting, and instruction decisions.

The NAACP’s proposed resolution accuses charter school operators of “targeting low-income areas and communities of color,” and said their privately-appointed school boards “do not represent the public.” They also compared charter school expansions in low-income communities to “predatory lending practices.”

The response letter from the group of 160 education leaders, clergy, and public servants addressed many of the NAACP’s “cherry picked” and “debunked” claims, arguing that charter schools have been particularly beneficial to black and low-income families. They wrote:

The notion of dedicated charter school founders and educators acting like predatory subprime mortgage lenders—a comparison the resolution explicitly makes—is a far cry from the truth. In reality, charter schools generally receive less per-pupil funding than traditional district public schools and often receive little or no funding to purchase buildings or maintain classrooms. Despite these hurdles, charter schools are helping students achieve at higher levels than traditional district schools.

The coalition also cited a study by the Center for Research on Education Outcomes at Stanford University:

According to the most thorough and respected study of charter school results, conducted by the Center for Research on Education Outcomes at Stanford University, black students learn more when they attend charter schools. Black students in charter schools gained the equivalent of 14 extra days of learning in reading and 14 extra days of learning in math per year compared with their black peers in traditional district schools. For low-income black students attending charter schools, the learning gains were even more dramatic—the equivalent of 29 extra learning days in reading and 36 extra learning days in math.

The NAACP’s resolution will not be made final until board members meet mid-October. The 160 co-signers of the pro-charter school letter are hopeful to convince the board to change its mind, requesting a meeting to “discuss the very serious implications the proposed resolution will have for black families who want and deserve high-quality educational options for their children.”


What Obama’s Education Secretary Got Wrong About Homeschoolers

Homeschooling has been growing in popularity in recent years, and now accounts for about 3.4 percent of the school-age population. That’s more than double the percentage (1.7 percent) of homeschooling families in 1999.

That’s great news for families who have chosen to give a customized, tailor-made education to their children, and for the millions of families across the country whose children are thriving as a result of choosing to homeschool.

Yet, in remarks Wednesday to reporters at a breakfast hosted by The Christian Science Monitor, Education Secretary John King—although he conceded that there are homeschooling families who are doing well—told the audience he worries that homeschooled students aren’t “getting the range of options that are good for all kids.” According to Politico:

King said he worries that ‘students who are homeschooled are not getting kind of the rapid instructional experience they would get in school’—unless parents are “very intentional about it”.

King said the school experience includes building relationships with peers, teachers and mentors—elements which are difficult to achieve in homeschooling, he said, unless parents focus on it.

King’s statement that he is concerned that homeschooled students are not getting the “rapid instructional experience they would get in school” is problematic on several fronts.

First, it assumes homeschooled students are not in school. As Milton Friedman famously quipped in “Free to Choose,” “not all ‘schooling’ is education and not all ‘education’ is schooling.”

Many homeschooled students attend some of the most rigorous and intellectually challenging schooling there is. Many families pursue a rigorous classical curriculum. Others choose to homeschool because their children wanted more challenging options than their assigned public school provided.

Research suggests homeschooled students are better prepared for college. Colleges likes Hillsdale and Grove City have become renowned for their rigor and high proportion of homeschooled matriculates. Contrary to King’s analysis, homeschooled students are in “school,” and they’re doing great.

Second, let’s examine what King refers to as the “rapid instructional experience” students receive in the aggregate in K-12 education today.

According to the most recent National Assessment of Educational Progress, administered by the U.S. Department of Education, just one-third of all eighth-graders in public schools can read proficiently. Roughly two out of 10 students don’t graduate high school at all. The United States ranks in the middle of the pack on international assessments such as the Program for International Student Assessment. In short: There is significant room for improvement in the traditional public education system.

Third, homeschooling families have amazing networks to ensure children build relationships with peers and mentors—another concern of King’s.

Homeschooling co-ops and sports leagues are just a few examples. And homeschool networking is becoming more sophisticated.

Former quarterback Tim Tebow was able to play football as a homeschooled student in Florida because the state allows homeschooled students to play on public school sports teams. Tebow went on to become the first homeschooled student to win the coveted Heisman Trophy.

The ubiquity of the internet means parents who homeschool have a wide world of academic content available at their fingertips, including everything from online college prep courses to computer coding academies, as well as a means of connecting with other homeschooling families.

One of the catalysts behind the growth in homeschooling is a sense among many parents that public education is not meeting the needs of their children.

Recent federal efforts to establish national standards and tests through Common Core have heightened concerns among many parents that they no longer have a seat at the table when it comes to what is taught in their child’s public school. And math and English language arts scholars have repeatedly voiced concerns that Common Core fails to prepare students for college.

Government education bureaucrats are right to worry about homeschooling—but not for the reasons King set forth. It is more likely they are worried that parents—whether empowered to homeschool or to select from the some 59 education choice programs now in place—will choose something other than a government education provider.


Friday, September 23, 2016

Latest ranking of U.S. colleges

Our own bespoke US college ranking launches later this year. However, we thought you might like to know which are the top universities in the US based on the highly respected Times Higher Education World University Rankings 2016-2017.

The best universities and colleges in the US number almost 150, and wherever you want to study in America, a top university will not be far away. Almost all the states are represented in the best US universities list. In total, 128 different cities appear in the ranking.

California and New York are the two most represented states among the best American universities with 12 universities each in the ranking, followed by Texas and Massachusetts with nine universities each.

The universities at the very top of the ranking are concentrated in these popular destinations that are well known for their higher education opportunities; the top five are based in California, Massachusetts and New Jersey.

Top 5 universities in the US

1. California Institute of Technology

Relative to the tiny size of the student population, CalTech has an impressive number of successful graduates and affiliates, including 34 Nobel prizewinners, six Turing Award winners, five Fields Medalists and a number of national awards.

There are only 2,243 students at CalTech, and the primary campus in Pasadena, near Los Angeles, covers 124 acres. Almost all undergraduates live on campus.

Across the six faculties there is a focus on science and engineering; the university appears in the top 5 for engineering and technology (#2), physical sciences (#1), and life sciences (#5) rankings in 2016.

In addition to Nobel laureates and top researchers, the CalTech alumni community also includes a number of politicians and public advisers, particularly in positions that deal with science, technology and energy.

All first-year students belong to one of four houses as part of the university’s alternative model to fraternities. There are a number of house traditions and events associated with each house.

The university has the highest proportion of students who continue on to pursue a PhD, and the trope of the CalTech postgraduate has filtered into popular culture; all the main characters in the TV comedy The Big Bang Theory work or study at CalTech.

2. Stanford University

Based right next to Silicon Valley – or Palo Alto – Stanford has had a prominent role in encouraging the high-tech industry to develop in the area.

Many faculty members, students and alumni have founded successful technology companies and start-ups, including Google, Snapchat and Hewlett-Packard.

In total, companies founded by Stanford alumni make $2.7 trillion each year.

The university is often referred to as “the Farm”, as the campus was built on the site of the Stanford family’s Palo Alto Stock Farm. The campus covers 8,180 acres, but more than half the land is not yet developed.

With distinctive sand-coloured, red-roofed buildings, Stanford’s campus is thought to be one of the most beautiful in the world. It contains a number of sculpture gardens and art museums in addition to faculty buildings and a public meditation centre.

As might be expected from one of the best universities in the world, Stanford is highly competitive. The admission rate currently stands at just over 5 per cent.

Of the 15,596 students – most of whom live on campus – 22 per cent are international.

3. Massachusetts Institute of Technology

A long-standing rival of CalTech, MIT also cultivates a strong entrepreneurial culture, which has seen many alumni found notable companies such as Intel and Dropbox.

Unusually, the undergraduate and postgraduate programmes at MIT are not wholly separate; many courses can be taken at either level.

The undergraduate programme is one of the country’s most selective, admitting only 8 per cent of applicants. Engineering and computer science programmes are the most popular among undergraduates.

Thirty-three per cent of the 11,000 students are international, hailing from 154 different countries around the world.

Famous alumni include astronaut Buzz Aldrin, former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan and physicist Richard Feynman. Graduates are prevalent throughout science, politics, economics, business and media.

The university appears in the top 5 list in the Engineering and technology, physical sciences, social sciences and arts and humanities rankings published by Times Higher Education.

4. Harvard University

Harvard University is probably the best-known university in the world, coming top in the reputation rankings most years.

It was founded in 1636, and is the oldest higher education institution in the US.

There are currently 20,152 students enrolled, a quarter of whom are international. Although the cost of tuition is expensive, Harvard’s financial endowment allows for plenty of financial aid for students.

The Harvard Library system is made up of 79 different libraries and counts as the largest academic library in the world.

Among many famous alumni, Harvard can count eight US presidents, about 150 Nobel laureates, 13 Turing Award winners and 62 living billionaires.

Unlike some other universities at the top of the list, Harvard is at least equally as reputed for arts and humanities as it is for science and technology, if not more so. In the 2016 arts and humanities ranking, Harvard takes the second position, and secures top 10 positions for physical sciences, social sciences and engineering and technology.

5. Princeton University

Like Harvard, Princeton is a prestigious Ivy League university with a history stretching back more than 200 years.

Princeton’s distinctive social environment includes private “eating clubs” – which function as both social houses and dining halls. Many of the clubs are selective and competitive, but others simply require undergraduates to sign up.

There are fewer than 8,000 students enrolled at Princeton, and just over a quarter are international.

Princeton’s campuses, in New Jersey, are located about an hour away from both New York City and Philadelphia.

Degree courses have strictly specified requirements. All students are required to do independent research as part of their degrees, and some must take a foreign language course.

The application process is highly selective. Unlike most US universities, Princeton does not now offer an early decision application route.

Renowned Princeton alumni include US presidents, astronauts, businessmen, Olympians and numerous award-winners. Physicist Richard Feynman attended as a graduate student, as did mathematicians John Nash and Alan Turing.


UK: Biggest wave yet of free schools is announced as 77 new ones get the go-ahead

The latest wave of free schools approved to open in England include one backed by Saracens rugby club, the government announced yesterday.

The Department for Education said 77 new state-funded schools have been given the go-ahead, which will create more than 45,000 additional pupil places.

It is the biggest wave of free school approvals this parliament, contributing to Ministers’ goals of opening 500 new free schools by 2020.

Saracens High School, a new secondary in Barnet, North London, is the result of a partnership between rugby Premiership and European Cup winners, Saracens, and Ashmole Academy, a secondary school rated ‘outstanding’ by Ofsted.

The Department for Education said the combination of ‘high academic standards and the distinctive Saracens ethos will encourage pupils to excel in education, in sport and in life’.

Nigel Wray, chairman of Saracens rugby club, said approval of the new school created a ‘marvellous opportunity’.

He said: ‘At the Saracens High School we will combine our sporting beliefs to create a unique school environment where every individual student matters, academic achievement is important and a real emphasis is placed on teamwork and the creation of great memories.’

The school plans to open next September, with an initial intake of 180 pupils. It was launched in response to a shortage of places in Barnet.

Other projects approved yesterday included Cumbria Academy for Autism – a new special school – led by a group of local parents of autistic children.

More than a quarter of the 77 schools will be opened by the REAch2 Academy Trust, which has been given permission to launch a further 21 primary schools. It is the largest primary-only academy trust in the country.

The Department for Education also revealed that 56 new schools opened this month, including 42 free schools, 11 university technical colleges and three studio schools, creating around 35,000 more places.

Liverpool Institute of Performing Arts (LIPA) sixth form, which welcomed pupils for the first time this term, boasts Sir Paul McCartney as patron.

The 16-19 free school offers a ‘creative and performing arts-focused education’.

Education Secretary Justine Greening said yesterday: ‘Our country needs more good school places for children.

‘The next wave of free schools means more options for parents so they can choose a place that really works for their child’s talents and needs.’

Russell Hobby, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, welcomed ‘additional school places in a system crying out for greater capacity’.

He added: ‘Free schools can add much needed capacity, and are increasingly run by established school groups, but where they set up can be a random combination of desire and drive, rather than a strategic plan to create school places exactly where they are needed.

‘We have continually stressed the need for local oversight over school places. The government has neglected strategic oversight in one of the most basic areas - creating enough school places for local children.


Video of Muslim aggression on Australian campus censored

THE man who filmed an altercation between a Muslim university student and a man wearing a Pauline Hanson T-shirt has been revealed as the leader of a far-right group.

The furious encounter occurred on Curtin University’s campus in Perth when a woman in a headscarf confronted the man with the T-shirt featuring the One Nation leader. “You have no right to be on this campus, you’re not welcome here,” she shouts.

The man in the Hanson top responds: “I have an appointment here, I’m a former student. I have as much right to be here as you or anyone else.”

Yahoo 7 revealed the man who filmed the encounter was Dennis Huts, the leader of the Perth wing of the far-right group United Patriots Front (UPF).

On Thursday morning, Huts took to the Facebook page of the UPF, which has been involved with Reclaim Australia rallies, claiming to be the person filming.

“Yesterday I had an appointment on the university campus (and) I was attacked by a Muslim woman and her Marxist friends,” he says in the video.

“They’re regulars at Reclaim (Australia) rallies. They recognised me that’s what set them off. They don’t like it, so I was attacked. I did nothing wrong, I wasn’t the aggressor.”

He said he had been banned from Facebook for 30 days and his original video was removed.

“It staggers me they would do that given the stuff they allow to be on there, it seems like such as double standard,” the man claimed calling for people to rally at Facebook offices.

It is not clear what happened prior to the altercation between the pair on the university campus.

In the video, the man in the Hanson top says he has an appointment at the university and is a former student. “I have as much right to be here as you or anyone else,” he says.

The woman responds: “Why are you wearing a Pauline Hanson shirt? What, do you want to punch me in the face?”

He replies: “Because I support her. I don’t have to answer to you.”

Turning to other students, she points at the man and shouts. “He’s a fascist; he has no right to be here; all he wants to do is demonise us. “Muslims have had enough get off this campus you are not welcome here.”

Another student then gets involved. “I’ve seen you on this campus harassing women, harassing Muslims,” she says. “F**k off.”

The man then replies: “I’m an ex-student I have a complete degree and I have a right to here in relation to my degree. F**k you.”


Thursday, September 22, 2016

Hillary's ‘Free’ College Plan Comes with $350 Billion Price Tag

Hillary Clinton’s free college plan is long on promises but short on specifics - like who’ll pay for it.

Maybe the Clinton Foundation could foot the bill. After all, it received at least $500,000 from Arizona State University, not to mention tens of millions more from 180 other donors who lobbied the State Department when Clinton was in charge. If there’s one thing the Clintons understand, it’s how to generate free cash.

But not even the Clinton Foundation, with nearly $333 million in reported net assets, could afford Clinton’s college give-away, which she projects will cost $350 billion over the next 10 years.

Under the plan, officially dubbed the New College Compact, in-state tuition at public two-year and four-year colleges and universities would be free for students whose families earn $125,000 or less annually, roughly 80 percent of all American families.

The remaining 20 percent of American families, the supposed rich under Clinton’s plan, would foot the bill.

Additional tax funds, interest rate cuts, repayment caps and loan forgiveness schemes would be used to make college a virtually debt-free experience.

The projected cost of Clinton’s higher education free-for-all is bad enough. But it is probably just a down payment.

In reality, the plan doesn’t come close to covering public tuition and fees, which now total more than $70 billion annually - twice the projected yearly cost of Clinton’s plan. Nor would it fix the staggering student loan debt problem, which currently exceeds $1.3 trillion.

One of the worst elements of the plan is that college degrees will become about as meaningless as free high school diplomas.

Some 75 percent of U.S. high school graduates are not deemed college-ready in English, reading, math and science.

Many of those who go on to college have to enroll in remedial classes, increasing the likelihood they’ll drop out. The proposed Clinton subsidies will encourage more of the same.

If the past six decades have taught us anything, it’s that we can’t subsidize our way to college affordability, much less quality. The federal government’s reach into education has grown steadily since 1958, and with it, college costs that have increased at about twice the general inflation rate.

That’s because federal subsidies allow colleges and universities to increase prices with impunity. For all of Washington’s finger-wagging, few politicians are going to support withholding - much less cutting - federal aid. And colleges know it.

Perhaps the greatest cost of all to Clinton’s free college plan is nurturing the notion that a college degree is an entitlement, not something earned.

At most public colleges and universities, the majority of undergraduates already receive financial aid. And what are taxpayers getting for their investment?

In the past year or so alone, students at the University of California at San Diego had time for a topless “Free the Nipple” rally.

California Polytechnic State University students organized a three-day “Shit In” to promote gender-neutral bathrooms.

Students at the University of Texas at Austin traded in their longhorns for sex toys to protest a new campus carry law.

Such activities are taking place on campuses nationwide, largely on the taxpayers’ dime, at a time when an alarming majority of professors report their first-year college students can’t distinguish between fact and opinion, and at least 20 percent of undergraduates won’t complete their four-year degrees in six years.

With federal debt quickly approaching $20 trillion, Clinton’s proposed give-away is something our country can’t afford.

Yet the full cost of the Clinton plan can’t be measured entirely in dollars and cents.

Indeed, the full cost is incalculable because Clinton is trying to satisfy an insatiable appetite for entitlements that feeds off the hard work and sacrifice of others and is constantly demanding more.


Cruelty to Black Students

Last year's college news was about demands for safe spaces, trigger warnings and bans on insensitivity. This year's college news is about black student demands for segregated campus housing and other racially segregated campus spaces and programs. I totally disagree with these calls by black students. It's a gross dereliction of duty for college administrators to cave to these demands, but I truly sympathize with the problems that many black college students face. For college administrators and leftist faculty, the actual fate of black students is not nearly so important as the good feelings they receive from a black presence on campus. Let's examine some of the problem.

A very large percentage of all incoming freshmen have no business being admitted to college. According to College Board's 2015 report, the average combined SAT score for white students was 1576 out of a possible 2400. Black student SAT scores, at 1277, were the lowest of the seven reported racial groups. The College Board considers an SAT score of 1550 as the benchmark that indicates a readiness for college-level work. Only 32 percent of white students scored at or above proficient in math, and just 7 percent of black students did. Forty-six percent of white test takers scored proficient in reading, and 17 percent of blacks did. The ACT, another test used for admission to college, produced similar results. The Journal of Blacks in Higher Education reports, in an article titled "A Major Crisis in College Readiness for Black Students," that 34 percent of whites who took the ACT were deemed college-ready in all four areas — English, mathematics, reading and science. For blacks, it was only 6 percent.

These are significant differences in academic preparation between white and black students. I am sure that the differences give black students feelings of inferiority and being out of place. Black college students across the country have demanded segregated housing and other "safe spaces" on campuses designated for students of color. Students calling for segregated spaces do so because they allege their campuses are oppressive, are discriminatory and represent institutionalized racism. For decades, colleges have purchased peace by creating whole departments of ethnic, diversity and multicultural studies. All too often, these "studies" are about propaganda and not serious education. Plus, they provide students with an opportunity to get an easy A.

The most pervasive form of racial discrimination at most colleges is affirmative action. In the name of helping people from groups that have suffered past discrimination, colleges admit black students whose academic preparation differs significantly with that of their white peers. Those differences are not subtle. It should not come as a surprise that the intended beneficiaries of that "benign" discrimination feel themselves ridiculed, isolated and treated differently. As a result, students who might be successes in a less competitive environment are turned into failures. One faculty member at a historically black college put it this way: "The way we see it, the majority schools are wasting large numbers of good students. They have black students with admissions statistics (that are) very high, tops. But these students wind up majoring in sociology or recreation or get wiped out altogether."

The problem of black education begins long before college. The National Assessment of Educational Progress, known as The Nation's Report Card, shows that nationally in 2015, only 7 percent of black 12th-graders scored proficient in math, and only 17 percent did so in reading. This suggests that the average black 12th-grader has the academic proficiency of a white eighth- or ninth-grader. Consider the following question: If one admits 1,000 randomly selected eighth- and ninth-graders to college and admits 1,000 randomly selected 12th-graders, who do you think is going to come out on top? Who would be surprised if the eighth- and ninth-graders felt inferiority, oppression and insensitivity?

The academic elite feel righteous seeing blacks on campus, even if they are severely mismatched. Black people must ask: Are we going to sacrifice our youngsters so that white liberals can feel good about themselves?


Do Not Rely on Schools to Protect Your Children: Do It Yourself

One day when my daughter was only nine, I had a business appointment that would get me home a bit after school ended. But she had a Girl Scout meeting that afternoon at the school and that would give me an extra hour. I arranged for my two sons to stay in the after school program so I could pick them all up at once.

After my meeting, I was driving home when my cell phone rang. It was my daughter. "Mommy, where are you?"

"Where are you?" I asked her, feeling slightly panicked.

She was home. She'd felt a bit sick and told her teacher she was going to get on the bus and go home instead of attending her scout meeting.

No one called to check with me. The bus driver did not wait to see that an adult was home. There was no car in the driveway. My daughter entered the house and the bus took off.

She was a little scared so I asked her if she wanted to go next door to the neighbors. She wanted to stay on the phone with me and I told her to lock the doors and keep the dog near her and I would talk until I got there. I was only a few minutes away but there was a traffic tie up.

Needless to say, my husband and I were both at school that afternoon talking in heightened tones to the principal and our daughter's teacher. The bottom line was the school and bus companies had made a fairly serious error. It was uncharacteristic of both and our outrage re-upped their commitment to be diligent about the kids' safety and whereabouts.

Unfortunately, emergency preparedness for schools is not as simple as one child gone temporarily astray in the suburbs.

In Beslan, where terrorists attacked a school in Southern Russia, once again, the rules changed and the unthinkable happened. Terrorists using civilians, including hundreds of children, to make their hateful points -- in this case, demanding that Russian troops get out of Chechnya.

The hostage situation went from bad to worse with a ten-hour gun fight, explosion and fire in which over 300 people perished, 176 of them children.

Americans, taken by surprise on 9-11 by terrorist attacks on our shores previously thought unimaginable, were in shock once again along with the rest of the world. A school full of children and their families...

Could it happen here?

The appalling massacre at Newtown, Connecticut proves that not only could it happen here, it has already happened!  Our primary and secondary school children are not yet safe - neither are the students on our universities.

This is our vulnerability: the safety of our children.

Threat assessment expert and author Gavin de Becker proposes some good questions for parents to ask school administrators. My husband and I used these questions, from de Becker's book "Protecting the Gift," when we first enrolled our kids at their elementary school. I was surprised to hear there had been lockdown situations in the past - once when an inmate escaped from a nearby penitentiary. There was also an emergency plan in place in case of the need to evacuate.

According to de Becker, "Rather than relying on government, you can make at least as vigorous an inquiry of your child's school as you would of your child's babysitter. Below is a list of questions that can guide your evaluation of a school. The school should have a ready answer to every one of these questions. If they don't, the mere fact of your asking (which can be done in writing) will compel them to consider the issues. There may be resources the school feels would improve the safety of children, possibly even resources they have long wanted, and your own participation in the process can help them implement those improvements."

He suggests parents ask these questions:

    Do you have a policy manual or teacher's handbook? May I have a copy or review it here?
    Is the safety of students the first item addressed in the policy or handbook? If not, why not?
    Is the safety of students addressed at all?
    Are there policies addressing violence, weapons, drug use, sexual abuse, child-on-child sexual abuse, unauthorized visitors?
    Are background investigations performed on all staff?
    What areas are reviewed during these background inquiries?
    Who gathers the information?
    Who in the administration reviews the information and determines the suitability for employment?
    What are the criteria for disqualifying an applicant?
    Does the screening process apply to all employees (teachers, janitors, lunchroom staff, security personnel, part-time employees, bus drivers, etc.)?
    Is there a nurse on site at all times while children are present (including before and after school)?
    What is the nurse's education or training?
    Can my child call me at any time?
    May I visit my child at any time?
    What is your policy for when to contact parents?
    What are the parent notification procedures?
    What are the student pick-up procedures?
    How is it determined that someone other than me can pick up my child?
    How does the school address special situations (custody disputes, child kidnapping concerns, etc.)?
    Are older children separated from younger children during recess, lunch, rest-room breaks, etc.?
    Are acts of violence or criminality at the school documented? Are statistics maintained?
    May I review the statistics?
    What violence or criminality has occurred at the school during the last three years?
    Is there a regular briefing of teachers and administrators to discuss safety and security issues?
    Are teachers formally notified when a child with a history of serious misconduct is introduced to their class?
    What is the student-to-teacher ratio in class? During recess? During meals?
    How are students supervised during visits to the rest-room?
    Will I be informed of teacher misconduct that might have an impact on the safety or well-being of my child?
    Are there security personnel on the premises?
    Are security personnel provided with written policies and guidelines?
    Is student safety the first issue addressed in the security policy and guidelines material? If not, why not?
    Is there a special background investigation conducted on security personnel, and what does it encompass?
    Is there any control over who can enter the grounds?
    If there is an emergency in a classroom, how does the teacher summon help?
    If there is an emergency on the playground, how does the teacher summon help?
    What are the policies and procedures covering emergencies (fire, civil unrest, earthquake, violent intruder, etc.)?
    How often are emergency drills performed?
    What procedures are followed when a child is injured?
    What hospital would my child be transported to in the event of a serious injury?
    Can I designate a different hospital? A specific family doctor?
    What police station responds to the school?
    Who is the school's liaison at the police department?

De Becker refers to not relying on the government. Parents in search of information on school emergency preparedness will find the going tough when using the U.S. Department of Education or Centers for Disease Control Web sites, as the information is not easily accessible. It is better to use your county as a jumping off point. Most have emergency management brochures that can be downloaded from the Internet.

But when it comes down to the details, it is up to parents and schools to connect, to communicate, and to know what the plan is. After the Virginia Tech University massacre and the killings that continue to happen sporadically throughout the country, isn't it now time to focus on a thorough reorganization of all official programs which must be designed, then activated in order to secure the safety of our children?


Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Why Are Taxpayers on the Hook for Student Loans?

We recently relayed the story of Barack Obama’s efforts to pick winners and losers in the for-profit college market. Obama yanked federal aid from ITT Tech, leading to the entire operation shutting down — leaving 40,000 students and 8,000 teachers out in the cold. Our aim was primarily to note that Obama attacks the private sector at every opportunity, but that isn’t the only angle. The Washington Post reports, “Former students at ITT Technical Institutes are refusing to repay their federal student loans in a protest designed to pressure the government into canceling the debt of everyone who alleges they were defrauded by the now-defunct for-profit chain.” The Post quoted one 39-year-old graduate with $80,000 in student loans who said, “We’re not irresponsible brats whining about our loans. ITT lied to us. It’s fraud.”

Simply being a for-profit company doesn’t make a business the good guy, and if the accusers are correct, then the college network didn’t deserve to survive. The Post reports that “ITT spent years battling allegations of fraud, deceptive marketing and steering students into predatory loans.” Indeed, by the accounts of many former students, ITT provided a terrible education, handed out a worthless piece of paper, and charged ridiculous rates for it. ITT is hardly alone either. Corinthian Colleges went out of business in 2014 after evidently running a similar scam, and last year Obama agreed to forgive millions in student debt for that institution. We warned last week that the government may end up forgiving as much as $500 million in federal student loans to ITT students. ITT has about $90 million on hand to cover loan forgiveness. Who will be stuck with the bill for the remaining $410 million? Got a mirror handy?

Indeed, that’s just it. The larger problem is guaranteed access to federal money for education, which puts taxpayers on the hook. Guaranteed access means every education entity public or private is going to do whatever’s necessary to get a slice of the pie. Nowhere does the Constitution enumerate such a federal power or individual right to the fruits of someone else’s labor. Americans now owe $1.3 trillion in student debt, of which $1 trillion is held by the federal government. The policy consequences of the federal government’s massive role could be a greater fraud than anything ITT or Corinthian ever dreamed of.


Ireland: Teachers defy union ban on assessing their students

The difficulties for the ASTI in securing compliance with directives has been compounded in recent weeks by the decision of a significant number of non-union or former ASTI teachers in voluntary secondary schools to transfer to membership of the TUI
Junior Cert results issued this morning indicate that a significant number of members of the Association of Secondary Teachers Ireland (ASTI) are defying a prohibition by their union on engaging in assessing their own students in oral Irish.

A total of 20,220 students, or 38 per cent of candidates studying Irish this year, took the optional oral component in 2016 compared to 16,529 in 2015. These were spread across 357 schools, representing almost half of all second level schools.

There are within the Irish education system 360 schools either managed by Education Training Boards (ETB) or falling under the Communality and Comprehensive (C&C) bracket.

Collective bargaining within these schools falls to the Teachers Union of Ireland (TUI), which has no objection to teachers assessing their own students for oral components of languages. The state’s other 375 post-primary schools, known as voluntary secondary schools, fall within the ambit of the ASTI.

A spokesperson for the State Examinations Commission told The Irish Times it was “aware that the optional Irish orals are sat across all three sectors” – ETB, C&C and voluntary.


At a meeting last June, the ASTI standing committee stepped up its campaign against self-assessment by teachers in schools by issuing a revised directive to members.


Education Fat Cats No Joke for Taxpayers

Chris Evans, superintendent of the Natomas Unified School District, bears a strong resemblance to the late Chris Farley of “Saturday Night Live,” but for students, parents and taxpayers, Evans’ latest happy meal is no joke. As Diana Lambert notes in the Sacramento Bee, the district’s board just boosted Evans’ pay by $46,130, a raise of more than 20 percent bringing Evans salary to $270,000, almost $100,000 more than the $182,791 Jerry Brown pulls down as governor of California. Evans’ lucrative deal now extends to 2020 and includes a $500 monthly car allowance, $1,500 per year “to pay for technology” and a $12,000 annual annuity. It was less clear what superintendent Evans had done, if anything, to deserve all that, plus his new raise of $46,130.

Natomas school board president Teri Burns issued a statement citing Evans’ “continuity in leadership, stability in administration” and “a clear vision for the district.” Burns cited no increase in student achievement during Evans’ five years with the district, no reduction in truancy, nor any savings he might have achieved in administrative costs. To calculate the raise, Lambert wrote, the district “used data from other school districts in the state.” The only one cited was the Twin Rivers School District, also in the Sacramento region, where superintendent Steven Martinez makes, $260,000 a year. As we noted, that raise was not tied to any achievements by Martinez, and the district has seen more than its share of troubles.

This dynamic models the entire government monopoly K-12 system, the state’s collective farm of ignorance and mediocrity. If schools fail, the money keeps coming. The educrats keep crying for more, and they get it, regardless of achievement or accountability. The education establishment resists reform, particularly parental choice. Their latest quest is to make schools more difficult to evaluate, which Dan Walters of the Sacramento Bee describes as “at worst a cynical maneuver to evade true accountability.”