Sunday, December 16, 2012

Va.:  Loudoun School Board Committee rejects proposed Islamist Gülen charter school bid

Last night, a select committee of the Loudoun County School Board recommended the disapproval of an application for taxpayer funding of a charter school linked to Turkish Islamist Fethullah Gülen.  Two of the three members recommended rejection of the application outright; the third called for delay of its consideration "for cause."

This outcome is a huge, if preliminary, victory for citizens who have come together to oppose the public funding of a school associated with the Gülen Movement in the Virginia county west of Washington, D.C. The Loudoun Math and Information Technology Academy (LMITA) application will now go to the full School Board, which is expected to consider it over the next two months.

It is to be hoped that the Board's deliberations will be informed by the following notable developments:

* Public comments received by the select committee were overwhelmingly negative. Among the concerns expressed by opponents were: serious problems with the model the applicants cite - another Gülen school known as the Chesapeake Science Point Public Charter School in Anne Arundel County; growing evidence of financial and other mismanagement with other Gülen schools in Georgia, Texas and Ohio; and the Islamist character of the Gulen enterprise. Evidence of the latter was provided in the attached letter from Mary Addi, a former teacher in a Gülen school in Cleveland, Ohio. It draws on her own experience and that of Ms. Addi's husband, an expatriate from Turkey who was also a teacher at that school.

* Four elected officials who have previously endorsed the LMITA application have withdrawn their support for the project. It is expected additional withdrawals will occur as others of those who previously endorsed LMITA - in many cases a year or more ago - learn about the serious grounds for concern about this school and its true sponsors.

* The case against LMITA was laid out in detail in a powerful briefing presented the night before the select committee vote by Center President Frank J. Gaffney, Jr. and a former public school teacher, Rachel Sargent. A version of the presentation is available online at

The briefing illuminates the pattern employed by Gülen and his cult-like Turkish supremacist Movement to induce school boards to charter and pay his followers to establish vehicles for indoctrinating impressionable American students, usually under the guise of enriched science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education.  At its core, this pattern involves deception with respect to the true character of the proposed school, its association with the Gülenists, and the myriad problems such Gulen academic institutions have presented to school system administrators and taxpayers from Texas to Maryland.

In the wake of the select committee vote, Mr. Gaffney said:

"The committee is to be commended for its appreciation that Loudoun County does not need and should not allow the establishment there of a Gülen school at taxpayer expense.  Every effort must now be made to ensure that the full School Board arrives at the same, prudent conclusion by understanding and acting upon the true and unacceptable nature of the Gülenist penetration of America's public school systems."


Why judges can’t create color-blind campuses

The Supreme Court will never succeed in completely removing affirmative action from higher education

The Sixth Circuit Court’s ruling two weeks ago throwing out Michigan’s ban on racial preferences in college admissions would definitely deserve a place of honor in any top 10 list of judicial sophistries. But even if the Supreme Court reverses the ruling, universities will still find artful ways to promote their sham diversity. Instead of seeking more court intervention, defenders of color-blind campuses might serve their cause better by simply demanding more university transparency.

The Sixth Circuit has been trying to thwart Michigan’s quest for race neutrality in government hiring and admissions ever since two lawsuits challenging the University of Michigan’s admission practices made a stop in its chambers en route to the Supreme Court about a decade ago. The Supreme Court eventually outlawed the blatant racial double standard that the school’s undergraduate program employed but allowed its law school’s more individualized consideration of race. However, Michigan voters in 2006 amended the state constitution by a 58-42 margin barring all discrimination—big or small—by race, sex, and national origin.

However, the Sixth Circuit has now ruled that Michigan’s ban against discrimination is itself discriminatory. It violates the 14th Amendment’s guarantee of equal protection because it leaves minorities who want racial preferences in admissions no option but to mount a counter referendum. But students who want, say, their family connections or their socio-economic background considered can lobby the admissions committee or the university officials or the governing board. “The existence of such a comparative structural burden undermines the Equal Protection Clause’s guarantee that all citizens ought to have equal access to the tools of political change,” the court averred.

But the same might be said, points out Roger Clegg of the Center for Equal Opportunity, of a Ku Klux Klan member who wants a whites-only admissions policy. Would the court have qualms about placing a “structural burden” on his rights?

Michigan’s attorney general is appealing the ruling to the Supreme Court. If the court’s conservative majority sides with him and rules against the University of Texas’ race-based admissions policies in a separate case (to be decided any minute), opponents of affirmative action believe that a new age of color-blind campuses will dawn in the country.

But that is a triumph of hope over experience.

For starters, throwing out racial preferences that benefit minorities while leaving intact (as both Michigan and Texas do) alumni preferences that predominantly favor whites will not advance the cause of racial justice. Why? Because it will open minority seats to competition by whites, but not white seats to competition by minorities. Those who are serious about race neutrality have to scrap both simultaneously or lose moral credibility.

But if they don’t like this reason, there are others.

Regardless of what the court decides, neither private nor public universities will give up racial preferences: private universities because the rulings won’t apply to them—and public universities because they will ignore the rulings.

This is not a hunch. This is what they’ve always done.

The University of Texas, for example, pioneered the so-called 10 percent solution for the explicit purpose of getting around the 5th Circuit Court’s ban on race. Under this solution, it automatically admits the top 10 percent of every school’s graduating class, including inner-city schools, something that allows it to boost its minority numbers while pretending to be race-neutral.

The University of Michigan, meanwhile, has replaced race with its proxy, zip code. It filters applicants based on where they live, giving those who come from predominantly minority neighborhoods a leg up in admissions. The upshot is that, despite the ban, its minority numbers have barely budged, according to UCLA law professor Rick Sander, who obtained the university’s admissions data through a Freedom of Information Request.

Forcing universities to give up such shenanigans and comply with court orders would require constant scrutiny and legal challenges by watchdog groups whom universities will easily outspend and outlawyer. And there are plenty of judges around eager to enable universities, as the Sixth Circuit demonstrates.

The best among bad options might be full disclosure laws requiring universities that receive federal funding to reveal what admission standards they use for which group—minorities, alumni, athletes, donors—along with their graduation rates. This will expose any admissions double standard whether toward minorities or rich white legacies and cause elite universities to risk their reputational appeal.

What’s more, race-conscious admission policies produce an unusually high drop out rate among minorities by placing them in academic environments for which they are unprepared, Sander has found. Publicly available graduation rates will allow minority kids to pick colleges commensurate with their level of preparedness, preventing them from being set up for failure.

Universities are out of control, no doubt. But informed consumers might hem them in more effectively than court diktats.


Numeracy in England slipping

One in four adults has the maths skills of a nine-year-old or worse and struggles with the most basic everyday sums.

According to a shock report, more than eight million adults in England are considered to lack even basic numeracy.

The figures in the Skills For Life survey reveal that this quarter of the population has difficulty in understanding price labels and the sums involved in paying household bills.

Their abilities are on a par with those expected of pupils at primary school aged between seven to nine.

In an even more disturbing development, the number of adults in this group is nearly a million more than it was a decade ago.  This is despite a stream of costly initiatives in recent years designed to improve adult numeracy.

A further nine million adults have the maths skills expected of a child aged nine to 11.  Those in this group are likely to struggle in calculating change, using train timetables or working out deductions on their pay slip.

The Skills For Life survey revealed that altogether 49 per cent of working-age adults in England – about 17million in total – have the maths skills of a child at primary school.

Numbers had risen from 15million in 2003, when a similar survey was conducted.

The report also revealed that fewer than one in five 16 to 18-year-olds can demonstrate skills equivalent to a grade A* to C pass in maths at GCSE.  This is despite the A* to C pass rate for the GCSE exam now being 60 per cent.

Chris Humphries, chairman of the charity National Numeracy, said: ‘This discrepancy is both puzzling and worrying for everyone involved in education and merits further investigation.

The survey, which questioned 7,200 people aged 16 to 65, also revealed that more than five million adults – 15 per cent of the working population – struggle with simple reading and writing.

The Department for Business, which released the 400-page report, admitted that English and maths skills had ‘a long way to go’.

Ministers said improving basic skills was vital to a ‘thriving economy’.

Labour launched a major campaign in 2000 to boost the basic skills of adults but it is said to have mainly benefited literacy, where performance has improved since 2003.

Ministers said that tough new English Baccalaureate Certificates to replace GCSEs from 2017 in core subjects would help to boost standards in both English and maths.

From September of next year, new study programmes will require pupils to keep working towards GCSEs in maths and English if they failed to achieve them by the age of 16.

Free maths and English GCSE courses are now available for adults, and other qualifications for those with lower skills levels.

The survey, which questioned adults for whom English is their first language, found that literacy skills were worst in London and the North-East.

Numeracy skills were worst in the North-East, followed by London and the East Midlands.

Skills minister Matthew Hancock said: ‘Good English and maths are vital for getting a job and playing a full part in society.

‘We have doubled the funding for adult English and maths because they are so important.

‘I would urge anyone who is struggling to take advantage of the provision that is on offer, which now includes maths and English GCSEs for adults who missed out the first time round.

‘These essential skills are the building blocks of a productive society and a thriving economy. I am determined that everyone should have the chance to achieve their very best.’


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