Wednesday, May 21, 2014

U.S. Lifts Deportation Threat for Homeschooling Family

Obama clearly shrank back from the massive confrontations that conservatives would have given him as soon as he attempted to deport these people

Uwe and Hannelore Romeike—and their seven children—are breathing more easily after the Department of Homeland Security told them last month that it had reversed its earlier decision to deport them back to their native Germany, where they were in violation of laws that prohibit homeschooling. Their seven-year ordeal has finally ended. But until the decision was announced in April, the Romeikes were living a nightmare: repatriation could have meant criminal prosecution by German officials.

As Independent Institute Research Fellow Vicki E. Alger notes in the Daily Caller, the Romeike family had been granted legal asylum in the United States in 2010 only to see that status revoked by the Board of Immigration Appeals two years later. One year after that, on June 26, 2013, the Department of Justice told the U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals that Germany’s government had every right to prohibit homeschooling and therefore Uwe, Hannelore, and their kids did not warrant asylum in the United States. Ironically, the U.S. government’s lawyers asserted that deportation was justified because Germany’s homeschooling laws were designed to teach tolerance!

The reversal is great news for the Romeike family. “For the nation, this family’s saga serves as a refresher course on the true origins of our fundamental rights,” Alger writes. Their saga also teaches a negative lesson, Alger adds: “An administration that would deport a family for doing just that should leave all Americans unsettled.”


Can the Academy be Reformed? Probably Not but There’s Hope

I'm a politically conservative academic who frequently encounters like-minded folk unfamiliar with today's campus. Almost invariably, I'm asked about loony professors, screwy courses built around racial/ethnic grievances and the liberal bias infusing so much of their research. "Surly we can do something about this mess," they ask...hopefully.

My response is always the same: yes, what you observe is sometimes true but it's a complicated story not suitable for a brief conversation, so perhaps over a few beers, I'll explain why restoring sanity is more arduous than you think. Alas, the opportunity for that fuller account never seems to arrive so let me explain the situation here. Caution: what follows is a bit depressing but I will conclude on an upbeat note.

Let's begin with some extreme classroom ideology mongering--Brent Terry, professor of Creative Writing, who told his Eastern Connecticut State University students that Republicans are "racist, misogynist, money-grubbing people" and that "colleges will start closing up" if they re-take the U.S. Senate." He further added that Republicans "want things to go back-not to 1955, but to 1855," and that they do not want minorities and young people to vote." This is not invented-everything, every single lie was recorded.

At first glance, this type of abuse of classroom power certainly warrants serious investigation if not formal removal proceedings. Hard to imagine the rants on the course syllabus so Terry's behavior verges on commercial fraud-students are promised one thing for their tuition but receive something worthless.  Moreover, as far as could be inferred, Professor Terry lacks expertise on American politics so his fulmination is without pedagogical value. If undergraduates want radical political polemics, they can attend campus lectures by visiting Marxists.

Can the Left be prevented from indoctrinating students under the guise of educating them? Based upon my decades of academic experience, the answer is "not much." Professor Terry's colleagues (many who probably share his views) will predictably cry free speech to justify his ill-informed musings while the professor himself will assert that he only tried to "get his students thinking about timely issues" and perhaps, he might confess, he got too emotional but no harm was intended.

I doubt Professor Terry would suffer anything worse than an official letter cautioning him about "offending" students. In today's university, firing professor for unprofessional conduct is exceeding rare and, if done, usually involves failure to perform essential duties like showing up for class, repeated blatant sexual exploitation or chronic racial/gender offensiveness. Bashing the GOP doesn't count.

Moral of the story I: removing unprofessional ideologues like Professor Terry is an unwinnable battle. Better to expend the effort elsewhere.

Far more consequential than turning the classroom into a bully pulpit is the one-sided research published by the armies of PC faculty.  These studies often shape public debate, guide court decisions and find their way into legislation. The damage here can be immense but outsiders barely notice. Unfortunately, it is far easier to scrutinize Professor Brent Terry than read boring one-sided scholarly tomes.

The problem here is that un-PC research will seldom, if ever see the light of day thanks to having to run a gauntlet dominated by those with an ideological ax to grind. In today's academy, if you want success, don't rock the PC boat. This is invisible censorship, so to speak.

Consider the fate of Mark Regnerus, a University of Texas sociologist who in 2012 published an empirical study in a peer-reviewed journal demonstrating that same-sex parents faced severe disadvantages vis-à-vis different sex parents when raising children. Social conservatives were delighted but soon the roof fell in. Critics pointed out that his one study contradicted three decades of research showing no difference while the study's technical choices were endlessly picked apart. Critics also noted the Regnerus's study benefited from $700,000 in conservative funding. Two-hundred social scientists signed a letter deploring the study's "scholarly merit" and the peer-review journal that published it conducted an investigation into the anonymous reviewers and found blatant conflicts among those approving publication.

Regnerus responded to his adversaries in detail, but his defense has been drowned out by far more numerous critics. Moreover, and speaking as one who has conducted such research for decades, no social science research can survive relentless nitpicking-there's always a different way of doing things. No doubt, if the exact same data were twisted to show that children raised by gay parents had the best possible home life, Regnerus's research would have gone unchallenged.

Moral of the Story II: Be suspicious about an academic study on some hot button issue. That it survived close scrutiny by the PC crowd tells you something.  Seek truth elsewhere.

But, do not abandon hope.  First, campus life in the sciences, engineering, and elsewhere are unaffected by madness. Few journalists report on Berkeley's department of Molecular and Cell Biology; far more attention-grabbing is to expose how campus Stalinists have yet again disputed a talk by an Israeli diplomat.

Moreover, distinguished scholars are finally abandoning the PC faith, for example, there's Harvard's Steven Pinker's whose Pulitzer Prize nominated Blank Slate rejects the environmental determinism dominating today's social science. An alternative universe of think-tanks and policy centers now sponsors research impermissible on today's PC campus. Think Thomas Sowell at the Hoover Institution, Charles Murray at AEI, Andrew Coulson at CATO, among dozens more. None of these scholars are employable at today's universities but all regularly publish widely read "heresies" (The Bell Curve sold over 400,000 copies).

There is also a growing public awareness that the college degrees, especially in such "soft" fields as English are not worth the skyrocketing cost (and this includes Professor Terry specialty, Creative Writing). The academic ideologues who dominate the humanities and social sciences will soon preach to shrinking captive audience and, eventually, these infected departments will shrivel as youngsters switch to more lucrative fields such as engineering or even plumbing.

The best news is that the marketplace of ideas does work, albeit slowly. My sense-and I stress that this is purely anecdotal-is that today's campus-based social science research is gradually sliding into irrelevance while research conducted in privately sponsored think tanks grows more prominent. Perhaps in a decade, Brent Terry and his PC co-believers will be treated as comic figures, good a for a few laughs, and all of today's PC flavored academic research will be put on library shelves right next to archaic treatises on astrology.

Moral of the story III: Yes, today's Left-dominated universities may cause the blood to boil, but matters are improving, and those of us who want this change should focus on alternatives, not fight unwinnable Quixotic battles.


UK: 'Call female teachers SIR', demand feminist academics in bid to end 'sexist' culture in the classroom

When introduced to pupils as ‘Professor’, she may not have expected them to appreciate her academic achievements – but she did expect them to address her accordingly.

Instead, Jennifer Coates says she was ‘demeaned’ by the youngsters simply calling her ‘Miss’.

Professor Coates described it as ‘a depressing example of how women are given low status and men, no matter how young or new in the job they are, are given high status’.

Now the emeritus professor of English language and linguistics at Roehampton University has called for the traditional titles ‘Sir’ and ‘Miss’ to be banished from schools to stop sexist views taking root among pupils.

Her call was backed by several other academics – including one who said teachers should instead be called by their first names.

Professor Coates told how she had been introduced to pupils at Harris Girls’ Academy East Dulwich, where she was volunteering, as ‘Professor Coates’, but they soon reverted to calling her just ‘Miss’.

‘The men on the staff are all in their twenties and they were all called Sir,’ she said. ‘Sire is what you called the king. And Sir is a knight. There weren’t women knights but Miss is ridiculous: it doesn’t match Sir at all.

‘It’s just one of the names you can call an unmarried woman.’

She said that for both men and women using their ‘title plus last name would be better’.

Professor Coates, who taught a course for undergraduates on sexist language, warned that terms such as ‘Sir’ and ‘Miss’ risked reinforcing the message that ‘women are lesser beings to men’.

Their use dates back to the 16th century, when schoolmasters were often of a lower social status than the children they taught.

They insisted on being called ‘Sir’ to reinforce their authority, education historian Jacob Middleton told the Times Educational Supplement.

Meanwhile women in the late Victorian era were discouraged from working once they married, leaving schools mainly staffed by men and single women referred to as ‘Miss’.

Robin Lakoff, professor of linguistics at the University of California, Berkeley, in the US, said that Sir for male teachers ‘always conveys respect’ while Miss does not.

‘It’s very hard to create linguistic equality between people who, in many people’s minds, aren’t equal,’ she said.

‘At school, we have children who are still really only learning language. They pick up on it very readily and then the next generation gets exposed to the prejudices of the previous generation.’

Professor Sara Mills, from Sheffield Hallam University, urged schools to abandon titles altogether and allow pupils to use first names.

But Debbie Coslett, chief executive of the Brook Learning Trust, which runs three schools in the South East, said: ‘If I’m in a school where students don’t know me and they call me “Miss”, I’m fine with that. They’re showing respect by giving me a title rather than “hey” or “oi, you” or whatever.’


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