Tuesday, July 08, 2014

Vancouver Schools' New LGBTTQ+ Policy Includes Gender-Free Pronouns Xe, Xem and Xyr

The Vancouver (British Columbia) Board of Education has approved a sweeping new policy for accommodating lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, two-spirit, queer, questioning and “all sexual and gender identities,” including the creation of three pronouns, replacing masculine and feminine with xe, xem and xyr (pronounced ze, zem and zur).

Two spirit is an Aboriginal term which means having both feminine and masculine spirits. It's not limited to gender expression or sexuality, but encompasses them both while incorporating a spiritual element. It's a standalone identity, not an Aboriginal term for gay lesbian.

The Vancouver Board of Education's policy also includes making restroom and sports activities accessible to all transgender students, regardless of their biological sex.

“Absolutely,” Mike Lombardi, vice chairman of the board told CNSNews.com when asked about the new policy as reported by the Vancouver Sun. “We’ve been very, very progressive.”

Lombardi said the new LGBTTQ+ policy is designed “to create a safe learning environment for every child.”

The new policy, Lombardi said, will allow children of every sexual orientation “to learn and thrive.”

The June 17 article in the Sun said the policy angered many parents who protested at meetings leading up to the vote on the new policy, a fact Lombardi acknowledged.

“It has not been without controversy,” Lombardi told CNSNews.com. “The Christian right opposed it, but we got tremendous support from most people.”

The documents describing the new policy, provided to CNSNews.com by Lombardi, provide details about the board’s commitment to “establishing and maintaining a safe, inclusive, equitable and welcoming learning and working environment regardless of real or perceived sexual orientations, gender identities, and gender expressions.”

Under the heading “Names and Pronouns,” the policy states: “Trans students will be addressed by the names and pronouns [they] prefer to use.”

Under the heading “Sex-Segregated Activities,” the policy states: "Schools will reduce or eliminate the practice of segregating students by sex. In situations where students are segregated by sex, trans students will have the option to be included in the group that corresponds to their gender identity.”

Under the heading “Access to Physical Education and Sports,” the policy states: “Where possible, students will be permitted to participate in any sex-segregated recreational and competitive athletic activities, in accordance with their gender identity.”

Under the heading “Washroom and Change Room Accessibility,” the policy states: “Trans students shall have access to the washroom and change room that corresponds with the gender identity.” It also calls on all schools and worksites to “make available a single stall gender-neutral washroom.”

Under the heading “Counseling and School Support,” the policy states: “Elementary and secondary schools appoint at least one staff person to be a Safe Contact who is able to act as a resource person for LGBTTQ+ students, staff and families.” It also states that “all secondary schools are supported in establishing and maintaining Gay Queer/Straight Alliance Clubs” on campuses.

Under the heading “Leadership,” the board states it will “consult with the Pride Advisory Committee to ensure that policy directions, priorities and implementation of programs and services are consistent with the Sexual Orientation and Gender Identities Policy.”

The section also states that “staff will not refer students to programs or services that attempt to change a student’s sexual orientation or gender identity.”

The policy document also includes a glossary of LBGTTQ+ terms. In it, homophobia is defined as “The fear, ignorance and mistreatment of people who are, or are perceived to be, lesbian, gay or bisexual.”

“I am so proud to support these policy revisions,” Patti Bacchus, chairwoman of the board, is quoted as saying in the Sun article. “I had no idea how important they were until what we went through with this process ... I didn’t realize how much opposition there was out there in our communities to keeping kids safe and included and welcome.”


British Middle-classes 'forced out of private schools' as fees soar

Private education is becoming “increasingly unaffordable” for the middle-classes following a four-fold rise in school fees in little over 20 years, according to a major study.

Parents in traditionally well-paid careers such as accountancy, law, finance and academia are now less likely to afford an independent education than plumbers were in the early 90s, it emerged.

In a report, it was claimed that the rise in school fees had outstripped wages by such an extent that private schools were increasingly becoming the preserve of super-rich foreigners.

Figures suggest that an infant enrolled at a private day school this September will ultimately cost their parents £271,000 in fees and added extras by the time they take their A-levels in 13 years’ time – more than the average house price.

A boarding education will stand at some £435,000, it was claimed, and approach close to £1m for two children.

The disclosure – in a study commissioned by the stockbroker Killik & Co – will prompt fresh concerns that independent education is becoming out of reach for the average family.

It comes just days after the Sutton Trust, a social mobility charity, called on the government to invest around £215m a year to subsidise fees and enable private schools to take pupils from a broader range of social backgrounds.

The action is needed to help schools shake off their image as “bastions of privilege”, it was claimed.

The Independent Schools Council defended the system, insisting fee rises had slowed in recent years and record sums – £320m – were being spent on means-tested bursaries.

They also pointed to figures showing that the UK’s private schools were among the best in the world.

But the Killik Private Education Index said the type of family that could afford private school fees “has changed dramatically since 1990”.

It added: “It is less likely to be the archetypal middle-class professional and more likely to be high net worth individuals, increasingly international. Many established independent schools like Eton and Harrow educate the children of some of China’s wealthiest multimillionaires.

“The average doctor, accountant or professional is not the typical private-school parent – at least, not any longer.”

The Killik study, carried out by the Centre for Economics and Business Research, analysed data on school fees and average earnings over the last 24 years. It also estimated rises to be expected over the next 14 years.

The study found that average annual day fees had more than quadrupled since 1990 – from £2,985 to £12,700 in 2014. Boarding fees soared from £6,800 to £28,800.

It said that overall fees have increased by more than 300 per cent while wages have risen by just 76 per cent over the same period.

The study suggested that spending on teachers’ pay combined with investment in expensive buildings and equipment may have driven some of the rise.

Researchers compared fees – and other costs – with wages to find how much of parents’ disposable income would be taken up by private schooling.

In 1990, average day fees, plus extras, for one child would have taken up 19 per cent of the average doctors’ salary, compared with 23 per cent for solicitors, 30 per cent for academics and 29 per cent for accountants. A plumber would have been required to put aside 39 per cent while fees would have taken 47.5 per cent of a construction worker’s salary.

But by 2014, fees for one child accounted for 36 per cent of a doctor’s disposable income, 47 per cent for a fund manager, 50 per cent for a solicitor, 51 per cent for an academic and 59 per cent for an accountant.

For most professional occupations listed, the proportion of income spent on school fees in 2014 was higher than the rate for a plumber and even a construction worker 24 years ago.

By 2027, researchers estimate that day fees will more than double again to £27,400, with a further £3,000-a-year needed for extras such as music lessons, uniforms and school trips.

It would result in a total price tag of £271,000, or £526,000 for two children.

The study suggests that a parent sending one child to boarding school from the age of 13 – after eight years at a day school – would be required to pay £435,000 or £831,000 for two children.

It suggests that fees for a single child will account for more than 50 per cent of a doctor’s disposable income, rising to 66 per cent for fund managers, 70.5 per cent for solicitors, 72 per cent for academics, 83 per cent for accountants. Costs would exceed the total amount of disposal income for a plumber – 102 per cent – and stand at 114 per cent for construction workers and 128 per cent for members of the clergy.

“Most people associate the professional classes with the main clientele of private schools," the study said. “We find that was perhaps true in 1990, when an average professional salary could cover the cost of private education. But professional salaries have not risen at the same rate that private school fees have since.

“Across a number of occupations, over time, a progressively bigger chunk of an average salary goes on school bills and the ‘educational extras’.”

The study said it will be all but impossible for single-earner families to cover fees, adding: “The rise of two-earner households may be supporting private school affordability.”

Researchers added that parents would increasingly be forced to consider a mixed economy of state and fee-paying schooling in the future. Families taking the “state till eight” route – with pupils enrolled in state primary schools for the first three or four years – will save £94,000, the report said. The “state till 11” option would save almost £175,000.

But Barnaby Lenon, chairman of the Independent Schools Council, said: “Independent schools recognise the pressures that parents are under and work hard to keep fees as low as possible. Last year annual fee rises were therefore the lowest for almost 20 years. This has helped to ensure that independent schools remain very popular with parents.

“There are now more pupils at ISC schools than there were last year, and more than there were in 2008 at the start of the economic downturn.

“Schools remain affordable to a wide range of families via our incredibly strong bursary programmes. Over a third of all pupils at ISC schools receive help with their fees. Last year, ISC schools provided over £320 million in means-tested bursaries and the total value of bursaries at ISC schools has risen by 27 per cent since 2010, well above the rate of any fee rises.

“Most independent schools are charities and their fees therefore reflect their costs. Schools have faced substantial increases in their costs in recent years, well above the rate of CPI inflation, including rising management and administration costs, welfare costs, staffing costs and food and energy costs.


Academia and the people without jobs

The 1960s are over. When are we going to wake up and realize that it’s 2014 and our academic paradise is a smoldering ash heap, a sad leftover from thirty something years of complete and utter demolition? We no longer have a booming economy and tons of federal money going into the university system. The days of cheap, accessible higher ed are done and gone. And yet, we keep churning out graduate students as if they, too, are going to end up as university professors. As if each and every one of them will soon have their own hip little office full of books, dedicated students, and bright, starry-eyed careers ahead of them. It’s not happening. Paradise. In. Ashes.

In other words: there are no jobs in academia.

I’m a graduate student in anthropology. Ya, the discipline that Forbes rated as the “least valued” in all of the land. Lucky me. Over the years, people have often asked me: “Anthropology eh? So what are you going to do with that?” My response was invariably a version of something like “Well, there’s a LOT I can do with anthropology.” That usually followed with me thinking—hoping—that there actually was something on the other side.

There may not be anything on the other side.

Me, and thousands of others learned that lesson the hard way. We spent about a decade learning how to become academics, only to realize the dream has already passed. We’re all trained for positions that don’t exist. We’ve been prepared for a way of life that is rapidly vanishing before our eyes (the secure, tenured academic). We go into debt because of a strange “loyalty oath to an imagined employer” (as Sarah Kendzior recently put it) that certainly doesn’t come knocking the day you graduate.

We’ve been had. And we walked right into it.

I realized how bad things were when I was about half way through my PhD program—and it didn’t help that the global economy was literally crashing right when I started. You know, the whole “Great Recession” thing. After one year, I nearly dropped out. Looking back, maybe that would have been the better decision. But, for some reason, I kept going…in part because of a vague hope that things would somehow “work out.” I too pinned my hopes on that imagined employer.

No prospects yet. But I persist. I keep pushing forward, telling myself that it will be better if I just finish this damn degree. So many of us keep going. Why?

Maybe we’re all in denial. Or perhaps we believe so strongly in the potential of higher education that we choose to look the other way when we start hearing all those rumors about the dreaded, desperate job market. We believe in some idealistic, romantic version of higher education so deeply that we ignore the hard truths that stare us right in the face. Maybe our faith in the idea that learning is about more than just “getting a job” has blinded us to the fact that deeply indebted graduates with few job prospects are hardly going to be able to be those “few caring people” who can change the world.

We have to open our eyes. Because it’s pretty much impossible to change the world when you have the weight of compound interest grinding into your soul. When the debt collection letters flood you mailbox. When the phone calls won’t stop.

The reality is this: maybe we don’t want to accept reality. Maybe we simply don’t want to admit how bad things are. We don’t want to acknowledge that our prized possession—higher education—has run off the rails. We tell ourselves that the institution of higher ed is still doing fine, thank you very much. But it’s not. Imagine applying for graduate school and getting an acceptance letter that actually told you how it is in grad school:

Dear Esteemed Applicant,

We, the faculty at the University of the Real World, want to formally congratulate you and inform you that you have been accepted into our doctoral program. You will be provided funding, but unless you have a lot of financial resources, you’re more than likely going to end up with debilitating debt. Your living costs and other expenses may be overwhelming, so you’ll need credit cards and student loans to shore up your finances. We cannot guarantee any sort of employment after you spend 5-10 years of your life working your ass off in our program. In fact, getting a job in academia is beyond a long shot for most people. But hey, you could get lucky. Regardless, we’re still training students as if it’s still the 1960s. But don’t despair—you might be able to land an adjunct gig. Welcome aboard. Please pay your tuition promptly or you will not be able to register for classes. We accept Visa, Mastercard, and American Express.
Faculty of URW

What would you do if you got a letter like that? Would you accept? Hell no you wouldn’t. Yes, of course the above letter is satirical and stupid and ridiculous—but it’s not far from the truth for many students currently trying to plow through graduate school before they reach the point of complete economic and emotional devastation. Things are that bad. But you’re not going to see universities and academic departments speaking to the situation. They keep reeling those students in with stories about “career opportunities” and other good PR. Ya, right.

The job market in academia isn’t just lukewarm. It’s not “Well, it could be better.” It is, as Karen Kelsky once said, imploding. Meanwhile, many tenured faculty members continue to stand on the sidelines, safe in their own positions, as the collapse ensues:

today’s tenured professors indeed accrued privilege by virtue of birth: they were born early enough to enter the job market and rise through its ranks before the total implosion of the university hiring economy. Yes, the academic job market was tight in the 1980s and 1990s. Sure it was; I was there! But tight is not the same thing as decimated. The tenured may have struggled mightily to find work, but there was still work to find, when universities had not yet begun the aggressive process of downsizing, shrinking the faculty, and eradicating lines.
Megan McArdle’s piece on Bloomberg builds off Kelsky’s argument, and puts the brutality of the situation into sharp relief:

"academia is now one of the most exploitative labor markets in the world. It’s not quite up there with Hollywood and Broadway in taking kids with a dream and encouraging them to waste the formative decade(s) of their work life chasing after a brass ring that they’re vanishingly unlikely to get, then dumping them on the job market with fewer employment prospects than they had at 22. But it certainly seems to be trying to catch up."

Ok, sure, there are some jobs in academia. But the chance of getting one of them is so infinitesimally small that grad students might be better off buying quick-picks at the local 7-11 than spending 6-10 years of their lives slogging away at a PhD that doesn’t even lead to anything remotely worth the time and effort. It seems that everyone knows about the bad job market. We all know. But for some reason the grad students keep trudging forward. Behind them, legions of new graduate students send in applications and willingly join the whole fiasco. It all begins to look like The Grapes of Wrath, when thousands and thousands of people made their way to the golden hills of California…only to find out that all of the promised jobs didn’t exist and people were so desperate they were willing to work for almost anything. We all know how that turned out. Can anyone say “cheap labor source”? Yet we keep going. Hoping.

This isn’t a new story. Early in 2013, Sarah Kendzior highlighted the role that faith—or hope—plays in maintaining the current status quo:

The most unnerving thing I see in the job market nowadays—academic or otherwise—is people working in terrible conditions in the hope of a future that never comes. Hope is something you should have for other people, not for yourself. Hope holds you down and blinds you to possibilities.
The future that never comes. That’s what keeps us all going. So we work harder, hoping to be the one who makes it through. Hoping that just one more grant, paper, or presentation will be the magic bullet that leads to success. Despite all the evidence, despite the odds, we push forward. We all push—and we end up crushing ourselves like a frenzied crowd.

The numbers are not on our side. If you don’t believe me, have a look at this chart. Do you see? That’s approximately 36,000 new PhDs each year, and only around 3,000 new positions created.


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