Friday, November 14, 2014

Fat Black Feminist Professor Sued for Altercation With Pro-Life Demonstrators

The Life Legal Defense Foundation (LLDF) filed a civil suit Thursday against the University of California and Professor Mireille Miller-Young seeking “compensation for physical battery, property theft and civil rights violations” following an on-campus altercation in March with pro-life demonstrators.

Miller-Young, an assistant professor in the Feminist Studies Department at the university’s Santa Barbara campus (USCB), was convicted in July of stealing a pro-life sign from the group of demonstrators in a specially designated free speech area on campus and assaulting a teenaged member of the group.

“This is a mature, supposedly educated woman charged by the University of California to convey knowledge, and instead she conveyed discrimination and intolerance. Not only was she out of line in attacking students, but she literally drew blood from a minor,” said Dana Cody, LLDF’s president and executive eirector.

The altercation leading to the lawsuit arose when Miller-Young grabbed a sign from a group of pro-life activists led by 21-year-old Joan Short. She later claimed that she was “triggered” by the images of aborted babies.

Miller-Young then pushed and scratched Joan’s 16-year-old sister, Thrin Short, who caught the incident on video. Miller-Young got away with the sign and later destroyed it in her office.

After the Shorts filed a complaint, the professor told police that she felt she had “a moral right” to steal the sign and that she believed “she set a good example for her students” by encouraging them to help her.

Miller-Young entered a plea of "not guilty" to misdemeanor theft, battery and vandalism charges on April 4th before changing her plea to "no contest" in July. She was sentenced to three years of probation, 108 hours of community service, and 10 hours of anger management classes.

“Miller-Young has not apologized for her physical attack on Thrin Short, nor has the university condemned the criminal actions of its employee, who remains listed in the faculty directory,” LLDF pointed out following the sentencing.

The civil complaint states that instead of an apology, university officials ridiculed Miller-Young’s pro-life victims.

“On March 21, 2014, Michael Young, Vice-Chancellor of UCSB, sent an e-mail to students and faculty warning that the campus was being visited by ‘the most recent generation of true believers, self-proclaimed prophets, and provocateurs,’ including ‘anti-abortion crusaders'," the lawsuit states.

George Foulsham, UCSB's director of news and media relations, told that UCSB was “unaware of the filing of such an action.” sent him a copy of the lawsuit, but he did not reply to repeated requests for further comment.


Educational Fraud

It would be unreasonable to expect a student with the reading, writing and computing abilities of an eighth-grader to do well in college. If such a student were admitted, his retention would require that the college create dumbed-downed or phantom courses.

The University of North Carolina made this accommodation; many athletes were enrolled in phantom courses in the department of African and African-American studies. The discovery and resulting scandal are simply the tip of the iceberg and a symptom of a much larger problem.

A UNC learning specialist hired to help athletes found that during the years 2004 to 2012, 60 percent of 183 members of the football and basketball teams read between fourth- and eighth-grade levels. Eight to 10 percent read below a third-grade level. These were black high-school graduates, and their high-school diplomas were clearly fraudulent.

How cruel is it for UNC to admit students who have little chance of academically competing on the same basis as its other students? Black students so ill-equipped run the risk of ridicule and reinforcing white stereotypes of black mental incompetence. If these students are to retain their athletic eligibility or minimum GPA requirements, universities must engage in academic fraud.

Academic fraud benefits the entire university community except the black students. If universities can maintain the scholar-athlete charade, they earn tens of millions of dollars in sports revenue. Other than as a pretense, academics can be ignored. The university just has to create academic slums, where weak students can "succeed." Stronger academic departments benefit because they do not have to compromise their standards and bear the burden of having to deal with weak students.

Then there's that feather in the diversity hat upon which university administrators are fixated. I guarantee you that academic fraud is by no means unique to UNC. As such, it represents gross dereliction and dishonesty on the parts of university administrators and faculty members.

Unfortunately, and to the detriment of black people, there is broad support among black members of the academic community for practices that lead to academic fraud. In the wake of the UNC scandal, the Carolina Black Caucus — a campus group of administrators, staff and faculty — rushed to the defense of the black athletes and the department of African and African-American studies, claiming an unfair investigation and unfair public and media attack. One campus student group said that the student-athlete fraud scandal is actually a result of "white supremacist, heteropatriarchal capitalism."

Focusing solely on the academic problems of blacks at the college level misses the point. It is virtually impossible to repair 12 years of rotten primary and secondary education in the space of four or five years of college. Proof of that is black student performance on postgraduate tests, such as the GRE, LSAT and MCAT. The black-white achievement gap on those tests is just as wide as it is on the SAT or ACT, which high schoolers take. That's evidence that primary and secondary education deficiencies have not been repaired during undergraduate years.

The academic achievement level for white students is nothing to write home about. Only 25 percent of white high-school graduates taking the 2011 ACT met its benchmarks for college readiness in all subjects for which it tests. Only 4 percent of black students were college-ready in all subjects, according to their scores on the ACT.

The high academic failure rate among blacks means one of two things. Either black students cannot learn; or primary and secondary schools, parental choices, black student attitudes, and cultural values regarding education are not conducive to what young blacks need for academic excellence.

Colleges admitting under-performing black students conceal, foster and perpetuate the educational damages done to these youngsters in their earlier education.


Students are Fleeing Common Core's Sinking Ship

With policies like this, sometimes the only thing left to do is abandon ship.

It is fairly common knowledge by now that most people aren’t happy with the Common Core education standards that state and federal governments are trying to ram down their throats. From needlessly convoluted math problems to anti-American history curricula, Common Core makes education a maddening chore for students, parents, and teachers alike.

But what can parents do? Schooling is compulsory, and most people don’t have the money to pay the expensive tuition at private schools. Even if they did, more private schools are choosing to align with the standards, fearing a lack of preparation for standardized tests will hurt their bottom line. Thus, it would seem that there is no escape for those who want their children to actually learn how to think rather than be subjected to the mindless and rote methodology encouraged by Common Core.

But looks can be deceiving. In fact, parents do have an escape hatch, and one that they are increasingly eager to use: the option to homeschool their children.

In North Carolina, homeschoolers now outnumber children enrolled in private school. Today, more than 150,000 North Carolinians are being educated at home. Compare this to a private school enrollment of about 96,000 and the fact that the largest public school district in the state has 143,000 students, and this is a pretty impressive statistic. It’s also shown significant growth of 14 percent over last year.

Dissatisfaction with Common Core and the state of public education in general is only one of the factors driving increases in homeschooling in North Carolina. The state has relatively relaxed laws about homeschooling, making home education a relatively more attractive option than in states that more actively regulate the process. The interesting point is that when parents are given a choice, without the government throwing barriers in their way, more and more are choosing to opt out of the traditional school system, surely an indication of how broken public schools have become.

The American people have spoken, and are continuing to speak about their distaste for government controls on education. From No Child Left Behind, to Head Start, and now Common Core, federal meddling has never resulted in improved education outcomes, regardless of how many tax dollars are thrown at the problem. As in all other markets, choice and competition yield the best results.

The fact that North Carolinian parents are in open rebellion against the education bureaucracy proves the abject failure of a top-down, one size fits all government program in a field so diverse as the molding of young, individual minds.


Australia: Back to exams rather than university assessment

In my undergraduate years in the early 1980s I once stood up in class and challenged the lecturer for setting a 100 per cent end-of-semester exam. University policy gave students the right to be consulted on how they were evaluated and we lefty students were in favour of continuous assessment – several pieces of work rather than just one big roll of the dice. It seemed fairer. Now, having worked for 25 years as an academic, I have changed my mind.

This is not because I've become a born-again traditionalist - exams can be brutal and are not always the best measure of ability - but because the internet has changed things completely. There seems to be no alternative. Cheating is so easy that even the most credulous academic finds it hard to trust prepared work. This week's revelation of the widespread trade in ghost-written essays simply confirms anecdotal evidence that some students are gaming the system.

We often hear from students that they are pushed for time, that part-time jobs and personal commitments get in the way of essay deadlines. But many find it hard to avoid the temptation to procrastinate, because the laptops on which they research and write are also devices for play and communication. Of these a small number might be tempted to buy essays as a way of crisis managing the consequences of poor time management.

Others cheat because their writing skills are underdeveloped and they are convinced they will fail. This is a particular problem for overseas students from non-English-speaking backgrounds. There have been numerous reports of fraud in English-language testing like IELTS and so it is clear that some are admitted to degree courses without the language skills necessary for academic writing. Nobody enjoys assessing the work of someone who, while probably capable of great lucidity in their first language, has such poor grammar and syntax when writing in English.

The other factor that drives the increased readiness to cheat is that where students pay for their education, and where they believe they are likely to fail, there is a clear material incentive. It may cost a couple of hundred dollars to buy an essay, but the expense is much higher if you have to repeat the course/unit, especially for fee-paying overseas students.

If buying essays is a problem, plagiarism is a bigger one. It can begin at school, where overworked teachers find it difficult to deter lazy cut-and-paste habits, and can continue into post-school education. Much has been written about universities' use of plagiarism detection software, but this is by no means fail-safe. Not all sources are searchable, but more importantly university misconduct processes are so time consuming that many academics would rather avoid them and find other grounds to fail a student's work when they suspect cheating. Many are, like careworn old school cops, frustrated when students evade the rap on appeal, or receive lenient punishment.

So in this age of drag and drop, of online trade in essays, exams are something of a last resort: not ideal but a better way to test ability than the alternatives. They do not suit the students who suffer a form of stage fright under exam conditions but there are things we can do to mitigate this – give them much more time than they should ordinarily need, and even provide them with sample questions beforehand.

Those of us from universities that embrace the "anywhere-anytime" world of blended learning are being encouraged to use online assessment. Why, we are asked, do all students need to be simultaneously in the one place when sitting an exam? Earlier this year for the first time, I set a web-based 30-minute quiz that could be started by students at any time in a 90-minute window in the comfort of their study or bedroom (or on their smartphone in the shopping mall if they wished). This seemed to work reasonably well, but there is really no way for us to prevent collusion unless students are gathered together in a room under conditions of invigilation.

But this is the era of the sovereign educational consumer whose satisfaction is paramount. Those of us who work in universities know that, in a system where funding follows student demand, we have jobs only because they choose to study with us. But is there a tension between student satisfaction and scholarly rigour?

Academic promotion and career prospects depend on students approving of our work. Teaching evaluation surveys are now completely standard, even required in many universities. Obviously those with lively and compelling teaching techniques perform better in these surveys but it is also true that lecturers who lavish praise on their students, evaluate them highly, are themselves more likely to receive higher ratings.

The most damaging thing about the revelations of systematic cheating is that they undermine public confidence in the integrity of universities, suggesting that mediocrity has displaced meritocracy. In the deregulated environment being proposed by Christopher Pyne, this is only likely to get worse. If a degree is primarily a market commodity, and where universities rely more and more on the profits from selling that commodity, then it stands to reason that it will be a struggle to maintain academic standards.

The various scandals from the vocational education sector - where overseas students pay hefty fees for sham courses to fulfil their visa requirements – are salutary. They might provide a taste of what is to come for universities. Maybe the only solution is to get back to basics.


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