Friday, May 02, 2014

GOP's Common Core Re-brand Hustle

By Michelle Malkin

This weekend on "Fox News Sunday," anchor Chris Wallace credited his guest, Republican Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, with leading the nation as the "first state to fall out of the Common Core national education standards." If only it were true.

Wallace didn't do his homework. And presidential aspirant Pence was too busy daydreaming about 2016 to correct him.

Reality check: Last week, Pence faced the anger of hundreds of Indiana parents, educators and activists at a public Indiana Business Roundtable meeting to discuss his phony charade. The protesters openly booed Pence's derision of critics as out-of-staters and elitists. They roared their disapproval when he claimed that his "new" standards were superior and homegrown.

Indiana mom Heather Crossin, one of the earliest and strongest grassroots voices against the federalized standards/textbook/testing racket, exposed the truth: "The proposed standards are simply a cloned version of the Common Core re-branded."

Indiana mom Erin Tuttle, also a leading Hoosier activist for true academic excellence, reported that state officials had failed to prove that their "new" scheme included "internationally and nationally benchmarked" standards as required by state law.

Indiana native and Hillsdale College professor Terrence Moore, who reviewed the "new" English standards, concluded that if the proposal were turned into him as a college paper, he would give it an F and write "plagiarism" across the top. The "new" regime recycles old Common Core ideology, eschews phonics and fails to define "what constitutes good reading and good literature."

Indiana native, Stanford University emeritus math professor and former member of the Common Core math standards validation committee James Milgram blasted the "new" Indiana math standards supported by Pence and the state school board. He begged the state to ask qualified mathematicians to revise the standards. He was ignored. Milgram revealed that "there are even more errors in the current document than were present in (an earlier draft). The standards for these courses are completely disorganized and, mathematically speaking, can only be described as bizarre."

Indiana mom and vigilant education analyst Joy Pullmann added: "Pence's decision is all the more foolish because Indiana has been renowned as one of the two or three states with the highest standards in the nation. ...Now Indiana has even worse standards than the Common Core Hoosier mothers and fathers spent three exhausting years attempting to defenestrate."

It wasn't just opponents who spotlighted the "new" Indiana standards' eerie echoes of the federal Common Core program.

A pro-Common Core educator in Indiana, Tami Hicks, counseled her colleagues: "(D)on't stop your work on CCSS (Common Core State Standards) — they are just getting a new name. ... If you compare the new drafted standards to the CCSS, they will see that they are practically (or even exactly) the same."

A spokesman from Pence's office sent me materials purporting to refute the critics. But the documents he sent revealed a fascinating tidbit: Common Core architects have generously waived copyright claims on their materials, will not sue Indiana recyclers and "did not see any problems with Indiana using excerpts or portions of the Common Core State Standards within Indiana's standards." How convenient.

Pence's friend Republican Utah Gov. Gary Herbert also inadvertently spilled the beans on the Rename That Common Core Tune game. "I've talked to Gov. Pence about what they're doing there," he told a local reporter. "In essence, they're creating what's called the Indiana Core. It's not the Common Core. It's the Indiana Core, but their standards are almost mirroring exactly what's commonly referred to as the Common Core standards. So they're just doing it in a different way, which is what we've already been doing in Utah."

GOP Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer pulled a similar move, issuing an executive order last fall to whitewash "Common Core" from state government documents. She replaced the name with "Arizona's College and Career Ready Standards." But the old racket is still in place. And Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation-funded lobbyists from Achieve Inc. and the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers are still in the driver's seat.

This retreat-and-rebrand strategy was explicitly championed by Fed Ed advocate and former Arkansas GOP Gov. Mike Huckabee. Huckabee told his allies at the Gates Foundation-funded Council of Chief State School Officers earlier this year that since Common Core had become "toxic," the group needed to "re-brand it, refocus it, but don't retreat."

While disingenuous Republican governors tout their "withdrawals" from Common Core, it's more of the same old, same old: Diluted standards, tied to testing/textbook/technology cash cows, manufactured a top-down cadre of big-government D.C. education lobbyists and big-business interests, in violation of local control and state sovereignty.


Australian Education Minister wants more  private education at the top levels

Australia has a huge private sector at the High School level but not much at the university level

Education Minister Christopher Pyne has given his strongest sign yet the Abbott government will extend taxpayer funds to for-profit universities in a bid to cultivate a US-style college system in Australia.

In a speech to a London think tank on Monday night, Mr Pyne said a new wave of deregulation was needed to stop Australia's universities falling behind the rest of the world.

The speech follows the release two weeks ago of the Kemp-Norton review, which recommended federal funding for private universities, TAFEs and other non-university higher education providers.

Although Universities Australia initially warned the idea represents a "huge gamble" with potentially "devastating consequences", some of Australia's most influential vice-chancellors support the proposal. They include the University of Melbourne's Glyn Davis, the University of NSW's Fred Hilmer and La Trobe University's John Dewar.

TAFEs and the private education sector have also welcomed the review.

While not announcing the government's official response to the review, Mr Pyne strongly hinted the government would adopt the recommendation in the May budget.

"I can assure you unreservedly that the Coalition government will continue to take steps to set higher education providers free, provide them with more autonomy and challenge them to map out their futures according to their strengths," he said.

"We are at risk of being left behind. We need a renewed ambition and it must be bold … Our answer will be, above all, to set our universities free."

Regulation by the Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency would ensure that quality is maintained, he said.

Mr Pyne said he was alarmed only one Australian university, the University of Melbourne, is in the top 50 in the world, according to the latest Times Higher Education World Reputation Rankings. While seven Australian universities went backwards in the rankings last year, Asian universities are storming up the leader board. Eight of the top 10 were US universities.

"We have much to learn about universities competing for students and focusing on our students," he said. "Not least, we have much to learn about this from our friends in the United States."

Mr Pyne said the US college system offers students more choice, encourages competition and foments a culture of philanthropy.

Mr Pyne did not outline how the government would fund the expansion of Commonwealth-supported places to the private sector. One option would be backing the elite universities' call for a deregulation of university fees so students in high-quality, high-income degrees pay more for their education. Another would be reforming the student loans scheme to recover outstanding debts from students who move overseas or who die, as recommended by the Grattan Institute.

Professor Dewar said: "I don’t think the sector has anything to fear from more competition in the market."

But he said universities – which conduct research as well as teach – should receive more government funding than teaching-only colleges.

"There should be a recognition that universities have costs above and beyond our counterparts in the private sector," he said.


Will Dunbar Rise Again?

Will it become an academically selective school again?

Dunbar High School in Washington is becoming a controversial issue again – and the controversy that is beginning to develop has implications for American education well beyond the District of Columbia.

There has not been much controversy about Dunbar High School for a long time. Since sometime in the late 1950s, it has been just one more ghetto school with an abysmal academic record – and that has been too common to be controversial.

What is different about the history of Dunbar is that, from its founding in 1870 as the first public high school in the country for black students, until the mid 1950s, it was an outstanding academic success.

As far back as 1899, when tests were given in Washington’s four academic high schools at that time, the black high school scored higher than two of the three white high schools. That was the M Street School that was renamed Dunbar High School in 1916.

Today, more than a hundred years later, it would be considered Utopian to even set such a goal, much less expect it to happen. In 1954, the Supreme Court declared that separate schools were inherently unequal, no doubt in ignorance of Dunbar, which was within walking distance of the site of that sweeping pronouncement.

The test results in 1899 were no isolated fluke. Over the next several decades, four-fifths of Dunbar graduates went on to college – far more than for either black or white high school graduates in the country at large during that era.

Most went to inexpensive local colleges but, among those who went on to Ivy League and other elite colleges, a significant number graduated Phi Beta Kappa. At one time, Dunbar graduates could get into Dartmouth or Harvard without having to take an entrance exam.

That was when Dunbar was controversial.

Some in the black community were proud and grateful that there was such a school where any black youngster in the city, no matter how poor, could go to get an education that would equip him or her to go on to college anywhere and compete with anybody.

But others decried Dunbar as an “elitist” school with academic standards that many black youngsters could not meet and a set of attitudes and behavior that some in today’s world would call “acting white.”

Nor was this accidental. A handbook issued to students entering Dunbar prescribed behavioral standards and values, not just for the school but for life outside as well. Without saying so, those standards and values were an implicit repudiation of the way many poorer and less educated blacks behaved.

It would be hard to exaggerate the hostility, and even bitterness, toward Dunbar by some of those who never went there – and who saw, and resented, the differences in attitudes and behavior between Dunbar students and themselves.

The late William Raspberry once wrote in his Washington Post column that you could turn any social gathering of local blacks into warring camps just by saying the one word “Dunbar.”

What destroyed more than 80 years of academic achievement at Dunbar High School, virtually overnight, was changing it from a selective school, to which black youngsters from anywhere in the city could apply, to a neighborhood school, located in a poor ghetto neighborhood.

Now there is a new controversy brewing as some have suggested that the new Dunbar High School building be made a city-wide selective high school, rather than remain a neighborhood school.

All the talk about elitism, and about abandoning neighborhood youngsters, in order to serve others, has been revived and another poisonous issue now added – race.

Those black spokesmen who see all issues through a racial prism see the proposed change as a way to accommodate whites who want to send their children to a public school that keeps out many ghetto blacks. But the issue of selectivity was controversial even when Dunbar was an all-black school.

With or without racial issues, there is no way to provide a good education for youngsters who want to learn when there are less able and more disruptive kids in the same classes. Are those who came to learn going to be sacrificed until such indefinite time as it takes for us to “solve” the “problems” of those who don’t?


Thursday, May 01, 2014

Want to Start a Private Postsecondary School in California? Good Luck

Not everyone wants to attend a traditional four-year college. A lot of people want to learn a trade and start a career immediately out of high school. Vocational schools have served these people in the past and helped them learn a trade in fields such as automotive repair, cosmetology, or nursing.

Other people want more flexibility than a traditional college typically provides and opt for small for-profit colleges, many with evening classes. But government bureaucrats are stifling entrepreneurs who want to start new private postsecondary schools in California.

California’s Bureau for Private Postsecondary Education issues licenses for new private postsecondary educational institutions in California, including both degree-granting academic institutions and non-degree-granting vocational institutions. A new state audit blasts the Bureau for significant backlogs and chronic delays in processing applications to start new schools.

The California State Auditor Elaine Howle found:

The Bureau had more than 1,100 applications outstanding as of June 30, 2013

Some applications had been sitting at the Bureau for almost three and a half years

The Bureau took three times as long as its goal to process the applications it received in fiscal year 2009–10 through 2012–13

State Auditor Howle concluded this is a serious problem because: “[U]ntil the Bureau approves their applications, institutions seeking to provide private postsecondary educational services to students are not allowed to operate in California.”

The chief of the licensing unit even admitted that the Bureau does not track the status of each application it receives because its database doesn’t have this capability.

Let’s recap: California was struggling to climb out of the worst recession since the 1930s; people were desperately seeking re-training and new skills; entrepreneurs prepared innovative business plans to meet these needs; but California’s bureaucrats kept teachers from helping students when they needed it most, sometimes for years.

This is your government at work . . . but hopefully not for long.

The Bureau will cease to exist effective January 1, 2015, unless the legislature extends or cancels this date. The legislature should ensure this inept and counterproductive bureaucracy dies a quiet death.

From July 2007 through December 2009, the state of California did not regulate private postsecondary educational institutions, and the world didn’t end. And it won’t end again if California stops this unnecessary regulation. In fact, things would improve if entrepreneurs are allowed to respond quickly to changing educational demands and to help students prepare for their chosen careers on schedules that meet their needs.


Common Core and Communism


"A lie told often enough becomes the truth," said Vladimir Lenin who led the revolution that imposed Communism on Russia.

When he wrote, ‘Mein Kampf', Adolf Hitler said "whoever has the youth has the future." In his vision for the Nazi Party, education would be the key that ensured that he had ‘the youth' of Germany fully indoctrinated.

All dictators and authoritarian regimes know that what is taught in their schools offers the greatest opportunity to maintain control over their societies.

That is what has been occurring since the introduction of the Common Core standards that the Obama regime has imposed on our national education system and the good news is that protests against it from concerned parents and others are beginning to increase and gain momentum.

Teachers will tell you that "one size fits all" does not apply in the classroom and never has. Children learn at a different pace with some doing so rapidly while others need extra help and attention. Learning that is entirely dependent on ceaseless testing puts stress on every child and that is the most common complaint about Common Core.

Education in America has been in decline since the 1960s when the teachers unions gained control over the process, putting themselves between the local boards of education and parents. Would it surprise anyone to learn that the Department of Education was established by President Jimmy Carter who signed it into law in 1979? It began operation on May 4, 1980. You will find no reference, no mention of education in the U.S. Constitution and it should not be a function of the federal government.

In a recent commentary by Joy Pullmann in The Daily Caller, she said, "The latest scheme is the field testing of Common Core assessments. This spring more than four million kids will be required to spend hours on tests that have little connection to what they learned in class this year and will provide their teachers and schools no information about what the kids know."

"Parents who object to this scheme," said Pullman, "face bullying and harassment from public officials. From New York to Denver to California, some schools are responding by forcing kids who opt out to sit at their desks and do nothing during the several-hour tests. Normal people call that a ‘time out' and it is a punishment."

Wyoming has become the first State to block a new set of national science standards that address climate change. In Michigan last year a group of protesters stopped the State from adopting the science standards.

Here are some excerpts of what the science standards teach as "The Essential Principles of Climate Science."

# "The impacts of climate change may affect the security of nations. Reduced availability of water, food, and land can lead to competition and conflict among humans, potentially resulting in large groups of climate refugees."

# "Humans may be able to mitigate climate change or lessens its severity by reducing greenhouse gas concentrations through processes that move carbon out of the atmosphere or reduce greenhouse gas emissions."

# "The most immediate strategy is conservation of oil, gas, and coal, which we rely on as fuels for most of our transportation, heating, cooling, agriculture, and electricity. Short-term strategies involve switching from carbon-intensive to renewable energy sources, which also requires building new infrastructure for alternative energy sources."

From "A Framework for K-12 Science Education" children are to be taught that "If Earth's global mean temperature continues to rise, the lives of humans and other organisms will be affected in many different ways." Only the Earth's mean temperature is not rising! The planet is in a natural cooling cycle that is now seventeen years old, meaning that none of the students in today's schools have ever experienced a single day of "global warming."

By the end of grade 8, the Framework teaches that "Human activities have significantly altered the biosphere, sometimes damaging or destroying natural habitats and causing the extinction of many other species."  This, too, is untrue. The U.S. Endangered Species Act, despite listing thousands of species, has not officially "saved" more than a handful at best and this assertion is questionable.

By the end of grade 12, students are expected to believe that "Changes in the atmosphere due to human activity have increased carbon dioxide concentrations and thus affect climate." While it is true that there has been an increase in the amount of carbon dioxide this is a good thing because it is an essential factor in the increase of all vegetation that includes food crops and healthier forests. Moreover, this increase does not play any role in the Earth's climate.

The central theme of these "science standards" is to teach that we should be reducing our use of fossil fuels, the primary energy sources our nation and the world requires. What these standards do in reality is repeat and reinforce federal government laws and regulations to justify its CO2 emissions regulations based on the current method of computing the Social Cost of Carbon, but these "costs" are pure fiction. 

None of the computer models that have predicted global warming over the past four decades have been accurate. None are capable of representing the state of the Earth's vastly complex climate.

The sooner Common Core is removed from the nation's education system, the better.


SPLC Targets Bespectacled Arkansas High School Teacher

An obsessive coverage of a man because of his opinions

Wouldn't I rather spend my time setting good policy? On another level, it's wickedness. Twisted, really, to be that obsessed with those who simply disagree with you, and so keen on their annihilation. It strikes at the heart of cherished ideals: freedom of thought, freedom of speech, freedom to dissent.

The Southern Poverty Law Center, however, is doing just this to Philip Holthoff, a high school teacher in Arkansas. See The People of Stormfront: Who Backs the Largest Hate Site on the Internet?, By Heidi Beirich on April 24, 2014.

I see no evidence that Holthoff has ever committed a crime. No evidence he's mistreated black students. He posts anonymously on Stormfront, they say, and supported it financially. The same website that, you know, breeds murderers, according to the SPLC. He did link to naughty stuff on his Facebook page, which was perhaps what did him in, though the notion that they kept a file on him turns my stomach. Something about that sounds so... Soviet. So... Nazi.

Paranoia over racial dissent—or even merely politically incorrect stumbles—seems to be increasing. It is truly the freak-out of the age. Will it crest at some point? How much further can it go?


Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Summer School Is For Suckers

Take online classes instead

Students looking for ways to get a cheaper, faster college degree will inevitably run up against the suggestion that they enroll in summer school. And until recently that wasn't terrible advice. Taking advantage of lower off-season tuition offered by many schools or cheap classes at your hometown community college was a perfectly good way to clear out some less glamorous requirements and account for your summer without having to work too hard.

With desperately low on-time graduation rates—only about 38 percent of students at so-called four-year colleges actually manage to make it out in four years, according to the latest figures from the National Center for Education Statistics—almost every college student should be thinking about ways to keep on track for graduation. And with 2012 graduates carrying an average debt load of nearly $30,000 according to the Project on Student Debt, looking for education bargains is a good idea as well.

But frugal freshmen aren't doing themselves any favors by planning to spend their summers flip-flopping through the cool linoleum-lined halls of the nation's community colleges. Summer school is depressing and wasteful, with a high opportunity cost. Savvy educational bargain hunters should take courses online instead.

Legend has it that summer vacation originates deep America’s agricultural past. The young and strong were needed to work on the farm, the story goes, so the only option was to put academic instruction on hold during the fertile months. The fact that this myth is so tenacious shows just how far we have come from those pastoral roots. Farm work is heaviest in the spring and fall. Midsummer is a (relative) lull, perfect for working on the 3 Rs.

In fact, summer vacation (as P.J. O’Rourke so eloquently noted) has its roots deep in piles of horse crap. As urbanization got underway, the primary source of horsepower was still actual horses. City streets became unbearably gross in the heat, leading all sensible well-off people to flee to the countryside in warm weather. Combine that with lack of air conditioning and fear of spreading disease, and summer vacation suddenly makes a lot of sense. Modern college students face a greater risk of running into bullshit on campus than horse crap in the streets. Yet the weird tradition of summers off lives on.

Meanwhile, the dog days have become part of the rat race. Internships and summer jobs are just as important as your academic record when it comes time to sell yourself for wages. And if you can't land a competitive (under)paid gig checking Facebook and fetching coffee, you'd better at least find a way to go build a house or two for poor people somewhere exotic so that you can write movingly about it in a grad school application or cover letter later on.

As long as tuition keeps skyrocketing and graduation rates continue to wallow in the mud, though, the advice to grab some additional credits at a discount rate is still solid. There's just no reason to do it instead of making bank, building skills, or doing good.

"With the online revolution in education, there's no reason to pay name brand prices for generic courses when store brands will suffice." That’s the advice from the admittedly biased folks at StraighterLine, which offers college courses online for a $99 sign-up fee plus about $50 for each course. They also have a clever setup to help you transfer those credits into the bricks and mortar academic world.

State university systems increasingly offer online options that may save you the hassle of transferring credits if you're already inside the network.

And there's no need to go exclusively down-market. Harvard would love to have you come burnish your resume (and improve their bottom line). The Cantabs claim an impressive pedigree for their summer offerings: "Begun in 1871, our program is the oldest academic summer program in the United States and continues today to offer a unique opportunity for intellectual exploration and cultural enrichment through the remarkable resources of Harvard University," but hasten to note that "your transcript will not indicate if a course was completed online or on campus."

So go find a haystack to laze in while you keep one eye on the livestock and one eye on your iPad.  Graduation rates are low and student loans are high, but a little summer online learning might help you avoid becoming a statistic.


Wisconsin School Changes Pledge of Allegiance

Madison East High School in Wisconsin has taken a few artistic liberties with the Pledge of Allegiance: they've switched the line "Under God" to "Under peace."

"Just last month, Samantha Murphy, a brave high school junior at Madison East High School, emailed me. In her freshman year, Madison East did not offer the Pledge every morning. Her family decided to talk to the principal and school board, reminding them that it is a state law to offer the Pledge every day. They pointed out Wisconsin State Statute Chapter 118, Section 6, which states “Every public school shall offer the pledge of allegiance or the national anthem in grades one to 12 each school day.”

After months of waiting and deciding if her family should go public with her school district’s unlawfulness and lack of patriotism, her school board finally obliged and started to offer the Pledge of Allegiance daily.

Samantha told me: “this went on without issue from around January of 2013 until March 4th, 2014.” On March 4th, Samantha says her school began to remove “under God” from the Pledge of Allegiance, and added that they thought they were “above the law.” On the first day of revision, they took out the entire line “one nation under God.” The next day, they merely skipped the words “under God.” On the third day, Thursday March 6th, 2014, they replaced the word “God” with “peace.”

This is ridiculous. The law says that the pledge (or the national anthem) must be said; Madison East is not above the law. The Pledge of Allegiance does not have optional portions, and the term "under peace" doesn't occur in the official wording.


Politics Versus Education

Thomas Sowell

Of all the cynical frauds of the Obama administration, few are so despicable as sacrificing the education of poor and minority children to the interests of the teachers' unions.

Attorney General Eric Holder's attempt to suppress the spread of charter schools in Louisiana was just one of the signs of that cynicism. His nationwide threats of legal action against schools that discipline more black students than he thinks they should are at least as damaging.

Charter schools are hated by teachers' unions and by much of the educational establishment in general. They seem to be especially hated when they succeed in educating minority children whom the educational establishment says cannot be educated.

Apparently it can be done when you don't have to hire unionized teachers with iron-clad tenure, and when you don't have to follow the dogmas in vogue in the educational establishment.

Last year, there was an attempt to shut down the American Indian Model Schools in Oakland, California -- schools that had been ranked among the top schools in the nation, schools with the top test scores in their district and the fourth highest scores in the entire state of California.

The reason given was that the former -- repeat, FORMER -- head of these schools was accused of financial irregularities. Since there are courts of law to determine the guilt or innocence of individuals, why should school children be punished by having their schools shut down, immediately and permanently, before any court even held a trial?

Fortunately, a court order prevented this planned vindictive closing of this highly successful charter school with minority students. But the attempt shows the animus and the cynical disregard of the education of children who have few other places to get a comparable education.

Attorney General Holder's threats of legal action against schools where minority students are disciplined more often than he wants are a much more sweeping and damaging blow to the education of poor and minority students across the country.

Among the biggest obstacles to educating children in many ghetto schools are disruptive students whose antics, threats and violence can make education virtually impossible. If only 10 percent of the students are this way, that sacrifices the education of the other 90 percent.

The idea that Eric Holder, or anybody else, can sit in Washington and determine how many disciplinary actions against individual students are warranted or unwarranted in schools across the length and breadth of this country would be laughable if it were not so tragic.

Relying on racial statistics tells you nothing, unless you believe that black male students cannot possibly be more disruptive than Asian female students, or that students in crime-ridden neighborhoods cannot possibly require disciplinary actions more often than children in the most staid, middle-class neighborhoods.

Attorney General Holder is not fool enough to believe either of those things. Why then is he pursuing this numbers game?

The most obvious answer is politics. Anything that promotes a sense of grievance from charges of racial discrimination offers hope of energizing the black vote to turn out to vote for Democrats, which is especially needed when support from other voters is weakening in the wake of Obama administration scandals and fiascoes.

Eric Holder's other big racial crusade, against requiring identification for voting, is the same political game. And it is carried out with the same cynical promotion of fears, with orchestrated hysteria from other Democrats -- as if having to show identification to vote is like a revival of the Ku Klux Klan.

Blacks, whites and everybody else can be asked for identification these days, whether cashing a check or using a credit card at a local store or going to an airport -- or even getting into some political meetings called to protest voter ID laws.

But to sacrifice the education of children, especially children for whom education may be their only ticket out of poverty, is truly a new low. As someone once said to Senator Joe McCarthy, "Have you no sense of decency, sir?"


Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Pupils found with handguns in British schools

Nearly 40 children have been found with guns on school premises over the last three years, a shocking new national survey has disclosed.```````````````

Figures obtained from police forces across Britain showed guns and air weapons had been confiscated on 37 occasions by officers - including two hand guns.

The other guns included 27 ball bearing guns and seven other air weapons.

The figures showed almost 1,000 pupils in total were caught by police with weapons in schools including a Taser stun gun, a meat cleaver, three axes and a cut-throat razor.

The total is likely to be only the tip of the iceberg because only 31 of country’s 52 police responded to a freedom of information request by Sky News.

It included 80 primary school children, the youngest of whom was an eight-year-old found carrying a knife to school in Scotland.

Of those found with weapons 329 were charged with a criminal offence, the figures showed. Knives made up the bulk of the weapons, with 249 seized over the three year period.

The parents of Luke Walmsley, who died at the age of 14 after being stabbed through the heart at his school in rural Lincolnshire in 2003, said a culture of violence still persisted around the country.

His mother Jayne described the figures as “really shocking”.  +“If it can happen here in small rural villages the whole world should realise it can happen anywhere,” said Mrs Walmsley.

“Something is happening to the society we live in. We need to think and educate these kids. It’s got to stop, we’ve got to do something about it.”

She added: “We want to help push the fact forward that we don’t want this to happen to anybody else, but sometimes it is a little bit like you are banging your head on a brick wall.”

Patrick Regan, the chief executive of the charity XLP, which was founded in response to a school stabbing, said: “It’s crazy that our young people are feeling that scared that they have to carry a weapon. It is so, so dangerous. There is a culture of fear that needs to be broken down.

“We need to take a look at the bigger picture and why kids are carrying knives in the first place.”

The Department for Education said it had introduced tough new measures to combat weapons in schools by giving teachers the power to search pupils without consent.

A spokesman for the department said: “We have given teachers new powers so they can take action if they suspect a pupil has brought a weapon into school.

“Teachers can now search pupils without consent, confiscate prohibited items and use force to remove disruptive pupils from the classroom when necessary.

“We have also given heads the final say on expulsions by removing the right of appeals panels to put pupils back in the classroom.”

Other weapons confiscated from pupils on school premises included eight knuckle dusters, eight lots of ammunition, one pepper spray, 30 metal bars or lead pipes and 18 baseball bats, the survey said.

Thirteen pupils were also found carrying wooden sticks embedded with nails.

Because a large number of forces did not provide information the true total will be far higher.

West Midlands Police, the country’s second largest force, was also not included in the figures because although it recovered 538 weapons its figures included colleges and universities.


Take pupils to the pub for their school lunch, urges British government minister

Children should be served their school lunches in the pub in order to help preserve community inns, a minister has claimed.

Public houses should double up as cinemas, libraries, coffee shops and village stores so that they can remain at the heart of their communities, Brandon Lewis, the minister for high streets, said.

Offering school meals at lunch times would help struggling pubs remain viable and provide children with “really good quality food”, Mr Lewis said.

It would also encourage parents to dine there at the weekends, he suggested.

“If they’ve got children at lunchtime, going to school and having a good meal, the parents are going to view that pub in a positive way. It’s playing its part in the community and they might go back for Sunday lunch, and that makes the pub more sustainable,” he said.

A small number of rural primary schools already take children to local pubs for lunch. They include Swell Primary School in Stow-on-the-Wold, Gloucestershire, where pupils dine at the Golden Ball Inn.

However, the trend is likely to increase following a pledge by ministers to provide free school meals to all infant pupils from September.

Head teachers have warned they will struggle to comply because their schools lack adequate kitchen capacity to cater for all their pupils.

The Telegraph is running a campaign to Reinvent the High Street to stem the tide of shop closures.

Speaking at an event in Rotherham to mark the renovation of the high street under a scheme supervised by Mary Portas, the shopping expert, Mr Lewis said people could not complain about the loss of pubs and local shops if they did not frequent them.

“Use it or you will lose it,” he told The Telegraph. “The amount of times I’ve met someone who is lamenting the loss of a local pub.

“If you ask them how often they visited it, it was lucky if it was once a month. It’s the same for the high street.”

Mr Lewis said he would like to see planned garden cities contain a space for the community to meet, such as a pub, in order to prevent the settlements becoming places where families “go in, shut the door, live their life, leave and never know their neighbours”.

The street parties held during the Olympics and the royal wedding helped communities to know one another and to reverse a trend of people living “worryingly isolated lives”, he said.

Mr Lewis last week criticised councils that attempt to raise money through parking fines.

He said that councils were harming local businesses by pushing away shoppers, and using parking enforcement as a revenue stream.

His department is now reviewing the rules.

Councils that cut their parking charges have seen a surge in the number of people visiting high streets and more business revenue, Mr Lewis said.He added: “Penalising people for going to the town centre driving, that’s just crazy”.


Free schools and academies are putting children's health at risk because they don't have to adhere to government rules on healthy meals, says top doctor

That hunger for control never lets go

Children’s health is being harmed because academies and free schools are allowed to opt out of serving healthy lunches to their pupils, one of the country’s top doctors has warned.

Professor Terence Stephenson believes that two million children are at risk of obesity because of the government’s divisive and ‘irresponsible’ policy.

Prof Stephenson, a leading paediatrician, is the chairman of the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges (AoMRC) – the professional body for the UK’s 250,000 working doctors – also said that the schools were setting young people a bad example.

He told The Observer: ‘It's damaging children's health. Allowing children in academies and free schools to be exposed to unhealthy choices, unhealthy foods and unhealthy diets when there's still huge concern in this country about obesity in children is definitely a backward step.

'Too many schools have been allowed to withdraw from this excellent, evidence-based system.

‘It just doesn't make sense to have a “them and us” policy on something as important as school food. If it's the right policy for children in maintained schools, it's the right policy for all children. It's irresponsible to have a two-tier policy on this.’

It was in 2010 that Michael Gove, the education secretary, to grant exemption to academies from the standards, which were introduced by Labour after the television cook Jamie Oliver showed in his 2005 programme Jamie's School Dinners how much poor food was dished up in schools.

Last week, Oliver urged ministers to stop the ‘madness’ of fast food outlets opening near schools.

In 2013, the AoMRC issued a report on obesity with 10 key recommendations, Prof Stephenson said that he was ‘disappointed’ and ‘frustrated’ at the complete lack of progress on five of its suggestions including a crackdown on junk-food advertising and introduction of a 20% tax on sugary drinks to reduce consumption.

Linda Cregan, the chief executive of the Children's Food Trust, said that it believed every pupil should receive healthy, nutritious food while at school.

But the Department for Education dismissed Prof Stephenson's concerns. ‘There is no evidence whatsoever that academies and free schools serve less healthy food than council-run schools. It is utterly disingenuous and untrue to claim the academies programme is harming children's health,’ a spokesman said.

‘A survey by the Children's Food Trust found 99% of academies have voluntarily agreed to follow the food standards, even though they are not required to do so. By contrast many council-run schools – unlike the best academies – are failing to provide healthy options, instead continuing to serve fried food, fizzy drinks and pizza.

‘Instead of pretending there is a problem with a particular type of school, we should concentrate on improving food in all schools,’ the DfE spokesman said.


Monday, April 28, 2014

School Choice Lifts Wisconsin Mother and Daughters

You don’t have to invite 15-year-old Donnica Coleman to share her thoughts about school choice. She bubbles over about how her destiny has changed like the flip of a switch since she left her public middle school and entered Wisconsin’s voucher program.

“I wasn’t even an OK student,” she says unabashedly. “I was skipping class and had something like 100 truancies. I was an ‘F’ and ‘D’ student. I was always fighting.”

Lorice Wren, Donnica’s mother, nods in agreement.  “I never got called,” the 34-year-old says. “At the time, I was working a night shift and I was home during the day. No one ever called. I was furious by the end of the year.  “I was trying to teach one thing at home and another was happening at school,” says Lorice.

Stopping the Fighting

That was more than two years ago, when Donnica was attending a public, middle school in Racine. Her little sister’s fervent desire to attend a private school changed their lives. Timia is four years younger than her big sister and was having her own issues in the elementary school.

“I got into a lot of fights and my grandma and mom had to come get me,” the youngest family member says. “My mom raised my sister and me to stand up for ourselves, and so if anyone bullied me, I would stand up and fight.”

Her mom agrees that fighting was a frequent occurrence at the schools. “As a parent, we would be waiting to pick up our children and learn that whole classrooms were held late because of the number of fights happening in the school.”

Middle Schooler Begs for Choice School

Timia begged her mother to send her to a private school after seeing a story about vouchers on the news. Now, Timia is a sixth-grader at Concordia Lutheran School in Sturtevant and her sister is a freshman at Racine Lutheran High School. They both are in their second year of the Parental Private School Choice Program in Racine.

“At Concordia, everything changed,” says Timia. “I understand things more clearly. The teachers deal with someone’s behavior. I got accepted. And I met my best friend, Amy. I love this school.”

Lorice agrees. Timia has more friends and better grades. She is on the honor roll.  “They teach a foundation I talk about at home and help them to resist peer pressure,” she adds.

Peer pressure is a real game-changer, nods Donnica.  “Before, I was with kids that didn’t want to learn,” she says of her old cluster of friends at McKinley. “But, when I got to private school, all of the students wanted to learn. They encouraged me to do my work. The teachers are on you—‘You’re going to do this!’.”

Hope for the Future

Not all of the changes are academic.  “I used to sneak around with boys,” Donnica admits. “When I got to Concordia, my relationship with my mom got better. Now I tell her everything.”

Donnica began shifting her attitude during a summer program at a college, she says. The rest of the transformation came with a career day at Racine Lutheran High School, when she talked with an Air Force recruiter.

Seeing what college could be like, talking with a recruiter, and beginning to fathom a future fueled with higher education motivated Donnica. She is singularly focused now and on the honor roll, too.

Having a safe environment for her children allowed Lorice to grow as well. She had been working full time and studying for a master’s degree part-time. Because she felt she needed to pay more attention to her girls, she didn’t expect to finish schooling until 2015.

But once the girls entered their new schools, Lorice says she could attend to her own education. She graduated from Concordia University and now is a mental health substance abuse therapist in Milwaukee.

“I’m doing what I love,” she says about her new career, “and it’s all because I was able to put my children in a safe and nurturing environment so that they, too, could learn to do what they would love.”


‘Punished for Teaching Science’: Popular Teacher Suspended for ‘Research and Development of Imitation Weapons’

Greg Schiller’s classroom seems to be a fruitful learning environment. One of his students recently stated, “He’s a really great teacher, and he really cares, he really wants to teach and he loves teaching.” It’s no surprise that he’s such a popular science teacher. It is astonishing, however, that he’s now apparently being punished for making science fun.

The Los Angeles Times reports that Schiller, who teaches at the Cortines School of Visual & Performing Arts, in Los Angeles, California, is in hot water because two of his students turned in science projects designed to shoot little projectiles. One of the projects used compressed air, the other consisted of a tube surrounded by a coil and was powered by a standard AA battery.

Sounds pretty cool, and very ingenious. But an unnamed school employee caught sight of one of these devices and “raised concerns.” Officials with the Los Angeles Unified School District then reportedly accused Schiller of “supervising the building, research and development of imitation weapons.” And now he’s been suspended.

As the Times notes, President Obama not only supervised but actually operated a more powerful air-pressure device at a White House Science Fair that could launch a marshmallow nearly 200 feet. Perhaps, he, too, should be reprimanded for corrupting the youth.

We’ve written before of children who have been suspended over “level 2 lookalike firearms” made with their own thumbs and forefingers. While these suspensions are ludicrous, Schiller’s is unique, not only because it involves a teacher, but also because the harm of Schiller’s suspension will impact his students as well. For example, students in Schiller’s classes, particularly those who would like to pass AP tests for college credit, are now left with a substitute teacher.

Fortunately, Schiller’s fellow teachers and the parents of his students aren’t standing for it. “As far as we can tell, he’s being punished for teaching science,” Warren Fletcher, president of the Los Angeles teachers union, told the Times. Schiller’s suspension is now a cause célèbre, prompting rallies drawing hundreds of parents and students, a petition drive, and a flurry of social media activity.

Perhaps there is more to this story. The Los Angeles Unified School District on Thursday published a statement saying that, while it does not comment on ongoing investigations, “We will always err on the side of protecting students.” While no one wants to see another school shooting, one wonders if the “concerns” voiced about Schiller’s students were driven less by the prospect of violence than by politically correct concerns about promoting a “gun free culture.”

Educators shouldn’t be punished for doing their jobs, nor should students’ education suffer because of political correctness. Barring the revelation of damning undisclosed facts, Schiller’s suspension should be lifted.


Britain has the worst behaved pupils in the world? You'd better believe it

As a study says schools are even more anarchic than we thought, the shocking testimony of a once idealistic young teacher is given below

At the inner-city secondary school where I taught for two years, one object neatly summed up its failings: the skip. Hidden at the back of the school, this skip was kept full with furniture broken by out-of-control pupils, scraps of coloured paper scrawled across during endless ‘group work’ lessons, and bin bags containing cola bottles and wrappers from sweets consumed during class.

At the end of each academic year, teachers would queue up beside it to discard box after box of pupils’ exercise books — as scrappy and disorderly as the lessons in which they had been used.

Looking at the school skip, I drew an inevitable, depressing conclusion: modern education was rubbish.

I had been lucky. I had received a traditional education at an independent boarding school, read history at Cambridge and had then won a scholarship to spend a year at an Ivy League university.

When I returned to Britain from the U.S., I was acutely aware that such good fortune is available to only a tiny minority. I was determined, if only in a small way, to redress this by teaching at a struggling state school.

The Birmingham secondary school where I ended up in September 2011 was often described as ‘deprived’, but I soon began to question what exactly it was deprived of.

Funding was high, members of staff were bright and hard-working and we were housed in an immaculate, new, multi-million-pound building.

It was not material deprivation causing the school to fail, but a deprivation of ideas.

‘Discipline’ was treated as a dirty word. Instead, staff were encouraged to use the trendy euphemism ‘behaviour for learning’, modishly abbreviated to B4L. ‘Yeah, right,’ pupils would reply when you told them they had a detention.

The results were catastrophic.  I vividly recall one of my worst lessons descending into pandemonium: milkshake was spilt over a desk, pupils listened to music through their headphones and one girl attacked another with her umbrella.

Worse, bad behaviour was actually rewarded. One boy was notorious. He came to lessons only as he pleased, swore at teachers and was an accomplished playground bully. At the end-of-year prize-giving, I was surprised to hear his name announced.

He had collected one of the largest number of ‘reward stickers’ in his year. Many teachers, it turned out, had taken to bribing him with stickers in a desperate attempt to calm his unruliness. As the school applauded his name, I thought of the dozens of his classmates who’d had a year of learning ruined by this one boy.

Some pupils would set their minds to bullying teachers in the hope that they would leave the school. They even had a word for it: ‘terroring’. It is hard to explain the anger and indignity of being ‘terrored’ by one 12-year-old girl. Though no longer teaching at the school, I still have nightmares about her.

I was not the least surprised to read in a report published last week by the University of East Anglia that English pupils are rated among the worst-behaved in the developed world.

Even in those classes where behaviour was sufficiently calm to teach, the curriculum was uninspiring. My subject, history, had been emptied of content and replaced with a series of bogus ‘skills’ such as ‘detecting bias’ or ‘identifying change’.

I was criticised for standing at the front of the room and addressing the whole class. Traditional ‘chalk-and-talk’ teaching methods were highly discouraged. After one lesson observation, I was told I would be well suited to teaching at the boys’ grammar school down the road. I took this as a compliment, but it was not meant as one.

Lastly, excuses were continually made for the under-performance of ‘our kids’ on the basis of their socio-economic background.

Where had all of these bad ideas come from? This insistence on a softly-softly approach to pupil behaviour? These trendy teaching methods? As a history teacher, I was keen to find the answer, and have spent the past year writing a book about what I discovered.

If you were looking for a culprit, you couldn’t do better than Summerhill School in Suffolk.  During the early Sixties, this independent boarding school began to attract visitors from around the world. The headmaster, an elderly Scot named A.S. Neill, was dedicated to educating his pupils in an environment of total freedom.

Children could wake and go to bed when they pleased, and lessons were entirely optional.

Neill’s lessons began with him offering pupils a cigarette to ‘break the ice’. Nude swimming in the school duck pond was encouraged for both staff and pupils.

‘We set out to make a school in which we should allow children freedom to be themselves,’ he wrote. ‘In order to do this, we had to renounce all discipline, all direction, all suggestion, all moral training, all religious instruction.’

Neill’s ‘do-as-you-please school’ failed on any normal measure of educational success, yet despite its manifest failures, Summerhill was wildly successful in influencing a generation of teachers during the Sixties and Seventies. Its rejection of adult authority and its romantic view of the innate goodness of the child, chimed with the spirit of the age.

Any teacher trained since the Sixties will have been influenced by the ideas of A.S. Neill, whose philosophy came to be known, with deep inappropriateness, as ‘progressive education’.

At first, its principles were applied to primary schools and the teaching of reading. Instead of old-fashioned phonics schemes, where individual letter sounds were learned and then built into longer words, teachers encouraged ‘look-say’ methods which taught pupils to recognise complete words.

When one despondent primary school teacher, trained in the early Fifties, challenged a teacher-trainer on these new methods she was told ‘one must never “teach” reading. If one’s classroom was sufficiently interesting, reading would “emerge”.’

Sadly, the ability to read does not just ‘emerge’. In my own secondary school classes, I would stare in disbelief at the work produced by some 11-year-old pupils. After six years of schooling, they were almost illiterate — victims of a fatal idealism.

In maths, meanwhile, in the Sixties, the memorisation of times-tables and basic calculations was abandoned in favour of real world problems, such as making models or ‘playing shop’.

These methods were given official endorsement by the 1967 Plowden Report, an immensely influential document which became the unofficial core text of teacher-training.

It dismissed the benefit of memorisation, discipline for bad behaviour, divisions between different subjects, correcting pupils’ work and reading schemes.

By the end of the Sixties, primary school education had been transformed — and very much for the worse. Over the following decade, it would be secondary education’s turn.

After being appointed Labour Education Secretary in 1965, Anthony Crosland confided in his wife: ‘If it’s the last thing I do, I’m going to destroy every f***ing grammar school in England. And Wales. And Northern Ireland.’

Crosland’s intention was to ‘preserve all that is valuable in grammar-school education for the children who now receive it and make it available for more children’.

Nothing of the sort happened.

Most comprehensive schools were designed in deliberate opposition to the grammar-school tradition. House systems, school uniform, prize-giving, academic streaming and competitive sport were largely abandoned. Mixed-ability classes, dumbed-down curriculums and child-centred teaching methods were all the rage.

In 1976, the BBC was allowed inside one of these brave new schools. Panorama recorded a fly-on-the-wall documentary in what was, according to the presenter David Dimbleby, an ‘ordinary comprehensive school in outer London’.

Watching footage of Faraday Comprehensive today, it is striking how similar the scenes are to my own experience: pupils openly swearing in lessons, eating sweets, wandering out of their seats, shouting at teachers and refusing to work.

One despairing PE teacher bellows at a class: ‘Talk, talk, talk. No wonder we have so many rubbish lessons!’

The age of the ‘bog-standard’ comprehensive was upon us.

The number of school fires rose from 18 in 1963 to 89 in 1973, causing £6 million in damage. In 1973 a special inquiry into vandalism in London schools discovered that one school was spending £1,000 a month repairing broken windows. In 1977 alone, £15 million of damage was done to British schools.

The stranglehold of progressive education proved difficult to break. Teaching qualifications became compulsory for all state teachers in 1973 and, in the years that followed, university education faculties multiplied across the country. They were populated by ‘educationists’, who insisted that skills were more important than knowledge and that pupils would only want to learn topics which were made ‘relevant’ to their lives.

In 1974, this newspaper profiled an experimental school under the headline: ‘Stop these trendies before they ruin ALL our children.’ But the rot had already set in — and has endured.

During my time as a trainee teacher, it was suggested that to study the Norman Conquest, pupils could re-enact the Battle of Hastings in the playground and make castles out of cereal boxes; to understand the Industrial Revolution, they could pitch inventions to a Dragons’ Den-style panel. An unfortunate side-effect was that pupils were confused by the inevitable anachronisms involved in making history ‘relevant’.

‘Sir, how many Victorians would have had a TV?’ I was asked.

In October 1996, Tony Blair told the Labour Party Conference that his three main priorities for government were ‘education, education, education’. However, once in office, Labour’s resolve to combat progressive education quickly faded.

Education spending increased from £39 billion in 1997 to £89 billion in 2009 — much of this on a series of quangos staffed by stalwarts of the education establishment.

Fads and psychobabble such as ‘independent learning’ and ‘21st-century skills’ invaded the classroom. Ofsted repeatedly gave schools bad reports if they did not conform to the progressive orthodoxy.

In 2004, the New Labour schools minister David Miliband declared that the children of the Blair years would be ‘the best educated generation in our nation’s history’.

This promise was flatly contradicted nine years later when a survey by the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) showed England and Northern Ireland to be the only countries in the developed world where literary and numeracy levels among 16 to 24-year-olds were no better than among 55 to 65-year-olds.

This was the dismal picture which greeted me when I arrived in Birmingham in 2011. Many of my 11-year-old pupils arriving from primary school could barely read and their handwriting was illegible.

The school library prominently displayed a raft of ghost-written memoirs of various footballers and reality TV stars, while tucked away on the fiction shelves I found a spine that was notably lacking in lurid colours. It was an old copy of the complete works of Shakespeare, a lonely reminder of the days when the school had intellectual aspirations for its pupils.

While most classrooms had their desks in islands to promote group work, I resolutely kept mine in rows.

When I left the school, I received a card signed by all the pupils in one of my classes.  ‘You are the reason for my interest in history,’ read one of the comments.

‘I’m gonna miss your history lessons because I actually learned,’ read another. These pupils were crying out for orderly, well-structured and information-filled lessons.

So is there any hope for children who want to learn?

After 40 years of wilful, muddle-headed experimentation, there are finally signs that the grip of progressive education on our schools is beginning to loosen.

The ineffectiveness of child-centred teaching methods has been laid bare by a developing body of research. Under the leadership of Sir Michael Wilshaw, Ofsted is ensuring that schools insist on good behaviour. Free schools and academies are being given the freedom to break with the orthodoxy of progressive education.

Most importantly, we have an Education Secretary who — unlike all of his predecessors — does not underestimate the burden of bad ideas that weighs down our schools.

Not content with simple legislative reform, Michael Gove has waged a culture war against an entire way of thinking.

University education faculties are shrinking, local authorities have lost much of their clout thanks to schools converting to academies and, by his own count, Gove has scrapped nine education quangos.

Had I gone into state education five years ago, I would have found the outlook for our schools too bleak to continue. However, this landscape is being transformed.

In September, I am returning to the classroom to teach history at a free school.  Thanks to the impact of current government reforms, I cannot think of a more exciting prospect.


Sunday, April 27, 2014

Affirmative action is doomed. Here's what progressives should do about it

Instead of cobbling minority preferences onto a broken system, liberals should attack the racial injustices at the root of the problem

This week's Supreme Court ruling in the Michigan affirmative action case tried to strike a Solomonic middle ground, neither demanding nor forbidding states from using racial preferences in university admissions, while endorsing the right of each state's voters to decide such matters themselves.

In practice, however, the decision marks the beginning of the end of the era of affirmative action as we know it. Progressives would be foolish to resist this inevitable outcome. Instead, they should shift their fight to eradicating the remaining relics of white privilege that still distort the playing field against minorities.

Justice Anthony Kennedy, who authored the 6–2 plurality ruling (Elena Kagan was recused), wrote that the court cannot overturn Proposition 2 — Michigan's 2006 ban on racial preferences, which was backed by 58 percent of voters — anymore than it could ban Texas' use of preferences in Fisher vs. University of Texas last year. Kennedy reserved the right to remedy "invidious acts of discrimination." But other than that, it's up to the states. "The Constitution," Kennedy's liberal colleague Justice Breyer noted in his concurring opinion, "foresees the ballot box, not the courts, as the normal instrument for resolving the merits of these (affirmative action) programs."

On the surface, this ought to give both sides something to celebrate. The states that have banned racial preferences can keep their bans — and other states that don't want a ban won't be forced to impose one.

But this happy co-existence of diametrically opposed policies cannot last forever. Over the long run, "the ballot box" is not on the side of the proponents of racial preference. Public opinion is trending against them.

A Gallup poll last July found that 67 percent adults support race-neutral, merit-based admission standards, even if that means fewer minorities on campuses. Support for using "government in improving the social and economic position of minorities" had declined since 2004 among not just whites, but also blacks and Latinos. Likewise, an NBC-WSJ poll found that support for affirmative action was at a "historic low," dropping from 61 percent in 1991 to 45 percent last June. (The one exception is a recent Pew poll that found majority support for affirmative action.)

An unfavorable opinion trend is not the only problem for progressives on affirmative action. The support they enjoy is shallow as well. Americans no longer care about this issue as much as they used to. And to the extent that they do, it is to end racial preferences. This is why ballot initiatives to ban racial preferences have typically won and are likely to gain renewed traction after Tuesday's ruling.

(The next battleground might be Ohio, according to Jennifer Gratz, who was one of the two plaintiffs in the twin 2003 lawsuits against University of Michigan's race-based policies.)

This shifting public opinion has implications beyond the ballot box.

So far, when states have banned racial preferences, universities have reinvented them under a race-neutral guise. Texas, for example, implemented the so-called 10 percent solution, in which it admits the top 10 percent of graduating seniors from all high schools, regardless of their caliber, effectively giving a leg up to inner-city minorities. U of M invented Descriptor Plus, a complicated algorithm that sorts out ZIP codes by socioeconomic, educational, and racial characteristics, and targets preferences where minorities reside.

But as Justice Sotomayor noted in her dissent in the Michigan ruling, such efforts have failed to boost minority numbers to desirable levels. Getting them to work would require redoubled commitment.

This, however, is going to be difficult after several university presidents — such as U of M's 69-year-old Mary Sue Coleman, who authorized Descriptor Plus — retire. They grew up in the heyday of the civil rights era, when the country was consumed with issues of racial justice. Their successors, however, will come of age around the presidency of Barack Obama, a president who is the fruit of that struggle. They might not share their predecessors' zeal for boosting diversity, especially since they'll confront a far more splintered minority community.

Asian-Americans, diversity's big losers, are turning against affirmative action. Last month, they stopped California Democrats, who hold a legislative supermajority, from reinstating racial preferences. Justice Sotomayor's plaintive diversity defense obviously wasn't written with their interest at heart.

What's more, all these trends — grassroots apathy, decline of a committed university vanguard, and minority opposition — will be gathering steam just around the 2028 expiration date for racial preferences that Justice Sandra Day O' Connor set in her 2003 Grutter vs. Bollinger ruling. Even a more liberal Supreme Court may not be able to extend such policies in these circumstances — which is why Justice Scalia's concurring opinion quipped that "Grutter's bell may soon toll."

So what should progressives do?

Go with the current rather than against it. Seek racial justice not by louder calls for minority preferences — but by scrapping systemic preferences enjoyed by the white majority.

Elite schools — both public and private — routinely hand preferences to athletes, children of faculty, celebrities, and politicians; "development cases" whose wealthy parents offer hefty donations; and, above all, offspring of alumni. Princeton sociologist Tom Espenshade found that nearly two thirds of all these non-race-based preferences at elite universities benefited whites in 1997, even though whites made up less than half of all applicants. In some Ivies, no more than 40 percent of seats are open to candidates competing on pure merit.

Liberals should argue that scrapping racial preferences while keeping all the other preferences produces a double injustice: It makes minority seats available to white candidates, but keeps white seats off-limits to minority candidates. This is a message that will unite minorities. Meanwhile, whites, who have largely been opposing affirmative action because it runs afoul of merit-based admissions, will be in no position to resist.

Liberals can salvage the defensible parts of their racial justice crusade by shifting tactics. Business as usual won't help minorities.


The Next Massive Bailout: Student Loans

A few years ago, I began interviewing adults at least 10 years out of college and who had never managed to pay off their student debt. Some were past the age of 50 and headed slowly but surely for personal bankruptcy. Sadly, their stories were as common as they were upsetting.

Not much has changed. Outstanding student loans continue to balloon, and they now total $1.2 trillion nationally, according to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Among students graduating in 2012, 71% had student loans averaging $29,400, according to a report from the Project on Student Debt. So while today’s grads may be part of the most educated generation in history they are also the most indebted twentysomethings the world has ever seen.

This isn’t good. Young people should be buying cars and setting up households—not boomeranging home to Mom and Dad and dedicating their income to loan repayment. Household formation is half the rate it was seven years ago, and most of that is due to the drag of student debt, the CFPB has concluded.

Government is trying to address the problem. There has been talk of refinancing student debt at lower rates. But that discussion has largely stalled. President Obama is pushing for a new funding model, where the amount of student financial aid available to universities is tied to things like their graduation rate and the initial salaries of their graduates. But the rating system, which might eventually hold tuition hikes in check, is at least a year away.

Another new initiative may be backfiring–at least at it relates to keeping college costs contained. Since 2011, student borrowers have been able to choose a plan that limits their amount due to 10% of discretionary income, which is defined as 150% above the poverty level—now at $15,730 a year for a two-member household. That means such a household would owe based on income beyond $23,595. If this household earned, say, $35,000 a year, it would make payments of about $100 a month.

For public employees and those working for a nonprofit, so long as they made regular payments the debt would be considered settled after 10 years regardless of how much was owed or paid back. For private sector employees the debt would be settled after 20 years. This payment plan, which is really more of a debt forgiveness plan, has proved so popular that enrollment is up 40% in six months and now includes 1.3 million Americans owing $72 billion.

Yet there is no free lunch, and we now have what looks like a high stakes game of Whac-A-Mole. Every time we bat down one source of escalating tuition and student debt, another source rises up. Because of the forgiveness feature, students appear more willing to borrow; universities are advertising the forgiveness plan and seem poised to raise tuition to soak up the funds. Just like that we are back where we started—a lot of borrowing and little incentive for colleges to keep tuition hikes down.

And it gets worse. In this popular new arrangement, taxpayers get stuck with the tab. Already the future cost of the forgiveness feature is pegged at $14 billion. To keep students and colleges from running up too big a bill, President Obama is pushing to add a lifetime forgiveness cap of $57,500. That would help. But make no mistake: the next bailout is happening now. It may be more palatable than bailing out banks and car companies. But the costs are mounting.


Toss out abusive college administrators

Glenn Harlan Reynolds

Like most professors, I hate doing administrative work. And since somebody has to do it, universities have increasingly built up a corps of full-time administrators. That's fine, but lately, the administrative class has grown too numerous and too heavy-handed. As colleges and universities increasingly face financial pressures, it's time to rethink.

Full-time administrators now outnumber full-time faculty. And when times get tough, schools have a disturbing tendency to shrink faculty numbers while keeping administrators on the payroll. Teaching gets done by low-paid, nontenured adjuncts, but nobody ever heard of an "adjunct administrator."

But it's not just the fat that is worrisome. It's administrators' obsession with -- and all too often, abuse of -- security that raises serious concerns. At the University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth, Clyde W. Barrow, a leading professor, has just quit, complaining of an administration that isolates itself from students and faculty behind keypads and security doors.

Isolation is bad. But worse still is the growing tendency of administrators to stifle critics by shamelessly interpreting even obviously harmless statements as "threats." A recent example took place at Bergen Community College, where Professor Francis Schmidt was suspended, and ordered to undergo a psychiatric examination over a "threat" that consisted of posting a picture of his 9-year old daughter wearing a Game Of Thrones T-shirt. The shirt bore a quote from the show, reading: "I will take what is mine with fire & blood." Bergen administrator Jim Miller apparently thought the picture, which was posted to Schmidt's Google Plus account, was somehow intended as a threat to him. (Schmidt had filed a labor grievance a couple of months earlier.)

What kind of person claims that a picture of a 9-year-old girl wearing an HBO T-shirt is a threat? The kind of person who runs America's colleges, apparently. And Miller, alas, is not alone in his cluelessness and, apparently, paranoia.

Last year at the University of Wisconsin at Stout, theater professor James Miller had a poster from the television series Firefly on his door. It included a picture of Captain Mal Reynolds, a character played by Nathan Fillion, and a quote from the show: "You don't know me, son, so let me explain this to you once: If I ever kill you, you'll be awake. You'll be facing me. And you'll be armed."

Campus police chief Lisa Walter removed the poster, regarding it as a "threat." After Stout complained to no avail, he replaced the poster with one reading: "Fascism can cause blunt head trauma and/or violent death. Keep fascism away from children and pets."

This poster, too, was interpreted as a threat, which led to a visit from the campus "threat assessment team." After nationwide mockery (Fillion, and fellow Firefly cast member Adam Baldwin, joined in, as did many of the show's fans), the university retreated, and promised to change its approach in the future. Presumably, Chief Lisa Walter carries a gun, and I wonder if that's a good idea in someone so skittish that she sees a movie poster as a "threat."

Meanwhile, at the University of Colorado, the American Association of University Professors has produced a report on the university's running "roughshod" over academic freedom as part of an anti-sexual-harassment campaign in its philosophy department and -- again -- using campus police to strongarm a faculty member over an obviously bogus threat. As Inside Higher Ed reports:

Dan Kaufman, an associate professor, in March was escorted by four police officers to the dean's office. According to the report, he was told he was being banned from campus indefinitely for making a comment to [department chair] Cowell about killing him. The report finds that the comment was far from a threat, but rather a 'philosopher's joke' and standard fare for any philosophy textbook: that they wouldn't kill each other, "unless Cowell were truly evil, like Adolf Hitler."

Events like these call into question both the judgment of academic administrators and the existence of campus police forces as a separate institution. In his book, The Fall of the Faculty, Johns Hopkins Professor Benjamin Ginsberg talks about the profusion of "deanlets" that has overtaken higher education. But it's even worse when those deanlets not only eat up the substance of institutions, but also command armed force. It's extremely doubtful that any outside law enforcement agency would have responded to any of the "threats" listed above, but campus police, called in by insecure deanlets, have little choice.

This sort of behavior, though, is unfair, bad for morale, and likely to spur expensive and embarrassing litigation. (Note that some of these cases were resolved when the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, an academic civil liberties group, intervened and posed a threat of legal action.)

With college enrollment falling and budgets under pressure, legislatures, donors and alumni will be looking at ways to restructure schools in the future. The profusion of self-important deanlets and the abuse of campus police forces ought to be looked at as part of this process. It's just another symptom of the now-imploding higher education bubble.