Wednesday, January 07, 2015

'Rape culture'?  Women are safer on campus than off

The Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) report, "Rape and Sexual Assault Among College-age Females, 1995-2013," should be an early Christmas present for President Obama.

On Jan. 22, 2014, Obama established a special White House Task Force to Protect Students From Sexual Assault. He stated, "It is estimated that one in five women on college campuses has been sexually assaulted during their time there. ... It's totally unacceptable."

The BJS data released on Dec. 11 finds the actual rate of sexual assault for female students to be 6.1 per 1,000 per year or 0.61 percent; this is the mean for the years 1995 to 2013. The rate of general sexual assault for males was 1.4 per 1,000.

Sexual assault has been declining for the last 15 years, with attacks on females falling by nearly 25 percent. From 2007 to 2013, the mean annual rate of female assault was 4.7 per 1,000. If a student attends university for four years, then multipying by four renders an approximation of the overall risk: 20 per 1,000 or one in 50. Of these assaults, the BJS says one in three is a completed rape. That means there is a 1.6 per 1,000 or 0.16 percent risk of rape per year. The overall risk is 6.3 per 1,000 or 0.63 percent.

The good news keeps coming. It is common these days to view campuses as bastions of "rape culture" where assault is epidemic. But the rate of assault is lower on campuses than off, with female non-students experiencing 7.6 sexual assaults per 1,000 per year (1995 to 2013). Females are safer on campus.

Where, then, does the "one in five" figure come from?

The BJS compares its methodology to that of other studies. For example, the BJS's expansive but reasonable definition includes actual, attempted and threatened rapes and sexual assaults. By contrast, "[t]he NISVS [National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey] uses a broader definition of sexual violence, which specifically mentions incidents in which the victim was unable to provide consent due to drug or alcohol use; forced to penetrate another person; or coerced to engage in sexual contact (including nonphysical pressure to engage in sex) or unwanted sexual contact (including forcible kissing, fondling, or grabbing); and noncontact unwanted sexual experiences that do not involve physical contact." [Emphasis added.]

Noncontact sexual experiences also include behaviors such as harassment or telling lewd jokes. This sort of broad and vague definition is what leads to the one-in-five figure.

More specifically, the one-in-five statistic comes from a 2007 online survey of two universities. Survey respondents were offered a $10 gift certificate to participate. Some equated sex while drunk with rape. Others equated a man trying to steal a kiss as sexual assault. The lead researcher, Christopher Krebs, has publicly stated that the survey cannot be generalized to a national level or even to other public universities. But, of course, that is what happened.

The good news is unlikely to be greeted as such by Obama or "rape culture" zealots who are demanding draconian measure to combat campus rape. The new rape hearing procedures virtually destroy due process for an accused who is almost always male; for example, the "beyond a reasonable doubt" standard (99 percent certainty) is replaced by a "preponderance of the evidence" standard (51 percent) in order to adjudicate guilt. The accused has no right to the presence of an attorney or to cross-examination of witnesses.

The BJS data will not be greeted because it casts doubt on the existence of rape culture — a concept that is central to gender feminist campaigns sweeping American campuses. The new procedures for campus rape hearings are so blatantly unjust to males that they must be sold as a response to a crisis; gender feminists need the rape culture to have their solution to it accepted. Nor will the data be welcomed by Democrats who need liberal and female voters to retain whatever power they have left. To them, the BJS report is bad news because it contradicts policies aimed at pleasing their voting base.

The data raise an awkward question. What if the rape culture does not exist? What if it is a political construct used to impose gender policies and cement voting blocks?

Those who use the issue of rape as political leverage will dismiss or ignore the BJS report. They will repeat "one in five" as a mantra because "one in 50" is 10 times less effective in achieving their objectives.


Former Catholic School Teacher Fired for Violating Catholic Teaching Awarded $1.95M, Mostly for Hurt Feelings

It is no secret that the Catholic Church teaches that birth control, abortion and in vitro fertilization are morally wrong. It is also no secret that many Americans who self-identify as Catholic also see no moral problem with these things. While regulated, these things are legal throughout the United States.

But can a Catholic diocese require that its employees live up to a moral code that prohibits what is otherwise legal?

Last Friday, a federal jury awarded a former teacher in the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend almost $2 million for what she claims was sex discrimination, the bulk of which was not for medical bills or lost wages, but for $1.75 million in “emotional and physical damages” she allegedly suffered.

And while the case looks narrow—was this female teacher fired when immoral male teachers were allowed to retain their jobs?—it involves a much bigger question: when can federal courts scrutinize the religious decisions of churches?

In 2008, Emily Herx, a junior high school language arts teacher at St. Vincent de Paul School in Fort Wayne, began IVF treatment. She notified her school principal about additional IVF treatment in 2010, and in April 2011 the church pastor met with Herx to inform her that IVF was morally wrong.

IVF is a multi-step procedure that usually involves stimulating a woman’s ovaries to cause multiple ovulation, collecting the eggs and fertilizing them with donor sperm in a petri dish (in vitro meaning “in glass”), developing embryos, selecting a few and implanting them back in the woman. Leftover embryos are usually frozen or destroyed. According to Catholic moral teaching, this process is objectionable in many different ways.

Because of her IVF treatment, Herx’s contract as a teacher was not renewed, and she sued the Diocese citing alleged violation of various federal laws. Some of her claims were dismissed by the court, but her sex discrimination claim went to a jury, which rendered a verdict last Friday finding the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend liable under Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, a federal law prohibiting discrimination in employment on the basis of sex. Herx had argued that, although she was terminated for undergoing IVF treatments, the Diocese allegedly continues to employ male teachers who had received vasectomies and other treatments that interfere with natural reproduction.

Certainly, antidiscrimination law is very complicated, and at the front end, there is no substitute for common sense: why should someone seek employment at a place where they know they cannot live up to their contract or where they oppose their employer’s moral vision? Why should a gay couple actively seek out the one baker in town who opposes gay marriage? Why did Emily Herx seek to make her IVF treatments public? Each of these cases involves someone putting themselves in a bad situation, and then using the law as a club—each of these cases could have been avoided by exercising common sense.

Beyond that, however, what about the law? First, is this case similar to the 2012 Hosanna-Tabor case? In that case, the Supreme Court of the United States unanimously held that the Establishment and Free Exercise Clauses of the First Amendment bar ministers from suing their religious employers on employment discrimination grounds.

And the Court described a rather lengthy balancing test as to who qualifies as a “minister.” Certainly, on the one hand, Emily Herx was a language arts teacher and presumably did not formally teach religious education. On the other hand, her contract included a morals clause, and Catholic ecclesiology, particularly post-Vatican II, does stress that laypersons have a significant role to play in the life of the Church. Looking at Herx’s job duties and contract in context, it might be that the federal district court erred in applying Title VII to the Diocese at all. It might be that the First Amendment protects the Diocese in its hiring and firing decisions for Catholic school teachers.

As a matter of first principles, how should secular courts handle religious disputes? In American law, the answer is clear: err on the side of protecting, rather than harming, a church. To do otherwise is to chill the religious landscape in America. In the words of Justice Byron White:

It is a significant burden on a religious organization to require it, on pain of substantial liability, to predict which of its activities a secular court will consider religious. The line is hardly a bright one, and an organization might understandably be concerned that a judge would not understand its religious tenets and sense of mission. Fear of liability might affect the way an organization carried out what it understood to be its religious mission.

In the case of Emily Herx, Justice White’s words ring true—unless the jury award is reversed on appeal,

Will Catholic schools remain Catholic? With orthodox Jewish schools remain orthodox and Jewish? Or will such schools err on the side of caution, and sacrifice their moral mission at the altar of American law?

Whatever the end result, all reasonable people can agree on one thing: Emily Herx obtaining a court judgment for $1.75 million dollars for “emotional and physical damages” beyond her medical bills and lost wages appears to be an absurd result.


Australia’s future teachers could be lacking basic literacy skills

They already are -- but better than Detroit teachers, I suspect

A new study has highlighted alarmingly low levels of literacy among undergraduates studying high school teaching, with the results suggesting the graduating teachers could have worse literacy skills than some of their future students.

Some of the would-be teachers who participated in the study did not spell one word correctly out of a list of 20, while only one third managed to get more than 50 per cent of the answers right.

Not one of the 203 student teachers from an unnamed Australian university were able to spell all 20 words correctly.

Published by the Australian Journal of Teacher Education, the study listed some of the more frequently misspelled words. They included 'acquaintance', 'definite', 'exaggerate', and 'parallel'.

The study, conducted by Dr Brian Moon from Edith Cowan University in Western Australia, also found the university students struggled with the definitions of particular words.

The word 'candid' was given definitions including 'something hidden', 'burned sugar', and 'cooked in sugar'. Hyperbole was thought to be 'a poem' or a type of Jamaican fruit, and kosher was defined as 'a type of bean' and 'a weapon'.

Dr Moon writes that some of these guesses show "a tendency for subject specialists to make guesses that reflected their narrow knowledge base."

Dr Moon said these poor literacy results are a big problem.  "Analysis of the results showed high rates of error on general spelling and vocabulary tasks," wrote Dr Moon.

"The raw evidence of student performance on spelling, vocabulary and writing tasks still suggests that some graduating teachers have literacy skills below the ability level of the students they will be hired to teach."

The study pointed out while the accuracy – or lack of – in the student spelling tests is an issue, a closer look at how the students attempted to spell showed a range of problems with their 'personal literacy competence'.

"While the occasional near miss is to be expected, many of the errors reported here point to significant - and probably longstanding - deficits in spelling, vocabulary, and punctuation," Dr Moon noted.

"Many undergraduate students appear to have literacy problems so fundamental that remediation in the late stages of their degree program cannot hope to overcome a lifetime of poor literacy performance."

Dr Moon suggests setting a higher - or different - university admission standard for teaching degrees, but also working to fix this literacy problems much sooner in their school and university careers.

The Federal Government is due to release a report on possible improvements to teacher education soon.


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