Wednesday, June 03, 2015

WV teacher threatened with fine for violating Michelle O’s school snack rules

Students and parents are rallying to the defense of a teacher who is accused of violating federal school snack rules.

The Williamson PreK-8 teacher, who was not identified, would give her students “wrapped candy” as a reward for their hard work and good behavior.

Because the practice was an alleged violation of the federal rules championed by first lady Michelle Obama, Mingo County Schools Director of Child Nutrition Kay Maynard “placed a call to officials at the West Virginia Department of Education (WVDE) to report the incident,” the Williamson Daily News reports.

Maynard also spoke to Williamson PreK-8 principal Shannon Blackburn, telling him about the possibility of a monetary fine for the teacher.

When news spread, parents and student mobilized, collecting pennies to pay the potential fine on the teacher’s behalf.

Administrators at the WVDE decided the teacher’s violation was not a “deliberate attempt” to break Michelle Obama’s rules and said instead of fining the teacher, they required the department to “develop a corrective action plan to include training on child nutrition policies.”

By participating in the National School Lunch Program, the school district must adhere to edicts handed down from Washington, D.C.

Those rules state that food, such as “wrapped candy,” cannot be used as “a reward and it cannot be withheld as a punishment.”

Administrators with Mingo County Schools claim the federal rules were developed “to help educators encourage students to make healthy decisions.”

If they’re not strictly followed, schools can be required to return federal school lunch money, be penalized for state and federal food service programs, or make all schools in the county vulnerable to similar punishment.


A Summer Break From Campus Muzzling

Commencement season brings a respite from the sinister childishness rampant on campuses. Attacks on freedom of speech come from the professoriate, that herd of independent minds, and from the ever-thickening layer of university administrators who keep busy constricting freedom in order to fine-tune campus atmospherics.

The attacks are childish because they infantilize students who flinch from the intellectual free-for-all of adult society. When Brown University’s tranquility of conformity was threatened by a woman speaker skeptical about the “rape culture” on campuses, students planned a “safe space” for those who would be traumatized by exposure to skepticism. Judith Shulevitz, writing in The New York Times, reported that the space had “cookies, coloring books, bubbles, Play-Doh, calming music, pillows, blankets and a video of frolicking puppies.”

The attack on free expression is sinister because it asserts that such freedom is not merely unwise but, in a sense, meaningless. Free speech is more comprehensively and aggressively embattled now than ever before in American history, largely because of two 19th-century ideas. One is that history — actually, History, a proper noun — has a mind of its own. The other is that most people do not really have minds of their own.

Progressives frequently disparage this or that person or idea as “on the wrong side of history.” They regard history as an autonomous force with its own laws of unfolding development: Progress is wherever history goes. This belief entails disparagement of human agency – or at least that of most people, who do not understand history’s implacable logic and hence do not get on history’s “right side.” Such people are crippled by “false consciousness.” Fortunately, a saving clerisy, a vanguard composed of the understanding few, know where history is going and how to help it get there.

One way to help is by molding the minds of young people. The molders believe that the sociology of knowledge demonstrates that most people do not make up their minds, “society” does this. But progressive minds can be furnished for them by controlling the promptings from the social environment. This can be done by making campuses into hermetically sealed laboratories.

In “The Promise of American Life” (1909), progressivism’s canonical text, Herbert Croly said, “The average American individual is morally and intellectually inadequate to a serious and consistent conception of his responsibilities as a democrat.” National life should be “a school,” with the government as the stern but caring principal: “The exigencies of such schooling frequently demand severe coercive measures, but what schooling does not?” “Unregenerate citizens” can be saved “many costly perversions, in case the official school-masters are wise, and the pupils neither truant nor insubordinate.” For a survey of today’s campus coercions, read Kirsten Power’s “The Silencing: How the Left is Killing Free Speech.”

In “Kindly Inquisitors” (1993), Jonathan Rauch showed how attacks on the free market in speech undermine three pillars of American liberty. They subvert democracy, the culture of persuasion by which we decide who shall wield legitimate power. (Progressives advocate government regulation of the quantity, content and timing of political campaign speech.) The attacks undermine capitalism — markets registering the freely expressed choices by which we allocate wealth. And the attacks undermine science, which is how we decide what is true. (Note progressives' insistence that the science about this or that is “settled.”)

For decades, much academic ingenuity has been devoted to jurisprudential theorizing to evade the First Amendment’s majestic simplicity about “no law … abridging the freedom of speech.” We are urged to “balance” this freedom against competing, and putatively superior, considerations such as individual serenity, institutional tranquility or social improvement.

On campuses, the right of free speech has been supplanted by an entitlement to what Greg Lukianoff of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education calls a right to freedom from speech deemed uncongenial. This entitlement is buttressed by “trigger warnings” against spoken “micro-aggressions” that lacerate the delicate sensibilities of individuals who are encouraged to be exquisitely, paralyzingly sensitive.

In a booklet for the “Encounter Broadside” series, Lukianoff says “sensitivity-based censorship” on campus reflects a broader and global phenomena. It is the demand for coercive measures to do for our mental lives what pharmacology has done for our bodies — the banishment or mitigation of many discomforts. In the social milieu fostered by today’s entitlement state, expectations quickly generate entitlements. Students are taught to expect intellectual comfort, including the reinforcement of their beliefs, or at least those that conform to progressive orthodoxies imbibed and enforced on campuses. Until September, however, the culture of freedom will be safe from its cultured despisers.


Higher Education Is Not Just an Investment

It's recreational too

As college graduation season begins, you can anticipate seeing news stories about the terrible plight facing today’s graduates. Many of these stories will focus on students’ heavy debt burdens and poor job prospects, and call the investment in higher education a failure. Young grads do face difficult challenges, but the problem is not that their “investment” doesn’t pay off.

To be sure, the rising cost of higher education is a serious problem. The average annual tuition and fees at private colleges and universities has risen to $31,000, roughly 76 percent in inflation-adjusted dollars since the year that most of graduates from the Class of 2015 were born. At public colleges and universities, the average cost of $9,100 represents a 141 percent increase.

Seventy percent of this year’s 3.5 million graduates have amassed student-loan debt in order to meet the high cost of higher education. The average student loan debt is a whopping $27,000. This reality will undoubtedly lead some pundits to ask: “Is college worth the investment?”

But the question is based on a false premise. College is not just an investment in human capital to improve future earnings. Often, it provides consumption goods, too.

These goods might take the form of recreational amenities, such as climbing walls and lazy rivers. But they can also include courses, or even majors, focused on topics like art appreciation -- and a variety of other subjects -- that are pleasurable and foster long-term cultural enrichment, but which do little to increase earnings.

Unfortunately, massive government subsidies to higher education make the bundling of human capital investment and consumption for young adults a bad deal for society. For students and parents who understand the difference between the two, it can be a great deal. But taxpayers pick up a portion of students’ education and consumption expenses, too.

The high cost of tuition and all-too-common low return on higher education spending is both an outcome driven by market forces and a consequence of government interventions.

As families become wealthier, they tend to demand more leisure and consumption for their children. Colleges and universities are happy to supply it. Government subsidies, however, distort this tradeoff, and neither the families nor the institutions face market prices. The subsidies also increase the demand for higher education, which drives up tuition, and the schools become incentivized to oversupply consumption goods.

Once we recognize that much educational spending and student debt are for financing consumption rather than investment, we can gain a clearer perspective on the problems facing recent college grads.

My point isn’t meant to downplay the problems that college graduates face. The unemployment rate for young adults between the ages of 20 and 24 is 9.5 percent, more than twice the rate for adults aged 25 years and older. Student loan debt, much like credit card debt from Vegas vacations and other consumption, is difficult to manage if you can’t find gainful employment.

Also, the government has made it harder for recent graduates who are employed to meet their financial needs. Obamacare, for example, forces young healthy people to buy higher priced insurance that subsidizes the premiums of the old and sick. Young adults are also forced to pay into Social Security and Medicare, programs that will likely go bankrupt before they can collect benefits.

So to the Class of 2015, I feel bad for you that government has helped to inflate the cost of your degrees and taxes you in ways that make it harder to meet your student loan payments and other financial obligations. But it’s been a fun four (or more) years for you. Now it’s time to get to work and pay up.


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