Wednesday, December 09, 2015

All I Want for Christmas Is Christmas

The cancer of political correctness eating away at the foundation of the American university system has reached a new low. At the University of Tennessee, the Office for Diversity and Inclusion has released a list of “suggestions” emphasizing the need to avoid Christmas parties, because those expressing cultural and/or religious preferences run afoul of UT’s commitment to inclusion and diversity. They advise, “Ensure your holiday party is not a Christmas party in disguise.”

“The university does not have an official policy regarding religious and cultural décor and celebration in the workplace,” states an online document entitled “Best Practices for Inclusive Holiday Celebrations in the Workplace.” “However, we are fully committed to a diverse, welcoming, and inclusive environment.” Thus UT bureaucrats have compiled a series of bullet points outlining the “best practices for inclusive holiday celebrations.”

It includes such “insightful” ideas as building upon “workplace relationships and team morale with no emphasis on religion or culture,” giving New Year’s parties that have “décor and food from multiple religions and cultures,” pot-luck parties that “encourage employees to bring food items that reflect their personal religions, cultures, and celebrations,” and serving refreshments “not specific to any religion or culture.”

It gets worse. Supervisors and managers “should not endorse, or be perceived as endorsing, religion generally or a specific religion,” all holiday cards should be “nondenominational” expressions of one’s gratitude, and all religious holidays should only be celebrated “in ways that are respectful and inclusive of our students, your colleagues, and our university.”

Note that even a general endorsement of religion is frowned upon, courtesy of radical leftist ideologues as cultish and demanding as any primitive gaggle of howling moon-worshippers could ever be.

Even games are anathema to these spirit-sapping down-heads. “Holiday parties and celebrations should not play games with religious and cultural themes — for example, ‘Dreidel’ or ‘Secret Santa.’” So, the document advises, “If you want to exchange gifts, then refer to it in a general way, such as a practical joke gift exchange or secret gift exchange.”

As least some people get it. U.S. Rep. John J. Duncan (R-TN) blasted the policy as “extremist,” “ridiculously overboard” and an example of political correctness gone wild. State Rep. Martin Daniel (R-Knoxville), sent UT Chancellor Jimmy Cheek a letter supporting diversity in general, noting that higher education would be boring if “all of the student or faculty were of one type or one color.” Yet he rightly noted the university’s diversity efforts go far beyond such basic understandings “and seem to be an unnecessarily aggressive indoctrination of our students with a general liberal ideology. This part of the diversity effort does not seem to be counterbalanced with conservative or moderate opinion.”

That’s because it isn’t, courtesy of the same university that engendered controversy back in August when the director of the UTK Pride Center posted a piece on the Office for Diversity’s website encouraging UT students and professors to use gender-neutral pronouns such as “ze” and “xyr.” That post was ultimately pulled, with UT President Joe DiPietro and Chancellor Cheek stating they would approve future campus-wide practices or policies prior to their publication.

Senate Education Committee Chairman Dolores Gresham (R-Somerville). “Chancellor Cheek made a commitment to our Higher Education Subcommittee to personally approve future posts by the Office of Diversity and Inclusion. I took him to be a man of his word and I am dismayed by these recent developments,” he said.

Rep. Duncan added, “They didn’t seem to learn much from that experience.” Both called for Cheek’s resignation.

UT vice chancellor Rickey Hall thought the whole controversy was “ridiculous.” He insisted most other universities had similar practices and “UT is just catching up” in order to prevent the several complaints he purportedly hears each year from Jews or Muslims about holiday workplace parties that actually are Christmas parties. Chancellor Cheek was equally feckless, saying in a statement, “I am disappointed that our efforts to be inclusive have been totally misconstrued.”

Nothing has been “misconstrued.” One either embraces the position of the perpetual grievance-mongers and their brainless collectivism, or one is a trouble-maker.

Yet the real elephant in the room is being ignored: Why in the world should any university have an Office for Diversity and Inclusion? Moreover, why should it be the business of college bureaucrats how students, faculty and university employees celebrate parties? This is nothing more than the continuing attempt to infantilize a college environment that should be the complete antithesis of such puerile nonsense. Parents, students and alumni donors might ask themselves what portion of UT’s annual attendance costs of $27,962 for in-state students, and a whopping $46,152 for out-of-state students, is used to underwrite a radical leftist bureaucracy determined to micromanage every aspect of university behavior.

And not just at Tennessee. As Bloomberg reported in 2012, “At universities nationwide, employment of administrators jumped 60 percent from 1993 to 2009, 10 times the growth rate for tenured faculty.”

Writing about the “diversity ideology” that infests the campuses of the University of California, policy analyst Heather MacDonald notes the consequences of such an explosion. “It’s impossible to overstate the extent to which the diversity ideology has encroached upon UC’s collective psyche and mission,” she writes. “No administrator, no regent, no academic dean or chair can open his mouth for long without professing fealty to diversity.”

That would be diversity as defined by George Orwell. Last week, Americans endured the ultimate example of those wishing to take Christmas out of a Christmas party when two Islamic terrorists killed 14 and wounded 21 in San Bernardino, California. If like-minded people had their way, Christmas itself would be completely eliminated — out of “respect” for their sensibilities. Perhaps some clueless college bureaucrats might ponder the rather curious alignment between those who brook no challenge to Islamist orthodoxy, and those who brook no challenge to progressive orthodoxy.

In the meantime, the moment has come to cut the bureaucratic umbilical cord that turns college campuses into indoctrination camps for political correctness, in all its alternative viewpoint-suppressing glory. No doubt that will be a trauma-inducing development for some delicate flower students and faculty who might be forced to cope with the avalanche of “microaggressions” better known as the free and open exchange of competing ideas. Who knows, they might ultimately learn to enjoy being challenged, or how to enjoy Christmas — just for Christmas' sake.


3 Conservative Goals No Child Left Behind Rewrite Wouldn’t Accomplish

Monday morning, Congress released a proposed reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, currently known as No Child Left Behind.

The proposal, known as the Every Student Succeeds Act, would makes some important changes to No Child Left Behind, such as eliminating Adequate Yearly Progress mandates (standardized testing benchmarks), but would not accomplish conservative policy priorities of:

    Allowing funding for Title I (federal funding for low-income children) to be made portable by states

    Allowing states to completely opt out of federal programs through the APLUS provision

    Cutting programs and spending that have accumulated over the decades

The proposal also creates several major new programs and initiatives, maintaining a “program for every problem” structure. As such, the proposal would likely maintain significant federal intervention in local school policy for years to come.

New Programs

Reconstituted School Improvement Grant program. In 2009, the Obama administration created the School Improvement Grant program as a stand-alone program funded primarily through more than $3 billion provided through the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act, often referred to as the “stimulus” package. The School Improvement Grant program was geared toward turning around the worst-performing schools in a state through specific interventions tied to the stimulus funds.

Under the Every Student Succeeds Act, the structure of the School Improvement Grant program is eliminated, but the existing 4 percent set aside in Title I is increased to 7 percent and is to be used for school improvement activities. Although the School Improvement Grant program is eliminated, states will now be able to use a larger share of Title I funding for the same purpose, with Title I funding itself increasing. So while the School Improvement Grant program disappears in law, funding for the same functions effectively remains intact.

New STEM program. The Every Student Succeeds Act would also include a new STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) Master Teacher program. The STEM Master Teacher Corps program had been introduced as a stand-alone bill by Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., in February in an effort to create a network of STEM leaders who would be eligible to receive additional compensation funded through the federal program.

Family Engagement in Education Program. Part E of Title IV would also provide $10 million in federal funding beginning in 2017 and continuing through 2020 to reconstitute the Parental Information and Resources Center (PIRC)—which had not been funded since 2010—into statewide Family Engagement in Education Programs.

As the proposal states, these programs would, among other purposes, “assist the Secretary, State educational agencies, and local educational agencies in the coordination and integration of Federal, State, and local services and programs to engage families in education.” The secretary of education would award grants to statewide organizations to establish family engagement centers to “carry out parent education, and family engagement in education, programs; or provide comprehensive training and technical assistance to State educational agencies, local educational agencies … organizations that support family-school partnerships, and other organizations that carry out such programs.”

New preschool program. Title IX would house a new federal preschool program authorized by the Every Student Succeeds Act and establish annual funding at $250 million. The new preschool program would be housed at the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and jointly administered by the Department of Education.

The funding would be made available to states to help coordinate existing government preschool programs, such as those operated by the states and Head Start, and to establish new preschool programs. Although some funding has been appropriated for the preschool program for the past two years, the new Every Student Succeeds Act would codify the new $250-million federal preschool program, creating mission creep in the Elementary and Secondary Education Act.

Additionally, this move would continue the trend of growth in federal programs affecting the youngest Americans at a time when there is more empirical evidence than ever on the shortcomings of government preschool programs.

New civics program. The Every Student Succeeds Act would also establish a new program known as Presidential Academies for the Teaching of American History and Civics, which would provide professional development to improve the teaching of history and civics to between 50 and 300 teachers annually, selected from public and private elementary and secondary schools throughout the country. It would also establish Congressional Academies, a similar initiative geared toward high school juniors and seniors at the recommendation of their principal. All participants in both programs receive a stipend for travel expenses.

Annual Testing and Adequate Yearly Progress Mandates

The Every Student Succeeds Act would end the Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) mandates under No Child Left Behind, which require that all students in all states make “adequate” annual progress toward universal proficiency in math and reading or have the state risk federal sanctions.

Yet the Every Student Succeeds Act retains the annual testing requirement that students be tested every year in grades three through eight and again in high school. States promulgate their own tests to assess students in advance of the federally mandated state tests, resulting in students in large districts taking an average of 112 mandated standardized tests by the time they graduate.

The proposal would keep the annual testing structure in place. Regardless of the relative merits of standardized testing, federally mandated annual testing would continue to have a real effect on local school policy.

The Every Student Succeeds Act would also include requirements for the new “state-based” accountability plans. Although less prescriptive than the Adequate Yearly Progress mandates, the proposal is specific about the types and the proportion of accountability options that must be included. Approximately 51 percent of a state’s accountability would be required to be based on quantitative measures such as graduation rates and performance on state tests, and the other 49 percent would be based on other more subjective measures, such as school climate and educator engagement.

Under the new proposal, states would also be required to intervene in the lowest-performing 5 percent of schools, have school-level interventions in schools in which subgroups of students perform poorly, and intervene in schools in which fewer than two-thirds of students graduate.

Overall, the proposal would retain a labyrinth of federal programs, and high levels of federal spending, continuing a trend that has maintained federal intervention in local school policy while failing to improve educational outcomes for children.


British schools can win £30,000 grants if they hire and promote gay and transgender teachers thanks to 'profoundly misguided' scheme

A scheme offering schools £30,000 to hire and promote gay and transgender teachers has been slammed by critics as being 'profoundly misguided'.

The Leadership Equality and Diversity Fund, backed by the Department for Education, will provide training to existing staff, or recruit new staff, in an effort to promote diversity within schools.

Applications are encouraged on the basis of 'protected characteristics', as outlined in the Equality Act 2010, which include age, disability, gender reassignment, race, religion or belief and sex.

The category also includes sexual orientation, marriage and civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity.

Schools with low numbers of staff who are gay, mature or returning to work after having children, are thought to benefit from the grant, which can provide additional training for promotion.

The £900,000 fund accepted applications for the first time this year, following a pilot scheme in 2014/2015. 

However, critics say the scheme promotes teachers on the basis of diversity, rather than skill.

The fund, run by the National College for Teaching and Leadership, was also set up to specifically promote black and minority ethnic teachers and women, but the grant has also been used to recruit more male teachers.

David Green, founder of the Civitas think tank, told The Sunday Telegraph that the scheme was flawed and assumes there is discrimination if the above groups are not proportionately represented in leadership roles.

He said: 'It is highly likely that this would include every school in the land.'  Mr Green added: 'I would abolish the whole thing.

'I think it's profoundly misguided and the money could be better spent on providing more teachers for children from disadvantaged backgrounds.'

Meanwhile David Nuttall, Conservative MP for Bury North, said the fund is 'absolute nonsense.'

Lucy Powell, Labour shadow education secretary added her concerns about the scheme, saying that the money allocated for the fund could be better spent elsewhere.

In a statement, the Department for Education told MailOnline that it was 'nonsense' to suggest staff are promoted on the basis of diversity rather than skill.

It said: 'This programme encourages able teachers with potential, who might otherwise not have the confidence to compete for such roles without targeted intervention, to move into leadership roles.

'It is absolute nonsense to say that the people involved are promoted on the basis of diversity - all participants who apply for leadership roles must show they are the best person for the job to be successful.

'Participants do not have to be promoted within 12 months, they compete for leadership roles on the same basis as other applicants, and will only succeed where they are the most suitable person for the role.'


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