Friday, April 17, 2015

Murderers Row at Columbia

Weather Underground terrorist and convicted cop killer Kathy Boudin is now surrounded by fellow felons on the staff of the Columbia University School of Social Work where she crusades against the supposedly systemic racism of the justice system.

The septuagenarian Boudin is assistant adjunct professor and director of the school’s “Criminal Justice Initiative: Supporting Children, Families and Communities” (CJI), which appears to be focused on keeping criminals like her out of prison by abolishing imprisonment as a punishment. As her official bio states, the initiative, which she co-founded, “is dedicated to ending society’s reliance on incarceration and retribution and advancing solutions.”

The school, which calls “mass incarceration” a “central social crisis of our time,” is little more than an indoctrination mill that churns out radical left-wing propaganda largely at taxpayer expense.

“There are approximately 1.6 million people in the nation’s prisons and jails and 7 million American children with a parent who is either incarcerated, on parole, or on probation,” according to the school. “The Criminal Justice Initiative focuses on how the social work profession can best address the educational and human needs of individuals, children, families and communities affected by incarceration.”

Boudin served 22 years in prison for her role in an assault on an armored-car in Nyack, N.Y. in which two police officers and a Brinks security guard died. Boudin was paroled in 2003 after telling officials that she took part in the $1.6 million robbery because she felt guilty for being white. Security guard Peter Paige and police officers Waverly Brown and Edward O’Grady died in the 1981 attack. Nine children subsequently grew up without their fathers.

Boudin is no stranger to irony.

This past Dec. 4 in a year in which two black men — Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., and Eric Garner in Staten Island, N.Y. — were killed by police in incidents that received national media attention, Boudin put her name on an online mini-manifesto titled, “BLACK LIVES MATTER: Statement from the Columbia School of Social Work Community.”

The document states that there is “systemic racism and oppression in our country overall and our justice system in particular.”

“We are outraged by the decision [not to indict Ferguson cop Darren Wilson] and call for immediate and sustained action to examine, analyze and redress the harmful and pervasive effects of racism.”

The document ends with “Michael Brown matters. Eric Garner matters. Black lives matter.”

But not all black lives matter to Kathy Boudin.

She didn’t declare in the statement that she was convicted of murdering a trailblazing African-American police officer. Nyack cop Waverly Brown, who was gunned down after Boudin distracted the police who had pulled over a getaway vehicle, had become his village’s first black policeman in 1966.

It is unclear if Boudin and the other Brinks robbers squealed with delight after offing someone left-wing radicals would call a “pig,” especially because Brown represented what they despised.

He served in the U.S. Air Force during the Korean War. Known by the nickname “Chipper,” a fellow officer said “he had absolutely no enemies.” In the police station’s kitchen, he prepared meals for the other police officers on his shift. When the police department in his mother’s hometown of Lawrenceville, Va., tried to lure him away, he reportedly refused to go because he loved his job in Nyack so much.

In any event, Columbia University was the natural choice for Boudin, the cop killer.

With her Weather Underground comrades in 1970 she plotted to plant bombs in Butler Library on the university’s Morningside Heights campus. She received one of the most worthless advanced academic degrees America has to offer — the education doctorate (Ed.D.) — from Teachers College, Columbia University. Fellow terrorist and longtime Obama pal Bill Ayers received his Ed.D. from the same school two decades earlier. Neo-communist apostles of depravity and engineered social collapse, Richard Cloward and Frances Fox Piven, both taught at the Columbia University School of Social Work in the 1960s.

The crime that Boudin participated in was a joint action by the Black Liberation Army and May 19th Communist Organization. It was perpetrated to raise money for an insurgency against the U.S. government.

Of course, the Ivy League social work school doesn’t exactly boast about the fact that the Criminal Justice Initiative is overflowing with ex-cons convicted of violent crimes. It took reporter Perry Chiaramonte for the hidden nest of ivory tower felons to be revealed.

Cheryl Wilkins was the getaway driver in a 1996 hijacking at gunpoint of a Federal Express truck. She did a 12-year bid for robbery and assault at Manhattan’s Bayview Correctional Facility.

Wilkins was also co-director of the CJI. Today she is senior program manager at Columbia’s Center for Justice. Her official bio states that “her work is consistent with overcoming the damage that mass incarceration has left on families and communities.”

Denise Blackwell spent a decade in prison after being convicted of attempted second-degree for participating in a holdup in which three drug dealers lost their lives. Her son, Mack Moton, who was only 15 at the time, was tried as an adult. He is serving a sentence of 32 years to life at Sing Sing Correctional Facility, in Ossining, N.Y.

Chiaramonte identified Blackwell as “a ‘research assistant’ under the Social Intervention Group, the parent/umbrella group of the Criminal Justice Initiative.”

Mika’il DeVeaux served 24 years at a Westchester County, N.Y., prison, after being convicted of second-degree murder, Chiaramonte discovered. DeVeaux was a keynote speaker at CJI’s “Removing the Bars” Conference three years ago and he was co-director with Boudin of Citizens Against Recidivism Inc., a nonprofit organization in Springfield Gardens, N.Y. Today he is the group’s executive director.

His bio didn’t indicate he was an ex-con. Instead it stated DeVeaux “has more than three decades of experience working with men incarcerated in New York State maximum security prisons and many who have been released following periods of confinement.” The statement is accurate in a Media Matters kind of way.

Chiaramonte also discovered that Boudin’s old comrades-in-arms, Bill Ayers and Bernardine Dorhn, showed up for CJI’s “Removing the Bars” conference in 2012.

“Other former high-level members of the Weather Underground were invited to speak at CJI events,” he wrote. “They included Russell Neufeld, who went on to become an anti-death penalty attorney, and Laura Whitehorn, who spoke at an October 2011 called the ‘Troy Davis Teach-in.'”

Boudin claims to feel bad about those three murders.

“I have nothing but regret for the suffering that I caused, and I’ve attempted to lead a life that would express that remorse and that regret,” Boudin said in 2013 when cornered by Jesse Watters of Fox News.

But Boudin sounded less repentant in a speech that year. She forcefully urged the release of her fellow co-conspirators in the Brinks robbery.

“I want to also talk about the people who still in prison and not here and remember them,” Boudin told an audience at New York University’s law school in 2013. Boudin had the honor of delivering the “19th Annual Rose Sheinberg Lecture on the politics of parole and reentry.”

“People [like] David Gilbert, Judy Clark, Sekou Odinga, Roslyn Smith, so many other people that aren’t here but I’m thinking of them, we want them here with us, and hopefully some day they will be.”

All four persons Boudin named were convicted of murder or attempted murder.

David Gilbert was a co-conspirator in the Brinks robbery who is imprisoned in Auburn, N.Y. Gilbert was a member of the Weather Underground, Revolutionary Armed Task Force (RATF), and he helped to found the May 19 Communist Organization with Boudin and Clark. The name of the group was derived from the birthdays of Vietnamese Communist Ho Chi Minh who was born May 19, 1890, and Malcolm X who was born May 19, 1925.

Gilbert is also the father of Boudin’s son, Chesa Boudin, who was raised by fellow Weather Underground members Bill Ayers and his wife Bernardine Dohrn when his parents went to prison. (Boudin handed little Chesa off to a babysitter before the robbery.) Wholly unrepentant, Gilbert still writes self-important, pompous propaganda pamphlets romanticizing his wasted life of error.

The “Judy Clark” is Judith Alice Clark, another Weather Underground member who participated in the robbery. Clark is currently a guest of the State of New York at the Bedford Hills maximum-security facility where she is serving a 75 years-to-life prison term.

Sekou Odinga, also known as Nathanial Burns, was a member of the Black Liberation Army (BLA) and Black Panther Party who was found guilty in 1984 of six counts of attempted murder of police officers. Odinga participated in the Brinks robbery and was convicted of breaking fellow BLA member Assata Shakur, the former Joanne Deborah Chesimard, out of a New Jersey prison where she was doing time for murdering a New Jersey state trooper. Shakur now lives in Communist Cuba. Although imprisoned at Clinton Correctional Facility in upstate New York when Boudin spoke at NYU in 2013, Odinga was released the next year.

The “Roslyn Smith” must be Roslyn D. Smith, one of Boudin’s fellow inmates at the Bedford Hills correctional facility. Smith and Boudin both were involved with the prison’s Children’s Center which provides parenting classes. According to court records, Smith was convicted in the robbery and brutal 1979 murder of “80-year-old, bedridden Louis Feit and his 73-year-old wife … in their Brooklyn apartment.” Smith remains behind bars.

Retired Nyack police detective Arthur Keenan, who was wounded during the Brinks robbery, told Fox’s Megyn Kelly that Boudin never apologized to him. He also said he didn’t believe the former prisoner was sincerely remorseful.

“She’s on a soapbox at these two colleges to try to accomplish her mission by swaying the young students there that weren’t even born when these crimes took place. Her radical views are still the same as they were in the Sixties.”

Kelly replied that Boudin has “a lot of empathy for the people who are in jail for their crimes and their murders — not so much for their victims and the families of their victims.”

It’s a fair point.

Left-wingers, including community organizers, have a certain reverence for criminals. The more radical the activist, the greater the reverence.

A criminal, especially one who commits violent, socially disruptive crimes, is viewed as a kind of revolutionary attacking the system.

Someone like unrepentant Philadelphia cop killer Mumia Abu-Jamal, a black man who murdered a white man, will sometimes be worshiped by segments of the Left.

It’s a little-recognized part of the psychopathology of the Left.

And Kathy Boudin and her Criminal Justice Initiative are doing their damnedest to spread this disease.


Columbia Prof. Who Says Zionists Supported Nazis Speaks at Cornell: Israel Has No Right to be Jewish State

Columbia University Professor Joseph Massad, a controversial speaker who in the past has written and spoken about alleged Zionist-Nazi collaboration and the “Anglo-American gay agenda,” delivered a speech at Cornell claiming Israel has no right to exist as a Jewish state, and recognizing it as such is equivalent to recognizing Israel as a “racist state.”

In fact, this claim is a step back from Massad’s previously quoted contention in a 2002 speech at Oxford University that Israel has no right whatsoever to exist: “The Jews are not a nation… The Jewish state is a racist state that does not have a right to exist.”

Massad concluded his speech by remarking: “It is the end of the Zionist colonial adventure, especially the removal of all the racist, legal, and institutional structures that Israel has erected, that is the precondition for lasting… justice and peace for all the inhabitants of Palestine and Israel.”

Massad, a professor of Modern Arab Politics and Intellectual History, spoke on Wednesday evening to a crowd of about 35 for an event entitled “Palestinians and the Dilemmas of Solidarity: Is the Two-State Solution Viable?” Cornell Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) sponsored the event.

Though the speech started out as assessment of the merits and demerits of various forms of solidarity among and with Palestinians, Massad soon turned to the topic of Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS), an economic and political strategy that seeks to dismantle the state of Israel and one which is particularly popular on college campuses, including Cornell. Despite the fact that no major university has adopted any measure of BDS, Massad praised its “success,” but he also criticized what he called the “co-opting of BDS” by Europeans when they try, according to Massad, to make BDS’s goal the establishment of a two-state solution.

“BDS is about boycotting all Israeli academic and cultural institutions, and expanded into even economic products, [not] until Israel goes back to the negotiating table, but rather until Israel ceases to be a racist state,” Massad said.

In response to an audience member’s question about the optics surrounding BDS, Massad suggested that U.S. students use words like “racism” and European students use “colonialism” and “occupation” when referring to Israel and BDS. The former, Massad said, is more emotionally powerful in this country whereas a word like “occupation” is more powerful in Europe because it “reminds” them of Nazi occupation.

Massad’s past writings and lectures demonstrate his fondness for the Israel-Nazi Germany analogy. Along with the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI), which he praised in his Cornell speech, Massad argues Zionists collaborated with the Nazis in the 1930s and 1940s in order to promote Jewish immigration to Palestine.

In a 2013 piece titled “The Last of the Semites” published by Al Jazeera, Massad wrote:

“… It is this shared goal of expelling Jews from Europe as a separate unassimilable race that created the affinity between Nazis and Zionists all along.

While the majority of Jews continued to resist the anti-Semitic basis of Zionism and its alliances with anti-Semites, the Nazi genocide not only killed 90 percent of European Jews, but in the process also killed the majority of Jewish enemies of Zionism who died precisely because they refused to heed the Zionist call of abandoning their countries and homes.” ...

West Germany’s alliance with Zionism and Israel after WWII, of supplying Israel with huge economic aid in the 1950s and of economic and military aid since the early 1960s, including tanks, which it used to kill Palestinians and other Arabs, is a continuation of the alliance that the Nazi government concluded with the Zionists in the 1930s.”

In 2008, Massad published a book titled Desiring Arabs in which he expounded upon his numerous contentions about homosexuality in the Arab world first outlined in a 2002 article titled “Re-Orienting Desire: The Gay International and the Arab World.”  In his article and book, Massad argues that homosexuality does not exist in the Arab world, or at least the homosexuality the “Anglo-American gay agenda” promotes, as he said at a 2010 speech delivered at UCLA. In that same speech, he also remarked, “Queer is about resistance to Islam” and “Queer is an example of cultural imperialism.”

Here are some more interesting quotes from Professor Massad:

“All those in the Arab world who deny the Jewish holocaust are in my opinion Zionists.”

“What is it about the nature of Zionism, its racism, and its colonial policies that continues to escape the understanding of many European intellectuals on the left?”

“For the Gay International, transforming sexual practices into identities through the universalizing of gayness and gaining ‘rights’ for those who identify (or more precisely, are identified by the Gay International) with it becomes the mark of an ascending civilization, just as repressing those rights and restricting the circulation of gayness is a mark of backwardness and barbarism.”

“[I]t is the very discourse of the Gay International which produces homosexuals, as well as gays and lesbians, where they do not exist.”


Princeton Votes for Academic Freedom

At campuses across the country, traditional ideals of freedom of expression and the right to dissent have been deeply compromised or even abandoned as college and university faculties and administrators have capitulated to demands for language and even thought policing. Academic freedom, once understood to be vitally necessary to the truth-seeking mission of institutions of higher learning, has been pushed to the back of the bus in an age of “trigger warnings,” “micro-aggressions,” mandatory sensitivity training, and grievance politics. It was therefore refreshing to see the University of Chicago, one of the academic world's most eminent and highly respected institutions, issue a report ringingly reaffirming the most robust conception of academic freedom. The question was whether other institutions would follow suit.

Yesterday, the Princeton faculty, led by the distinguished mathematician Sergiu Klainerman, who grew up under communist oppression in Romania and knows a thing or two about the importance of freedom of expression, formally adopted the principles of the University of Chicago report. They are now the official policy of Princeton University. I am immensely grateful to Professor Klainerman for his leadership, and I am proud of my colleagues, the vast majority of whom voted in support of his motion.

At Chicago and Princeton, at least, academic freedom lives!

Here are the principles we adopted:

    ‘Education should not be intended to make people comfortable, it is meant to make them think. Universities should be expected to provide the conditions within which hard thought, and therefore strong disagreement, independent judgment, and the questioning of stubborn assumptions, can flourish in an environment of the greatest freedom.' . . . Because the University is committed to free and open inquiry in all matters, it guarantees all members of the University community the broadest possible latitude to speak, write, listen, challenge, and learn. Except insofar as limitations on that freedom are necessary to the functioning of the University, the University of Chicago fully respects and supports the freedom of all members of the University community ‘to discuss any problem that presents itself.' Of course, the ideas of different members of the University community will often and quite naturally conflict. But it is not the proper role of the University to attempt to shield individuals from ideas and opinions they find unwelcome, disagreeable, or even deeply offensive. Although the University greatly values civility, and although all members of the University community share in the responsibility for maintaining a climate of mutual respect, concerns about civility and mutual respect can never be used as a justification for closing off discussion of ideas, however offensive or disagreeable those ideas may be to some members of our community.

    The freedom to debate and discuss the merits of competing ideas does not, of course, mean that individuals may say whatever they wish, wherever they wish. The University may restrict expression that violates the law, that falsely defames a specific individual, that constitutes a genuine threat or harassment, that unjustifiably invades substantial privacy or confidentiality interests, or that is otherwise directly incompatible with the functioning of the University. In addition, the University may reasonably regulate the time, place, and manner of expression to ensure that it does not disrupt the ordinary activities of the University. But these are narrow exceptions to the general principle of freedom of expression, and it is vitally important that these exceptions never be used in a manner that is inconsistent with the University’s commitment to a completely free and open discussion of ideas. In a word, the University’s fundamental commitment is to the principle that debate or deliberation may not be suppressed because the ideas put forth are thought by some or even by most members of the University community to be offensive, unwise, immoral, or wrong-headed. It is for the individual members of the University community, not for the University as an institution, to make those judgments for themselves, and to act on those judgments not by seeking to suppress speech, but by openly and vigorously contesting the ideas that they oppose.

    Indeed, fostering the ability of members of the University community to engage in such debate and deliberation in an effective and responsible manner is an essential part of the University’s educational mission. As a corollary to the University’s commitment to protect and promote free expression, members of the University community must also act in conformity with the principle of free expression. Although members of the University community are free to criticize and contest the views expressed on campus, and to criticize and contest speakers who are invited to express their views on campus, they may not obstruct or otherwise interfere with the freedom of others to express views they reject or even loathe. To this end, the University has a solemn responsibility not only to promote a lively and fearless freedom of debate and deliberation, but also to protect that freedom when others attempt to restrict it.


Thursday, April 16, 2015

Proof that 'pupil-led' trendy teaching lowers standards

New data from the hallowed FINLAND!

Britain should be wary of adopting trendy pupil-led teaching techniques from Scandinavia because they may be making standards worse, a new report claims.

Progressive education experts in the UK have long pushed for our system to emulate the group work and independent study that is popular in Finland, which has regularly topped international league tables.

But a new analysis of Finnish education suggests pupil aptitude has actually declined since the country embraced fashionable teaching methods.

According to research by the Right-leaning Centre for Policy Studies, Finland only did so well before because of the influence of traditional teacher-led methods.

But it has slipped down international rankings tables as the new liberal techniques became more widespread.

The findings will add weight to arguments by Michael Gove that a return to traditional teacher-led lessons are the way to raise standards in schools.

The former education secretary made it his mission to fight the ‘progressive’ methodology of the education establishment, which he referred to as ‘the Blob’.

Report author Gabriel Heller Sahlgren said: ‘My research shows that the methods that we have been trying to push through in England and America for years are not good for test scores.

‘Pupils who aren’t motivated are not necessarily interested in learning. If you give them too much freedom, it’s difficult to know if they’re learning anything. It’s not very effective.

‘Here in the UK, there is a tendency to abolish traditional methods because they’re old, but we need to decrease this bias.’

Finland was proclaimed an ‘education superpower’ after appearing at the top of international rankings tables between 2001 and 2009.

Many in the education establishment have pushed for the Finnish model of pupil-led learning to be used as an inspiration for the British system.

Instead of giving whole-class instruction from a blackboard, teachers have instead adopted small group work, independent learning and educational activities and games.

But today’s report, which examines education policy and performance in Finland over the last half century, found implementation of the new methods coincided with a recent slump in performance.

Between 2006 and 2012, Finland’s performance in PISA tests run by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) declined.  It sunk by 18 points in scientific literacy, 23 points in reading literacy, and 29 points in mathematical literacy.

In 2006, it was second in the world for maths, while in 2012 it was 12th. Rankings for reading and science also slipped several places.

Teachers training in the 1990s learnt the new methods and only began to teach them in the 2000s, the report said.

Before this, education in Finland had been traditional, hierarchical and teacher-led, according to the author, and it was this that was responsible for its stellar performances in the league tables.

Mr Sahlgren added: ‘The reforms in Finland that people are crediting with its improvement actually only began in the early 2000s.

‘When Finland was improving, the education system was very authoritative and teacher-led. Finland was improving in the 1980s but rounded off in around 1995. In the early 2000s, it started to fall.’

The report, titled ‘Real Finnish Lessons’, said that Finland’s education system had instead been buoyed by socio-economic factors until recently.

These included a strong work ethic and cultural sense of responsibility, as well as the high status of teachers leading to talented individuals entering the profession.

Mr Gove prompted a fierce backlash from teachers two years ago after saying he wanted them to stop using innovative approaches which ‘dumbed down’ education.

He gave an example of ‘making Plasticine models to represent Hitler’s main aims as Fuhrer’ as a method which had ‘nothing to do with passing on knowledge’.

He said part of the problem was a ‘belief that education should not be an activity in which the teacher imparts knowledge to the child but a pursuit - by the child - of what it finds interesting’.

Mr Sahlgren is Director of Research at the Centre for the Study of Market Reform of Education think tank.


University of Michigan Debacle


Last week, The University of Michigan (where I go to school, unfortunately) announced that it would cancel its screening of American Sniper due to outcries from students that the university was "tolerating dangerous anti-Muslim and anti-MENA (Middle Eastern and North African) propaganda."

The University of Michigan has a terrible track record with free speech already this year, instituting an "inclusive speech campaign" which told students which words were off-limits because they could offend someone. Cancelling its screening of American Sniper because it would offend certain students would further humiliate the public university which has already embarrassed itself enough this year.

After nationwide backlash, the university ended up showing the movie after all, releasing a statement which said, "The initial decision to cancel the movie was not consistent with the high value the University of Michigan places on freedom of expression and our respect for the right of students to make their own choices in such matters." Finally, we see some sense.

However, they still provided an alternate movie because they "recognize that some students are uncomfortable with the content of the movie," which was Paddington, a movie for children.


Dartmouth closes 'Animal House' frat after brandings

There does seem to have been an accumulation of bad behavior at the fraternity -- and initiation rituals can go too far. A fraternity is not the army.  The army needs hazing to train the men for hardship

Boston:  Dartmouth College ordered the Alpha Delta fraternity, inspiration for the movie Animal House, to close after finding students branded the flesh of chapter members.

Alpha Delta branded 11 new members with the fraternity's letters in November, a practice dating back to the Class of 2008, according to a letter to the fraternity published by Dartblog, a website run by an alumnus.

"This is an overtly condoned and long-standing practice of the organisation," Alexandra Waltemeyer, the college's assistant director of judicial affairs, said in the April 13 letter.

Alpha Delta violated the terms of a suspension in place at the time of the branding, Diana Lawrence, a spokeswoman, said.The fraternity has until April 20 to appeal. The college may withdraw recognition of the fraternity regardless of the outcome of the appeal, she said.

George Ostler, a lawyer representing the chapter, declined to comment. In March, he called the brands "a form of self-expression, similar to body piercing or tattooing", and said that students voluntarily agreed to have them.

Alpha Delta had been suspended until March 29 because of rule infractions related to drinking and partying. While the branding didn't constitute hazing, it was an "organisational activity" and thus violated the terms of the suspension, the letter said.

"We are disappointed by the college's decision," President Ryan Maguire said. He said the chapter was planning to appeal.

After a fraternity loses recognition, town ordinances prohibit more than three unrelated people from living at the chapter house, according to the letter. Dartmouth has offered housing to all students involved, said Ms Lawrence, who confirmed the letter's authenticity.

In the past two years, Alpha Delta has been fined for serving alcohol to minors, apologised for co-hosting a "Crips and Bloods" party and had a member admit to urinating from a second-story balcony onto a woman below.

Dartmouth President Philip Hanlon belonged to Alpha Delta while at the Hanover, New Hampshire school, and graduated in 1977, a year before Animal House portrayed out-of-control behaviour at the fraternity. Since taking office in 2013, Mr Hanlon has worked   to curb misconduct and heavy drinking. This year, he instituted a campus ban on hard liquor.


Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Colleges or Nursery Schools?

The University of Michigan is the latest American campus determined to prove that the central premise of higher education — the free and open exchange of competing ideas — is a cruel hoax. Last Tuesday, in a spasm of oh-so familiar political correctness, UM initially canceled a scheduled showing of “American Sniper” after 300 students and others whined about the “negative and misleading stereotypes” of Muslims portrayed in the film. As pathetic as that outburst was, the Center for Campus Involvement (CCI) that oversees student activities managed to top it, saying, “While our intent was to show a film, the impact of the content was harmful, and made students feel unsafe and unwelcome at our program.”

But wait, it actually got even more absurd. Following the accommodated temper tantrum, the CCI decided to show a film whose content was tailor-made for the legions of thumb-suckers pretending to be college students: “Paddington,” a child-oriented, PG-rated movie about a talking bear’s adventures in London.


The online memo circulated to stop the showing of a patriotic movie that grossed $540 million worldwide contains the predictable anti-American sentiment that animates its signers, including students, some staff, the Muslim Brotherhood-founded Muslim Students' Association and the president of Students Allied for Freedom and Equality, a Palestinian solidarity group. “Chris Kyle was a racist who took a disturbing stance on murdering Iraqi civilians,” the collective letter stated. “Middle Eastern characters in the film are not lent an ounce of humanity and watching this movie is provocative and unsafe to MENA (Middle Eastern and North African) and Muslim students who are too often reminded of how little the media and world values their lives. … The University of Michigan should not participate in further perpetuating these negative and misleading stereotypes.”

Not all students were on board with the idea that censorship should triumph over the “right” not to be offended. “It would be nice to see the university … take a stand against outrageous claims of ‘student exclusion,’” a UM sophomore said. “The film ‘American Sniper’ in no way creates student exclusion any more than ‘Saving Private Ryan.’ Both show American soldiers at war, the atrocities of war, and the costs of war, yet I’m sure ‘Saving Private Ryan’ would not illicit the same response.”

He got his wish. A day after canceling, the University abruptly switched gears and decided to show “American Sniper” at its regularly scheduled place and time. E. Royster Harper, UM’s vice president for student life, insisted the cancellation was a “mistake” and “not consistent with the high value the University of Michigan places on freedom of expression and our respect for the right of students to make their own choices in such matters.” Yet she remained appreciative of the concern that “some students are uncomfortable with the content of the movie” and promised that “Paddington” would be available for viewing at another campus location.

Why the change of heart? One reason might be a tweet by new Michigan football coach Jim Harbaugh stating, “Michigan Football will watch ‘American Sniper’! Proud of Chris Kyle & Proud to be an American & if that offends anybody then so be it!”

Another might be the reality that a major university has been exposed as a de facto cocoon of intellectual “safety,” which might not be the most attractive calling card for future students. There was also a competing petition created by a third-year law student that garnered more signatures in support of “American Sniper” than the one demanding it not be screened.

But the bet here is that the most compelling reason for the change would likely be an outpouring of disgust from UM alumni who aren’t thrilled with their alma mater being subjected to national ridicule — disgust that might cause a decrease in endowments by those same alumni.

Meanwhile, Muslim student Omar Mahmood satirized this hypersensitivity in The Michigan Daily, UM’s liberal campus newspaper. In a column entitled “Do the Left Thing,” Mahmood portrays himself as a left-handed student offended by “patriarchy” of right “handydnyss” and the resulting “microagressions” directed at him. After it was published, the paper ordered Mahmood to apologize to an offended staffer who felt “threatened” by him. He refused and was fired. Mahmood’s apartment was vandalized shortly thereafter, and papers with statements such as, “You scum embarrass us,” “you self-righteous d—,” “you have no soul,” and “everyone hates you you violent prick,” were left by his door. A printout of his column was also left behind with the words “Shut the f— up” on it.

This is the current state of affairs at UM and countless other colleges across the nation. No doubt it’s only a matter of time before “Paddington” needs a trigger warning as well. That’s what happens when America’s colleges become nursery schools. And it’s hard to decide who’s worse: the legions of hypersensitive, infantilized students who lurch from one self-inflicted “trauma” to another, or the cowardly and collaborative administrators and faculty who abet them.

Update: Via Campus Reform, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute has also postponed a showing of “American Sniper” due to complaints from Muslim students.


Colleges rush to violate free speech, due process in response to speech controversies

In the wake of the University of Oklahoma’s unconstitutional decision to summarily expel students involved in a racist fraternity chant, colleges and universities across the country are in a “race to the bottom” to violate the rights of students at the center of campus controversies involving speech deemed offensive, heedless of either context or the precedent set by censoring unpopular speech.

Last week, the University of South Carolina (USC) suspended a student who used a racial slur when writing a list of reasons “why USC WiFi blows” on a white board. Shortly after a photo of the student writing the list was posted to social media, USC President Harris Pastides issued a statement saying the university had “taken appropriate actions to suspend [the] student and begin code of conduct investigations”—displaying a “sentence first, verdict afterwards” mentality straight out of Alice in Wonderland.

Last month, Bucknell University in Pennsylvania expelled three students who allegedly made racist comments during a campus radio broadcast. Administrators failed to provide a recording or transcript of the statements, instead arguing that “context really doesn’t matter once you see what was said”—a false argument that raises more questions than it answers. Bucknell invoked “administrative action” to expel the students for supposedly violating the student code of conduct, again with no sign of any hearing.

“Colleges have seized on the University of Oklahoma’s unconstitutional actions as a signal that they have an ‘all clear’ to toss free speech and basic fairness out of the window,” said Robert Shibley, Executive Director of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE). “While these punishments might earn temporary plaudits from the press and public, neutering freedom of speech will look a whole lot less clever when the censors’ own unpopular opinions inevitably come under attack.”

Other schools have also recently taken draconian measures to deal with offensive speech. On March 18, the University of Mary Washington in Virginia dissolved its men’s rugby team and mandated sexual assault training for all 46 of its members for a bawdy song sung by a few members at an off-campus party. On April 2, Duke University announced that a student alleged to have hung a noose on campus was “no longer on campus” and was to be “subject to Duke’s student conduct process,” and that “potential criminal violations” were being explored. However, the university has shared neither the motive for the display nor the identity of the student. (A similar incident at Duke in 1997 turned out to be a protest against racism by two black undergraduates.) Connecticut College canceled classes on March 30 and required all students to attend diversity sessions in response to racist bathroom graffiti—vandalism now thought to have been the responsibility of a local man who was not a member of the campus community.

Earlier this week, FIRE wrote to USC, Bucknell, and Duke requesting that they break their silence on the relevant details of the respective incidents so that students and the public can make up their own minds about the expression at issue, rather than being told what to believe by campus authorities.

Thankfully, not all colleges have fully jettisoned student rights. Bucking the trend, University of Maryland President Wallace D. Loh announced on April 1 that a recently publicized email containing racial slurs sent by a campus fraternity member last year constituted protected speech. “[T]his private email, while hateful and reprehensible, did not violate University policies and is protected by the First Amendment,” wrote Loh in an email to the campus community.

Since its founding in 1999, FIRE has repeatedly reminded colleges that the vast majority of speech deemed racist, sexist, or otherwise offensive is protected by the First Amendment on public university campuses. As the Supreme Court held in 1973, “The mere dissemination of ideas—no matter how offensive to good taste—on a state university campus may not be shut off in the name of ‘conventions of decency.’” And if a private college promises its students and faculty free speech rights—as the vast majority of them do, including Duke and Bucknell—such speech should not be the basis for discipline.

“Our nation has long recognized that the best way to fight ‘bad’ speech is with more speech, not censorship,” said FIRE President and CEO Greg Lukianoff. “Yet increasingly we’re seeing calls from campus communities for freedom from speech, not freedom of speech, and college administrators are far too eager to comply. This is a dangerous problem for institutions that are supposed to serve as ‘the marketplace of ideas’—and one for which administrators might ultimately have to answer in court.”


Trigger Warnings and Safe Spaces: The Campus Counter-Revolution

Once upon a time (not that long ago), the west’s colleges and universities were its centers of political dissent and incubators of cultural change.

From dress and speech codes to musical trends to the defining issues of the day, students — often with the support and encouragement of more “liberal” faculty — fashioned their own new civic religion out of the catch-phrase “subvert the dominant paradigm.”

The politically active among today’s generation of college students seem hell-bent on turning that religion inside out, maintaining its outward image, form and tactics while working diligently to negate its substance.

From “trigger warnings” ahead of controversial readings or class discussions to “safe spaces” within which potentially traumatizing elements are banned altogether, the goal is conversion of campuses into hothouses, with students as delicate flowers ensconced within and protected from any hint of challenge to their cherished preconceptions.

We’ve been here before. Be it Thomas Bowdler’s “family-friendly” butcherings of Shakespeare, Anthony Comstock’s crusade against delivery of “obscene, lewd, or lascivious” materials via the US postal system, or Tipper Gore’s demand for “Parental Advisory” labels on music, the neo-Puritan impulse cuts across our history as response to anything new, anything different, anything challenging.

Such movements are inherently conservative, and the 21st century campus version is no exception. Conservatism isn’t about the particular content of any set of ideas. It’s about protecting the established, enshrining that which exists now and protecting it from challenge or change at all costs.

If there’s a defining difference in this creeping (and creepy) new campus conservatism with its trigger warnings, safe spaces, and demands that scary, challenging speakers be un-invited to address students, it’s not the speed with which new social norms (particularly those relating to sexual mores, sexual orientation and gender identification) are adopted, but the speed with which the new norms are deemed sacred, no longer up for debate or discussion.

This is the conservatism of China’s Cultural Revolution; western college activists are its Red Guards. They are not the crowd storming the Bastille. They are the crowd cheering around the guillotine. Their demand that society accept the social changes of the last few decades as set in stone and immune to challenge is fundamentally reactionary.

Trigger warnings, safe spaces and campus speaker censorship tend neither toward advancement of good ideas nor protection from bad ideas.  Free thought and free expression, however, do serve those ends. Students: Rebel!


Tuesday, April 14, 2015

The No Child Left Behind Reauthorization Is a Mixed Bag

Sen. Lamar Alexander and Sen. Patty Murray have announced that they’ve reached a compromise on reauthorizing No Child Left Behind. When a moderate Republican and a not-so-moderate Democrat cooperate on legislation, there’s reason to be nervous, but in this case there may be a silver lining among the clouds.

First the bad news. The reauthorization, under the name of “The Every Child Achieves Act of 2015,” maintains testing requirements, and requires state standards that prevent more local control of education. Tests are required to be the same in every school in the state, and any plans submitted by the states for how to structure their education programs must be reviewed and approved by a panel representing a wide cross-section of states, rather than letting each state determine its own policies.

All of this is anathema to the advocates of local control of education, but all the way down in Title IX of the bill is some language that conservatives can get behind. It’s the section dealing with Common Core education standards, and the ability of the Secretary of Education to bully states into doing his bidding through the threat of withholding funds. The bill says, in section 9527,

Nothing in this Act shall be construed to authorize an officer or employee of the Federal Government, through grants, contracts, or other cooperative agreements (including as a condition of any waiver provided under section 9401) to—

(A) mandate, direct, or control a State, local educational agency, or school’s curriculum, program of instruction, instructional content, specific academic standards or assessments, or allocation of State or local resources, or mandate a State or any subdivision thereof to spend any funds or incur any costs not paid for under this Act;

(B) incentivize a State, local educational agency, or school to adopt any specific instructional content, academic standards, academic assessments, curriculum, or program of instruction, including by providing any priority, preference, or special consideration during the application process for any grant, contract, or cooperative agreement that is based on the adoption of any specific instructional content, academic standards, academic assessments, curriculum, or program of instruction; or

(C) make financial support available in a manner that is conditioned upon a State, local educational agency, or school’s adoption of any specific instructional content, academic standards, academic assessments, curriculum, or program of instruction (such as the Common Core State Standards developed under the Common Core State Standards Initiative, any other standards common to a significant number of States, or any specific assessment, instructional content, or curriculum aligned to such standards).

This language is functionally identical to that of Senator Pat Roberts’ standalone bill, The Local Level Act, for which FreedomWorks issued a letter of support earlier this year. This is important because until now, states have been unable to effectively repeal Common Core because of the Secretary of Education’s power to strip them of education funding. This bill would prevent that, and allow states to regain control of their own standards.

There’s a lot not to like about the Every Student Achieves Act, but the Common Core language, at least, is a victory for conservatives.


Can the Left Come Up With One True Story?

Yesterday, up on the stair,

I saw a rape that wasn’t there,

It wasn’t there again today!

Oh why, oh why did it go away …

From the Duke lacrosse team, the Columbia mattress girl and the University of Virginia, the left has not been able to produce one actual rape on a college campus. It’s beginning to look as if the rape of the Sabine women never happened, either. Someone’s going to have to go back and investigate.

The big finale to the latest college rape fable, Rolling Stone’s whimsical “A Rape on Campus,” about a fraternity gang rape at the University of Virginia that never happened, is the Columbia Journalism Review’s “investigation” of the story, released Sunday night. It’s more of a house of mirrors than a finale, inasmuch as CJR’s report is so preposterous that it demands its own investigation.

The CJR treats “reporting” as if it is some sort of learned craft, requiring years of study, as opposed to basic common sense. For example, if someone has an incredible story that he’s dying for you to publicize, but loses interest every time you try to confirm any of the facts, a normal person would say: Oh, that’s because it’s probably a lie.

Without even knowing that the rape accuser, “Jackie,” had refused to let Rolling Stone check the most basic elements of her narrative, every human being who read Sabrina Rubin Erdely’s piece knew it was nonsense by around the second paragraph. It was like a Lifetime TV version of a fraternity rape.

The Washington Post knew. Slate magazine knew. Much-maligned journalist Richard Bradley knew.

But the CJR diligently ticks off Rolling Stone’s failures to follow the “essential practices of reporting,” including “editing, editorial supervision and fact-checking.” Rolling Stone’s Reporter of the Year, Erdely told CJR, “I wish somebody had pushed me harder.” Her managing editor, Will Dana, admitted that he should have “pull(ed) the strings a little harder … question(ed) things a little more deeply.”

Yes, maybe the editors were just not pushing hard enough.

It’s as if a doctor attacked his patient with an ax, and the Columbia Medical Review responded with a forensic report concluding that the procedure failed to follow clinical protocols on hand hygiene, scrubs and restricted areas, while the doctor gallantly admitted that mistakes were made.

How about not allowing reporters to go off on politically driven crusades against liberal hate-objects, like fraternities, the military and athletes? How about not basing entire stories on the uncorroborated dream sequences of fantasists?

The false rape accuser, Jackie, had been trying to get the attention of a guy she liked by inventing a fake boyfriend. His name was “Haven Monahan.” Wouldn’t a person in his right mind drop the story right there?

Jackie had developed a whole online presence for her imaginary boyfriend, using the photo of some guy from her high school who had never spoken to her, and creating a fictitious text message account for her nonexistent boyfriend, replete with dialogue lifted directly from the TV show “Dawson’s Creek.”

For these among other reasons, the entire world has known the truth about the Rolling Stone rape since about eight minutes after the story was published. The CJR’s report was only necessary for The New York Times to find out the truth.

The report lamented that Rolling Stone’s “journalistic failure” would encourage “the idea that many women invent rape allegations.” To dispel this danger, the CJR quickly cited a handout from a Violence Against Women symposium alleging only 2 to 8 percent of rape claims are false. In fact, all serious studies of false rape claims put that figure at 27 percent to 40 percent.

If the CJR followed its own recommendations of “fact-checking,” they’d know that.

Erdely’s editor, Sean Woods, bemoaned the “disservice” Rolling Stone’s article had done to Jackie – the woman who made up the story about being raped.

You know who else Rolling Stone’s story kind of did a disservice to? I think, personally – as long as we’re ranking victims – a very close second to the woman who lied about being raped, as well as all the unnamed college rape victims who might have their claims taken less seriously in the future, are THE INNOCENT FRATERNITY MEMBERS WHO WERE FALSELY ACCUSED OF A VIOLENT GANG RAPE.

The UVA fake rape is even worse than the Duke lacrosse team fake rape. The accused fraternity hadn’t even courted danger by hiring a stripper. They were going about their lives, minding their own business, when, out of the blue, Rolling Stone, the president of their university, and a fiendish coed decided to accuse them of a monstrous crime.

If UVA’s much vaunted “honor code” means anything, it ought to mean the permanent expulsion of a girl who was willing to ruin the lives of men she had never met by accusing them of gang-rape – just to get the attention of a guy she liked.

To the contrary, even after this unprovoked attack on blameless UVA students, the associate dean of students, Nicole Eramo, said that college rape accusations required “balancing respect for the wishes of survivors while also providing for the safety of our communities.”

Again, isn’t someone missing from all that delicate “balancing”? I’m thinking of: the men falsely accused of rape. Colleges might want to consider adopting a concept that’s been around since the second century: “innocent until proved guilty.”


UK: Extremists are setting up anti-British schools, report claims

Nearly 50 unregulated schools set up by extremists are being investigated for being anti-British, it has been claimed.

Education authorities are looking into allegations that these schools impart teachings that go against British values.

Many of these schools were set up by a teacher embroiled in the Trojan Horse scandal that saw radical Muslims infiltrating school governing bodies in Birmingham, it was alleged.

Based around the UK – including Luton, Birmingham, and London, these schools manage to scape prying eyes by operating outside the traditional education system, it was claimed.

Many of the students have been pulled out of the mainstream education system, which is overseen by the schools’ watchdog, Ofsted, and the Department for Education (DfE), and are being home schooled without proper regulation or oversight.

Children of Somali, Bengali and Pakistani origins are thought to be at risk of being radicalised in their own homes, it was reported.

It is a criminal offence to run unregulated schools, which must be registered with the DfE. However, local authorities are responsible to make sure home schooling in their area is providing suitable education for youngsters.

Set up as private tutorial centres, unregulated schools find it easier to remain under the radar by teaching only a limited amount of hours per week.

It was reported the DfE has launched a number of investigations into the rising number of unregulated schools as some expressed concerns they are too easy to set up and are not being monitored properly to ensure they teach British values.

One of the schools at the centre of the controversy is Siddeeq Academy in Tower Hamlets, which closed down earlier this year following revelations it was being run by a convicted Islamist extremist by the name of Mizanur Rahman. Mr Rahman allegedly claimed Taliban gunmen who murdered more than 130 students at a school in Pakistan were “unfairly demonised”.

An unnamed Whitehall official, quoted by the Sunday Times, said unregulated schools are led by people who are against “democracy, equality, and tolerance”.

“If you are a Salafi Muslim or an Islamist, that means you don’t believe in British values because they go against your ideologies and set of beliefs. The problem is anyone can set up one of these schools and there are no regulations for it and they can then go on to brainwash children,” the source was reported as saying.

The DfE refused to comment on the allegations.

Small Heath, a previously “outstanding” non-faith state secondary, was downgraded to “inadequate” in January, following fears of a resurgence of the “Trojan Horse” plot

Last summer, Michael Gove, then Education Secretary, announced that all schools would have to actively promote British values as part of the curriculum, following the Trojan Horse plot.

However, there have been recent calls for teachers to snub the rules on teaching the so-called fundamental British values. Robin Bevan, head of Southend High School for Boys, said last month that a specific emphasis on British values was not necessary as they were already part of a “broad and balanced curriculum”.

News of possible radicalisation of children in supplementary schools followed a pledge by Home Secretary, Theresa May, to act quickly to investigate unregulated schools that could be breaking rules if the Conservative Party was elected next month.

The reports also followed news earlier this month that as many as 100 teachers and teaching assistants could face bans from working in schools for life as their Trojan Horse links were being investigated.

A recent report by MPs said academies were at greater risk of Trojan Horse-style extremism because their expanded freedoms leave them targets of infiltration. The report called on education bureaucrats to be vigilant of “the risks of abuse of academy freedoms” and be quick to react when concerns are brought to their attention.


Monday, April 13, 2015

What do we want? To be treated like children!

It’s springtime in London and the air is once again thick with student revolt and dry shampoo. Over recent weeks, student occupations have sprung up at the London School of Economics (LSE), Goldsmiths, the University of the Arts London (UAL) and King’s College London, as shower-dodging young radicals have camped out in meeting rooms, lobbies and academic buildings in what one King’s student has dubbed ‘a nationwide protest against our increasingly neoliberal, undemocratic and restrictive education system’.

Taking their lead from a similar occupation at the University of Amsterdam, this string of recent occupations began at UAL last month after the university administration announced plans to cut hundreds of foundation-course places in arts and design. A protest resulted in the invasion of a college building, the pulling of the fire alarm and the police being called, before the protesters set up camp at Central Saint Martins. Students at King’s, Goldsmiths and LSE soon followed suit.

After giving their respective encampments a suitably twee nickname (LSE students have renamed the meeting room they’re held up in ‘Free University of London’), the protesters issued their demands. Aside from the odd quirk and spelling mistake, they are all more or less singing from the same hymn sheet, calling for an end to tuition fees, a living wage for all staff, and more student input into decision-making and curricula.

The protests have inevitably been greeted by teary-eyed leftish commentators as a gleeful return to the spirit of ’68, or, at least, the spirit of 2010, when students marched on Westminster in their thousands to protest against the coalition government’s hike in tuition fees. Owen Jones, who spoke at the LSE occupation, has hailed it as the beginning of a ‘broader movement’ against Tory-led austerity. But, for all the revolutionary bluster, student radicals and their media cheerleaders seem to be complicit in the same wilful illusion.

With no broader political base, no grander message or strategy beyond some curt demands, student radicals in recent years have struggled to make the HE establishment blink. The 2010 protests petered out before you could say ‘fuck fees’, and since then student radicals have continued to shrink in influence. Most nights, the LSE occupation, according to the organisers themselves, only has about 10 people in it. Despite the abolition of tuition fees being the one issue (almost) all students agree on, student radicals are, on almost all campuses, the sort of people you cross the quad to avoid.

These occupiers are blaring on behalf of students who are, at best, indifferent to them. If it wasn’t for their mates in the media, the occupations would barely be a story. But it would be wrong to say the occupations are insignificant. In their own way, these pongy warriors have at least demonstrated just how pointless and infantile modern student politics has become.

Many have reached for comparisons to the British student occupations in the late Sixties, sparked after a wave of rebellion in Paris and Prague. But this simply doesn’t hold up. In 1968, student occupations were mounted at universities including LSE and the University of Essex in response to the Vietnam War and universities’ links to repressive regimes in Rhodesia and South Africa. While then, as now, these student radicals were far from history-makers – riven with naivety, a penchant for shouting down the opposition and mired in People’s Front of Judea-esque sectarianism – they were at least optimistic and outward looking. They wanted to take control, rattle power and remake the world in their image. Today’s student occupiers, by contrast, are only really demanding to be looked after better, and to have their own narrow needs slavishly met.

The shallow obsession with tuition fees is particularly telling. While free university education could well have its place in a broader political project, the demands being made here are incredibly narrow. As Joanna Williams pointed out recently on spiked, the higher-education sector is still heavily subsidised and state-regulated. The cries of ‘neoliberalism’ are simply untrue. In the end, all these students are really demanding is for free education to be delivered to them by means of a rebalancing of the accounts. This is less a challenge to monolithic capitalism than an entitled whine - an act of consumer protest from students who feel they aren’t receiving the service they deserve.

The internalisation of the student-fees hike as a form of ‘exploitation’ speaks to the infantilisation of student politics. Dig deeper into the demands Occupy Goldsmiths and you’ll find yet more indications that all these students want is to be protected like fragile toddlers. Along with some other familiar batshit SU favourites, they demand that trigger warnings be used in all lectures and that a Safe Space policy (cracking down on potentially upsetting speech) is enforced throughout campus. Fans of the recent jazz-hands debacle at the National Union of Students’ (NUS) Women’s Conference, in which delegates were rinsed on Twitter for insisting that the potentially ‘triggering’ act of clapping was banned in favour of the old Al Jolson favourite, will be pleased to know that this, too, is standard procedure in Occupy Goldsmiths meetings.

Whether it’s from the scourge of neoliberalism or the tyranny of applause, the student radicals of today only really want to be protected. What do we want? To be treated like children! When do we want it? Forever! That is just about the least radical demand there is.


Baby boom and high immigration means 20,000 British children 'won't get into any chosen primary school'

Thousands of children face missing out on all their chosen primary schools next week amid a snowballing crisis over places.

Councils are struggling to cater for rising pupil numbers, fuelled by a baby boom and high immigration.

As a result more than 20,000 youngsters could be denied a place at all of the schools listed on their applications this year.

It will mean ‘significant numbers’ forced to travel long distances to schools in other areas, experts have warned.

Many local authorities have had to create classrooms in disused buildings, build extensions to schools and add ‘bulge’ classes to cope with the extra demand.

More than 600,000 children are set to receive their primary places for September on national offers day this Thursday.

Matt Richards, senior partner at consultants, which helps families challenge admissions decisions, said he had already received calls from worried parents.

‘It’s highly likely there will be a significant number of parents that won’t have a place in any school this year, let alone a preferred school,’ he said. ‘They will be told to travel very large distances – two or more miles – to areas where there is less demand. In a city like London, this could take over an hour and a half.’

Alan Smithers, professor of education at the University of Buckingham, said pupil numbers had been boosted by generous benefits, immigration and career women having children later in life. He added: ‘We have had unbridled immigration and many of the people who have arrived have had much larger families.’

Last year, almost 77,000 children failed to secure a place at their first choice primary school.

More than 22,400 missed out on all the primaries they applied to and were allocated an alternative on offers day, while 3,700 initially failed to get a state school place at all. Hundreds were still waiting last summer as councils scrambled to find extra places.

Local Government Association (LGA) projections suggest the pressure will be worse this year, saying that for the first time, one in five council areas in England will have more children ready to start school than available places.

It predicted London would be squeezed hardest, with the most oversubscribed borough of Harrow receiving 112 applications for every 100 places.

Earlier this year, Oxford University research found London had seen a significant increase in immigration over the last four years, with its migrant population rising 6 per cent from 2,998,000 in 2011 to 3,187,000 in 2014.

Outside London, Bristol, Leicester and Slough will also reach ‘tipping point’, the LGA said. Last year, it predicted 130,000 extra primary places will be needed by 2017 – around 4,750 new classes or 500 schools.

Councils responding to a Daily Mail survey admitted having to bring in emergency measures this year. Those in Northumberland, York and Bolton had added extra classrooms, while Poole council in Dorset built a new school.

Last night a Tory Party spokesman said: ‘Almost nine in ten children went to their first choice primary school last year.’


Is the Modern American University a Failed State?

Modern American universities used to assume four goals.

First, their general education core taught students how to reason inductively and imparted an aesthetic sense through acquiring knowledge of Michelangelo, the Battle of Gettysburg, “Medea” and “King Lear,” Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy,” and astronomy and Euclidean geometry.

Second, campuses encouraged edgy speech and raucous expression — and exposure to all sorts of weird ideas and mostly unpopular thoughts. College talk was never envisioned as boring, politically correct megaphones echoing orthodox pieties.

Third, four years of college trained students for productive careers. Implicit was the university’s assurance that its degree was a wise career investment.

Finally, universities were not monopolistic price gougers. They sought affordability to allow access to a broad middle class that had neither federal subsidies nor lots of money.

The American undergraduate university is now failing on all four counts.

A bachelor’s degree is no longer proof that any graduate can read critically or write effectively. National college entrance test scores have generally declined the last few years, and grading standards have as well.

Too often, universities emulate greenhouses where fragile adults are coddled as if they were hothouse orchids. Hypersensitive students are warned about “micro-aggressions” that in the real world would be imperceptible.

Apprehensive professors are sometimes supposed to offer “trigger warnings” that assume students are delicate Victorians who cannot handle landmark authors such as Joseph Conrad or Mark Twain.

“Safe spaces” are designated areas where traumatized students can be shielded from supposedly hurtful or unwelcome language that should not exist in a just and fair world.

One might have concluded from all this doting that 21st-century American youth culture — rap lyrics, rough language, spring break indulgences, sexual promiscuity, epidemic drug usage — is not savage. Hip culture seems to assume that its 18-year old participants are jaded sophisticated adults. Yet the university treats them as if they are preteens in need of vicarious chaperones.

Universities entice potential students with all sorts of easy loan packages, hip orientations, and perks like high-tech recreation centers and upscale dorms. On the backside of graduation, such bait-and-switch attention vanishes when it is time to help departing students find jobs.

College often turns into a six-year experience. The unemployment rate of college graduates is at near-record levels. Universities have either failed to convinced employers that English or history majors make ideal job candidates, or they have failed to ensure that such bedrock majors can, in fact, speak, write and reason well.

The collective debt of college students and graduates is more than $1 trillion. Such loans result from astronomical tuition costs that for decades have spiked more rapidly than the rate of inflation.

Today’s campuses have a higher administrator-to-student ratio than ever before. Those who actually teach are now a minority of university employees. Various expensive “centers” address student problems that once were considered either private matters or well beyond the limited resources of the campus.

Is it too late for solutions?

For many youths, vocational school is preferable to college. Americans need to appreciate that training to become a master auto mechanic, paramedic or skilled electrician is as valuable to society as a cultural anthropology or feminist studies curriculum.

There are far too many special studies courses and trendy majors — and far too few liberal arts surveys of literature, history, art, music, math and science that for centuries were the sole hallowed methods of instilling knowledge.

Administrators should decide whether they see students as mature, independent adults who handle life’s vicissitudes with courage and without need for restrictions on free expression. Or should students remain perennial weepy adolescents, requiring constant sheltering, solicitousness and self-esteem building?

Diversity might be better redefined in its most ancient and idealistic sense as differences in opinion and thought rather than just variety in appearance, race, gender or religion.

The now-predictable ideology of college graduation speakers should instead be a mystery. Students should not be able to guess the politics of their college president. Ideally, they might encounter as many Christians as atheists, as many reactionaries as socialists, or as many tea partyers as Occupy Wall Street protestors, reflecting the normal divisions of society at large.

Colleges need to publicize the employment rates of recent graduates and the percentage of students who complete their degrees so that strapped parents can do cost-benefit analyses like they do with any other major cash investment.

A national standardized exit test should be required of all graduates. If colleges predicate admissions in part on performance on the SAT or ACT, they certainly should be assessed on how well — or not so well — students score on similar tests after years of expensive study.

Finally, the federal government should hold universities fiscally accountable. The availability of federal grants should be pegged to a college’s ability to hold annual tuition increases to the rate of inflation.

At this late date, only classically liberal solutions can address what have become illiberal problems.


Sunday, April 12, 2015

UK: Islam vs liberalism: the classroom’s silent Culture War

Teachers are afraid of tackling difficult questions in front of pupils

Last weekend’s National Union of Teachers conference confirmed that schooling, subject to conflicting ideological and cultural pressures, has lost any sense of common purpose. It has also lost a sense of what it is to socialise children. Indeed, if the motions debated at the NUT conference reflect wider trends in teaching, it seems socialisation has turned into a caricature of itself.

Take two of the motions debated and passed at the NUT conference. The first asserted that government should be ‘forced’ to portray gay relationships in a positive light. It called on teachers to put pressure on the government ‘to make it compulsory that all schools’ sex-education policies include a positive portrayal of same-sex relationships’. The second motion asserted that teachers should be able to avoid class discussions of Islamic extremism. The justification for this, as NUT general secretary Christine Blower put it, is that ‘some of our members are frightened to discuss things in class because they are worried that if there’s any discussion that they will have to report this to the police’.

Whatever one thinks of these two motions, it is clear that they contradict one another. It is difficult to imagine how in the twenty-first century one can have a sensible discussion on gay relationships without engaging with the hostility directed against them by radical Islamic dogma. Imagine talking to a group of religious pupils about gay relationships while avoiding talking about the illiberal sentiments that influence their lives. In such circumstances, discussions of gay relationships will be at best an exercise in box-ticking.

The logical outcome of the NUT’s contradictory resolutions is that, in practice, it will confine the promotion of positive gay relationships to classrooms composed of secular-minded pupils. In schools influenced by radical religious sentiments, awkward questions on liberal values will be avoided.

Promoting dishonesty

The NUT’s contradictory motions are not just examples of confusion and self-deception; they are also evidence of moral cowardice. The NUT tries to justify the refusal to discuss Islamic extremism on the grounds that the recent Counter-Terrorism and Security Act forces teachers to report pupils suspected of radicalisation to the police. The NUT leadership asserts that this law ‘closes down spaces for such discussions’ and that ‘many school staff are now unwilling to allow discussions in their classroom for fear of the consequences’.

However, the reality is that a significant group of educators have avoided classroom discussions of issues that touch upon radical Islam for a very long time. Even before the Counter-Terrorism and Security Act was introduced, few teachers discussed with their pupils the antagonism between jihadist radicalism and liberal values. Numerous teachers said they found such discussions hard to handle and, when they attempted to raise difficult questions, they found they received little support from their superiors. The reluctance to report pupils to the police was never the real problem here; it was the unwillingness to tackle difficult and controversial issues. That is why some educators have avoided addressing radical Islamic influences in the classroom.

Since the turn of the century, many British schools have shied away from tackling thorny questions with Muslim pupils. A report published in the aftermath of the race-related disturbances in Bradford in 2001 found that ‘some teachers in Bradford consider the Holocaust to be a difficult subject to approach with Muslim pupils’.

A review published by the Historical Association, Teaching Emotive and Controversial History, reported that a ‘history department in a northern city avoided selecting the Holocaust as a topic for GCSE coursework for fear of confronting anti-Semitic sentiment and Holocaust denial among some Muslim pupils’. It also mentioned another history department in which ‘the Holocaust was taught despite anti-Semitic sentiment among some pupils’. However, the same department deliberately avoided teaching the Crusades at Key Stage 3 because teachers’ ‘balanced treatment of the topic would have directly challenged what was taught in some local mosques’.

In recent years the situation has become worse. One teacher from a school in east London reported to me that her managers had actively discouraged her from discussing the Charlie Hebdo massacre with her Muslim students. Another teacher reported that such discussions were avoided in order to prevent an Islamophobic backlash.

These reactions show that, too often, schools are reluctant to challenge the cultural and ideological attitudes of Muslim pupils. Like the NUT leadership, they are very bold in promoting fashionable causes among secular pupils, but avoid having difficult conversations in circumstances that might provoke a hostile response.

Cultural segmentation

There are many problems with the government’s Prevent agenda and its project of promoting British values in schools and elsewhere. Cultural values that have real meaning for people’s lives are organic to their daily experience. They are not so much taught as practised and lived. Values that are promoted artificially or administratively through campaigns of public education are often unable to win hearts and minds. This ghettoisation of values in education highlights their absence in the rest of the curriculum.

It is only through a curriculum of genuine liberal education that pupils can be socialised into the values of tolerance, liberty and democracy. Schools that take seriously the challenge of transmitting the ideals of the Enlightenment through the teaching of history, science or literature do not need to pontificate about British values. Students can be inspired through an open-minded liberal curriculum.

The flawed nature of the government’s British values project is more than matched by the NUT’s reaction to it. If the NUT leadership possessed a little courage, it could refuse to implement the government’s Prevent strategy. It could call on teachers to discuss Islamic radicalism, but not disclose the content of those discussions to any external agency. But instead of deciding to exercise its professional judgment, the NUT elects to avoid the problem altogether. The logical outcome of this behaviour is to perpetuate and reinforce the cultural divisions that prevail in British society.

One final point: despite the mutually contradictory character of the two NUT motions discussed, they possess one feature in common – an almost visceral aversion to discussion and debate. The motion on gay relationships insists that schools be forced to promote a ‘positive portrayal’ of same-sex relationships. From this standpoint, there is nothing to debate. Like a church dogma, it is beyond discussion. In the case of Islamic extremism, discussion and debate is also to be avoided. The NUT clearly does not believe that educating children about the value of free discussion is part of its remit.

The illiberal intolerance communicated through these motions is unworthy of a profession that has done so much to enlighten generations of young people. Those teachers who believe that schooling involves educating young people for freedom and its exercise will no doubt ignore both of these motions.


Schooling goes back to the future

Teaching subject knowledge will give young people the means to shape their own destiny.

Knowledge and the Future School, explain the co-authors, is written ‘primarily for those thousands of teachers… who have dark moments’. It is about addressing some of the deep questions about teaching, which are often deeply hidden by policymakers in their frenetic attempts to create more and better education policies.

What is teaching for? Is it about the transmission of knowledge to the next generation, or about churning out kids with the requisite qualifications and skills? Is it about retaining the knowledge of the past, or preparing young people to be able to navigate an unknown future? Is it about developing the brightest and best minds, or challenging the wider problem of social inequality through what is taught and learned?

In grappling with these questions, the authors manage to avoid the boring old binary distinctions that tend to characterise debates about education and the purpose of teaching: and in doing so, promote a practical vision for the ‘future school’ that places the curriculum at its heart.

As a collaboration between Young, David Lambert, both professors at London University’s Institute of Education, Carolyn Roberts, a school head teacher, and Martin Roberts, a former head teacher and now consultant to The Prince’s Teaching Institute, the book is also a genuine collaboration between those who study education in universities and those engaged with teaching in schools. It takes the insights of Young’s brilliant but densely-argued 2008 book Bringing Knowledge Back In, and applies them to the teaching and schools of today.

The authors envision three futures for the school curriculum. In future one, ‘knowledge is treated as largely given, and established by tradition and the route it offers high achievers to our leading universities’; it tends to be ‘associated with one-way transmission pedagogy and a view of pupils that expects compliance from pupils’. This was the approach that went badly out of fashion from the 1960s onwards, condemned for being rigid and elitist.

The central criticism of the future-one curriculum was that it treated knowledge as static, and saw ‘the future… as an extension of the past’. Back in the 1960s, many intellectuals – Michael Young among them – sought to challenge this fossilised view of knowledge by stressing the extent to which knowledge is not simply handed down, but actively and socially constructed.

And these intellectuals were right – to a point. Berger and Luckmann’s brilliant little book, The Social Construction of Reality (1966), theorises the interaction between the objective world and the subjective meaning for those within it. Other contributions to the sociology of knowledge have emphasised that what we know is informed by the time and place in which we are living, the past that we draw on, and the way we are anticipating the future.

But just because knowledge is socially constructed does not make it arbitrary: and that was the problem with the critique of the future-one curriculum. Young famously, and bravely, underwent a volte face on the constructivist approach to knowledge when he became aware that many critics of the ‘old’ curriculum were demanding, not a more subtle, expansive, and dynamic approach to curriculum content, but the kind of curriculum that tried to avoid knowledge completely.

In this, the second future curriculum, boundaries between subjects disappeared, and much academic education became vocationalised. The idea that knowledge was ‘“constructed” in response to particular needs and interests’ replaced the subtle appreciation of the ways in which reality is socially constructed; knowledge became seen as the crude imposition of particular interests upon unwitting school students.

Criticisms of the elitism of the old curriculum were used to justify turning schooling into vocational training, based on ‘an increasingly instrumental view that education was a means to an end – usually expressed as the expectation of future employment’. As Young explains, this shift was not limited to particular subjects, or to low-achieving pupils, but became the ethos running through education as a whole: ‘Even the academic curriculum took on these “instrumental” features. Physics and history were given more priority because they were subjects valued by the top universities, rather than because they involved “the pursuit of knowledge for its own sake”.’

The anti-elitism of this second approach did nothing to tackle social inequality. Indeed, it makes the problems more entrenched, by denying pupils from lower-income backgrounds their ‘entitlement to knowledge’ – which, in Young’s view, should be the core purpose of schools. And at any level, turning the pursuit of knowledge into a race for qualifications ends up denying the very purpose of education: to know the world in order to transform it.

If teaching can do anything to give young people the means to shape their own destiny, it is this: provide access to the best of what is known, with the recognition that this knowledge can be developed and challenged. This, argue the authors of Knowledge and the Future School, can best be done through subjects: ‘the most reliable tools we have for enabling students to acquire knowledge and make sense of the world’.

Here we come to the future-three curriculum. The authors envisage it as more dynamic than the future-one assumption that the future is given by the past; it ‘does not treat knowledge as “given” but fallible and always open to change through the debates and research of the particular specialist community’. Yet unlike future two, ‘the openness of future three is not arbitrary or responsive to any kind of challenge – it is bounded by the epistemic rules of the particular specialist communities’. Ultimately, the future-three curriculum provides ‘a resource for teachers who seek to take their students beyond their experience in the most reliable ways we have’.

In this way, the authors tackle the challenge posed both by the instrumentalism of the New Labour government’s educational agenda, and the comfort blanket of traditionalism preferred by the current Coalition government. Their book is an engaging reminder of the need to avoid easy solutions, and to keep thinking.


UK: Head teacher 'bans primary school children from running in the playground in case they injure themselves'

Primary school children have been banned from running in the playground in case they fall over and injure themselves.  Pupils at Riverview Junior School in Gravesend, Kent were told they could not move around too quickly because they might bump their heads.

Parents are furious about the ban - saying that children need to 'let off steam' during their breaks as well as getting exercise by running around.

Rachael Sparks said that her 11-year-old son Diesel had returned home upset after being told not to run outside at school.  She said that she checked with headmistress Pam Wenbam, because she could not believe that it was true, before realising that a ban had in fact been imposed.

'I went in to school to speak to them as I thought he must have misunderstood,' Ms Sparks said. 'What else is a playground for in a primary school if not for running around and letting off a bit of steam?  'I was lucky enough to get to speak to the head, Ms Wenban. I said, "I just want to clarify if this is true."

'She started off by saying we've asked them to slow down a bit, but then it transpired that they had banned running.'  The school claims that the ban is intended to tackle a specific 'chasing' game which has caused children to hurt themselves.

Ms Sparks said: 'She went on to say that due to some children not looking where they were going, there had been incidents of bumped heads.  'She claimed due to this it was her duty of care towards the children that had prompted her to ban running. They are not allowed to play British Bulldog, they are not allowed to play football.

'I know children do get the occasional bump to the head or grazed knee while running around on the playground but having spoken to a number of parents as well as children, 100 per cent of both expressed that running and getting the occasional minor injury was most definitely preferable to not running at all.

'I don't want to run the school down but I think it is a step too far. Kids have been bumping their heads and grazing their knees for hundreds of years.'

Ms Wenband said: 'We have asked children to refrain from playing a particular chasing game in the playground as we have found the increasing numbers taking part has caused some injuries, including a fractured collarbone.  'We are concerned for the safety of the children and need to stop this particular game until we can establish a safer way for them to play.

'When the weather is dry and sunny children can run and play more safely on the school playing field.'