Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Mauling MLK's Legacy

Jan. 18 is Martin Luther King Jr. Day, a national holiday celebrating the man who in 1963 dreamed that “my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.” Fifty-three years later, leftists, especially those indoctrinating our children in public schools, are making an utter mockery of that concept.

Illinois' New Trier High School is but one example. While most Americans were enjoying the federal holiday, New Trier has made the day a mandatory school day, during which they  marinate their students in a series of seminars exploring black victimhood, inherent biases against people of color, and white guilt and privilege — “to better understand how we can all work to counter the impact of systemic racism in our lives,” the school’s website states.

More than 60 workshops are a compendium of leftist talking points. Some of the session titles and descriptions are as follows:

“One Person, One Vote: Can the Voting Rights Act be Saved?” It posits that “more and more Americans have found their ability to vote restricted by new voter ID laws, limits on early voting, inadequate election day facilities, and voter disenfranchisement.”

“The Truth about Ferguson: The Investigation into the Death of Michael Brown” declares that the “death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, sparked protest and outrage regarding the treatment of people of color by law enforcement. Some demanded reform and recognition of ongoing injustices, while others came to the defense of officer Darren Wilson.” It further notes that similar events following Brown’s death “continued to go viral on social media.”

“Why Do I Have to Feel Guilty for Being White?” explains that discussions of race don’t “usually feel good for anyone. White people often walk away feeling guilty and thinking, ‘But I didn’t do anything!’ In this workshop, we’ll explore how white guilt can become a roadblock in our journeys toward becoming white allies.”

“Unconscious Perceptions of Race” explains how the “media you choose and the community in which you live both reflect and influence the way you look at race. Join us as we look at our automatic thinking processes, how it influences the way we look at race and consider how we might adapt those processes.”

“We Can’t Change What We Don’t Know: An Individual Exploration of Racial Bias and Cultural Competence” is an elective “guaranteed to contain spirited, respectful exploration and reflection of the typically unidentified myths held inside and how these perceptions contribute to the current culture of dominance in our lives.”

“The Zip Code Effect: How Illinois School Funding Perpetuates Oppression” aims to “explore the savage inequalities in Illinois school funding and how we can fix the system!”

“Uncovering Your Thoughts. Why do you think that?” reveals “how racial biases are subconsciously formed throughout our lives.”

“Home, Sweet Home: The Roots of Structural Racism in Housing” asks why “many African Americans been have denied the American dream of home ownership and how has the denial of that dream had long term implications for black families hoping to become solidly middle class in America?”

“Western Bias in Science” wonders if “Copernicus, Galileo, Newton, Einstein… Were all of the great discoveries in science made by Greeks and Europeans?” before telling students they will explore “the impact of our western bias in the history of science…”

“What is Your Privilege?” is a session where participants “will be given an identity of a different race and will be given the hardships that encompass that race.”

“Representations of the Middle East: Stereotypes and Islamophobia” discusses “racial stereotypes of Middle Easterners in film, television, news, and current events and how these stereotypes contribute to the Islamophobic climate.” Something called the “Pyramid of Hate model” will be used to “assess the escalation of anti-Muslim rhetoric, profiling, and hate crimes.”

“Disney and the Creation of Racial Identity” will focus on Disney films “and discuss how these films influence childhood development of racial identities.”

“Yer' A White Wizard, Harry: Whitewashing in Cinema” is a discussion “about white dominance in the film industry,” that will be “taking a look at different cases where the voices of People of Color were silenced by the industry and how we can change it.”

Aside from these and other equally pernicious sessions, students are required to attend a “special presentation” by Ilyasah Shabazz, daughter of the late Malcolm X. Shabazz once stated that “anyone who says ‘by any means necessary’ is a violent statement is violent themselves, because it is a comprehensive statement. … It could be political, social, [or] religious.”

Students are also be required to attend a keynote address by Isabel Wilkerson, who supports the Black Lives Matter movement, and has declared that the outcomes in “Staten Island and Ferguson and elsewhere signal, as in the time of Jim Crow, that the loss of Black life at the hands of authorities does not so much as merit further inquiry and that the caste system has only mutated with the times.”

Several parents expressed their concerns. “They are supposed to be a neutral environment. Yet they are pushing all this ‘white guilt,’ using our kids for their own agenda, twisting their minds — whether it be sexual or racial,” one wrote. Another added, “These ‘workshops’ and ‘classes’ seem likely to breed within the kids a sense of guilt and shame — as if they are at fault for the misfortune in the world and it is their responsibility to make amends. Several classes are designed to teach them to be, in essence, ‘community organizers.’”

These seminars seem to violate the policies of the New Trier Township High School District, which charges faculty members “to help our students identify arguments or preachments which are demonstrably unbalanced by bias, hate, calumny, distortion of facts, or ignorance of or indifference to the laws of evidence and the requirements of proof.” District personnel are also warned to “refrain from using school contracts and privileges to promote partisan politics, sectarian religious views, or personal agendas of any kind.”

Regardless, Dr. Linda Yonke, Superintendent of New Trier Township High School District 203, remained fully supportive of this indoctrination session, saying on New Trier’s website, “Current events show us that there is still much work to be done toward creating a world in which people are judged by the content of their character rather than the color of their skin.”

Unfortunately, Yonke and her ilk are breeding another generation focused on just the opposite.

This is what passes for an education at a school ranked number four in the nation last year by Business Insider (BI). New Trier HS is located on Chicago’s North Shore, a very upscale community. The student body is more than 90% Asian and white, an inconvenient reality that earned it a C+ for diversity from BI that stood in stark contrast to the magazine’s A+ rating for the district’s academics and teachers.

It cannot be said often enough: Schools are the primary battleground for the nation’s soul, and for far too long, the Left has controlled them. That is why we get legions of young Americans well-versed in social justice, environmental radicalism, micro-aggressions and trigger warnings, and shamefully lacking in math, writing, history, civics and constitutional knowledge.

One suspects Martin Luther King would be embarrassed by New Trier’s utter bastardization of his legacy, courtesy of the racial arsonists, the grievance mongers and the bean-counters who fancy themselves as keepers of King’s flame. Igniters of the social unrest and racial division thoroughly rejected by King himself is more like it.


The tyranny of Safe Spaces

Illiberal students are taking their cue from an increasingly illiberal society

The academic term has barely started, and the campus-censorship debate is already blazing. Going on the coverage splashed across the national media in recent weeks, you’d have thought the Stepford Students had declared their own Caliphate. In fact, they’ve just been doing what they’ve always done – only now everyone seems to care.

At the centre of it all is Rhodes Must Fall, an Oxford student campaign that is calling for the statue of Victorian-era colonialist, Cecil Rhodes, to be removed from Oriel College – a college that was built using his ill-gotten gains. Led by Ntokozo Qwabe, a South African student who was inspired by the RMF campaign at the University of Cape Town, it is calling on the college to remove the statue and destroy it, or, maybe, put it in a museum. While Oriel has said it will consider putting up a plaque, to ‘contextualise’ the statue, Historic England has insisted the statue should stay as it is.

The RMF crew’s arguments are drenched in a mix of entitlement and victimhood, and underpinned by the notion that hearing an idea you disagree with, or seeing a statue that makes you bristle, is the equivalent to being punched in the face. ‘There’s a violence to having to walk past the statue every day on the way to your lectures. There’s a violence to having to sit with paintings of former slave holders while writing your exams – that’s really problematic’, said an RMF campaigner on Sky News.

This latest campus dust-up has had the commentariat talking and arguing for weeks. National newspapers have been reporting on Qwabe’s Facebook spats; RMF stalwarts have spoken on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme; and now Oxford bigwigs have waded in, slamming these Year Zero students for their illiberal and authoritarian ways. Oxford’s new vice-chancellor, Louise Richardson, used her installation ceremony this week to call on Oxford students to broaden their minds. Meanwhile, Oxford chancellor and former chair of the BBC Trust, Lord Patten, suggested that students should feel robust enough to come to terms with the ills of the past; he said that if they don’t want to engage with difficult ideas, then they should go and study in China.

Aside from some awkward comments about why universities should ‘never tolerate intolerance’, and should be ‘institutions where freedom of argument and debate should be unchallenged principles’, Patten hit the nail on the head. The rise of campus censorship, and the terrifying shift from political, No Platforming censorship to the new, free-floating offence-taking culture of Safe Spaces, is not just students’ union muppetry: it’s also a palpable threat to the founding principles of the academy, and, by connection, democratic society.

The idea that students should be safe from the ‘violence’ meted out by an uncomfortable idea or a colonial-era statue, that students are, in effect, too vulnerable to reckon with dodgy ideas past and present, undermines the entire purpose of academic inquiry. The modern university, springing from the truth-seeking Enlightenment tradition, simply cannot survive if certain ideas are off the table. And the sense of entitlement the Safe Space cultivates directly stunts students’ intellectual growth. That law students in the US have started to ask for the ability to exempt themselves from courses on rape, lest they become too traumatised by the subject matter, shows that wrapping students in cotton wool doesn’t just hold back the march of intellectual progress; it also disarms students from functioning in the adult, professional world, and stops them addressing the problems of the present.

Indeed, though the students at the vanguard of softly-softly censorship might pose as mini radicals, standing up for the marginalised and rattling the status quo, actually Safe Spaces suffocate politics, too. You can’t protest in a bubble. And you certainly can’t change the world from the foam-lined confines of an SU Safe Space. Safe Spaces originated in the women’s and gay-liberation movements of the 1970s. Though they were often places of physical safety – whether it be from abusive partners or violent bigots – those spaces were also zones in which non-judgemental ‘consciousness-raising’ was preferred over forthright debate. But, nevertheless, they were seen as a means to an end – a place in which ideas, resources and tactics for changing the world outside could be developed. Today, Safe Spaces are the end. Sealing yourself off from the world – creating ‘a home’ in which ‘victimised’ undergraduates can take shelter, just for a few years – is what these alleged progressives pour all of their energies into.

Beyond the campus-censorship debate itself, and the discussions of the purpose and soul of university life, lies a much more profound crisis. Student politicos’ blithe disregard for free speech – the threat and the ‘violence’ they perceive in the rough and tumble of academic and political life – is an expression of a lack of belief in moral autonomy and human resilience itself. What university life once embodied was the profound intellectual, political and moral importance of taking risks, of putting yourself out there. It was a space in which the ‘wild living intellect of man’, as Cardinal John Newman put it, could be cultivated. A Safe Space – in which everything from sexist leaflets to colonial statues are to be shunned – can only tame, or kill, that spirit.

But this crisis of autonomy is not just confined to the ermine halls of Oxford or to SU AGMs across the country. In all corners of modern life, risk-taking is discouraged and resilience is undermined. Though we might balk at the blue-haired intolerance of self-proclaimed campus leaders, they weren’t beamed down from space. They were educated in schools replete with anti-bullying campaigns, circle-time sessions and in-house counsellors. They became adolescents in a time when teenage relationships are painted as dangerous and wrought with ‘emotional abuse’. They are citizens of a country that bans hate speech and cracks down on alleged extremists. And they have been socialised into a multicultural, identity-obsessed world in which who you are, and what you feel, is so much more important than what you think.

Here’s where the tweeded chancellors now piping up about campus censorship fall short. The new flurry of student-bashing externalises the problem, painting this generation of students as a kind of generational blip. But they didn’t spring from nowhere. Not only are today’s campus-censorship critics unable to reckon with the totality of the crisis that confronts us, but they continue to dodge any responsibility for challenging it. On campus alone, the New Intolerance has been on the march for decades, beginning with the No Platform policy against racists and fascists in the 1970s. Yet now it is discussed as if it is a new phenomenon. As Patten said on the BBC: ‘Can you imagine a university where there is No Platforming? It’s an absolutely terrible idea.’ Yes, and it has been in existence for 40 years in some cases.

Not only have university leaders done nothing to challenge campus censorship over the years — they barely seemed to be aware of it. What’s worse, they wash the hands of the significant role universities continue to play in vetting speakers and sanitising campus life. On Monday, spiked launches the 2016 results of our groundbreaking Free Speech University Rankings. While, as our findings last year showed, students’ unions and campus campaigns like Rhodes Must Fall lead the way in campus censorship, universities contribute significantly to the bans and the bureaucracy that have chipped away at student freedom. Here’s hoping Monday’s results will serve as another jolt to those university leaders who would rather pin the blame on students than fess-up to the role they have played in bringing about this tyranny of safety.


Australian teacher shortage fears as student numbers soar

The number of teachers leaving the profession has increased at a time the student population is also on the rise, prompting concerns Australia could be facing a teacher shortage.
Key points:

    The population of school students is expected to increase by 26 per cent by 2022

    A recent study found between 30 and 50 per cent of teachers give up their job within the first five years

    Teachers say challenges they face include student behaviour and pressure from the curriculum

A recent report by the Australian Council for Educational Research found that somewhere between 30 and 50 per cent of teachers give up their job within their first five years in the profession.

The population of school students is expected to increase by 26 per cent by 2022 and more teachers will be needed to teach those students, or class sizes will once more need to become larger.

If the ratio of teachers to students continues to fall, Australia could face a teacher shortage, at the very time it is intending to increase its innovation agenda.

Kimberly Crawford said she chose to leave her job as a primary school teacher in Brisbane after five years.

"I was keen to stay in the education sector to a certain degree, but just really felt that I was emotionally burnt out from the demands of a classroom environment," Ms Crawford said.

"There were a large amount of additional needs, I taught children with behavioural difficulties and a wide range of special needs.

"A lot of the time it was dependent on seeking out support yourself."

Merryn McKinnon, a lecturer at the Australian National University, has researched teacher attrition rates and found the level of work teachers are expected to do has increased over time.

"You have this sort of domino effect where the work burden sort of gets passed on and on and teachers' burn out," Ms Mckinnon said.  "So ultimately we're sort of short-changing students in many ways."

The Australian Council for Educational Research report found even conservative estimates show big increases in the number of primary school-aged children in the next four years.

They estimate there will be an extra 92,000 primary school kids in New South Wales by 2020, as well as more than 100,000 both in Victoria and Queensland.

Teachers say there is a lack of support

Data from the National Teaching Workforce Dataset Data Analysis Report in June 2014 showed the ratio of teachers to students was continuing to fall.

In addition to time pressures and lack of support as described by teachers, the Teaching and Learning Senate Inquiry in 2013 found that casualisation of the workforce was having a harmful effect on the profession.

New teachers were found to be the most likely to be offered short-term contracts, so they were not always offered induction or support.

Graduates interviewed as part of that Senate inquiry said they had left teaching because they were unable able to find permanent jobs.

Kylie Sweeting, a pedagogical coach in a Queensland state school, said her role involves working with teachers who identify as needing support.

Ms Sweeting said that in the past, teachers had received funding and support to go to professional development.

"But then after research was done they found that teachers were coming back into schools and not using what they'd learnt," she said.

She said that so far her role was having more success than other training courses for teachers because she was there long term, coaching the teachers at the school.

Ms Sweeting said the two main challenges teachers have said they are faced with was student behaviour, and the pressure from the curriculum.

"There's always way too much to teach and not enough time," Ms Sweeting said.


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