Wednesday, February 10, 2016

The biggest problem with "free college for all" is that college degrees would become as expensive and meaningless as many high school diplomas are today

There's no such thing as a free lunch, or free college. But that didn't stop President Obama from pushing it (again) in his final State of the Union Address, or presidential candidate Bernie Sanders in a recent interview. The biggest problem with "free college for all" is that college degrees would become as expensive and meaningless as many high school diplomas are today.

American public elementary and secondary schools spend more than $13,000 per pupil per year on average — slightly more than two-year colleges spend. That's hardly the kind of "free" any of us can afford, even if public secondary schools were getting results — which they do, of course, but the wrong kind.

The national high school graduation rate may have reached an historic high of 82 percent, but for many students their diplomas are "tickets to nowhere that provide false assurances of academic readiness for success in college and career," says Michael Cohen, president of Achieve. In fact, more than 50 percent of students entering community colleges today need remedial classes, and most of those students wind up dropping out.

National Assessment of Educational Progress results for 12th-grade public-school students also show that just one-quarter of students score proficient or better in math and only slightly more than one-third (36 percent) are proficient in reading.

The upshot is that American public high schools are awarding diplomas to millions of students who haven't mastered the basics. There's no good reason to believe that academic quality — much less college affordability — will improve by expanding the federal government's reach into higher education or taxpayers' wallets.

At last count our national debt was approaching $20 trillion. Mounting evidence indicates that student debt, which now exceeds $1.2 trillion, is threatening economic growth. Decades of government "financial aid" have done little to help and, according to any number of studies, have probably made matters worse, encouraging colleges and universities to increase tuition and fees. The last thing we should be doing is spending another $80 billion or more over the next decade on public two-year colleges where barely one in five students earns a degree in three years.

Better incentives, not billions more in "free" top-down government giveaways, are needed to ensure that students are prepared to earn their degrees on time without bankrupting themselves or taxpayers.

Instead of funneling hundreds of billions of taxpayer dollars annually to public institutions that let costs skyrocket with impunity, we should fund students directly through performance grants.

To qualify for these grants, students would have to demonstrate financial need and complete their chosen degree programs as stipulated. Otherwise, their grants would convert into loans that must be repaid.

With this reform, schools, two- and four-year alike, would have to compete for students and their associated grant funding, which would exert powerful pressure on schools to control costs, keep program quality high, and offer more generous institutional aid — or risk losing students to other institutions.

"Free" college — just like virtually every other "free" lunch — is a lie we'll all wind up paying more for sooner or later. Only this time the price will come in the form of higher taxes, watered-down degrees, more government intrusion into degree choices, and a weakened economy.


Cultivating Ignorance and Arrogance

"No nation is permitted to live in ignorance with impunity," wrote Thomas Jefferson.

Millions of Americans remain puzzled by the legions of fellow citizens who would trade capitalism and exceptionalism for the siren song of "free" stuff proposed to varying degrees by Bernie Sanders, Hillary Clinton and, to some extent, Donald Trump. They shouldn't be. A pernicious combination of civic illiteracy, coupled with a growing sense of entitlement, especially among Millennials, is rapidly approaching critical mass.

The American Council of Trustees and Alumni (ACTA) has released a sobering report regarding civic illiteracy. "The Crisis in Civic Education" reveals that numerous surveys show "recent college graduates are alarmingly ignorant of America's history and heritage," the report's summary states. "They cannot identify the term lengths of members of Congress, the substance of the First Amendment, [or] the origin of the separation of powers. They do not know the Father of the Constitution, and nearly 10% say that Judith Sheindlin — 'Judge Judy' — is on the Supreme Court."

This is no accident. ACTA surveyed more than 1,100 colleges and universities, and discovered that only 18% of them have course requirements in government or civics. High schools are equally deficient. A 2014 civics test administered by the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) revealed that only 23% of high school seniors had "proficient" or better level of knowledge in civics, and a dismal 18% are at the same level with regard to history. Both percentages represented "no significant change" since 2010.

Moreover, as the Washington Examiner's Eric Bledsoe explains, attempts to address civic deficiencies "conflate rhetoric with results. The Department of Education's 'A Crucible Moment' and the Lumina Foundation's 'Degree Qualifications Profile (DQP)' emphasize 'civic engagement,'" amounting to "little beyond verbose abstraction."

Yet perhaps the most devastating illustration of what is really occurring was revealed by Glen Fairman in a 2012 American Thinker column. Fairman recounts his time as a graduate student working as a substitute teacher at Puente High School in Southern California. One day he was assigned to cover a social studies class while the regular teacher was on a field trip. During that assignment he discovered a "set of thirty-year-old textbooks from the mid-1960s" whose contents "burned themselves into my brain."

"As I flipped through the pages, I was astonished to find what I would now consider an upper-level college textbook under color of what in the high schools used to be termed 'civics,'" he reveals. "This text contained a very detailed understanding of political theory, constitutional law, macroeconomics, American history, and comparative political systems. I spent the rest of the day in slack-jawed amazement, perusing what a student in a working-class town was expected to know before the mavens of education began tinkering with the curricula of our schools."

That would be the overwhelmingly "progressive" mavens of education.

When he asked the returning instructor why those books were no longer in use, the instructor explained they were no longer comprehensible by the vast majority of students. When he asked other older teachers regarding whether education had been "dumbed-down," he discovered "this question unleashed volatile diatribes on how dull children had become since the responders had begun as idealistic young men and women in the field."

In short, what former President George W. Bush once referred to as the "soft bigotry of low expectations" has been institutionalized.

And not just at the high-school level. Fairman adds, "Campus speech codes and filtered curricula have denuded the classical goal of the acquisition of a free and analytic mind."

Unfortunately, that is somewhat of an understatement. College campuses are now citadels of safe spaces, micro-aggressions, trigger warnings, and speech and sexual conduct codes, all designed with the purpose of teaching students what to think, not how to think. As historian Victor Davis Hanson so deftly explains, "[T]oday's campuses mimic ideological boot camps" replete with tenured professors who "seek to indoctrinate young people in certain preconceived progressive political agendas," and grade-conscious and indebted students willing to make the "necessary ideological adjustments" that ensure their survival. Those adjustments include embracing "the glories of larger government, income redistribution, greater entitlements, radical environmentalism, abortion, multiculturalism, suspicion of traditional religion, and antipathy to the international role of the United States in the past and present."

In other words, every agenda you would find being championed at any Clinton campaign stop or "feel the Bern" rally.

Couple the "blame America" attitude to an audacious sense of self-entitlement, civic and historical illiteracy, and ideological insulation that embraces censorship of competing ideas. Is it any wonder why the siren song of big government, and living off the "unjustly" acquired wealth of others — promoted as "free" — resonates?

"An honest and comprehensive study of (America's) history and constitution is the only guarantee of the cultivation of an informed electorate," Bledsoe warns.

No doubt, but Bledsoe may be laboring under a false assumption. An informed electorate, and by extension a nation of people willing to both think and do largely for themselves, is utterly anathema to the big-government and collectivist ambitions of the American Left. Ambitions that require the "fundamental transformation of the United States of America" to be realized.


Australia's biggest Islamic School loses $20 MILLION in government funding after failing to show how they spent the money

Apparently, some of the money was going abroad and I think we can guess where

Australia's biggest Islamic School has been stripped of millions of dollars in government funding following allegations that its money was not being used just for education.

Malek Fahd Islamic School in Greenacre, south-west of Sydney, which has more than 2,400 students, could be forced to close its gates after the Federal Government said it would withdraw $20 million funding.

On Monday, the Department of Education issued a notice to the Islamic institution - revoking its Commonwealth funding - with the move placing hundreds of teaching jobs on the line.

The revocation comes after a review into six schools authorities affiliated with the Australian Federation of Islamic Councils (AFIC) after concerns were raised about their financial management and governance.

'I am committed to ensuring that all school authorities meet the requirements to ensure that our taxpayer dollars and any private investment by parents is being spent to benefit Australian students,' Mr Birmingham said in a statement to Daily Mail Australia.

'Unfortunately, the authority that operates Malek Fahd Islamic School was not able to demonstrate to my department that they had addressed the significant concerns about their financial management and governance arrangements raised during the formal compliance review of their operation.

'Last year, the department issued a formal compliance notice when it found that the school authority was not complying with fundamental governance, financial and accountability requirements of the Australian Education Act 2013.

'After carefully considering the response to the issues raised in the compliance notice, my department had to make the difficult decision to revoke the funding approval.

'My department will work with New South Wales school authorities to help ensure students and families that are impacted by this decision receive the appropriate support.'

A NSW Department of Education spokesperson told Daily Mail Australia that they are continuing to work with the Commonwealth Department of Education and Training. 'Due to ongoing litigation, it is inappropriate for the Department to provide further comment,' the spokesperson said.

NSW and ACT secretary of the Independent Education Union John Quessy told ABC News the school could face closure following the revocation.  'We'll need to seek a meeting with the school to find out will they still be operating,' Mr Quessy said.

'It's quite a dramatic move, recurrent funding is usually used to pay teacher and staff wages.  'Malek Fahd is quite a big school, we're talking about hundreds of jobs.'


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