Thursday, March 17, 2016

Activist Tantrums — The New Campus Speech

America is at a crossroads in choosing who rules: radicals or the rational. Institutions are standing at the same fork in the road, including colleges and universities that are finding the wrong choice is not just painful, it’s existentially devastating.

A letter was issued to “the university community” last week above the signature of the University of Missouri’s interim chancellor, Hank Foley, announcing a loss of almost 25% in Mizzou enrollment — a projected 1,500-person drop in the student body from last year. This hemorrhage of students translates into significant financial loss of $32 million from one calendar year to the next.

Congratulations, University of Missouri! You’ve become another victim of radical bullies, and willingly at that.

Remember last fall when the “Show Me” state’s flagship campus had both the president and chancellor resign after allegations of racism — some completely unsubstantiated — which sent the students, the Leftist tenure-protected faculty and the community of Columbia into a frenetic response fueled by political correctness and fear of being marginalized?

Within a matter of days, a campus located in middle-America, founded in 1839 as the first institution of higher learning west of the Mississippi River, was consumed by radical “protests” led by the “Black Lives Matter” mob. But news accounts speak of “student” protests, not professionally organized disruptions, right?

How far is Columbia, Missouri from Ferguson, Missouri? Just under two hours by car. And, while accounts include mentions of actual campus conflicts, the fuel of Ferguson exploded the sparks after, according to The Washington Post, MU graduate student Jonathan Butler declared a hunger strike and mobilized a campus group, Concerned Student 1950, by blocking traffic for three hours. Members of this empowered assembly linked their identity to the first year black students were admitted to the University of Missouri as they voiced their anger in 2014 with the “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot” mantra tied to the shooting of the black teenager, Michael Brown in their neighboring community.

Speaking to The Washington Post in November 2015, Butler drew Mizzou into the fray: “There was national coverage, so for the school to not cover that or really address that, and we are only two hours away, I think was a huge mistake on their part and contributed to the current cultural environment that we have. It just shows that there are racially motivated things — murders, assaults, other things — that happen and we are just going to sweep them under the rug.”

And, what responsibility, other than to provide a safe, academically challenging environment for its students, exists for universities? Well, in the minds of social justice warriors who plan to live their adult lives clamoring and agitating, activism is now the priority of an institution of higher learning where they engage in their inaugural uprisings.

Yet, at the University of Missouri, only 46% of its student body, according to US News and World Report, graduate in four years — at a cost of $19,000 annually for in-state students and $32,000 for out-of-staters.

So, the radicals won through thuggery the resignations of school officials at the University of Missouri, but the rational have taken their tuition dollars and aim to find academic excellence elsewhere.

At the University of Tennessee, another land-grant college, “leaders” continue to encounter these moments of decision … and choose badly. The Knoxville campus is home to an Office of Diversity and Inclusion that made 2015 headlines for its gender-neutral pronouns — no he nor she. Instead, the taxpayer-funded office issued a request last fall of students and faculty to use “ze, hir, hirs, and xe, xem, xyr” instead of singular versions of pronouns rejected by the “transgender people and people who do not identify within the gender binary … and pronouns of their gender identity, rather than the pronouns of the sex they were assigned at birth.”

The University of Tennessee’s quick reversal of insanity taught the Office of Diversity nothing. They finished 2015 with another directive to “ensure your holiday party is not a Christmas party in disguise” among a list of “best practices” for celebrating the holiday season.

Tennessee’s General Assembly has not just noticed the activism-over-academics encroachment in Knoxville, but is working to defund the Office of Diversity and Inclusion. As of March 3, the TN Senate Education Committee had passed legislation that would strip $8 million from the campus budget and limit the faculty committed to tolerance to only federal funding and zero Tennessee tax dollars. The proposal takes $5 million from the Knoxville campus budget and $3 million from administration and salaries from faculty at the main location as a firm statement to prioritize academics.

Whether it’s a loss of students and/or a loss in dollars, universities are demonstrating their mission by folding to minds and might that live off of self-esteem and radical ideology instead of standing firm as societal bodies devoted to education and professional preparation.

The term “university” originates from the Latin universitas magistrorum et scholarium which is translated to be a “community of teachers and scholars.”

America’s universities are now victims to their own failed government-dependent business models and Leftist teachings and are instead a community of “organizers” and agitators that don’t produce students prepared for professional employment. We have a graduating mass of entitled mouthy youths who feel good about themselves as they fail in life.

Will universities learn the costly lesson of reality to stick to their intended purpose, or will they self-destruct as public confidence is declining in this institution, along with so many other aspects of our society and government?


Philly School District Must Pay Back $7.2M in Misspent Fed Grant

Corruption in Philly?  Who'd a thunk it?

A federal appeals court ruled last week that the Philadelphia School District owes the U.S. Department of Education $7.2 million for misspent federal grant funds.

According to the Philadelphia Inquirer, the case stems from a federal audit in 2010 that found "widespread misuse" of $138.4 million in grant funds from July 1, 2005, through June 30, 2006.

The Inspector General’s Office at the U.S. Department of Education claims money dedicated to educate low-income students was spent on catering, a mini-fridge, a microwave oven, greeting cards, contract costs and salaries and benefits for employees who had nothing to do with the federal grants.

Government reports said that the district's budget records were "replete with actions by [the district] that were intentional, improper, and taken with reckless disregard for the regulations and statutes."

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circut opinion says that some of the funds were used to fund contract costs.

“Petitioner argues that, because it received a program determination letter in March 2011, it should not be liable for misused funds prior to March 2006. But here, the Philadelphia School District initially charged disallowed contract costs to its local account prior to March 2006, and then in September 2006 changed the funding code to link the expenses to its federal account. Thus, the earliest point at which the Secretary could know those funds were being used “in a manner not authorized by law” was when the School District charged the expenditures to the federal account.”

The government originally was seeking $10 million to be returned. The amount was reduced to $7.2 million based on a five-year statute of limitations.


OECD education chief Andreas Schleicher blasts Australia's education system

We see the fallout from the failure to tackle the indiscipline problem in government schools.  Experienced older teachers have been gradually getting out and are being replaced by poorly qualified new graduates.  Smarter graduates have lots of options and trying to teach unruly students is just not attractive to them.  You mostly have to be pretty desperate to take up teaching in a government school.  Brighter graduates with a vocation for teaching rapidly end up teaching in Australia's many private schools, which are much more orderly. A return of corporal punishment is needed to restore order in government schools.  In some such schools teachers spend most of their time getting the students to shut up and sit down -- during which they learn nothing

One of the world's most influential education experts, Andreas Schleicher, has criticised the Australian education system for falling behind global standards.

Mr Schleicher, the education director of the Organisation for Economic Development, said that Australia had a very significant drop in the results of students at the top of the PISA testing rankings in the past year.

"Australia has lost a lot of students with very good results, it's very significant this round and I think that's something to really think about," he said.

The Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) is an international survey held every three years that pits the world's education systems against each other by testing the performance of 15-year-old students.

Australia's results have steadily declined over the past decade. Last year, Australia ranked 14th behind Poland, Germany and Vietnam, with up to 20 per cent of students unable to demonstrate basic skills.

Speaking at the Global Education and Skills Forum in Dubai, Mr Schleicher said Australia's emphasis on having teachers in front of a class over their own professional development was an area that needed addressing.

"[Australia] more or less defines teachers by the number of hours that [they] teach in front of students," he said. "That is part of the problem."  "We treat teachers as interchangeable widgets on the frontline - they are just there to implement prefabricated knowledge."

He said many countries were struggling to keep the best teachers in the profession because of curriculums that restrict creativity.  "There really is a complete lack of intellectual attractiveness to the teaching profession once you have that very industrial work organisation behind you," he said.

The past decade of Mr Schleicher's data-driven research, which has been harnessed by the education secretaries of both the US and Britain, found that several changes have allowed the world's most successful school systems to prosper.

According to Mr Schleicher, high-achieving education systems such as Finland have implemented selective teacher training with high academic standards, prioritised the development of teachers and principals as goals above reducing class sizes and allowed teachers to be creative in their implementation of the curriculum.

These systems also directed more resources to schools that have high numbers of students from lower socio-economic backgrounds.

NSW Education Minister Adrian Piccoli frequently cites Finland, where teachers are required to have a master's degree, as an ideal model for NSW.  In September, Mr Piccoli announced new entry standards for teachers, with higher minimum marks now required to enrol for an undergraduate teaching degree.

Mr Schleicher added that Australia's needs-based Gonski reforms, with increased investment in teacher training, were a positive step but that more commitment was needed.  "That is one of challenges in Australia - to make sure the funding continues to be channelled to schools with more needs," he said.

The federal government has not committed to the final two years of Gonski funding. According to school funding expert Jim McMorrow, NSW schools would be $1.27 billion worse off without the needs-based funding injection.


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