Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Death to "Safe Spaces"

The 1994 film "PCU" is a tale of a senior in high school who visits Port Chester University (otherwise known as Politically Correct University) over a weekend. In error, the admissions department sets the student up to stay with Droz, a 7th year senior. Living with Droz in a place called "the Pit," it makes for an interesting weekend.

Droz and his friends begin the weekend by disrupting a protest. They throw meat on a group of vegans and make enemies with a variety of other groups on campus including a bunch of stoners, radical feminists (the "Womynists"), and an Afrocentrist group. The president of the fictional university is positively obsessed with "sensitivity awareness" and multiculturalism. Among a variety of other policies (suggesting, for example, that Bisexual Asian Studies be given their own building) she proposes changing the school’s mascot from a potentially offensive Native American character to a whooping crane.

The rest of the film centers around Droz and his cohorts fighting to keep their living space on campus by throwing a massive keg party (while simultaneously locking the Board of Trustees in a room with the song "Afternoon Delight" playing loudly on repeat).

In a recent episode, the show South Park took up the topic of political correctness and college campuses, discussing the prevalence of and continuous push for "safe spaces." The episode culminated in the townspeople hanging the only thing questioning their safe spaces—a man named Reality.

While both this movie and the episode of South Park were particularly humorous, they reflect a scary trend in academia. Free speech is dead on many campuses, as is the ability to reflect upon and grapple with difficult subjects. This became clear last year at Yale, when someone dared to question the university-wide email calling on students to be cautious in choosing their Halloween costume (because God forbid anyone should be offended). Students were outraged, calling for the offending faculty member to be fired, even surrounding him outside a building to yell at him. Students at Emory University are apparently unable to cope with a chalk image of presidential candidate Donald Trump.

What have we come to that young adults attending some of the most elite educational institutions have the emotional capacity of toddlers and intellectual skin as thin as puff pastry?

The fact of the matter is, college is supposed to be a place where you get offended! I tell my students that if they aren’t being challenged in their classes they aren’t getting what they ought to be getting. I tell them that, "if you don’t question the opinions that you hold, you cannot claim them as your own." Too often people take with whatever they hear in school or on the news as gospel.

That’s the definition of ignorant.

To not challenge our students does them a grave disservice. As opposed to growing as individuals, who have been exposed to, thought about, and grappled with tough issues, they become what my mother would call "hot house flowers." That is, they require an inordinate amount of care and highly precise conditions lest they shrivel up and die.

Such individuals don’t do well in the "real world." I hate to tell Emory students, for example, that if their future coworker has a political bumper sticker, claiming that makes you feel threatened makes one look like a petulant child and a complete idiot (impressive in all the wrong ways). In the workforce, people aren’t always nice. They don’t bend over backward to ensure you’re fragile psyche is never offended. If students have failed to learn how to stand firmly as individuals, to take criticism and interact with all kinds of people, they’re in for a tough road.

I refuse to play into this with my students. In reality, there are people from all kinds of places, different racial, religious, and socioeconomic backgrounds. People think differently and hold different ideals. You often don’t get to decide whether or you interact with these people, but your ability to function as an adult depends on whether or not you can work with these individuals successfully. Since college is supposed to be preparing students for the real world, they better get used to differing opinions.

My classroom is indeed a safe space—for students and ideas. I write into my syllabus that we will discuss controversial topics. I require them to treat each other with respect. Attacking a person for the opinions they hold is not acceptable. However, questioning someone’s ideas or opinion is, and should be, done frequently and without hesitation.

I find that once students learn it’s OK to disagree with someone, they feel more comfortable engaging. Sometimes, when discussing a policy issue like the minimum wage, human organ sales, child labor, or environmental regulation, students will ask for my opinion. I always reiterate what it is that economics tells us. But I always follow it with something to the extent of, "my opinion may or may not go along with that." I always tell my students that, when answering questions about a policy on an assignment, or discussing it in class, the credit they will receive has absolutely nothing to do with the opinions they hold. I’m concerned with how they argue for their stance and the economic reasoning they use to justify it.

Students should reflect on their held beliefs and have their existing ideals challenged. If we are truly concerned about critical thinking and cultivating the next generation of leaders, we owe it to out college students challenge them.


The Department of Education Extortion

Despite Barack Obama’s repeated public statements identifying his primary regret while in office as not "healing the divisions" in Washington, he has done more to cause the problem than anyone. Take for example his recent actions rewriting a bipartisan education law. In short, he’s proving that South Carolina Congressman Joe Wilson was accurate when he interrupted Obama’s 2009 State of the Union Address to thunder, "You lie!"

In what has happened only a few times during Obama’s tenure, bipartisan legislation was passed — this time to rewrite No Child Left Behind (NCLB) in December 2015. Obama declared at the signing that the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) was "a Christmas miracle." Further, Obama noted, "Today, I’m proud to sign a law that’s going to make sure that every student is prepared to succeed in the 21st century."

Well, he was mighty proud until it became apparent his unelected federal bureaucrats couldn’t make demands of your state education departments and your local school districts through the extortion of funding. And now the Obama Department of Education is rewriting rules to circumvent the law to return to their previous modus operandi: "Do what we say to get your money."

The ESSA, while emphasizing the need for standards and testing, placed that responsibility and the specific details with the states, versus a federal set of rules driven by a glut of student testing and Common Core. The law requires that states use their own "college-and-career ready standards" to measure mastery and preparedness for postsecondary education, with an intervention protocol for areas of concern. ESSA also leaves the process of testing, as well as how the scoring is interpreted, up to state governments.

The biggest disruption to any reign of political or bureaucratic power is to change its role in appropriating money — to remove the marionette strings. And ESSA significantly altered the status quo of the education dollar returned to states. Forget the fact that the average funding from the federal government back to individual states comprises only about 12% of direct education expenditures. This coveted sum is always sought by the never-ending needs (and "needs") of education.

Education Week opined, "Congress has redefined the federal role in elementary and secondary education. And it’s done so in a way that aims to enhance the authority of states and school districts that had long chafed at the strictures of ESSA’s predecessor, the No Child Left Behind Act."

Simply, ESSA now dictates a supplement-not-supplant use of federal funding. It equalizes funding to low-income and "disadvantaged" schools through the states‘ administration of Title I funding. According to The Heritage Foundation, that funding has been increased from "$14.4 billion to an authorized level of $15 billion in 2017, and to $16.2 billion by 2020."

Yet, citing civil rights concerns that states would fail to fully fund certain schools, the newly-but-barely-confirmed Secretary of Education John King (parroting Obama’s talking points) was clear — he supported Obama’s disregard for the law. King’s 49-40 confirmation vote on March 14 demonstrated the forgotten bipartisan approach to education reform from just three months prior.

King argued that the revisions of ESSA presented by the Department of Education were meant to ensure that a Title I school "receives at least as much in state and local funding as the average non-Title I school."

Now, let’s break this down into its most essential ingredients. If the Education Department ignores ESSA, it intends to fully fund schools that fit an income and racial designation regardless of merit of a school and its students. Ever hear of the term "funding failure?"

The law intentionally left criteria in place to require states regarding comparability but never intended performance measures to be stripped away.

While the legislative attempt was made to send block grants back to the state to put the education of students closer to the parent and teachers in the classroom, it is abundantly clear that two problems remain in Washington, DC. One, we have a president who not only disregards the law, but his crony collaborations reveal a lack of integrity and honesty. Two, the only way to allow states to control the education of their students is to dissolve the U.S. Department of Education.

There is no area of government or policy that Obama and his band of militant progressives have left intact that could possibly restore the confidence of the America public that their government works for them. Our Republican Congress must now rise to immediately change the appropriations of the Department of Education via the power of the purse.

It’s apparent these educrats live by the power of extortion. So, Republican Congress, speak their language and tighten their strings.


What Pro Abortion Radicals Did At This University Will Make You Sick

Liberals like to tell us how much they love freedom of expression. Stomping on the American flag, they say, is just a political statement. Dunking a crucifix in urine? Art. Those who don't stand up for free controversial expression are just fascists or worse, they say. If you don't like it, just ignore it. That's what "they" would do, right?

Wrong. Time and again, liberals show that they only support the sort of free expression they agree with, the kind of controversial speech that supports the causes they believe in. This past week, they proved their hypocrisy once again. At SMU, campus liberals sent the world a message: we only support free speech that advances our liberal agenda. Here's what happened:

    The Mustangs for Life, the Students for Life group at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas, set up close to 3,000 crosses in a main area of campus as part of the common display that memorializes the number of babies that will be aborted that day this week. Sometimes it causes more controversy; other times it doesn’t. This situation is the former.

    The pro-life students spent hours setting up the display and accompanied it with signs explaining what it was all about: "There are 2,904 abortions per day in the USA" and "Memorial of Innocents: 1 Cross = 1 Life Lost to Abortion Today".

    Mustangs for Life jumped through all the hoops at the school to make sure they were allowed to do this and granted proper permission.

    The display was set up on Sunday evening about 7:30pm and done by 9pm. Only a couple hours later, in the middle of the night, all of the crosses had been vandalized and torn down. All of them.

    One of the members got a call from someone who said that she saw all the crosses were kicked down. The members ran over to the display where indeed the display was vandalized.

What happened? Liberals just hate being reminded that their "choice" to have an abortion is a decision to terminate a human life. So instead of respecting the free expression rights of pro life students, or engaging pro life students in debate and trying to persuade them, liberals committed an entirely infantile act of vandalism.

Should we even be surprised?


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