Sunday, June 12, 2016

Detroit Free Press Editor Calls For Murder Of GOP Lawmakers

The Pulitzer prize-winning editorial page editor of the Detroit Free Press has called for the murder of Michigan lawmakers with whom he disagrees.

The reason? The lawmakers voted for legislation that would give parents more choices to avoid Michigan’s failing public schools. Detroit’s public schools are failing academically and nearly insolvent, the New York Times wrote in January. The Detroit News wrote in March that “the statewide opinion of K-12 education is downright ugly.” That poll showed residents didn’t think throwing money at public-union-controlled schools was the answer, with 63 percent saying it takes more than money to improve education.

While teacher unions and the politicians whom they support fight many changes to the educational system that give parents more leverage, charter schools have been making a difference in educational outcomes. A Stanford study last year showed they make a meaningful difference for underserved kids in urban areas. These results carried across multiple subgroups, including black, Hispanic and Asian students, as well as students from poor families and students with special educational needs. In the 41 cities studied, students educated at charter schools learned significantly more than their peers in traditional public schools in math and reading. See “13 Things To Know About Charter Schools.”

Yesterday Michigan’s Republican legislators voted to bail out Detroit’s abysmally run schools with $617 million in taxpayer funding. The same bill also fought efforts to constrain charter school choices in Detroit. Prior to the vote, Stephen Henderson wrote on his editorial page:

We really ought to round up the lawmakers who took money to protect and perpetuate the failing charter-school experiment in Detroit, sew them into burlap sacks with rabid animals, and toss them into the Straits of Mackinac.

If there were any doubt about his call for life-ending violence, he tweeted out the editorial with these comments:

GOP House harlots deserve worse than hanging for selling out #detroit kids on #DPS bills.

The political environment is toxic all around these days, but it’s shameful that a Pulitzer winner sought violent retribution against political opponents, much more that he wrote these thoughts down, and much more that his newspaper has no problem with it.

Education is a tough topic. Parents are rightfully angry at how public unions and the politicians they support oppose reforms of failing institutions that would give families more options. Others are threatened by reform movements or worried that they won’t achieve meaningful change.

In neither case, however, should members of the media call for the murder of those with whom they disagree.


Obama Administration Looks to Cement Ethnic Divides With Language Mandate

The Obama administration seems to live in a parallel reality, oblivious to the racial animus that has become the hallmark of late-stage Obama and to the ethnic strife that wreaks havoc on the rest of the world. Inside its own Platonic cave, the thinking is: Over half the world is polyglot, so why not us?

Its latest policy statement, issued jointly late last week by the departments of Education and Health and Human Services, advises states to instruct early childhood students in home languages different from English, and to help them retain separate cultural attachments.

The administration warns that “not recognizing children’s cultures and languages as assets” may be hurting them with school work. “Over half the world’s population is estimated to be bilingual or multilingual,” the statement lectures almost plaintively.

The answer is to celebrate and preserve the differences of dual language learners, or children who speak a different language at home.

The policy statement calls for a range of practices, from creating curricula and educational systems that “support children’s home language development,” to urging states to hire more teachers who “speak the language and/or share the cultural background of children who are DLLs [dual language learners] in the community.”

States must move with alacrity because these children will soon make up a “sizable proportion of the workforce” and their linguistic and cultural assets will be needed in an “evolving global economy.”

“The growing diversity of our nation’s children requires that we shift the status quo,” says the statement, in order to “build a future workforce that is rich in diversity, heritage, cultural tradition, and language.”

Tolerance and respect are not sufficient—early childhood programs must “embrace and celebrate their diversity.”

If this last bit of compulsive affirmation finally perks up your ears, it should. So should hearing for the umpteenth time about this administration’s zest for shifting the status quo.

In a Heritage Foundation issue brief published this week, I argue that policy statements of this sort raise generalized concerns because they may be deemed coercive and intrusive into areas of primary state and local jurisdiction.

The administration has no authority under the federal statutes governing education, such as Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and the implementing regulations, to require bilingual education or retention of “cultural assets.”

But the problems with this policy approach are much more fundamental. Speaking a second, third, or more foreign languages is indubitably a bonus for an individual, but it is far less clear that societal bilingualism or multilingualism helps cohesion or economic success.

The administration disregards a whole field of academic research that finds a high correlation between ethnic stratification and conflict.

One of the papers, by Alberto Alesina and others at Harvard, considered the gold standard study in the field of ethnic fractionalization, finds that countries with high linguistic and ethnic divisions have many societal dysfunctions.

Well before Harvard, the ancients (or if you’re a believer, a Higher Authority) drew a distinction between individual wisdom (which Proverbs 8:11 rightly says is “better than rubies”) and fracturing society linguistically, which was the punishment for the hubristic planners of the Tower of Babel (Genesis 11:7—“let us go down and there confound their language, that they may not understand one another’s speech”).

If Harvard studies or Revealed Truth don’t convince you, here’s what liberals have said on the matter.

More than a century ago, John Stuart Mill warned that:

Free institutions are next to impossible in a country made up of different nationalities. Among a people without fellow-feeling, especially if they read and speak different languages, the united public opinion, necessary to the working of representative government, cannot exist. The influences which form opinions and decide political acts are different in the different sections of the country.

And closer still to our time, the historian and eminent public intellectual Arthur Schlesinger, also a liberal, asked in 1991, “In the century darkly ahead, civilization faces a critical question: What is it that holds a nation together?”

A few questions later, Schlesinger answered himself: “If separatist tendencies go on unchecked, the result can only be the fragmentation, resegregation, and tribalization of American life.”

This is why American leaders from the time of the founding, in recognition that it was even then a land with a high number of immigrants, have pursued an approach that is actually more inclusive than what the administration proposes today: It encouraged the foreign born to feel as though they were natives. They knew that a polity needs a single language.

America has seen higher rates of foreign born and of globalization, and its leaders had hitherto stuck to their desire for E Pluribus Unum.

This administration, always seeking in haste to “shift the status quo,” is only too happy to overlook the carnage that divisions between so many Hutus and Tutsis, Serbs and Croats and Pashtuns and Hazaras have created.

Even in industrialized allied nations like Belgium and Spain, or our northern neighbor Canada—which are high gross domestic product per capita societies with concomitant high levels of education, health, and other advantages—official bilingualism has pitted region against region, neighbor against neighbor.

Perhaps Congress can take a look at this new Tower of Babel and ask some questions.


Australia: "Safe Schools" debate cold shoulders parents

A sexual-health academic whose research helped inform Safe Schools has dismissed parental concerns over its content, blaming a “hate campaign” by The Aus­tralian for controversy around the program.

As La Trobe University grapples with restoring the reputation of the program, emeritus professor Anne Mitchell has defended Safe Schools Coalition Victoria co-founder Roz Ward, who returned to work on Monday following a brief suspension, claiming her Marxist links were “an absolute gift” to detractors.

At a Safe Schools event at Melbourne’s RMIT university a fortnight ago, the retired academic was billed to speak on her research, but spent significant time attacking those who criticised the program for its promotion of gender ideology and sexualised content.

“These are the strategies that are effective all the time,” Professor Mitchell said, discussing a slide titled “The anatomy of an Oz Hate Campaign” attributed to a 2014 report by journalism academ­ics Andrew Dodd and ­Matthew Ricketson, both former journalists at The Australian.

“It gets to the anti-communist rhetoric; Roz Ward was a gift to that, an absolute gift. They played that mercilessly,” she said. According to a leaked recording from the event, Professor Mitchell criticised the “depravity narrative” of the purported hate campaign, pointing to articles that revealed resources about penis tucking and breast binding — practices adopted by some transgender people — were being made available to students.

“You know what’s going to happen to the world if that goes on, especially in primary schools,” she said, prompting laughter from the audience. “Distortion is just so common in those articles; children as young as five may be taught that gender is not fixed or may be taught about homosexual sex.

“Deliberate distortion that frightens people.”

Professor Mitchell declined to comment yesterday, but a La Trobe spokesman said she had been awarded an Order of Australia medal in 2014 for her sexual-health research and policy development in support of marginalised communities. Some of that ­research has come under scrutiny recently.

Safe Schools materials cite the fifth National Survey of Secondary Students and Sexual Health, co-authored by Professor Mitchell, for its repeated claim that 10 per cent of people are same-sex-attracted. However, this is not backed up by findings of the study, which relied heavily on lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans or intersex ­networks to recruit trial subjects.

It is not the first time an assoc­iate of Safe Schools has dismissed concerns about the program.

As The Australian reported in March, Ms Ward has advised principals to say “tough luck” to parents who disapproved of the program, while her colleague Joel Radcliffe said “parents don’t have the power to shut this down”.

Professor Mitchell’s strident defence took place on May 26, ­several months after the federal government ordered an overhaul of the taxpayer-funded program after a review deemed some parts inappropriate for young students.

It also came the night before La Trobe announced an investi­gation into Ms Ward after she denounced the Australian flag as racist in a Facebook post.

Despite dropping the investi­gation last week amid legal pressure, La Trobe vice-chancellor John Dewar said Ms Ward’s conduct had imperilled the program and the research institution.


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