Friday, July 08, 2016

Liberal profs outnumber conservatives 28-to-1 in New England

A study of survey data collected over 25 years has confirmed that university faculty in New England are far more liberal than anywhere else in the nation, outnumbering conservatives 28-to-1, compared to a 6-to-1 ratio nationally.

Samuel Abrams, a professor of politics at Sarah Lawrence College, notes in an op-ed for The New York Times Sunday that while decades of survey data confirm liberal preponderance throughout the academy, one region in particular stands out for its particularly extreme imbalance: New England.

“Wow, it’s getting harder and harder to find non-progressive professors on campuses right now.”

“I cannot say for certain why New England is so far to the left,” Abrams concedes. “But what I can say, based on the evidence, is that if you are looking for an ideologically balanced education, don’t put New England at the top of your list.”

Reviewing surveys of professors’ ideological leanings that were conducted by the Higher Education Research Institute (HERI) between 1989 and 2014, Abrams discovered a distinct leftward shift over the past 25 years, but was surprised to discover that “the factor that had the greatest impact on the ideological leanings of college professors was their geographic region.”

The HERI surveys reveal that liberal academics outnumbered their conservative peers in 1989 by a 2-to-1 margin nationally, while in New England the figure was 5-to-1. Twenty-five years later, the national ratio had tripled, coming in at 6-to-1 in 2014, but that increase paled in comparison to New England, where the discrepancy reached an astronomical 28-to-1.

Abrams reassured Campus Reform that the findings, both in New England and nationally, are not indicative of the nation’s overall ideological leanings, suggesting instead that they are a product of groupthink and unconscious bias among university faculty and administrators who control the hiring process for new professors.

“On average the nation is more conservative than it is liberal, but professors are just so far left,” he explained. “It’s a very strong finding to see that suddenly it’s not a myth, and that academics really has shifted to be far more liberal.”

The reason for the disproportionate leftward bias in New England, Abrams added, can be attributed primarily to the hiring process rather than an ideological shift in the region.

“What’s going on in New England is most likely that they are hiring more liberal professors, rather than these professors actually becoming more liberal, and over time that can culminate into a big shift toward the left,” Abrams said. “Typically, we hire people because we’re planning on working with them and it’s a lot more attractive to have people you agree with.”

Indeed, Abrams recounts experiencing just that phenomenon when he started teaching at Sarah Lawrence in 2010, recalling that colleagues used to joke that he was a “targeted hire” because his moderate political views were practically heretical at the ultra-liberal college.

According to Abrams’ findings, the leftward shift in academia became most noticeable in the mid-1990’s.

In 1989, the surveys showed that 40 percent of professors identified as liberal, 40 percent as moderates, and only 20 percent were conservative. In 2014, however, professors identifying as liberal climbed to 60 percent, while the share of moderate professors fell to 30 percent and conservatives declined to 10 percent.

The research findings present a much larger issue than a regional ideological gap, Abrams notes, pointing out that an increase in liberal ideology can potentially lead to issues regarding free speech and academic freedom.

“It just makes you go ‘wow, it’s getting harder and harder to find non-progressive professors on campuses right now,’” he told Campus Reform. “It’s very hard to challenge people with different views on college campuses right now because there’s no one to support you.”

Abrams said the importance of establishing a balanced environment and giving students the opportunity to hear perspectives from both sides of the isle is crucial because it is currently not happening on college campuses today.

“If these are the people who are teaching our future leaders, then it begs the question, are these professors really the most balanced group of people, are these students really getting the most balanced education?” he asked.“The data suggest maybe not.”


UK: New primary school tests criticised as half of pupils meet standards

As Department for Education publishes results for year 6 tests, critics say government is gambling with pupils’ futures

Little more than half of pupils met the government’s tougher new standards in reading, writing and mathematics at the end of primary school, according to national test results.

The new tests for year 6 primary school pupils in England – used for the first time this year – had been criticised by teachers, academics and unions for being poorly constructed, while the Department for Education was blamed for a series of mistakes involved in their introduction.

The national figures, published on Tuesday, show that just 53% of pupils reached the government’s “expected standard” in all three topics – reading, maths and writing – and just two-thirds made the grade in reading.

As a rule of thumb, the expected standard equates to the previous 4B level. Last year, 69% of pupils aged 11 and 12 reached level 4B in the subjects that were tested.

A DfE source said: “These results show that our children and teachers are capable of achieving the higher standards we expect of them and vindicate the reforms introduced by Michael Gove and continued by Nicky Morgan.

“While previous governments were happy to celebrate ever higher results at the expense of declining standards, these bold secretaries of state have taken the important decision to prioritise our children’s future ahead of short-term political wins.”

Morgan had earlier warned parents that the new tests could not be compared with previous year’s results, which were based on a different curriculum and measure of attainment.

“Neither schools nor parents should try to compare this year’s results with previous years. The tests are new and are based on a new, more rigorous national curriculum,” Morgan said before the results were announced.

The biggest differences appear to have come in maths and reading. In maths, 77% of pupils reached level 4B last year, and 70% met the DfE’s definition of expected standard this year. In reading, 80% of pupils reached the 4B level in 2015, and 66% reached the expected standard this year.

Teachers said they were surprised that 74% of pupils met the expected standard for writing, because it tended to lag behind reading in terms of attainment.

In other areas, 72% of pupils met the new standard in grammar, punctuation and spelling, which could be an improvement on previous years given the more demanding curriculum.

Tuesday’s results give only the national picture, with school-level results to be published later in the year. The DfE has already said that because of the uncertainty around the results, only the lowest performing 6% of schools will be classed as below the government’s floor targets.

Russell Hobby, general secretary of school leaders’ union NAHT, said the results gave a misleading picture of school performance and should be ignored.

“The government is proud to say this new curriculum is harder than in previous years, but seemingly happy to put these children at an automatic disadvantage” compared with children in previous years, Hobby said.

“Added to this, the government has made serious mistakes in the planning and implementation of tests this year, with delays and confusion in the guidance materials.”

Lucy Powell, Labour’s former shadow education secretary, called the new tests a “total shambles”.

“Nicky Morgan should spend less time sucking up to Tory leadership candidates and more time trying to sort out the mess she has created,” said Powell, who resigned from Labour’s frontbench last week.

“There’s no dressing these results up – there has been a big drop in results and standards have fallen due to the chaos and confusion in assessment created by Tory ministers past and present.”

But a DfE source responded: “Lucy Powell, or whoever is in charge of education for the Labour party these days, has got it wrong. Her lack of aspiration for our children is disappointing yet unsurprising.”

Tim Farron, the Lib Dem leader, joined the attack, saying the Conservatives were “treating students like a lab rats”.

He added: “These results show starkly that they are gambling the futures of these young people on Michael Gove’s misty-eyed world view where every school is a prep or grammar school, students are robotic and teachers skip around teaching past participles and antonyms by rote to seven-year-olds.

“It sounds more like an Enid Blyton book than reality.”


Australia: School in a black community closed down after principal was threatened with an axe will open again with extra security

Teachers who take jobs there must be desperate. 

A remote school that was closed down after its teaching staff were forced to evacuate due to violence will reopen with increased security and offer years seven and eight.

The Cape York Academy primary school in the troubled remote community of Aurukun, in far-north Queensland, will begin providing classes again following a review of education and security at the school by the Queensland Government, according to ABC.

Teachers were evacuated on two occasions in May after school principal Scott Fatnowna was attacked and carjacked twice in two weeks.

The first incident caused the evacuation of the school's 25 staff and the arrest of six people after Mr Fatnowna was attacked with an axe as he tried to stop people breaking into the homes of two teachers. 

The review made 27 recommendations, all of which will be adopted by the Queensland Government.

As part of the recommendations, new fencing, lights, security systems have been built and personal distress alarms have been issued, according to the report.

The town currently has 23 police officers, but will receive a further eight security personnel in line with the construction of a new teacher housing area.

Queensland Education Minister Kate Jones told ABC that classes will be provided for Year 7 and 8 students and distance education will be available for later years.

'They also want a greater focus on the Wik language, particularly for the transition of early years where English is often a second language for young people,' she said.

'That will ensure that we are providing that balance between Wik language and English in the school curriculum.'

Some teachers have chosen not to return to the school, but all positions have been filled, Queensland Teachers Union president Kevin Bates said in the report.

Queensland Premier Anastasia Palaszczuk told the remote indigenous community in May that the state government was making every effort to ensure the town's long-term education needs were met.

'We all know how important education is and it is indeed my priority to ensure that all children receive a good quality education,' Ms Palaszczuk said in the town square.

'I don't care where they live in Queensland, every single child deserves the best education.'

Ms Palaszczuk and Education Minister Kate Jones spoke to around 200 people in the town square following a tour of the town and meeting with the Aurukun Shire Council.

Aurukun elder Phyllis Yunkaporta told the premier in May she was opposed to the school being closed, but put the responsibility back on the community's parents.

'Children who are running amok and are not getting an education have to be home with their parents, their grandparents,' she said.  'We need to show love to our children.'

Shocking footage from Aurukun emerged in May of a group of women brawling in front of police.

The video shows a number of young women throwing bare-knuckled punches as onlookers stood by.


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