Sunday, October 16, 2016

Group Claims YouTube Is Restricting PragerU Educational Videos

PragerU, an institution that, according to its website, “presents the most important ideas in free, five-minute videos,” is currently being restricted by YouTube. YouTube has restricted 21 of the organization’s videos.

Videos are restricted on YouTube based on vulgar language, violence and disturbing imagery, nudity and sexually suggestive content, and portrayal of harmful or dangerous activities, according to YouTube. Videos that are age-restricted “are not visible to users who are logged out, are under 18 years of age, or have restricted mode enabled,” according to YouTube.

The list of restricted videos include, “Are The Police Racist?,” “Why Don’t Feminists Fight for Muslim Women?,” “Why Did America Fight the Korean War?,” “Who’s More Pro-Choice: Europe or America?,” and “What ISIS Wants.”

“Over the last several months, PragerU and YouTube have been in communication regarding a number of PragerU videos that YouTube has listed under ‘restricted mode,’” Jared Sichel, PragerU’s communications director, said in a statement provided to The Daily Signal. “That number has since grown to 21 videos.

Restricted mode is something that many parents and schools use so that children don’t watch explicit adult and sexual content—not so they can’t find animated, educational videos on topics ranging from history and economics to happiness and philosophy.”

YouTube was bought by Google in 2006 and is a subsidiary company of the search engine giant. According to a PragerU press release, PragerU filed a complaint with Google executives but received a generic response.

“In response to an official complaint PragerU filed, Google specialists defended their restriction of our videos, and said, ‘We don’t censor anyone,’ although they do ‘take into consideration what the intent of the video is’ and ‘what the focus of the video is,’” the press release said.

The Daily Signal contacted YouTube about the restrictions on PragerU’s videos, but they did not respond.

Sichel said that in an effort to protest and end YouTube’s restrictions, they have launched a petition for viewers to sign.

“After months of official and back-channel communication with YouTube and Google led nowhere, PragerU released [yesterday] a petition against YouTube to stop restricting these 21 videos. That petition already has over 15,000 signatures, and it’s growing fast,” Sichel said. 

“Based on our review of YouTube’s policies and user guidelines, none of our videos meet the requirements of being inappropriate, sexually explicit, or hate speech,” Elisha Krauss, director of outreach at PragerU, told The Daily Signal in an email. “Some places of employment and many libraries and schools use restricted mode to prevent vulgar and inappropriate content. So we know students and adults are being prevented from doing research and using our videos as a source.”


Why This Black Lives Matter Supporter Still Wants Charter Schools

Twenty minutes outside the U.S. Capitol, 10-year-old Aniyah Maddox gets ready for school in one of the poorest neighborhoods in the District of Columbia.

She puts on her uniform—a pleated skirt that falls below her knees, socks, shoes, and a white collared shirt—and says goodbye to her 8-month-old sister, whom she begged her mother to have.

At the charter school Aniyah attends, she’s not a student, but a scholar, and already has big dreams of becoming a fashion designer, a singer, or a lawyer. Right now, she can’t decide.

Smiling on the playground with a red bow on her head, Aniyah is oblivious to the challenges she faces growing up in a historically disadvantaged urban neighborhood.

Her mother, Shadija Maddox, is just the opposite. She’s aware that the median yearly income in Ward 8, cluster 39, hovers around $30,000, and that less than 20 percent of residents hold a bachelor’s degree or higher. For that reason, she doesn’t cut Aniyah any slack.

“She has to go to college,” Maddox said, with a serious tone in her voice. “What you decide to do after that, hey, travel the world. But you have to make sure you complete your education so you can get to college and do it well.”

Maddox, a native of Prince George’s County, holds a bachelor’s degree and expects her children to do the same. She never intended on enrolling Aniyah in a charter school, but with Ward 8’s poor achievement records, it was the only option.

“The public school systems just need to be revamped,” Maddox told The Daily Signal, sitting in a glass conference room at Achievement Preparatory Academy in southeast Washington.

Achievement Prep is one of the District’s highest performing public charter schools serving 1,000 students in preschool through the eighth grade. Built on top of a hill overlooking Ward 8, the new, beautifully designed campus stands as a beacon of hope in a place where at times, it feels like there is none.

Achievement Prep consists of two buildings, the Wahler Place Elementary School and the Wahler Place Middle School. For security reasons, the entire campus is surrounded by gates. Crime and violence in Ward 8 are rampant, and half of all children live in poverty.

As a public charter school, Achievement Prep is run with public funds and is tuition-free for all students. Its operators, however, are private and are given the freedom to be more innovative with decisions involving curriculum, culture, budget, hiring, and firing.

Students—or scholars, as they’re formally called—outperform traditional public schools in Ward 8 by as much as 40 points on standardized tests. Overall, test results are competitive with students in the city’s most affluent neighborhoods, such as Georgetown.

In other urban areas such as Boston, Newark, and New York City, charter schools have shown a remarkable ability to outperform traditional public schools and close the achievement gap between white and black students.

However, not every charter school is the same, and some can’t boast such accomplishments. Fort Worth, Phoenix, and Las Vegas charter schools, for example, are all struggling to outperform their district counterparts, according to one study.

Nationally, black students make up 27 percent of enrollment in charter schools, compared with 16 percent of enrollment in traditional public schools. At Achievement Prep, where Aniyah attends, 99 percent of students are African-American and 89 percent qualify for free and reduced price lunch.

But despite these statistics, groups like the NAACP and Black Lives Matter are saying charter schools are hurting African-Americans, and that they should cease to exist.

This summer, both the NAACP and Black Lives Matter called for a moratorium—or an immediate halt—on all charter school growth across the U.S.

“Budget cuts, standardized tests, and rabid charter expansion places black students in buildings that are falling apart, creates unhealthy learning environments (physically and emotionally), and robs them of the futures—graduating unprepared for college, career, or community,” reads the Black Lives Matter official platform.

“These same students, instead, are subject to increased police violence, disproportionate suspensions and expulsions, and are likely to be pushed out of school all together. Generations of black students are sent out into the world, unprepared for the realities of a shrinking job market, increasing gentrification of the neighborhoods, and the high costs of higher education.”

In July, the NAACP called for a “moratorium on the proliferation of privately managed charter schools,” arguing that charter schools have “weak oversight” and put schools in low-income communities “at great risk.” This month, the group’s board members will vote on whether to make that policy final.

The anti-charter school platforms have put these groups at odds with some African-Americans. Nationally, a study has shown that 82 percent of African-American parents with school-aged children support charter schools.

Those who are against charter schools argue they take away much-needed funding from public schools that desperately need it, and are part of a national attempt to privatize education.

Already, black community leaders have pushed back, asking for the NAACP and Black Lives Matter to reverse their positions.

On Sept. 21, a coalition, organized by the Black Alliance for Educational Options and the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, sent a letter to NAACP board members on behalf of “700,000 black families choosing to send their children to charter public schools, and the tens of thousands more who are still on waiting lists.”

Shortly after, black charter school parents have launched their own letter urging the NAACP to change its mind.

Chris Stewart, a charter school advocate from Minneapolis, is one of the 160 black education and community leaders to organize against the NAACP’s anti-charter school policies.

“I think we’re witnessing a great organizing effort on the part of the folks who are really trying to defend traditional public schools from any type of competition,” Stewart told The Daily Signal on the phone. “That organizing effort has been going on for years, it’s starting to take root now in these types of high-profile, public media spectacles.”

Stewart blames teachers unions, their allies, and their “billionaires” for co-opting a platform he doesn’t think truly represents the needs or wants of black families. “If you look at almost everybody connected, they’re grantees of a very specific set of funders, unions, and organizers.”

The Daily Signal requested interviews with Black Lives Matter and the NAACP, but neither organization responded.


Competitive forces in Australian school education
Jennifer Buckingham

Funding changes are not the only threats non-government schools will need to have on their radars in the next decade. School enrolment data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics shows that after four decades of relentless growth, the proportion of students in independent schools has slowed substantially.

The number of students in the independent sector has continued to increase, but the other sectors have begun to regain some territory. The patterns are different for primary and secondary schools. At primary level, government schools have had an uptick in enrolment share for the first time since the 1970s, whereas secondary school growth has been greatest in Catholic schools.

This is arguably a good thing. For competition to be beneficial -- either by raising quality or lowering costs, or both -- it has to work in both directions. Growth in one sector alone over a long period of time creates stagnation; the waning sector is not responding effectively, and the prevailing sector becomes complacent.

Independent schools have been able to maintain their respected and valued position as educational leaders through a combination of strong and visible achievement and, for some schools, a large element of prestige.

But parents are becoming savvy consumers of education. Thanks to the My School website and various other sources of information about comparing schools, parents are able to weigh up school performance in NAPLAN versus the cost commitment of school fees. Of course, NAPLAN is not the only measure of school value, but it provides a hitherto missing piece of the puzzle.

There are also other potential disruptors. The success of free schools and academies in England is arousing the interest of policy makers, and the example of New Zealand's Partnership Schools has been instructive. Free schools and Partnership Schools were inspired by charter schools in the US. They are privately-operated schools that are fully publicly funded. They cannot charge fees and are usually not selective. This combination of independent management (with a high level of accountability) and the absence of fees will be an appealing prospect for many parents.

A healthy and high quality non-government school sector is an important part of the education landscape. But it should not be assumed that the circumstances of the past will be continued into the future.


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