Friday, May 13, 2016

Is Harvard risking its reputation? The hits keep coming

Harvard is in the news again, and for all the wrong reasons. On Friday, Harvard Law Professor Mark Tushnet came dangerously close to comparing Christian conservatives to Nazis in a blog post. Specifically, he said this of those who he proclaims “lost” the culture war: “Trying to be nice to the losers didn’t work well after the Civil War, nor after Brown. (And taking a hard line seemed to work reasonably well in Germany and Japan after 1945.)”

The comparison speaks volumes about the tolerance of opposing views and the regard held for those who hold a traditional worldview.

Harvard is moving so far left so fast, that even supporters of Hillary Clinton are facing the sort of hostility Harvard conservatives have coped with for years, according to RedAlertPolitics . “At Harvard, admitting that #ImWithHer is nearly tantamount to boasting ‘Make America Great Again,’” said Sam Koppleman, a 20-year old government student who supports Hillary.”

Throw in 2014’s story of a Harvard Extension club’s abortive plans to hold a satanic “black mass” on campus, and you have to ask, how can they keep this up?

Harvard has long been thought of as the gold standard in American education. They currently retain some of that cachet, but as these things continue to happen, what parent will invest in the grim outlook in the Harvard prestige futures market?

At what point does the place become such a circus, that Americans decide that other institutions have comparable prestige, and considerably more sanity?

Harvard is already a populist whipping boy, and the subject of derision as the place where elites are taught to fundamentally misinterpret their surroundings before being pipelined to Washington, where such thinking is endemic.

I myself am enrolled in Harvard’s Extension program, and was attracted to the pursuit of an education that would stimulate my intellect and advance my career. Harvard has long dined out on this sort of cachet, but with every news story that documents their cognitive dissonance of claiming to stand for “Veritas” and at the same time attacking it, they hasten their own decline.

The University of Missouri, while never enjoying the level of esteem as Harvard, suffered a 20 percent enrollment decline, and bears witness to what can happen when you allow the leftists to turn your institution into an asylum. Veritas matters.


Fiddling Away Black Futures

By Walter E. Williams

Most black politicians, ministers, civil rights advocates and professionals support Hillary Clinton's quest for the presidency. Whoever becomes the next president, whether it's a Democrat or Republican, will mean little or nothing in terms of solutions to major problems that confront many black people.

We've already seen that even a black president means little or nothing. Politics and political power cannot significantly improve the lives of most black people and may even be impediments.

Blacks hold high offices and dominate the political arenas in Philadelphia, Detroit, Baltimore and other cities. Yet these are the very cities with the nation's poorest educational outcomes, highest crime rates, high illegitimacy rates and other forms of social pathology. Let's look at this pattern, focusing just on Philadelphia, Detroit and Baltimore, cities with large black populations and black-held political power for nearly a half-century.

In Philadelphia, only 19 percent of eighth-graders score proficient in math and 16 percent in reading. In Detroit, there is only a 4 percent proficiency level in math and 7 percent in reading. In Baltimore, it's a 12 percent proficiency in math and 13 percent in reading.

These results are even more depressing when one tallies the percentages of students scoring "below basic" on the National Assessment of Education Progress test, often referred to as "the nation's report card." Below basic means that a student is unable to demonstrate even partial mastery of knowledge and skills fundamental for proficient work at his grade level. In Philadelphia, 47 percent scored below basic in math and 42 percent in reading. In Baltimore, it was respectively 59 and 49 percent. In Detroit, 73 percent scored below basic in math and 56 percent in reading.

In terms of murders, shootings and other kinds of criminal behavior, these three cities are at or near the top. They also experience high rates of illegitimacy and single-parent households. Let me be absolutely clear about what I am saying. I am not saying that blacks having political power is the cause of these problems.

What I am saying is that the solution to the problems confronting black people will not be found in the political arena. I am also saying that blacks working to secure the presidency of Hillary Clinton or Sen. Bernie Sanders are wasting resources that could be better spent trying to reverse the tragic destinies of so many black youths.

The Obama administration, as well as black and white liberals, expresses concern with disproportionate numbers of black students suspended or expelled. They have created a practice called "restorative justice," where students are called on to repair the harm caused by their bad behavior. Under this regime, cursing a teacher or assaulting a teacher is no cause for traditional discipline.

Instead, there's talking and pleas. But I'll bet the rent money that the black and white liberal elite would never send their own children to schools where teachers are routinely assaulted and cursed. They would never send their children to schools so unsafe that students must enter through metal detectors so as to prevent the introduction of guns, knives and other weapons.

The disgraceful academic performance by black students is not preordained. In other words, it just doesn't have to be that way. The Washington, D.C., Opportunity Scholarship Program, a school-choice voucher program, has an excellent record, with 91 percent of its "at-risk" students graduating. But the Obama administration, doing the bidding of teacher's unions, has attacked the program. U.S. Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., questioned Secretary of Education John King Jr. about the D.C. scholarship program during confirmation hearings.

King replied, "I do not personally believe that vouchers are a scalable solution to the equity and excellence challenge and prefer the route of public school choice." I would have asked Mr. King how that position differs from a position that says: "No black children shall be saved unless and until all black children can be saved." I don't think black people can afford such a policy perspective.



Three current reports below

Chinese student enrolments are exploding in Australia

The latest Government data for the three months to March revealed 459,621 international student enrolments over the year to date, for another 12 per cent increase over the past year.

The actual number of international students in Australia so far this year is 421,258, also a 12 per cent increase (students may enrol for more than one course, y’see), while commencements are up even more dramatically by 13 per cent.

46,370 Chinese students have already commenced courses in Aussie educational establishments this year, which is 23 per cent more than this time last year!

Big numbers, yes. Yet it’s the potential cumulative impact of the percentage increases which is the really astonishing thing.

Enrolments have increased by 36 per cent over the past three years alone, with most international students bound for the largest capital cities, drawn like scholarly flies to the bright city lights.

Well, that plus the fact that a lot of the most prestigious Universities, schools and colleges are located close to the centres of the most populous capital cities.

Small wonder, perhaps, that apartment vacancy rates haven’t been rising as fast as had been predicted in Sydney and Melbourne, despite the record construction boom.

Most of the growth in international students is sourced from Asia – a worthy glimpse into Australia’s future – and from China and India in particular.

There was a 23 per cent year-on-year increase in Chinese commencements in the first quarter of 2016, and a 26 per cent increase specifically in the higher education sector.

Meanwhile Chinese students have accounted for some 29.4 per cent of enrolments over the year to date, up from 27.8 per cent in the first three months of 2015.

Records are being shattered all over the show, and far more than could (or should) be mentioned in any one article.

There will doubtless be a few half-hearted noises made about diversification and spreading the love (or at least the concentration of risk).

But let’s face it China has a solidly growing population of about 1,381,000,000 and comparatively speaking there are very few of us. India’s population isn’t far behind at around 1.25 billion.

On balance, It appears unlikely that the supply of willing applicants is likely to dry up any time soon, so provided that education standards are maintained and establishments can facilitate foreign students appropriately, Government forecasts will continue to project nothing short of an explosion in student visas.

There has also been very strong year-on-year growth in Indian student enrolments, which one assumes (with admittedly little statistical support to my assertion) is predominantly a Melbourne thing.

Following the relaxation – ahem, streamlining – of visa rules for international students, tens of thousands of Asian students will in time go on to become permanent residents and Australian citizens.

The good fellows and my former employers at the Green Dot of Deloitte Access & Touche-Ross-Tohmatsu plc (or whatever they’re known as these days) now estimate that the higher education export industry is worth $20 billion per annum to Australia, which is even more than had previously been believed.


STEM graduates most likely to get jobs, earn more money

STEM graduates earn more money and are more likely to land a job. This was the message from The Good Education Group, which released its first Good Careers Guide today.

Figures showed people with science, technology, engineering or maths (STEM) qualifications — whether from university or a vocational trainer — fared better than their non-STEM counterparts.

For university graduates, the highest average starting salaries were in dentistry ($77,000), medicine ($62,624), engineering ($62,102), surveying ($60,049) and rehabilitation ($59,603). This compared to a $52,840 average.

For vocational graduates, the highest average starting salaries were in information technology ($51,700), engineering ($51,100), education ($49,500), architecture and building ($48,200) and health ($47,400). This compared to a $46,900 average.

Good Education Group data manager Ross White said STEM graduates typically had more specialised and transferable skills so were in demand across more industries yet not enough people pursued these fields.

He said there were more people with business and management degrees alone than people with computing and IT, engineering and technology, mathematics and science degrees combined.

STEM careers also had higher employment rates.

University graduates most likely to have a job after university were in medicine (97 per cent), pharmacy (91 per cent), surveying (78 per cent), dentistry (77 per cent) and nursing/rehabilitation (76 per cent).

Meanwhile, those most likely to have a job after vocational training were in education (86 per cent), architecture and building (86 per cent), engineering (83 per cent), agriculture, environmental and related studies (81 per cent) and health (79 per cent).

Good Education Group chief executive Chris Lester said it was important more students explored STEM careers.

“With the government’s renewed focus on the importance of studying STEM subjects, it seems students would do well to consider these fields — both for positive employment and salary outcomes,” he said.

University of Adelaide Careers Service manager Sue Hervey said students took many factors into consideration when choosing a degree and starting salary was only one of them.

“In the most recent annual survey by the Australian Association of Graduate Employers, graduates listed long-term career prospects, reputation of an employer, training and development, and work content as the most important factors for them. Salary was listed by only one per cent of graduates as being the most important factor.”

Final year dental student Austin Yoo, 22, was surprised that dentists earned so much in their first year after graduation.

He said salary was not a consideration when he chose his undergraduate degree with the University of Adelaide.

“With dentistry, you have to really enjoy what you are doing because you will be doing it for a significant part of your life,” he said. “Money doesn’t necessarily buy you happiness.

“If you choose it for the possibility of earning a higher salary, you are better off choosing something you have an interest in.”

Dr Yastira Lalla, who has a Bachelor of Dental Science, Master of Philosophy in Oral Oncology and is now studying a Doctorate of Clinical Dentistry in Dento-Maxillofacial Radiology at the University of Queensland, said salary didn’t factor into her career decision. “I knew that dentistry was a stable job but I never chased the money,” she said. “I always believed in following an area (I) already had interest in.

“Study has (been) challenging — it seems to increase as I move further up the academic ladder — but pursuing STEM comes with unique rewards, such as seeing your hard work published in journals, presenting your work at conferences to show others what you have achieved and of course graduation.”


Blacks attack teachers trying to help them

I have said many times that more police are what Aboriginal settlements need most.  Without security, nothing else is possible

A CAPE York school has been temporarily shut down and extra police have been rushed to the town to deal with unrest as more than 20 teachers were on Tuesday ordered to evacuate amid fears for their safety.

Education Minister Kate Jones said she was deeply concerned for the safety of teachers at the Aurukun campus of the Cape York Aboriginal Australian Academy and promised the department would review its infrastructure and security in the town immediately.

Five extra police were sent in as reinforcements on Tuesday following an incident at the weekend in which the school’s principal was allegedly threatened with an axe and had his car stolen by a group of males aged under 19.

It was the tipping point for a union meeting of teaching staff on Monday night in which they expressed fear and called for their removal from the community on full pay while a safety strategy was negotiated.

Indigenous leader Noel Pearson, who founded CYAAA, last night strongly backed the decision to evacuate the staff to Cairns, saying the employees did a “heroic job” amid unrest which had plagued the community “for too long”.

“(There are disturbances) with fights among community members, unruly youths returning from detention and all of these problems have been rolling on for several years,” he said.

In an email obtained by The Courier-Mail, staff demanded plans for construction of a “teacher community safe precinct” to start by the end of the year, increased incentives for staff working in Aurukun, and housing needs including 24-hour security and fences being concreted in the ground.

Ms Jones ordered the Education Department temporarily move 25 staff to Cairns on Tuesday.

“The safety and wellbeing of our staff has to be our number one priority,” she said.

“After considering these concerns and resolutions put forward by staff I have given my full support to the executive principal’s decision to temporarily close the Aurukun campus of the Cape York Aboriginal Australian Academy for a period of five school days.


Thursday, May 12, 2016

California Teachers Unions Force Nonmembers to Pay for LGBT, Other Political Goals

A large California teachers union and its national affiliate are forcing nonunion teachers to pay for political activism, according to a disclosure form acquired by The Daily Signal.

Under a category called “human rights,” both the National Education Association and the California Teachers Association require nonunion teachers to finance LGBT leadership training and other political goals that may run counter to the teachers’ convictions, The Daily Signal’s analysis of the disclosure form shows.

The form shows that unions charged $1.1 million in “human rights” costs to nonunion teachers as well as members in 2013-14, while identifying another $1.2 million in the same category as not chargeable to those who weren’t members.

A separate page lists $20,228 in chargeable costs for “Women and LGBT Issues” as a line item under the category  of human rights. The same page includes a line item on “unconscious bias training” for which nonmembers must cover $5,436.

The teachers unions also spend a pretty penny on annual conferences described as focused on education, some of which appear designed instead to further political causes.

For the 2013-14 school year, the teachers unions charged nonmembers as well as members a total of $49,739 for an “Equity Human Rights Conference,” nearly twice as much as the $25,622 deemed not chargeable to nonmembers, the disclosure form shows.

The unions charged nonmembers as well as members a total of $17,108 for an “LGBT Conference,” referring to the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender movement, with a lower amount, $11,358, that wasn’t charged to nonmembers.

Unions annually send the disclosure, known as a “Hudson notice,” to nonmembers required to pay union fees.

James Sherk, a labor policy analysis with The Heritage Foundation, told The Daily Signal that line items devoted to human rights appear to be superfluous to the California Teachers Association’s negotiating responsibilities.

“This Hudson notice seems to show the union overcharging the nonmembers it represents,” Sherk wrote in an email, adding:

Donating to ‘human rights’ organizations is unrelated to the union’s collective bargaining activities and should not be chargeable to [nonmembers]. This is especially true when many self-described human rights organizations advance an ideological agenda that those nonmembers may not share.


British schools are under 'huge and unsustainable pressure' from dramatic rise in number of children from European migrants' families

Schools are coming under 'unsustainable pressure' from a surge in the number of pupils from European migrants' families, statistics have shown.

Nearly 700,000 school-aged youngsters have a mother or father who is a citizen of another country in Europe - more than double the number in 2007.

The statistics include pupils who have come to the UK with their families as well as those who were born to parents who had already moved to Britain.

In one year alone numbers of school-aged children coming to Britain from Europe reached 25,000, the figures showed.

According to the Sunday Telegraph, which found the statistics on Parliament's website, 27 average-sized new secondary schools would be needed to accommodate such an influx. 

The newspaper said the highest number came from Poland, followed by Lithuania and Germany.

Employment minister Priti Patel, told the Sunday Telegraph: 'These figures show how the EU’s open borders policies, and the uncontrolled immigration that stems from that, is leading to huge and unsustainable pressures on our schools.

'This is undermining efforts by local councils to ensure they keep class sizes down, and provide school places for all children in their communities.'

The data was released by Government statistician John Pullinger last week, the newspaper reported.

Last month, Ms Patel said migration had pushed the education system to ‘breaking point’. 

‘The shortage of primary school places is yet another example of how uncontrolled migration is putting unsustainable pressures on our public services,’ she said at the time.

‘Education is one of the most important things the Government delivers, and it’s deeply regrettable that so many families with young children are set to be disappointed today.' 

Last year up to one in five youngsters in parts of the country missed out on their first choice of school.


The Latest Innovation in Education: Empowering Parents

When it comes to education reform, fads abound but genuine innovation is rare.

Fads masquerading as “innovations” have been wreaking havoc on American elementary and secondary education for decades, including new math, open classrooms, whole language, and Differentiated Instruction, which groups children by their “learning styles.” The latest fad is psychometric testing, which collects massive amounts of non-academic, personal student data through federally-mandated statewide “accountability” assessments.

Progressive education theories fuel these fads, and the federal government is the vehicle transporting them to American classrooms from coast to coast, most notably via Common Core “state” standards, which has been likened to the “Obamacare of education.”

A variety of new educational choice programs, however, are putting parents back in the driver’s seat where they belong.

Tuition tax-credit scholarships are one example. Unlike voucher scholarships, which are funded through government appropriations, tax-credit scholarships are funded by private donations from individuals and/or businesses to non-profit scholarship organizations. Donors take credits of varying amounts off their state income taxes, and parents can use scholarships to send their children to the private schools of their choice.

Arizona was the first state to enact a tax-credit scholarship program in 1997. Today, 20 programs are operating in 16 states benefitting more than 225,000 students who are low-income, have special needs or circumstances, or would otherwise be attending a failing public school.

Education savings account (ESA) programs empowers parents over how—not just where—their children are educated, personalizing learning to unprecedented levels.

The ESA concept is simple. Parents who do not prefer a public school for their child simply withdraw him or her, and the state deposits at least 90 percent of the funds it would have sent to the public school into that child’s ESA instead. Parents receive a type of dedicated-use debit card for authorized expenses including private school tuition, online courses, testing fees, tutoring, home-school curricula, and special education therapies. Any leftover funds remain in the child’s ESA for future education expenses, including college.

ESA funds are disbursed quarterly, but only after parents submit expense reports with receipts for verification. Regular audits also help prevent misspending. If parents misuse funds they forfeit their child’s ESA and must repay misused funds or face legal prosecution.

Arizona was the first state to enact an ESA program in 2011, and such programs now exist in Florida, Mississippi, Tennessee, and Nevada (however, last month a judge issued an injunction against the program, leaving thousands of students in a lurch). So far this year, ESA legislation has been introduced in the District of Columbia, Iowa, Oklahoma, and Virginia. Meanwhile proposed legislation in Arizona would make virtually all students eligible for ESAs, not just those with special needs or circumstances.

Having the freedom to customize their children’s learning has resulted in an unprecedented 100 percent ESA program satisfaction rating among participating Arizona parents. Program demand is also strong, roughly doubling each year.

Parental choice programs such as these are fiscally responsible, popular, and they get results.

Sixty years ago Nobel Prize-winning economist Milton Friedman argued that just because we finance education through government that does not mean that elected officials in government know what type of education is best for other people’s children.

“Education spending will be most effective,” Friedman insisted, “if it relies on parental choice and private initiative—the building blocks of success throughout our society.”


TX school’s bizarre response to seven-year-old girl’s note

A FEW of us tried forging our parents’ signatures in school to get out of something, right? It’s a risky bit of high school mischief, as it’s not hard to get caught.

But in this case, a Texas school district has been forced to investigate how a misspelled note — which was clearly written by a young child — actually worked.

Charlie Dahu received a phone call from a concerned neighbour, who told him his seven-year-old daughter, Rosabella, was waiting outside the family’s locked home, reports ABC 13. He rushed home immediately, relieved to find nothing bad had happened to her.

But Dahu can’t fathom how Sheldon Elementary School allowed his second grade daughter to take the bus home by herself, given the note couldn’t possibly have been written by a parent. “You can clearly see she did not even spell the word bus right?” said Mr Dahu.

Y’know, in case the childlike handwriting and lack of signature weren’t dead giveaways either.

In a statement, the school district said the situation is being investigated: “Sheldon ISD is currently investigating the situation. We are reviewing our training procedures to ensure that our after-school grant program staff is properly trained in dismissal procedures.

At this point, the district is continuing to investigate and will take proper disciplinary action. As always, student safety is our top priority.”


Wednesday, May 11, 2016

A Confession of Liberal Intolerance

By Nicholas Kristof of the NYT

WE progressives believe in diversity, and we want women, blacks, Latinos, gays and Muslims at the table — er, so long as they aren’t conservatives.

Universities are the bedrock of progressive values, but the one kind of diversity that universities disregard is ideological and religious. We’re fine with people who don’t look like us, as long as they think like us.

O.K., that’s a little harsh. But consider George Yancey, a sociologist who is black and evangelical.

“Outside of academia I faced more problems as a black,” he told me. “But inside academia I face more problems as a Christian, and it is not even close.”

I’ve been thinking about this because on Facebook recently I wondered aloud whether universities stigmatize conservatives and undermine intellectual diversity. The scornful reaction from my fellow liberals proved the point.

“Much of the ‘conservative’ worldview consists of ideas that are known empirically to be false,” said Carmi.

“The truth has a liberal slant,” wrote Michelle.

“Why stop there?” asked Steven. “How about we make faculties more diverse by hiring idiots?”

To me, the conversation illuminated primarily liberal arrogance — the implication that conservatives don’t have anything significant to add to the discussion. My Facebook followers have incredible compassion for war victims in South Sudan, for kids who have been trafficked, even for abused chickens, but no obvious empathy for conservative scholars facing discrimination.

The stakes involve not just fairness to conservatives or evangelical Christians, not just whether progressives will be true to their own values, not just the benefits that come from diversity (and diversity of thought is arguably among the most important kinds), but also the quality of education itself. When perspectives are unrepresented in discussions, when some kinds of thinkers aren’t at the table, classrooms become echo chambers rather than sounding boards — and we all lose.

Four studies found that the proportion of professors in the humanities who are Republicans ranges between 6 and 11 percent, and in the social sciences between 7 and 9 percent.

Conservatives can be spotted in the sciences and in economics, but they are virtually an endangered species in fields like anthropology, sociology, history and literature. One study found that only 2 percent of English professors are Republicans (although a large share are independents).

In contrast, some 18 percent of social scientists say they are Marxist. So it’s easier to find a Marxist in some disciplines than a Republican.

The scarcity of conservatives seems driven in part by discrimination. One peer-reviewed study found that one-third of social psychologists admitted that if choosing between two equally qualified job candidates, they would be inclined to discriminate against the more conservative candidate.

Yancey, the black sociologist, who now teaches at the University of North Texas, conducted a survey in which up to 30 percent of academics said that they would be less likely to support a job seeker if they knew that the person was a Republican.

The discrimination becomes worse if the applicant is an evangelical Christian. According to Yancey’s study, 59 percent of anthropologists and 53 percent of English professors would be less likely to hire someone they found out was an evangelical.

“Of course there are biases against evangelicals on campuses,” notes Jonathan L. Walton, the Plummer Professor of Christian Morals at Harvard. Walton, a black evangelical, adds that the condescension toward evangelicals echoes the patronizing attitude toward racial minorities: “The same arguments I hear people make about evangelicals sound so familiar to the ways people often describe folk of color, i.e. politically unsophisticated, lacking education, angry, bitter, emotional, poor.”

A study published in The American Journal of Political Science underscored how powerful political bias can be. In an experiment, Democrats and Republicans were asked to choose a scholarship winner from among (fictitious) finalists, with the experiment tweaked so that applicants sometimes included the president of the Democratic or Republican club, while varying the credentials and race of each. Four-fifths of Democrats and Republicans alike chose a student of their own party to win a scholarship, and discrimination against people of the other party was much greater than discrimination based on race.

“I am the equivalent of someone who was gay in Mississippi in 1950,” a conservative professor is quoted as saying in “Passing on the Right,” a new book about right-wing faculty members by Jon A. Shields and Joshua M. Dunn Sr. That’s a metaphor that conservative scholars often use, with talk of remaining in the closet early in one’s career and then “coming out” after receiving tenure.

This bias on campuses creates liberal privilege. A friend is studying for the Law School Admission Test, and the test preparation company she is using offers test-takers a tip: Reading comprehension questions will typically have a liberal slant and a liberal answer.

Some liberals think that right-wingers self-select away from academic paths in part because they are money-grubbers who prefer more lucrative professions. But that doesn’t explain why there are conservative math professors but not many right-wing anthropologists.

It’s also liberal poppycock that there aren’t smart conservatives or evangelicals. Richard Posner is a more-or-less conservative who is the most cited legal scholar of all time. With her experience and intellect, Condoleezza Rice would enhance any political science department. Francis Collins is an evangelical Christian and famed geneticist who has led the Human Genome Project and the National Institutes of Health. And if you’re saying that conservatives may be tolerable, but evangelical Christians aren’t — well, are you really saying you would have discriminated against the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.?

Jonathan Haidt, a centrist social psychologist at New York University, cites data suggesting that the share of conservatives in academia has plunged, and he has started a website, Heterodox Academy, to champion ideological diversity on campuses.

“Universities are unlike other institutions in that they absolutely require that people challenge each other so that the truth can emerge from limited, biased, flawed individuals,” he says. “If they lose intellectual diversity, or if they develop norms of ‘safety’ that trump challenge, they die. And this is what has been happening since the 1990s.”

Should universities offer affirmative action for conservatives and evangelicals? I don’t think so, partly because surveys find that conservative scholars themselves oppose the idea. But it’s important to have a frank discussion on campuses about ideological diversity. To me, this seems a liberal blind spot.

Universities should be a hubbub of the full range of political perspectives from A to Z, not just from V to Z. So maybe we progressives could take a brief break from attacking the other side and more broadly incorporate values that we supposedly cherish — like diversity — in our own dominions.


Some British students are standing up for free speech

Blair Spowart reports on the anti-Prevent protest at the University of Edinburgh

Last week, student protesters at the University of Edinburgh staged an overnight occupation of the university library on George Square, in protest at the UK-wide Prevent anti-radicalisation scheme in higher education. Sleeping rough on the ground floor – amid ‘Students not Suspects’ banners, calling on Edinburgh students to ‘Fight the Prevent Policy’ – the protesters were there to demand that the university, though legally required to implement Prevent, publicly denounce the scheme. Brought in last year as part of UK prime minister David Cameron’s controversial anti-radicalisation strategy, Prevent legislation requires universities to No Platform extremist speakers. Staff are also required to monitor the behaviour of students for signs of what the government calls ‘radicalisation’.

It was encouraging to witness direct student action against one of the biggest current threats to their academic freedom and autonomy. In government literature on Prevent, universities are spoken about in the same vein as prisons – dangerous breeding grounds for extremism whose inhabitants are one hate-fuelled rant away from purchasing a one-way ticket to Syria. The casual lumping together of prisons and places of learning speaks to a complete failure on the part of the government to realise the unique potential of universities to act as spaces where radical, even violent, ideas can be understood and strong counter-narratives produced. Though ostensibly aimed at tackling all forms of extremism, the disproportionate focus on Islamist hate preachers in Prevent betrays an assumption that Muslim students in particular are not up to the challenge of thinking autonomously.

These concerns were writ large in the comments of the protesters last week. Talking to spiked during the protest, one activist admitted that there is a problem with Islamic extremism, and also identified a general, politically correct hesitancy to challenge it: ‘We shouldn’t be so worried about coming across as racist that we fail to the criticise the extreme elements of Islam.’ This is right – if people are too scared of being labelled a racist to challenge a violent ideology, the government will only feel more justified in stepping in. Still, the Prevent policy is actively counterproductive. ‘The government implementing policies that target and monitor the Muslim community on campus is precisely what turns normal students into Islamists’, said one student. Another protester emphasised the unique potential of the university, and the government’s undermining of its function: ‘This is an educational establishment. The university could advertise controversial events and allow students to go along and heckle. But the government should butt out.’

If these arguments sound familiar, it’s because they’re the same arguments that have been on spiked since these protesters were in nappies. Spiked has long resisted attempts by the government and other institutions (including, of course, universities themselves) to restrict what students can hear, think and say, on the basis of two premises. First, that the nature of universities as institutions dedicated to truth requires that any opinion, no matter how extreme, radical or downright mad, can be aired and tested – universities are (or should be) Millian arenas. And second, spiked argues that students are morally autonomous adults. Restrictions on speech, which stop us from discussing or engaging with and criticising whomever and whatever we like on our own terms, are a gross violation of our autonomy. Making these points in the context of Prevent legislation, the protesters generally nodded along.

That was until we moved on to discuss other threats to freedom of speech in the academy. When we discussed No Platform, Safe Space and other student-led attempts to regulate speech, it soon became clear that such arguments against Prevent no longer held much water.

We asked Edinburgh University Students’ Association’s (EUSA) Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) convenor, Shuwanna Aaron, what she thought of the recent, now notorious, Safe Space complaint against a EUSA vice president, who was almost removed from a student council meeting for raising her hand as a sign of exasperation or disagreement. According to Aaron, this complaint was entirely justified: the hand-raising was ‘intimidating’ to other students in the room. What about Edinburgh student and spiked writer Charlie Peters’ petition, calling on EUSA to remove its No Platform and Safe Space policies? ‘I know about that. I hate it. I haven’t read it but I know it’s bad.’

So Islamic extremists shouldn’t be prevented from speaking on campus – but God forbid anyone make an intimidating hand gesture. What happened to treating students like morally autonomous adults? What of the commitment to academic freedom that was so important in combatting Prevent? The truth, of course, is that for many of these protesters, talk of freedom of speech and intellectual autonomy is just opportunistic guff. In this particular case, they’ve found it convenient to feign support for free speech because it happens to suit their aims. But when their own desire to police and regulate the language of students comes into question, their backing for intellectual autonomy is nowhere to be seen. The reason for this is obvious. Their only real commitment is to their own narrow brand of identity politics – and if this means a short-term, disingenuous concern for freedom of speech, then so be it.

This failure on the part of student activists to defend freedom of speech in a principled way is precisely what gave the government the green light to implement the Prevent scheme in the first place. The NUS and its affiliated unions, having spent most of their time worrying about banishing whatever offends their Victorian sensibilities from campus, can hardly complain when the government takes advantage of that censorious climate. Moreover, as much as the NUS now loves to imagine itself as defender of put-upon Muslim students against a censorious government, it already had No Platform policies against Islamist groups such as Hizb-ut-Tahrir in place since 2006 – years before the Prevent scheme was implemented. Indeed, the government report on Prevent actually praises the NUS for its ‘positive actions towards tackling extremism’, describing its No Platform policies as ‘largely effective’. Some anti-establishment radicals, eh?

That all said, the Prevent protest did offer some grounds for positivity. Some of the protesters spiked spoke to were clearly grappling with these very questions and contradictions – torn between their commitment to university-style identity politics on one hand, and the value of a robust, daring, no-holds-barred academy on the other. When we asked one protester what she thought of the recent petition to ban Germaine Greer from Cardiff University for her comments on transgenderism, she said: ‘I disagree with the idea of people being banned. People need to hear what they have to say.’ But shortly afterwards, she added: ‘This whole debate – I find it difficult. It’s always the people who’ve had the opportunity and the privilege to speak who question censorship of speech which is really, really offensive to marginalised groups.’ ‘Isn’t this the same logic that the government uses to implement Prevent?’, we asked. ‘Yeah, I know. That’s why I find it really difficult.’

There is a tendency among those who support free speech in debates on campus censorship to characterise those who want to regulate speech as committed authoritarians. There is a corresponding tendency for the supporters of regulation to characterise those who believe in free speech as utterly unmoved by appeals to equality. In fact, as the exchange with this protester suggests, the picture is usually more mixed. Yes, those at the extremes – like the BME convenor – are probably lost causes, indulging in authoritarian excesses without a second thought. But most people, on both sides of the debate, see value in both autonomy and equality – they just think that one outweighs the other. The importance of unfettered debate on campus has really hit home – even if not enough students have yet been convinced that those arguments outweigh concerns about equality.

Our challenge, then, is not so much to convince the rest of the student body that our ability to engage with and criticise others on our own terms, without government or NUS/SU interference, is important for the academy and for our own intellectual autonomy. Most students now seem to accept that, at least some of the time. Rather, it’s to convince students that this is what’s most important – or too important to be sacrificed at the altar of identity politics. So, yes, some of the protesters displayed a frustrating hypocrisy. But spiked’s efforts have in many ways been vindicated – and that’s reason to be hopeful.

Australia's cultural heritage: parents who despise education

I have no doubt that the writer below -- Lex Borthwick -- describes a real phenomenon but I think he oversimplifies the causes of it. In some cases students will indeed not continue with their education because their families have a contempt for it but it could also simply be family tradition that causes families to discourage further education. 

My father got only as far as Grade 6 in his day and his father did not go to school at all but was taught to read and write at home.  So when I finished primary school my father thought that was enough and that I should get a job.  That was simply the world he knew.  He was however persuaded to allow me to do two years of high school -- after which I did leave and get a job.

After three years of doing various things I was however persuaded that I should complete High School --  which I did.  And from there I began evening classes at university.

So despite a lack of parental encouragement I went right through the education system to Ph.D.  I had the ability so it was not difficult, even though I received no parental financial support after those first two years of High School.

So I think we should distinguish between those parents who are actively hostile to education and those who simply don't think it necessary.  My parents were in the latter category.

And I am fairly sure that actual hostility to education largely emanates from those who don't do well at it.  And almost all of those simply don't have the ability for it.  All men are NOT equal. So hostility is a cover for failure.  I don't see much remedy for that.

I was talking to my son about this, however, and he said he despises education too.  He was privately schooled -- where he always did well, has a first-class honours degree in mathematics and is a well-paid IT professional -- so he is looking through what might be called the opposite end of the telescope.  What he dislikes about the educational system is how much it is dumbed down and how much it teaches things of little usefulness.  He does not yet have children but seems likely to home-school them when he does

Many studies show parents' positive influence on their children's education, but hardly anyone will discuss the opposite: when parents stymie that education and ambition.

It's not uniquely Australian, but sentiments unsupportive of education are part of our cultural DNA. We know about our sporting heroes, but who knows about our Nobel Prize winners? And worse, who cares?

I witnessed the consequences of these educationally-destructive factors when attending rural secondary schools in the '60s, and more recently when teaching in metropolitan schools.

In 2001, aged 46, I was first-year teaching at an outer-suburban government school. Expecting a new educational era accompanying the new millennium, I discovered little had changed since my schooldays.

Attending six government schools around Victoria before accessing university, my educational progress could have been derailed but fortunately my family was educationally supportive.

I received spoken and unspoken parental encouragement to stay at school and achieve my best. Soon, I was being paid more than my father.

Many of my friends back then were not so lucky. Hating school, contemptuous of teachers, they stopped learning early. Leaving school at 15, they saw no point trying as success was impossible. They drifted through the low-skill manual labour jobs possible then but nearly gone now.

These friends' parents mostly didn't support education, inducing or forcing their children to leave school early. Through overt or covert disdain for education, these parents condemned their kids to lifetimes of low incomes or unemployment, and the consequent problems, including social disaffection, crime, alcoholism, drug addictions, and family abuse.

But most of these parents were themselves victims of their own parents, caught in cycles of negative parental influence probably stretching back several generations.

In Britain, particularly England, the membership and future of the poor was largely predetermined by the wealthy. Further education wasn't an option.

In early white Australia, kids needed hunting, riding, deforesting, fence building, cooking, laundering, children rearing, and animal care skills, not literacy and numeracy.

With urbanisation, kids left school for low income jobs to keep their family solvent, requiring only basic literacy and numeracy.

No poor kid could afford further education. Trapped in this awful cycle, many developed increasingly negative attitudes towards education and teachers. Education only constrained poor kids from surviving in the "real" world, and was for rich scumbags incapable of "real" work.

Recent reports, such as Gonski (2011) and Bracks (2016), highlight education's significance to national success. Similarly, most parents recognise education's importance to individual success, offering a reliable escape from long-term struggle.

Training, education and skill development through apprenticeships, technical colleges, teachers' colleges and universities have propelled many families into financial security. And many newly-arrived migrant families clearly recognise the transformative power of education.

So why had things not changed by 2001 when I began teaching? In the 30 years since my schooldays, libraries of books about "perfect" educational systems appeared, gaggles of politicians prattled about making Australia "smarter", and endless "band-aid" reforms whizzed by.

But there they were still, the educationally destructive factors I witnessed in the '60s, evident in every class I taught: that same parental opposition to education, at worst comprising anti-education.

Partly because of this, schools are still failure factories for many students: only one-third of my year 10 students had year 10 or above literacy skills. The remaining two-thirds were mostly between years 1-6, with some at years 7-9.

Of the one-third, most were influenced by the two-thirds' oppositional culture, so only one-tenth of that one-third consistently submitted assessment work.

Unsurprisingly, the two-thirds' parents were those who rarely attended parent/teacher interviews.

Despite expectations, a teacher's chances of changing the trajectory of these students' lives are effectively non-existent, especially when in their teens, as they came to me.

Teenagers can be intensely oppositional to any adult's opinion, so why do these kids keep their parents' negative education cycle spinning?

From first hearing their parents' voices kids absorb parental beliefs, giving years for negative inculcation before teenagehood. If non-educational parents fail to teach the pre-school basics then their kids start school behind, struggle to catch up, label themselves as stupid, lose their self-confidence, mix with similar kids, and develop behavioural problems.

This is well prior to their teens, by which time their hatred of schools, teachers and education is cemented in. The cycle is running.

Add Australia's culture of valuing sport above intellect, the upheaval caused to many kids by family dysfunction, physical or mental illness, poverty, and social disadvantage, shake or stir, and the resulting cocktail can, if even sipped, greatly diminish kids' opportunities.

Unsurprisingly, many teenagers howl in fury and frustration at the world, with school and teachers the easiest target of their pain. Some howl loudly, others in dark silence.

Teachers want to help, but can rarely win kids' trust when they're only seen a couple of times a week with 24 other kids, most with their own problems. And the teachers? By day, they act the part. But at night, their frustrations often bring tears, mental health problems, and resignation from the work they once loved.

Our work was also hindered by the Education Department and many academics persistently feeding the media with incredibly simplistic tales blaming teachers for almost everything. The real causes, however, go much deeper, culturally and psychologically.

Is this worse than my schooldays? I can't truly say, but it's of such an extent, with such awful consequences, action is clearly needed.

A few articles when year 12 results come out, highlighting a few students' success, fail to begin to counter many parents' educational opposition, or Australia's anti-intellectual culture.

It's an insult to all the kids failed by our education system, and their teachers, when we won't examine the full causes of, and solutions to, the wasted lives and potential that is another enduring part of Australian culture. This must change.


Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Oxford law students too ‘fragile’ to hear about violent crime: Undergraduates given 'trigger warnings' before traumatic material

They are destined to be barristers and judges – but undergraduates studying law at Oxford are being told before lectures on cases involving violence or death that they can leave if they fear the content will be too ‘distressing’.

The revelation marks the arrival from the US of ‘trigger warnings’ – the politically correct notion that students should be warned before they encounter material that could elicit a traumatic response.

Lecturers have been asked by the director of undergraduate studies for law to ‘bear in mind’ using trigger warnings when they give lectures containing ‘potentially distressing’ content.

One law student explained: ‘Before the lectures on sexual offences – which included issues such as rape and sexual assault – we were warned that the content could be distressing, and were then given the opportunity to leave if we needed to.’

But some staff are unhappy with treating students as such fragile creatures.

Law lecturer Professor Laura Hoyano last week ridiculed the concept when she jokingly warned any students from ‘a farming family’ that she was about to discuss a case involving foot and mouth disease.

Last night, Prof Hoyano said: ‘We can’t remove sexual offences from the criminal law syllabus – obviously. If you’re going to study law, you have to deal with things that are difficult.’

An Oxford spokesman said: ‘The university aims to encourage independent and critical thinking and does not, as a rule, seek to protect students from ideas or material they may find uncomfortable. However, there may be occasions when a lecturer feels it is appropriate to advise students of potentially distressing subject matter.’

And the warnings extend beyond Oxford’s law department. One undergraduate studying English was given a warning about Robert Lowell’s poem For The Union Dead, because it contains a racial epithet.

She said: ‘We were warned that the poem contained a racial slur and that we could leave the room before it was read out or cover it up on the page.’

Sociologist Professor Frank Furedi, said: ‘Trigger warnings diminish the quality of intellectual freedom on campuses – as we’ve seen in America.

‘It’s really regrettable that Oxford, which used to be a bastion of academic excellence, is allowing these pressures to create conformism.’


Student Debt Reform: A Plea for the Rule of Law

The student loan crisis hovers at roughly $1.1 trillion. Politicians bicker about making college free in the future and neglect the students who didn’t benefit from student loan reform efforts. Private student debt is the leviathan in the room. Unfortunately, discussion of these issues is generally restricted to “You students took out the loans, you did it to yourselves.”

What if I told you, though, that the rule of law would fundamentally call for action on this topic?

Here’s what we know. Most college students enter their freshman year between the ages of 17 and 20. Higher education has been marketed as the path to higher earning throughout one’s lifetime. Colleges have been accused and found to have misled students with earnings and placement numbers. We know that students with private loans are not protected by federal legislation regulating federal loans. We know that lenders such as Sallie Mae take advantage of federal backing to fuel their lending practices. We also know that students cannot discharge their student loans in bankruptcy.

Now, with all of this information known, why does the rule of law mandate some form of action take place? Simple. Congress has implemented legislation to protect consumers based on similar situations.

First, let’s look at the issue of fraud and false pretenses. Common law dictates that fraud exists where an individual knowingly misrepresents material information to induce a party into an action. False pretenses exist when an individual uses intentionally misleading or wrongful information as the basis for a bargain. This is precisely why real estate contracts must reveal material terms about the property prior to purchase. If we know that colleges misrepresented their payoffs and value in order to induce students into taking out loans to attend them, fraud is not a frivolous accusation.

Second, we must look at what protections are available when an outright lie is not present but frustration of purpose exists. Frustration of purpose is present when an unforeseen event undermines a party’s principle purpose for entering into a contract. Both parties must know of the purpose. In the case of student loans, students entered into contracts to fund attendance of college for the purpose of a higher pay grade. Recession, a sluggish economy, and a lack of jobs has snuffed out the purpose of the initial contract (read as a totality of purpose).

Now, I fully acknowledge that one could reduce the contract to payment with the intent to go to college. That’s fine. But then one must confront something like “lemon laws.” Consumers are protected from enforcement of a contract where a party purchases a vehicle of such poor quality as to render itself inoperable. Analogous to student loans, someone still purchased a vehicle. Someone got exactly what they paid for. The problem is the extent to which that purchase was a quality one was restricted on the use of that resource. Precisely the same as it is in student loans.

From a public policy standpoint, the conversation around student debt, its enforceability, and the assignment of fault, the conversation is hushed. When you consider that the Department of Education, high schools, and parents were complicit in reinforcing a narrative that induced unsophisticated consumers into what amounts to mortgage payments, it’s an uncomfortable conversation to have. Individuals, mere months removed from having to raise their hand to get permission to use the restroom, were promised a bright future that would outpace the long term costs of pursuing the education that would unlock that future. Instead, those same unsophisticated consumers walked into a buzzsaw of predatory practices, misleading promises, and ultimately no answers when the lie was exposed.

Both the equitable and legal arguments to enforce the rule of law based upon common law principles exists. It’s astonishing that, at this point, there is no conversation about a solution. If personal responsibility is to be the hallmark of maturity and wisdom, it’s necessary that this conversation takes place. The argument in favor of action is present. Now it’s time to debate the merits and find a solution.


Identity politics is the enemy of equality

Australian campuses have become infested with victim politics

There is a growing obsession with victim politics on campus. It seems that certain groups are protected and everyone else is ignored or punished.

Take the recent events at one of Australia’s top universities. Outrage spread across the University of Melbourne campus following the discovery of anti-Islam graffiti. The chalked slogans, which were swiftly removed, stated ‘Islam is not a race’, ‘Stop the mosques’ and ‘Trump for president’.

The response was swift and furious. The vice-chancellor published a statement on Facebook within hours, asserting that the distressing and hurtful slogans ‘run counter to the vision of a safe, inclusive, connected and respectful university community’.

The University of Melbourne Students’ Union chimed in, denouncing the ‘hate speech and discrimination’ evident in the graffiti. The union proceeded to organise a ‘Chalk for Diversity’ morning, providing a free breakfast to students who wrote positive messages around campus.

But furious reaction to the graffiti was in stark contrast to way in which students and the university administration responded to another case of bigotry, just weeks earlier.

Hundreds of anti-Semitic flyers were distributed at the University of Melbourne during the first week of this academic year. The flyers, which were anonymously placed on car windscreens, stated that the Holocaust was ‘the greatest swindle of all time’ and that Holocaust Studies is ‘replete with nonsense, if not sheer fraud’.

In this case, the vice-chancellor did not take to Facebook to condemn them. In fact, the formal response to this disgraceful act was near silence. Neither the university nor the students’ union have condemned the flyers, and no events were organised to educate students about the Holocaust.

This isn’t just the case in Australia. At its recent annual conference, the UK National Union of Students (NUS) debated whether it should stop commemorating Holocaust Memorial Day. Unlike Muslims, women and gays, it seems Jewish students are not a chosen victim group.

In the name of justice and equality, certain identities are now given preferential treatment over others. Students’ union officials will often openly state that a white, male heterosexual has different political interests than a black, female homosexual, and so should be treated differently.

This is a tragedy. Identity politics diminishes both individuality and autonomy. You are defined by your category, speak for your group, and are responsible for the actions of others who share your identity.

And where a victim identity entitles you to special treatment, a privileged identity permits you to be punished. The recent bake sale organised by the University of Queensland Union illustrates this new mentality.

The union charged different amounts for cupcakes based on a student’s identity. If you were a white male, you had to pay a dollar. If you were a black woman in the legal profession, it cost just 55 cents. Rather than uphold equality, students were intentionally treated differently based on their supposed privilege, or lack thereof.

Such actions damage intellectual freedom on university campuses. Rather than consider views and ideas on their own merits, the identity of the person proposing them is now the first and foremost consideration in assessing their worth.

If a white male expresses a disagreeable opinion, they are instructed to ‘check their privilege’ before continuing. This argumentative technique presupposes whether or not a perspective is valid, purely based on who is expressing it.

Some people have also been forbidden from speaking altogether. At the Australian National Union of Students’ conference, men cannot speak during debates about women’s policy, nor can white people speak about ethno-cultural issues. Your identity is considered enough to silence your viewpoint.

Every individual should be judged according to their actions and the content of their character, not assessed collectively based on factors they cannot control. In the long run, treating everyone equally is the best guarantee against discrimination. But, in today’s student politics, equality is out of fashion.


Monday, May 09, 2016

Protestors Have Jumped the Shark

Victor Davis Hanson

“Jump the shark” is an American pop-culture expression that derives from a 1977 “Happy Days” sitcom episode and describes a moment of decline. At a certain point, a TV show becomes so predictable, empty of ideas and gimmicky that in desperation its writers will try anything — like the character “The Fonz” jumping over a shark on water skis — just to keep on the air.

Contemporary protestors have reached that moment, when demonstrations exist for demonstrations' sake, without any consistent or coherent agenda of dissent.

At a recent forum on political correctness at the University of Massachusetts, three invited guest speakers were shouted down by protestors in the audience. A video of one shouter went viral. In the manner of a 2-year-old, she threw a loud temper tantrum, interrupting the speakers, screaming obscenities and yelling, “Keep your hate speech off this campus!”

How does one stop “hate speech” by bellowing out four-letter obscenities to disrupt free expression at a university? The childish protestor then proved that she had jumped the shark when she finished by screaming, “Stop treating us like children!”

At an earlier protest at Yale, one particularly emotional student jumped the shark by cursing at a faculty member whose crime was advising students not to overreact to the childish Halloween costumes that other students would be wearing.

Protestors have a right to object to Donald Trump’s various crudities, as long as they do so peacefully and respect the right of free speech. But recently, disrupters at a Trump rally in California likewise jumped the shark when some waved the flag of Mexico or bore placards with slogans such as “Make America Mexico Again.” If the protest was directed against Trump’s pledges to deport undocumented immigrants to Mexico, then it made little sense to celebrate the country to which protestors did not wish immigrants to return, or to suggest that immigrants' new home should become identical to the old home that they had chosen to leave.

At the University of Missouri last year, protestors demanded concessions from the university. In a public area, assistant communications professor Melissa Click called for “some muscle” to manhandle a student journalist who was trying to photograph a public demonstration. Click might as well have put on water skis and jumped a plastic shark. A right-wing cartoonist could not have dreamed up a sillier scenario, with a faculty member from a university’s communications department trying to have a student reporter physically blocked from covering a news story in a free-speech zone.

Harvard Law School is supposedly as liberal an institution as exists in America. Recently, a Harvard Law student in a public forum asked former Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, “How is it that you are so smelly? … It’s regarding your odor — about the odor of Tzipi Livni, very smelly.”

Politically correct Harvard Law Dean Martha Minow offered little more than a broad email condemnation of the incident. In fact, she shielded the identity of the questioner. And just to reiterate its pro-Palestinian credentials, Harvard Law School edited out this anti-Semitic smear from its video of the event.

Last year, someone placed tape over portraits of African-American faculty members in a Harvard Law School building. Minow publicly decried it as a racist act, then later stayed mostly mum about the results of an investigation to find out who was responsible. Yet when Minow recently accepted an award at Brandeis University, a group of student protestors jumped the shark by heckling her for not doing enough to address racism at Harvard Law — even as she was being honored for making “a lasting contribution to racial, ethnic or religious relations.”

Brown University President Christina H. Paxson tried to quiet student protestors by promising to spend $100 million to ensure “a just and inclusive campus.” No matter: The protestors jumped the shark when they derided Brown’s proposed $100 million “Diversity Action and Inclusion Plan” as “insufficient.”

Student debt in America has surpassed $1 trillion. Many graduates did not receive in return an education competitive enough to qualify them for high-paying jobs.

The country owes about $20 trillion in debt. It will soon not be able to meet its pension and Social Security obligations. After slashing the military budget and raising income tax rates, the United States is still running unsustainable annual deficits. The world abroad is becoming dangerously chaotic.

Instead of protesting those existential crises, students cry over Halloween costumes, deride free speech as hate speech, devour their own liberal administrators, and dismiss $100 million payoffs as too little.

Protestors have finally hit rock bottom and jumped the shark. From now on, the same old screaming will be seen mostly as going through the tired motions in lieu of offering coherent ideas.


Entering the New Dark Ages?

Freedom is all the rage on college campuses these days. That is, freedom from freedom

Freedom from having the name Donald Trump chalked on a walkway at Emory University.  Freedom from Milos Yiannopoulos appearing on college campuses and poking holes in the politically correct victim bubbles that have been created as “safe spaces” to the detriment of the very dialogue that not so long ago, was demanded by the left. Freedom from the indignity of learning about the very Western Civilization that is responsible for the classical liberal notion that individual freedom is to be exalted rather than feared, as recently happened at Stanford University.

Stanford students rejected via referendum a Western Civilization course requirement by a six to one margin, opting to exist in a world devoid of basic knowledge of the underlying philosophies that brought about the Enlightenment, the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution and the very constructs of individual liberty versus the totalitarian-based political philosophy that rights are whatever the state chooses to allow.

On the last point, anyone interested in understanding the fall of liberty in the West and the beginning of a new dark age of anti-intellectualism needs to understand that even proponents of including a Western Civilization requirement at Stanford only did so under the guise of understanding the evils of the world around them arguing in the petition that prompted the vote, “The West’s history of colonization and racial oppression is also essential to understanding why the events at Yale and Mizzou arose in the first place.”

On today’s college campus, classical liberalism is viewed as oppression because it allows, in fact demands, that precepts be examined and subjected to critical thought.  Critical thought itself is viewed as oppressive because it leads to objective observations.  Objective and quantifiable observations are dangerous because truth is nothing more than how each person feels at the moment, and to challenge those feelings is intolerant.  And intolerance of mush-minded relativism is a crime because it offends the feelings of some sub-class of people who have been marginalized in the past.

There is no rational discussion with the new anti-intellectual of the left, because they reject rationality on the altar of tolerance and fairness.

So, when you wonder why the world seems to have gone crazy, understand that it has. And it is our fault, because we turned our education system over to those who hate the concept of individual liberty. In just two generations, the bitter fruit of that decision is being harvested as the concept of freedom has been transformed from a God-given protection against government abuse of power and coercion to a demand for government protection against normal political dialogue.

This is how California Attorney General Kamala Harris and her many defenders can justify using the power of the state to go after a filmmaker who had the audacity to expose Planned Parenthood’s baby body parts selling business.

It is how seventeen Democrat state Attorneys General can announce with straight faces that they are launching investigations into organizations like Competitive Enterprise Institute which has provided intellectual arguments against their climate change anti-capitalist transformation agenda.

In the brave new world, the Internal Revenue Service is justified in attacking those who espouse the old outdated ideas of liberty as it is the government’s right to quash those who oppose the modern precept that the public must be protected from these thoughts.

The new age of “freedom” is the death of America and an ushering in of a new dark age.  After all, how can future leaders fight against government suppression of individual liberty, when they don’t even know what the “Enlightenment” and the centuries-long struggle for liberty was all about, and as a result accept the underlying premises of those who seek to enslave them.

The freedom from freedom is what is destroying our culture, and if it is not exposed, will surely destroy our country.



Three current articles below

A teacher has warned men not to join the profession after enduring two-year investigation

A TEACHER of 35 years experience has warned young men against joining the profession after enduring an investigation into an alleged incident with a student that lasted close to two years and left him mentally scarred.

The southern suburbs man has detailed the isolating and humiliating “farce” he was put through when investigated by the Education Department, which has revealed it finalised 80 disciplinary matters involving teachers and other staff last year.

“It goes from zero to psycho in an instant,” the teacher said of the investigation into whether he inappropriately touched a student, which he estimated would have cost taxpayers $250,000.

“I am so pissed off because of the indignity of what I had to go through.  “It must cost (the department) millions each year chasing frivolous or vexatious complaints that should be at least attempted to be resolved at the local level.

“I would discourage any young guy from going into teaching.”

The Australian Education Union says cases often run for well over a year and as long as three years, arguing principals should be allowed to deal with many of them to resolve them faster.

But the Department says the delays are out of its control as it must wait for any police investigations and court cases to end before it can finalise its own actions, which are slowed by interventions from the union and the accused’s lawyers.

A spokesman acknowledged the process was “stressful” but said investigations had to be robust to ensure “the safety and wellbeing of the children in our care”.

Investigations can cover allegations of abuse or assault, financial wrongdoing, sexual harassment and a range of other matters. Last year 27 allegations were “substantiated with findings” and in three cases staff resigned prior to an outcome. Another 17 were handled through “managerial processes” and 33 were unsubstantiated. The department would not detail outcomes of substantiated cases or say how much it spends on investigations.

The physical education teacher, 60, was stood down from his job at a suburban primary school in 2014.

He was kept in the dark for six months about basic details of the accusation until he was interviewed by police who did not lay charges. He maintained his innocence through the department’s investigation and was sent a “cold and calculating” letter early this year ordering him back to work.

But suffering severe anxiety and panic attacks and diagnosed with post traumatic stress disorder, he is taking sick leave and long service leave to recover and hopes to teach again next year.


White flight: race segregation in Melbourne state schools

"White flight" is shaping education in Melbourne's inner city state schools, leading to unofficial segregation along race and class.

In the Greens-voting socially liberal enclaves of the inner north, white middle class families have deserted the schools closest to the remaining commission housing towers, while competing for spots in a handful of schools seen to have greater prestige.

Schools such as Fitzroy Primary, Carlton Primary School and Mount Alexander College in Flemington have become catchments for poor students of African heritage, many of whom live in the flats. Between 71 to 94 per cent of students attending these schools speak a language other than English at home.

The average median house price in some of these school's suburbs teeters around $1 million, yet about 60 to 80 per cent of students at these schools are among the poorest in the state.

They've been called "sink schools" – schools drained of affluent families and high achieving students.

White families with higher incomes are opting to enrol their children in over-subscribed schools a few suburbs away.

They favour Clifton Hill, Princes Hill and Merri Creek primary schools, where 79 to 84 per cent of families are among the state's richest.

These schools – with just 10 to 30 per cent of students speaking a language other than English at home – offer accelerated programs, overseas trips and boast above-average NAPLAN scores.

Abeselom Nega, an Ethiopian refugee and community leader, is alarmed by this trend.

"The white parents don't send their kids to these schools because all they see is black kids," says Mr Nega, who sits on the board of the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission.

"They may not view it as racism, but it is … you can sugar coat it, and put it differently, but I won't."


Sydney’s public school popularity driving real estate mini-boom

A surge in the popularity of public schools throughout Sydney is driving a real estate mini-boom in catchment areas.

With enrolments in public schools rising 6.4 per cent from 2012, and the NSW Department of Education announcing this week an investment of more than $60 million into new inner-Sydney schools to overcome a shortage of places, property agents have been overwhelmed by parents wanting to buy homes nearby.

“For the majority of families, couples and blended families, that’s now their No. 1 factor when looking for a home,” says Curtis Associates buyers agent Chris Curtis.

“It’s always been important, but probably the changing boundaries and the fiscal burden of private education are making being close to public schools even more of a priority. I think it’ll get more important too, as time goes by. If the state government steps up to the plate and provides more public schools where they’re desperately needed, then demand for those areas will be higher still.”

On February census figures, there are 494,102 children being enrolled this year in public schools in the Sydney metropolitan area, as against 464,343 in 2012. The Education Department attributes the rise to changing parental choices, retention rates between grades and an overall increase in the number of school-aged children.

Business development manager Jillian Cook is one mum who’s switching her allegiance from private schools to public, choosing to move house from Maroubra to within the catchment area of Bellevue Hill Public School. This week she enrolled her youngest, four-year-old Samantha, into the public school – despite having her two eldest daughters, Jessica, 13, and Charlotte, 10,  at private girls’ school Ascham

“Bellevue Hill Public School is a very good school and I think it’ll suit her more than the private school,” says Cook, 42. “We just don’t feel there’s a lot of value for money in going to private school, and we’re quite happy to put her in a co-ed public school.

“The way they teach reading and writing at Ascham, I no longer believe in. So we were happy to move to Bellevue Hill and to make sure we were in that catchment area.”

The public schools-driven demand for property is also having an effect on prices, says Mark Cook, principal of Richardson and Wrench St Ives-Turramurra. “We’re seeing a strong surge in demand for people who want to send their children to good public schools, particularly from newcomers to the area,” he says.

“St Ives North is now rated highly and, as a result, St Ives Chase in the narrow catchment area has probably jumped up in value 10-15 per cent. Once, it wasn’t popular at all, but now people are buying for very good prices.”

The catchment neighbourhoods for public schools with particularly glowing reputations, such as Killara High, Killarney Heights High,  Summer Hill Public and Newtown Public, are especially sought after.

Chadwick Killara agent Pamela McCulloch says the location of a home within a sought-after school zone can be a non-negotiable point for many buyers. “You are aware when you have a property in a very popular school zone that it creates more competition between buyers, which in turn is likely to lead to a higher price,” she says.

Century 21 Northside agent Jason Roach agrees. “The accessibility to high-quality public education, like Killara High, is an important component in people’s decisions about where to buy,” he says. “And certainly with the changing demographic of buyers coming through, many from Asia, it’s becoming even more important.”

In Newtown, McGrath Estate Agents’ Josh Martin says for many buyers at openings, their first question is whether a house is in the catchment area. “So demand is strong,” he says. “We hear stories of some people renting just to stay in those areas.”

Along with the increasing demand, parents are often going to extraordinary lengths to be allowed to send their children to schools – one parent saying he knows others who rent for a year to qualify, and then move somewhere cheaper – and the schools sometimes check on the addresses to make sure their students are still there.  

Killara High School’s enrolment policy includes parents having to submit rate notices or tenancy agreements, and three utility account statements, such as electricity, water, telephone or gas, to show they’re resident.


Sunday, May 08, 2016

Harvard Will Punish Students Who Join Single-Sex Clubs

Male Harvard students greatly value their traditional male clubs.  And why not?  If women can have "safe spaces", why not men too?

Harvard University announced new policies Friday intended to punish any student who joins a single-sex social club.

Harvard President Drew Faust announced the decision in an email to students. Under the new policy, any student who joins a single-sex fraternity, sorority, or final club will be banned from captaining a sports team, leading a recognized student group, or being endorsed for fellowships like the Rhodes Scholarship. The policy is intended to strongly discourage joining such organizations, while also pressuring them to become co-ed as a means of escaping school sanction.

“Although the fraternities, sororities, and final clubs are not formally recognized by the College, they play an unmistakable and growing role in student life,” said Faust. “The College cannot ignore these organizations if it is to advance our shared commitment to broadening opportunity and making Harvard a campus for all of its students.”

Faust denounced the clubs for entrenching “privilege and exclusion” at Harvard, which she said went against the school’s “core values” although it has an acceptance rate of less than 10 percent and costs more than $63,000 a year to attend.


Poster campaign strikes a nerve!‏

David Horowitz

Just two weeks ago, I announced our current campaign to expose campus organizations that support terrorists and push their Jew-hating and democracy-hating agendas. These include defaming Israel as an apartheid state that occupies Palestinian land and spear-heading the Boycott, Divest and Sanctions movement.

At San Diego State University, our campaign struck a nerve.

Students for Justice in Palestine -- an organization created by members of the Muslim Brotherhood -- and its leftist allies erupted. Three hundred anti-Israel/anti-American activists surrounded the car of the President of San Diego State University and trapped him inside for two hours demanding he condemn our campaign instead of defending free speech, as he had.

He apologized to the terrorist sympathizers and may yet condemn our protest as other university administrators have. But the bottom line is that through our campaign we have successfully linked Students for Justice in Palestine to the terrorists whose lies they spread and whose agendas they serve.

The Freedom Center's willingness to confront this threat and be denounced by Vice Chancellors and university presidents is unique. No other organization is willing to risk the opprobrium that is incurred on college campuses and in the media by confronting the supporters of Islamic terror in our midst.

This coming Thursday, I will be speaking at San Diego State University and then on Friday at the University of California (Irvine). The indication is that there will be large protests.  The Muslim Student Association -- another Muslim Brotherhood creation and sponsor of BDS -- has announced that they will protest my campus appearance. We are arranging for extra security as a result.

As only the Freedom Center can, we have taken the gloves off to expose the Jew Hatred that is epidemic on our college campuses. The SJP-MSA campaign can only be described as a Hamas-inspired genocidal effort to destroy the world's only Jewish state.

We have carried our opposition to this homegrown support group for Islamic terrorism at UC-Santa Barbara, San Diego State, UC Irvine, UC Berkeley and UCLA. As at San Diego State, we have conducted the campaign by putting up posters that named the faculty and student activists involved in supporting the terrorists and their agendas, and in particular the Boycott, Divest and Sanctions movement.

We intend to carry our campaign to other campuses and need to be able to provide for extra security for our speakers, myself included. 

By calling out the friends and sympathizers of terrorists on campus, we are making an impact,  These people are accustomed to practicing out their anti-Semitic and anti-Israel hatred with university support and without opposition. No longer. With your help, we will be there to confront them.

This is just the beginning. We are starting with six schools here in California and ready to go national

Via email

The Glasgow primary without a SINGLE Scottish pupil: 181 of school's 222 children are from either Romania or Slovakia

A Glasgow primary with 222 pupils has no native Scots in the school, it was revealed today. Annette Street School is pleading for cash to help teach its Roma, Eastern European and Asian children, who don't speak English as a first language.  Overall, 181 of the school's 222 pupils are from Romania or Slovakia.

Headteacher Shirley Taylor said this causes problems because all of the school's teachers speak only English.

Youngsters who have been in Scotland the longest often act as unofficial interpreters for other pupils.

The primary has joined forces with students from Strathclyde Business School in a 'crowd-funding' appeal to raise cash through public donations to help buy teaching materials.

Mrs Taylor said: 'We don't have any Scottish children in the school at all. The majority of children attending are from either Slovakia or Romanian Roma families.

'Families originally came from Slovakia because Govanhill is an area where migrant families come by tradition.  'They settled in and then started communicating with families back home, and word got out for others to come to Annette Street Primary, and so they did.

'And now the same thing is happening with our Romanian families. Most come from the same area and word has got back to their extended families that if you go to Glasgow, you should go to Annette Street.'

The cash raised will be spent on board games like Guess Who? or Articulate, which for £10 help pupils learn words and social skills, according to the cash appeal.

A donation of £100 could be used to pay for after school classes for students and parents to learn English together.

Around £200 may finance a trip away to the seaside or out of Glasgow into the Scottish countryside. £500 could fund a new playground and £1,000 would be enough for an outdoor classroom. 

Mother-of-nine Ayesha Siddiqi currently has two children at the school.  The 54-year-old from Ayrshire said: 'Lots of my friends sent their children here before, but then took them out and sent them to other nearby schools where there were more kids from Scotland'.

A Glasgow City Council spokesman said: 'The diversity and many cultures in our classrooms across the city make Glasgow the wonderful city that we have become known for.

'Our children and young people can all learn from each other. Almost 140 languages are spoken in our schools in Glasgow. Working and studying together brings tolerance.'


51 Families Sue Over Illinois High School’s Transgender Bathroom Policy

A group of 51 families whose children attend a high school in Illinois filed a federal lawsuit Wednesday, attempting to reverse a policy that allows a transgender student to use girls’ bathrooms, locker rooms, and other sex-specific facilities.

The families are challenging a policy at Township High School District 211 that was mandated by the U.S. Department of Education to accommodate the transgender student, who was born male but identifies as a female.

“It’s an organic group of parents and students who came together and said, ‘We have to do something about this—we can’t just roll over and allow the federal government to force our school to commingle the sexes in locker rooms,’” said Jeremy Tedesco, a lawyer representing the families.

The suit, which challenges the Education Department’s authority to redefine the term sex in Title IX of U.S. law to include gender identity and to enforce it against schools, is the first of its kind, Tedesco told The Daily Signal.

The president of the group filing the lawsuit, Students and Parents for Privacy, said she and other Cook County parents with children in the school district decided legal action “was the only thing we could do at this point.”

“We tried,” she said, adding:

We did everything we could to work with the school district, and we were really hoping they would do the right thing and protect the privacy of all students, but when they chose not to, we felt we had no choice in order to protect the girls in the locker room.

The group’s president asked that her name not be published because of the sensitive nature of the case.

The issue began in December 2013, when Student A filed a complaint with the Education Department against Township High School District 211, based in the village of Palatine, Ill.

The complaint alleged that District 211 had discriminated against the transgender student on the basis of sex.

After completing an extensive investigation, the Education Department’s Office of Civil Rights said on Dec. 2 that Township High School District 211 was in violation of federal law for refusing to grant Student A full access to the girls’ locker room.

The school had granted Student A some accommodations, including changing the student’s name on official records, allowing the student on the girls sports teams, and granting the student access to the girls’ bathrooms. But District 211 drew the line at providing Student A unrestrained access to the girls’ locker rooms because of the privacy concerns of other girls using them. Instead, the school offered a private facility to Student A.

Daniel Cates, superintendent of District 211, said in an October newsletter:

The goal of the district in this matter is to protect the privacy rights of all students when changing clothes or showering before or after physical education and after-school activities, while also providing reasonable accommodations to meet the unique needs of individual students. Our responsibility is to provide an environment conducive to learning for all its 12,000+ students.

According to the Education Department’s investigation, the student felt “crushed” by the school district’s decision not to allow access to the locker rooms, “which she said indicated that the school did not accept her as a female.”

After the Education Department had completed its investigation, it ordered District 211 to grant Student A full access to the girls’ locker rooms and install privacy curtains inside those locker rooms, or else be at risk of losing federal financial assistance.

Thomas Petersen, director of community relations at Township High School District 211, said the school “could potentially lose up to $6 million in federal funding.”

Now, the 73 parents and 63 students who are members of the group Students and Parents for Privacy are suing, arguing the Education Department lacks the authority to redefine sex in Title IX of U.S. law to include gender identity.

The parents and students also are asking for an injunction against the Justice Department, which has enforcement authority under Title IX, and an injunction against Township School District 211 from carrying out the Education Department’s demands.

The Christian legal aid group Alliance Defending Freedom is representing the parents and students, along with local support from lawyers at the Thomas More Society.

“What we’re attempting to do in this case is stop the Department of Education from redefining sex in Title IX to include gender identity,” Tedesco, senior counsel for Alliance Defending Freedom, told The Daily Signal. “It has no authority whatsoever to do that.”

Debate Over Title IX

Title IX is the federal law that bans discrimination on the basis of sex in any federally funded education program. Whether or not Title IX applies to transgender students is an issue that has been vigorously debated, with courts ruling on both sides.

Most recently, a federal appeals court in Richmond, Va., ruled that a transgender high school student who was born female but identifies as a male has the right to pursue discrimination charges against a school district for blocking access to the boys’ bathrooms.

The judges of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit cited the Obama administration’s interpretation of Title IX in issuing their 2-1 decision.

The Obama administration stated in a 2014 document that “Title IX’s sex discrimination prohibition extends to claims of discrimination.”

Tedesco called the ruling in Virginia a “complete outlier,” arguing that other courts have ruled the opposite way:

There’s been several courts that have addressed the question of whether Title IX applies to and protects against gender identity discrimination, and all those courts up to the 4th Circuit’s decision have said it does not.

If Americans want to add additional protections for gender identity, Tedesco said, it’s the job of Congress—not the Education Department—to make those changes. He said:

If Congress wants to redefine sex to include gender identity—if they want to add gender identity as a protected class under Title IX—they can do that through the regular lawmaking process. But Congress has rejected it several times, so the Department of Education just comes in and makes it up and adds it to the law. That’s something they have no authority whatsoever to do. And now they’re running around the country and forcing essentially what is a new Department of Education rule against schools across the country.

Since 2010, Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., has proposed that Congress pass a measure that would provide protections for students from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. Thus far, that legislation has failed.

Township High School District 211 is the first school in the nation that the Education Department found in violation of Title IX over transgender issues. Now, it’s the first school in the country to face a lawsuit of this kind.

The Path Forward

In December, six female students attempted to explain to the District 211 school board why they were uncomfortable with allowing Student A into their locker room.

“Although we will never fully understand your personal struggle,” the girls said, addressing the transgender student, “please understand that we, too, all are experiencing personal struggles that need to be respected.”

The president of Students and Parents for Privacy said she supports accommodations for Student A that balance the student’s interests with the rest of the student body.

“We understand why Student A doesn’t want to be in the boys’ locker room,” she said. “We get it. But the girls’ locker room isn’t the answer either. We believe in accommodation, but we don’t believe in an accommodation that hurts other students.”

Student A, who is represented by the American Civil Liberties Union, said in an earlier press release that using a separate locker room “stigmatized me, often making me feel like I was not a ‘normal person.’”

At the December school board meeting, one speaker called the old policy  “institutionalized segregation.” Others brought up the high rates of suicide and depression for transgender men and women.

The head of the privacy group, who has children in the school district, said the group cares about Student A  but is asking for fairness. She said:

We truly do care about these children who struggle with gender identity, and these children are welcome in my home. All I ask is that the respect go both ways. That’s what we’re not seeing. We’re just seeing demands.

The lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, hinges on the idea that the school can and should make accommodations for Student A, but those accommodations shouldn’t violate the privacy and safety rights of other students.

Absent the lawsuit, Tedesco suggested, there’s little chance of finding middle ground.

“The reality is, the folks driving this agenda on the other side from us won’t accept anything other than full access to the opposite-sex restroom and locker room as the solution,” the families’ lawyer said, adding:

And what happened at District 211 is proof positive of that. They gave Student A accommodation after accommodation after accommodation, and ultimately the [Education Department] said no, full access is the only thing that’s going to solve the issue.