Friday, May 27, 2016

Free nursery places at age three 'do not boost a child's education': Findings raise questions over £2bn state spending on subsidising childcare

"Headstart" doesn't work in Britain either

Children who were given free nursery school places at the age of three gained no educational benefit, a major study said yesterday.

It found that by the age of seven there were no differences in school achievement between pupils who had previously taken up the free places and those who hadn’t.

The findings throw a major new question mark over state spending on subsidised childcare, which began on a large scale in Tony Blair’s first term and Prime Minister and which, by 2012, was running at more than £2 billion a year.

This autumn David Cameron will throw another £1 billion a year into pre-school childcare subsidies.

Under the Government’s plans, the number of hours paid for by taxpayers that three and four-year-old children will be able to spend in nurseries or with childminders will double from 15 to 30.

But Dr Jo Blanden, one of the research team from Essex and Surrey universities which prepared the report, said: ‘On the face of it, our results cast doubt over the value for money of universal early education.’

She added: ‘More than 70 per cent of the children taking up free places would probably have gone to nursery anyway, and children’s test scores do not seem to be any higher in the longer term as a result of the policy.

‘In fact the main benefit of the policy seems to have been to make childcare cheaper for families with three-year-olds.’

The report, by a team led by Dr Birgitta Rabe, said that the Blair government campaign meant that between 1999 and 2007 the proportion of three-year-olds in England who had taken up a free childcare place went up from 37 per cent to 88 per cent.

However, most of the children would have been sent to nurseries anyway, so the effect was to give parents a discount on their childcare bills.

Children who took up free places who would otherwise not have gone into childcare were six per cent better in reading scores at the age of five, the study said.

But it added: ‘Although there is modest evidence that the policy had a greater impact on poorer children and those learning English as a second language, there is no evidence that the policy helped disadvantaged children to catch up in the longer term.

‘Indeed, there is no evidence of any educational benefits of the policy at the age of seven and 11.’

The study, published in the Economic Journal of the Royal Economic Society, said that by 2014 more than 600,000 childcare places were being subsidised at an average cost of £3.77 an hour in the private sector and £3.97 an hour in the public sector.

Other independent analysts have questioned the value of childcare subsidies. In 2014 the Institute for Fiscal Studies that the free nursery place programme had largely failed in its second objective of encouraging mothers to go back to work. Only 12,000 mothers had done so as a result of free childcare places, the IFS said, and most of them were working part-time for less than 30 hours a week.

Dr Blanden said: ‘In September, children in some areas will begin to receive 30 hours of free care if their parents are in work. As before, this will save parents money. But unless high quality settings expand capacity, it may not lead to the best educational outcomes for children.’


Government is Turning College into High School

It would take a miracle for Bernie Sanders to win the Democratic nomination at this point, let alone the presidency.  One of his main ideas though, the idea that college should be free for Americans, is not going away anytime soon.

Just like healthcare, constant government regulation and intervention is making college more and more expensive every year.  Students are taking out huge government-backed loans to pay for their education, and the costs keep going up as more easy money enters the system.  Eventually the student loan bubble will burst, and this will be the excuse the government needs to step in and “fix” things.

You don’t have to look too far to find articles and studies on why the Bernie free college plan will be an economic and financial disaster.  But the huge taxpayer liability isn’t necessarily the worst part.  The worst part is that making college free will totally decimate the quality of higher education and it will keep the poor, poor and the rich, rich.

Let’s imagine Bernie gets his wish.  To start, most Americans will be eligible for government to pay for their college education.  To paraphrase a famous P.J. O’Rourke quote about health care:  If you think college is expensive now, just wait until it’s free!  Now that government is footing the bill, why wouldn’t college’s, and the various industries that go with them (books, school supplies, housing) up their costs even more?  Sure, the college’s that would be eligible for the free money will be “public” or “non-profit,” but since when has that been an impediment to making tremendous profits?  (The NFL and the Clinton Foundation are both “non-profit” organizations!)

Once this gets out of hand, the government will have two choices:  Either completely leave the field of funding and regulating higher education (Ha!) or completely socializing it.  I think we all know what path legislators will take.

Socializing higher education, in order to keep costs down and to make it “fair” for everyone, would have to look something like our current public school system.  First, you’d only be allowed to go to your local neighborhood college for free.  The costs of you choosing your college and the government paying for housing and travel will just get too high.  Not to mention, what happens if everyone wants to go to the same colleges?  There’s only so much room at each school, so to make it “fair” you’d be forced to go to your local government college.

So if you grow up poor and in a bad neighborhood, the option of working your way up and out is gone.  Previously, you could work your way through college, get some grants and/or loans, then you’d have a shot at a better life.  Now, unless you can afford housing in a better college district, you’re stuck.  And just like now, the poorer the neighborhood you live in, the worse the education you’re going to get.  Good luck getting a high paying job with your “Detroit Public College” degree.

How far does this “right” to free college go?

What if I’m a bad student and I’m constantly failing my classes?  What if I want to come back in 10 years when I’m finally serious about my education? Is there an age limit on my “right” to a free education?  Can the government deny me my “right” to free college then?

How about graduate school?  Who pays for that?  Is it fair that only the wealthy will get to become doctors, lawyers, dentists, and other high paying professions?  And if grad school is a “right” too, shouldn’t anyone get to go regardless of their aptitude or previous grades?

What if I want to major in two subjects?  Is that allowed for free?  Or will double majors just be for the wealthy?  Again, free college is a “right” so why shouldn’t I be allowed to go to school indefinitely, constantly changing or adding majors?

These are all questions that will not be decided by you and me on an individual and voluntary basis, but they will be decided by bureaucrats and legislators.  And you’re stuck following their decisions and paying for their decisions whether you like them or not.

If you’re a free college supporter, I’m sure you’re going to argue that many countries already have free college education, so why not America?

The reason many other countries can afford free college is two fold:  First they have much lower rates of people actually going to college, which leads to the second fold:  many occupations in European countries simply don’t require a college degree like in the U.S.  Apprenticeship and on the job training is still an important part of many industries in Europe, just like it used to be in America when someone with a high school degree could have a quality standard of living, and have an opportunity to move up in life if they choose.

The fact is, the results of offering free college to all Americans regardless of grades, aptitude, or ability to actually apply such an education will result in another failed socialized industry that will stagnate and just cost more over time.  Most Americans will get stuck in a local, government college that will eventually offer little more than what high school did.  Thus is the nature of a government monopoly.  We get a worse product at a much higher cost to everyone.

The only people who will be able to escape this system will be the wealthy, of course.  Just like all socialist policies, this will make it that much harder for someone on the bottom to move up in life, and it will protect the people currently at the top.


Schools Eliminate Valedictorians — Not Inclusive

How long can the bureaucrats in education extend the idea that competition and conflict should be banished in the educational system? Somehow, the school board in Wake County North Carolina thinks reducing competition will lead to a better education for students. While the board has to vote twice on the policy change, it unanimously approved a proposal this week that would do away with the distinction of a high school graduate with the highest GPA being named valedictorian. Competition was getting unhealthy, the chair of the school board explained, and students were setting a goal of getting the highest GPA instead of taking classes that might help them in the future. Thus, the board reasoned, it was better to bolster the Latin honor system and do away with the first and second place honors.

“Competition is a reality of life, whether these hippies like it or not,” writes Katherine Timpf at National Review. “The kid with the top GPA is still going to have the top GPA, no matter what you call (or don’t call) him or her for having it. Class ranking is a competition, and the kid at the top is the winner. Can we cut the crap? Sure, maybe that kid was motivated to win by the force of competition and not by holding hands with fellow classmates and singing ‘Kumbaya.’ But you know what? That’s the way the real world works, and it’s time for more people to start living there.” After all, the safe spaces go away after college and an education that hasn’t prepared students for competition and conflict has not educated them at all.


Thursday, May 26, 2016

Ret. Lt. Gen. Jerry Boykin wins the battle as the left wins the war on the American mind

Lt. General Jerry Boykin retired from the U.S. Army with the distinction of having led all Special Forces units in the Army.  Boykin had survived the jungles of Vietnam, Columbia and Panama, along with untold number of missions around the globe.  Yet, in his retirement, he was temporarily relieved of his teaching duties as the Wheat Visiting Professorship in Leadership at Hampden-Sydney College, a small private men’s school in southwestern Virginia due to the complaints of a few gay activists over comments made about men using women’s restrooms.

Just about two weeks earlier and a few miles up the road, Virginia Tech, a public school, ran into trouble, when they attempted to disinvite Jason Riley, a black conservative from giving their semi-annual BB&T Distinguished Lecture.

The Wall Street Journal columnist, Riley, contended that the invitation withdrawal was due to faculty concerns about his book, “Please Stop Helping Us: How Liberals Make It Harder for Blacks to Succeed.”

After exposure and a good dose of social media bashing, both institutions backed down. While these two instances of conservative thought being censored by the politically correct mobs were spiked, both Boykin and Riley were aided by having an extremely high profile and the ability to fight back.

However, the obvious question is how many low-profile conservative voices are silenced across academia either through overt actions or simply out of a desire by professors to not risk their jobs and livelihoods?

This past year, a “Men in Literature” course that had been taught at Springfield College in Massachusetts by Dr. Dennis Gouws was cancelled as creating a hostile environment for women. No student was compelled to take the popular course, and the college offers an English course entitled “Women and Literature” as well as various ethnic focused courses.

The “Men in Literature” course had been offered since 2005, and in 2010 achieved status of being part of the regular curriculum.

Peter Wood, the President of the National Association of Scholars, points out that Gouws, “never set out to be a gadfly against progressive dogma or a stalwart opponent of the ideological regime. He was, to the contrary, picked for the part by the regime itself. He had made his own adjustments to the contemporary preoccupation with ‘gender’ by devising an experimental course in 2005 titled ‘Men in Literature.’”

Yet, the heretofore, relatively unknown professor now finds this course of study under fire.  Note, this isn’t a degree being offered on “Men in Literature,” but merely a single course among dozens that students choose to take to matriculate. Yet, the presence of a single offering at a single college that doesn’t fit precisely into the radical left’s narrative is so discomfiting that it must be squashed.

There can be no dissent. There can be no alternative opinions offered. The left can bear no challenge to their orthodoxy.

And the freedom of thought and expression gets nullified in the process. This isn’t by accident.  The same ideological ilk that fought for gender and ethnic studies classes and subsequently gender and ethnic studies degrees in the past, know the power of controlling the information flow into the ripe young brains free to be fully on their own for the first time as they enter college. And they are determined to shield them from anything resembling cognitive debate.

The University has become the ultimate safe space to do anything except learn diverse world views. Instead it is designed to tear down the world view propagated through the family, church and pre-common core elementary and secondary educations, by flooding normally rebellious eighteen year old minds with counter-culture thought absent any reinforcement of the constructs that underlay their upbringing.

Lt. General Jerry Boykin and Jason Riley had national platforms to fight back and win their battles to be heard on campus, but for Professor Gouws and many others like him, there are no Fox News appearances to bolster public outrage. Instead they are left to toil under college administrations that at best tolerate and worse seek to end their work far from the spotlight.

What can be done?

Currently, the GOP controls the Governorship, State Senate and State House in thirty of the fifty states (note Nebraska is included in this even though it is unicameral).

Republican Governors working with the state legislatures in these states should make tearing down this academic wall of tyranny within their state university and college structures a top priority.  The wailing from liberal academia will be heard on National Public Radio from coast to coast, and that is a good thing.  By forcing the left to defend its academic strongholds, they will have to retrench from their wholesale onslaught on reason and planned indoctrination of the next generation.

College is not supposed to be a safe space. It is supposed to be a place where ideas challenge the mind, so the next generation can grow into and be worthy of our national heritage of free thought. Speech should not be feared, but embraced as the inevitable clash of intellects through which students learn how to discern by having their assumptions challenged.

It is time for Republican state officeholders to stand up for free thought in the university systems, before the liberal academia stamps it out, along with the flickering flame of free speech, forever.


Feds Order Colleges to Stop Checking Criminal/School Discipline History Because it Discriminates Against Minorities

The Obama administration has ordered the nation's colleges and universities to stop asking applicants about criminal and school disciplinary history because it discriminates against minorities.

Institutions are also being asked to offer those with criminal records special support services such as counseling, mentoring and legal aid once enrolled. The government's official term for these perspective students is "justice-involved individuals" and the new directive aims to remove barriers to higher education for the overwhelmingly minority population that's had encounters with the law or disciplinary issues through high school.

Instructions are outlined in a cumbersome document (Beyond the Box) issued by the U.S Department of Education (ED) this month. It says that "data show plainly that people of color are more likely to come in contact with the justice system due, in part, to punitive school disciplinary policies that disproportionately impact certain student groups and racial profiling." Because education can be a powerful pathway to transition out of prison and into the workforce, it's critical to ensure that admissions practices don't disproportionately disadvantage justice involved individuals, the directive states. Colleges and universities should also refrain from inquiring about a student's school disciplinary history-including past academic dishonesty-because that too discriminates against minorities. Civil rights data compiled by ED show "black students are suspended and expelled at a rate three times greater than white students and often for the same types of infractions."

Therefore colleges and universities should consider designing admissions policies that don't include disciplinary history so they don't have the "unjustified effect of discriminating against individuals on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, religion and disability," the new ED guidelines state. Three out of four colleges and universities collect high school disciplinary information and 89% of those institutions use the information to make admissions decisions, according to the order.

That needs to change, according to the administration. A few years ago it warned public elementary and high schools to administer student discipline without discriminating on the bases of race, color or national origin because too many minority students-especially blacks-were getting suspended. The feds assert they issued the directive after reports of "racial disparities" in "exclusionary discipline policies" that created a "school to prison pipeline."

Colleges and universities are to take it a step further by offering students with criminal histories special support services. This is to include targeted academic and career guidance as well as counseling, legal aid services, mentoring and coaching. "Institutions should recruit and train peer mentors with previous justice involvement to work with justice-involved students to ensure a smooth transition to post-secondary education and provide support and resources throughout their time at the college or university," the new directive states. "These peer mentors could begin their work by acting as navigators who help acclimate justice-involved students to the educational institutions." Perhaps colleges and universities should also start sending recruiters to jails across the country.

This is part of a broader effort by the administration to even the playing field for convicts. Earlier this month Judicial Watch reported that the president issued an order prohibiting federal agencies from asking job applicants about criminal history. The measure will ensure that hiring managers are making selection decisions based solely on qualifications, according to a White House announcement. "Early inquiries into an applicant's criminal history may discourage motivated, well-qualified individuals who have served their time from applying for a federal job," the announcement says, adding that "early inquiries could also lead to the disqualification of otherwise eligible candidates."

Years ago the administration tried slamming the private sector with a ban on job applicant background checks by claiming that they discriminate against all minority candidates, not just ex-cons. The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the federal agency that enforces the nation's workplace discrimination laws, wasted taxpayer dollars suing companies for checking criminal histories asserting that it violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. The apparent intent was to discourage other businesses from checking criminal histories out of fear of getting sued by the government, but it didn't quite work out that way.

A federal judge eventually blasted the EEOC's claims, calling them laughable, distorted, cherry-picked, worthless and an egregious example of scientific dishonesty. Of interesting note is that the EEOC conducts criminal background checks as a condition of employment.


Federal authorities flunk in every category but promises

The U.S. Department of Education opened its doors 36 years ago. Proponents of its creation promised improved efficiency and higher student achievement. Instead, federal spending has soared and student achievement has barely budged.

Clearly, Washington doesn't know best, and it's time for federal authorities to butt out of America's schools and put parents and their locally elected boards back in charge.

The longest running nationally representative assessment of American student achievement is the National Assessment of Educational Progress, the results of which are known as the Nation's Report Card.

Long-term trend results in both math and reading are reported on a scale of zero to 500. Students who score 300 or above can solve moderately complex math problems and understand relatively complicated reading materials.

Among 17-year-olds, typically high school seniors, the long-term performance in NAEP math has increased only slightly over decades, from 52 percent of students scoring 300 or above in 1978 to 60 percent faring as well in 2012, the latest year for which results are available.

The long-term reading performance of 17-year-olds has remained flat, with just 39 percent of students scoring 300 or above in both 1971 and 2012.

Over the same period, federal appropriations for elementary and high school education increased more than 140 percent, from $33.2 billion in 1971 to $80 billion in 2012. Student enrollment, meanwhile, increased only 9 percent, from 45.6 million in 1971 to 49.8 million in 2012.

Back in 1866, when the idea of a national education department was first being debated in Congress, Rep. Samuel J. Randall, D-Pa., predicted that it would amount to "a bureau at an extravagant rate of pay, and an undue number of clerks collecting statistics ... (that) does not propose to teach a single child ... its A, B, C's."

History proves Randall was right.

We were promised that illiteracy would be eliminated by 1984. We were promised that high school graduation rates would reach 90 percent by the year 2000 and that American students would be global leaders in math and science. And we were promised that by 2014 all students would be proficient in reading and math. None of this has happened.

Rather than learning from these broken promises, Congress continues to tinker with ineffective and costly federal education programs.

It's time to end the U.S. Department of Education and put the real experts - parents - back in charge of their children's education.

Parents, regardless of their incomes or addresses, are choosing their children's public, charter, private and online schools in a significant and growing majority of states. More than 1.7 million students are now home-schooled, with that figure increasing 62 percent in the past decade.

Research shows that when parents have more choices in education, both students and schools benefit, and do so at a fraction of the cost of top-heavy federal programs. The resulting competition for students and their associated funding puts powerful pressure on schools to improve.

Little wonder that some seven out of 10 likely voters believe competition improves public schools and support greater parental choice, particularly education savings accounts, or ESAs.

First enacted in Arizona in 2011, and four more states since then, such savings accounts put parents in charge of their children's education funding, allowing them to customize the services that best meet their children's needs.

Any leftover funds remain in students' ESAs for future expenses, including college tuition. Regular ESA expenditure audits by state education agencies provide unparalleled levels of public transparency and accountability.

Instead of funneling money through the D.C. bureaucracy, we should be funding American students directly through ESAs.

Until we put the real experts - parents and their locally elected representatives - back in charge of education, we can expect more overpromising and under-delivering from the U.S. Department of Education.


Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Female Student Said, 'I'm Fine and I Wasn't Raped.' University Investigated, Expelled Boyfriend Anyway

Wrongfully suspended male athlete is suing the university and the Education Department

Colorado State University-Pueblo suspended a male athlete for years after he was found responsible for sexually assaulting a female trainer. But the trainer never accused him of wrongdoing, and said repeatedly that their relationship was consensual. She even stated, unambiguously, "I'm fine and I wasn't raped."

That's according to the athlete's lawsuit against CSUP, which persuasively argues that the university not only deprived him of fundamental due process rights, but also denied sexual agency to an adult woman. Taken at face value, this case appears to represent one of the most paternalistic, puritanically anti-sex witch hunts ever reported on a college campus.

But that's not the only reason this case is interesting. The student-athlete, Grant Neal, has named the Education Department's Office for Civil Rights as a co-defendant. OCR's Title IX guidance to universities "encourages male gender bias and violation of due process right during sexual misconduct investigations," according to a statement from Neal's legal team.

Earlier this month, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education and the law firm of Kaiser, LeGrand & Dillon offered to represent a student who is willing to sue OCR. While Neal has retained different legal representation, it appears that his lawyer—Andrew Miltenberg—is prepared to make similar arguments against Title IX overreach. (More on that in a bit.)

Neal's expulsion (it's silly to call it a "suspension"; multi-year suspensions are expulsions) stemmed from his allegedly improper sexual relationship with a female student and athletic trainer, Jane Doe. In the fall of 2015, Neal was a sophomore at CSUP: he and Doe became good friends and eventually developed romantic feelings for each other. Sexual relationships between athletes and trainers are frowned upon, however, so they first attempted to remain friends.

On October 23, they went to the movies together. Afterward, they kissed and engaged in consensual sexual behavior. They did so the following evening as well. These were not drunken hookups: these were mutually-agreed upon encounters, according to the details in the lawsuit.

At one point, Neal expressed concerns about giving Doe a hickey—a kiss mark on her neck—because the other trainers might notice it. Doe encouraged him to do so anyway, and promised to wear a hoodie the next day. These and other anecdotes demonstrate Doe's full complicity in the sexual activity that took place, though her statements are even more definitive.

The hickey was indeed noticed by another trainer, described as the "Complainant" in the lawsuit. When confronted, Doe confessed to the Complainant that she and Dean had engaged in sex. According to the lawsuit, the Complainant "presumed" this sex was nonconsensual, and reported it to the director of the athletic training program.

Later, when Doe found out, she gave Neal the bad news, and texted him the following messages:

"One of the other Athletic Training students screwed me over!...She went behind my back and told my AT advisor stuff that wasn’t true!!! I’m trying so hard to fix it all."

Neal and Doe met in person to discuss the situation. Without Doe's knowledge, Neal recorded their conversation. This audio recording further establishes that their sex was consensual. While in Neal's presence, Doe fielded a phone call from a coordinator of the athletic training program and stated "I'm fine and I wasn't raped." She then called her mother and told her the same thing.

Both Doe and her mother pressed the administrators of the athletic training program—a husband and wife team—to drop the matter, but it was too late: they had already informed the Title IX office.

To be clear, CSUP apparently believes that Title IX requires the university to investigate a student for sexual misconduct, even when his alleged victim resolutely insists that he is innocent and does not want the issue investigated. Administrators essentially treated Doe like an object that belonged to them—one that no one else was allowed to touch.

Neal and Doe, it should be noted, had consensual sex again—probably because they genuinely liked and were interested in each other, despite the university's herculean efforts to keep them from touching each other.

Doe told another administrator, "Our stories are the same and he’s a good guy. He’s not a rapist, he’s not a criminal, it’s not even worth any of this hoopla!"

To belabor the point a bit, here are messages she sent to Neal, even after the university instituted a reciprocal no-contact order during the investigation:

"I miss you & care about you so much Grant [Neal]! Everything will work out…I promise"

“I hope you know I still care about you so much! I’m trying so hard to fix this… you don’t deserve any of this. I just wanna talk to you again… I’m sooooo SORRY!” I hope that you are okay. I’m so worried. I’m so sorry! I’m so upset they did this."

The details of the adjudication process will be familiar to anyone who has read my other reports on sexual misconduct "disputes" ("dispute" being an increasingly odd word to use, given that I've now covered two consecutive cases where the "victims" agreed with the accused that their sex was consensual). He was denied full knowledge of the charges against him, presumed to be guilty from the outset, and could not cross-examine witnesses. He was suspended on an interim basis before the hearing could even take place.

The adjudicator—Defendant Roosevelt Wilson, who is named in the lawsuit—even refused to interview witnesses who would have corroborated Neal's account. "Defendant Wilson professed that he was in charge of the investigation and would be the only person to declare someone a witness in this matter," according to the lawsuit.

The predetermined outcome for Neal was a guilty verdict: he was suspended for the remainder of Doe's time at the university.

This is as gross a miscarriage of justice as they come, and Neal has filed suit. His lawyer, Miltenberg, blames not just CSUP, but the federal government's illiberal guidance to universities to police sexual assault without any respect for due process:

"From the outset, Grant Neal was presumed guilty of sexual misconduct based on nothing more than hearsay and his own male gender,” said Miltenberg. "In violation of the University’s own self-imposed policies and my client’s fundamental rights to due process, the University required Grant to prove his innocence, rather than requiring the University to prove his guilt.  This case illustrates the impact the Administration’s ‘Dear Colleague’ letter has had in creating a deeply-flawed process for sexual misconduct investigations -- as well as an inherent male gender bias — at colleges and universities throughout the country."

The lawsuit was filed today. I will be eagerly anticipating the federal government's response. What happened at CSUP was nothing short of a scandal: a cabal of vicious, sex-negative administrators ruined a young man's life and told a young woman she has no sexual agency. This is the world according to Title IX.


College education is worth a premium, but how much?

HIGH SCHOOL seniors barely need to be told about the upside of attending small private colleges. The grassy expanses, the intimate setting, and the atmosphere of endless possibility sell themselves. What students do need, especially if they come from low-income families, is a warning in big, bold type: “DO NOT BORROW $60,000 TO ATTEND THIS SCHOOL.”

High school guidance counselors aren’t delivering that message, and neither are colleges. Somebody needs to. Unfortunately, a federal government that’s heavily promoted access to college through convenient loans has done far less to help students confront the risks of over-borrowing.

In Sunday’s Globe Magazine, Neil Swidey reported from the nether circles of college-debt hell. Paying for a four-year degree is tough even for middle-class kids at state schools. But the picture is especially bleak for poorer students who enrolled — for reasons that seemed logical at the time — in nonelite private colleges with iffy graduation rates. One student Swidey interviewed started at Pine Manor before switching to UMass Boston and then Bridgewater State. She now has $65,000 in debt. Another student owes $84,000, after enrolling at Emmanuel, running into financial trouble, withdrawing, and then attending a succession of other schools.

US public policy treats a four-year degree as an unalloyed good, but the question of how students pay for it isn’t just an incidental detail. While those who attend rich schools like Amherst, Harvard, or MIT can finish with minimal debt, private Massachusetts colleges where a quarter or more of students come from low-income families charge them a net price of nearly $23,000 a year — and graduate fewer than half of their students within six years.

Perhaps not surprisingly, colleges discourage students from thinking about education in purely economic terms. Bucolic campuses and other intangibles are worth paying a premium, the argument goes. But how big a premium?

Swidey pressed administrators on how much debt students should be willing to take on. While one college official offered a plausible standard — borrow no more than you can expect to earn your first year out of college — most of the answers were exceedingly lame. “It’s different with every family.” “We don’t want to treat students with a broad brush here.”

The language of family diversity and consumer choice masks an unpleasant reality: In many cases, schools are counting on students to take on far more debt than is wise.

The Globe Magazine story should be required reading for college presidents and members of Congress, who’ve swatted down efforts to hold schools more accountable for students’ financial plight. While the Obama administration’s crackdown on for-profit schools with poor graduation rates has created a backlash primarily among Republicans, there was stiff bipartisan resistance to plans by the US Department of Education to rate colleges on such factors as whether their students graduate. Too bad — Congress should care whether schools are making good use of all the money Washington has been shoveling in their direction.

Loans aren’t grants. And big loans to students at institutions with poor graduation rates have one thing in common with subprime mortgages: The transaction may work out for the occasional borrower, but the daunting odds need to be disclosed up front. The fledgling Consumer Financial Protection Bureau could play a larger role. Created in the aftermath of the subprime mortgage crisis, the bureau has already been pushing for gentler, more personalized repayment plans for student loans.

But the greater good lies in helping students understand how much debt they can safely assume to begin with. At a moment in their lives when they’re thinking expansively about the future, and receiving multiple copies of “Oh, the Places You’ll Go!,” 18-year-olds can easily underestimate the burden they face — and suffer the consequences for decades into the future.


Expanding the Schooling Monopoly One Toddler at a Time

Universal preschool is (again) making headlines as a cure for what ails us. New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio is the latest in a long line of politicians claiming universal, government-run preschool will improve high school graduation rates, as well as college and job preparation.

A few years back House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi was insisting that we have a childcare “crisis,” which, of course, only government can fix. President Obama has repeatedly insisted universal preschool critical for long-term economic prosperity. And, Hillary Clinton has vowed to advance Obama’s “Preschool for All” by doubling Head Start Funding, which is currently $8.6 billion.

The ineffectiveness of government-run preschool is well documented. Moreover, the programs hailed by preschool proponents have serious flaws. (See also here and here.)

A closer look at Mayor de Blasio’s “Pre-K for All” plan, however, reveals the true agenda behind the push for universal preschool.

He touts it as a promise to disadvantaged children that “regardless of their family’s means or the zip code they call home, will have access to a life-changing early education.”

The number of children enrolled NYC Pre-K for All has more than tripled since 2013, from 20,000 children to more than 65,000 children as of this school year—which isn’t surprising since there’s no family income requirement to receive the subsidy.

Last year, UC Berkeley professor Bruce Fuller found that just 30 percent of the preschool classrooms were in the Big Apple’s poorest school districts. What’s more, about half the children enrolled in the taxpayer subsidized program had previously attended non-subsidized private preschools. Other data showed that Mayor de Blasio’s universal preschool program added less than 200 children from the bottom 20 percent of household income zip codes.

Essentially what plans like de Blasio’s do is simply expand the taxpayer-subsidized monopoly public schooling system to include four- and eventually three-year-olds regardless of their family income. What a boon that would be to New York school districts, which currently spend over $20,000 per-student on average.

Using the plight of disadvantaged families to expand government schooling is nothing new.

Nearly 200 years ago members of the Boston School Committee wanted to phase out private schools in favor of government schools, insisting that poor parents could not afford private school tuition. Yet the committee’s own survey results revealed that, on the contrary, 96 percent of the city’s children already attended school.

Thomas Paine appears to have predicted that compulsory schooling proponents would justify subsidies for public schools by appealing to the plight of poor children. In 1791 in the section of his seminal work The Rights of Man entitled the “Ways and Means of improving the Conditions of Europe, etc.,” Paine suggests that instead of subsidizing a schooling system, public funds should instead be provided to poor parents directly in the form of a voucher so they could send their children to schools of their choice. “Education, to be useful to the poor, should be on the spot; and the best method, I believe, to accomplish this, is to enable the parents to pay the expense themselves.”

Of course, the real agenda for people such as the Boston School Committee and their modern-day counterparts isn’t so much about helping the poor. It’s about expanding the public schooling system.

The percentage of 3- and 4-year olds nationwide attending private preschool programs has dropped from 57 percent in 1970 to 41 percent in 2014. Still, that percentage represents more than 1.8 million children. Subsidizing them as part of the public school system, even at just half of average per-student funding ($6,000), would add about $12 billion more to school districts’ annual budgets.

In a radio interview at the start of the school year, Mayor de Blasio laid bare what he considers the future of preschool in America:

The mayor imagined that in the future, pre-kindergarten would be not just universally available but compulsory.

“I think that is the way of the future,” he said. “I think there’s a great sense here that something very special is happening where we can take a whole school system of kids—every background, every neighborhood—and get them all on a strong start at the same time.”

In other words, what de Blasio considers “special” is forcing millions of individual children into a system where they’ll all be treated the same, and where the average high school senior graduates without having achieved proficiency in math or reading.

Personally, I prefer the Paine plan to de Blasio’s.


You Aren’t Entitled to a College Education

When I graduated from college, reality hit. I was now considered a “real adult.” In a matter of months I’d be moving out of my parents’ basement and some 700 miles away to start graduate school.

I was also struck by something I knew was coming, but hadn’t quite appreciated.  That “something” was my student loans.

There they were in black and white, those things I’d been taking out for some 48 months to pay for a Bachelor’s degree from a small liberal arts university. I owed tens of thousands of dollars and the bill was coming due. (For the record, I could have deferred payment as I was going to graduate school, but chose not to in order to avoid paying more interest.) I remember feeling overwhelmed. I’d never owed that much money in my life!

Certainly, I am not the only one who has faced student loans. It’s estimated that my follow graduates and I owe more than $1 trillion for their educational expenses. About 70 percent of graduates in 2014 had student debt averaging about $33,000.

It’s not uncommon to hear people complain about their loans—the interest rates, the cost of college overall, etc. I sympathize entirely. When I advise students, I’m very careful to help them map out their schedules. I tell them, “we don’t want you on the eight year plan.” Indeed, I want the best for my students. That means getting them out of school, finished with their degree, and working as soon as possible. (Despite what people say, it’s doable in four years if you’re careful—five if you have a few hiccups.)

But there are many people who view their loans differently than I did. While I looked at my loans as a means to an end—I could not have afforded to go to university without them—many see them as an affront to their sensibilities. Indeed, many individuals feel as though they are being taken advantage of because of their loans.

Others go further, suggesting that they and others are entitled to a college education. The fact they have loans at all fills them with disgust. Some suggest there is a moral imperative when it comes to education. Others, including democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders claim that higher education is a human right. The fact that many people struggle to pay for an education, or come out owing thousands of dollars, is a violation of their rights.

Sorry to disappoint Mr. Sanders—people do not have a right to a college education.

Let’s talk about “rights.”  We can define rights in one of two ways—positive or negative.

The “right” to a college education would be considered a “positive right.” A positive right means that someone else is required to provide a person with a particular good or service if he or she cannot acquire it on their own.

This is in contrast with “negative rights.” Negative rights require nothing from anyone else, only that they leave you alone. Examples of negative rights would be things like freedom of speech, religion, and assembly.

I have written on this blog about the tension between positive and negative rights. Specifically, it’s impossible for negative rights and positive rights to exist simultaneously. If people have positive rights, they can force others to provide something against their will, regardless of their own personal choices, beliefs, or goals. You cannot have negative rights if you have positive rights.

It seems to me that the seemingly endless push for “free” college, the forgiveness of student loans, and the consistent complaining about loans is indicative of two things. First, it shows that economics is painfully needed. (There is no such thing as free—ever—EVER—EVER!) Second, it illustrates a gross sense of entitlement.

Take, for example, this article, published a year ago in the New York Times. In it, the author discusses his reasons for defaulting on his student loans, after using them to obtain both an undergraduate and master’s degree.

"I could give up what had become my vocation (in my case, being a writer) and take a job that I didn’t want in order to repay the huge debt I had accumulated in college and graduate school. Or I could...[default] on my student loans, which was the only way I could survive without wasting my life in a job that had nothing to do with my particular usefulness to society. I chose life. That is to say, I defaulted on my student loans"

How incredibly self-absorbed. What this author argues, in essence, is that he could not bring himself to actually face reality that his “vocation” would not allow him to meet his obligations. He had, by his own admission, viable alternatives, ones that would allow him to pay off his debts, but he decided that his pride was more important than honoring his commitments. He decided to allow other people to pay for his poor life choices.

This scenario is repeated over and over again. People make the choice to go to college. Once in school, they make choices about their classes, their work ethic, and their grades. They bear the consequences of these actions—both good and bad. If you work hard, get good grades, and major in math, you’ve set yourself up much better than someone who went to keg parties, got straight “Cs” and majored in gender studies. Maybe it’s your “passion,” but other people aren’t obligated to help your pursue it.

As I mentioned, I went to a small liberal arts university. I wouldn’t change this decision. At the end of the day, that environment shaped me into the person I am today. It introduced me to the economic way of thinking and prepared me for graduate school. But it was a choice. I could have made others. I could have worked before going to school to save up money. I could have gone to one of several large state schools in and around the city. This would have cut my costs dramatically. I could have taken more classes instead of working over the summer and throughout the year. But I didn’t. Hundreds of thousands of other Americans have done the same. They’ve invested in their education with someone else’s money, and now they’re paying it back.

And they should pay it back. An education is a privilege, not a right.


Tuesday, May 24, 2016

The racket of colleges that accept poorly qualified students

It sounds noble but just leaves the students with loads of debt and either no qualifications at all or qualifications of little use.  Tertiary education is NOT for everyone.  Admissions standards have a point

IT’S ONE OF THE MOST enduring selling points for the value of higher education: The best route out of poverty is through the college quad. Spend four years in college, and all that book learning, mind opening, and network expanding will help even the lowest-income student jump up several rungs on the economic ladder. Nowhere is that message preached as often or with as much evident authority as in Massachusetts, the nation’s historic capital of private, nonprofit higher education, where the concentration of colleges in some areas is surpassed only by the number of Dunkin’ Donuts franchises.

But just how true is this truism about college lifting low-income students out of their circumstances, Horatio Alger style? In fact, like the actual story of author Horatio Alger, who was born into a well-established family and graduated from Harvard, there’s more myth than truth. That’s been especially so in recent years, as nonselective private colleges from around the region have increasingly filled their freshman classes with low-income students — often the first generation in their families to go to college — from Boston and other urban areas. Quite a few of these small schools are former junior colleges and women’s colleges with rich histories of opening doors to students traditionally shut out from higher education, an admirable pursuit that officials refer to as “access.” Many of the colleges are also in tough financial straits, struggling with rising costs, stunted endowments, and declining enrollments.

So whether they are actively recruiting these low-income students for reasons of open-the-door altruism or keep-the-lights-on capitalism — or, more likely, some combination of the two — there has been a huge, largely hidden byproduct of this dramatic increase in access: These students are often being loaded up with staggering debt that is completely out of whack with the earnings boost they’ll likely get from a degree at a nonselective or less selective college. Already, average student loan debt is higher in Boston than any other metro area in the country, 44 percent above the national average, according to Credit Karma. But  more troubling, many of these low-income students — and, at some colleges, most of them — are not graduating. That means these non-completers are leaving campus saddled with lots of debt but none of the salary gains that traditionally come with a bachelor’s degree.

Dean College sits on a pretty, leafy campus in Franklin. A former two-year college, it began offering a selection of bachelor’s degrees only about a decade ago. It now accepts about 70 percent of the students who apply, the same rate as Fitchburg State University. Last year, Dean sent a financial aid award letter to an accepted student whose family, the federal government had determined, was so poor that the “expected family contribution” (EFC) to that student’s education was zero. The college awarded the student a Dean Presidential Grant of $17,000 and another nearly $13,000 in institutional, federal, and state grants, meaning that almost $30,000 of the bill was covered and never had to be paid back. Sounds great, right? Yes, until you look at the larger numbers on the award letter. The total cost of attendance — tuition, room, board, and fees — was $53,120. That meant the gap that this “zero-EFC” student had to cover through loans and other means in order to attend was more than $23,000. Per year. Over four years — and with only modest rises for inflation factored in — that total gap could be expected to climb to around $100,000, not counting future interest payments. That’s a ton of debt, particularly for a degree from a college whose median annual salary for alumni 10 years after enrolling is just $32,700.

To Dean’s credit, about half of its students who pursue a bachelor’s degree manage to graduate. Contrast that with Becker College in Worcester. On its website, Becker talks about being able to trace its roots back to two signers of the Declaration of Independence. It does not, however, mention what US Department of Education data from 2012-2013 show: namely, that just 16 percent of Becker’s students managed to graduate in four years, a number that inches up only to 24 percent when the time frame is extended to six years, the federal standard for completing a bachelor’s degree. In other words, 3 out every 4 students who enrolled as freshmen at Becker failed to graduate. Nor does the website mention that, after all grants and discounts are applied, a typical zero-EFC low-income student is required to come up with more than $25,000 every single year to cover the costs of attending Becker.

This seems to be the operating calculus at many small, private, nonselective or less selective colleges across the region, which routinely accept more than 60 percent of applicants. Consider the average annual “net” prices — after discounts and grants have been deducted — that these colleges are charging students coming from families whose total adjusted gross annual income is $30,000 or less. At a surprising number of colleges, this annual net price represents nearly all of that family’s total income for the year.

So the net price for one year at Wheelock College would consume 80 percent of a family’s $30,000 total income. Same at Becker. The figure is 81 percent at Endicott College, 82 percent at Emmanuel College and Mount Ida College, and 92 percent at Lesley University. At Fisher, a former junior college in Boston, it’s 94 percent, a cost that’s basically the same as the $28,200 median annual salary that Fisher alumni are making 10 years after enrolling.

For small, non-elite colleges to crack the top 10 in a U.S. News ranking would normally be cause for celebration. The problem is, this particular U.S. News ranking was titled: “10 Colleges That Leave Graduates With the Most Student Loan Debt.” Mount Ida in Newton ranked No. 7. Anna Maria College, a similarly small school in the Central Massachusetts town of Paxton, clocked in at No. 3. Average debt at Anna Maria is 76 percent above the roughly $28,000 national average. About half the students at both schools are low-income.

Keep in mind that those debt figures, like the college-loan-crisis statistics that Senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren regularly toss around before crowds of aggrieved millennials, are for students who graduate. At Mount Ida, for instance, federal data show that only 1 out of every 3 low-income students manages to graduate. In the universal campaign to propel more disadvantaged students into college, few education officials seem willing to broach this sad, painful reality: If you come from a family of very limited resources and you’re not going to be able to finish college, you’d be better off never going at all.

To be clear, there’s no evidence to suggest that these small private colleges are engaging in the kind of corrupt practices that made so many for-profit colleges notorious. The worst of those for-profit diploma mills used returning veterans and single mothers as mules to convey federal dollars into their coffers, with little institutional investment in the students’ well-being. In contrast, at every one of these nonprofit private colleges, you can find some impressive student success stories as well as dedicated faculty, staff, and administrators who continue to believe deeply in the mission of higher education to make disadvantaged students’ futures better than their pasts.

But are those good intentions now largely misplaced? Is there a better way for struggling colleges to remain afloat than by sinking poor students further into debt? If not, that means college, long accepted as society’s Great Equalizer, will actually be widening the country’s yawning economic divide rather than helping close it.

It’s probably not surprising that many college officials avoid these types of uncomfortable, existential questions. Still, a few have come to see the urgency of grappling with them.

Noting the poor completion rates for low-income students around the country, Lesley University president Joe Moore says, “If we’re getting them here to generate our numbers and having them be the transmitters of federal financial aid, that’s just not right.” At Mount Ida, after nearly 50 percent of the freshman class that entered in 2012 had dropped out by the following fall, the administration began confronting the need for radical change. “If you’re seeing half the students disappear after the first year, you’ve got to ask yourself what business you’re in,” provost Ron Akie concedes. “Because it isn’t education.”

Jennifer Roberts, a consultant and former senior financial aid official at several local colleges, is even more pointed. Having grown up in a Southie triple-decker as the youngest of six children to a single mother, she can’t help but see herself in the low-income students who are now mortgaging their futures for college. “I think students are being duped by being told this is the American Dream,” she says. “The American Dream cannot be to live in debt for the rest of your life.”


UK: The university that’s gone Health and Safety mad: Campus that banned students from throwing mortarboards at graduation also forbade sugar, rugby and SOMBREROS

A university campus that recently asked students to mime mortarboard throwing in graduation photos because throwing hats could cause injuries also banned sugar, rugby, coffee and sombreros.

The University of East Anglia is building a reputation as one of the maddest around.

And its student union recently came bottom of Spiked's free speech ranking after its support for an academic boycott of Israel.

In recent years Bags of Tate and Lyle sugar were removed from the school shop and Starbucks was boycotted due to the two companies' tax affairs.

Six Nations Rugby matches were banned from the bar because its sponsor RBS funded fossil fuel extraction, and Nestle products were avoided because students felt its baby milk powder could reduce breastfeeding in developing countries.

Sombreros were forbidden from the freshers' fair due to fears of cultural appropriation, and the 'hierarchical' post of student union president was replaced by five equal officers.

The union even targeted Ukip arguing its presence on campus would make students feel unsafe, reports The Times.

Hamish Pearson, who studied Accounting and Finance at UEA and graduated in 2015, criticised the 'left-wing' student union.

He told MailOnline: 'Most of these changes are illogical and silly - the sombrero rule was particularly bizarre.

'The University is ruled by the minority. The majority of people don't vote in student union elections so it allows people who do not represent them to hold high-ranking positions and bring in random changes.

'Some of these changes have been really unpopular and many just make no sense.'

Students have been told they can mime throwing their mortarboards for a picture and a computer whiz will Photoshop the flying cap in - all for the pricey sum of £8.

In an email sent to all third and fourth year law students set to graduate on July 21, those behind the photos have requested that no caps are thrown skywards to prevent the pointed sides from hurting anyone as they fall back down to earth.

An attachment in the original email - from the company Penguin Photograph - gave instructions for how the 'fun' picture should go.

It requested that students: '...mime the throwing of their hats in the air and we will then Photoshop them in above the group before printing'.

The paragraph continued: 'As well as being safer, this will have the added advantage that even more of the students' faces will be seen in this photograph.'

The ruling has since been mocked by those set to graduate, forcing organisers to defend the controversial move.

Speaking to student newspaper The Tab, Norwich's Law Society President Louisa Baldwin said: 'If I've paid £45 to hire a bit of cloth and card for the day I should be able to chuck my hat in the air.

'It's nothing worse than the weekly ritual of dodging VKs as they're lobbed across the LCR dance floor.'

Mr Pearson added: 'I threw my hat when I graduated and the photographer specifically asked us to throw our hats, look up, and then cover our heads so it was safe.

'People who deem throwing unacceptable should just leave the photo rather than ban it.'

A University spokesperson said: 'UEA has not introduced a policy banning the throwing of mortarboards - we have simply asked our photography supplier not to encourage it during formal group sessions.

'We have taken this step because in each of the last two years graduating students have suffered facial injuries. Last year a student needed treatment in A&E.

'If students want to throw their mortarboards on graduation day that's their choice, they are free to do so, but we don't think doing it in the organised group photo is advisable.; 


Teenagers to be asked: Is your teacher racist? Pupils will also be quizzed over whether they like unfamiliar food

Pupils will be quizzed on whether they think their teachers are racist under new global education assessments.

The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development aims to analyse pupils’ attitudes towards ‘cultural diversity’ for the first time.

Fifteen-year-olds will be asked about their understanding of global issues such as migration alongside separate tests in reading, maths and science.

Pupils will also fill in additional questionnaires to measure their ‘openness towards people from other cultures’ and the attitudes of staff at their schools.

The ‘global competence’ assessments are proposed for the 2018 round of PISA (the Programme for International Student Assessment), which is run by the OECD.

Children from about 80 countries including England are expected to participate.

The OECD insists the move is necessary because schools need to prepare young people for a world ‘where they will live and work with people from different backgrounds and cultures’.

Pupils completing the PISA questionnaires will be asked about topics such as immigration and whether they enjoy unfamiliar food.

Under the plans, they will be asked whether their teachers ‘talk in a respectful way’ and are ‘open to personal contact’ with people from ‘all cultural or ethnic groups’.

Other potential questions focus on whether staff ‘have lower academic expectations’ for students from some ethnic groups and ‘apply the same criteria’ to grading and disciplining children ‘irrespective of their cultural origin or ethnic group’.

Andreas Schleicher, director for education and skills at the OECD, said it was vital to measure pupils’ perceptions of their teachers’ attitudes to different cultures and ethnicities. He told the Times Educational Supplement: ‘We are looking at what students perceive to be teachers’ attitudes.

‘We believe that perception will shape and will frame the way in which students learn about global competencies.

‘For example, if you have a teacher who says: “The textbook says I have to teach you about the diversity of cultures, but I think it’s complete nonsense” – in an environment like this a student is not going to engage themselves. But imagine a teacher who confronts them with the difficulties refugees face in England in getting integrated, and then I think you would probably get a very different stance from pupils.’

I would be very cautious about young people making judgements about their teachers’ attitudes.’
Malcolm Trobe, Association of School and College Leaders
Chris McGovern, chairman of the Campaign for Real Education, yesterday attacked the proposals as ‘political correctness’ and ‘a step in the wrong direction’.

He said: ‘What we’re seeing here is a distraction from what the OECD should be focusing on. They should be focusing on literacy, numeracy and science because you can’t really evaluate the social therapy side of education.’

Malcolm Trobe, interim general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, warned that a questionnaire was a ‘crude and potentially unreliable’ way to explore the influence of teachers’ attitudes on students.

Mr Trobe added: ‘It is important that we draw on students’ attitudes on these global issues. But I would be very cautious about young people making judgements about their teachers’ attitudes.’

But responding to criticism yesterday, Mr Schleicher said: ‘I don’t think the capacity of people to collaborate, compete and connect effectively with people from different cultural contexts has much to do with political correctness. It is what employers expect their workers to be ready for.


Monday, May 23, 2016

Harvard’s war on ‘privilege’

The blacklisting of single-sex social clubs is another blow to student freedom

Harvard University, ultra-exclusive dispenser of lifelong privileges, now claims that ‘privilege and exclusion (are) at odds with our deepest values’. Seriously. Does this mean that Harvard will begin loosening its admission requirements and start offering free tuition to all undergraduates (with the exception, perhaps, of gazillionaire kids)?

Of course not. It means that Harvard will punish students who belong to single-sex social organisations of which university administrators disapprove – namely, fraternities, sororities and final clubs. (There are female as well as male final clubs, but the exclusively male enclaves are the primary targets of Harvard’s wrath.) Students who dare to join these groups will risk damaging their graduate and professional careers: they will be barred from ‘leadership positions in recognised student organisations or athletic teams’, and will not be eligible for dean’s endorsement letters for such honours as Rhodes scholarships and Marshall fellowships.

Harvard’s crusade against these particular exclusionary groups was sparked by concerns about alleged sexual assaults and the misogynist attitudes the final clubs allegedly propagate. But these concerns are not discussed in Harvard dean Rakesh Khurana’s explanation for the new policy. Instead, with a straight face, he declares, ‘In their recruitment practices and through their extensive resources and access to networks of power, these organisations propagate exclusionary values that undermine those of the larger Harvard College community’.

Dean Rakesh doesn’t explain how the university manages to exploit its ‘extensive resources and access to networks of power’ without promoting ‘exclusionary values’. Perhaps he thinks the answer is self-evident: Harvard is an ‘inclusive community’, president Drew Faust asserts, as she excludes from substantial benefits students whose associations she disdains.

The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) rightly characterises this new policy as a blacklist of students who don’t share Harvard’s ‘political preferences’. FIRE vice-president Robert Shipley stresses, ‘I had hoped that universities were past the point of asking people, “Are you now, or have you ever been, a member of a group we don’t like?”. Sadly they are not.’ As FIRE co-founder Harvey Silverglate adds, ‘Who’s to say that Harvard’s leaders five years from now won’t decide that Catholics or Republicans should be blacklisted because they might not line up with Harvard’s preferred values?’.

There are, of course, numerous single-sex groups (in addition to sports teams) that Harvard students may continue to join with impunity. Indeed, Harvard’s list of official student organisations includes affinity groups based on religion, race and ethnicity, as well as sex or gender, among other demographic categories, from BAGELS, a queer/jewish student group, to the Half-Asian People’s Association and the Latino Men’s Collective.

Officially recognised organisations are generally supposed to comply with the university’s anti-discrimination policy, which differentiates them from now-verboten social organisations that formally exclude members on the basis of sex. But final clubs, fraternities and sororities are not recognised or affiliated with Harvard: they exist and operate independently, which is why blacklisting students who choose to join them is such an affront to personal liberty. It’s a bit like punishing students for private, off-campus speech that administrators find offensive.

And, like most blacklists, this one does not just violate the associational freedom of people directly targeted. It limits the freedom of any campus group that wishes to associate with them, depriving approved organisations of the right to elect targeted students to leadership positions. As Harvard’s undergraduate council tactfully wrote in responding to the new policy, ‘We strongly encourage the college and the advisory group enforcing these recommendations to be mindful of internal democratic processes of student organisations… Vetting of elected members of student government based on affiliation in certain groups is detrimental, and fundamentally opposed, to the vivacity of the democratic process.’

Safe Space advocates mounted an angrier protest of the new policy, as a group of female students marched through Harvard Yard, defending their need for exclusively female clubs. ‘On campus and in a society that is so male-dominated, female spaces are crucial sources of empowerment… in the classroom men speak more than women, and on the weekend… women are targeted and shamed for their sexuality’, one student asserted. ‘Hear her Harvard. Value Women’s Spaces and Voices’, a sign proclaimed. ‘Don’t make women collateral damage’, another implored.

Sororities and female final clubs probably were collateral damage of Harvard’s punitive new policy, given prevailing assumptions that male social clubs cause sexual assault. But perhaps because Harvard can’t substantiate that assumption, it continues to rely on professed opposition to discrimination, whether practised by women or men. And it seems likely that the university targeted female as well as male clubs in order to appear even-handed, and perhaps to avoid equal-protection challenges under Massachusetts law.

Is Harvard’s assault on free association legal? As a private university, it’s not bound by the US Constitution, specifically First Amendment associational rights, but students punished for joining private, off-campus clubs may find relief under the state’s constitution, its civil-rights statute and Massachusetts common law.

They will not, however, find support from the many liberals or progressives who have applauded Harvard’s blacklist and share the hostility to fundamental liberties – of speech, association and due process – that now prevail on many American campuses. Harvard’s anti-association policy should be vigorously opposed, but the greater challenge for civil libertarians is defeating the illiberal authoritarianism that gave rise to it.


David Horowitz is bringing the truth to bear on Muslim Jew-hate on American campuses

From David:

The Freedom Center is getting ready for round two in the battle against the pro-Hamas, Jew hating campus organization Students for Justice in Palestine. We just won the first round. By a knockout.

As you may know, a few weeks ago we launched a campaign in which we circulated posters on several California college campuses showing the names and photos of students and faculty allied with the SJP and calling them for what they are -- Jew haters.

We hit pay dirt particularly at San Diego State University where the SJP and its radical fellow travelers went berserk, attacking us and also the SDSU President Elliot Hirshman, who made the mistake of saying that our posters might deserve the protections of free speech.

For this, the pro-jihadis and their radical allies threw the campus into turmoil, calling for Hirshman's resignation and at one point blockading him in his automobile.

It was what our president calls "a teachable moment."

Pro-jihadis and the radicals raged, but many SDSU students seemed to be listening to us. I spoke about SJP's Jew hatred on-campus in the aftermath of the crisis with President Hirshman. What I had to say was well enough received that I've been invited back to speak at San Diego State again in the fall.

Our campaign made an impact in the media as well as on-campus. All four major TV networks were at the press conference that followed my speech; and all four reported my charges that BDS is a Hamas-financed effort to bring Israel down and that SJP is a supporter of this terrorist organization. This message was telecast on the evening network news and reported on KPBS and the San Diego Union Tribune.

In other words, as a result of our actions, the truth about SJP -- that it is a terror-supporting, Hamas-associated campus group -- was put in front of millions of residents of the San Diego area.

No other pro-Israel organization has been able to reach so many people in an urban area with facts that utterly discredit Israel's enemies. More importantly, we laid the groundwork for a fall campaign to strip SJP of its campus funding and support.

We are going to expand the campaign from California to the country as a whole. We will find out who the student and faculty supporters of this Jew hating, pro-Hamas student group are on a dozen hand picked campuses across America.

We are going to put their photos on posters and when school reopens in late August, we will circulate these posters at each of these campuses. Then, as the SJP reacts, furious that its imposture as just another campus "cultural" organization has been destroyed, what began as a postering event will become a media event, as the local and national press covers our demand that cowardly university administrators stop the funding of this hateful anti-Semitic and pro-jihadi group.

Via email. You can donate to the campaign here

UK: Parents' fury after school organised 'bikini body fitness classes' for students

A school has apologised to furious parents after a teacher organised 'bikini body fitness classes' for students.

Parents were outraged when they learned about the after school sessions at The Ripley Academy in Derbyshire, which teaches pupils aged between 11 and 18, and complained to staff.

The classes were set up by a supply teacher at the school, without the permission of principal Carey Ayres, and have now been cancelled.

One parent, who did not want to be named, said: 'Isn't it bad enough to have impressionable girls already worrying about the state of their bodies?  'I am all for healthy lifestyle but this is sexualising the fitness class.

A spokesman for Ripley Academy said the school apologised to parents who might have been offended by the classes. 'As soon as we were made aware of these after school classes they were cancelled as they did not reflect the values of the academy,' she said. 'We would like to sincerely apologise for any offence caused.

'They were organised by a supply teacher, who is covering a member of staff on maternity leave, without permission from the principal and this issue will be dealt with internally.

'At The Ripley Academy we do run a variety of extra curricular activities aimed at promoting a healthy lifestyle amongst all of our students and we would never condone any class, or after-school activity, that may put pressure on any young person in terms of their own body image.'


False rape charges: Arrogant British university thinks it is wiser than the police

Much of Melanie Duff’s life has exemplified a kind of elevated Cotswolds respectability. She is a former Olympic equestrian rider who is on personal terms with Princess Anne’s daughter Zara Phillips. Together they co-owned Zara’s favourite horse.

At the same time Mrs Duff immersed herself in local politics and was elected Tory mayor of Highworth, once riding into the Wiltshire market town on horseback to open a fair. Now she runs a livery next to her handsome farmhouse. So far, so picture-perfect.

But it was as a mother that Mrs Duff, 54, faced her greatest test.

For her assured existence was fractured two years ago when her polo-playing son Thady was wrongly accused of a vile crime: the gang rape of a woman during the May Ball at the Royal Agricultural University where he was studying.

‘It was horrendous,’ she says. ‘But everyone has dealt with it in their own way. Thady was remarkable in that, when he wasn’t having to deal with it, he had the ability to put it in a box.

In truth, Thady and fellow students Leo Mahon and Patrick Foster, all 22, along with their friend, James Martin, endured a two-year nightmare which only came to an end when the case against them collapsed – after the exposure of a scandalously flawed police inquiry.

Five weeks went by after they walked free, but they heard nothing from the university.

‘Personally, I think that, because it has been two years, they thought they would hear nothing more from us and it would just quietly slip away. It hasn’t,’ says Mrs Duff.

She and the other parents wrote a joint letter to the chair of governors asking for ‘the opportunity to come in and chat about the boys’ education’.

It was only then that the university made contact. Mrs Duff received a terse reply saying this was not possible. ‘They said the boys were adults and if they wanted to speak to the college, they had to write,’ she says.

Then, after the students’ ordeal was highlighted by The Mail on Sunday last week, each received a letter warning that they remain suspended. And, in what they perceive as a final insult, must now face an ‘internal investigation’ by the university.

Thady, who was in his first year when the rape allegation surfaced, is unable to complete his studies and Leo and Patrick are unable to collect their degrees, still unaware even of the results of the final exams they sat two years ago.

They remain, then, in a form of quasi-legal purgatory, still shackled by a crime they did not commit.

Perhaps, on reflection, it was too much for Melanie Duff and the other boys’ parents to expect the university to welcome their sons back with open arms. But neither did they expect the elite institution to deliver such an ‘extraordinary’ blow.

‘It seems so unfair,’ says Mrs Duff, who observed at close hand how the saga blighted – quite possibly irreparably – the lives of the three students.

The woman, her identity protected by law, had accused them of raping her at the £85-a-head black tie ball at the university in Cirencester, Gloucestershire. They vehemently denied the allegations, but the police believed her – not them.

All four men admitted having ‘consensual sex’ with the woman on the night of the ball. And they conceded that they were in a room with her at the same time – but denied that it constituted ‘group sex’.

Then, two long years later, the officer leading the inquiry, Detective Constable Ben Lewis, was found to have ‘broken’ the trial process.

Data on the woman’s phone that shattered her story had been inexplicably withheld from defence lawyers.

The university said last night that its ‘regulations allow for internal investigation of any incident which may breach the university rules’.

It added that it will ‘look into the incident at the May Ball and any matters pertaining to it’.

And asked when Leo and Patrick will receive their degrees, a spokeswoman said: ‘The issue of academic progress will follow the outcome of the internal investigation.’ Thady says: ‘How can we move on with our lives when they’re still holding this threat over us?’

‘The college May Ball is next weekend and I’m sure they simply want to make certain we don’t attend. But after the experience we’ve been through none of us would go anyway.’


Sunday, May 22, 2016

Time to Shut Down the Federal Department of Education

Kids went to school and learnt their lessons quite well for centuries before there was a Federal Department of Education

The Department of Education was created under President Carter in 1979 under the same misguided pretense that has driven much of the growth of our massively bloated federal government — that if there is something we really care about, we should give more money and power to Washington bureaucrats.

It would be good news if the Department of Education just wasted the money it gets from our hard-earned taxes. But it uses the money to do real damage.

Nothing could provide a better example than the newly issued guidance letter that the Department of Education, jointly with the Justice Department, just sent to public school districts across the country, threatening to cut of federal funds if public schools do not comply with guidelines for treatment of so-called transgender students.

The first paragraph of the directive provides a toll-free phone number to call if you don’t know the English language well enough to read the letter and then serves up this same paragraph in six different languages. Our own Department of Education is apparently of the view that familiarity with the English language is not among the responsibilities of American citizens.

The guidance letter lists requirements with which public schools must comply to demonstrate that they do not violate the alleged civil rights of transgender students.

Among these requirements are assurances that transgender students be allowed access to restrooms and locker rooms “consistent with their gender identity.”

“Gender identity,” according to the letter, “refers to an individual’s internal sense of gender. A person’s gender identity may be different from or the same as the person’s sex assigned at birth.”

The bottom line is that our Department of Education has put the nation’s public schools on notice that their federal funds are in jeopardy if they don’t allow little boys who think they are girls access to girls' restrooms and locker rooms and the opposite.

There are many deeply troubling things about this. Among them is knowledge that many with great political power in Washington, who control so much of our money, cannot distinguish between a fact and an opinion and have zero interest in even trying to make this distinction.

Referring to a “person’s sex assigned at birth,” as if an individual’s sex was chosen by a bureaucrat as opposed to being a natural fact, the product of the mystery of creation, is astounding.

Or conveying as fact that there is something, totally unsubstantiated by science, called “gender identity,” distinct and apart from the natural sexual reality with which an individual is born, is equally astounding.

In a country such as ours today, where opinions are so widely diverse about what is true and what life is about, we cannot have power concentrated in Washington. Certainly, in education, we must maximize freedom of individuals to control their own lives and how to educate their own children.

According to a new Cato Institute report, Department of Education spending on K-12 education now stands at $40.2 billion, ten times greater in inflation-adjusted dollars than the $4.5 billion where it stood just prior to the creation of the education department. Over this period, despite the prodigious federal spending, test scores in reading and math have hardly changed. Adding in spending from federal departments other than the Department of Education on K-12 education, the total stands at over $80 billion.

This amounts to $1,600 for every child enrolled in public schools.

To repeat, the Department of Education is not just wasting the billions it controls. It does substantial damage by forcing its own left-wing views on the nation’s families.

The Education department should be shut down and these funds should either be returned to taxpayers and or sent to parents with children in public schools to be used toward vouchers to allow them to choose where to send their children to school.


Education Department Touts Children Practicing ‘Mindfulness’ in D.C. Elementary School

In a blog written by an intern at the Department of Education and posted on the agency’s website, children in a D.C. elementary school are shown meditating during the school day.

“The students had just woken up from nap time, so these exercises were intended to reactivate their brains and keep their focus in the classroom,” intern Brett Swanson wrote in the blog about his visit to the Brightwood Education Campus. “The peer-influence is great to see first-hand because when one student would get off task, their friends would help them get back into the activities.

“After the exercises the students had a chance to sit up tall, close their eyes, and breathe in unison,” Swanson wrote. “Beyond just physical fitness, students and teachers participated in meditation and stretching in order to ease their minds and connect with other people around them.

“I spoke with Kalpana Kumar-Sharma, a pre-K teacher who began this initiative,” Swanson wrote. “She explained that she started by talking to parents and students one-by-one about the importance of health and offering them individual exercises and diet changes.

“She then said she was able to expand her ideas about physical fitness and mindfulness throughout the school because of the one-by-one conversations,” Swanson wrote.

The blog noted that May is Physical Fitness and Sports Month.

“It was such an amazing experience to visit a school that puts mental and physical health first and to witness a part of its rich and inviting culture,” Swanson wrote.

According to the University of California at Berkeley, mindfulness has its roots in Buddhism.

“Mindfulness means maintaining a moment-by-moment awareness of our thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations, and surrounding environment,” the Berkeley article stated.

“Mindfulness also involves acceptance, meaning that we pay attention to our thoughts and feelings without judging them—without believing, for instance, that there’s a ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ way to think or feel in a given moment,” the Berkeley article stated. “When we practice mindfulness, our thoughts tune into what we’re sensing in the present moment rather than rehashing the past or imagining the future.

“Though it has its roots in Buddhist meditation, a secular practice of mindfulness has entered the American mainstream in recent years,” the Berkeley article stated.


Where's the Academic Rigor in Higher Education?

In the past, the relationship between student and teacher was built on trust and authority. Students heading off to study at the university regarded teachers with respect, for students understood they knew less than their professors. There was humility in that relationship. But at least in some institutions, it’s the students who run the show now.

Andrea Quenette was let go from her job teaching communications at the University of Kansas not because of any wrongdoing on her part — a formal investigation cleared her of that — but because her students were offended when she spoke frankly about the issue of race. She said, “As a white woman I just never have seen the racism. … It’s not like I see ‘N—-r’ spray-painted on walls.” If Quenette did nothing wrong, the implication was that she wasn’t popular with students, bad for the bottom line, and was let go for it.

This comes as Melissa Click — that anti-First Amendment communications professor from the University of Missouri — received some support in her fight against those who properly and reasonably fired her. The American Association of University Professors concluded Mizzou dismissed Click improperly because they didn’t give her a faculty review, thus infringing on her academic freedom.

What a loss! According to Click’s CV, the woman received grants to study such things as the Twilight series, Fifty Shades of Grey and Martha Stewart. Apparently, we the sensible can’t summarily fire all the professors who peddle in triviality and promote violence toward our First Amendment.


The SATs bashers are patronising the poor

State-school kids are being denied the knowledge-rich education they deserve (SATs in Britain are Grade-school exams)

It’s been a bad few weeks for the Department for Education. From the academies u-turn to Nick Gibb’s on-air grammar blunder to the accidental leaking of the answers to an upcoming SATs exam – for the second time in three weeks – it’s been a parade of gaffes and cock-ups.

Running into SATs season, the timing couldn’t have been better for the DfE’s many enemies to have a pop. Sure enough, the newly rebranded ‘key-stage tests’ have drawn the ire of teachers and parents across the country. Despite the fact that SATs are only a means of assessing a school’s performance, which previous pupils probably barely remember taking, the tough new standards, we’re told, are driving children to the brink of despair.

‘Like my students, I went home and cried’, read an anonymous Guardian letter, addressed to education secretary Nicky Morgan. ‘This time because of the shame I feel through supporting your regime.’ In Brighton, a ‘kids’ strike’ was staged. One fully grown participant told the Mail that ‘our kids are being left disengaged and stressed’. The tougher exams, he said, had the potential to ‘turn into not just an educational crisis, but a mental-health crisis’.

Time and again, the image of damaged, sobbing and – at one point in the Guardian letter – terminally ill children were presented as the victims of the DfE’s exam-happy, ‘1950s’ regime. Most of the fuss is over the new grammar paper that asks 10-year-olds to isolate language features in sentences. When school’s minister Gibb came unstuck on Radio 4 – failing to distinguish between a subordinating conjunction and a preposition – it was held up as yet more proof that the tests were irrelevant and unfair.

Now, let’s get a few things straight. First, SATs are designed to test schools, not pupils. If some teachers are burdening their pupils with their own workplace pressures, that’s not on – but it’s hardly the DfE’s fault. Second, there is no such thing as a kids’ strike. Just because you put a placard in their hand it doesn’t mean they know what they’re doing. And third, I’d have a lot more truck with the idea that the new SATs are incomparably difficult if vocal, state-sector teachers didn’t act as if all rigorous schooling was some form of abuse.

The state education sector is plagued by low expectations. And the outrage that met the Coalition and now Tory DfE’s efforts to inject some rigour and knowledge into state education has shown why. Children are seen as too fragile to be tested; too easily distracted to read a door-wedge classic; and too 21st century to learn the Queen’s English. In part, this is driven by a flimsy, bourgeois view of education that talks up creativity and letting kids be kids. But there’s also a deeply patronising logic at play.

After this year’s SATs were administered, some teachers took to social media to decry them not only as difficult, but as some form of veiled class warfare. One teacher, quoted in TES, said the reading test ‘would have had no relevance to inner-city children or ones with no or little life skills’. This echoes a popular idea among educationalists that knowledge-based education is, as union head Mary Bousted has put it, ‘alien to [poor children’s] lives and their interests’.

The idea here is that middle-class kids, with a swelling bookcase at home and parents with the time and/or resources to tutor them, will thrive while poor kids struggle. Not only does this make some pretty crass assumptions about working-class families, it also undermines the transcendent, egalitarian essence of education – that is, that anyone can appreciate the best that’s been thought and said, and that, with enough hard work, they can excel.

The SATs debate reflects this patronising desire to dumb down education in the name of working-class kids. Whether it’s what books they’re being taught or the tests they’re being given, poorer children are treated as fated and incapable due to their circumstances. Their education must therefore be ghettoised – made easier and more ‘relevant’. This is particularly intense around spelling and grammar, as it is so often held up as a kind of ‘cultural policing’ in our multicultural, relativised age.

When you wipe away the crocodile tears, the SATs outrage is another expression of the idea that poorer students are just a bit dim and shouldn’t be made to feel bad about it. But that doesn’t mean we should let the government off the hook. The post-Michael Gove DfE’s worthy desire to bring up the standards and content of state education has always been undermined by its obsession with testing and league tables. While trendy educationalists want to patronise children, the DfE all-too-often just wants to test them.

As the children’s author Michael Rosen has pointed out, the obsession with grammar tests belies a desire to turn English into something more quantifiable – like maths. While grammar is essential for children to learn how to read and write with confidence and coherence, the sort of technical terminology they are now required to learn is not only difficult – it’s also very contested. Where they could be encouraged to read great literature, English lessons are weighed down by these overwrought concepts, purely because they slot neatly into a marking criterion.

School is supposed to be challenging. Education isn’t about making kids feel good about themselves. But it isn’t about treating them as digits on a spreadsheet, either. Caught between the bean-counters and ‘the blob’, state-school students are being denied the knowledge-rich, challenging and transformative education they deserve.