Friday, June 17, 2016

Disgusting: Mizzou Race Activist Scolds White People At Orlando Shooting Vigil

What is with this school? The University of Missouri seems to be a breeding ground for unhinged progressives, who appear to have turned a vigil remembering the victims of the Orlando attack into some weird lecture about race. The College Fix had the details concerning what Mizzou graduate and activist Tiffany Melecio said before addressing the diverse crowd, namely how she was nervous getting up on stage because of all the white people in attendance.

“I was really nervous to get up here because there’s a lot of white people in the crowd, and that wasn’t a joke,” she said (via the Fix) [emphasis mine]:

I wish this many people came out to our racial demonstrations and our Black Lives Matter movement,” Melecio told the crowd, which The Columbia Missourian estimated at more than 800.

Those are things you don’t consider when you are white or when you are an American,” said Melecio, a former staffer for the Missourian. She recalled fumbling over Spanish, her non-native language, when she came out as bisexual to her Spanish-speaking mother from Guatemala. Her family is Guatemalan and Puerto Rican.
“I’m tired of the black and white dichotomy we hear when we talk about race,” Melecio said. “We never take the time to talk about the shades [of skin] in between – like mine.”

Melecio implied that among white people, support for the Latino community was not as strong as it was for the LGBTQ community.
“As much as it is awesome that there’s so many people here today, but it’s, like, who are you really here for?” said Melecio.

That comment prompted strong reactions from those in the audience. “We’re here for everybody,” said an unidentified woman.
“I don’t want to stand up here and be angry because this isn’t for me, this isn’t for you, it’s for the people that we lost, the people that we may lose tomorrow, and the people we lost yesterday, but I thought I take the moment to just list out some facts that many of you probably don’t know because you’re white,” she added.

These people cannot help themselves. That arc of history must always be detailed, and they must always show that they’re supposedly on the right side of it. This was likely a terrorist attack. Yes, the vast majority of the victims were Hispanic since the killer, Omar Mateen, decided to attack during the Pulse nightclub’s Latin night. Was this racially motivated? Probably not—Mateen was scouting to launch a possible attack at Disney World, but what happened early Sunday morning certainly seems to be grounded in vicious homophobia. The killer himself reportedly could’ve been gay.

Yet, that’s beside the point, when terrorists attack the country—we unite. We unite in grief, anger, and hopefully we channel that into something constructive in increased awareness of our surroundings that helps the various agencies tasked with preventing terrorism do their jobs, heeding the words of FBI Director James Comey. We do not use these opportunities to whine about how attacks on the LGBT community get more attention, or how terrorist attacks get more attention, or the “black and white dichotomy” on race relations. What is this? People are dead. The nation has been attacked—and you’re irked because there are white people at a vigil for the victims of this attack, and that not as many showed up to past Black Lives Matter events? Grow up, kid.

If this is what we should expect from future Mizzou alums after the addition of mandatory “diversity intensive” courses, I’m sure we’ll see more drivel from these…snowflakes.

In all, this was just disgusting. Period.


British University introduces compulsory class on sexual consent to teach new students when no means no

First year students at one of Britain's top universities will be given a compulsory lesson on sexual consent from next year.

York University have announced that freshers' week events will include 'gender-neutral sexual consent briefings' by the campus's women's officers.

The talk will be among a number of safety briefings issued to new students, with non-attendance leading to a fine.

A university spokesman said: 'The University has agreed to support the Students' Union's request to incorporate gender-neutral sexual consent briefings for all new students as an aspect of the health and personal safety induction we give at the start of the academic year.

​'The aim is to help raise awareness and to help reduce the likelihood of harassment.

'We will also continue to collaborate with city-wide initiatives in the area of health and personal safety so that York students are well informed and ​enjoy a safe experience.'

The university's women's officers trumpeted the move as an 'amazingly positive step forward' and 'well-being officer' Scott Dawson hailed the 'amazing' work being done.

But some students branded the new scheme 'ridiculous' on the website of student newspaper,York Vision. One wrote: 'I sincerely hope that many students will boycott this talk; £30 is a fair price for freedom of thought and opposing Feminazis.' Another added: 'What a stupid idea. How about we have "not murdering" classes or "don't punch people" classes.'

The move comes amid fears that a culture of obsessive political correctness is taking over university campuses and inhibiting freedom of speech.

Earlier this year, an Edinburgh University student was told that raising her arms at meetings violated the 'safe space' of others. 

The student was also warned for shaking her head during a meeting as it breached the 'safe space' which is part of the university's Student Association rules.


Australia:  The Left's assault on technical college  students

On National TAFE Day 2016, the Turnbull Coalition Government is standing with thousands of TAFE students against Bill Shorten’s knee-jerk plan to charge students thousands of dollars in upfront course fees.

Minister for Vocational Education and Skills Senator the Hon Scott Ryan said choice and opportunity in Australia’s vocational education and training (VET) system were under attack from Bill Shorten and Labor, whose promises to cap fees will result in upfront fees for some TAFE courses.

"Labor frontbenchers[1] have admitted their plan will leave TAFE students paying thousands of dollars in upfront fees if their course costs more than $8000 per year,” Minister Ryan said. "Under Labor, students will have to choose between the course that best leads them to a job and the course they can afford.

Currently, eligible Australian students studying diploma-level courses or above can access a VET FEE-HELP student loan from approved institutions. If elected, Labor has promised to cap these loans at $8000 per student per year. Many TAFEs currently offer courses across a range of disciplines with fees well above the $8000 limit.

Under Labor’s proposal, students studying a Diploma of Maritime Operations at Hunter Institute, NSW, who are not currently required to pay upfront fees, will pay up to $13,025 upfront. Students studying a Diploma of Website Development at TAFE Queensland – Brisbane will pay up to $6,900 upfront and students studying a Diploma of Building and

Construction at Victoria’s Chisholm Institute will be forced to pay up to $8453 under a Shorten government. There are hundreds more examples across Australia, affecting thousands of future students.

Labor’s plan has been announced with no industry consultation and no modelling to gauge the effects of this policy on students. It has drawn criticism from both TAFE directors and representatives of private training providers.

"TAFE students have every right to fear Bill Shorten and Labor. Their plan to charge massive upfront fees has been introduced with no industry consultation and without regard for the impact on students,” Minister Ryan said.

Minister Ryan said Labor’s record in vocational education and training is disastrous. In 2012 Labor opened up VET FEE-HELP scheme to shonky providers and predatory brokers with no thought for the implications this would have on students and taxpayers.

"Labor is repeating the same mistakes it made in 2012, which led to the current VET FEE-HELP disaster, and this time they are asking  TAFE students to pay for Labor’s election promises” Minister Ryan said.

Labor’s ill-thought-through plan for massive upfront fees stands in stark contrast to the deliberative and consultative approach of the Turnbull Coalition Government, which has introduced more than a dozen measures to crack down on dodgy providers, and put students’ and taxpayers' interests at the heart of VET FEE-HELP reform.

Press release

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Biden Ready to Freeze Funds For Schools That Don’t Comply with Anti-Sexual Assault Initiative

Meghan Yap, a rape survivor who has used her horrific experience to speak out against rape culture, introduced Vice President Joe Biden at Tuesday’s White House State of Women summit in the nation’s capital. Biden is the perfect champion for women, Yap said, because he is the author of the Violence Against Women Act in the 1990s, which she says has worked to prevent assault and save lives.

“This has literally been the cause of my life,” Biden said after taking the stage.

“It’s all about the abuse of power – even the sexual assault,” he explained. “We have to give women and girls a greater voice. But that’s not enough. They have to be assured their voices are heard.”

At a White House event on Monday night, Biden shared how seven women grabbed his arm and thanked him for his efforts on VAWA, revealing that they had been raped. These were just a handful of the hundreds of testimonies he's heard about women being assaulted.

The vice president said he learned to respect women by following an important lesson from his father, “The cardinal sin of all sins is for man to raise his hand to a woman or child.”

Biden said at the time he introduced the bill that he got criticized on the right. Republicans accused his shelters of being “indoctrination centers,” he said. The legislation was also unpopular with women’s groups, he noted, because they worried it would take everyone’s eyes off gender equality and “choice.”

“So, I concluded the way we can make progress was to rip the mask off the dirty little secret that we had an epidemic in America,” Biden said.

The two most important goals of the act, he said, are to make sure women know they are believed and to accurately identify attackers.

“Women are getting to the point where they feel somebody might listen to them,” he said.

“Every single woman has the right to live her life free of violence.”

Then he offered an extreme analogy to demonstrate what he meant.

If a woman stripped “stark naked” here in the ballroom and walked to the Capitol, Biden suggested, she can be arrested for indecent exposure, but no man has a right to touch her.

“Violence against women is a crime pure and simple.”

Yet, the vice president admitted they have plenty of work to do to prevent sexual assault. The most discouraging moment of his career, he said, came after learning that among young women aged 18 and 24, the rate of violence has not decreased a single bit. Likewise, sexual assault on college campuses has not gone down at all.

Combating assault on college campuses appears to be an especially important cause for Biden. Last week, he penned an open letter to the victim involved in the high profile Stanford rape case, telling her he was “in awe” of her courage to speak out.

Biden and his team reached out to colleges across the country to get feedback on how they could change this dangerous culture. The top thing they heard from students, he said, was to get men involved. So, they started the It’s On Us initiative.

“The answer isn’t to shame women for drinking,” he said. “Consent isn’t ‘well I didn’t hear no.’ Sex without consent is rape.”

“Everyone has a responsibility,” he continued, particularly school administrations. “There is no excuse” for an institution of higher learning to put its reputation above students’ respect.

He and his staff are studying the results of hundreds of colleges across the country to determine if they have followed the It’s On Us guidelines.

If not, they can expect to be stripped of some important funding.

Biden says he “welcomes criticism” for this speech.


LGBT Bill Threatens California’s Religious Schools

A California state bill its sponsors say will prevent discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity at private universities is threatening to expose faith-based schools to enormous legal threats, school officials warn.

SB 1146, introduced in February by state Sen. Ricardo Lara, D-Bell Gardens, which passed the state Senate May 26, is designed to close “a little-known loophole” in California law under which private colleges can make admission, housing, and faculty decisions based on gender identity, gender expression, and sexual orientation, according to a press release from Lara’s office.

Lara is part of the state Legislature’s seven-member California Legislative Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Caucus, which advocates for LGBT rights.

“Under state law, at least 34 California universities are exempt and do not have to comply with state nondiscrimination laws, leaving thousands of students open to discrimination based on their sexual orientation or gender identity,” Lara said in a statement provided to The Daily Signal. “These universities have a license to discriminate and students have absolutely no recourse. Addressing this issue is long overdue.”

But critics say that this “loophole” is a deliberate and necessary protection to ensure that their exercise of religious liberty is protected.

“For us, the most chilling effect of this bill if it becomes law is it could result in an attempt to eliminate faith-based decisions when it comes to admission, housing, and perhaps even employment at faith-based campuses,” John Jackson, president of William Jessup University in Rocklin, California, said in an interview with The Daily Signal.

Even worse, critics argue, Lara’s bill might make it impossible for private schools to operate under any faith-based principles.

This is because SB 1146 dramatically tightens the criteria under which a school can cite freedom of conscience in making curricular and administrative decisions.

California’s education code already explicitly prohibits discrimination on the basis of gender identity, gender expression, and sexual orientation, but exempts “an educational institution that is controlled by a religious organization if the application would not be consistent with the religious tenets of that organization.”

Under Lara’s  legislation, that exemption would shrink dramatically, covering only “certain educational programs and activities of a postsecondary educational institution that is controlled by a religious organization.” The exception would apply to programs that “prepare students to become ministers of the religion, to enter upon some other vocation of the religion, or to teach theological subjects pertaining to the religion.”

As a result, administrators at faith-based colleges worry that they will soon have no legal recourse to make decisions based on their religion. 

“The problem is that it provides a course of legal action for any student that feels they’ve been discriminated against in any other setting,” Jackson said, adding:

So if this bill passes, and a student comes to our school and says, ‘I feel really uncomfortable that chapel was mandatory, or that the professor opened class in prayer, or with community service’—that is a required part of our faith commitments—the bill as written creates a private right of action, meaning that the student would have the right to sue a school over what faith-based schools consider a core part of our spiritual life.

Additionally, in a move that mirrors the Department of Education’s May release of documents revealing colleges that had appealed for religious exemptions to Title IX discrimination requirements, SB 1146 would require faith-based schools to disclose their religious exemption publicly on campus and in all promotional materials, including brochures, letters to high school applicants, and tours for new or prospective students.

Roger Severino, director of The Heritage Foundation’s DeVos Center for Religion and Civil Society, called the California bill “a direct assault on the ability of religious educational institutions to participate in public life and remain true to their religious identity.”

“There is no good policy rationale for stripping exemptions that have worked well for decades and have helped foster, not hinder, diversity in education,” Severino said in an email to The Daily Signal.

Several of the more radical provisions originally in SB 1146, including one that would allow students to bring civil suits against schools that qualified for waivers, already have been neutralized through amendments. But critics say that the amended bill continues to represent an existential threat to the survival of faith-based colleges and the diversity of college choice across California.

“It’s actually an attempt to decrease diversity in higher education rather than increase it,” Jackson said. “Students attend our schools voluntarily, and we think that the senator is making a grave mistake with this bill.”


China accused of buying influence over Australian universities

The Chinese government is buying influence over Australian universities by donating libraries and funds for institutes as part of a broader push to strengthen its soft power in the country, two Australian journalists have argued.

There appears to be “a concerted campaign to promote Beijing’s strategic interests in Australia through deals covering all the key areas of society”, claims a new piece in the Australian Financial Review.

The debate in Australia echoes concerns in the US, where the Chinese government has been accused of seeking to exert control over the academy by funding Confucius Institutes on university campuses.

The institutes are normally limited to teaching courses on Chinese language and culture and organising events, but critics have argued that they exert a chilling effect on debate about China’s ruling Communist Party and could be used to observe Chinese students abroad. US universities including Penn State University have already closed their Confucius Institutes because of these fears.

In Australia, the Chinese government has donated a library to the University of Technology Sydney, while the Chinese Yuhu Group donated AUS$3.5 million (£1.8 million) to the University of Western Sydney to fund a new Chinese cultural institute and AUS$1.8 million to create the Australia China Relations Institute, the AFR article says.

The authors, Angus Grigg and Primrose Riordan, write that the Chinese government is also buying influence over other areas of Australian society.

“To date money linked to China’s Communist Party has flowed to both major political parties, universities, primary schools, the national broadcaster and this week to the country’s biggest media companies,” they write.

They quote Rory Medcalf, head of the National Security College at the Australian National University, who said: “We have to assume that there is a larger strategy by the Communist Party to shift domestic public opinion in Australia on sensitive issues such as the US alliance and the South China Sea.

“The long-term goal is to make Australia less likely to oppose China in regional confrontations,” he added.

A spokeswoman for the University of Western Sydney directed Times Higher Education to a statement released last year about the establishment of the Australia-China Institute for Arts and Culture, which says it will be “an important point of access to Chinese culture, providing resources, support and expertise for those wishing to study and research one of the world’s oldest and most enduring societies”.


Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Boys can wear skirts to school under UK's new uniform policies

The United Kingdom has introduced a new "gender neutral" policy under which boys will be allowed to wear skirts and girls to wear trousers in schools. Eighty eight schools, including 40 primary schools, across the country have welcomed the new rule and are encouraging students to wear what they want, irrespective of their gender.

The move that has been funded by the country's government aims to be more open to school children, who are going through a gender identity crisis.

"We welcome all efforts to support young people on trans and gender identity issues and ensure that they feel happy, welcome and accepted at school, and it's encouraging to see this move," a spokesperson for Stonewall, an organisation campaigning for equality of lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans (LGBT) people across Britain, told The Independent.

"No trans person should be forced to present in a way that makes them feel uncomfortable. When this happens, it can be deeply damaging, particularly for young people," the spokesperson added.

In January, the 170-year-old private school Brighton College, had moved to omit the dress code for transgender students. Richard Cairns, headmaster of the boarding and day-pupil school, said, "This change follows requests from a small number of families. It ties in with my strong personal belief that youngsters should be respected for who they are.

"If some boys and girls are happier identifying with a different gender from that in which they were born, then my job is to make sure that we accommodate that. My only interest as headmaster is their welfare and happiness."

Birmingham's Allens Croft School is said to be the first state primary school to adopt the "gender neutral" policy.

The chairwoman of the ATL teaching union's equality and diversity committee, Julia Neal, said there should be no space for "gender identity prejudice" in education.

"It's about senior management teams and governing bodies understanding that there are a lot of facilities in schools that are separated — changing rooms and toilets and uniforms are very gender-specific.

"If there is gender fluidity they need to understand the importance of gender-neutral facilities. And they need to understand how pupils want to be referred to, as he or she. It's a delicate area," she said.


AEI Panel: Marxists outnumber conservatives in social sciences

An AEI panel discussion last Wednesday, titled “The Close-Minded Campus? The Stifling of Ideas in American Universities,” focused on the scarcity of conservative professors and students in the social sciences, with the panelists noting that conservatives are outnumbered in the field even by self-proclaimed Marxists.

The event featured professors Joshua Dunn of the University of Colorado, Jon A. Shields of Clermont McKenna College, and Steven Teles of Johns Hopkins University; and AEI scholars Frederick M. Hess and Christina Hoff Sommers.

Dunn and Shields, authors of the book Passing on the Right: Conservative Professors in the Progressive University, revealed that their study, conducted in preparation for the book, showed that the close-mindedness of university toward conservative ideas depended on the field of study.

“Among undergraduates, for example,” said Shields, “the politics of undergraduates is among the best predictors of their major. So, conservatives tend to gravitate into the natural sciences or into economics, and liberals tend to gravitate toward the humanities and social sciences.”

About 18 percent of social scientists in the United States self-identify as Marxists, compared to only about 5 percent who identify as conservatives, Dunn and Shields reported.

The panel believes that this is a great loss for conservative students and professors.

“That’s work conservatives need to do more of,” Teles said of the field of sociology. “I think this is another case where the absence of conservatives in sociology is very deeply problematic for conservatives because a lot of those kinds of methods and insights definitely improve the quality of conservative thought and analysis.”

The problem, they said, is that liberal policies are driving away both conservative professors and students from American universities.

Moreover, as conservative students face opposition like violence and censorship on college campuses, the university atmosphere has made it difficult for such students to concentrate on their academic studies.

Sommers elaborated on that point, referencing the “culture of paranoia” that has been growing on liberal campuses because administrators have “empowered some very neurotic people on campus, and risk-averse lawyers and deans are going along with it.”

Teles agreed, saying that there is the problem of “the growth of academic administration,” which he thinks “almost everywhere is a kind of plague . . . [a] new administocracy.”

The panel also discussed whether or not students and professors should pursue work in the academic world or in traditionally liberal fields of study. Despite the miniscule numbers of conservatives in the social sciences, the panel offered a few solutions to colleges and universities.

Sommers believes that “some university should declare itself a safe space for open debate . . . and dispense with trigger warnings” altogether. Safe spaces and trigger warnings, she pointed out, target and single out conservative students.

“There is a fallacy at the heart of this theory [of liberalism],” she said, “which is that ostensibly it’s trying to discourage sexism, racism, classism, but to discourage it, it practices them . . . And it’s almost an excuse for bullying.”

Shields then suggested an exchange program for professors, through which conservative colleges like Hillsdale College would be able to “export” professors to liberal universities like Amherst College, and vice versa.

“Hillsdale would certainly be more of a culture shock to an Amherst [professor],” Hess joked.

Teles proposed that intellectual conservative students entering academia should find a mentor to guide them.

“To be a good conservative”, Teles said, “. . . somebody needs to tell them what to read, what sort of activism is appropriate to engage in, which is true of going into any kind of field. You need to have mentors to look up to to tell you, ‘here’s how you’re supposed to behave.’”

Ultimately, the panel agreed, more intellectual conservatives are needed in all fields of academia, not just in economics, business, and the natural sciences.

Students and professors should not be afraid if they “want to pursue lines of inquiry that are rooted in conservative assumptions or values,” Hess asserted, adding that fields like sociology and other studies should not be dominated solely by liberals, because conservative ideas are so essential.

“Should we discourage conservatives from going into academia?” Shields asked. “The university may feel very closed at times, but that doesn’t mean that it’s an institution that’s beyond reform or change.”


DePaul President Capitulates To Outraged Anti-Milo Students, Tenders Resignation

Rev. Dennis H. Holtschneider has announced his plans to step down from his role as the President of DePaul University following pressure from radical left-wing activists in the wake of Breitbart Tech editor Milo Yiannopoulos’ recent visit to campus.

Holtschneider came under fire in late May for the University’s handling of a lecture given by Yiannopoulos, which was interrupted and shut down by DePaul students. Despite Yiannopoulos being threatened by one of the protesters, DePaul administration, under Holtschneider’s direction, refused to allow security to intervene during the event.

In response to the backlash over the mishandling of the event from students, alumni, and the general public, Holtschneider issued a lukewarm apology but failed to apologize to Yiannopoulos. As a result of the incident, the University’s Facebook page received a barrage of negative reviews and complaints, which dropped the school’s average rating overnight to below two stars out of five.

The apology only caused more problems for Holtschneider, however. The DePaul Black Leadership Coalition, representing black students and faculty members on campus, have put relentless pressure on the President ever since he apologized to the college Republicans, and called for his resignation. After attempting to placate them with a grovelling statement backtracking on his previous apology, Holtschneider has now revealed that he intends to resign.

In his resignation letter, Holtschneider claimed this decision is the best for the University moving forward. “I believe, therefore, it’s best for DePaul if I step aside in the summer of 2017 so that a new leader can assist the institution to name and ambitiously pursue its next set of strategic objectives.”

Holtschneider also claims that this decision was made several months ago, as part of a transition plan for the University.


Tuesday, June 14, 2016

"If the MCAS is so good, why are we ditching it?" Message from Boston

Massachusetts’ standardized test has long been considered the best in the nation. Here’s why we’re throwing it out

AS RAIN POURED outside on the chilly evening of February 24, a group of Arlington elementary school parents was imagining a sunnier place — Dorothy’s trip down the yellow brick road.

“Today you will read and think about the passages ‘Rescue the Tin Woodman’ and ‘Arriving at Emerald City’ from The Wonderful Wizard of Oz,” read a PowerPoint slide projected in the Thompson School gym, where the group had gathered. Linda Hanson, an Arlington School District literacy coach, was taking parents behind the curtain of a new standardized test their children would face April through June.

The exam, known as PARCC — which stands for Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers — was aligned to the Common Core, a set of national educational standards for what students should be able to do in each grade in English and math. Hanson warned the parents that their children should expect different — and probably more difficult — questions and writing prompts than they had seen on the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System test, or MCAS.

Take the sample writing prompt on The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, designed for fourth-graders. For any parents tempted into pleasant reminiscing about Munchkins and the Wicked Witch, the reverie didn’t last long. The prompt was complex: “Based on her words and actions in both passages, describe two of Dorothy’s qualities. Think about the person that Dorothy is. How do those qualities affect her adventures? Support your response with details from both passages.”

A woman in the back row whispered to her neighbor: “That seems hard.”

In the decade and a half since the national No Child Left Behind Act made annual, mandatory testing the new normal, protests have grown. Teachers and parents around the country have questioned whether any “cookie cutter” test can capture how much an individual student knows. The MCAS has long been considered one of the nation’s best tests at assessing student performance. But the shift to the Common Core State Standards meant it would have to go.

The PAARC tests, used in states such as Illinois and New Jersey since 2015, were supposed to be even better. Not the joy-killing machines ruining childhood, as so many critics have portrayed standardized tests, but true measures of whether children were learning the key skills they would need as grown-ups: how to think critically, solve problems, make a convincing argument, and write a coherent paragraph.

Instead, the uproar over testing has only gotten louder. The increased difficulty of PARCC and other Common Core-aligned exams sent pass rates plummeting, while teacher evaluations linked to scores have fueled union-led fights, including those now unfolding in Massachusetts. And the continued use of multiple-choice questions has parents, teachers, and kids questioning whether the new tests could be much better than what they were replacing.

Amid the controversy, the Massachusetts Board of Education decided last fall to create an MCAS/PARCC hybrid unique to this state. Officials and educators are optimistic that by retaining control over the test, they will help preserve Massachusetts’s spot at the top of the US educational pack.

Meanwhile, many parents and educators are hoping the state will take into consideration another important question: What is a good test? The state surely can’t devise a test students enjoy taking. But can it design one that, rather than dictating what students learn, captures what they know in a fair way? “I really want to see us get away from teaching for a test and letting the test support the educators’ goals in teaching our children,” says Angelina Camacho, a parent of a second-grader at a Boston public school. “The test should be illuminating the actual capacity of our students.”

Experts talk about testing in scientific terms: A test needs to be “valid and reliable” and “discriminate” among different levels of proficiency. While these words have precise definitions in the field of psychometrics, the experts essentially want the same thing parents and teachers want: a math test that doesn’t measure students’ reading comprehension but whether they can add fractions; an English test that doesn’t measure what students know about the Revolutionary War but how well they can use sample text to support an argument.

It’s a simple goal to talk about but far harder to pull off.

ON THE SURFACE, MCAS looks a lot like your typical state exam: a pencil-and-paper test, made up mostly of multiple-choice questions and some open-ended ones. But because Massachusetts had some of the most highly regarded standards in the country and the test was closely aligned to them, it earned a reputation as a bright spot in the testing world soon after it debuted in 1998. Massachusetts became a leader in national assessments in math, reading, and science.

But the national accolades for the MCAS didn’t mean everyone embraced it. As with other standardized tests, MCAS critics said it both pressured teachers to teach to the test and caused students undue stress — particularly the high schoolers who must pass the 10th-grade exam to graduate. A few teachers I spoke to said it wasn’t uncommon for them to disagree with the test results for individual students, although others said they trusted the scores. I heard similar things from students. “It’s a good representation of what you see in the classroom,” says Jodalis Gonzalez, a senior at Boston Prep, a charter school in Hyde Park. “That’s one thing I really appreciated.”

Mitchell Chester, commissioner of elementary and secondary education, says that MCAS, for the most part, has served the state well but that the time to make a change has come, even if Common Core hadn’t hastened the decision. The test has been given 19 times, Chester says. “Like anything that is going to be first-class, you need to upgrade from time to time.” PARCC was supposed to represent that upgrade in Massachusetts.

The first way PARCC differs from MCAS is that it’s designed to be given on a computer, although schools are allowed to use a paper-based version while they improve their technology. Computers can potentially help assess knowledge and skills in a variety of ways that would be more difficult to score on a paper test. A PARCC math question, for instance, may require students to first create an equation to prove they understand how to solve the problem, then type in the correct answer. A multiple-choice question might have more than one answer, to see if students can identify various synonyms of a word or equivalent fractions. For a deeper check of reading comprehension, students might be required to drag and drop events in a story in the correct order.

The MCAS test has been given 19 times since 1998. “Like anything that is going to be first-class, you need to upgrade from time to time,” says Mitchell Chester, Massachusetts commissioner of elementary and secondary education.

Common Core demands students go beyond rote memorization and demonstrate critical-thinking skills. Underscoring this goal, PARCC uses performance tasks, open-ended questions that require students to work through multi-step, realistic problems. One performance task, for instance, asks third-graders to read two articles about the Arctic and then write a letter using “ideas and facts from both articles” to persuade a friend that people and animals can live there.

(In terms of costs, performance tasks are more expensive to score than multiple-choice exams. But a 2015 state analysis found that, on the whole, PARCC costs $32 per student on average — $10 less than MCAS. And though the cost for PARCC was expected to rise, the report found “there is no clear conclusion that either assessment program is more or less expensive than the other.”)

Many educators in Massachusetts and elsewhere, however, have said that while the content of the new Common Core tests may demand more of their students, the technology enhancements are often just window dressing on items that could as easily follow a simpler multiple-choice format. Others worry the content itself is too challenging. For example, one Arlington third-grade teacher says she could imagine her students needing to reread a passage six times to find the two snippets of text that lead them to the correct definition of “teeming.” And there are still problems with taking the exam on a computer: Students can only see a few lines of text at a time while writing an essay, for instance, making it hard to effectively edit their work.

Communities across the nation have struggled with PARCC. Seventeen out of 26 states that initially committed to using the test in 2010 have since dropped out — some without ever trying it out — and an 18th state, Louisiana, is only using part of PARCC. In the spring of 2015, tens of thousands of students in New Jersey and other states opted out of taking the tests altogether. Technological glitches also meant some schools had to halt testing in the middle of exams.

In Massachusetts, the reception has so far been mixed. The state’s plan had long been for a slow transition to the PARCC, and in 2015, each district was able to choose whether to give the new test or stick to MCAS. In Boston, Worcester, and Springfield, individual schools within each district were given the choice. (The decision to offer both came at a cost, with the state needing to raise its annual assessment budget from $32 million to $37 million).

Some parents and educators felt strongly that the new test would push students to think more deeply, a view shared by Chester, who also served as chairman of the PARCC consortium’s governing board and was a driving force in bringing the test to Massachusetts. But a vocal contingent from the roughly half of school districts that had elected to take the PARCC reported poor experiences in their first run, either with technological snafus or the content itself. Education experts around the country began to wonder how big a blow Massachusetts would serve to the already beleaguered consortium if it left.

Still, the state Board of Education would need to make a final choice between MCAS and PARCC in November. As the deadline approached, the consortium made a game-changing announcement: Rather than forcing member states to use the whole test, it would  let them use individual questions a la carte. Faced with answering a multiple-choice question by (A) keeping MCAS or (B) fully committing to PARCC, the board went with the new option (C). In what some describe as a political decision meant to appease PARCC critics, the board decided the new Massachusetts test would be an amalgam of the MCAS, PARCC, and yet-to-be-written items. Chester, who was the first to suggest this compromise, calls the new test MCAS 2.0.

The 2.0 version won’t begin until 2017, so Massachusetts school districts again took either the PARCC or MCAS in grades 3 through 8 this year (the assessment budget was again bumped up by $5 million).

Boston-area educators have heard rumors that the hybrid exam will closely resemble PARCC in the end — but Chester says that largely depends on the feedback the state gets from teachers and principals. “If they tell us that very little of what’s been developed on PARCC is helpful and relevant, then we’ll use very little,” he says. “If they tell us a lot is aligned, we’ll use a lot.”

As MCAS 2.0 evolves, the state has created 13 committees and work groups to provide insight from teachers and others. One committee is taking another look at how the Common Core is incorporated into Massachusetts standards, to see if that needs any refinement. A test administration team will debate how many test sessions there should be and whether the tests should be timed (as PARCC is) or untimed (as MCAS has been). The Digital Learning Advisory Council, an existing group, will discuss how districts are progressing toward the state goal of total online testing by 2019.


No White Males Allowed

It’s not just the American educational system that has been overrun by buttercup Bolsheviks and social justice warriors hell bent on ousting any speaker or professor that doesn’t conform to their new and enlightened view of the world. The ivory towers in England are equally full of people pushing the bounds of absurdity. The union that represents brits working in higher education across the UK, University and College Union, banned straight white males from attending their equality conferences. On the application to sign up for the conferences, the union asks would-be attendees to describe their “protected characteristic.” If they don’t have some kind of identity with which to cry grievance, attendees are banned from speaking up during breakout sessions, called — you guessed it — “safe spaces.”

As Cat Reid of Heat Street writes, “[E]xcluding straight, white men from taking part in these conferences completely undermines their point. How are people expected to tackle minority issues when, in the most crass manner, one of the root causes of that problem is specifically excluded from participating — as though it didn’t exist? It is also incredibly ignorant to suggest that white men cannot — and don’t want to — fight for equality.”

However, the union’s decision highlights one thing of liberal thought: They are not interested in dialogue and listening to all the voices involved. “Equality” is all about an agenda. Talking (by some people) is not going to be tolerated.


When veterans need not apply

Northwestern profs decide a distinguished soldier isn't good enough

If you wonder what has become of us since the Greatest Generation began leaving the stage, consider this elegant 19th century warning from Victorian statesman and author, Sir William Francis Butler:

"The nation that will insist on drawing a broad line of demarcation between the fighting man and the thinking man is liable to find its fighting done by fools and its thinking done by cowards."

Despite that timeless advice, foolishness and political correctness recently joined hands at elite Northwestern University, neatly tucked away in Chicago's toniest suburbs. As the Chicago Tribune reported last week, faculty opposition caused retired U.S. Army Lt. Gen. Karl Eikenberry to withdraw his name from a tentative appointment to head the university's new institute on global studies.

Top officials at Northwestern had clearly viewed this prospective appointment as a huge win. In addition to his military rank, Gen. Eikenberry was deputy head of the NATO military committee, U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan and a distinguished public servant, intimately familiar with foreign cultures and decision-making at the highest levels of government. Then there was his gig at the newly minted Buffett Institute, underwritten by a $100 million grant from business magnate Warren Buffett's sister, one of the largest research grants ever awarded to Northwestern. What could possibly go wrong?

Alas, the president and provost of Northwestern had obviously neglected a standard piece of academic wisdom, namely that faculty meetings are so vicious because the stakes are so small. Normally they are: But that whole ballgame changes when the faculty's animal cunning is alerted that now, suddenly, something has arrived on campus that might be worth stealing.

Things at Northwestern began going south back in February. An "open letter on behalf of academic integrity" was signed by 46 faculty members but quickly became notorious for dismissing Gen. Eikenberry as a "non-academic career military officer" too closely aligned with American foreign policy to run a truly independent institute. Last week's Tribune article quoted a professor of foreign languages who insisted, "It wasn't because this guy was military. That wasn't the case at all." But as Max Boot sniffed in Commentary, "Apparently soldiers are good enough to fight and die for our freedom but are not good enough to teach our students. They are too biased, you see - in favor of America!"

The Northwestern campus is hardly alone as a stronghold of leftist orthodoxy and elitism. But we should be even more concerned with what this episode suggests about the widening gap between American society and those who defend us. Ironically, Karl Eikenberry is one of the most perceptive observers of that ominous trend. In a widely noted 2013 Washington Quarterly article, he wrote about the "political decoupling of the military from the American people" that not only impaired congressional oversight but even compromised our civic virtue. "We collectively claim the need for robust armed forces and yet as individuals we do not wish to be troubled with any personal responsibility for manning the frontier."

But maybe that kind of thing happens when only 1 percent of that society ever serves in uniform, or what I have called in previous books and columns our national tendency to fight wars using "other people's kids." That trend was also an abiding concern of a Northwestern scion, the late professor Charles Moskos, a dear friend and once the dean of American military sociology. Charley wrote a host of influential books and articles, even coining the phrase that our defense manpower policy had "achieved the GI Bill without getting the GI." While on a peacekeeping deployment to Bosnia in the late ‘90s, I looked up in surprise to see Charley right there with us, administering a soldier personnel survey while trying in vain to keep his Kevlar helmet on straight.

I can only imagine what Charley might have concluded about his university's latest demonstration that the American soldier has become separated decisively from the state he or she has sworn to protect with their lives. Would he have simply urged us to re-read The Federalist Papers - to revisit the idea that our armed forces are not "them" but "us"? Or would he have suggested that we study anew the uncertain histories of nations that have allowed service to country to molder into a dead letter?

I leave it to others to judge whether the 46 members of the Northwestern faculty who signed that odious petition are worthy, either of their tenured appointments or as successors to professor Charles Moskos. However, I sincerely question whether they really deserve the freedom purchased for them by those who wear the uniform, those soldier-citizens who bore the fight and should never be told: "Sorry, but veterans need not apply."


Monday, June 13, 2016

It's Time to Ditch 4 Years of Costly College for Directed Apprenticeships

Short, intense directed apprenticeships that teach students how to learn on their own to mastery are the future of higher education.

So it turns out sitting in a chair for four years doesn't deliver mastery in anything but the acquisition of staggering student-loan debt. Practical (i.e. useful) mastery requires not just hours of practice but directed deep learning via doing of the sort you only get in an apprenticeship.

The failure of our model of largely passive learning and rote practice is explained by Daniel Coyle in his book The Talent Code (sent to me by Ron G.), which upends the notion that talent is a genetic gift. It isn't--in his words, it's grown by deep practice, the ignition of motivation and master coaching.

Using these techniques, student reach levels of accomplishment in months that surpass those of students who spent years in hyper-costly conventional education programs. The potential to radically improve our higher education system while reducing the cost of that education by 90% is the topic of my books Get a Job, Build a Real Career and Defy a Bewildering Economy and The Nearly Free University and the Emerging Economy: The Revolution in Higher Education.

Let's start by admitting our system of higher education is unsustainable and broken: a complete failure by any reasonable, objective standard. Tuition has soared $1,100% while the output of the system (the economic/educational value of a college degree) has declined precipitously.

A recent major study, Academically Adrift: Limited Learning on College Campuses, concluded that "American higher education is characterized by limited or no learning for a large proportion of students."

The typical graduate of a short, intense directed apprenticeship says "I learned more in a month here than I did in four years of college." This is a statement of fact, and it is the result of the methods deployed in structured on-the-job training.

It is a fact that passively listening to a lecture does not generate the sort of mastery that creates economic value or the sort of deep understanding that is the goal of a classic liberal arts education.

It's also a fact that rote practice also doesn't lead to mastery, and often kills the very passion for a subject that in more productive programs jumpstarts mastery.

Our higher educational system has failed so badly that many students are incapable of writing/communicating effectively. In a world of rapidly changing technologies across every field and an emerging economy that places an ever-higher premium on collaboration and clear communication across multiple time zones and languages, the ability to write clearly is absolutely essential.

To "graduate" students with poor writing skills is completely unforgivable. Yet in the current system, if a student logs the requisite number of credits, a diploma is duly issued, regardless of how little he/she actually learned.

Here's a six-month program that could replace four years of hyper-costly, ineffective university.

1. Teach the students how to learn on their own, for the rest of their lives. This could take as little as a few hours or days. Once a student learns how to pursue deep learning and deep practice on their own, they don't need years of classrooms--they just need the guidance of someone experienced in the field, i.e. a structured apprenticeship.

2. One semester in a wide variety of on-the-job experiences. Once students are given real experience in a variety of fields and industries, it's likely some spark of ignition will occur and they'll find the motivation to pursue real mastery instead of a worthless credential.

3. Directed apprenticeships plus online lectures/workshops by the best lecturers viewed before or after the students' real work. The key to learning deeply and learning fast is to push right up against the current level of competence, where failure occurs and can be addressed one piece at a time.

Interestingly, Coyle notes that the most successful incubators of talent around the world are generally in makeshift or decrepit buildings, not fancy new gleaming buildings of the sort that dot American college campuses. Surrounded by luxury, who feels any hunger to learn anything voraciously?

The entire "campus experience" should be jettisoned, not just as an overly expensive infrastructure but as a detriment to fast, deep learning that is the foundation of mastery.

It isn't that hard to teach students how to improve their writing/communications skills very quickly, and give them a taste of the classic liberal arts education so many people claim is the goal of $120,000 four-year programs that fail to generate a deep understanding of anything remotely leading to mastery.

Give them a single sentence by Melville, Austin, et al. and have them compose a sentence that is like the original in cadence, structure and meaning in one minute flat. Go, go, go. Then break down each phrase and each component and work through each one to improve their first efforts, step by step. Repeat the process, always under intense time pressure.

Then take them out into the real world to report a journalistic story by interviewing people, checking facts, confirming quotes from sources, question the received wisdom around the topic and compose the story in journalistic style. Once again, break down their efforts line by line in comparison with a professional journalists' story on the same topic.

Then, in the second class... more doing the work at a breakneck pace, more being pushed beyond their current level of expertise, more corrections of errors and weaknesses, step by step, in a pressure-cooker of deadlines.

I can pretty much guarantee the students in such a directed apprenticeship will learn more about writing in a week than they would in a year of conventional coursework.

Short, intense directed apprenticeships that teach students how to learn on their own to mastery are the future of higher education. We can continue to squander trillions of dollars on an ineffective system until it finally collapses under its own weight, or we can admit the current contraption is unsustainable and a failure, and move on to a better, cheaper system.


Homeschoolers join in on pomp, circumstance

“Pomp and Circumstance” played softly from computer speakers hooked up to an iPod. Caps, gowns, and tassels were purchased on Amazon. Diplomas, also ordered online, were signed by parents.

It was a homemade graduation for six homeschooled students Friday evening in the garden behind the public library. With more than 7,000 students enrolled in homeschool programs in Massachusetts — a 20 percent jump since 2010 — such scenes are becoming more commonplace.

While the ceremonies may lack the whistles and bells of traditional high school commencements, they provide personalized send-offs for students who may have missed out on other time-honored school rites.

At Friday’s ceremony, students welcomed the chance to celebrate their achievement.

“I feel very official,” Yousuf Sander said as a tassel festooned with a gold-colored 2016 emblem dangled in front of his eyes.

“I guess it’s legitimate,” Jackson O’Brien said as he slipped a blue robe over his checkered shirt, dark slacks, charcoal vest, and black low-cut Chuck Taylor sneakers.

While no formal rite is required when students complete their studies, many homeschool cooperatives and organizations have embraced all kinds of events to mark graduation.

Last Saturday, 57 students attended a commencement in Holden held by the Massachusetts Homeschool Organization of Parent Educators, a Christian nonprofit that advises parents of homeschoolers.

In Newton, Janet Yeracaris threw a party Sunday for her son, Jason, whom she began to homeschool in the first grade. There was no formal graduation ceremony or diploma. Instead, about 90 people took part in a “free-form talking period” where friends and relatives congratulated Jason, who is bound for Carleton College in the fall.

Like many other homeschoolers, Jason has spent little time at home in recent years, taking most of his courses at the Harvard Extension School, while also learning Japanese.

For Yeracaris, who believes children are more focused about learning when given choices to discover their own passion, the party was an opportunity to honor her son’s milestone while introducing him to a slice of Americana.

“He hasn’t had any rituals, any things that mark the passage of time or accomplishments, so it was important to me to do something,” she said.

Nationally, there are 2.3 million home-educated students, up from 2 million children since 2010, according to the National Home Education Research Institute. The students, many of whom have been homeschooled since they were 5, are part of a community that traces its roots to the 1800s, before public schools were common.

Massachusetts has few regulations regarding homeschool education. Parents are required to submit an annual curriculum for approval to their town or city’s school superintendent, and students must complete at least 900 hours each academic year of instruction.

Homeschoolers aren’t required to take state assessment tests such as the MCAS. But in June, they are asked to submit samples of their schoolwork or test scores to the local district.

During their elementary school years, local students typically combine textbook learning with field trips to such historical sites as the Freedom Trail and Plimoth Plantation. Many also attend programs designed for homeschoolers at the Museum of Fine Arts, the Museum of Science, and the New England Aquarium while also enrolling in homeschool co-ops where parents volunteer and teach everything from robotics and calculus to Advanced Placement courses in science and history.

By the time they reach high school age, many of the students enroll at local universities, earning college credits while also still attending co-op classes in living rooms and rented office spaces.

At the graduation, all the hard work was behind them. It was a time for reflection, laughter, and some tears.

When Jackson O’Brien mentioned his parents in his speech he began to choke up, and hugs lingered when the names of students were read aloud.

One by one, parents were called up to the lecturn to hand out diplomas to their children. They were part of Let Imagination Fuel Education, a South Shore-based learning co-op, which has offered classes every Monday.

Two of the graduates are Eagle Scouts; one designed clothes for a TV reality show last year; others are musicians, actors, and self-described robotics nerds. All are planning to attend college.

“I guess the biggest lesson I’ve learned so far is that if you embrace the challenge of life, it will change what can be a futile struggle to obtain what is commonly referred to as success, to an odyssey as winding as any story in a book or movie,” Justin Conner, one of the class speakers, told the audience. Conner, who earned a four-year scholarship to George Washington University, hopes to become a naval officer.

After the 30-minute ceremony — and performances by homeschooled siblings who sang Green Day’s “Good Riddance (Time of Your Life)” — the graduates stood and exited, waving to the 70 friends and relatives who applauded.

As well-wishers snacked on vegetarian wraps, sipped soda, and relaxed in Adirondack chairs while the Beatles and Bob Dylan played on the iPod, graduates said the event served as proof that they are not too different from their public school friends.

“Usually we have the same attitude about work,” said Conner, who lives in Kingston. “The only thing is we’re just in a different pool. We’re a fish in a different pond.”


Islamic school cops $150,000 fine for illegal employment practices

One of Australia's top Islamic schools has been hit with heavy penalties of more than $150,000 after hiring teachers on illegal contracts and later tampering with evidence to cover up the wrongdoing.

The Australian International Academy of Education – formerly King Khalid College – was found to have violated workplace law by employing more than a dozen teachers on fixed-term contracts in 2012.

Salah Salman, the school's director-general and a member of the Order of Australia, was also condemned and personally penalised $2,200 for obstructing union officials seeking to inspect the teachers' contracts.

Imposed in the Federal Court on Wednesday, the fines are believed to be among the largest penalties ever ordered against a school in Australia.  Justice Christopher Jessup described the school's actions as "calculated deception".

Based in Melbourne, the academy was Australia's first Islamic education provider when it opened in Sydney Road, Coburg, in 1983. It now has campuses in Coburg, Coburg North and Caroline Springs, and in Sydney and Dubai.

The Federal Court upheld the Independent Education Union's claim that 13 teachers at the academy's Coburg campus were illegally hired on fixed-term contracts, which can only be used to plug gaps when teachers take extended absences from classroom duties.

The union said the school was entitled to hire just three teachers on fixed-term contracts under the teachers' award in 2012.

And when union officials went to inspect the school's files, Mr Salman instructed his personal assistant to change teachers' employment agreements, altering their status from replacement staff to full-time employees, the court heard.

Maurice Blackburn senior associate Daniel Victory said the case was a "warning signal" for any schools misusing fixed-term employment contracts.  "The misuse of fixed-term contracts is not just bad for teachers and students; this case shows that it can also lead to significant penalties for schools," he said.

"This case also highlights the importance of unions, as without the tireless work of the union, these contraventions may never have come to light."

Independent Education Union general secretary Deb James said the court's ruling was significant, and the union would be turning its attention to "other schools and colleges that have made a habit of putting people on fixed-term contracts".

"Fixed-term contracts make it hard for teachers to plan and can negatively affect their teaching," she said.

"Teachers want to concentrate on their students, not whether they will have a job the next year."


Sunday, June 12, 2016

Detroit Free Press Editor Calls For Murder Of GOP Lawmakers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Obama Administration Looks to Cement Ethnic Divides With Language Mandate

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Australia: "Safe Schools" debate cold shoulders parents

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Deliberate distortion that frightens people.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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