Friday, July 22, 2016

At GOP Convention, Even Some Delegates Clueless on Trump's Education Stance

Are you mystified as to where Donald Trump stands on education policy?

So are some of the people attending the convention here, where Donald Trump officially received the GOP presidential nomination Tuesday.

"I don't know what his views are on education," said Sue Sharkey, a member of the board of regents for the University of Colorado and a delegate from the Centennial State who supported Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas in the Republican primary. "I don't think he's really put a lot of thought into it. And I think his understanding of Thumbnail image for electionslug_2016_126x126.jpgeducational issues is probably pretty shallow."

Jonathan Hayes, a 20-year-old alternate delegate from Pennsylvania, is on the same page.

"The bombastic rhetoric of Donald Trump has overtaken" any talk of education, said Hayes, who had been hoping that Florida Sen. Marco Rubio would get the GOP nomination. "I don't think he has education listed as an issue on his website. So I'm very disappointed in that."

Hayes, a history buff who wore a hat with a button celebrating every GOP Hat.jpgnominee from President Theodore Roosevelt to former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, the 2012 nominee, is a first-generation college student. He sees education as critical to advancement, which is why he's especially disappointed about the lack of specificity on the issue from Trump.

So far, the convention speeches haven't helped matters, even though some of Tuesday's speakers, such as Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey and Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, the Speaker of the House, have long education records. In fact, the biggest K-12 moment of the night came from Donald Trump, Jr., who said his father would go big on school choice and attack teacher tenure.

Even some members of Congress here are in the dark. 

Rep. Rodney Davis, R-Ill, said he "didn't know" where Trump stands on education, but quickly added that he's hopeful that a possible President Trump would embrace the local-control spirit of the bipartisan Every Student Succeeds Act, the law to replace No Child Left Behind that passed late last year.

"He's an unknown as a candidate, and there are positives with that," Davis said in an interview at a small reception hosted by the National Education Association for Republicans with whom it has a good working relationship. "Hopefully he's going to listen to the folks who have worked in public policy before he got into politics."

Davis isn't the only lawmaker in wait-and-see mode. The two most important Republicans in Congress on K-12 issues—education committee chairmen and ESSA architects Rep. John Kline, R-Minn., and Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn.—told me earlier this summer they didn't know where Trump stands on K-12 policy.

Alexander, though, sounded more optimistic in an interview in Cleveland this week. He told me he asked Trump about ESSA when the mogul met with Republican senators, and got an assurance that the presumptive nominee was "very much for local control." 


Profit and Education Aren't Mutually Exclusive

Are for-profit charter schools a friend or foe of K-12 education in the United States? The question has taken on a sense of urgency within the past year as public commentary about them has largely been comprised of horror stories, including a case of false attendance reporting by Ohio Virtual Academy last May and, last week, a case of academic negligence by California Virtual Academies and Virginia-based K12, Inc. (Though California Attorney General and U.S. Senate candidate Kamala Harris' public account of that case has been forcefully disputed in The Wall Street Journal.) These cases have encouraged criticisms of for-profit charter schools and calls to close down the entire for-profit sector.

Of vital importance to this call is the notion that for-profit schools harbor a motive that makes them incapable of educating children – namely, a profit motive. Adults who aim to make money cannot have children's best interests at heart because they will look for opportunities to cut costs in an effort to pay shareholders rather than direct all available funds toward children's education. The conflict of interest created by this profit motive renders for-profit schools incompatible with public education.

This is nonsense. Education is not the only sector that provides public goods. Indeed, there are many public goods handled by private companies: hospitals, prisons and transportation systems operated by for-profit providers ensure public health, public safety and public transportation. In none of those cases does profit motive necessarily dispose the company to abdicate its mission of serving the public. In these cases, companies' ability to provide the best product possible is aligned with their ability to make money and pay their shareholders. Far from giving up their social missions to seek profit, they need to serve the public both to accomplish that mission and gain profit. Without mission, no profit. The mission is and must be primary.

The circumstances in the education sector do not nullify this logic. If an education company has a mission to provide excellent schooling for students, then it either fulfills its mission or it doesn't. If it does, then it is a worthy contractor and its charter should be renewed; if it does not, then its charter should be revoked. The for-profit K-12 charter sector can't be dismissed wholesale through the fallacious "profit motive" argument.

Facts on the ground bear out that for-profit education providers are capable of performing admirably. Charter Schools USA, a for-profit founded in 1997 that operates 70 schools across seven states and serves 60,000 students, had one of its Florida schools named in The Washington Post's 100 Most Challenging Schools. SABIS International Charter School, a for-profit charter high school opened in 1995 in Springfield, Massachusetts, has received a Silver Medal in the U.S. News rankings for the last eight years. And BASIS.ed operates two out of the top five high schools in the country, according to U.S. News.

But both supporters and critics of for-profit charter schools can toss examples back and forth to support their arguments. There are good and bad actors in every sector, and there are successful and failing schools in every sector. The goal of any person of good will engaged in molding the future of American public education should be to figure out the factors and best practices used by schools that are successful regardless of tax status and type. Those who pigeonhole for-profit charter schools because of a misconception about profit motive, as well as those who defend failing schools simply because of the fact that they are public, are failing students who need adults to have a frank, serious conversation about every mechanism for success at their disposal.

To that end, figuring out whether for-profits are friend or foe depends on figuring out what mechanisms they offer that nonprofit charters and traditional public schools do not. Mickey Muldoon, in his 2013 essay "The Costs and Benefits of Nonprofit and For-Profit Status," explains that for-profit status often means "investment money is easier to raise, growth and organizational agility are more natural, and there is more flexibility to attract top talent." There are no doubt circumstances that render for-profit status less desirable from an entrepreneur's perspective than nonprofit status – for example, easy access to philanthropic funding and political pressure that puts for-profits in low esteem in the eyes of the public – but the entrepreneurs Muldoon spoke with (and who represent a variety of political positions across the spectrum) ultimately recommended that educational entrepreneurs should consider for-profit status when starting out.

In many industries, successful companies tend to fly quietly underneath the radar while news of bad actors gets loudly proclaimed. But the story isn't as simple as that in education, and dismissal of the benefits for-profit companies might bring to a troubled education landscape risks short-changing students. Not all for-profits use their unique capabilities for good, but not all of them use them for ill, either. Bad actors that hurt kids should have no place in the conversation or the educational landscape, but good actors and success stories should. Perhaps we shouldn't be asking if for-profits are all friends or all foes; instead, we should ask, what do the successful for-profits have to teach us about improving K-12 education?


Australian school bans clapping and allows students ‘silent cheers’ or air punching but only when teachers agree

WTF is silent cheering?

CLAPPING has been banned at a Sydney primary school which has introduced “silent cheering”, “pulling excited faces” and “punching the air” to respect students who are “sensitive to noise”.

The school now only allows its pupils “to conduct a silent cheer” when prompted by teachers and says the practice “reduces fidgeting”.

Elanora Heights Public School, which is on Sydney’s northern beaches, announced its new “silent cheer” policy in its latest school newsletter.

The latest example of a political correctness outbreak in Australian schools, which have banned hugging, singing Christmas carols, celebrating Australia Day and singing the word “black” in the nursery rhyme “baa baa black sheep”.

The ban on clapping at Elanora Heights Primary School emerged on the same day that an exclusive girls school banned teachers from calling “ladies” or “women” in favour of “gender-neutral” terms.

In its July 18 newsletter, the Elanora school has published an item under the headline “Did you know” that “our school has adopted silent cheers at assembly’s” (sic).

“If you’ve been to a school assembly recently, you may have noticed our students doing silent cheers,” the item reads.

“Instead of clapping, the students are free to punch the air, pull excited faces and wriggle about on the spot.

“The practice has been adopted to respect members of our school community who are sensitive to noise.

“When you attend an assembly, teachers will prompt the audience to conduct a silent cheer if it is needed.

“Teachers have also found the silent cheers to be a great way to expend children’s energy and reduce fidgeting.”

The ban follows a direction at exclusive Cheltenham Girls High School in northwest Sydney for teachers to avoid discrimination and support LGBTI students by avoiding the words “girls”, “ladies” or “women”.

Elanora Heights Public School’s ban on clapping in favour of silent cheering comes after several schools have banned hugging.

In April, hugging was banned at a Geelong primary school and children were told to find other ways to show affection.

St Patricks Primary School principal John Grant said “nothing in particular” had caused hugging to be replaced by high fiving or “a knuckle handshake”.

“But in this current day and age we are really conscious about protecting kids and teaching them from a young age that you have to be cautious,” Mr Grant said.

He said he had spoken to teachers about his decision to ban hugging and then the teachers had spoken to classes, instructing the children on different methods of showing affection. He had not sent any correspondence home to parents but said there would now be a letter going home on Monday.

“There’s a range of methods including a high five or a particular knuckle handshake where they clunk knuckles as a simple way of saying ‘well done’,” Mr Grant said. “There are also verbal affirmations and acknowledgments.”

Children at the school have been enthusiastic huggers, he said, with hugs given out to teachers and other children.

“We have a lot of kids who walk up and hug each other and we’re trying to encourage all of us to respect personal space,” Mr Grant said. “It really comes back to not everyone is comfortable in being hugged.”


Thursday, July 21, 2016

Higher education associated with reduced heart failure risk after myocardial infarction

But why?  Easy:  Whenever it is examined, high IQ people are healthier -- and they also do best in the educational system.  This is an IQ effect.  High IQ is just one part of general biological good functioning

Higher education is associated with a reduced risk of developing heart failure after a heart attack, reports a study in more than 70,000 patients published today in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology.

"Heart failure is a serious complication of acute myocardial infarction and substantially increases the risk of death," said lead author Dr Gerhard Sulo, a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Bergen in Norway.

He continued: "Previous research has shown that patients are more likely to die after a heart attack if they have a lower educational level, but information on the mechanisms involved is sparse. Heart failure is the most important incident in the chain of events leading to death after a heart attack and we hypothesised that it might contribute to the observed educational disparities in survival."

The current study investigated the association between educational level and the risk of developing heart failure after an acute myocardial infarction (AMI). The study included 70 506 patients aged 35 to 85 years who had been hospitalised with a first (incident) AMI during 2001 to 2009 and did not have a history of heart failure. Patients were identified from the Cardiovascular Disease in Norway (CVDNOR) project, which contains data on all hospital stays with a cardiovascular disease-related diagnosis in Norway since 1994.

Information on the highest attained education level was obtained from the Norwegian National Education Database. Education was categorised as primary (up to 10 years of compulsory education), secondary (high school or vocational school), or tertiary education (college/university).

Patients were followed for an incident episode of heart failure until 31 December 2009. Based on its timing in relation to the incident AMI, heart failure was classified into two mutually exclusive categories; early-onset (heart failure on admission or developing during the hospitalisation for the incident AMI) and late-onset (either a new hospitalisation with heart failure or death due to heart failure after discharge from the incident AMI hospitalisation). Separate analyses were conducted for early and late-onset heart failure.

Of the 70 506 patients included in the analyses, 17.7% were diagnosed with early-onset heart failure. Patients with secondary or tertiary education had respectively 9% and 20% lower risk of heart failure compared to those with primary education.

Another 11.8% of patients were diagnosed with late-onset heart failure during an average follow up time of 3.4 years (interquartile range 1.5 to 5.9 years). Patients with secondary or tertiary education had respectively 14% and 27% lower risk of heart failure compared to patients with primary education.

When analyses were restricted to patients who received coronary revascularisation to clear blocked arteries after their AMI, those with secondary or tertiary education had respectively 16% and 33% lower risk of late-onset heart failure compared to those with primary education.

Educational differences in the risk of early-onset and late-onset heart failure were similar in men and women.

Dr Sulo said: "Education per se cannot be considered a 'protective exposure' in the classical sense but represents a clustering of characteristics that influence health behaviours and outcomes. It has been shown that patients with lower education tend to delay seeking medical care when heart attack symptoms occur and they have poorer access to specialised care. Both of these factors increase the risk of developing early-onset heart failure after AMI. Those with lower education are more likely to have coexisting medical conditions and unhealthy lifestyles which also increase the risk of heart failure."

He continued: "Patients with lower education are less likely to be prescribed medication after a heart attack to prevent heart failure, and they are also less likely to take their medication. This may explain the increased risk of late-onset heart failure."

Dr Sulo concluded: "Focused efforts are needed to ensure that heart attack patients with low education get help early, have equal access to treatment, take their medications, and are encouraged to improve their lifestyles. This should help reduce the socioeconomic gap in the risk of heart failure following a heart attack."



Three current articles below

A new Leftist horror coming to Australian education

The press release below is fairly bland and cautious but the Australian organization concerned is an acknowledged branch of the "Ashoka"  organization.  And if you read here you will see what that is all about.  Ashoka is  a movement to turn universities away from being mere educational institutions and making them into centres of agitation for "change".  No particular change is called for, just change for the sake of change apparently.  That rather makes it change as entertainment. 

But neophilia is indeed a major Leftist motive, as I showed long ago.  Conservatives by contrast want there to be good reasons for change.  They don't need to abuse the whole society for childish entertainment

One therefore rather wonders whether the taxpayer should be paying for Leftist entertainment.  The taxpayer already pays for a lot of Leftist propaganda in the universities. Is that not enough?

Given the vast expense of the Australian university system, one would hope for it to be used for serious purposes -- such as transmitting and developing knowledge.  Taking energies away from that can hardly be a right use of university facilities

 A visitor from Glasgow Caledonian University, Julie Adair is keen to expand her ‘Common Good First’ project into Australia, capturing stories of community social impact across a wide range of areas.

 Ms Adair is Director, Digital Collaboration for GCU and also has an extensive background in broadcasting with the BBC and the Walt Disney Company, with experience across several continents.

 Common Good First is a digital exchange of grassroots solutions to pressing social problems, both in the UK and around the world. The Common Good First team has worked with a range of community projects to, first, promote their objectives online and then to investigate how cross-disciplinary academic networks could input innovative approaches to social change in response to the challenges the projects are facing.

 “Stories take us beyond our own limited experiences and allow us to walk in the shoes of others, building knowledge of unknown places and understanding of diverse peoples,” Ms Adair says.

 As her home institution is registered as an ‘Ashoka U Changemaker Campus’, Ms Adair is this week visiting the Melbourne Campus of CQUniversity, which has recently become Australia’s first approved Ashoka U institution.

 She will talk about the project she started in 2015 with two small teams in Scotland and South Africa, each focusing on identifying and capturing stories of community social impact.

 The project focused on individuals within communities who had found innovative ways to solve problems in their community.

 “These activities ranged from re-educating prisoners to raising aspirations for young people in areas of high deprivation; from tackling dementia to supporting orphans and vulnerable children,” Ms Adair says.  “Now in Australia I’m keen to express the importance of storytelling and its role in driving social innovation and also why I’m keen to gather and curate stories from around the world.

 “I’m keen to let people know how they can become part of our exciting project.

More via this

Calls for intervention over Sydney girls’ school gender neutral language policy

A LEADING Sydney girls’ school’s decision to eliminate gender-specific terms from its teachers’ vocabularies has prompted calls for sackings and government intervention at the exclusive institution.

Teachers at the prestigious northwest Sydney school, Cheltenham Girls High School, have been asked to stop referring to students as “girls”, “ladies” and “women”, and use only gender-neutral language, The Daily Telegraph today reported.

The request was put to teachers at a staff meeting earlier this year discussing the implementation of the Safe Schools anti-bullying program, the newspaper reports.

It was suggested to teachers that by using such language they could be seen to be breaking the law and could be at risk of being sued by LGBTI students.

Discussing the article on Sydney radio station 2GB, talkback shock jock Chris Smith described the arrangement as “deplorable”.

“They’ve been scared into doing this by whoever’s pushing that twisted bible the Safe Schools program, and they’re scared of somehow being sued,” he said.

Smith took calls from listeners calling for the minister responsible to step in and the teachers, principals and administrative staff to be sacked and the school taken over by administrators.

He said if the school was serious about its new language policy, it should take its signage with white paint, eliminating the world “girls” from its title.  “You just wonder what world we’re talking about, we’re talking about our suburbs,” he said.

Speaking on Seven’s Sunrise program, former news presenter Ron Wilson described the situation as “ridiculous”.  “Let’s step in and put a new board in place just like Parramatta,” he said.

There has been similar commentary on Nine’s Today this morning, with Sunday Mail editor Peter Gleeson telling the program the initiative was “overreach at its worst”.

“I am all for diversity and making sure that our younger generation understand exactly what is going on within the community, but to implement something like this, it’s just ridiculous.”

NSW Education Minister Adrian Piccoli has asked his department to investigate.

In an interview with Macquarie Radio, the Minister confirmed there was a meeting at the school reminding teachers of discriminatory language and denied it was connected to Safe Schools. “I don’t think there’s anything improper about that,” he said.

A spokesman for the NSW Department of Education told gender-specific terms would still be used by teachers at the school.  “Gender-specific terms will continue to be used by Cheltenham Girls’ High School when referring to students.

“As the Education Minister has asked the Department for a report on public claims raised in relation to this matter, it is not appropriate to comment further on them at this time.”


UK takes new technical education track

The British government’s recent plan for English technical education is a rejection of markets and competency-based training. It also reverses the convergence of vocational and academic education that has been a major trend for decades in Australia, Britain and the US.

What the British government describes as the most significant transformation of post-school education in 70 years is likely to be influential here because of the extensive policy borrowing between Australia and Britain.

Both countries have followed each other in establishing and then abolishing university grants commissions, establishing polytechnics (colleges of advanced education), collapsing polytechnics into universities, introducing income-contingent loans, establishing associate degrees or foundation degrees, and establishing research excellence assessments.

Britain’s Post-16 Skills Plan proposes to collapse 21,000 qualifications into 15 technical education routes. In Britain, vocational qualifications are awarded by 158 organisations, many of which are private for-profits that multiply qualifications to increase their market share. In a passage that could have been written about Australia, the plan rejects the market in qualifications: “Instead of competition between different awarding organisations leading to better quality and innovation in the design of qualifications, it can lead to a ‘race to the bottom’ in which awarding organisations compete to offer qualifications that are easier to pass and therefore of lower value.”

The plan establishes two educational tracks for students after age 16 by building a technical education track to complement the already well established academic track. The technical track, in turn, will have two options: college-based technical education that will include industry placements, and employment-based technical education such as apprenticeships, which include at least 20 per cent college-based education.

College-based technical education will extend to diploma level, and employment-based technical education will extend to bachelor level, incorporating the 1000 degree apprenticeships that have been established since 2013.

The government’s plan closely follows a report by an independent panel that was chaired by former science and innovation minister David Sainsbury and included Alison Wolf, a professor at King’s College London, who has influenced both sides of politics.

The panel rejected basing qualifications on national occupational standards, Britain’s version of our training packages. Again in a passage that applies directly to Australia, the panel states that national occupational standards “have been derived through a functional analysis of job roles and this has often led to an atomistic view of education and a rather tick-box approach to assessment. As such we do not consider them to be fit-for-purpose for use in the design of the technical education routes.”

The panel also rejects public funding being allocated to for-profit providers. Recent Australian statistics show that last year private providers offered 46 per cent of government-funded vocational education in Australia and 69 per cent in Queensland.

The British panel estimated that at least 30 per cent of technical education funding was allocated to private providers.

The panel argued: “Given what appears to be the highly unusual nature of this arrangement compared to other countries and the high costs associated with offering world-class technical education, we see a strong case for public funding for education and training to be restricted to institutions where surpluses are reinvested into the country’s education infrastructure.” The panel also stated that “publicly subsidised technical education … should be delivered under not-for-profit arrangements”.

This would be a significant reversal for Australia, where private provision has exploded from 29 per cent of government-funded vocational education in 2011.

Britain will implement its Post-16 Skills Plan while the country introduces an apprenticeship levy from April next year. This levy is similar to Australia’s training guarantee, introduced a year after HECS in 1990 but discontinued in 1994. It will require employers with a payroll of more than £3 million ($5.2m) to spend 0.5 per cent of their payroll on apprenticeships.

These changes will be undertaken by a restructured bureaucracy. New British Prime Minister Theresa May has moved responsibility for further and higher education from the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills to an enlarged Department for Education.


Wednesday, July 20, 2016

On MIT blog, black students complain about racism

The discussion below is very shallow.  Nobody seems to ask WHY whites are wary about blacks.  Perhaps the answer is too obvious:  The high rate of criminality among blacks.  On some estimates, one third of black males will have spent time in jail during their lives, and they are only the worst offenders.  So whites have very good reasons to minimize their contact with blacks.  And that is mainly what is complained about below: not persecution but social reserve.  It was once much worse. 

White society has made great efforts -- with affirmative action and otherwise -- to improve the lot of blacks but many blacks have not picked up the ball.  And while blacks by their own behaviour alienate whites, there will be very little real acceptance of them.  It is racism of a sort but it is racism born of realistic caution.

For decent blacks, the situation is of course galling but getting angry about it will achieve nothing at the best and will deepen racial division at the worst.  The recent shootings of police show how disastrous black anger can be.  If there is much more of police shootings, it is not hard to see that many police will refuse to go into black-majority areas -- thus leaving innocent blacks to the black thugs.  Police refusing to go into black areas is relatively rare today but we may not be far off from it becoming an epidemic.

We all at times have to "swallow" slights and blacks need to swallow the fact that whites will always be wary of them.  There is no other healthy way forward.  Blacks have to accept the reality that their very faces are faces of fear

And police feel that too.  When they pull up a black, they are on hair-trigger alert for black aggression towards them. And sometimes the trigger gets pulled on the basis of a mistake.  An innocent action by a black can look like pulling a gun.  And in that case an innocent man may die from a police bullet -- as a result of what it essentially a mistake or an accident.  That is how Philando Castile died.  If blacks became generally co-operative rather than hostile to police, far fewer would die of police bullets.

But who can see that happening?  I can't.  So the time when many black areas will become no-go areas for police cannot be far off.  And the big losers from that will be blacks

Just before he took a dinner break at work earlier this month, MIT senior Vincent Anioke scanned the Web for news and stopped on the graphic video of the July 6 shooting of Philando Castile by a Minnesota police officer.

As he read comments below the video, Anioke grew angry. He forgot about his dinner. Instead, he sat at his desk at Google in Kendall Square and in 45 minutes, pounded out a strongly worded essay about his own struggle as a black man in the United States.

“There is no nuance, there is no complication,” he wrote. “There is no subtlety. There is a problem. We feel like dogs. We feel like we don’t matter.”

His words went viral, among the MIT community and beyond — part of an uncommonly open discussion being fostered at MIT about the racial tension gripping the country.

Anioke’s post — like others that poured out after the spate of violence — appears not on Facebook or Medium, but on MIT’s official admissions website, a resource for prospective students. His became the most viewed in the past six months.

“We want to let our students speak, because we know that’s the best way to tell the story about MIT,” said Kirk Kolenbrander, an MIT vice president. “There is no decision by the institution, by MIT, about what gets printed.”

In the wake of the shootings in Minnesota, Louisiana, and Texas, the university has also encouraged other types of discussion about racial tension.

MIT’s president, L. Rafael Reif, wrote a letter in the days after the shootings, urging people at MIT to talk with each other about the violence, and then use their smarts to “help right the ship of our society.”

MIT held a lunch at which more than 600 students, professors, staff, and alumni sat around tables, ate chicken sandwiches, and talked. They talked about feeling anxious, sad, helpless, angry, guilty, and frustrated that they can’t change systems that seem broken, said DiOnetta Jones Crayton, associate dean for undergraduate education and director of the MIT office of minority education, who spoke at the event.

And of course, being scientists, people talked about experiments, and hypotheses, and solutions Jones Crayton said. Could technology help end racism, they wondered?

“We have expertise that we can lend to this dialogue,” she said in a phone interview after the event. Another student blogger wrote about the lunch.

Many colleges have student bloggers, but those at MIT are unusually candid. The school encourages the bloggers it selects each year to write what they want, so among entries about cooking, dormitory drama, and math problems are posts about depression and suicide, about sexual assault, and recently, about racism.

When Anioke’s post went live July 8, he was nervous about the response. He had written about his struggle to find community at MIT because, as someone from Nigeria, he didn’t totally identify with African-American culture.

“Because we’re mostly black [in Nigeria,] ‘being black’ was never a term that was part of my daily vocabulary. You were tall or short or fat or skinny or intelligent or a complete and utter idiot, but you weren’t black. It was as weird as saying ‘you’re human.’ ”

Then one day, he wrote, he was walking home from the Central Square post office in Cambridge and a white man grabbed him, accused him of stealing someone’s wallet, and hurled a racial slur.

“I can’t hide under some fancy little idea that there’s a barrier between black and African, because what matters to these people — you know who these people are — is that they can take one look at the color of your skin, and populate their minds with the entire back story of you,” he wrote.

“They can take one look at you, and before they’re even looking away, they’ve put you — they’ve put us — in this mental catalogue.”

As his post went live, he watched as the social media tickers at the bottom of the page spun. Five thousand, then 10,000, then 26,000 likes, and 1,320 tweets. His post is the blog’s seventh-most-viewed in the past six years, MIT said.

Other posts also have students talking. Sophomore Ben Oberlton’s July 11 post, “Life of a Black Person,” generated lots of conversation. In January, in response to other race-related events on other campuses, rising junior Selam Jie Gano wrote about training the eye to see color, and training people to respect each other. She followed up last week with a post called “Alien in America.”

“The difference between seeing and not seeing incidents of discrimination that happen to others is also about practice,” wrote Jie Gano in the earlier post, which even generated a comment from Reif.

For Anioke, the best part of writing was reading the comments. Unlike the shallow reactions on Facebook that had prompted him to write — comments that implied Castile was somehow partly to blame for being shot — these were thoughtful, filled with people sharing personal stories and messages of understanding.

“I sort of just kept writing and writing until I was done writing,” Anioke said in a phone interview last week. “I felt like I had spoken honesty.”

“Sometimes I wonder, can things change? Can things ever change?” Anioke said. “I do think things can change, we just need enough people to come together.”


University Receives $3.3M For Fruit Promotion, Cooking Classes

An odd use for Higher education

The University of California San Diego School of Medicine Center for Community Health recently received a $3,384,909 grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to increase affordable food access to participants in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).

“Working in conjunction with Northgate González Market, the Center will develop a program to increase the purchase of fruits and vegetables among SNAP participants by providing incentives at point-of-purchase at markets in Los Angeles, Orange and San Diego counties,” The UC San Diego website says.

The website claims the effort “will include financial incentive rebates on fruit and vegetable purchases, special fruit and vegetable promotions and in-store cooking classes, store tours and education on food labeling. The program will also provide researchers with key data to better understand healthy purchasing behaviors.”

The multi-year large-scale project at UC San Diego is part of the $16.8 million in grants to help SNAP under the Food Insecurity Nutrition Incentive (FINI) program announced in June.

“This funding will enable us to significantly increase the number of consumers participating in nutrition incentive programs and the amount of USDA dollars spent on healthy eating,” said Joe Prickitt, senior director of the Southern California Nutrition Incentive Program with UC San Diego School of Medicine Center for Community Health.


British schools are told to call transgender children 'zie' rather than 'he' or 'she' in case they cause offence

Teachers are being told to call transgender children 'zie' rather than 'he' or 'she' to avoid giving offence under new official guidelines.

The Boarding Schools Association has told teachers to learn a 'new language' as part of official guidance which is aimed at 'queering the education system'.

The advice aims to help teachers navigate the 'minefield' of gender identity and deal with children and young adults who do not want to be referred to by male or female pronouns.

As part of it teachers have been told to address children by their 'pronoun of choice', including they or 'zie'.

Alex Thompson, deputy chief executive of the Boarding Schools' Association, said the guidelines hope to help school staff who may be 'in the dark'.

He told The Telegraph: 'Teachers, heads and deputy heads were asking questions about these issues and they felt they were in the dark on what was politically correct and had fears of causing offence as young people largely between the ages of 13 and 18 were questioning their gender identity.

'There was a strong understanding when it more obvious and direct when someone came out as gay but not in the area where young people were asking 'who am I?' to a member of staff and these were questions they had not been asked before.

Mr Thompson added: 'It's amazing how complicated the whole thing is in a community where the norms are the ones we have accepted for years.

'It's tricky for individuals that are having difficulty accepting there is something beyond the binary system of gender we take for granted.'    

Last month teachers at Britain's leading girls' schools were told to stop calling pupils 'girls' or 'young women' in case it offends those questioning their gender identity.

Head teachers belonging to the Girls' Schools Association were instructed to use gender-neutral words like 'pupils' or 'students' to avoid discrimination.

The advice also banned the phrase 'young ladies' and recommended the creation of unisex lavatories.

Caroline Jordan, President of the GSA and headmistress of £33,000-a-year Headington School in Oxfordshire, backed the advice saying it affects an increasing number of young people questioning their identity.

'In assemblies, instead of saying 'Girls, go to lessons,' staff should consider saying 'Pupils, go to lessons,' or 'Students, go to lessons,'' she told the Sunday Times.

'I do not want anyone to think that girls' or boys' schools are invested in one way of being a girl or one way of being a boy.

My view is that where you can use gender-neutral language about people that is a good thing,' she added.

The advice was given to the GSA by Gendered Intelligence whose chairman, Jay Stewart, branded the phrase 'young ladies' sexist and 'transphobic'.

He said about one per cent of the population were transgender and that the new guidance helps them to not feel like 'freaks.'

Some schools have  already introduced gender-neutral uniforms, including Brighton College in the private sector and a further 80 state schools.

Brighton College said it scrapped its traditional uniform to accommodate 'gender dysphoric' pupils.

The college said it has axed the 170-year-old code to meet the needs of youngsters who see themselves as the opposite sex from their biological gender.

Instead, the school is introducing a 'trouser uniform' and a 'skirt uniform' for pupils up to age 16. Girls who have gender dysphoria will be able to wear a tweed blazer, tie and trousers, while dysphoric boys will be able to wear a skirt, bolero jacket and open-neck blouse.

At least one pupil has already taken up the option, Brighton College said, while a handful of other families have made inquiries on behalf of their own children.


Tuesday, July 19, 2016

More Gladwell stupidity:  Attacking Bowdoin College

It's been said by someone who has studied him that "There is more of reality and wisdom in a Chinese fortune cookie than can be found anywhere in Gladwell’s pages"

That the college has a legitimate interest in attracting the brightest students is overooked. Bright students tend to have lots of options so marginal advantages like better food might attract them to one college versus another.

Bowdoin is a school not a charity agency so there is no in principle reason why it should give anything to anybody.  Nonetheless it does already give free enrolment to many bright but low-income students. Bowdoin claims to be among the most economically diverse liberal arts colleges in America

Author/essayist Malcolm Gladwell has said that his new podcast, “Revisionist History,” is “about things forgotten or misunderstood.” It’s familiar terrain for the frizzy-haired New Yorker writer famous for imparting counter-intuitive wisdom.

In the latest episode, titled “Food Fight,” Gladwell argues that some liberal arts colleges, notably Bowdoin, located in Brunswick, Maine, spend too much money on the food served to students at the expense of financial aid that might enable a greater number of low-income kids to attend the school.

As you might imagine, Bowdoin disagrees and posted an angry response to Gladwell’s podcast on its website Friday.

“Malcolm Gladwell’s podcast ‘Revisionist History’ (aptly named) takes a manipulative and disingenuous shot at Bowdoin College that is filled with false assumptions, anecdotal evidence, and incorrect conclusions,” the statement says.

The podcast episode, which includes interviews with Bowdoin students marveling at the gourmet food served by chef Ken Cardone — Orzo and tofu salad! Smashed chickpea, avocado, and pesto sandwiches! — is a brutal takedown of the college’s alleged priorities.

“The food at Bowdoin is actually a problem, a moral problem,” Gladwell says.  By contrast, he claims, Vassar College, located in Poughkeepsie, N.Y., is an example of a liberal arts school that serves ordinary — and sometimes, according to some Vassar students, crummy — food because the focus is on education.

“There’s only one solution if you’re looking at liberal arts colleges,” Gladwell says. “Don’t go to Bowdoin. Don’t let your kids go to Bowdoin. Don’t let your friends go to Bowdoin. Don’t give money to Bowdoin or any other school that serves amazing food in its dining hall.”

In its online response, Bowdoin says that Gladwell never inquired about budgets or financial aid practices: “Gladwell and his producer focused only on Bowdoin’s food in a manner that was disingenuous, dishonest, and manipulative. Their only questions were about food and were directed at dining service staff and students, not the president, not the chief financial officer, not the dean of admissions, and not anyone else.”

The school posted its response on Facebook and Twitter, and alums immediately flamed Gladwell for the podcast that one person called “asinine drivel.”

Gladwell isn’t backing down. In an e-mail Friday, he told us Bowdoin is deflecting. “Bowdoin College is a school with a rich and privileged alumni group, over a billion dollars in the bank, a tiny student population, and every conceivable material advantage — that nonetheless ranks 51st nationwide in offering opportunities to low income students. If I am ‘disingenuous’ in pointing out that disgraceful fact, then what is Bowdoin in choosing to deny it?”


How a teacher bombed the SATs

I HOLD A PhD in English from the University of California, Berkeley. I’ve taught students to write at Emory, Berkeley, and Harvard and picked up three teaching awards along the way. I have published more than two dozen pieces in national publications, including The Atlantic and Vanity Fair.

In May, I bombed the essay portion of the SAT.

Did I mention that I’ve also been prepping students for the SAT as a teacher and tutor for the Princeton Review for almost 20 years?

This spring, the College Board, which administers the SAT, introduced a new, optional essay section of the test. Almost two-thirds of spring test-takers opted in, even though less than 10 percent of colleges require the essay. The College Board believes the new essay looks “a lot like a typical college writing assignment in which you’re asked to analyze a text.” It is scored from 1 to 4 by two graders in three areas: reading, analysis, and writing. The scores are added together to generate totals between 2 and 8 in each category.

In May, I took the SAT because it is part of my job to be up on the test. We had to analyze an op-ed by Eric Klinenberg decrying the use of air conditioning. The directions explained, “Your essay should not explain whether you agree with Klinenberg’s claims, but rather explain how [he] builds an argument to persuade his audience.”

I followed the directions and wrote what I thought was a decent piece, particularly after having completed a three-hour exam. And I didn’t bomb everything. I received a 7 in reading, which, according to the College Board, measures how well I understood the passage and used textual evidence. I also got a 7 for my writing score, which measures how “focused, organized, and precise” my essay was, as well its use of “an appropriate style and tone that varies sentence structure and follows the conventions of standard written English.” But when it came to analysis, which demonstrates an “understanding of how [an] author builds an argument,” I landed a 4.

A 4. Despite my half-dozen peer-reviewed articles published in academic journals, I scored in the bottom half of the range. According to the score, I will need to do some serious work before I go to college or maybe I should just major in math (I hit 99th percentile on the math section, as well as on the evidence-based reading and writing section).

After absorbing the blow to my ego, I was left wondering how I could have done so badly on the essay, particularly after publishing an op-ed in The Wall Street Journal that argued that students who prepped for the exam would simply use a new formula for writing their essays.

It’s my own fault that I did not employ the template we teach students to use at Princeton Review, a fact painfully brought home when one of our students let me know he scored an 8 in reading, 7 in analysis, and 7 in writing.

Was my essay really as bad as my graders thought it was? I needed to know, so I contacted two experienced teachers of college writing to get second and third opinions.

My first grader, Kevin Birmingham, not only taught for several years in the Harvard College Writing Program, he also won the Truman Capote Award for Literary Criticism this year for “The Most Dangerous Book,” a gripping examination of the publication of James Joyce’s Ulysses. The second grader, Les Perelman, spent 25 years at MIT directing undergraduate writing programs; he was a strident critic of the old SAT essay but thinks the new assignment represents an improvement.

I gave Perelman and Birmingham three essays, marked simply A, B, and C. Essay A was mine. Essay B was written by a colleague in the test prep industry and received a 7 in reading, an 8 in analysis, and an 8 in writing. Essay C was the aforementioned student’s essay (8-7-7). Neither of the graders knew I had written one of the examples. They were provided the prompt and the official scoring rubric and asked not just to score the essays using the rubric but to rank them for their overall quality.

I did not sleep well as I waited to see the results.

Both Birmingham and Perelman ranked mine first out of the group, and my re-score came out to 7-7-7. Birmingham scored and ranked the student essay (C) the lowest of the bunch. Perelman, who graded the essay according to how he expected it to be graded by official scorers, gave it the highest score in the group and ranked it second. Without prompting, he explained in an e-mail, “I scored C, a classic, mechanically produced five-paragraph essay higher than I normally would because standardized testing loves this form because it is easy to get consistent scoring.”

Neither of the graders knew I had written one of the examples.

My personal failure matters very little in comparison, however, with the failure of the new SAT essay to distinguish actual writing skills from the ability to employ a template that lends itself to quick grading by ETS employees making $15 an hour to start.

The SAT essay assignment and the five-paragraph format it encourages will likely do students little good after graduation. In a recent survey of K-12 and college teachers, ACT found that college teachers considered the ability to generate ideas the most important skill for their students to possess, twice as important as the ability to analyze texts. The problem with the College Board’s new SAT essay, as Perelman said to me, is that it “rewards nonthought and mechanistic writing.” Bombing it might not be so bad after all.

It is perhaps too apt that at the top of each page provided to write the SAT essay it reads, “DO NOT WRITE OUTSIDE OF THE BOX.” I only hope students do not take this warning too much to heart.


White working-class boys are being put off university by success stories of celebrities who never went such as Richard Branson

They're known as some of the most inspirational businessmen in history.

But the success of industry giants such as Sir Richard Branson and Lord Sugar is actually putting working-class boys off of further education.

A new report, that is released today, has analysed why so few young white working-class men now choose to go on to higher education.

According to The Times, the report, commissioned by King’s College London, suggested that one method of increasing the number could be to target parents.

It also said that efforts to encourage white working-class boys to attend further education should begin at primary school.

The report quoted one head teacher who discussed the influence of celebrities.

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, who dropped out of university, is also cited as an inspiration to many.

‘He said that white working-class boys at his school are exposed to two messages, via the media and peer networks, that have a particularly strong influence on their perceptions of university,’ the report said.

‘Firstly, they are aware of highprofile cases of entrepreneurs who have not gone to university, or who have not completed their courses, and have still gone on to achieve success.

‘Secondly, they have friends who have gone away to university and returned to the same low-paid jobs they were doing before they left for their studies, only now saddled with debt.’

The issue of so few choosing further study has been made worse by the fact that there is no agreed definition of the term ‘white working class,’ making it difficult to monitor the group.

According to The Times, a manager at another school explained that the positive financial benefits of further education were not always known: ‘One of the really important things for white working-class students . . . is to be able to see what the earning potential of their next step is.

'They simply cannot see how it’s a worthwhile trajectory to pick A levels.’

Another report by the University of Bristol also found a gap between boys and girls aged five in literacy and language.


Monday, July 18, 2016

New UVA sex scandal as volleyball player accuses freshman of rape - but he won't be prosecuted as he insists encounter in bathroom was consensual

The University of Virginia, the location of the infamously fabricated gang-rape story printed in Rolling Stone last year, has found itself in the spotlight again thanks to another allegation of sexual assault - but this time the events surrounding the alleged rape are all too real.

Sophomore volleyball player Haley Lind believes she was raped at a UVA house party on August 22, 2015. The unnamed freshman athlete she was with swears it was all consensual. Both have been left distraught.

And the UVA says there's just not enough evidence to do anything about it, The Washington Post reported.

The problem, the university said, is that there's no direct evidence that Lind (who agreed to be named by the Post) was unable to give consent to the athlete when they had sex in a bathroom: He said she did, and she can't remember.

And although she ended the night in such a stupor that she woke up drenched in urine, the university argues that when Lind was seen kissing the freshman earlier in the night, she had been capable of conversation and walking.

That, the university argues, means the athlete had no idea how drunk she was.

Mark Schamel, an attorney for the freshman athlete, called the 96-page investigation 'the most thorough and complete university investigation I have ever seen.'

'UVA and Charlottesville law enforcement determined that my client did absolutely nothing wrong and had affirmative consent,' he said, 'the evidence proved that.'

Lind's lawyer, James Marsh, was less pleased. 'Someone had to work very, very hard to reach a finding of no responsibility,' he said. 'I’m at a loss to explain how UVA reached this decision. It just doesn’t make sense.'

It's an unhappy ending for both students, who found themselves haunted by what ought to have been a night of carefree fun.

'Since this event I do not feel safe on (the UVA campus) and I do not feel safe for any of my friends,' Lind told The Washington Post.

'I do not think anyone truly understands the situation that I was in that night or the long-term effects this has had on my life.'

And the athlete - who maintains that he thought the sex was consensual - has also been affected. 'There were times I’d put my ball cap over my eyes and hope not to be noticed,' he said. 'I grew wary of other people, and I kind of lost some trust in the system.'

It's a tragic ending for both students, and perhaps the sad but inevitable result of a night in which the truth is lost in the clamor of alcohol and differing voices.

The incident took place at the annual Block Party on Wertland Street, in which students - especially athletes and freshmen - move festivities from house to house. It looked 'like a riot,' one student recalled.

It was in one of those houses that Lind and the unnamed athlete met at around 11pm, an hour after she had set off to the party.

Both had drunk before they met: she'd had a Smirnoff Ice, two shots of tequila and two shots of vodka before heading to the party; the athlete said he had drunk five beers and one-and-a-half cups of the house's own 'cocktail.'

Shortly after meeting, they both gulped down more liquor, squirted from a pesticide tank strapped to another athlete's back.

That was the last thing Lind remembers doing before waking up in her bed, covered in her own urine. The UVA later said the liquor was not tainted with drugs, nor was there evidence the athlete had given her a drink.

What occurred next was told in a patchwork of memories and observations pieced together by university investigators who spoke to both students, their friends, and others at the party - forming a picture that was, they said, too incomplete to act on.

The athlete says that he and Lind started kissing, and that he thought she found him attractive. He said she invited him back to her apartment - an invitation that was overheard by another student.

Other students said they witnessed the couple kissing, holding hands and caressing one another. Some said they thought she was very drunk; others said she merely appeared tipsy.

Rather than go to her place, the athlete said, she accepted his suggestion to go upstairs to a bathroom where, he said, she put a condom on him.

He claims they were interrupted twice by other students - and both times Lind told the other party to leave them alone. The second time, he said, a student climbed on the roof outside the bathroom window and looked in on them, causing him to bolt and leave Lind behind.

'Because (Lind) has no memory she is unable to offer any facts that support or refute others’ descriptions of the events,' the investigators wrote. 'We note that (the athlete) is the only person who described what occurred in the bathroom.'

A university wrestler claims that shortly afterward he entered the bathroom and found Lind naked other than her shoes, stumbling around drunkenly - so much so that she slipped on the bathtub and hit her head.

The wrestler told investigators he helped Lind, who was 'too drunk to, like, realize what was going on,' into her clothing and took her home. On the way they were seen by a cop, who said she was 'very intoxicated,' unable to walk properly and had a vacant look in her eyes.

When she woke up the next morning, she had leaves in her hair and her bed was soaked in her own urine. She couldn't remember what had happened.

'I felt like I had been violated in some way, but I didn’t know what it was,' she said, adding that seeing she had wet the bed 'scared me because I was so unconscious I could not wake myself up to get to the bathroom.'

Lind tried to put it behind her, but her performance in class and on the volleyball court began to falter as it gnawed away at her. But she didn't want to be a 'traitor' by telling on another athlete.

In mid-September, two others on the volleyball team told the coach, who - bound by UVA rules - logged the report on September 14.

Lind met with associate dean Nicole Eramo that day and expressed her concerns about being a 'traitor.' The following day the UVA informed police and the prosecutor's office. On September 25, the official investigation was launched.

On April 13, UVA investigators released a 96-page report that concluded although Lind had drunk so much she eventually blacked out, it couldn't be proven that she hadn't given consent.

The athlete, they said, could have been 'unaware of her possible incapacitation' because when he met her, she was capable of holding a conversation, walking upstairs and performing 'fine motor tasks, such as unwrapping a condom.'

Lind appealed the result, but it was denied. 'I’m not doubting myself for a second,' Lind said in December, before the investigation closed. 'He shouldn’t go on to live a normal life like he does now. He should have a consequence for it.'

This is not the only such story to occur at the UVA. In 2014 the university had the fifth largest number of reported rapes on campus, a June 7, 2016 report by WVTF said, with 35.

Brown University and the University of Connecticut topped the list with 43 cases each.

Warner 'Dave' Chapman, Charlottesville's top prosecutor, said that his office only prosecutes 'a handful' of UVA sexual assault cases each year, due to a lack of evidence and the complicating factor of alcohol.


UK: Grammar School supporters optimistic’ 18-year ban will be lifted by Theresa May's new government

Theresa May's elevation to the highest office in the land has raised hopes that her new government could open a wave of grammar schools across England as part of a dramatic overhaul of state education.

The Prime Minister has expressed support for parents who want more places in academically selective schools, and backed plans for a grammar to be expanded in her own constituency.

Under a law created by Tony Blair in 1998, no new grammar schools are allowed to open in England.

Senior Tories believe Mrs May – who attended a grammar school – will be open to reviewing that ban in her drive to help more working-class children receive a high-quality education.

Such a move would delight many Conservative MPs and educational traditionalists who were disappointed when David Cameron ruled out creating new grammar schools.

There are 163 state grammars left in England, and many are regularly at the top of academic league tables, beating even top private schools.

However, they are now hugely oversubscribed. Senior sources have indicated Mrs May’s team could review the ban as part of her focus on social mobility.

Graham Brady, the MP for Altrincham and Sale West, resigned from Mr Cameron’s front bench in 2007 in protest at his refusal to support new grammars.

On Saturday night, Mr Brady, the chairman of the 1922 Committee of Conservative backbenchers, said he was “optimistic” Mrs May would end the “silly” ban. “It was absurd that Labour legislated in 1998 to ban new grammar schools, however much people may want them in a particular area,” he said. “I hope that the new Government will seek an opportunity to repeal this silly ban as soon as possible.”

As a local MP, Mrs May gave her support this year to plans for a grammar school to open a satellite campus in her Maidenhead constituency.

The Prime Minister also served as shadow education secretary 15 years ago when her policies included overturning Mr Blair’s ban on new grammars.

Her new chief of staff, Nick Timothy, is another former grammar school pupil who has previously backed selective education.

In an interview with this newspaper last year, when he was director of the New Schools Network, a group that helps to set up free schools, he said: “I don’t believe in limiting the number of good schools. "I do believe in the diversity of the system and choice for parents, and I don’t see why selection couldn’t be a part of that choice.”

Opponents of academic selection, who include many MPs on the Left, say it stigmatises children by categorising them as failures at a young age if they do not pass the 11-plus exam.


Australia: Education does not lead to violence
 Jennifer Buckingham 

A lot of people who have never been to Aurukun have opinions about its problems; some have even confidently pronounced a link between the long-term and deep-seated social dysfunction in the town and the Direct Instruction teaching program used in the Cape York Academy in Aurukun for the last five years.

I haven't been to Aurukun, so I am not going to opine on what is happening there. However, it is important to correct some of the misinformation about Direct Instruction. A number of terms are used interchangeably which have some features in common but are substantially different.

Direct Instruction (spelt with capital letters) is a set of copyrighted commercial programs developed in the USA. They consist of carefully planned and sequenced lessons and assessments that are designed to be used by teachers without deviation. Both the content and the instruction are prescribed. DI programs have been evaluated and refined for almost fifty years and are consistently found to be very effective. Many schools around Australia use DI programs such as Reading Mastery and Spelling Mastery.

The other direct instruction (spelt with lower case letters) is a research-based instructional approach that can be used by any teacher in any lesson. The key principles are: revision of previous learning; presentation of new information in small steps with immediate practice; frequent interaction with students to check for understanding; explicit modelling of skills; gradual movement to independent practice; and cumulative review and assessment to achieve long-term retention. Studies of direct instruction strategies show stronger effects than 'inquiry' or 'discovery' approaches.

Similarly, explicit instruction or explicit teaching is essentially similar to direct instruction. It is a general pedagogical approach in which lessons are structured and sequenced to give students a high degree of support and guidance initially and to minimise gaps in knowledge, progressing to independent application. Reviews of high performing schools find explicit instruction to be a common factor.

Explicit Direct Instruction is a specific curriculum and teaching program developed in Australia for use in Australian schools. It is based on the principles of direct instruction and has similarities to Direct Instruction but allows for more teacher discretion. EDI is based on sound research but has not been evaluated to the same extent as DI.

 Despite their strong research basis and an undeniable track record of success, these teaching methods and programs are frequently maligned by education academics and teachers. To reject the evidence of their efficacy is bad enough, but the idea that they lead to violence is patently ridiculous.


Sunday, July 17, 2016

When Government Schools Weren't Nearly So Bad

Robert Higgs remembers.  I have similar recollections from the late 50s and early '60s.  See also here

I do not speak Spanish fluently. Indeed, I am often at a loss for the right words, not to mention a proper conjugation of the verbs, and I frequently fail to understand what people say to me. Yet all in all, I am astonished that, living in a part of Mexico where few people speak English, I get by as well as I do. And whenever I spend a day in Chetumal, as I did yesterday, dealing successfully with one sort of business or another, I never fail to remember with gratitude my high-school Spanish teacher, Mrs. Tocher, who taught me at least 90 percent of the Spanish I know today. She will always hold a cherished place in my affections.

How did I manage to acquire such an excellent education from a government school, the sort that nowadays performs so badly?Nor is she the only one of my high school teachers I revere. Above all, I am indebted to Mrs. Raven, my 9th grade English teacher, whose instruction in English grammar has carried me through a fair degree of success as a writer and editor over a span of fifty-five years or so. She and my other English teachers introduced me to some of the timeless works of English literature, especially several of Shakespeare’s greatest plays, along with books such as Dickens’s Tale of Two Cities and Great Expectations, among others.

Mrs. Malm, my 12th grade English teacher, began to hone my skills as an essayist. Several math teachers did a creditable job of teaching me algebra, geometry, trigonometry, and elementary calculus, and “Prof.” Silver, an elderly science teacher, gave me a decent grounding in chemistry and physics. Mrs. Hume, in a semester of the 9th grade, taught me how to type and write proper business letters, skills that I have been putting to good use for nearly sixty years. To all of these dedicated and competent teachers I remain deeply indebted.

Now, I ought to mention that these teachers worked for a government school, Dos Palos High School, a rural institution in California’s San Joaquin Valley, about 50 miles west of Fresno, that drew its students from an area of perhaps 40 miles or more in diameter, employing a fleet of buses to carry us to and from school five days each week. I lived in the outer reaches of the school’s service area, and because I remained after school for athletic practice, I normally did not get home until 6 o’clock or so each afternoon. So I spent a lot of time on the bus, reading novels about short boys who against all the odds ended up making the winning shot from the half-court line as time expired in the state championship basketball game—you see, I had dreams of my own in those days.

Old School

How, one might ask, did I manage to acquire such an excellent high school education from a government school, the sort of school that nowadays performs so badly? Several reasons suggest themselves. First, the public schools in those days — I attended high school between 1957 and 1961 — were pretty much local in their management, control, and operation. No doubt they had to adhere to some state guidelines, yet they were largely free to provide the kind of schooling that their local “customers” found to be valuable (including a great deal of vocational as well as academic instruction). Second, teaching was still a respected profession, especially for talented women, who had fewer professional alternatives in those days. Third, because the school teachers and administrators enjoyed a substantial measure of community, respect, and trust, they were able to maintain enough discipline and control of the often-rowdy students to make learning possible for those who wished to learn. My parents would never have dreamed of quarreling with the school authorities. If I had got into trouble there, they would have backed the school all the way. (Fortunately I managed to stay out of serious trouble at school.)

Decentralization had been the saving grace of the government schools, and once that was effectively destroyed, no such grace remained.Of course, once the conditions I’ve just described began to change in the latter half of the 1960s, the government schools began to go to hell, and they went there remarkably quickly between 1965 and 1975 or so. They have never recovered, and in some important respects, such as serving as dispensers of trendy, politically correct propaganda and bogus science (especially in regard to “the environment”), they have become much worse. When federal funding and its associated red tape intruded onto the scene from the latter 1960s onward, poor performance was well-nigh guaranteed, and the character of the schools changed irrevocably for the worse insofar as the children’s learning was concerned. Decentralization had been the saving grace of the government schools, and once that had been effectively destroyed, no such grace remained: only a mass — and a mess — of rule-following, with many of the rules being more or less stupid or merely political in their instigation.

Well, that’s progress, they say. But I don’t see it that way. In my view, the developments in public schooling since my days as a student there more than fifty-five years ago have been overwhelmingly regrettable, and I doubt that many students today, even in the better suburban schools, come away with as valuable an education as the one I received in that long-ago time in a “backwoods” (in my case, back desert) high school.


The Travesty of Teacher Tenure

The mills of justice grind slowly, but life plunges on, leaving lives blighted when justice, by being delayed, is irremediably denied. Fortunately, California’s Supreme Court might soon decide to hear — four years after litigation began — the 21st century’s most portentous civil rights case, which concerns an ongoing denial of equal protection of the law.

Every year, measurable injuries are inflicted on tens of thousands of already at-risk children by this state’s teacher tenure system, which is so politically entrenched that only the courts can protect the discrete and insular minority it victimizes. In 2012, nine Los Angeles students recognizing the futility of expecting the Legislature to rectify a wrong it has perpetrated asked California’s judiciary to continue its record of vindicating the rights of vulnerable minorities by requiring the state’s education system to conform to the state’s Constitution.

After 10 weeks of testimony, the trial court found the tenure system incompatible with the California Supreme Court’s decision, now almost half a century old, that the state Constitution, which declares education a “fundamental” state concern, guarantees “equality of treatment” to all K-12 pupils. It “shocks the conscience,” the trial court said, that there is “no dispute” that “a significant number of grossly ineffective teachers” — perhaps more than 8,000, each with 28 students — are doing quantifiable damage to children’s life prospects.

Technically, California teachers are granted lifetime tenure after just two years. Actually, they must be notified of tenured status after just 16 months. (Thirty-two states grant tenure after three years, nine states after four or five. Four states never grant tenure.) When incompetent or negligent teachers gain tenure, dismissal procedures are so complex and costly that the process can take up to 10 years and cost up to $450,000. The trial court called the power to dismiss “illusory.” Each year approximately two teachers are dismissed for unsatisfactory performance — 0.0007 percent of California’s 277,000 teachers.

Instead, school districts are forced to adopt what is called the “dance of the lemons,” whereby grossly ineffective teachers are shuffled from school to school. Another facet of the tenure system — the teachers last hired are the first fired when layoffs are required — reinforces the powerful tendency for incompetent teachers, who must teach somewhere, to accumulate in schools with the most teacher vacancies. These are disproportionately schools attended by low-income minority children.

Abundant research demonstrates that teacher quality is the most important school variable determining academic performance. This is why there is more variation in student achievement within than between schools. This variation is especially dramatic among students from educationally disadvantaged families. A single grossly ineffective teacher can deprive students of a full year of learning, with consequences that include lower graduation and college attendance rates, and lifetime earnings more than $250,000 lower than for pupils without a single incompetent teacher. Because teachers' unions insist that financial appropriations are the all-important determinants of schools' successes, they are perversely reluctant to acknowledge the importance of quality teachers.

The appeals court responded with a judicial shrug to the trial court’s factual findings. It said California’s tenure system does not constitute a denial of equal protection because the identifiable class of people being injured have no “shared trait.” Oh? What about their shared injury? The injured pupils share a susceptibility to injury because of their shared trait of being economically disadvantaged. This trait concentrated them in schools that themselves have a shared trait — disproportionately high numbers of bad teachers.

The appeals court breezily said the injured were merely an “unlucky subset” of pupils, a “random assortment” produced not by the tenure laws but by the administration of them. This, however, is a distinction without a difference: The tenure laws' purpose is to dictate outcomes by depriving administrators of discretion. Systemic results cannot be dismissed as “random.” Even if the tenure laws were neither written with a discriminatory motive nor administered with a discriminatory intent, the system is now known to produce — not invariably but with a high probability — predictable patterns of disparities.

Liberal and conservative legal luminaries, from Harvard’s Laurence Tribe to Stanford’s Michael McConnell, have urged California’s Supreme Court to do what the appeals court neglected to do — apply heightened scrutiny to the tenure laws that prioritize teachers' job security over pupils' constitutional right regarding education. California’s Supreme Court will have national resonance if it affirms that public schools are established to enable children to flourish, not to make even dreadful teachers secure.


Making college ‘free’ will only make it worse

LIKE SANTA CLAUS and time travel, “free” college tuition sounds great in theory but doesn’t actually exist in real life. For much of the past year, Bernie Sanders’ promise to make public higher education free for all attracted multitudes of enthusiastic supporters to his presidential campaign. Last week, Hillary Clinton embraced most of the Sanders proposal, paving the way for him to endorse her formally on Tuesday and, she hopes, to convince voters who #FeltTheBern in the primaries to back her in November.

Under Clinton’s new plan, in-state tuition at public colleges and universities would be abolished for students from families with incomes up to $125,000. The campaign estimates that that would make higher education tuition-free for more than 80 percent of American families.

If only.

The hard truth, alas, is that higher education cannot possibly be free. In time, the Rockies may crumble, Gibraltar may tumble — but no politician’s promise or electoral mandate will ever make the costs of providing a college education vanish. There ain’t no such thing as a free lunch. That has always been the first pillar of economic wisdom.

Even Clinton acknowledges that “free” tuition will be expensive. Her campaign puts the 10-year price of implementing the proposal at roughly $450 billion. The American Association of State Colleges and Universities tells Time magazine that $520 billion would be closer to the mark

A promise of “free” tuition is merely a promise to stick someone else with the tab. At half a trillion dollars or more, the tuition tab is already pretty enormous. But if there’s anything we should have learned from 40-plus years of government efforts to keep higher ed affordable, it is that the more Washington pours into holding down the cost of college, the more expensive college becomes.

Uncle Sam has tried everything — grants and loans, subsidized work-study jobs, tax credits and deductions. Result? The price of tuition, room, and board at an in-state, public college has soared from $1,405 in 1971 to $19,548 today — an increase of 1,300 percent. Unlike food, clothing, and energy, the cost of college has raced far ahead of inflation. As economic studies, including recent work at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, have repeatedly shown, the government aid meant to quell the flames has succeeded only in fanning them. If the Clinton/Sanders pledge becomes law, it is virtually certain that college will become even more costly. Perhaps that explains why 20 out of 22 economists surveyed by NPR judged Sanders’ proposal a bad idea.

Of course, Washington can formally shift the cost of college from students and their families to the taxpayers. But that won’t let students and their families off the hook. For one thing, their families are taxpayers too. And as students join the workforce and become taxpayers themselves, they will really feel the burn — from tax rates that had to be raised to accommodate the half-trillion-dollar cost of their “free” tuition.

Besides, making any good or service free encourages people to waste it. No product was ever valued more highly by being given away for nothing. Enact legislation that lets anyone go to college on the taxpayers’ dime, and we’ll see more unmotivated college students whose time would be far better spent elsewhere.

The overconsumption of higher education is already pronounced. Just 59 percent of college students at four-year institutions manage to earn a degree within six years. “Today’s college students learn a lot less than college students once did,” writes economist Thomas Sowell. “If college becomes ‘free,’ even more people can attend college without bothering to become educated and without acquiring any economically meaningful skills.”

“Free” K-12 education is replete with problems. To turn a famous Hillary Clinton phrase, it requires a willful suspension of disbelief to conclude that “free” tuition will improve higher education. It may be good for politics, but making college free will only make it worse.