Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Stanford: Fascist students stage walkout at Robert Spencer event, administration bars others wanting to enter

Stanford administration is responsible for what happened tonight, as they aided and abetted the smear campaign that the Stanford Daily and Stanford Review carried out, and coddled the students who were spuriously claiming that they felt “threatened” by my presence. Above all, they are responsible for refusing to enforce their own policy regarding disruption of the event. Even after the fascist students left, they refused to admit others who wanted to get in. What were Stanford officials afraid of? That someone might hear a truth that the elites have deemed unacceptable?

The Stanford administration also barred the Young America’s Foundation from streaming the event. The reason behind that was clear: they didn’t want the behavior of Stanford students to be exposed before the world. They knew what was coming, and they supported it.

If this were a sane academic environment, Stanford President Marc Tessier-Lavigne and Provost Persis Drell would be forced to resign in disgrace for allowing first the smear campaign that preceded my event, and then for allowing it to be disrupted. But this is not a sane academic environment, and Stanford is not in any genuine sense a university.

In The Coming of the Third Reich, historian Richard J. Evans explains how, in the early days of National Socialist Germany, Stormtroopers (Brownshirts) “organized campaigns against unwanted professors in the local newspapers [and] staged mass disruptions of their lectures.” We have seen just that play out at Stanford: a massive and libelous smear campaign in the Stanford student press, and then the disruption of the event itself. Stanford is just an Antifa recruitment center, not a center of learning.

Meanwhile, I can’t stop laughing at the report below. I did not say “neo-grouchers,” but I do wish I had. I don’t know what I said at that precise moment, but it was probably “neo-fascists.” “Neo-grouchers” is much better. Thanks, Lisa Amin Gulezian.

“Stanford students walk out on talk from author they say is ‘racist, Islamophobic,'” by Lisa Amin Gulezian, KGO, November 15, 2017:

PALO ALTO, Calif. (KGO) — Minutes after author Robert Spencer started to speak, the packed room cleared out.

“You are all little totalitarians and neo-grouchers, a stain on Stanford University and academia in general,” Spencer said, directing his attention to students in the audience.

It was an orchestrated move by students who opposed Spencer’s presence on campus. The university’s Young Republicans sponsored the event.

Many students expressed outrage that Spencer, the director of the website Jihad Watch, was invited. “Racism, bigotry isn’t welcome. Those espousing hatred can’t have a platform on this campus,” said student Jana Kholy.

When asked if he was racist or Islamophobic, Spencer responded with laughter. “I’m neither one. Islam is not a race. Mass murder is not a race.”

Though Bruin Hall was nearly empty after the walkout, Spencer supporters weren’t allowed in. Organizers insisted that Spencer was invited to create a dialogue….

In the meantime, 200 or so students gathered nearby in support of what they say the true Stanford is about. “I will not continue hate speech on this campus,” said one student.


UK: I became a teacher at 57. I am learning the hard way — it is brutal, says Lucy Kellaway

A year ago I announced that after three decades I was leaving the Financial Times to become a maths teacher in a tough secondary school and that I had set up Now Teach, a charity to encourage other fiftysomethings to quit their cushy jobs and join me. Almost everyone said the same thing: you’re mad.

I replied that I was perfectly sane. I’d spent so long writing columns that I was no longer getting any better at it and was possibly getting worse. Many of my contemporaries were restive in their assorted jobs too, and while some were planning to slouch towards retirement, others longed to start all over again doing something new, difficult and worthwhile.

To anyone who dared suggest that at 57 I was too old to be worth the investment of training, I sharply replied that I would probably live into my nineties and so had another 15 years’ working life ahead of me. In any case, the average teacher stays in the profession for only five years, so I was no worse a risk than the next person.

A week before the launch of Now Teach, a journalist from The Times came to interview me at home about my untoward career change. I remember sitting on the sofa and earnestly explaining that I craved one thing above all: the luxury of being useful.

The phrase appeared prominently in the article and on the Now Teach website and seemed to strike a chord. Within a few months a thousand professionals of every variety had applied to Now Teach saying that they were interested in becoming teachers too. After a long process of sorting, we ended up with nearly four dozen guinea pigs, mostly teaching maths and science (where the teacher shortage is worst), all of whom started their new careers on the first day of September, along with me.

It is exactly a year since I gave that interview, but now I look at the phrase “the luxury of being useful” and want to laugh. Or cry.

I am writing this at 5.15am on a school day. This is earlier than I need to be up, but I am in a permanent state of agitation that is oddly reminiscent of being in love. I am wide awake before dawn, thinking obsessively about my lessons and new charges. The most luxurious thing that awaits me today will be a helping of school dinner in a polystyrene box.

And instead of feeling useful, for large chunks of every day I feel useless. I am a dunce with the interactive smartboard that is the centrepiece of every modern classroom. I sometimes get so flustered I make mistakes in my sums in front of class. Routinely I forget to take the electronic register. Or I mark students present when they are absent, then fail to figure out how to overwrite mistakes, leaving bureaucratic chaos in my wake.

There is only one thing I am not useless at, and that is standing at the front of the class and talking. I had thought this would be the bulk of the job, but alas it turns out to be a small part. Another thing I need to get better at: learning how to shut up.

Before I started, every teacher I came across issued the identical warning: this will be the hardest thing you have done. At the time I found this annoying. Yes, I knew teaching was hard. My mother was a teacher and my daughter is too. Its being hard was part of the attraction. Who wants to coast through the last quarter of their working lives?

Yet I couldn’t see why teachers wanted to claim a monopoly on hard jobs. Being a newspaper columnist can be hard; my fellow Now Teach trainees had done even harder things. One used to run an NHS hospital trust, one was a hostage negotiator and another worked for Nasa.

Eleven weeks in and I’m changing my mind. Writing columns turns out to be a relative doddle because there are only two things you have to crack: having a decent idea and writing it snappily. Teaching is hard in so many ways. There are at least a dozen roles you need to master — including performer, marshal, counsellor, clerical worker, mathematician, role model and nag — and you need to know exactly when and how to be which.

It is now 6.20am and I must stop writing and put on smarter clothes than I ever wore as a journalist. The school demands that pupils wear perfect uniform on the grounds that if they have their ties done up properly they are less likely to throw a desk at their teachers — which means staff need to do their bit and dress properly too.


It is nine in the evening and I’m too tired to write much. Today was not one of my better days. My explanation of how to round a number to two significant figures went straight over the heads of some of the pupils. I had such a bad time trying to control the mouse on the whiteboard, I declared despairingly, “It’s like playing The Golden Shot,” a reference that was lost on the class because the TV programme was last broadcast four decades before they were born.

A senior teacher who had observed my lesson handed me a long list of “targets” for improvement, and in an attempt to make me feel better said: “Teaching is like learning to drive. You think you’ll never be able to steer and change gear simultaneously. But you will.” I am not entirely reassured: I still can’t reverse-park after 30 years at the wheel.


The oddest thing about my state of professional uselessness is that it is not making me despondent. Instead I’m finding being a hopeless novice more stimulating than soul-destroying. And for this uncharacteristically sensible attitude I credit my advanced age.

When we started Now Teach we wondered how this new breed of relatively ancient trainees would differ from the younger ones. Various people suggested that energy would be a problem, but there is no sign of this being so. Teaching is tiring — it is tiring if you are 55 and tiring if you are 25. Instead, the beauty of being my age is that I know who I am. When my mistakes are pointed out, I don’t take it as an assault on my very being, as I might have 30 years ago. I take it as a sign that I’ve got to hurry up and improve.

Better still, even in my darkest moments I am not alone. Often I suspect the true reason I co-founded Now Teach was not to help to fill the teacher shortage, but for something more selfish. I wanted to have like-minded people to moan with when times were hard. And so it has proved.

To celebrate surviving our first four weeks in the classroom a few of us went to the pub. One Now Teacher who in a previous life had risen to the top of the police force stared into his beer and said: “I keep having to remind myself I used to be good at something.” The rest of us laughed despairingly.

I find I’m not alone in struggling with technology. Equally, most of us, softened by decades of the faux democracy of corporate life, find it hard to enforce the strict rules on which most of our schools depend. In my school the rules are so strict that calling out an answer in class when not invited or whispering to the person next to you are acts of subversion. I am slow at spotting what is going on under my nose, let alone stamping it out. Again, I must try harder.


This time a year ago, just after the launch of Now Teach, I got an email from a woman accusing me of being a Pied Piper, of leading bankers and lawyers to their certain deaths in the classroom. These softie professionals of a certain age would have nervous breakdowns after prolonged exposure to the classroom, she predicted.

So far, only two out of the 47 who started in September have given up. One told me that he felt lonely in the classroom and missed the teamwork of his old life. The other said that not only did he find teaching intolerably stressful, he despaired of it ever getting any better. He looked around at the young teachers in his school who all looked pale and shattered and thought: “I can’t do this.”

It is too early to declare that the remaining 45 of us will complete the year and go on to be teachers who, as the clich√© goes, change lives. A couple more are wobbling and I’m watching them with anxiety. But even so I’m not remotely repentant about what I’ve done. One of the guinea pigs who used to make documentary programmes says that teaching may or may not be the hardest thing she has done, but it’s certainly the best.

My pied pipe is out again because this year Now Teach is recruiting 80 trainees in London and Hastings, in East Sussex, and twice as many the year after. To them I am saying something that I am learning the hard way: teaching is brutal.

Yet even in my most painful moments there are four joys of teaching that I never lose sight of. The first is the students. For the first time in my working life I’m doing something that is not about me. Teaching is about them. When at the end of the first half-term I watched the heads of my pupils bent in silence over their test papers I felt a passionate involvement in their progress. So much so that when I was marking papers later at home, I found myself whooping out loud, “X has got the hard negative number question right!” much to the consternation of one of my grown-up children.

Second is the joy of being a trainee again. The view from the bottom of the ladder is far prettier than it appeared to me 35 years ago. Then I only wanted to climb. Now I am happy to stay put. I am responsible for nothing except my progress. There is also a delight in being junior enough to go to the pub on Friday with my fellow maths teachers, who seem benignly amused at having a woman who is older than their parents tagging along.

Third is the maths. For most of us, the subjects we loved at school were snatched away from us prematurely. After nearly four decades dealing with slippery, ambiguous words, I feel joy in returning to the certainties of maths, which I put aside when I finished my maths A level in 1977.

Fourth is the absence of boredom. Journalism is one of the most exciting jobs on earth, but even that is sometimes boring. Since September 1, I have not been bored for one second. I am so interested in what I am doing that I have become a bore to my old friends. One of them tried to discuss the new chairman of the Federal Reserve with me the other week, but I wouldn’t co-operate. All I wanted to talk about was how best to teach algebra to 11-year-olds.


I am finishing this article on a Sunday afternoon. Today, as on most Sundays, I went to Hampstead Heath to swim in the Ladies’ Pond with a group of friends. One of them said she would go on swimming throughout the winter because the shock of the cold water filled her with a euphoria that made her feel entirely alive.

I realised that this is partly what I love about being a trainee teacher. I feel that same mixture of excitement and dread before going back to school on a Monday as I do about getting into the water. I know that the shock of immersion will crowd out all other thoughts rooting me in the here and now.

Yet there is a difference between swimming and teaching. The legacy of my morning immersion in 9C water was that my extremities remained cold until lunchtime.

Tomorrow I hope to achieve something a bit more lasting. To make a tiny bit of progress in battle with the electronic board, while trying to show 32 students that a factorised quadratic is a thing of beauty.


The real cost of education in America

President Donald Trump and Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., represent very different political perspectives in America and proposed different solutions, but supporters of both candidates recognize the same problem: the decline of the middle class across the nation. The cause of this decline is a combination of factors, but globalization, automation and education all rank at the very top of the equation.

The economics of globalization are simple. Big banks invest in areas overseas that multinational corporations develop, and they reap massive profits in return. Since labor is the largest expense of any business, profits are based on securing the cheapest possible labor. As a result, Americans simply cannot compete, and as factories move overseas, so does our tax base.

Those taxes pay for teachers, police, firemen and all other government services that define our standard of living. That standard of living is slowly slipping away, however. West Virginia is a perfect example of how this hollowing out of our tax base has irrevocably impacted job opportunities, our standard of living and government expenditures in areas such as public education and other state services.

The economics of automation are equally simple. Companies invest in computers, software and robotics because the cost of labor is, once again, a business’ largest expense.

Eliminating a job by automation saves a small fortune, especially when it comes to medical insurance, retirement, vacation and maternity leave. And automated resources are always available. This cuts the cost to run a business, but it means fewer jobs for more people who need high-tech skills to survive. This dictates that more Americans have to invest in long-term education to remain competitive.

Unfortunately, due to the disparate nature of our public educational system, there is a disconnect between real-world demands and what students study. There is also the problem of long-term college debt coupled with long-term underemployment, as many graduates can only find work in retail, fast food or hourly wage jobs without benefits.

While our economy desperately needs engineers, computer and medical professionals, many students go to school with no firm idea of what career is right for them. Too many go to law school after discovering that a lack of internships or apprenticeships makes them cannon fodder for the financial markets.

Sadly, even law degrees are overproduced to the point that some lawyers struggle to survive. In short, we suffer from too many degrees in low-demand jobs and not enough in high demand. This is precisely the sort of production imbalance that destroyed the Soviet Russian economy. An obsolete school system, coupled with the debt of ineffective college degrees, equals bankruptcy.

While Democrats and Republicans propose different solutions to the symptoms caused by globalization and automation, neither party will cure our country unless they treat the root cause: education.

We have too many people for too few jobs in certain fields and not enough people for plenty of jobs in other fields, and the result has been poverty and disenchantment.

That’s why so many Americans were willing to vote for a celebrity businessman from New York or a Democratic Socialist from Vermont. It’s also why so many big donors to both parties were fighting to block either candidate from radically up-ending the status quo. While the emerging global elite often benefit from ignorance, poverty and economic desperation, citizens in western democracies will not permit these elites to operate beyond the bounds of a social contract.

Nor will a growing number of Americans continue to go into debt for educations that do not pay. That is why the financial elites were so worried about the revolutionary rhetoric promulgated by Sanders or the violence in the streets promised by Trump. Where, then, is a realistic solution?

Since it is unlikely anyone can entirely stop globalization, or curtail the cost of a good education, the solution is to streamline our educational system to focus on real-world careers in areas where there is real-world demand.

A good start might be to examine tracking students in an appropriate educational program during their junior and senior year of high school. A fulfilling career starts with identifying individual aptitudes and intrinsic interests, and ultimately runs to your strengths.

Given a free hand, guidance and career, counselors can transform our educational system into one that gets back to the basis of any education, preparing people to contribute to society in a manner that maximizes their potential. But this must begin in high school and continue into college. It is imperative that we incorporate internships and apprenticeships as part of every degree program.

If our high schools and colleges fail to prepare graduates for the real world job market, those jobs will be taken by others elsewhere. This will continue to diminish our nation’s tax base, paving the way for further expenditure cuts in public education, and ultimately the number of faculty in those colleges and universities that are failing to provide their graduates with profitable skillsets. It would be a tragedy for generations of Americans to come in more ways than one.


Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Canada: Laurier university accused of censorship after TA reprimanded for playing gender pronoun debate clip

Lindsay Shepherd, a graduate student at Wilfrid Laurier University, is speaking out after the school accused her of violating their policies of trans-phobia for playing a TVO segment featuring polarizing University of Toronto professor Jordan Peterson.

Are all perspectives valid in a debate? At Wilfrid Laurier University in Ontario, there are some viewpoints which aren’t.

The question came up after a Lindsay Shepherd, a T.A. and a master’s student, played a controversial YouTube clip during a debate about gender-neutral pronouns in her tutorial.

The clip in question featured University of Toronto professor Jordan Peterson, who has famously refused to use gender pronouns other than “he” or “she,” defending his position against a professor who argued it was necessary to use the pronouns that a person prefers to be called.

She was called into a meeting in which Laurier faculty and administration told her that playing the clip without condemnation legitimizes the viewpoint, which they don’t support.

“In a university, all perspectives are valid,” she said in the meeting, which took place at the beginning of November.

“That’s not necessarily true,” a staff member responded.

The meeting, which Shepherd secretly recorded, left her in tears after staff said playing the clip created a toxic environment for transgender students and called her transphobic.

Shepherd defended her position saying she wanted to expose her students to opinions which are in the real world. “I don’t get how exposing people to the idea makes me transphobic,” Shepherd said in the meeting.

Shepherd said the clip of Peterson debating another U of T professor, Nicholas Matte, was meant to demonstrate ways in which the existence of gender-specific pronouns has caused controversy.

Shepherd said she presented the clip of the debate neutrally and without bias, but she was told her approach to the clip was tantamount to remaining neutral on other objectionable views such as those of Adolf Hitler. She was told that she should have provided more background on Peterson’s views, including his connections to the alt-right and Canada’s Rebel Media, and condemned him.

“The thing is, when you start off saying ‘This guy sucks don’t listen to anything he says,’ there’s people right there who are not going to say anything, you’ve silenced them,” Shepherd explained. “I just wanted to open with ‘Any ideas are welcome here.’”

While the university said the meeting took place, they didn’t comment on it or respond to a request for interview from Global News. In a statement released by the president and vice-chancellor, Deborah MacLatchy, she said that the university champions “The civil debate of competing ideas, free speech, and freedom of expression.”

“The real question, however, is how do we encourage and implement these fundamental ideals in a world that’s more aware of the importance of inclusivity and yet, at the same time, is growing more polarized?” she wrote in the statement.

Support for Shepherd is growing, with people saying the issue is close to censorship.

“If we as a university really believed in free speech, and if we’d been underlining that all the way along, this wouldn’t have been an issue, but increasingly here at Laurier and at other universities, we are censoring students,” Sociology professor David Haskell told Global News.

He also took exception to the comparison to Hitler, saying people use the argument to “silence others.”

“I see increasingly many of my colleagues using those kind of dramatic comparisons to Hitler, to other totalitarian regimes, but they do it in order to silence others,” he said.

Katherine Fierlbeck, a political science professor at Dalhousie University in Halifax, told the Canadian Press that she encourages genuine debate in the classroom.

She said failure to do so not only shortchanges students by leaving them without the skills to think critically in real-life debates, but may also drive those who feel their views are not welcome to seek out more receptive audiences, such as communities of online agitators or active proponents of hate.

Shepherd’s approach of neutrally presenting a debate to prompt further discussion was exemplary, she said, adding it was in keeping with the true spirit of academic freedom.

“Some … understand academic freedom to mean that they can say anything about anybody at any time, but that’s certainly not the case,” she said. “It has to be germane to your area, and there has to be a good reason offered for what you are doing.”

Shepherd now has to put forth her lesson plans to her supervisor before her tutorials, and faculty members will be monitoring her lesson plans going forward.


13 Baltimore Public High Schools Have ZERO Students Proficient in Math

Big city public schools are notoriously bad. There's a reason why people move out of the cities and into the suburbs, and it's not just so they can cut the grass. Suburban schools tend to be better schools, as a general rule.

Of course, considering the performance of high schools in Baltimore, the bar isn't all that high.

A recent study by Project Baltimore found that in 13 public high schools in the city there were zero students proficient in math. Zero. None. Nada. Zilch. Goose egg. Nyet.

With a city the size of Baltimore and the number of schools examined, you'd expect a couple of bright kids in these schools to be proficient in math despite the crappy schools, but you don't even get that.

Further, according to Jack Pannel, who is the founder of the Baltimore Collegiate School for Boys, a charter school in the city, reading isn't exactly a strong suit in Baltimore either. "Nine out of ten black boys in Baltimore City are not reading at grade level," he noted.

Panell's school, however, is different. It's also one of the bright points in the city. In 2015, only nine percent of its students were proficient in math. In 2016, that number jumped to 14.4, a 60 percent increase.

To be sure, 14.4 percent isn't anything in and of itself to get excited about. Yes, it was a nice jump, but it's still fewer than 15 percent.

Pannell acknowledges that fact when asked if he's happy with the result. "No," he answered. "I mean, we can do better."

Yet Pannell's approach to education does seem to be working, and it's an approach that makes some sense.

As the school's name implies, it's an all-male school that also has a 60 percent male staff. It has a school day that's one hour longer, and class periods that are shorter.

All of this is structured around the way boys learn, as opposed to more traditional schools. Those systems tend to favor girls, which has resulted in men lagging behind women educationally. Further, the lack of girls in the school allows the boys to focus on their education rather than impressing the opposite sex. As a one-time high school student, I can't help but suspect that reducing clowning around in class as well as other behaviors that can be a huge distraction can only help.

It'll take more time to see if Pannell's school continues to improve, but it's looking promising. If it succeeds, then perhaps it can serve as a model for more schools throughout the nation.


Princeton issues guidelines for ‘Consent on the Dance Floor’

Princeton University recently issued instructions for obtaining “consent on the dance floor" in anticipation of its annual Orange and Black Ball.

Beyond merely asking "Do you wanna dance?" and waiting for an affirmative response, the infographic also instructs students to "frequently" ask whether their partner is "still into this" throughout the dance.

The guidelines came in the form of a Facebook post shared by Princeton’s Sexual Harassment/Assault Advising, Resources, & Education (SHARE) office and created by the school’s UMatter initiative in anticipation of the annual Orange and Black Ball (OBB) that took place last Friday.

“Going to OBB this Friday? Planning to have a great time tearing up the dance floor with your friends?” the post asks. “Great! Check out some tips about what consent on the dance floor looks like!! #OBB #RespectMatters #ConsentIsCool #DoYouWannaDance?”

The post indicates that “Do you wanna dance?” is an appropriate opening, and that responses such as “Absolutely!,” “Yeah! Let’s do it!,” and “I’d love to!” are all ways of consenting to the question.

Beyond simply “asking & waiting for an answer,” the post also asserts that “frequently checking in with your dance partner” is required in order to maintain consent until the music stops, suggesting that the person who extended the invite periodically ask “Hey, are you still into this?” and volunteer that “We can stop if you aren’t.”

Asked for clarification, a university spokesperson told Campus Reform that the infographic, which was “created by a student in the U-Matter program, is one in a series of reminders and opportunities for discussion on respectful behavior, be it on the dance floor or anywhere on campus or off.

“The infographic isn’t in response to any type of problem related to dances or dancing,” the spokesperson added.


Monday, November 20, 2017

Association of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder With Objective Indicators of Educational Attainment: A Nationwide Register-Based Sibling Control Study

Might obsessives be better at study?  It seems not

Ana Perez-Vigil et al.


To our knowledge, the association of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) and academic performance has not been objectively quantified.

To investigate the association of OCD with objectively measured educational outcomes in a nationwide cohort, adjusting for covariates and unmeasured factors shared between siblings.

Design, Setting, And Participants
This population-based birth cohort study included 2?115?554 individuals who were born in Sweden between January 1, 1976, and December 31, 1998, and followed up through December 31, 2013. Using the Swedish National Patient Register and previously validated International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems, Tenth Revision (ICD-10) codes, we identified persons with OCD; within the cohort, we identified 726?198 families with 2 or more full siblings, and identified 11?482 families with full siblings discordant for OCD. Data analyses were conducted from October 1, 2016, to September 25, 2017.

Main Outcomes and Measures
The study evaluates the following educational milestones: eligibility to access upper secondary school after compulsory education, finishing upper secondary school, starting a university degree, finishing a university degree, and finishing postgraduate education.

Of the 2?115?554 individuals in the cohort, 15?120 were diagnosed with OCD (59% females). Compared with unexposed individuals, those with OCD were significantly less likely to pass all core and additional courses at the end of compulsory school (adjusted odds ratio [aOR] range, 0.35-0.60) and to access a vocational or academic program in upper secondary education (aOR, 0.47; 95% CI, 0.45-0.50 and aOR, 0.61; 95% CI, 0.58-0.63, for vocational and academic programs, respectively). People with OCD were also less likely to finish upper secondary education (aOR, 0.43; 95% CI, 0.41-0.44), start a university degree (aOR, 0.72; 95% CI, 0.69-0.75), finish a university degree (aOR, 0.59; 95% CI, 0.56-0.62), and finish postgraduate education (aOR, 0.52; 95% CI, 0.36-0.77). The results were similar in the sibling comparison models. Individuals diagnosed with OCD before age 18 years showed worse educational attainment across all educational levels compared with those diagnosed at or after age 18 years. Exclusion of patients with comorbid neuropsychiatric disorders, psychotic, anxiety, mood, substance use, and other psychiatric disorders resulted in attenuated estimates, but patients with OCD were still impaired across all educational outcomes.

Conclusions and Relevance
Obsessive-compulsive disorder, particularly when it has an early onset, is associated with a pervasive and profound decrease in educational attainment, spanning from compulsory school to postgraduate education.

JAMA Psychiatry. November 15, 2017. doi:10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2017.3523

Prominent Dem RESIGNS After Racist, Profane Tweet

The vice chairperson of the College Democrats of Wisconsin has resigned - after lashing out at "white men" and "pro-life Christians" on Facebook.

Sarah Semrad, a junior at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse allegedly tweeted, "I f***ing hate white men." A month earlier, she also bragged on Twitter about "tearing down all the pro-life Christian pregnancy resource fliers."

Semrad stepped down, as of Tuesday morning.

"She is no longer involved in the organization," a spokesperson for the College Democrats of Wisconsin told news site Campus reform. "She resigned, and as of this morning, is no longer a member of our executive board."


The writing is on the wall for ... writing itself

A comment from Australia

A New Yorker magazine writer lamented the demise of joined-up (cursive) writing in 1966. As Mark Twain might have said, that news was highly exaggerated. Handwriting was not dead but, like a histrionic opera heroine with a fatal illness, it was suffering a long lingering denouement. In recent years, the pace of decline has accelerated.

Australia Post tells us that the volume of personally addressed mail has slumped by half in the past eight years. A handwritten letter in the mail queue stands out like a vintage car in a stream of shiny new Teslas. A recent poll conducted by Docmail, a printing and mailing company, found that one in three people had not handwritten anything longer than a shopping list in the previous six months. In 2015, the Thomas Cook Group published a survey showing that, on any particular day, half the population never picks up a pen or pencil. This is not surprising; the Bic pen company says that one in 10 teenagers does not even own a pen.

Handwriting, increasingly absent from everyday life, is also vanishing from the professions. Doctors, long infamous for sloppy writing, are giving up scribbling prescriptions preferring to generate them by computer. Their patients should be relieved. Over the years, doctors' illegible scrawls have resulted in thousands of medication errors, some fatal. Digital prescriptions are much safer. They are not only easy to read but computers also double-check dosages, side effects and drug interactions against online databases.

Medicine is not the only profession that is moving away from handwriting. Lawyers say that e-signatures are more secure and easier to verify than the obscure squiggles at the bottom of letters. Accountants no longer write in ledgers and newspapers do not accept handwritten articles for publication.

In a particularly ominous sign, Finland, widely considered an educational leader because of its students' strong performance on international tests, has stopped compelling schools to teach cursive writing. Instead, Finnish teachers are advised to devote their time to "keyboarding". According to Minna Harmanen, from the Finnish National Board of Education, "fluent typing skills are an important national competence" - implying that handwriting is not. The Finns are not alone. The Common Core State Standards (a school curriculum adopted by more than 40 American states) has gone down the same road. Students attending schools in Common Core states must learn to print individual letters, but cursive writing is optional.

In contrast to Finland and many American states, the Australian Curriculum (which applies to all states and territories) still requires instruction in cursive writing. Students begin with printing, but by Year 3 they are expected to "write using joined letters that are accurately formed and consistent in size". The curriculum does not describe what these joined letters should look like because, in a throwback to the days of different railroad gauges, each state clings to its preferred style.

After Year 3, the Australian Curriculum does not specify any achievement standard for writing nor is penmanship assessed in national examinations. Given that no expectations have been set and no external assessments conducted, it is not surprising that many (perhaps most) schools expend minimal effort teaching writing. The results are evident to those who mark school examinations. Like President Trump's tweets, the handwriting of many young people consists entirely of capital letters. SAD!

The decline of handwriting has been precipitous, but it has not vanished entirely. Some authors claim that writing by hand stimulates their creativity. That's why JK Rowling drafted her Harry Potter books using a pen, and Quentin Tarantino writes his screenplays using a pencil.

For many professionals, there is no practical alternative to handwriting. Overstretched nurses find it more efficient to jot down their observations on patients' charts than to type them on a keyboard. Convenience is the reason that teachers continue to write corrections in the margins of papers and why signatures, those hastily scribbled declarations of who we are, remain in wide use - on hotel registrations, marriage certificates and even electronic receipts for deliveries..

But, convenience is not the only reason handwriting refuses to perish; it is also kept alive by tradition and nostalgia. As Anne Trubek, author of The History and Uncertain Future of Handwriting (2016) put it:

When a new writing technology develops, we tend to romanticise the older one . for monks, print was capricious and script reliable. Conventional wisdom holds that computers are devoid of emotion . [whereas] handwriting is the province of intimacy, originality and authenticity.

Intimacy, originality and authenticity are all highly valued. The Thomas Cook Group poll that found only half the population writes anything on a given day also found that 28 per cent of people save handwritten love letters (even from their exes). One quarter retains written thank-you notes and postcards. They may only be blue-black smears, but signatures are definitely original. This is why fans collect autographs and readers ask authors to sign their books. As for authenticity, the five-dollar note in your wallet may be graced with a portrait of the Queen, but it still relies on the signature of the Governor of the Reserve Bank to convey its trustworthiness.

Perhaps because it is old-fashioned and requires some effort, handwriting has acquired the aura of bespoke craftsmanship. "Handwritten" is the name of a rock album, a film producer and a fashion company. Catering to artisanal needs, shops such as the Il Papiro chain sell elegant papers, pens, blotters, wax seals, even quills. In addition to selling pens and stationery, the Officeworks chain sponsors Time to Write workshops that promise "a greater sense of life satisfaction" for those who spend "just 15-20 minutes of handwriting a day".

For writers such as Anne Trubek, upmarket stationery shops and New Age writing workshops confirm that handwriting is no longer a quotidian form of communication but a craft. Like other crafts, Trubek believes that handwriting should be relegated to art classes where it could be taught to an ever-diminishing group of interested students. An editorial in The Los Angeles Times put this view quite bluntly: "States and schools shouldn't cling to cursive based on the romantic idea that it's a tradition, an art form or a basic skill whose disappearance would be a cultural tragedy."

Many educators disagree. They say teaching handwriting in primary school produces cognitive benefits, such as fine motor skills and eye-hand co-ordination. These skills are not easy to acquire using a keyboard because the cognitive and motor processes required for typing are different from those used in writing. To handwrite a letter, a child must form a mental image of the letter's shape. The child then uses this image to guide a pen or pencil.

Edouard Gentaz, an education researcher, calls this process "directing movement by thought". With practice, the specific movements needed to draw each letter create a unique "motor memory" that not only facilitates writing but also helps children recognise letters when learning to read. Using a keyboard does not create unique memories because the motor movement required for typing any letter or punctuation mark is identical (a key press).

Handwriting also beats typing for remembering lessons. Psychologists Pam Mueller and Daniel Oppenheimer found that university students who took lecture notes on laptops performed worse on a subsequent examination than students who handwrote their notes. According to Mueller, the "laptop note-takers took . verbatim notes, signalling that they were processing the content less than the longhand note-takers."

Students who took notes by hand could not get every word down, so they were forced to think about what they were hearing and reframe it in their own words thereby improving their memory. In the light of this research, some school systems (Singapore, France) have decided to re-emphasise cursive writing. Six American states have reintroduced it into their schools.

A potent combination of tradition, nostalgia, craftsmanship, practicality and educational research suggests that once again the "writing is on the wall". Unlike King Nebuchadnezzar, handwriting has been weighed in the balance and found necessary.


Sunday, November 19, 2017

Harvard Business School professor: Half of American colleges will be bankrupt in 10 to 15 years

There are over 4,000 colleges and universities in the United States, but Harvard Business School professor Clayton Christensen says that half are bound for bankruptcy in the next few decades.

Christensen is known for coining the theory of disruptive innovation in his 1997 book, "The Innovator's Dilemma." Since then, he has applied his theory of disruption to a wide range of industries, including education.

In his recent book, "The Innovative University," Christensen and co-author Henry Eyring analyze the future of traditional universities, and conclude that online education will become a more cost-effective way for students to receive an education, effectively undermining the business models of traditional institutions and running them out of business.

More recently, he doubled down on his statements, telling 1,500 attendees at's Higher Education Summit, "If you're asking whether the providers get disrupted within a decade — I might bet that it takes nine years rather than 10."

Christensen is not alone in thinking that online educational resources will cause traditional colleges and universities to close. The U.S. Department of Education and Moody's Investors Service project that in the coming years, closure rates of small colleges and universities will triple, and mergers will double.

Fortunately, Christensen says that there is one thing that online education will not be able to replace. In his research, he found that most of the successful alumni who gave generous donations to their alma maters did so because a specific professor or coach inspired them.

Among all of these donors, "Their connection wasn't their discipline, it wasn't even the college," says Christensen. "It was an individual member of the faculty who had changed their lives."

"Maybe the most important thing that we add value to our students is the ability to change their lives," he explained. "It's not clear that that can be disrupted."


Through God, This Mississippi Boys School Is Working to Heal the Racial Divide

Thomas McMillin Howard, known as “T. Mac,” describes Greenwood, Mississippi as a “backwards place.” And sadly, most people who’ve visited would agree. Separated by a bridge where the black population tends to live on one side, and the white population mostly lives on the other, Greenwood has struggled to reconnect with its racially segregated past.

Poverty is rampant and public schools are outright failures. Greenwood High School, for example, routinely receives an “F” grade from the state, as it fails to even keep students enrolled. Parents who can afford it send their children to private schools, which as a result are dominated by white students.

T. Mac, who graduated from Mississippi State University, entered this town with a different approach to turning things around—he wanted to use the Bible to educate and equip young boys to stay in school and prepare for a successful future. In 2012, T. Mac opened Delta Streets Academy, housed inside a historically white Baptist church. Most of his 55 students are black, and many of them come from difficult backgrounds.

The Daily Signal visited Delta Streets Academy to find out how this school relies on God to bridge the gap between black and white, despite a culture that seems to be working against them. Watch the video above, and visit WORLD Magazine to learn more about this story.


Australia: Universities line up for new $3 billion Ramsey Centre for Western Civilisation

Ramsey clearly thought Western civilization was a good thing.  Sadly, it is unlikely that his money will go to teach that. The jobs generated will undoubtedly go to Leftist academics who will be doing their best to denigrate Western civilization

In the biggest philanthropic gift in the history of education in Australia, as many as 10 NSW universities are vying for the chance to offer a new western civilisation degree to be completely funded as part of a $3 billion bequest from health care magnate Paul Ramsay.

Mr Ramsay, who died in 2014, wanted a significant part of his personal fortune to be spent on funding an academic centre to revive the liberal arts and humanities.

The new Ramsay Centre for Western Civilisation, to be formally launched on Monday, will offer a western civilisation arts degree in two or possibly three universities in NSW and the ACT, as well as fund 30 generous scholarships at each selected university.

About $25 million a year will be spent on the centre and its Ramsay scholars, as they will be known, will get at least $25,000 a year to cover tuition and living costs.

The centre's chief executive, Simon Haines, who was previously professor of English at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, said the centre "would not be a think tank". "This will be a teaching enterprise, not a political one," Professor Haines said.

The centre is currently evaluating the expressions of interest from NSW and ACT universities which want to collaborate with the centre, with 10 of the 12 NSW universities having indicated that they would be submitting a formal proposal, Professor Haines said.

It is understood the two or three successful universities will be announced in the new year.

The board of the centre includes notable conservatives, including former prime ministers John Howard and Tony Abbott, but to broaden its political reach, the former Labor leader and US ambassador Kim Beazley and the powerful right-wing unionist Joe De Bruyn were recent appointees.

The male-dominated board will be boosted by some female appointments, Professor Haines said.

"There is no doubt this is the biggest thing for the liberal arts and humanities that has ever happened in this country," Professor Haines said. He said the centre would offer degrees that would "be as prestigious and as high quality" as some of the top universities in the US and UK. "We will be elite but not elitist," Professor Haines said.

The model of teaching would be very similar to the leading liberal arts universities in the US such as St Johns, Amherst and Columbia, with small classes of about six students rather than huge lectures.

The centre will recruit leading academics from around the world and Australia, Professor Haines said.

Professor Haines said although the centre would be fully funded, it would not dictate how the selected universities run the degree programmes. "We will not be telling them what to do, they will retain their independence," Professor Haines said.

There will also be several Ramsay postgraduate scholarships, which will be open to recent Australian graduates from a range of academic disciplines, for study at prestigious international universities, and the centre will run a program of summer schools, with distinguished visiting lecturers.

The centre says "generations of young Australians will eventually benefit from this unique opportunity, and learn to value their own civilisational heritage, at no cost to the taxpayer."


Friday, November 17, 2017

Elite colleges with fat endowments are on the defensive as the GOP drags them into a D.C. tax fight

America’s elite private colleges would rather talk about anything other than their own vast wealth, but Republicans have put the institutions they have long criticized as liberal bastions on the defensive by dragging them into Washington’s messy tax fight.

Tax overhauls drafted in the House and Senate have zeroed in on the billions of dollars that top private schools have tucked away in endowments. The lawmakers want to impose a new 1.4 percent tax on annual income spun off by these vast funds, limiting the tax to the approximately 60 schools where the endowments are worth more than $250,000 per full-time student.

That has thrust the nation’s most prestigious institutions of higher learning — including Harvard, Dartmouth, and a dozen other New England schools — squarely into an intense lobbying battle over money.

Playing out in the shadow of the noisier debate over corporate tax cuts, it pits Republicans against the colleges and universities that produce the type of highly educated voters and leaders who often oppose Republican policies. And it forces the colleges into the awkward position of publicly defending their enormous wealth at a time of rising student debt and soaring tuitions.

Harvard leads the pack of total endowment with more than $36 billion, more than the entire gross domestic product of the state of Vermont. Princeton University has the top per-student endowment ratio, with more than $2.5 million for every full-time student. Even smaller schools in New England, such as Middlebury College and Bowdoin College, have endowments worth more than $1 billion.

Some of the schools “simply want to have a tax-free investment,” said Republican Representative Darrell Issa, who represents a swing district in southern California and supports taxing endowments.

“We can all talk about the poor kid who gets a scholarship, but sometimes this is about the professors and the people running the endowment and their salaries.”

Harvard president Drew Faust has pushed back against such characterizations, and in a recent statement said the tax is unnecessary because the school’s endowment “is not locked away in some chest” but “at work in the world.”

Harvard officials turned down a request to be interviewed for this story.

“Endowment proceeds fund nearly 40 percent of the university’s operations, with nearly a quarter spent directly on financial aid,” Faust said when the tax plan emerged last month. “A tax on university endowments is really a tax on the people who make up these institutions and the work they do: donors, alumni, staff, students, and faculty.’’

Though many of the wealthy schools remain tight-lipped about the Republican tax plan in public, some New England colleges are lobbying lawmakers behind the scenes as well as rallying their alumni.

Institutions used to being heard, such as Harvard, are at a disadvantage with this White House because, unlike past administrations, President Trump has largely shunned the school’s graduates for top posts. Most of the wealthiest schools in the country are also clustered in blue states on the coasts, where Trump saw little support during his 2016 campaign.

“These schools use endowments to build buildings, which employ our workers, and use it to subsidize student financial aid,” said Representative Michael Capuano, whose Cambridge district includes Harvard.

“If Harvard has a smaller endowment, they are less likely to build a building. And that hurts my construction industry, that hurts my financial services industry,” Capuano said.

“Some of us who represent these colleges have some concern,” said Republican Representative Mark Walker of North Carolina. “Some of these schools are really struggling. You can’t just say, ‘Look at Harvard, they have all the money in the world.’ ”

But for conservative hard-liners, there will be no tears shed about increasing taxes on institutions that many believe socialize students to leftist values and are silos for the elite. Breitbart News, Fox News, and other conservative media outlets have often referred to Harvard as a “hedge fund with a university attached,” and have pressed lawmakers to tax the endowments.

The “taxpayer gravy train” to elite colleges “needs to end,” said Adam Andrzejewski, an open government activist who led a segment on Fox News this year.

In response, school administrators are telling supporters and lawmakers that the institutions use endowment funds to kickstart local economies and help low-income students with opportunities for economic advancement.

The president of Wellesley College, which would be taxed under the proposal, recently e-mailed all alumnae to denounce the provision. In the e-mail, president Paula A. Johnson said the tax would have a “damaging toll on Wellesley’s ability to sustain the financial aid policy that enables the College to enroll a socioeconomically diverse student body.”

Wellesley’s current total endowment, according to the school, is about $1.8 billion.

Smith College president Kathleen McCartney called the tax “deeply concerning.” The Northampton school has an endowment of roughly $1.75 billion.

“The bill would adversely affect colleges like Smith, whose missions are significantly supported by endowment income and whose students come from families spanning the income spectrum,” McCartney said in a statement. “Smith awards $65M annually in financial aid, much of it funded by the endowment, and there is no question this bill would negatively impact our access mission.”

Senate Republicans have included the endowment tax in their early blueprint of the tax overhaul bill, according to GOP leaders. It remains on the negotiating table, and the Senate Finance Committee has yet to release a text of its bill.

Senator Chuck Grassley, the former chair of the Senate Finance Committee and a senior member of the Republican caucus, has had endowment taxes in his sights for years. Although his office declined to comment on the current proposals, Grassley said in 2011 that colleges were “hoarding assets at taxpayer expense.”

Another complication: Perceptions of colleges and universities have become increasingly partisan in recent years.

A July poll by Pew Research Center found 58 percent of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents now feel that colleges and universities have had “a negative effect on the way things are going in the country.” This number is up 10 percentage points in the last year, and is now on par with other polarizing institutions such as labor unions, churches, and the national news media.


School Worker Was Told She Could Be Fired If She Offered to Pray for Someone Again

It was a small sentence—”I will pray for you”— but it meant big trouble for Cony High School technician Toni Richardson. When Richardson offered that comfort to another Christian on staff in private, she was hauled before school officials and warned not to utter a word about her faith again.

District officials kicked off the controversy last year by telling Richardson that she could “face discipline or dismissal in the future” if she expressed her faith so openly again. “I was shocked that my employer punished me for privately telling a co-worker I would pray for them,” she told reporters at the time.

First Liberty Institute’s Jeremy Dys, who filed a complaint on Richardson’s behalf, explained that it had been a hard 12 months for Richardson since then. “This entire year Toni has had to self-censor herself, making sure she’s not using religious language. … She’s even had to refrain from wearing jewelry that has a cross on it, because if someone were to overhear this private conversation or see that religious imagery round her neck, then she could face discipline or even be terminated.”

Fortunately, after a yearlong clash over religious freedom, school officials have apparently had second thoughts about their attacks. Late last week, our friends at First Liberty proclaimed victory, announcing that the district had officially walked back its threat to Richardson and issued a new memorandum giving her and others the right to make faith-based statements—without fear of school discipline.

Augusta administrators said they recognized “the rights of employees to hold and express religious beliefs and it never was our intent to unlawfully restrict those rights.”

It’s a sad commentary on America, Family Research Council’s Travis Weber pointed out, that trying to encourage someone by telling them you’re “praying for them” would even draw a complaint. But it’s also an encouraging example for Christians about what we can accomplish when we stand up with courage and conviction.

Richardson didn’t back down when the forces of political correctness came knocking. She knew her rights and demanded they be respected. We applaud First Liberty Institute and Richardson for their persistence. Let this be a warning to other school districts that try to intimidate teachers and other staff members of faith. Christians will fight back, and despite the claims of the left to the contrary, the Constitution is on their side.

To hear the story from Richardson, check out this interview we did on “Washington Watch.”


Australia:Treasurer Scott Morrison leads in fight to preserve parent rights against homosexual lobby

Treasurer Scott Morrison is leading behind-the-scenes negotiations with supporters of the Dean Smith same-sex marriage bill, as conservative MPs demand the preservation of parental rights but concede on protections for businesses that refuse commercial dealings with gay wedding ceremonies.

Mr Morrison has emerged as the most vocal cabinet voice on stronger freedom of speech and religion protection amendments to the proposed bill amid accusations that members of Malcolm Turnbull’s executive had misled MPs over their promise to guarantee robust protections.

Leading conservative ministers Peter Dutton and Mathias Cormann have come under pressure from colleagues over claims they “walked away” from earlier commitments.

The Australian understands the Treasurer has already approached colleagues of Senator Smith seeking a “goodwill” agreement to rescue amendments from the rival bill put forward by Victoria’s senator James Paterson, and which were of most concern to conservatives. Chief among them will be the “safe schools” clause preserving the rights of parents to remove children from classes that do not accord with their values, anti-detriment provisions to forbid unfair treatment in the workplace of people who hold traditional views of marriage, and broader religious freedom protections including for charities.

“The issue of same-sex marriage is settled … the issue now is religious freedom, freedom of speech and parental rights,” Mr Morrison told The Australian. “That’s what we need to debate now in good faith and come to a landing on.”

The move for detente between warring tribes within the Coalition came as former prime minister John Howard warned conservative colleagues to not “get hung up” on whether cake makers and florists should be allowed to conscientiously object to supplying their services to gay weddings.

“Clearly the decision of the public should be respected by the parliament,” Mr Howard said, “but I think it is also very important (to address) quite legitimate concerns that were raised by many people, including me and my friend and former deputy prime minister John Anderson, about the protection of parental rights, religious freedoms and freedom of speech.

“These are not small matters. It is a pity that the government, as I asked, had not spelled out before the vote how these matters were going to be covered in any ­enabling legislation.

“I don’t regard the Dean Smith bill as being sufficient. I think the two things that really do matter are freedom of religion and speech and parental rights.”

Victorian frontbench MP ­Michael Sukkar said the Yes campaign promised Australians that there would not be any consequences for parents’ rights, freedom of speech and freedom of conscience and religion. “Now we must hold them to those commitments,” Mr Sukkar said.

Liberal National Party senator Barry O’Sullivan accused a “cohort” of senior cabinet ministers of misleading the partyroom and called on the Prime Minister to ­intervene. “There is deep discontent amongst a lot of Coalition senators at the way that this has been managed, the introduction of this bill,” Senator O’Sullivan said.

“It’s almost as if some cohort within the executive — there’s ­evidence that we’ve been misled, there’s evidence that decisions have been taken where they haven’t consulted with the broader caucus of the government members.

“And there is deep anger about that ... This is about procedure ... Today we will cede the government to the opposition and the Greens — that’s the effect of this motion this afternoon.

“My call is for the Prime Minister to just intervene in this and slow the process down ... so all voices can be heard and we can develop a piece of legislation that’s comprehensive and reflects not just the will of the people to have same-gender marriage, but the five million Australians who have resisted this and want to see that we provide the appropriate protections in future so we don’t fill the courts and human rights commission with cases.”

Mr Anderson said parliamentarians needed to remember that almost five million Australians had voted No.

“They are worthy of respect and our protections for freedom of conscience and freedom of speech and the right to raise our children according to our values are very weak by international standards,” the former deputy prime minister said. “I do have to say to my ­Coalition colleagues, ‘Walk away from that, I would suggest, at your peril’."


Thursday, November 16, 2017

Let children dress up as boys or girls, CofE tells schools

Most of the Anglican clergy appear to be dressup queens so it figures

Children should be free to try out “the many cloaks of identity” including dressing up in girls’ or boys’ clothes without being labelled or bullied, the Church of England has said.

In advice to its 4,700 schools, which teach a million pupils, the church said that children should be allowed to “explore the possibilities of who they might be”.

The advice is included in guidance on homophobic bullying, which it has updated to include transphobic and biphobic bullying. “In the early years context and throughout primary school play should be a hallmark of creative exploration. Pupils need to be able to play with the many cloaks of identity (sometimes quite literally with the dressing-up box),” the guidance says.


Technology at the Forefront of Education

Jaime Casap, education evangelist at Google, opened the 2017 American Association of School Librarians (AASL) National Conference and Exhibition, held November 9–11 in Phoenix, with an examination of the evolving state of education in the US and how it has changed—for better and for worse—with the advance of technology. The future is now, Casap says, and librarians and educators need to know how to connect with and teach a generation of learners who have spent their whole lives in a digital world.

Casap relayed a personal anecdote to illustrate the power of technology education to change lives—studying computer science allowed him to escape poverty as a kid living in New York City’s Hell’s Kitchen neighborhood during the 1970s and 1980s. He also had stats: Computer science majors earn a salary 40% higher than the average college graduate. But a gap exists between where we’re going and where we are, he says. In Arizona, only 10% of schools offer Advanced Placement computer science courses. Today’s learners are digital natives, and schools must offer them tools and resources they need to thrive.

Casap said that without new technological tools educators won’t be able to reach digital natives. “Imagine what life is like for kids who have grown up in a digital generation,” he says. “How they think about learning is different because of the world they grew up in.” Today’s learners are autodidacts when it comes to digital technology, he says, and the educational system has to be retooled to adapt to that. Instead of adhering to old models that stress rote memorization of facts, educators need to teach students problem-solving skills that allow them to use technologies that are already a part of their everyday lives.

“Information on its own is a commodity,” he says. “We need to teach kids how to apply it. We need to teach kids how to find information and put it together.”

Casap stressed that we are at the beginning of this new model, and librarians and teachers are at the forefront of its adoption. “Kids today have hundreds of libraries at their fingertips,” he says. “Librarians need to help kids navigate this information and use it correctly. We need strong digital leaders, and libraries and librarians are key to this new digital economy.”

This notion of using technology to reach learners in new ways was a theme throughout the first day of the conference. It was best exemplified at the IdeaLab, a digital session where 25 presenters from school libraries and vendors used tabletop video displays to demonstrate educational topics. The displays created a more engaging viewing experience than often-static poster sessions, but it was the topics themselves that pointed to the future: using 3D printing and computer modeling to make models of animals that can be dissected in classrooms, reducing the use of real specimens; creating immersive learning experiences with green screens and video editing; and teaching students to use Microsoft’s collaborative software OneNote as a research tool.


Australia: Children forced to learn about gay sex, workers sacked for speaking their minds and bakers taken to court over cake: The fears lurking behind the same-sex marriage bill

Parents losing the right to object to gay sex education, workers being sacked for expressing an opinion and bakers taken to court over cake.

With a 'Yes' vote result on Wednesday, conservative federal politicians have painted a troubling picture of Australia if same-sex marriage is legalised.

Even Labor senators are worried, with several backbenchers voting against any gay marriage bill on religious freedom grounds, to the chagrin of their party leader Bill Shorten.

Maverick Queensland crossbencher Bob Katter is so worried about parents losing the right to object to their children being taught the Safe Schools program under gay marriage he wants the law changed.

The Katter's Australian Party leader and renegade Nationals MP George Christensen, a fellow Queenslander, are working on a parliamentary bill that would give parents the right to pull their kids out of the controversial gender theory lessons.

Mr Katter, who holds the vast far-north Queensland seat of Kennedy, said the legalisation of same-sex marriage would force children into learning about gay sex and relationships.

'I don't want anyone to underestimate the damage that is being done here to the people of Australia,' federal parliament's longest-serving MP told Daily Mail Australia on Tuesday night from Mareeba, south-west of Cairns. 'It opens the way for them to teach same-sex marriage in school.

'There are people preaching and teaching, and I use the word "preaching" before I use the word "teaching", because there are some very aggressive people involved in the homosexual movement in Australia. There are huge, grave dangers there.'

Mr Katter said the teaching of homosexuality in schools would cause lifelong damage to students. 'You are very vulnerable at that age,' he said.

'Unfortunately and sadly, these kids in the 12 to 15 age bracket are influenced to go down that pathway, they're looking at a much darker life than they would otherwise have.'

Mr Katter, who has been a state or federal MP since 1974, is also worried about workers falling foul of state anti-discrimination laws, and losing their jobs, for expressing an opinion critical of gay relationships.

In September, a Canberra woman was fired for saying 'It's okay to vote no' on Facebook, with her boss Madlin Sims calling it 'homophobic hate speech'.

Ms Sims, who runs a party entertainment company, said the woman was fired because she was 'extremely out and proud about her views on homosexuals.' 'As someone who has an responsibility to the vulnerable people we work with, could not risk her voicing those opinions to any children of ours,' she said. 

'It was never about giving people a fair go, it was all about punishing people that had different beliefs ... if a person thinks differently about homosexuality,' Mr Katter said.

New South Wales Nationals Senator John 'Wacka' Williams is worried about bakers being sued if they refuse to bake a cake for a same-sex wedding.

'They might be hugely Christian, they don't believe in same-sex marriage, they refuse to bake the cake for a same-sex marriage ceremony or reception and hence they get sued,' the farmer from Inverell told Daily Mail Australia.

'Likewise, if it's a same-sex couple have a bakery and they don't want to bake a cake for the heterosexual marriage, I don't want them getting sued either.'

Victorian Liberal senator James Paterson is proposing a bill that would give bakers and florists the right to refuse to provide goods or services for a same-sex wedding.

'A baker could not refuse to bake a cake for someone who is gay who's having a birthday but they could decline to provide services to their wedding,' he told the ABC's 7.30 program on Monday night.

'So it's very limited and narrow. It's only about a wedding and that's in recognition that weddings are different from other things.

'People hold very strong views about it.'

It's a rival bill to one being proposed by West Australian gay Liberal senator Dean Smith, which would only give exemptions to church and religious groups when it comes to performing a same-sex wedding.

Tasmanian Labor senator Helen Polley, who voted 'No' in the $122 million gay marriage postal vote survey, is concerned about protecting religious freedom.

'We certainly need protections around religious freedoms so that we can avoid anti-discrimination cases like we saw in Tasmania against Archbishop Julian Porteous and the Australian Catholic Bishops in 2015,' she said about the case that was withdrawn last year.

Labor senator Deborah O'Neill, who hails from the NSW Central Coast, said she reserved the right to vote against a gay marriage bill, even though her boss Bill Shorten is in favour of redefining marriage.

'I will be exercising my conscience vote that I am entitled to in the Labor Party and I will be making that decision when the time comes,' she said.


Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Notre Dame Flip-Flops Again, Will Cover Contraception and Abortifacients

    In a stunning reversal, the University of Notre Dame has retreated from its decision to stop providing contraception to students and faculty through the university health-care plan. This decision is just the latest evidence to suggest that the Notre Dame administration is less committed to its Catholic identity and mission than it is to conforming itself to the demands of popular culture and societal pressure.

    In 2013, the university brought one of the most high-profile lawsuits against the Obama administration in the wake of the Health & Human Services contraception mandate, which required all employers — regardless of religious or moral objections — to provide birth control and abortifacient drugs to employees free of charge.

    Just last month, the HHS under President Donald Trump expanded the existing exemptions to that mandate, a move that resolved over 70 pending lawsuits (including Notre Dame’s), which were filed to seek relief from the coercive policy on religious grounds.

    In late October, Notre Dame announced that it would end contraceptive coverage for faculty and students after receiving this exemption. The reaction from most quarters of the media, and from small groups of left-leaning Notre Dame graduate students, was exactly what one might expect — general shock and horror over Notre Dame’s “War on Birth Control,” magnified by the university’s status as the largest employer (so far) to eliminate coverage.

    But these brave birth-control warriors needn’t have troubled themselves. If they had paid any attention to the controversies brewing at Notre Dame in recent years, they would’ve had plenty of evidence to reassure them that it’d only be a matter of time before the university managed to find a way to reconcile its Catholic convictions with its desire to blend in among its Ivy League peers.

    And critics wouldn’t even have had to wait very long. It took no more than week for Notre Dame to announce that it would, in fact, not be ending contraceptive and abortifacient coverage for its employees and students, after all. Very conveniently, the university’s insurance provider, Meritain Health, graciously agreed to continue funding contraception indefinitely.

    According to Notre Dame spokesman Dennis Brown, the university had believed that Meritain would automatically discontinue no-cost coverage at the end of the year, and that was the university’s reason for its previous announcement.

    “The university’s interest has never been in preventing access to those who make conscientious decisions to use contraceptives,” said Notre Dame president Father John Jenkins on Tuesday. “Our interest, rather, has been to avoid being compelled by the federal government to be the agent in their provision.”

    There are a couple of key problems with these claims. For one thing, allowing Meritain to continue providing free-of-cost birth control of its own accord is precisely the “accommodation” offered to Notre Dame by the Obama administration just after the HHS mandate went into effect — and that accommodation was rejected by Notre Dame as insufficient.

    In other words, Notre Dame sued the federal government not just for relief from the mandate, but also for a more substantial exemption than the weak accommodation the Obama administration proffered. Under that proposed arrangement, Notre Dame would sign a form saying that its religious beliefs precluded it from providing contraceptives and authorizing its insurance provider to do so instead.

    According to Notre Dame’s own lawsuit, this accommodation was “contrary to its faith” because it still compelled the university to “facilitate practices that Catholic doctrine considers morally wrong.” By allowing Meritain to continue covering birth control, is the university essentially admitting that its claims in court were untrue?

    This leads to a second issue with Notre Dame’s latest gyrations: They are founded on the fiction that Meritain is operating completely independent of the university’s control. But presumably the insurance plan in question is subject to the university’s input and approval. Meritain surely could not continue providing contraception if Notre Dame told it not to.

    On this point, a particularly revealing quote from another Notre Dame administrator, Paul Browne: “We have made the decision not to interfere with the provision of contraceptives administered by insurance administrators and funded independently.”

    If Notre Dame truly objected to playing any role in distributing contraception and abortifacient drugs to its employees and students, it could very easily direct Meritain to cease providing those services altogether. The university has evidently chosen not to do so. But its administrators continue trying to make it seem as if the matter is entirely out of their hands. It remains unclear whether the university has formally filed for an accommodation, which would allow Meritain to be reimbursed by the federal government for the cost of contraceptive services.

    Notre Dame alumni group Sycamore Trust perhaps put it best in a bulletin announcing this latest flip-flop: The decision to continue providing contraception and abortifacients is a “breathtaking repudiation of [the university’s] judicial representations” and a move that “has set the precedent for this sort of insurance system for surgical abortion, sterilization, and any other procedure that has a significant constituency in the university community.”

    We need not get into the ugly history of the recent controversies that have led many to believe that Notre Dame grows less committed to its Catholic mission by the year. It is enough to say simply: Notre Dame has once again shown itself to care more about the verdict of powerful cultural influencers than about upholding the convictions of the faith it purports to represent.


Hollywood Actress: Why I Homeschool My Kids

My name is Sam Sorbo. I’m a mom to three wonderful children, and the author of “They’re YOUR Kids: An Inspirational Journey from Self-Doubter to Home School Advocate.”

Home schooling seems like a radical idea—but only because we are conditioned to think of it that way. Why? Because most of us attended school. But after nine overhauls of our public education system in less than 30 years, according to Pew Research Center data, the U.S. has fallen in world standings for education, to 39th in math and 24th in reading. We are officially behind Estonia. … The schools aren’t getting the job done.

If you feel incapable of teaching your own children it’s because you were taught that you were not capable. Don’t handicap your child by insisting on sending her to an institution for eight hours a day.

We need to rethink education in this country. My mission is to empower parents to be the lead learners for their children. I say lead learner because education is not about downloading information into the child. Education should focus on how to learn, not what. Especially in today’s economic environment, where technological advances change the business landscape so quickly, we need elasticity in our abilities, and that comes from being able to teach ourselves.

But instead, public schools teach children that they must be in a classroom with an instructor to learn. This predicated the snowflake crisis in our universities, where young people feel “triggered” by diverse ideas. They only know what they’ve been taught, and cannot think for themselves, so anything that challenges their worldview is perceived as hostile, and they lose their self-confidence and self-control.

Public school forms a wedge between the child and the parent—that’s inevitable.

“Mommy, you have to sign this. The teacher says so.” Or, “Mommy, don’t use plastic bags for my lunch. You’re killing dolphins.” The school challenges the parent’s authority from Day One.

It’s no wonder teenagers rebel. By that time, the parent’s authority has been completely undermined by a system that insists on its way above all else. Parents surrender their precious children to literal strangers, to be taught values and principles and sex-ed and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights … and then they are confused when their children disagree with them.

What is it about a child turning 5 that immediately incapacitates his parents as teachers, forcing him into kindergarten, often when he’s not yet ready to give up his nap?

Instead of being utterly enervating, home schooling is empowering. My children have taught me. My goal is for parents to realize the incredible relationship and experience that is home education facilitates if they only would choose to keep their children close.

Have you ever done homework with your child? Then you have home schooled. You’re just doing it at the end of the day, when everyone is tired and cranky and hungry. My way, home schooling, is easier, and a lot more fun.


Will Free Speech Prevail on Campus?

Alarm over the state of free speech and academic freedom on American campuses is nothing new under the collegiate sun. But it has reached fever pitch in the past few years.

The unease is justified, given the notorious disruptions and dis-invitations of legitimate and worthy speakers; the censorious echo chambers of academic disciplines intolerant of dissent; and the often-unprincipled use of speech-smothering policies such as trigger warnings, safe-spaces, bias-reporting, and mandatory sensitivity training.

More and more faculty members across the political spectrum who had remained quiet for years now feel compelled to speak out because they believe things have spun out of control.

This said, the actual extent of the problem has always remained a question. Many schools and departments have avoided confrontations, and the media is not interested in “success stories” that no doubt take place. After American Enterprise Institute political scientist Charles Murray and his faculty host were physically attacked at Middlebury College last March in a disruption heard around the academic world, Murray was able to speak at Notre Dame, Harvard, and Columbia without incident.

Given the multiplicity and complexity of higher education, empirical estimates of harm will remain at least somewhat inexact. But a growing number of surveys have helped us approach a more accurate picture. It reveals genuine cause for concern, but also reasons for hope.

On the obvious negative side, we have beheld a growing number of anecdotal accounts of student disruptions and faculty intolerance. Some of the most serious disruptions in 2017 occurred at U.C. Berkeley, Evergreen State, Middlebury, and Claremont McKenna. On the faculty front, a massive rebellion of scholars in Third World studies recently compelled an academic journal, Third World Quarterly, to retract an article that politely called for rethinking the pros and cons of colonialism. Also, faculty at the eminent University of Pennsylvania Law School publicly denounced an accomplished colleague for the sin of extolling bourgeois values on the op-ed page of the Philadelphia Inquirer.

Recent surveys of student attitudes also provide cause for concern. To pick one example, a study published last month by the Brookings Institution found that half of students polled believe it is okay to shout down a speaker whom one finds offensive, with almost 20 percent agreeing that using violence to prevent offensive speech is acceptable. Surveys conducted by the Cato Institute and the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education report similar findings, mixed with more nuance.

Other studies leave more room for ambiguity and hope. Many of the new surveys do not compare college students with society writ large. But a recent article in The Economist, cites evidence that young people who have attended college remain more tolerant of controversial speakers than the general public—a finding consistent with a long line of social science research that correlates education with increased tolerance of unwanted speech.

In addition, a Gallup survey of 3,000 students for the Knight Foundation and Newseum found that 78 percent favor schools where “offensive and biased” speech is allowed. Even at Yale, where an infamous protest against free speech and pro–free speech faculty erupted last fall, 72 percent of students opposed speech codes, with only 16 percent favoring them.

So, what gives? The Economist supplies an explanation that makes sense, given my own experience as a free speech scholar and activist: Typically, fewer than 20 percent of students are anti-free speech, but the anti-speech activists are more aggressive than their tolerant counterparts and better able to influence school administrators. For their part, the administrators who appease them in the name of “diversity” lose sight of higher education’s primary duty: to pursue truth with intellectual competence, honesty, and freedom.

Higher education can turn things around if it finds the resolve and fortitude. Will it?


Tuesday, November 14, 2017

British Schools Hope to Improve Performance With Chinese Textbooks

What a load of rubbish!  Chinese students do better because they have higher IQs, because they are not allowed to be disruptive and because they work harder.  Two of those could be applied in Britian but instead they concentrate on the least likely cause.  And the Chinese texts will probably be unsuitable for Britain's dumber and less committed students

In the latest report from the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, the Chinese mainland (consisting of the Beijing, Shanghai, Jiangsu, and Guangdong provinces) ranked fifth among nations with the world’s highest math scores. According to the report, around one in four students in Singapore, Hong Kong, Taiwan, and mainland China are considered top-performing in mathematics. The United Kingdom, by contrast, was ranked 27th among nations, despite performing much better in reading and science.

These low math scores have generated concern among British educators, who hope to see their rankings improve to match those of China. In 2014, the UK’s National Centre for Excellence in the Teaching of Mathematics (NCETM) partnered with Shanghai academics to implement Asian styles of teaching in a small group of British schools and academy trusts. By 2016, the UK Department for Education had allocated $50.3 million in funding to unleash this “master” mathematics program across 8,000 primary schools.

A press release from the Department for Education says the new program will focus on “children being taught as a whole class, building depth of understanding of the structure of maths.” According to this approach, each lesson focuses on a single mathematical concept, which the class will continue to cover until every student has a firm understanding. As a result, much of the funding for this educational overhaul will go toward training educators to adopt this new pedagogy.

Another key component of a “master” mathematics education is the use of high-quality textbooks. Until now, the NCETM has relied on Chinese textbooks to train British teachers, but a recent deal between HarperCollins and the Shanghai Century Publishing Group aims to make these textbooks available to British students as well.

“To my knowledge this has never happened in history before—that textbooks created for students in China will be translated exactly as they have been developed and sold for use in British schools,” said Colin Hughes, the managing director of Collins Learning (a UK division of HarperCollins), in a statement to China Daily.

The idea of integrating Chinese textbooks into British schools has gained popularity in the UK over the last few years. The nation’s School Reform Minister, Nick Gibb, has been particularly vocal about his belief that international textbooks are key to improving education standards.

“In this country, textbooks simply do not match up to the best in the world, resulting in poorly designed resources, damaging and undermining good teaching,” Gibb said at a 2014 Publishers Association conference. At the same conference, Gibb also cited research from the UK education expert Tim Oates, who argues that textbooks, not teachers, are responsible for England’s declining education standards.

Other experts have expressed reservations about requiring UK schools to adopt Chinese textbooks, arguing that it could undermine the many positive aspects of a British education. “A one-size-fits-all approach is unlikely to improve children’s learning,” wrote Ruth Merttens, a professor at the University of St. Mark and St. John, in an essay for The Guardian. “Worse still, it undermines more important features of our culture and heritage, where we punch above our weight in creativity.”

Still others fear that the British educational system is ill-equipped to handle the rigor of a Chinese curriculum. In Shanghai, for instance, many students endure 10- to 12-hour school days, in addition to attending private tutoring sessions and school on Saturdays. While the average student around the world spends about five hours on homework each week, Shanghai students spend nearly 14 hours a week on their assignments. Much of this preparation is geared toward passing the university entrance examination, or “gaokao.”

By contrast, a UK education is far less time-consuming and devotes more attention to individual learning. British educators also tend to move quickly from one subject to the next and cover a wide range of subjects, rather than specializing in a single area like mathematics. Interestingly enough, the Chinese Ministry of Education has recently turned to the UK for guidance on how encourage creativity in primary schools.

With Chinese and British schools excelling in different areas, it remains to be seen whether the UK will benefit significantly from China’s “master” mathematics program (or whether China will benefit from the UK’s creativity initiatives). Nevertheless, in a nation where only 10 percent of math teachers rely on textbooks, perhaps British educators could use some international help.


£52-a-week new private school ‘based on Easyjet’

Scotland’s first no-frills private school plans to adopt an “Easyjet” financial model that founders believe will allow establishments to emerge across the country.

A new charity, the Schools Educational Trust, intends to charge as little as £52 a week for private education, a price that it believes would make opting out of the state sector an option for families on average incomes.

James Tooley, professor of education policy at Newcastle University, who is also behind more advanced plans to open a cheap private school in Durham, insisted his model could be financially sustainable by operating with low profit margins in a similar approach to that of budget airlines and hotels.

It is understood that work has begun on finding a site for a small school, probably in Edinburgh but possibly in Glasgow, for 200 pupils. If the project is successful, it is hoped that others of a similar size will open elsewhere.

“Private education is not affordable for most people,” Professor Tooley said at the charity’s launch event in Edinburgh yesterday, chaired by Lord Digby Jones, the crossbench peer and former UK trade minister.

“Digby came up from Milan yesterday, he flew British Airways business class. He could also have flown Easyjet. In [private] education, all we offer at the moment is British Airways business class, there’s no Easyjet equivalent. Yet both will still get you to Edinburgh.

“Or, to mix my analogies, you can come and experience the beauty of Edinburgh and stay at the Balmoral, the poshest hotel here. Or you can stay at the youth hostel and still enjoy Edinburgh. You can still experience education at a low-cost level.”

Giving an example, he highlighted potential rental costs of £20,000 a year, or £100 a child in a school of 200. Another £1,550 per child could go on teacher and principal salaries. If all other costs could be covered with the remaining £1,050 per child from the £2,700 annual fees, the school would break even.

In comparison, private schools in Scotland charge an average of £14,000 a year, with the most expensive setting fees of £26,000 for a day school place.

“If costs are less [than £2,700 per child], even a tiny bit less, you can create a surplus which you can reinvest in the business to expand the business,” Professor Tooley, a founding trustee of the new charity, said. “I’m talking about the creation of a very low-margin business, but if you’ve got enough children there, you can create a viable business which would be of interest to investors, donors, and most importantly, parents.”

He has helped set up low-cost private schools in developing countries over the past decade. He said he had become passionate about the idea after noticing cheap, fee-paying schools appearing in some of the poorest parts of the world, including Sierra Leone, Somaliland and Liberia, which outperformed publicly-run counterparts.

“This is an extraordinary global phenomenon — low-cost private schools are serving poor families, outperforming the government schools and they’re affordable to the poor,” he said.

Ross Greer, education spokesman for the Scottish Greens, said: “Comparing schools to airlines is probably an indicator this scheme is unlikely to take off.

“Education should not be a business. Creating another tier of private education, where those with enough money can withdraw from state schools, will only create more closed loops of privilege and inequality.”


Civic Education To Save The Republic

If the American republic is in trouble, better civic education is the answer.  That is the conclusion reached by a number of papers and studies in recent years, including “The Republic is (Still) at Risk—and Civics is Part of the Solution” presented to the Democracy at a Crossroads National Summit a few weeks ago.

Consider a few compelling data points:

* In the last National Assessment of Educational Progress testing, only 18% of 8th graders were “proficient” or above in history, and only 23% in government.  A mere 1-2% were “advanced.”  By the way, if you believe students learn what is tested, those exams are no longer given in the 4th and 12th grades, only in the 8th

* Xavier University found that one-third of Americans could not pass the civics portion of the American citizenship test, whereas immigrants pass at a 97.5% rate.

* A poll of 18-34 year-olds found that 77% could not name a senator from their home state. And don’t remind me about those who think Judge Judy is on the Supreme Court.

While civic ignorance is itself a major problem, its effect is compounded when it is applied to particular issues of the day.  For example, a poll found that those under 30 preferred socialism over capitalism 43%-30%.  Similarly, a Reason-Rupe poll of 18-24 year olds showed that 58% supported socialism.  But when Reason-Rupe asked a follow-up question whether governments or markets should manage the economy, young people said markets by a 2-1 margin.  Essentially, they do not understand what socialism is.

The same ignorance is manifest in a recent study about free speech and the First Amendment by Hoover Institution and Brookings Institution fellow John Villasenor.   Hate speech is not protected by the First Amendment, say 44% of college students, with 51% saying it’s ok to disrupt an offensive speech with which you disagree, and 19% saying it’s fine to use violence for that purpose.  Another 62% of college students mistakenly believe the First Amendment requires a controversial speaker on one side to be balanced by a speaker on the other side.  Wow.

Part of the problem is that civics and history are not required by most of our colleges and universities, so those going into the teaching profession are not well prepared themselves.  Moreover, these days the emphasis in colleges and schools is on “civic engagement”—getting involved—rather than civic education or knowledge.  One would think the latter should precede the former.  The recent and heavy emphasis on STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) has been important, but it has also crowded out courses and investments in civics and history.

A few states are awakening to the problem and beginning to address it.  Florida now requires a middle school course in civics with follow-on testing with good results.  Illinois mandates a high school civics course with teacher development to support it.  The Ashbrook Center in Ohio has gone national with its programs to retrain history and civics teachers to teach using primary documents, rather than relying exclusively on typically boring and frequently biased textbooks.  There are several points of light, but not nearly enough.

A statement attributed to Abraham Lincoln delivers a frightening prospect:  “The philosophy of the school room in one generation will be the philosophy of government in the next.”  If you are concerned about the direction of America, it is time to do something about the study of civics, which is the real long-term solution.