Friday, January 06, 2017

Bible students are may find the crucifixion too upsetting!

Religious snowflakes?

Theology students are being warned in advance that they may see distressing images while studying the crucifixion of Jesus, giving them a chance to leave if they fear being upset.

It is part of a trend at a number of universities for ‘trigger warnings’ issued by tutors to let students know about course content that might prove disturbing.

Advocates say it helps to protect the mental health of vulnerable students.

But critics say it is creating a generation of ‘snowflake’ students unable to cope with the harsh realities of the world.

The University of Glasgow, part of the elite Russell Group, confirmed that trigger warnings are issued to theology students studying ‘Creation to Apocalypse: Introduction to the Bible (Level 1)’.

According to university documents, a lecture on Jesus and cinema sometimes ‘contains graphic scenes of the crucifixion, and this is flagged up to students beforehand’.

Warnings are also given to the university’s veterinary students who work with dead animals, and those studying ‘contemporary society’ who will be discussing illness and violence.

Students of forensic science at Strathclyde University in Glasgow are given a ‘verbal warning… at the beginning of some lectures where sensitive images, involving blood patterns, crime scenes and bodies etc are in the presentation’.

A trigger warning for a gender studies course at Stirling University says: ‘We cannot anticipate or exclude the possibility that you may encounter material which is triggering [ie, which can trigger a negative reaction] and we urge that you take all necessary precautions to look after yourself in and around the programme.’

Students are told ‘you can, of course, leave a class at any time should you need to, but please check in… later that day to let us know how you are’.

Archaeology students at Stirling University are issued with a ‘warning in advance of one image in a PowerPoint, which is of a well-preserved archaeological body from an archaeological context’ because of the ‘risk it is found a bit gruesome’.

Scottish Tory education spokesman Liz Smith said: ‘Universities are meant to be a place of learning where concepts are challenged and tricky subjects debated.

‘That will become increasingly difficult if they go too far out their way to ensure everything survives the politically correct test. Some of the examples set out here are patently ridiculous.’

Glasgow University said: ‘We have an absolute duty of care to all of our students and where it is felt course material may cause potential upset or concern warnings may be given.’


New York Proposed Free College, but Not Everyone’s Buying It

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced an “aggressive” new plan to provide free college tuition to families earning up to $125,000 a year. Under the proposal, nearly a million families would qualify.

“We’re making college tuition-free for middle-class families,” Cuomo, a Democrat, said. “This is the most aggressive plan ever proposed.”

To participate, students are required to enroll full time at a state university of New York (SUNY) or city university of New York (CUNY) two- or four-year college.

Richard Vedder, director of the Center for College Affordability and Productivity and a professor of economics at Ohio University, called the proposal “extortionately inappropriate.”

“You’re taking money from the general taxpaying public—including some low- and middle-income people—and redistributing that to a group that will probably include a very significant part of a somewhat more affluent population,” Vedder told The Daily Signal. “It’s certainly not a redistribution to the poor; it’s a redistribution to the middle class—and a fairly affluent middle class.”

Cuomo is billing the proposal as “the first of its kind in the nation.” But while the plan appears to be the most far-reaching, it’s not the first time states have leveraged tax dollars to pay for at least some of their students’ college tuition. Oregon, Tennessee, Georgia, Michigan, and Louisiana have all done so in various forms, but not all of those programs have proven sustainable.

Louisiana, said Norbert Michel, an expert in financial regulations at The Heritage Foundation, provides a case study for why free tuition is “bad public policy.”

“It simply is not true that ‘everyone’ must have a college education,” Michel told The Daily Signal. “Pretending otherwise devalues the college degree, and it isn’t really free. Someone always ends up paying more for a college education when we pretend it’s free because we transfer tax dollars over to universities.”

Under the Louisiana college scholarship program, called the Taylor Opportunity Program for Students (TOPS), any student earning a 2.5 GPA or above who scores at or above the state average on the ACT or SAT is eligible for money to cover the full tuition of any public university in the state, despite how much or little their family earns. Scholarships can also be applied to private schools, although they won’t cover the full cost.

Last March, Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards, a Democrat, said due to a historic budget shortfall, the state no longer had adequate money to fund the program. According to CNN, more than half of Louisiana State University’s 26,000 undergraduates receive state-funded scholarships, totaling “about $58 million.”

From 2000 to 2010, Louisiana saw a 20 percent spike in the number of high school students who headed to college in one year. But in the wake of the budget shortfall, thousands of students received notifications last year that the scholarship program would only cover 42 percent of tuition costs for the spring 2017 semester.

To address the costs of college affordability, Vedder of the Center for College Affordability and Productivity said he’d “do nothing.”

“I think we’re over-invested in higher education,” he said. “But if you’re going to do something—and maybe there’s a political case for doing something—I would reduce subsidies to the state universities that are already being given, and convert that money to vouchers and give it to the low-income students.”

Cuomo’s Excelsior Scholarship program aims to provide free tuition to students from middle-class families making up to $125,000 per year, which according to the governor, accounts for 80 percent of New York households. He estimates the plan will cost approximately $163 million per year.

In creating the plan, Cuomo took a page from Sen. Bernie Sanders’ playbook. Sanders, an independent from Vermont, appeared alongside the governor on Tuesday at LaGuardia Community College to announce the new proposal.

“If the United States is to succeed in a highly competitive global economy, we need the best-educated workforce in the world,” said Sanders, who campaigned on the issue of free tuition while running for president. “We must make public colleges and universities tuition-free for the middle-class and working families of our country.”

The program, called the Excelsior Scholarship, will be paid for “by leveraging New York State’s generous aid programs,” Cuomo’s press release reads. It adds:

Currently, the Tuition Assistance Program, or TAP, provides nearly $1 billion in grants to college students statewide and New York is one of only two states in the nation that offers this type of entitlement. Under the program, eligible students would still receive TAP and any applicable federal grants. Additional state funds would cover the remaining tuition costs for incoming or existing eligible students.

Average tuition costs for a bachelor’s degree fall between $6,000 and $7,000 at SUNY and CUNY.

Cuomo’s proposal still needs approval from the state Legislature. He and Sanders are hopeful if the measure passes, other states will follow.

“Mark my words,” Sanders said. “If New York state does it this year, state after state will follow.”


Make Government Schools Compete or Die

If you pay taxes and take responsibility for getting your own children to and from school, you may be interested in learning that the government spent $23,233,698,000 in the 2012-2013 school year transporting other people's children to and from public schools around this country.

When those students got off the bus, taxpayers spent even more money on them — for things other than education in a classroom.

For example, according to the Digest of Education Statistics published in December by the federal government's National Center for Education Statistics, the government spent $21,862,081,000 in the 2012-2013 school year on food services in public schools.

That included $10,110,833,000 on supplies for these food services, $6,607,701,000 on salaries for the people working in them, and $2,529,156,000 on their employee benefits.

Students in public schools today can get both a free ride and a free (or subsidized) lunch.

But taxpayers cover the costs.

In total, taxpayers spent $606,490,475,000 on public elementary and secondary schools in the 2012-2013 school year, according to Digest of Education Statistics. That worked out to an average of $12,020 per pupil — including $467 per student for transportation and $439 for food services.

What did taxpayers get in return for the ride, the lunch and the $12,020 per student?

In 2015, public school eighth-graders scored an average of 264 out of a possible 500 on the National Assessment of Educational Progress reading test, according to Table 221.60 of the Digest of Education Statistics. Only 33 percent were grade-level proficient or better in reading.

Public school eighth-graders scored an average of 281 out of 500 on the NAEP math test, according to Table 222.60. Only 32 percent were grade-level proficient or better in math.

Some jurisdictions spent more money than the average. Some had worse scores. Some did both.

In President Barack Obama's home state of Hawaii, the public schools spent $12,536 per pupil in the 2012-2013 school year, according to Table 236.75. But in 2015, only 26 percent of the eighth-graders in Hawaii's public school were grade-level proficient or better in reading. Only 30 percent were grade-level proficient or better in math.

In Vice President Joe Biden's home state of Delaware, the public schools spent $15,090 per pupil in the 2012-2013 school year. But in 2015, only 31 percent of the eighth-graders in Delaware's public schools were grade level proficient in reading. Only 30 percent were grade-level proficient or better in math.

In Washington, D.C., where President Obama sent his children to a private school, the public schools spent $26,670 per pupil in the 2012-2013 school year. But in 2015, only 19 percent of eighth-graders in the D.C. public schools were grade-level proficient or better in reading. Only 19 percent were grade-level proficient or better in math.

President-elect Donald Trump advocates school choice. His campaign website says his vision on education includes establishing "the national goal of providing school choice to every one of the 11 million school aged children living in poverty."

That may be a good start. But it is not good enough.

School choice programs should not become yet another avenue for government redistribution of wealth. They should aim at lifting the entire nation from the wreckage of the public schools.

Middle-class families who now pay taxes to subsidize a failing government school system should not be shut out of a school-choice program that can liberate their children from that system.

In the District of Columbia, where the federal Congress has jurisdiction, it should pass a law providing that every parent of every student — even former President Barack Obama — be given a voucher equal to what the government spends per pupil in the D.C. public schools. That voucher should be redeemable at any school the parent chooses.

And the government should be restrained from regulating the curriculum and the values taught at those schools.

If that means many D.C. public schools close while new private schools open, so be it. Make government schools compete or die.

The same law should provide for phasing out the federal Department of Education. Congress should tell states and local jurisdictions: You are on your own when it comes to primary and secondary education. Let your voters decide.

Those voters should do for their hometowns what Congress should for the District of Columbia: enact school choice.


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