Monday, February 06, 2017
Democrat Subjects Education Commissioner Nominee to ‘Inquisition’ Over His Christian Beliefs
Newly installed New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu’s nominee for the post of Commissioner of Education is being subjected to what some in the state are calling an “inquisition” and a “bigoted witch hunt” at the hands of a Democrat member of the state’s Executive Council.
At a packed public hearing of the Council Tuesday night in Concord, Republican Frank Edelblut was subjected to what education liaison Ann Marie Banfield of Cornerstone says was nothing less than an “inquisition” by Democrat councilor Andru Volinsky, an attorney.
Banfield provided video of the Executive Council meeting to Breitbart News, showing Volinsky grilling Edelblut over his religious beliefs and the fact that he sat on the board of a Christian college.
Edelblut, who served as a state representative and was a candidate for governor in 2016, has been a vocal critic of the Common Core State Standards, the Smarter Balanced Common Core-aligned tests, and the Obama administration’s “guidance” on transgender bathrooms in schools.
During his campaign for governor, he came in a close second to Sununu, who maintained only an 800-vote lead over Edelblut in the end.
According to the Concord Monitor, Edelblut is a businessman from Wilton who states his business background will help in updating the state’s public education system. A parent who has homeschooled his seven children, Edelblut supports the creation of academic standards at the local level.
“Testimony by those who opposed this nomination spoke about how they feared what would happen if Frank were to be confirmed,” Banfield tells Breitbart News. “They feared what he would do with his views on Creationism. They feared what he would do since he supports school choice.”
Excerpts from Volinsky’s questioning of Edelblut about his Christian beliefs and his service at Patrick Henry College, a Christian school that apparently requires faculty and staff to adhere to Christian principles, is as follows:
[D]o you subscribe to this description of God’s creative works that I’ve just shared with you, whether you did it as an agent or do it otherwise?
Patrick Henry College has a required oath of faith for its agents, and I assume, as either a board member or curriculum developer, you had to sign onto that oath of faith…the oath of faith is tied to a biblical worldview that also requires its agents to subscribe to – and, again, I wouldn’t even begin to ask you about this if it wasn’t relevant to what we’re doing here…in the biblical worldview “God’s creative works”…
When objection to Volinsky’s questions about Edelblut’s religious views was voiced, he responded that the nominee “will be in charge of religious, non-religious people, Muslims, Jews, Christians, Buddhists, atheists, and we, I think, are entitled to consider whether it will impact his work as a commissioner…”
Banfield adds that Steven Muzzi, who testified against Edelblut, said he was fearful of Edelblut’s approval because of concern he may push his political ideology onto public schools.
“Did he read the text of the Next Generation Science Standards that were just approved by the New Hampshire Board of Education?” she asks. “There are political ideologies in our new Common Core Next Generation Science Standards.”
Writing at New Hampshire Political Buzz, Kimberly Morin says Volinsky, a member of the “status quo in public education” and recipient of support from “one of the biggest teachers’ unions in the country” was on a “bigoted witch hunt.”
“It was egregious to see the horrifying religious bigotry that was rampant from the left,” she writes. “A few different Edelblut supporters wanted to know if one’s personal religion was going to now be a ‘litmus test’ for all future nominees.”
“I asked them to show me one bit of evidence where he’s pushed his religious views on the public schools,” Banfield says, adding that another criticism launched at Edelblut is his lack of experience or a degree in the field of education.
“It’s important to note that five of the seven board of education members serving in New Hampshire do not have degrees in education and have never taught in a public school,” Banfield observes, noting as well that all those with degrees and education experience in the state ended up promoting the nationalized Common Core.
She adds that Edelblut – in his opening statement to the council – said he supports giving flexibility and autonomy to teachers, and invites local school boards and teachers to make curriculum choices.
“This is a commitment to untie the hands of teachers and school boards instead of continuing down a path that restricts them,” Banfield says.
On Wednesday, the Executive Council tabled Edelblut’s nomination after Volinsky raised yet another “concern,” this time based on procedure. According to the Union Leader:
The motion to confirm Edelblut had been seconded as the council convened on Wednesday when Volinsky raised his point of order, asking if Gov. Chris Sununu had consulted with the state Board of Education prior to the nomination, as required by state statute.
Attorney General Joseph Foster was consulted and agreed with Volinsky’s interpretation of the statute. Sununu recessed the meeting and returned to say the vote should be tabled.
Edelblut, however, appears to have the votes necessary on the Republican-led council to secure the post.
“There was a divide between the providers of education and the consumers of education,” said councilor David Wheeler. “Those who were consumers wanted Frank Edelblut, and those who were providers of education clearly did not. I represent the customer as well as the provider, but I think the customer comes first.”
Marquette’s Faculty Tries to Sabotage Ben Shapiro Event
University’s chapter of Young Americans for Freedom will host conservative political pundit Ben Shapiro in just over a week, and while the club anticipates a sold-out 500-person lecture hall, club members made a startling discovery: Marquette University’s faculty is attempting to sabotage the event.
Young America’s Foundation, the parent organization to Young Americans for Freedom chapters, has obtained screenshots from club members that show a Marquette faculty member explaining her plan to block students from hearing Shapiro speak.
“I just got off the phone with one of the directors of diversity on campus,” wrote Chrissy Nelson, a program assistant at Marquette’s Center for Gender and Sexuality Studies. “The suggestion I received and will be promoting is to go to the mission week events that day, reserve a seat through Eventbrite as a student (to take a seat away from someone who actually would go) and not protest the day of.”
Predictable result of poor discipline in Israeli schools
Within Israel’s start-up culture the conventional wisdom is that certain Israeli character traits — our impatience, ability to improvise, and a tendency to defy rules and challenge authority — have contributed to the country’s impressive high-tech success.
Israel is booming in terms of entrepreneurship because “you don’t follow the rules,” Google’s Eric Schmidt once told an audience at the Weizmann Institute in 2015.
Not so fast, says Noam Gruber, an economist and senior researcher at Israel’s Shoresh Institution for Socioeconomic Research. In his recently published study, “Why are Israel’s PISA Achievements So Low?” [Hebrew link], Gruber analyzes the factors that lead to relatively poor Israeli performance on international math tests and concludes that students’ lack of discipline — the very quality praised by Eric Schmidt and other Start-Up Nation enthusiasts — is a significant factor behind the lackluster PISA scores.
“Israel has an advantage compared to other developed countries,” Gruber told The Times of Israel, noting a relatively high percentage of kids whose parents are educated and whose parents understand the importance of education.
But much of this great potential is wasted, she lamented, when Israeli students enter an education system that is of poor quality and suffers from a pathological lack of discipline. Gruber cites high levels of truancy and tardiness as well as classrooms abuzz with background noise and student disruptions as indicators of a lack of discipline.
“Discipline in Israeli schools is far below what is normative in the West,” she said. “If we don’t address this problem it will be hard for the Israeli workforce to remain competitive.”
PISA is an acronym for the Program for International Student Assessment, a global test administered by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) measuring 15-year-olds’ performance in mathematics, science and reading.
“PISA is a unified test and it’s a way to assess the achievements of our education system compared to those of other countries,” said Gruber. “Mathematical ability is proven to be a major predictor of students’ future success in the labor market.”
PISA math scores are also highly correlated with PISA reading scores, explained Gruber, so they’re a good stand-in for overall student achievement.
Gruber surveyed all 34 OECD countries along with Singapore, Taiwan and Hong Kong. He found that Israel’s math PISA scores (in 2012) were the fifth lowest in this group, worse than every country except for Mexico, Chile, Turkey and Greece. The original PISA test was scaled so that the OECD average score would be 500 and the standard deviation 100. In 2012, the 5,000 Israeli students who took the PISA math exam scored an average of 466. If you break this result down still further, those Israelis who took the test in Arabic scored 388 on average while those who took it in Hebrew scored 489.
Unfortunately, even Israel’s best students are not that stellar compared to top students in other developed countries, the study showed.
“Some people may think that Israel’s average PISA scores are low because of certain weaker groups in the population, like Arab Israelis and Haredim,” explained Gruber. “They think that certainly our top-performing students must be equal to their counterparts in the West.”
But this is not the case. If you look at students who took the PISA exam in Hebrew and scored in the 91st percentile, their score is 13 points lower than the average OECD score for the 91st percentile. If you look at Israel’s 99th percentile, the top 1 percent of scorers in the country, their scores are 39 points behind the top 1 percent of scorers of the OECD.
If Israeli schools are not doing much to boost students’ PISA scores, what do those Israeli students who do perform relatively well have in common?
Educated mothers, said Gruber.
Parents’ education is a very strong indicator of a child’s academic success, but the mother’s level of education is an even stronger indicator. This is true worldwide and particularly true among Israeli Jews, said Gruber
Asked why the mother’s education is an indicator of academic success, Gruber said he can only speculate.
“It may be because mothers spend more time with their kids. Also, if a mother is educated, the chances are the father is as well. If a father is educated, it’s not certain the mother is. So a family with an educated mother often has two educated parents as opposed to one. Also, if the mother has an academic degree, perhaps the family places a higher value on educating girls.”
If Israeli mothers are more educated than the OECD average and parents here are among the most motivated to see their children succeed, why do Israeli teenagers nevertheless perform so poorly?
The answer, said Gruber, is the sorry state of formal education in Israel. And the central cause of poor schools, according to his study, is their lack of discipline.
“In an estimate based on tardiness and truancy statistics, Israel is in the third to last place in the developed world in terms of discipline, with the problem made even worse by large classroom sizes,” Gruber wrote in his study.
Gruber goes on to quote the Ethics of the Fathers: “There is no Torah without good manners. Teaching kids to come to class on time, teaching them to pay attention and not disrupt, is good manners. It’s the foundation on which the learning process is built. When this foundation is shaky, no wonder that the ‘Torah,’ — the learning, the achievements, are poor.”
Gruber added that a strong education system would be able to instill discipline in children whose behavior is unruly. But the opposite often occurs. An unruly child will often set the tone for other children. The fact that the Israeli education system has a much higher tardiness and truancy rate than the rest of the developed world, said Gruber, demonstrates that the education system is weak.
“It starts at a young age. If you send your kid to a municipal preschool, they tend to be understaffed, they’re a bit of a jungle. Kids learn to look out for themselves. They don’t learn how to stand in line or wait for their turn or be quiet when someone else is speaking. Children take that with them to first grade and then to 10th grade and then to the army and then to the university. And that’s how Israeli adults behave on the street and on the roads and in politics.”
What’s interesting is that this disinclination to follow the rules is often a point of pride for Israelis, the “secret sauce,” many believe, that accounts for Israel’s status as the Start-Up Nation.
“There is some truth to this notion,” said Gruber, “because the world of elite high tech is all about disruption, you need people who are willing to destroy what exists and replace it with something better, so there’s an advantage to not being too disciplined and to being a bit of a wild person with a big ego.”
Still, said Gruber, when you look at Israel’s high-tech entrepreneurs they tend to come from relatively advantaged backgrounds and good schools.
“Besides,” he said, “Singapore, South Korea, Japan and Taiwan [countries leading in PISA math scores] have nothing to be ashamed of when it comes to technological achievements.”
Asked if there is any subgroup in Israeli society whose PISA scores are significantly higher than the rest, Gruber points to the children of North American immigrants to Israel whose average score is above 520, compared to the average for Israelis as a whole, which is 466. Other subgroups, like children of Russians or French immigrants, or national religious students, do not have scores that differ from the Israeli average.
Asked to explain this, Gruber could once again only speculate.
“North Americans in Israel tend to be better educated, have a better socioeconomic situation and live in well-off cities like Ra’anana, Modiin or Jerusalem.” Gruber also speculated that the fact that many Americans in Israel live near each other and socialize with one another creates an alternative subculture that is characterized by higher educational attainment among other things.
As for Israeli society as a whole, Gruber said that raising the discipline level in schools (as measured by tardiness and truancy) to the OECD average would likely raise Israeli PISA scores by at least 20 points.
“If we started today, then in 20 years Israeli society would be different. Better discipline would also attract better teachers to the profession. The world is competitive. If we continue on the current path, it will restrict the Israeli economy because not enough people will have the skills to be successful in high-tech or science.”
Posted by jonjayray at 1:55 AM