Tuesday, February 07, 2017

How Trump's refugee order targets educational injustice

Public schools beleaguered by waves of refugees will get a breather thanks to President Trump's executive order suspending refugee entry for 120 days. And under Trump's new policy, when the US reopens its doors to refugees, local communities will be consulted. That beats the Obama administration's dictatorial approach, which has overwhelmed many school districts.

Until now, refugee children have been placed in districts with little or no advance notice. Arriving from countries like Congo, Burma, Somalia and Syria, they speak no English and bear the signs of trauma from their ordeals. They need interpreters, counselors and attention. But often they're placed in the poorest school districts - which can least afford them.

School authorities try to be welcoming, but no good deed goes unpunished. The American Civil Liberties Union is targeting these communities, claiming they're not doing enough for refugees. On top of the costs of educating the refugees, towns are getting slapped with lawsuits and legal fees.

The State Department decides where refugees are settled. The feds pay nonprofits such as Catholic Charities to rent and furnish apartments for refugees, enroll them in English class and put their children in public school.

In New York, upstate cities like Buffalo, Syracuse and Utica are magnets for resettlement because the $900-a-month housing stipend goes a lot farther than in New York City or on Long Island.

Buffalo has absorbed 10,000 refugees in the last decade. At Lafayette High School there, 45 languages are spoken, 70 percent of students are just learning English and nearly 40 percent missed years of schooling before arriving.

Educators report that refugee students are highly motivated. Sending them to Lafayette isn't doing them any favors: It's one of the state's poorest performing schools, with only 16 percent of students graduating on time. Requiring resource-strapped schools to take in large numbers of refugee children is a raw deal for the refugees and locals.

Refugee youngsters would be better off settled in the well-to-do communities that are bashing Trump's travel ban - liberal havens like Hollywood and the Beltway suburbs around Washington, DC. But don't count on that happening. These kids will continue landing in economically stressed cities like Chicago, whose schools can't afford extensive language programs.

Or Utica, another tapped-out city in upstate New York, where nearly one out of six residents is a refugee. Schools there have been "very supportive of diversity" explains Christoper Salatino, head of Utica's Board of Education. But it's coming with a "pretty large price tag."

Adding refugees to the district amounts to an "unfunded mandate," he adds. The State Department's "school impact grants" pale beside the actual costs. Utica has laid off large numbers of teachers and cut art, music and other extras to pay for translators and special instructors for the refugees.

Even that wasn't enough for the New York Civil Liberties Union. It sued Utica - the fifth-poorest school district in the state - for sending older teens to a separate Newcomer Program that offered English immersion instead of traditional high-school subjects.

"Some students were not being successful when placed in traditional" classes because they'd been out of school so long, explained a local school official. But rather than spend money fighting, the school district settled and got socked with $80,000 in legal fees from the civil-rights group.

The same scenario played out in Lancaster, Pa. Educators initially placed newly arrived 19- and 20-year-old refugees in a separate program to learn English before mainstreaming them in high school. The idea was to minimize disruption. But the trigger-happy ACLU sued, insisting a separate program violated the refugees' rights. So much for common sense.

That's what's behind Trump's revamping of the refugee-resettlement program - common sense. Not heavy-handed orders from Washington and its litigation-industry allies.


British schools are supposed to teach kids HOW to think for themselves, not WHAT to think. So why are so many liberal teachers bullying and brain-washing children with their own intolerant views?

By Katie Hopkins

Are you sitting comfortably, children? Then I have a creative task for you. Tell me, is this poem from the Bush era, still relevant today?

'When the president talks to god/Does he ever think that maybe he's not? /That that voice is just inside his head /When he kneels next to the presidential bed /Does he ever smell his own bulls**t When the president talks to god/ I doubt it. I doubt it.'

This, ladies and gentlemen, is what is being taught in British schools. Teachers asking children to think about Trump and his bulls**t. And whether he smells it. Do they smell their own I wonder? I doubt it, I doubt it.

Another teacher made protest banners with her class of twelve-year-olds (I repeat: twelve-year-olds) whom she took along to the protest against Trump outside Westminster. She even had a pathetic picture taken to commemorate the occasion.

Tell me: would you be happy if this was the teacher of your twelve-year-old?

Even as my suspicions have been growing about the indoctrination of our young children by so-called liberals, so has the number of stories arriving in my inbox.

Worried parents whose little kids come home repeating opinions they have been taught in school, rather than lessons, wondering how they should talk to the school about it without getting their kids into trouble.

Children being taught that Trump is a bad man and a racist. That Brexit is wrong. That the correct answer is Clinton.

A young man aged 17 from Hertfordshire was ostracised from his politics class for daring to admit he supported Trump. He was told by the teacher to have 'less strong views' and was isolated by his class. Eventually he dropped the subject completely because no one would sit with him or talk to him.

A child isolated for his opinion and hounded for his views. 

Another worried mother, Rachel from Solihull recounts that her eight-year-old came home from primary school and asked her why she liked Trump when he is a racist and hates women.

The child had been shown the news, told by his teacher that Trump hates women, Muslims and Mexicans and is a Bad Man.

Elsewhere, a headmaster of a secondary school in Chester gave a lecture featuring his own brand of politics, alarming the kids about the state of the world. He said he hoped to see his pupils again next week 'if Trump has not pressed the nuclear button by then', and sent them home with a newsletter reinforcing his point.

And then this from a mum in Bournemouth: 'My seven-year-old daughter came home from school saying she had been learning Donald Trump's job is to take care of all the people but he doesn't because he is a nasty evil man.

'I asked her why, and she said ... in school they had been shown a newspaper of a little girl holding up a sign saying 'not my President' because Trump had held a book and sworn to take care of all people but he lied.

'Because American people don't have newspapers, they cannot see what a horrible man he really is and what he is really like. And a lady wanted to be president and she actually got more votes than him. But they still let him win. And that's not fair.'

Other parents also told of assemblies for twelve-year-olds in Swindon in which Donald Trump's ban on refugees entering the country had been compared to the Holocaust.

Small children in Chelmsford were taught in morning assembly on June 24 following the vote for Leave that 'your parents will be very sad tonight. They might even be crying. Because people who do not want us to be friends with Europe voted the wrong way'.

Clearly, children need to be aware of the news and current affairs. I buy my own children a children's newspaper so they can form their own views.

I am not arguing teachers shouldn't offer up the facts of the world and allow children to form a view.

I can accept that many teachers believe Trump to be an odious individual and/or that Trump equals hate.

And I have heard the argument that it is right that teachers should teach children to be inclusive and to stand against hate, and by this logic teachers have a duty to speak out against Trump. But this is a sleight of hand. Deductive reasoning that has lost its way. The opinion that Trump equals hate is not a fact. It is a view.

Schools are doing exactly what Remainers did when they tried to foist hate on to Leave voters by claiming ownership of the phrase 'hope not hate'. As if they had rights to the word hope, and everything else was hate.

Many teachers seem to believe their opinions are right and, therefore, all other viewpoints are wrong. And they are are indoctrinating our children with their beliefs.

This is not teaching children how to think. This is teaching children what to think.

I spoke to a teacher earlier who called me to confirm categorically that this is what she is seeing inside schools, too. She can be honest with her students about the fact that she supported Leave — she would never lie to them, after all — but she does not dare repeat her views in the staff room, where prescribed-think prevails.

What is going on inside our schools is a disgrace. It needs blowing wide open.

It is wrong to teach children what to think. It is wrong, if not professionally incompetent, to have young school kids make banners, then take them out on a protest and be photographed doing so.

And it is truly terrifying that adult teachers are willing to humiliate children because of their beliefs, or to isolate young people with their hands in the air to support Trump when an entire assembly full other kids AND their teachers thrust their hands up in opposition.

Being a minority voice is still brave. Even if the minority voice is from the right wing.

It's more frightening still to bully a child into giving up a subject altogether because their opinions and views are 'too strong', and quite blatantly too 'wrong'.

If you wonder why young people often seem so weak, perhaps it is because in school they were never allowed to think strong or to stand strong for their own beliefs — only for the beliefs of their so-called teachers.

I urge young people to stand strong for what you believe. And I implore parents, to stand strong for your children. Surely they deserve the opportunity to learn how to think, before a teacher tries to tell them what to think as well.


Politics does not bear the whole blame for the crisis at American Colleges

Campus life has been increasingly riled by controversies over perceived offenses. An administrative culture is partly responsible.

Between 1932 and 1934, the Mexican muralist José Clemente Orozco toiled away on the masterwork that would christen the basement of Dartmouth College’s new library. The resulting mural—3,200 square feet of arresting visual narrative that maps out, as its title declares, “The Epic of American Civilization”—is more than a grand showpiece. Orozco’s work is most striking today as a testament to the intellectual self-confidence that once characterized American colleges, and which has waned over the past decades with disastrous effects.

Orozco had a flair for political boldness. His murals shout in a kind of proto-post-colonial language that piqued the interest of American artists, but clashed with the bourgeois ethos of mid-twentieth century colleges. The suspicion that his work would be at odds with the prevailing values of Dartmouth was not lost on anyone involved in the project, from the pair of art professors who recruited him for the job, to the philanthropist (and staunch anti-communist) Abby Rockefeller who financed the commission.

And true to expectation, the mural was vicious—particularly in its panel titled “Gods of the Modern World,” which depicts academia as a corpse of dead knowledge, birthing intellectually stillborn graduates each year as the world burns in the backdrop. But as Jacquelynn Baas, the former director of Dartmouth’s Hood Museum of Art, recalled in an interview, “No one ever told [Orozco] that he couldn’t do what he was doing.” The mural inevitably spurred a minor backlash among the most conservative alumni—who responded by sponsoring a new work with a whimsical portrayal of the college’s historical relationship to nearby Native American tribes. The trustees in favor of permitting Orozco’s provocative work prevailed, however, and did so with ease. Baas summarized the view of Dartmouth’s then-President Ernest Martin Hopkins on the matter, praising his insistence that “students should be exposed to the best, no matter what.”

Times have changed. Today, college campuses are regularly riled by controversies over art and architecture that clash with modern values. Students and faculty have organized to wipe away outdated or offending artifacts, and administrators have typically responded with sympathy, followed by acquiescence. Yale has become the epicenter of the trend with its struggle over Calhoun College, the residential college named for the pro-slavery Vice President John C. Calhoun. In August, Yale President Peter Salovey established a “Committee to Establish Principles on Renaming”—the title of which is so flatly Orwellian that the tension between the group and the school’s commitment to free inquiry is impossible to ignore.

The growing resistance to ideas that grate against popular values extends beyond the visual realm of buildings and art works. The past few years have seen a sharp rise in “disinvitations” of campus speakers and school-sanctioned task forces to investigate students’ speech. Last spring at Hampshire College, President Jonathan Lash agreed to disinvite commencement speaker Emily Wong, a physician who, despite having no record of offensive remarks, was condemned by students for being insufficiently concerned with the struggle for social justice.

This new, fervent insistence on cleansing campuses of contradictions is usually attributed to politics. Watchdog organizations like Turning Point USA report on the mistreatment of conservative students by liberal professors, suggesting that the academy has become so uniformly progressive that it can no longer tolerate a single word or thought that strays from its new orthodoxy. The dominance of progressive politics on campus is undeniable. A 2014 study by the social psychologists Yoel Inbar and Joris Lammers found not only that liberal professors now dominate every corner of the social sciences, but also that universities often express an open reluctance to hire conservative professors.

In focusing on this political cartel effect, however, critics tend to underemphasize the increasing fragility of the universities themselves—the second great factor that has wiped away tolerance for “dangerous” ideas on college campuses since the mid-twentieth century. The schools of a half-century ago were much leaner, with comparatively tiny budgets and administrative staffs, meaning they felt no itch to raise ever-higher funds with each passing minute and no need to keep their image so squeakily clean for the donors. Today, every controversy that arises on campus has the potential to tarnish the image that generations’ worth of administrators have crafted to keep admissions numbers high and donations pouring in—that is, the banner shot of carefree students, tossing a Frisbee on a well-kept lawn with a preternaturally diverse group of their classmates. The president of Yale may find the sight of John Calhoun’s name emblazoned above a dorm building to be offensive. Of more immediate concern, though, would be the drop in applications and tightening of Yale’s famous endowment that would follow from a reinvigorated protest, spurred by his reluctance to chisel Calhoun’s name away.

This crisis of confidence at colleges—driven by conflict-shy administrators and self-effacing professors—has come to a head in the culture of protest that has developed on American campuses.

In the balance between encouraging a clash of ideas and prioritizing stability, the rise in power of college administrators has tipped the scales immeasurably. Dr. Jonathan Zimmerman of the University of Pennsylvania, an education historian, told me that the “number of full-time faculty members has consistently declined” since the mid-1960s. He added that administrative growth took off during the same era, with non-teaching staff outnumbering professors from the 1990s onward.

Predictably, the administrator-run campus has transitioned from imparting essential knowledge to students toward treating students as customers. Zimmerman took note of the most visible element of the customer-service college: the surge of pricey construction projects such as “climbing gyms and luxury dorms” (although he noted that beneficial services such as mental health counseling have also grown from the same impulse to cater to students).

Putting aside these costly services of all sorts, however, the more dangerous development in campus consumerism has taken place in the classroom. In The Dumbest Generation, a 2008 book that is mostly a critique of millennial ignorance, the writer and English professor Mark Bauerlein turns his sights on his fellow members of the academy in a chapter called “The Betrayal of the Mentors.” Bauerlein describes the increasingly common practice of treating students as customers who are always right, rather than offering new perspectives that might expand their worldviews: “If mentors are so keen to recant their expertise, why should students strain to acquire it themselves?” This type of professorial restraint, which lecturers adopt under the pretense of encouraging dialogue, actually diminishes intellection. With no real arguments being made in the classroom, today’s students are likelier to rest upon the easiest reading of any particular subject, never developing a tolerance for unconventional perspectives.

This crisis of confidence at colleges—driven by conflict-shy administrators and self-effacing professors—has come to a head in the culture of protest that has developed on American campuses. Once again, political polarization is only one part of the story. Today’s college students are certainly more liberal and more ideologically uniform than their counterparts of the mid-twentieth century. But the focus on the little things that we see in campus protests—as in the movement to suppress insensitive Halloween costumes at Yale in 2015—shows the extent to which the political fervor is being driven by the absence of bigger, richer ideas to seize students’ attention. The New York Times columnist Ross Douthat made this case in a column during the same outburst of protests, which swept through dozens of campuses that fall. “The protesters at Yale and Missouri,” he pointed out, are “dealing with a university system that’s genuinely corrupt, and that’s long relied on rote appeals to the activists’ own left-wing pieties to cloak its utter lack of higher purpose.” In other words, if hollowing out collegiate culture of all of its challenging substance really was just a ploy to dodge controversy and keep the money coming in, then it looks like the strategy has decidedly backfired.

Meanwhile, studies are beginning to pile up that show that students are not merely made restless by the lack of challenging substance, but are also left intellectually stunted, never learning to discuss politics, economics, or culture in any terms outside of the narrow lexicon of social justice. Richard E. Redding and William O’Donahue pushed back against the PC curriculum with a 2010 study that challenged the value of identity-centric teaching, and Columbia professor Mark Lilla articulated the same case to a broader audience last November in a New York Times op-ed that called for “The End of Identity Liberalism.”

Just like all forms of controversial opinion—hypotheses, theories, and even works of art—the value of Orozco’s mural was not that its content was certifiably true. Even the professors who commissioned it did not see America as quite the decadent cesspool that Orozco portrayed, but hoped that their students might be jarred out of complacent thinking by his perspective. Ironically, however, the American academy has moved closer to Orozco’s depiction of it by shirking their mission to provoke: repositories of dead knowledge, giving birth to fragile ideas.

For colleges to re-adopt intellectual openness would require them to take on a great degree of risk, and they could never succeed without the hard-won cooperation of individual professors and administrators. But with more and more research emerging about the value of a challenging curriculum—and with a hunger for thought-provoking substance still growing on America’s campuses—the incentives may soon begin to align for a renaissance of heterodoxy.


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