Friday, March 10, 2017

Looking for fascism in America? Look left, on campus

Projection is the psychological term for imagining that others possess faults which are actually your own. Case in point: those liberal predictions that after Donald Trump lost the election, violent Trump supporters would attack innocent people, especially members of minority groups. Visions of storm troopers danced in their heads. Vast mobs of white-hooded Ku Klux Klanners would terrify the countryside. Brownshirts and Blackshirts would infest the city streets.

Something like that is happening now — but the violence is coming from leftists, not Trumpists. Take the University of California, Berkeley, [long pause] please. That's where a speech to the Young Republicans by rightist provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos was shut down by a screaming mob on February 1, as this eyewitness account from Power Line's Steven Hayward records. Not only was the speech shut down, but gangs of ski-masked and bandana-wearing protesters roamed the streets just off campus with sledgehammers, smashing ATM machines. In one instance, Hayward reports, a 62-year-old Republican who voted for Hillary Clinton held up a sign reading "1st Amendment Protects All Speech" and, on the obverse side, "Even Milo's" was punched in the nose and dropped to the ground.

Where were the police? Not in a position to help—by design. In this "lethal, horror situation," said University of California Berkeley campus police chief Margo Bennett, according to the Los Angeles Times. "We have to do exactly what we did last night: to show tremendous restraint." They made just one arrest. As for City of Berkeley police, according to the San Francisco Chronicle they came equipped with riot gear, but "as the violence escalated, officers pulled back." Police on a balcony ordered rioters to disperse, but made no move to stop them, supposedly to prevent injury to "innocent protesters and bystanders." City police made no arrests. "Our primary objective with the resources we had was the protection of life."

In other words, don't count on the campus or city police in Berkeley to protect you against violent thugs. Berkeley (which voted 90 percent for Hillary Clinton, 5 percent for Jill Stein and 3 percent for Donald Trump) seems to be taking the same approach to organized masked black-clad thugs that Italian authorities took to Mussolini's Brownshirts and Weimar Republic authorities took to Hitler's Brownshirts. If fascist violence is thriving and unpunished anywhere in America, it's in Berkeley.

It also made an appearance in Middlebury College in Middlebury, Vermont, (73 percent Clinton, 16 percent Trump) when my American Enterprise Institute colleague Charles Murray appeared in response to an invitation from political science Professor Allison Stanger to speak to students Thursday. Here is Murray's account of how he was shouted down by protesters, how in line with previous arrangements he went to speak in another room where his talk could be livestreamed. It too was interrupted by chants and the triggering of fire alarms (which I suspect in Vermont as elsewhere is at least a misdemeanor offense).

As they walked out the talk with two security guards. Murray describes what happened next: "I didn't see it happen, but someone grabbed Allison's hair just as someone else shoved her from another direction, damaging muscles, tendons, and fascia in her neck. I was stumbling because of the shoving. If it hadn't been for Allison and Bill keeping hold of me and the security guards pulling people off me, I would have been pushed to the ground. That much is sure.

What would have happened after that I don't know, but I do recall thinking that being on the ground was a really bad idea, and I should try really hard to avoid that. Unlike Allison, I wasn't actually hurt at all." The security guards were not able to prevent that, and I gather that in tiny Middlebury, unlike Berkeley, there is no large campus or municipal police force.

Murray praises Professor Stanger and Middlebury administrators and wonders whether they will or will be able to impose penalties, including criminal prosecution, on students or others who behaved unlawfully or in violation of campus code. He notes that in many previous appearances most students responded to protests by asking the protesters to pipe down; that apparently didn't happen, or if it did it didn't work, at Middlebury.

He goes on: "That leads me to two critical questions for which I have no empirical answers: What is the percentage of tenured faculty on American campuses who are still unambiguously on the side of free intellectual exchange? What is the percentage of them who are willing to express that position openly? I am confident that the answer to the first question is still far greater than fifty percent. But what about the answer to the second question? My reading of events on campuses over the last few years is that a minority of faculty are cowing a majority in the same way that a minority of students are cowing the majority." He concludes, "What happened last Thursday has the potential to be a disaster for liberal education."

What happened in Berkeley and Middlebury this month is more evidence that liberal college and university campuses have become the part of American society with the lowest tolerance for and protection of free speech. The liberals who have been quaking in fear of Trumpists thugs might want to notice where the real violent thuggery is occurring and which side of the political spectrum is tolerating it. They're guilty of projection.

One final note: the Associated Press ran a story about the response to Murray's speech in Middlebury that twice in its first three paragraphs repeated characterizations of him as a "white nationalist." The Washington Post, to its shame, printed the story unchanged. This is a disgraceful libel, as anyone who knows Murray's work or knows him personally knows very well.

The AP writer and the Post editor who passed the story along relied for their second characterization on the Southern Poverty Law Center — a dicey source as Harry Zieve Cohen of The American Interest and Charlotte Allen in The Weekly Standard make clear. Washington Post executive editor Marty Baron, if he still wishes to claim the mantle of an objective journalist, should find out how this vile slur got into his paper and make an appropriate disclosure and apology.


New Evidence on School-Choice Successes in Wisconsin

Higher test scores for students who go to the school their parents freely choose

During President Donald Trump’s Joint Address to Congress, 25-year-old Jacksonville, Fla., native Denisha Merriweather stood tall in the crowded House gallery. The President recognized Merriweather as an example of how school choice, in her case the Florida tax-credit scholarship, can open up opportunities for thousands of low-income children, often minority, who are trapped in failing public schools.

As Alexandra DeSanctis recently explained at NRO, Merriweather had struggled with reading earlier in her educational career, failing third grade twice. But she was able to use a tax-credit scholarship to attend private school from sixth grade to graduation and is now a college graduate with a master’s degree. She serves as a sterling example of how school choice can transform lives and extend the ladder of opportunity to those who need it most.

President Trump and Betsy DeVos, his reform-minded education secretary, have pledged to make school choice a pillar of the administration’s education agenda. Trump has said he wants Congress to dedicate $20 billion to extend school choice, most likely in the form of tax-credit scholarships, to millions of students across the country. The results could be revolutionary, and a new study from the Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty shows why.

Milwaukee, Wis., is home to the nation’s oldest private school-choice program. Created in the early 1990s with a bipartisan coalition, the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program (MPCP) has grown to serve more than 27,000 students, all low-income and overwhelmingly minority.

While the demand for school choice is evidenced by its popularity, data on whether private-voucher and charter schools serve to educate students better than traditional public schools have been subject to a muddied and distorted debate. The problem has been that making “apples to apples” comparisons about student outcomes across education sectors — public, private, and charter — has been hindered by insufficient data. Testing was inconsistent, and demographic data were often unavailable.

Even if we could compare test scores between voucher students and those in traditional public schools, we were unable to control for demographic characteristics of study that might affect outcomes. In other words, it was generally impossible to know whether voucher students were comparable to those in public schools.

But new testing mandates and the release of demographic information from the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction has enabled the Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty to make a first-of-its-kind comparison between school sectors.

In a new study, Apples to Apples: The Definitive Look at School Test Scores in Milwaukee and Wisconsin, we were finally able to compare like groups of students. The results are astonishing. On an apples-to-apples basis, we found that private schools in the voucher program and public charter schools in Milwaukee performed significantly better on the 2016 ACT and state exams than did traditional public schools.

When factors such as poverty, race, and the number of students who are not proficient in English are taken into account and properly controlled for, we find that student outcomes on test scores are simply better in the private and charter sectors than they are in traditional public schools.

In Milwaukee, the choice and charter sectors are consistently outperforming the Milwaukee Public Schools. In addition to higher proficiency rates on statewide tests, students in the choice program score, on average, 2.8 points higher than students in traditional public schools on the ACT.

These results are most pronounced in Milwaukee’s Catholic and Lutheran schools, whose students outperform even other choice students. Students in charter schools also see significant performance differences, scoring 4.4 points higher on average.

When we focused outside of Milwaukee, the research revealed that students in the Wisconsin Parental Choice Program and the Racine Parental Choice Program, the newest choice programs in Wisconsin, scored 6 points higher on the ACT.

President Trump and Secretary DeVos may be on the cusp of a revolution in education, though the specifics of any national school-choice plan matter greatly. After decades of largely unsuccessful, top-down, Washington-centered approaches to education reform, students and parents will be empowered to make the decisions that best suit them.

This study matters, not to build one sector up and tear another down, but because it helps provide parents and the general public with the best information about what is working and what isn’t in our schools. For families of modest means, who, like all families, wish to give their children the best chance to succeed, school choice is often the best choice.


Australia: NSW selective schools cater to the brightest students -- Asians

Amusing.  An Asian writer below is complaining that Asian students ace tests of academic ability.  So much so that schools for the gifted are dominated by Asian students.  How could it be otherwise?  East Asians simply have markedly higher average IQs.  People are just going to have to cope with that. 

It's true that Asians "cram" a lot and thus get top exam results but such cramming will not help bring higher scores on an admissions test -- which will largely be an IQ test.

In both Sydney and Melbourne, Asian enrolments make up more than 80 per cent of the school community in virtually all selective schools.

In 2016, selective schools made up eight of the top 10 schools in the Higher School Certificate  leaderboard. This is not surprising, as selective schools are government schools designed to cater for gifted and talented students with superior academic ability and high classroom performance.

Unlike other government schools, they are unzoned, so students can apply regardless of where they live.

But these public schools are increasingly bastions of inequality, rather than simply havens for the gifted and talented.

Figures from the government’s MySchool website show that in NSW, selective high schools are among the most socio-educationally advantaged in the state, surpassing even prestigious private schools.

The levels of advantage within selective schools are perhaps even more stark when we compare the students falling within the top quarter of socio-educational advantage (Q1) with those in the bottom quarter (Q4).

In 2015, an average of 74 per cent of students in Sydney’s selective schools were drawn from the most advantaged quarter, compared to only 2 per cent from the bottom quarter.

More than half (56 per cent) of Sydney’s selective schools had no students at all from the lowest quarter in 2015.

What’s more, this inequality has grown noticeably in just five years, with 2010 figures showing a (slightly) more balanced distribution.

On average 60 per cent of selective school students came from the highest quarter, while 9 per cent were from the lowest.

There are signs that other states are moving towards the NSW model. Victoria now has four selective schools, whose enrolments are similarly polarised, though not to the same extent as in NSW.

As public schools designed to cater for gifted and talented students, selective schools should be accessible to high achievers regardless of family background.

The MySchool figures raise serious questions about how accessible or meritocratic selective schools really are. They have become more inaccessible in recent years, almost completely so to the most disadvantaged groups.

Entry to selective schools is becoming increasingly competitive, with growing evidence that success is reliant on months or years of training through academic tutoring centres. Sometimes this begins in early primary school.

In my research with students and families in selective schools in Sydney, interviewees explained that many tutoring centres offered programs specifically focused on the selective schools test.

This kind of academic tutoring, designed solely to improve students’ test-taking skills, is quite a different phenomenon to the traditional tutoring undertaken by those who might be struggling in a particular subject area.

Academic tutoring is particularly popular among east and south Asian migrants to Australia, who are often accustomed to the practice in their home countries.

As a result, selective schools, as well as being increasingly dominated by the socially advantaged, are also now dominated by students from Language Backgrounds Other Than English.

In both Sydney and Melbourne, these enrolments make up more than 80 per cent of the school community in virtually all selective schools. At James Ruse, the figure was 97 per cent in 2015. I have previously analysed some of the social implications of this ethnic imbalance, from self-segregation in the playground to hostility from Anglo-Australian parents who accuse Asian-Australians of “gaming the system”.

The demographic profile of selective schools therefore reflects Australia’s skilled migration policy, which overwhelmingly selects highly educated, professional migrants.

These middle-class migrants, keen to see their kids do well, but also anxious about their place in a new society, have sometimes been unfairly demonised as “tiger parents”. But their behaviour is a logical response to Australian education policies that increasingly emphasise competition and schooling hierarchies.

Ultimately, most students sitting for the selective schools test this week will be unsuccessful in securing a place. And based on current trends, we can confidently predict who will be successful: the majority will come from the most advantaged groups in our society, often from Asian migrant families. Virtually none will be from the most disadvantaged groups.

Selective schools were set up to provide opportunities to the gifted and talented, not just the wealthy, gifted and talented.


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