Monday, August 07, 2017

Fake News: DOJ and College Admission Discrimination

The New York Times cries "racist" about a Justice memo, but the real story is something different.

It’s no secret that over the last few months fake news has reached a fever pitch in the DC swamp. One of the more blatant recent examples came this week when a New York Times reporter jumped on a leaked Justice Department hiring call for staff to conduct “investigations and possible litigation related to intentional race-based discrimination in college and university admissions.”

To the Times writer, this meant that the “Trump administration is preparing to redirect resources of the Justice Department’s civil rights division toward investigating and suing universities over affirmative action admissions policies deemed to discriminate against white applicants.” The Washington Post quickly followed suit with the same assumption that this would benefit white students, and another piece of fake news was hot off the press.

In reality, the Justice Department mentioned no race in the call. But to maintain the illusion that the Trump administration caters to its “alt-right” racist supporters, these reporters just knew in their bones that the intent of the attorney general — that child of the pre-civil rights South, Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III — was to return us to the days of Jim Crow. Those who make their living in the East Coast echo chamber not only took the bait but swallowed hook, line and sinker.

Thus, the next afternoon the Department had to come out with a clarification: “The posting sought volunteers to investigate one administrative complaint filed by a coalition of 64 Asian-American associations in May 2015 that the prior administration left unresolved. The complaint alleges racial discrimination against Asian-Americans in a university’s admissions policy and practices.”

So the “prior administration,” which would be the one run by the supposedly progressive and colorblind Barack Obama, allowed a case of alleged discrimination against a minority group to lie dormant for over a year and a half without resolution, but those cold, heartless racists in charge now are making a priority of addressing it? No wonder the Leftmedia can’t report straight news anymore.

Certainly this group has a case, although leftists are more skeptical that Asian-Americans are victims. (One valid point made in The Atlantic: The term “Asian” encompasses as wide of a range of different cultures as the generic term “Latino,” which is understood to cover such diverse backgrounds as Puerto Rican, Cuban, Mexican, and so forth.) The Left is also less likely to see Asians as a true minority group, even though their numbers bear out the fact that they are one. Perhaps it’s because, as a group, their median income is over twice as high as black Americans and about 75% higher than the average Hispanic’s.

Because Asians are less likely to be impoverished, leftist social justice warriors are free to remind us the Supreme Court is alright with a certain amount of discrimination in college admissions as long as the institutions don’t resort to outright usage of numeric quotas in their efforts to promote “diversity” on campus. There are plenty of rich, privileged people on campus already so Asians fit right in with that group; we don’t need any more of them, leftist logic goes.

Even so, the narrative will continue to be presented that Donald Trump’s Justice Department only looks out for the interests of people who look like the president. (Granted, many believed the same thing about the last president but the mainstream media wasn’t carrying the water to make them believers.)

Sadly, we have devolved to the point where the truth seemingly cannot be told about the president regardless of what he does: If he’s on the side the media favors and does something detrimental to the nation, the spin machine is put on full throttle. It’s how we get the leftist illusion of Barack Obama being a scandal-free president. On the other hand, when a president like Trump or someone in his administration does something good for America like help out a long-standing friend and ally in Central Europe or make sure justice is served for all, as in this case, it’s made out to be a completely different story.

If there’s anything in this country we need to #Resist, it’s the temptation to believe anything the media reports. This fake news, created from a leaked document not intended for public consumption in the first place and misinterpreted in the second, is just another reason not to buy what they’re trying to sell.


The school that went gender neutral

The kids didn't like it but a few adapted

It was a bold social experiment predicated on the modish belief that perhaps boys and girls aren’t quite so different after all. The BBC’s idea was to create a gender-neutral classroom of seven-year-olds for a TV documentary.

What would happen, wondered producers, if all differences between boys and girls were removed over a six-week period? Could it change the way the children thought and close the gaps in their achievement levels?

So out went boys-only football matches and books about fairytale princesses. In came mixed sports teams, unisex books and posters proclaiming that ‘boys are sensitive’ and ‘girls are strong’.

The school even abolished girls and boys loos for the class, much to the horror of pupils.

Teacher Graham Andre was told to stop referring to girls in his class as ‘love’ and boys as ‘mate’. Every time he used one of these gender-specific terms, his pupils put a sad face on a chart next to the word.

A pink cupboard which had separate sections for the boys’ and girls’ coats was declared a ‘gender-neutral’ zone. The children could instead put their coats in any part of the cupboard. For good measure, it was repainted orange.

To encourage the students to reject the idea of gender-stereotyping, signs were put up around the classroom – such as this pair with the messages ‘Girls are strong’ and ‘Boys are sensitive’.

The youngsters were shown that women can be mechanics and men can be make-up artists to dispel the preconceptions they appeared to have that certain jobs are for girls and others are for boys.

To better reflect what is already happening with more frequency in the real world, pupils were told that they would be sharing gender-neutral toilets. Both boys and girls were appalled at the idea.

The BBC2 programme, No More Boys And Girls: Can Our Kids Go Gender Free?, which is being broadcast later this month, comes as the issue of gender in childhood is becoming increasingly contentious and complex.

There has been a huge rise in the number of young people saying they identify as being of the opposite sex or that they are ‘non-binary’: neither female nor male.

At the same time an increasing number of institutions, from schools to police and hospitals, are going to great lengths to avoid dividing people by their sex.

Last month, the Government announced plans to allow adults to legally change their sex without a medical diagnosis. In future, individuals who want to change gender are expected to simply make a statutory declaration that they intend to live as the gender they have transitioned to until they die.

At the heart of the BBC programme are claims made by Dr Abdelmoneim that, apart from having different sexual organs, there are no major physical differences between the sexes at the age of seven, and their brains are almost identical.

He concludes that the explanation for why boys act so differently to girls lies in how they are raised, from the toys they are given to the terms of endearment they hear.

He says: ‘Children occupy a world where adults are giving them messages constantly about what it means to be a boy or a girl. So parents who say it’s in their child’s nature to act a certain way or like certain toys – it came from them.’

And he warns that the differences girls and boys pick up from a young age lead to gender inequality later in life. His fears seem to be borne out when the pupils at Lanesend are asked to describe what sets boys and girls apart.

One boy, Louis, observes: ‘I think boys are cleverer than girls because they get into President easier.’

Another pupil, Kara, says she would describe girls as ‘pretty’, adding: ‘When a woman has a baby she has to stay at home while the man goes out to get money.’

Tiffany says simply: ‘I think men are better at being in charge.’

In a series of psychometric tests, Dr Abdelmoneim and his team discover that the girls have much lower self-esteem than the boys and are inclined to underestimate their abilities. In comparison, the boys are more likely to over-estimate their ability to achieve, but struggle to express any range of emotions apart from anger.

In a bid to address this, they set out a whole series of radical changes in school life. One of the first things the programme-producers ban is Mr Andre’s habit of using pet names such as ‘love’ or ‘sweetpea’ for the girls and ‘mate’ or ‘fella’ for boys. A cupboard with separate compartments for the boys’ and girls’ coats is removed.

Attentions then turn to the children’s library. Books featuring characters ‘squarely aimed at boys’ – including Star Wars stories – are culled. Instead, children are given an ‘alternative narrative’ with new stories where the princess saves the prince from the monster rather than the other way around.

Another subject that the children have decidedly traditional views on is jobs. When asked to identify professions that women do, one of the girls in the class, Lexi, replies: ‘Hairdresser, babysitter and nail designer.’ One of the boys, Riley, lists men’s jobs as ‘football player, tennis people, captain of a ship’.

And Grace says: ‘I think a firefighter is a boy because they need to hold up big ladders – what are really heavy.’

Dr Abdelmoneim says: ‘On one level this just sounds like harmless kids’ talk. But at just seven years old there is no doubt in their minds: some jobs men do and some women do and that is limiting.’

To challenge the pupils’ preconceptions about the jobs on offer to them, the TV crew brings in a male ballet dancer, a female mechanic, a male make-up artist and a female magician.

The children seem shocked by the role-reversal, but soon the girls are poring over a car engine and the boys are practising pirouettes.

One of the other common notions that the BBC team appear most keen to dispel is that boys are stronger than girls.

‘As a doctor I have got an understanding of the body – how we grow and change,’ Dr Abdelmoneim says in the programme.

‘What I do know is there is no difference in muscle mass between boys and girls up to the age of puberty.’

To prove his point, Dr Abdelmoneim pits the children against each other in a strength test. Each child takes turns to hit a fairground hammer bell three times. Both boys and girls in the class score the maximum ten points, but rather than reducing divisions in the class, the results throw the children’s emotions into turmoil.

Lexi, a top scorer, bursts into tears at her result, sobbing: ‘I didn’t think I could do it at first.’

Riley, one of the more spirited boys, throws himself on the ground in a tearful strop at the distress of coming bottom when he fails to hit the bell even once.

The unsettling episode causes Dr Abdelmoneim to directly question if the experiment is at all workable. He says: ‘I’m worried all I’ve done is upset a load of kids and none of this is having the slightest effect.’

For the most part, the Year 3 children at Lanesend Primary School in Cowes on the Isle of Wight reacted positively to the changes – until the programme’s presenter, Dr Javid Abdelmoneim, struck at the heart of what really makes boys and girls different.

‘You’ve got to start going to the same toilet,’ he announces to the class. The response is unanimous and resounding. ‘No!’ cry the children but – undeterred – the programme-makers push on with the experiment.

Dr Abdelmoneim admitted last week: ‘The children didn’t like the toilet.’ He said the girls were particularly uncomfortable with the arrangement. ‘The girls were like, “Oh they [the boys] come out with their bits dangling out and they don’t wash their hands.” ’

Mr Andre admitted parents were equally unhappy, adding: ‘The head put the toilets back to normal when the film cameras left.’

He said: ‘We are getting some new toilets and I think we are going to make them gender-neutral. It’s the parents who are not so happy about it, especially with the older children, so we might have to look at something else there.’

Despite such setbacks, Mr Andre is not put off. He said that since the TV cameras departed, his class have continued to embrace gender neutrality. ‘There’s a little girl in our class who couldn’t stand football but now she’s joined a team. And you’ve got a boy going to his mum’s belly-dancing classes.

‘I’ve carried on with the gender-neutral messages. I’ve shared them with the whole school. So we’re looking at – rather than having a gender-neutral classroom – having a gender-neutral school.’


Australia: Smart money should go to teach the teachers

Analysing the latest NAPLAN test can be an exercise in frustration. No jurisdiction improved its mean score in any assessment domain from 2016 to 2017. The only break in the statistical monotony was a drop in Year 3 writing scores in South Australia.

Extending the comparison back further gives more reason for hope.

There have been big gains in Years 3 and 5 reading and in Year 5 numeracy in several states and territories since the tests began in 2008, but progress is patchy in other areas, especially writing.

The states and territories that have made the most important gains since 2008 are Queensland, Western Australia and the Northern Territory. While it is difficult to pinpoint why, it is reasonable to assume sustained incremental improvements are because of better teaching. There are sizeable pockets of schools in each of these jurisdictions that have embraced explicit instruction, especially in phonics, and have seen their ­NAPLAN scores rise as a result.

The NT Year 3 reading results are especially pleasing. There was a non-statistically significant dip this year, but this was after an upward trajectory in previous years.

Secondary school is a different story. It is a struggle to find any improvement in any area in Years 7 and 9 in any state or territory over the lifetime of NAPLAN.

To some extent this is to be expected: achievement in literacy and numeracy in high school is highly dependent on foundations laid in primary school. Hopefully, improvements in primary will soon flow through, but these gains will be lost if students do not continue to get high-quality teaching.

This year’s NAPLAN data show there is no straightforward relationship between school funding and students’ achievement. There have been substantial funding increases to all states and territories since NAPLAN began, particularly since the “Gonski” funding model began three years ago, but only some states have improved, and only in some areas.

The evidence that extra money has contributed to higher achievement is far from clear. It is well-­established that teaching is the greatest in-school influence on student achievement.

Once high-quality teaching has been established, good teaching costs no more than poor teaching. This is partly why it is difficult to find a consistent causal association between the size of the education budget and results.

Improving results requires schools to use evidence from the best multidisciplinary research on how children learn and the most effective way to teach them. If increased spending is not invested in making sure all teachers have this knowledge and expertise, then it is destined to be wasted.


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