Thursday, August 10, 2017

Why the hokum about rape on campus?

The appetite for campus panics is becoming insatiable. In the UK and the US, numerous surveys revealing a high level of sexual harassment at university have gained international attention.

In keeping with this trend, the Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has this week released a long-awaited report on campus sexual assault. And even before the data was announced, commentators were excitedly predicting the outcome of the report. ‘A wave of victims are expected to come forward following the release of the world’s largest report into sexual assault on campus’, claimed the Sydney Morning Herald. The Australian predicted ‘an influx of historical disclosures of sexual assault and harassment’ as a result of the study. The results of the report were ‘predicted to be damning’, said the Canberra Times.

Commentary on the report was indeed damning. ‘Australia has a sexual-assault problem’, said ABC. ‘Half of all students were sexually harassed in 2016’, claimed the Guardian. ‘One in five university students experience some form of sexual harassment’, wrote the Australian. But, as with so many reports on campus sexual assault, the panicky headlines don’t reflect the reality.

According to the report, 51 per cent of students were sexually harassed on at least one occasion in 2016 (including ‘incidents which took place off campus’), and 21 per cent of students were sexually harassed in a ‘university setting’ (including an ‘off-campus event organised, or endorsed, by the university’, as well as ‘technology-based harassment’). The AHRC survey that informed the report was filled out by 30,000 students – just over two per cent of the student population, according to Universities Australia data on 2017 student numbers.

Furthermore, the AHRC also admits that much of the success of the report is down to the work of advocacy organisations. ‘This report comes after years of advocacy by survivors of sexual assault… to raise public awareness of the issue of sexual assault and sexual harassment at Australian universities’, said sex-discrimination commissioner Kate Jenkins. The report even admits this bias on page 226, in a section called ‘caveats’.

But alarm bells really start to ring once you look into what is classified as ‘sexual harassment’. The three most common forms of sexual harassment students recorded were: ‘inappropriate staring or leering that made you feel intimidated’ (32 per cent); ‘sexually suggestive comments or jokes that made you feel offended’ (19 per cent); and ‘intrusive questions about your private life or physical appearance that made you feel offended’ (14 per cent). No sensible person would classify staring, making jokes or asking rude questions as sexual harassment.

In fact, the students who filled out the AHRC’s survey didn’t even consider such behaviour serious enough to report it. Sixty-eight per cent of students ‘did not make a formal report or complaint… because they did not think their experience was serious enough’, and 53 per cent ‘did not think they needed help’. If the study proves anything, it’s that female students don’t need or want universities to act as their protectors.

There is a morbid fascination with sexual harassment on campus. This is despite the fact that there has never been any credible evidence to suggest that female students at Western universities are in danger. Why would there be? Anyone who has visited a campus in the US, UK, or indeed Australia, will be able to tell you that universities aren’t hotbeds of harassment. So why is there this desire to portray campus as a dangerous place for women?

Contemporary feminism has a big problem with women’s autonomy. Feminists have given up on the idea that women should be trusted to be as strong and capable as men. A victim mentality engrained in identity politics has convinced them that women are an underprivileged group, even though all the evidence shows that female university students perform better than their male counterparts, and that the majority do not experience sexual harassment. Rather than dealing with reality, feminists seek to convince young women that the stupid joke a guy tells them at the bar is more than just an awkward encounter – it’s sexual harassment.

This not only terrifies young women, it also infantilises them. The most worrying part of the AHRC survey is its call for universities to do more. The report’s ‘recommendations’ include compulsory consent classes and new regulations to police interaction between the sexes. It even suggests, a la 1950s-style dorm-policing, a review of ‘the level and nature of supervision in a 24-hour residential setting in which large numbers of young people are living away from home’. Implementing such changes would effectively reinstate in loco parentis rules on campus, which would treat women like children who need to be watched and protected.

Those who believe they are fighting for equality by scaremongering about sexual harassment should think again. It only serves to undermine women’s freedom. Past battles for equality weren’t won on the basis of victimhood. Instead, women demanded that their strength and capability be recognised by society. Giving these hard-won freedoms away by inviting the campus authorities to meddle in women’s personal lives would be an insult to the history of women’s liberation. More than that, it would be an insult to all women.


Is College Education Worth It?

August is the month when parents bid farewell to not only their college-bound youngsters but also a sizable chunk of cash for tuition. More than 18 million students attend our more than 4,300 degree-granting institutions. A question parents, their college-bound youngsters and taxpayers should ask: Is college worth it?

Let's look at some of the numbers. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, "when considering all first-time undergraduates, studies have found anywhere from 28 percent to 40 percent of students enroll in at least one remedial course. When looking at only community college students, several studies have found remediation rates surpassing 50 percent." Only 25 percent of students who took the ACT in 2012 met the test's readiness benchmarks in all four subjects (English, reading, math and science). Just 5 percent of black students and 13 percent of Hispanic students met the readiness benchmarks in all four subjects. The NCSL report says, "A U.S. Department of Education study found that 58 percent of students who do not require remediation earn a bachelor's degree, compared to only 17 percent of students enrolled in remedial reading and 27 percent of students enrolled in remedial math."

The fact of business is that colleges admit a far greater number of students than those who test as being college-ready. Why should students be admitted to college when they are not capable of academic performance at the college level? Admitting such students gets the nation's high schools off the hook. The nation's high schools can continue to deliver grossly fraudulent education — namely, issue diplomas that attest that students can read, write and compute at a 12th-grade level when they may not be able to perform at even an eighth- or ninth-grade level.

You say, "Hold it, Williams. No college would admit a student who couldn't perform at an eighth- or ninth-grade level." During a recent University of North Carolina scandal, a learning specialist hired to help athletes found that during the period from 2004 to 2012, 60 percent of the 183 members of the football and basketball teams read between fourth- and eighth-grade levels. About 10 percent read below a third-grade level. These were students with high-school diplomas and admitted to UNC. And it's not likely that UNC is the only university engaging in such gross fraud.

Many students who manage to graduate don't have a lot to show for their time and money. New York University professor Richard Arum, co-author of "Academically Adrift: Limited Learning on College Campuses," says that his study shows that more than a third of students showed no improvement in critical thinking skills after four years at a university. That observation is confirmed by the many employers who complain that lots of recent graduates cannot seem to write an email that will not embarrass the company. In 1970, only 11 percent of adult Americans held college degrees. These degree holders were viewed as the nation's best and brightest. Today, over 30 percent hold college degrees, with a significant portion of these graduates not demonstrably smarter or more disciplined than the average American. Declining academic standards and grade inflation tend to confirm employer perceptions that college degrees say little about job readiness.

What happens to many of these ill-prepared college graduates? If they manage to become employed in the first place, their employment has little to do with their degree. One estimate is that 1 in 3 college graduates have a job historically performed by those with a high-school diploma or the equivalent. According to Richard Vedder, who is a professor of economics at Ohio University and the director of the Center for College Affordability and Productivity, we had 115,000 janitors, 16,000 parking lot attendants, 83,000 bartenders and about 35,000 taxi drivers with bachelor's degrees in 2012.

The bottom line is that college is not for everyone. There is absolutely no shame in a youngster's graduating from high school and learning a trade. Doing so might earn him much more money than many of his peers who attend college.


More young Britons out of work and education

The number of young people in Britain who spend long periods neither working nor studying has increased in the past year, according to a think-tank report.

The total share of 16- to 24-year-olds who spent some time not in employment, education or training (Neets) declined last year, according to an analysis of Office for National Statistics data by the Learning and Work Institute think-tank, published on Wednesday. But the analysis showed that the percentage of young people who were Neet for a year or more rose from 9.8 per cent to 11.2 per cent in the first quarter of this year, compared with the first quarter of last year.

The figures — which are based on eight official data sets from January 2014 to December 2016 — underscore that while the overall unemployment rate for 16- to 24-year-olds has fallen sharply since the financial crisis, to 12.5 per cent, the government faces a growing problem of jobless young people who are becoming increasingly unemployable the longer they remain adrift.

Tony Wilson, a director at the Learning and Work Institute, said the figures should worry policymakers.

“There’s a lot the UK can be proud of, it’s done really well in youth unemployment generally,” he said. “But if we’re only focusing on the headline measures, and we’re not focusing on people who fall into long-term worklessness, then we’re storing up trouble.”

He added that while employment policy in the UK mostly focuses on getting young people into work in the first few months after they leave education, there is not enough attention paid to people who fail to secure employment shortly after leaving school.

Some politicians have argued that tighter immigration rules after Brexit would force employers to offer jobs to disadvantaged young Britons.

But Jenny North, director of policy and strategy at the Impetus Private Equity Foundation, which commissioned the Learning and Work Institute’s research, said the new analysis indicated it was unlikely that Neets would benefit from Brexit.

What we see in this data is there are so many young people who are probably Neet long-term because they don’t have the skills employers want

“We did think perhaps this will provide opportunities for young people who previously might not have been an employer’s first choice but, to be honest, what we see in this data is there are so many young people who are probably Neet long-term because they don’t have the skills employers want,” she said.

Rob Cook, operations director at TwentyTwenty, a charity that works with disadvantaged young people in Leicestershire and Derbyshire, agreed, saying the problem for Neets was not the lack of job openings.

“Imagine if you’ve been out of education or employment for a year, two years, in some cases three years, they’ve just been lost to the system,” he said. “There’s a chasm for these young people to get across to get to those jobs.”

The share of young people who are Neet in the UK has been much higher than in other EU countries — including Germany, Sweden and the Netherlands — in recent years.

Data from the OECD show the UK is one of the only developed countries where young people’s skills appear to have deteriorated relative to the older generations.

On average across the OECD, the proportion of young people between the ages of 16 and 29 with poor literacy skills is 26 per cent lower than for older people between the ages of 30 and 54. The proportion of young people with poor numeracy skills is 13 per cent lower than for their older counterparts.

But in the UK, the share of young people with poor literacy skills is 18 per cent higher than the older age group. The proportion of young people with poor numeracy skills is 9 per cent higher, compared to the older cohort.

Jasmin Chahan, who is almost 18, left school at 16 with one GCSE at grade C. She tried to find work in childcare but struggled to persuade anyone to take her on. She spent her time at home with her mum, leaving the house to take her little brother to school and pick him up again.

“It was quite hard, there was one point where I did give up, then I thought well I can’t give up because it’s my career at the end of the day,” she said.

Ms Chahan worked with TwentyTwenty and studied for entry-level English and maths qualifications. She has just been offered a job at a pub in Derby.

Critics have argued that Britain’s education system is geared too much to people willing and able to go to university.

“We continue with high-stakes exams at age 16 followed by an extraordinarily narrow and specialised curriculum for 17 and 18-year-olds,” Paul Johnson, director of the Institute for Fiscal Studies think-tank, wrote in The Times last month. “This is all focused on the needs of universities and works for many who go on to higher education but it is wholly inappropriate for the two-thirds or so of young people who do not.”

Philip Hammond, chancellor, said in the Budget in March that the government would spend £500m on improving technical education for 16 to 19-year-olds and introduce new qualifications, known as T-levels, building on recommendations from Lord Sainsbury’s review last year into technical skills.

The education department pointed to its changes to the school curriculum and its support for apprentices as measures designed to help reduce the number of Neets.


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