Thursday, September 14, 2017

Where the Battle for America Must Really Be Won

“The day after the election I was texting my mom to pick me up from school and she almost had to!! Every teacher was crying in class, one even told the whole class ‘Trump winning is worse than 9/11 and the Columbine shooting.’” —a student describing the scene at Edina High School in Minneapolis last November

America is a divided nation. And nothing fosters that division more than the legions of public school students who have been fed a steady diet of progressive ideology for more than four decades — one that asserts America is a fundamentally flawed nation in need of wholesale change. Aided and abetted by Democrats, teachers and their unions have made it clear that students either conform to the progressive worldview or they will be bullied, harassed and intimidated until they do.

Moreover, progressives are twisting the law, especially with regard to their efforts to force-feed transgenderism to children beginning in kindergarten. “Whether parents will have a right to opt their children out of ‘gender identity’ lessons depends on the governing provisions of state law,” explains columnist Margot Cleveland. “Every state regulates public education, and in most states, parents may opt their children out of ‘sex-education’ classes. Whether a discussion of ‘gender identity’ and ‘transgenderism’ would qualify as ‘sex education’ depends on the specific statute.”

Bottom line? “My initial research indicates that the various statutory definitions of ‘sex education’ contained in opt-out provisions focus on sexual reproduction and thus would not cover classroom discussions of gender identity,” she adds. “Further, some states, such as California, expressly provide that ‘gender identity’ is not subject to the statutory opt-out provisions available to parents for comprehensive sex education.

Thus, when a kindergarten teacher Rocklin Academy Gateway staged a gender transition ceremony for one of her students, furious parents who had neither been notified in advance, nor given the opportunity to opt out, were told by the principal that the school’s non-discrimination policy "protects all students, including on the basis of gender, gender identity, and gender expression.”

Parents at a Washington, DC, charter school received the same treatment. When expressing similar concerns they were not given the opportunity to opt out of such classes, the principal was equally obdurate. “I will not exempt any child from classroom discussions or instruction relating to the topics of gender identity, and ‘marital norms,’” he wrote in a letter.

The sentiments of a parental majority are apparently irrelevant as well. A couple who insisted their child was gender fluid at the age of two — because he began emulating Beyoncé’s dance moves — successfully sued St. Paul, Minnesota’s Nova Classical Academy for not including transgender material in kindergarten classes. As a result the school promised to establish a policy that doesn’t allow parents to opt out “based on religious or conscience objections.” In addition, the school stated it would “not call parents’ or guardians’ attention to the policy” — meaning they are trying to hide mandatory compliance with the progressive agenda from unsuspecting parents.

Chalkbeat Indiana is taking it one step further, providing LGBT activists with a list of schools that are “anti-LGBT” (read: espouse traditional and/or Christian values) in case “rainbow protesters wanted to show up at a few, or know where to enroll their gender-dysphoric kindergarteners and then sue,” warns columnist Joy Pullman.

Transgenderism is the tip of the progressive iceberg. “Not many things shock me, but I confess that I have been shocked by what I have learned about the Edina public school system,” writes John Hinderacker. “Indoctrination in left-wing politics begins in elementary school, where children are taught the pernicious doctrine of ‘white privilege.’”

In Texas, Katy High School was forced to delete a picture from its social media site depicting National Guard members taking a rest in an empty school hallway following their effort to help people devastated by Hurricane Harvey. At Georgia’s River Ridge High School, teacher Lyn Orletsky made students remove “Make America Great Again” T-shirts. Why? “Just like you cannot wear a swastika to school, you cannot wear ‘make America great again’ like that,” Orletsky asserted.

President Trump has been used as a springboard for much of this nonsense, beginning shortly after the election when the National Education Association urged schools to participate in a “National Day of Action” against the new president. But such ideological insidiousness began being implemented before that, casing a wider ideological net in the process. In 2015 at Nathan Hale High School in West Allis, Wisconsin, a teacher asked students to rate a list of political statements ranging from communist to fascist. With regard to the statement, “We should not help the poor, it’s a waste of money,” any answer that did not identify it as a “Conservative/Republican” position was marked wrong.

Such overt proselytization has also occurred with regard to religion, global warming, history and economics. Students who resist are bullied, suspended or forced to undergo psychological evaluations.

Yet it is far worse than that. As the Daily Caller reveals, “dozens of public school teachers” belong to the antifa-aligned organization By Any Means Necessary (BAMN). They include Detroit teacher Nicole Conaway, who led students on a 2016 protest resulting in a confrontation with police and her arrest. Militant Berkeley middle school teacher Yvette Felarca, currently faces charges for inciting a riot outside the state capital last year. The district where she works has accused her of and her BAMN of “actively trying to brainwash and manipulate these young people to serve your own selfish interests in not being held accountable to the same rules that apply to everyone else,” yet they have been unable or unwilling to fire her. And in 2016, 17 BAMN members ran for elected positions with the Detroit Federation of Teachers and five ran for positions with the NEA in 2017.

What can be done to counter this ongoing progressive onslaught? It’s time to use the same court-endorsed strategy that keeps organized religion out of the nation’s public school classrooms: make the case that progressive ideology is itself faith-based and its de facto endorsement violates the First Amendment’s prohibition thereof. Nothing demonstrates that reality better than its adherents determination to force the unproven science of transgenderism on children, leaving many of them confused and frightened. “The leftists harping on this topic are essentially demanding a religious litmus test … as a precondition for educating children,” Pullman states.

Not essentially. Exactly, and a class-action suit would be the beginning of an effort to hold schools accountable, not just with regard to transgenderism, but every other bit of progressive propaganda being presented as indisputable fact.

In addition, Congress should hold nationally televised hearings on the current state of public school education. No doubt millions of Americans would be fascinated to discover why an anti-Republican, anti-Trump, anti-tradition, pro-global warming, pro-transgender, pro-socialist, pro-sanctuary and pro-revisionist history agenda has become the default position in hundreds of schools around the nation.

“Give me four years to teach the children and the seed I have sown will never be uprooted,” stated Vladimir Lenin.

In a nation enduring increasingly regular and leftist-orchestrated assaults on free speech, historical monuments, biological reality, capitalism — and American exceptionalism itself — a sustained and organized counter-attack is an idea whose time has come.


Why children should now aspire to be plumbers, builders and electricians... not lawyers

Among my generation of middle-class, university-educated male friends, there are countless who can explain the geopolitical significance of Turkey’s recent election, but barely one who could hang a painting straight.

As for changing a fuse, bleeding a radiator or fixing a tap, forget it. You need to get a real man in for that.

Hardly surprising, then, that new figures reveal that electricians, plumbers and plasterers are among the highest-paid workers in the country, with some earning more than £150,000 a year.

All over Britain, skilled tradesmen are now bringing home up to six times the average wage. A junior doctor earns £23,000 a year, working night shifts and long hours. A newly qualified sparky, by contrast, can easily make £1,500 a week.

There was a time, of course, when every home had its own live-in handyman. He was known as ‘the husband’. The quality of the work wasn’t always perfect, and he did require a certain amount of nagging and strong tea; but it at least meant that a blocked sink or a broken Hoover wasn’t the end of the world.

But most modern husbands, mine included, are far more likely to be found building a LEGO Death Star spaceship at the weekend with the children than repointing the garden wall.

Hence the rising salaries in the manual labour market — and the boom in websites such as Task-Rabbit, where helpless wives can find handymen for all sorts of niggling jobs, from fixing a wobbly shelf to sorting out a patch of damp.

Let us not forget the success of the boss of Pimlico Plumbers, Charlie Mullins, testament to the benefits of knowing one end of a stopcock from another. Born in Camden, he grew up in a council flat and left school at 15 to become a plumber’s apprentice. He’s now worth £70 million.

One fellow I employed recently to help with an especially fiendish flat pack came all the way from Canada. He had moved to the UK to work in the banking sector, but had lost his job a few years after the 2008 crash. Since then he had been making a perfectly good living as a general odd jobber — self-employed and master of his own destiny.

He much preferred his new life, he said. And there was no shortage of work to be had.

There may be something a little surreal about this army of surrogate husbands filling in for other men’s DIY inadequacies. But what is real is what it tells us about the future of the job market — and the entire post-war theory of education.

Since the Eighties, governments have embraced unquestioningly the notion of expanding university provision. In 2002, Tony Blair promised to get half of all young people into university and numbers have risen steadily ever since.

No one then would have thought to contest his vision of democratising higher education. But perhaps it’s not so straightforward after all.

The problem with flooding a marketplace is that you inevitably devalue the product.

Thus, the more undergraduates who enter the job market, the less their achievements count. And when you think what it costs for a young person to obtain a degree — three to four years of study, potentially £50,000 worth of debt and little guarantee of a well-paid job at the end of it — you do wonder whether it’s worth it.

Perhaps instead of aspiring for our boys to be doctors, lawyers and accountants, we should be encouraging them to be plumbers, builders and electricians.

Could it be that, after years at the top, the age of the middle-class intellectual professional is drawing to a close, driven to extinction not only by the Darwinian march of technology — but his own stubborn refusal to finally get around to changing that damned plug?


Yearning for More Robust Choice Than Charters Can Provide

Charters have become increasingly establishment.  Voucher-funded private schooling is increasingly sought

Charter schools are not going to disappear overnight from the menu of education-reform options. However, the precipitous decline in popular support for these semi-autonomous public schools, as shown by a 2017 EdNext Poll, is stunning and certainly a cause for serious reflection by the movement’s boosters and sympathizers.

A drop of 12 percentage points from 2016 to 2017—from 51 percent support down to 39 percent—is particularly noteworthy given that it comes in a survey overseen by highly respected, fair-minded scholars at Stanford’s Hoover Institution and the Harvard Kennedy School. The dip in charter support was the largest change the pollsters found in opinion on a broad range of education issues. Support for charters declined in similar proportions among Republicans and Democrats.

It’s also significant that the latest EdNext Poll showed private choice, which offers families a far more robust array of options than charters, gaining in public esteem. Opposition to universal vouchers—publicly-funded scholarships available to all—shrank from 44 percent to 37 percent, while opposition to tax-credit-funded scholarships dipped to just 24 percent (from 29 percent in 2016). The scholarship tax credits were the most popular form of school choice, with nearly seven of every 10 respondents supporting that option.

In the 2016 poll, universal vouchers –an idea originally championed by free-market economist Milton Friedman – were more popular among Democrats than Republicans— and by an 8-percentage-point margin. Who knew? Perhaps a partial explanation lies in the high level of support for all-out choice among African-Americans, who vote heavily Democratic despite that party’s catering to the anti-parental-choice teachers’ unions.

This partisan divide shifted in the 2017 poll, with universal-voucher support increasing among Republicans by 13 percentage points (to 54 percent) but declining by nine points among Democrats (to 40 percent). Gung-ho verbal championing of choice by President Donald Trump could help explain that.

What should we make of this data? Well, for starters, more choice is preferable to less choice, and choice extending into the private sector beats being limited to choice within the governmental system.

The strong suit of charter schools is that, in the 26 years since the first one came into being in Minnesota, they have offered at least a modicum of choice to families stuck in their neighborhood government school, often in inner cities and without a lifeline to independent schools.

Statistically, charters have had a decent run. According to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), the percentage of charter schools within the public school orb increased from four percent to seven percent from school years 2004–05 to 2014–15, with the total number of charter schools growing from 3,400 to 6,750. During that period, charter school enrollment increased by 1.8 million pupils while enrollment in conventional public schools dropped by 0.4 million.

Yet the EdNext poll confirmed what many other surveys have found: At least a quarter of adult Americans still don’t understand what a charter school is. That may be partly a result of advocates’ failure to communicate the charter mission, but, increasingly, the problem is a blurring of differences between conventional and chartered public schools.

At the outset, the idea was that these would be innovative schools driven by an entrepreneurial spirit. Organizations or groups of parents and teachers with a shared vision could apply for a contract (or charter) with the local school district or a statewide chartering authority. In exchange for delivering a curriculum and specified results, the founders would receive an exemption from certain innovation-crushing rules, such as teachers having to be certified. Upon periodic review, the chartering authority could revoke the charter for failure to perform to agreed-upon standards.

However, charters gradually have lost their grassroots aura. NCES data show charters with fewer than 300 students are declining in numbers while those with at least 500 are growing. It used to be a badge of honor that grassroots charters operated on about one-third of the cost of traditional public schools, on average, compared to conventional public schools, but now, major charter organizations lobby for equalized funding.

More ominously, proponents of centralized education have co-opted the charter movement to push their own agendas, and, incredibly, have invited increased oversight and regulation of charters by public officials, who often are hostile to their very existence. Noting that, Tillie Elvrum, president of – a nationwide parents’ alliance, charged in a statement that the charter movement’s leaders “have walked away from the fundamental principle of trusting and empowering parents with their children’s education decisions.”

It is an open question whether, if these trends continue, charter schools will remain even a decent fallback option for families that cannot select a private or parochial school for their children.


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