Monday, November 27, 2017

Elitists, crybabies and junky degrees

A Trump supporter explains rising conservative anger at American universities

Frank Antenori shot the head off a rattlesnake at his back door last summer — a deadeye pistol blast from 20 feet. No college professor taught him that. The U.S. Army trained him, as a marksman and a medic, on the “two-way rifle range” of Afghanistan and Iraq.

Useful skills. Smart return on taxpayers’ investment. Not like the waste he sees at too many colleges and universities, where he says liberal professors teach “ridiculous” classes and indoctrinate students “who hang out and protest all day long and cry on our dime.”

“Why does a kid go to a major university these days?” said Antenori, 51, a former Green Beret who served in the Arizona state legislature. “A lot of Republicans would say they go there to get brainwashed and learn how to become activists and basically go out in the world and cause trouble.”

Antenori is part of an increasingly vocal campaign to transform higher education in America. Though U.S. universities are envied around the world, he and other conservatives want to reduce the flow of government cash to what they see as elitist, politically correct institutions that often fail to provide practical skills for the job market.

To the alarm of many educators, nearly every state has cut funding to public colleges and universities since the 2008 financial crisis. Adjusted for inflation, states spent $5.7 billion less on public higher education last year than in 2008, even though they were educating more than 800,000 additional students, according to the State Higher Education Executive Officers Association.

In Arizona, which has had a Republican governor and legislature since 2009, lawmakers have cut spending for higher education by 54 percent since 2008; the state now spends $3,500 less per year on every student, according to the progressive Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. Tuition has soared, forcing students to shoulder more of the cost of their degrees.

Meanwhile, public schools in Arizona and across the nation are welcoming private donors, including the conservative Koch brothers. In nearly every state, the Charles Koch Foundation funds generally conservative-leaning scholars and programs in politics, economics, law and other subjects. John Hardin, the foundation’s director of university relations, said its giving has tripled from about $14 million in 2011 to $44 million in 2015 as the foundation aims to “diversify the conversation” on campus.

People across the ideological spectrum are worried about the cost of college, skyrocketing debt from student loans and rising inequality in access to quality degrees. Educators fear the drop in government spending is making schools harder to afford for low- and middle-income students.

State lawmakers blame the cuts on falling tax revenue during the recession; rising costs of other obligations, especially Medicaid and prisons; and the need to balance their budgets. But even as prosperity has returned to many states, there is a growing partisan divide over how much to spend on higher education. Education advocates worry that conservative disdain threatens to undermine universities.

In July, a Pew Research Center study found that 58 percent of Republicans and GOP-leaning independents believe colleges and universities have a negative effect “on the way things are going in the country,” up from 37 percent two years ago. Among Democrats, by contrast, 72 percent said they have a positive impact.

A Gallup poll in August found that a third of Republicans had confidence in universities, which they viewed as too liberal or political. Other studies show that overwhelming numbers of white working-class men do not believe a college degree is worth the cost.

A single year at many private universities costs more than the median U.S. household income of $59,000. Though most students receive financial aid, a four-year degree can cost more than a quarter-million dollars. Tuition at public universities has soared, too, and a degree can easily cost more than $100,000.

It’s not just the money: Dozens of the most prestigious schools reject more than 80 percent of applicants, and the admissions system often favors the wealthy and connected.

Since 2008, Arizona has cut per-student funding more than any other state, according to an analysis of changes since the recession. At the same time, the state increased public-school tuition more than all but one state, Louisiana.

“The new upper class has nothing to do with money. It has to do with where you were educated,” said Arizona State University President Michael Crow, who is pushing to make quality degrees more accessible to lower-income students.

Antenori views former president Barack Obama, a Harvard-educated lawyer who taught at the University of Chicago Law School, as the embodiment of the liberal establishment. Antenori said liberal elites with fancy degrees who have been running Washington for so long have forgotten those who think differently.

“If you don’t do everything that their definition of society is, you’re somehow a knuckle-dragging Neanderthal cave man,” Antenori said.

Antenori was drawn to Trump, he said, because he was the “reverse of Obama,” an “anti-politically correct guy” whose attitude toward the status quo is “change it, fix it, get rid of it, crush it, slash it.”

Even though Trump boasts of his Ivy League degree from the University of Pennsylvania, Antenori said he “had a different air about him.” Unlike Obama, Trump has not emphasized the importance of Americans going to college.

During the campaign, Trump said many colleges “have gone crazy” and that young people were “choking on debt.” He criticized universities for getting “so much money from the government” while “raising their fees to the point that’s ridiculous.”

Hillary Clinton trounced Trump in the nation’s most educated counties, but Trump won white voters without a college degree by 37 points.

Though Trump has largely ignored higher education during his first year in office, his son Donald Trump Jr. recently excoriated universities during a speech in Texas, for which he was paid $100,000. On college campuses, he said, “Hate speech is anything that says America is a good country. That our founders were great people. That we need borders. Hate speech is anything faithful to the moral teachings of the Bible.”

Trump Jr. went on to say that many universities offer Americans a raw deal: “We’ll take $200,000 of your money; in exchange, we’ll train your children to hate our country. . . . We’ll make them unemployable by teaching them courses in zombie studies, underwater basket weaving and, my personal favorite, tree climbing.”

Antenori, who served as a delegate for Trump at the 2016 National Republican Convention, loves that kind of talk.

Finally, he said, people in power understand how he feels.


Many US parents choosing home schooling for children

There is shift in U.S. education. A growing number of parents are opting out of public schools, and are choosing to educate their children at home instead

Heather Favelo lets her students know that school is about to begin.  “Let’s get started with our day,” she says. The four students sit around the table are attentive and ready to learn. These are Heather’s children, and they’re homeschooled.

Today, the children will learn a little art, practice their reading, and how to play the piano.

The school is here in their home in the hills of Virginia, about an hour outside of Washington, D.C.

The Favelo family is part of a growing movement of parents keeping their children out of the school system and teaching them at home.

The statistics are unclear exactly how many children are homeschooled, but some at the high-end say it could be as many as 3.5 million children in the US. And a massive boost has been the embrace of homeschooling by America’s religious conservatives.

Homeschooling “was based on our religious conviction,” says Doug Favelo explaining his and his wife’s decision to home school.

The curriculum they’ve created for their children is infused with religious teaching. They begin the day with prayers. All of this would be out of the question in a public school given the separation of church and state.

Critics of homeschooling say that it can deny children a wide variety of different views and subjects.

They also charge that children schooled at home can lack needed socialization, that ability to rub shoulder with the rest of society.

The Favelos reject this. They arrange sports outings and other social events with other homeschooled children.

The parents say that they share curriculums amongst other parents to cover the arts, sciences and even sports.

The home schooling movement has been growing progressively since it launched in the 1960s.

Mike Donnelly, director of global outreach for Home School Legal Defense Association, says many of the first proponents came from the left of the political spectrum, who were distrustful of the institution of education.

But in the 1980s, religious conservatives, frustrated by restrictions on teaching religion in school and subjects like evolution, embraced homeschooling.

And since then the phenomena has spread across the U.S. Now all 50 states allow homeschooling.

Today, Donnelly estimates that religious conservatives make up 60 percent of homeschoolers (although firm statistics on homeschooling are hard to come by).

And that homeschooling is attractive is perhaps more of an indictment of the public school system.

According to the Program for International Student Assessment, American 15-year olds scored just 38th out of 71 countries in maths and 24th in science.

Neal McCluskey on why U.S. is shrinking its education budget

CGTN’s Susan Roberts spoke with Neal McCluskey, director of the Center for Educational Freedom at the Cato Institute on top challenges in the U.S. education system


Languages graduates are now the least employable in Britain, new figures show

Data released by the Office for National Statistics shows that recent graduates who have studied languages have an employment rate of 84 per cent, the lowest of any degree subject, and their average annual salary has fallen by more than £5,000 in four years.

The figure has fallen from 87 per cent in 2013, the last time the data, was released, and puts the discipline below arts, humanities and social sciences in terms of employment rates.

Entries to university for modern languages have declined sharply in recent years, as fewer students take the subjects at GCSE and A-Level.

In 2013, graduates in humanities were the least likely to be employed, while medicine had the highest employment rate for people who had left university within the past five years.

Professor Alan Smithers, head of the centre for education and employment research at the University of Buckingham, said that traditional school languages were less in demand and students were not picking up newer options like Russian and Chinese quickly enough.

He said it was more difficult to get a good grade in those languages because the subjects were more likely to be taken by native speakers who were more likely to score very highly, pushing the grade boundaries up.

"It's possible that the traditional languages are less in demand and that fewer grads are coming through in languages like Russian and Chinese, that the companies need or will be needing in greater numbers in the future.

"The shape of the eduation system hasn't caught up. we do have a variety of languages on offer at GCSE and A Level but for example English people wanting to learn Chinese tend to get put off by the native speakers of Chinese," he said.

This year's data showed that medics were still the most employable, with 95 per cent of recent graduates employed, followed by engineering, which had a 92 per cent rate.

Engineering also had the highest average salary for recent graduates, with workers paid an average of £44,980, up from £42,016 in 2013.

 Engineering had the highest average salary for recent graduates
Engineering had the highest average salary for recent graduates
Since 2013, graduates who had studied the discipline had overtaken medics to become the best-paid.

Average pay for languages graduates fell from £30,420 in 2013 to £25,012 in 2017.

Professor Smithers said engineering was becoming "increasingly important in its new forms within our economy".

In particular, he said, "civil engineering, with the launch of High Speed 2 and the other infrastructure projects, and then of course electrical engineering, which is very important in building computers and laptops and things.

"It has moved away from the image of someone in overalls with greasy hands to realising that engineering is about constructing and building a whole range of things," he said.

The figures also showed that male graduates had an average employment rate seven per cent higher than female graduates, at 86 per cent.

Of all female graduates, 11 per cent were out of the workplace because they were looking after the home or family, compared to just two per cent of men.

Male graduates were also more likely to be in high-skilled jobs and less likely to be working part-time.


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