Thursday, December 28, 2017

Senate Democrats Target Homeschool Families in Last-Minute Tax Reform Tantrum

Leftists hate home schooling.  It takes kids out of their power

As the Republican Party edged closer to passing historic tax reform, Democrats in the U.S. Senate used a last-minute procedural protest to attack homeschool families. Their petty complaint struck the short title of the tax reform bill, one provision of the endowment tax, and the extension of college savings plans to homeschool expenses.

The homeschool attack proved particularly revealing. The Republican tax bill would extend the use of 529 tax-advantaged saving plans — originally intended to foster saving for college tuition — to K-12 public and private schools, as well as homeschooling. Rather than complaining that 529s should only be for college, the Democrats struck the homeschool provision, leaving the K-12 school extension in place.

Make no mistake: this was a disgusting attack on the families of approximately 1.5 million American children who are educated at home, perhaps in an attempt to privilege teacher's unions.

On Tuesday night, Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) issued a joint statement in a last-ditch attempt to halt the passage of the tax reform bill. Ironically, they blamed Republicans for breaking the rules, in the very act of applying the rules as a bludgeon against homeschool families.

"In the mad dash to provide tax breaks for their billionaire campaign contributors, our Republican colleagues forgot to comply with the rules of the Senate," Sanders and Wyden said. "We applaud the parliamentarian for determining that three provisions in this disastrous bill are in violation of the Byrd rule."

The Byrd rule lays out six criteria deemed "extraneous" in any reconciliation bill. Presence of these "extraneous" parts of legislation would increase the threshold for a bill to pass the Senate — 60 senators, rather than just 50, would be required to vote for it.

Sanders and Wyden admitted their intent in pushing the Byrd rule: "It is our intention to raise a point of order to remove these provisions from the conference report and require the House to vote on this bill again."

Ironically, the Democrats attacked the Republicans for supporting the wealthy and corporations — in the very act of eviscerating aid to homeschool families, a likely move to reward their teachers' union donors. "Instead of providing tax breaks to the wealthiest people and most profitable corporations, we need to rebuild the disappearing middle class."

The upshot of this particular tantrum, however, will not help the middle class against the wealthiest corporations — it will slam homeschool families and one particular college in Kentucky. This complaint also engaged in the petty revision of the tax bill's short title, as if the "Tax Cuts and Jobs Act" is an attack on the poor.

Senate Democrats "Slander" Hillsdale College in Attacking "Hillsdale Exemption" in Tax Reform
The Republican tax reform bill added a new tax on the endowments of wealthy private colleges. This new tax inspired a similar Democratic tantrum, when Wyden himself pushed a special amendment to make sure colleges that reject federal funding would not get a pass from the tax.

In this version, Wyden's tantrum involved striking the words "tuition-paying" from the tax. This minor complaint would bring Kentucky's Berea College under the tax.

Berea College is a "work college." It enrolls mostly low-income students and charges no tuition. Berea enrolls slightly more than 1,600 students, with an endowment of $1 billion. The endowment's value — around $625,000 per student — passes the cap of $500,000 set by the tax law.

Even so, "that money goes towards helping low-income students attend and finish college," Steven M. Bloom, director of government relations at the American Council on Education, told The Chronicle of Higher Education. "Berea College is the crown jewel for what higher education can do for low-income people."

Lyle D. Roelofs, president of Berea College, emphasized the noble use of the college's endowment. "Berea College uses its entire endowment to educate students who could not otherwise afford to attend college, serving them on a no-tuition basis," he said.

"We agree that there need to be incentives for schools to make higher education accessible to all students, but it seems so unfortunate that the political strife over tax reform in our country will result in greater difficulty for colleges seeking to serve low-income students," Roelofs declared.

The Berea president was spot on. Democrats, in wrangling over tax reform, have only cost the poor students at Berea College — and the thousands of homeschool families across the country.

Politically, Democrats gained little to nothing from this tactic. They prevented tax reform from passing Tuesday night, and pushed it to Wednesday. This is why the homeschool attack proved particularly disgusting.

Again, if Democrats had complained that 529s should only be used for college savings — and therefore should not be employed for K-12 schools, be they private, public, or home schools — that would have been a legitimate complaint. Instead, they targeted homeschooling families, and exempted public schools from their ire.

When Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) achieved the amendment to extend 529 savings to K-12 education of all kinds, he made a powerful statement.

"As part of this historic effort, we've also invested in our children and expanded educational opportunities, with the expansion of 529's to include K-12 elementary and secondary school tuition, including educational expenses for homeschool students," Cruz declared. "By expanding choice for parents and opportunities for children, we have prioritized the education of the next generation of Americans, allowing families to save and prepare for their children's future educational expenses."


New college for conservative Christians planned in Boston

In a city full of colleges and in an economy increasingly perilous for small schools, one wealthy businessman is making an unlikely investment. Next fall he will open a college in Boston geared toward conservative Christian students, using an innovative model that incorporates online learning.

Sattler College, named after a 16th century martyr, will be entirely funded by Finny Kuruvilla, an investment fund manager with a medical degree and a PhD from Harvard. He has guaranteed $30 million of his money to fund the school.

In his view, the traditional college model is broken. The new four-year school is his attempt to start from a blank slate. He said his goals are threefold: to teach a strong core of liberal arts courses, provide students with a Christian community, and keep the cost extremely low. Tuition will be $9,000 per year, about a fifth of the cost of a typical private college.

Kuruvilla, who attends and preaches at a small church in Medford called Followers of the Way, said he lived as a residential assistant in Harvard undergraduate dorms while in medical school and was disturbed by what he saw. College corrupted students’ character instead of developing it, he said.

“The whole notion of education has become generally confined to academic thought, not so much to developing of the whole person, character, and integrity,” he said. “I think that’s a great tragedy.”

At typical colleges, Kuruvilla believes, students are susceptible to pornography, cheating, and even being sexually assaulted or abused. At Harvard, he said, he saw students take certain classes because they were easy or fun, such as Japanese cooking or a course on fairy tales.

He said Sattler will be academically rigorous and spiritually nurturing. The school’s stated mission is to “prepare students to serve Christ, the church, and the world.”

The college is targeting the home-schooled and other Christian students wary of a typical college environment. And indeed, some applicants said they were not interested in college until they heard about this school.

One applicant, Austin Lapp, lives in a community in rural Ohio where, he said, most people he knows work for a family business.

Lapp, 25, worked for his father’s kitchen-construction business for several years and taught at a religious school but said his dream is to teach English overseas.

He was apprehensive about attending college because he has heard that many young people lose their faith in college. That is why Sattler appeals to him.

“I had to ask myself how will four years in a secular school affect my character and my worldview and my faith, my relationship with Jesus,” he said.

The college is not affiliated with a specific denomination, but according to its website and application to state regulators, its beliefs correspond with a movement of Christianity known as Anabaptist. The school’s founding principles include the ideas that Christians should not serve in war or remarry after divorce.

To keep expenses low, the school will operate in an office building at 100 Cambridge St. and not offer housing or other amenities. The college will have three faculty and about 25 students the first year, with the goal of eventually enrolling 300.

The college’s academic model is unique. The faculty will teach some core courses in biblical languages and religious history, but many academic courses will be taken online. Students will watch lectures through free online learning platforms such as EdX, then attend classes to discuss the material with other students and professors. Faculty, who will be named later, will also mentor the students spiritually, Kuruvilla said.

The school will offer five majors: business, computer science, human biology, biblical and religious studies, and history. School officials hope to eventually expand to include engineering, physics, and journalism.

Only four new colleges have been approved in Massachusetts in the past five years, including Sattler, according to the state Department of Higher Education, all of them niche schools. Two are education schools, and one is for the maritime industry.

Yet small colleges especially are suffering lately and have increasing difficulty justifying their high costs to students worried about debt. For that reason, Chris Gabrieli, chairman of the state Board of Higher Education, said Sattler offers value to students.

Gabrieli said the board wanted to encourage the kind of innovative, cost-saving model the school is adopting while making sure its religious tenets do not discriminate.

“It’s fascinating,” he said.

The state board approved the college in 2016 and plans to monitor it for the first five years. The school is also seeking approval from a regional accrediting agency, and until then its students cannot access federally subsidized loans.

For now, Kuruvilla is running the school out of the office of his values-based investment firm, Eventide Asset Management, on the 35th floor of One International Place. Students have submitted their applications and will soon hear if they have been accepted.

Hannah Milioni, an applicant who lives in Medford, said she was not planning to attend college until she heard about Sattler. She said she wanted to attend a Christian college but worried the academics at a religious school might not be rigorous.

“Often in religious schools you have to choose between having a Christian school and a really good education,” she said.

Milioni, 17, was home-schooled and said she heard about the school from Kuruvilla because they attend the same church.

Kenneth Godoy, of Bedford, Pa., also heard about the school through church friends. The 21-year-old is interested in photography, graphic design, and poetry, but since the college does not offer those majors he said he might study history if he is accepted.

He said he is interested in the school for its religious affiliation and emphasis on community.

“It’s a Christian community, it’s a Christian atmosphere, and there is to some extent safety in that,” he said.


Teaching spoon-fed students how to really read

Writing below is Tegan Bennett Daylight, an Australian  Leftist lady with a love of literature, Australian literature particularly.  Her essay is very long-winded in the usual Leftist way so I have just picked out below some paragraphs that may summarize what she is driving at.  To be rather cliche about it, she seems to think that reading creative fiction broadens your horizons.  I think it does too but would choose quite different books to the ones she does.  Some of the books that have interested me are  listed here and here.  She refers to the novel "Monkey Grip" below.  It is about druggies, dropouts, single mothers and "arty" types. Not my scene

I’ve recently finished marking 40-odd exams, mostly written by people between the ages of 18 and 21. In them our students had to answer questions about aspects of literature, such as free indirect speech or genre. They also had to write an essay of 1,000 words, on the work of Helen Garner, Christos Tsiolkas, Judith Wright, Jack Davis or Tim Winton.

My students are, for the most part, education students who live in regional Australia. If they get their degree, they are bound for early childhood centres, preschools, primary schools, high schools. These are our new teachers.

If you have little to do with tertiary education you might not have noticed this: that there is a whole new cohort of young people attending university, people who might not have done so 30 or 40 years ago. Our economy has been transforming itself from blue to white collar for decades; an education that relies on the written word is newly necessary.

The first time I taught "Monkey Grip" in English One I was struck by two things. First, by how many of my students were offended by it. They found it too sexually explicit, too full of “profanity”, and they deplored Norah’s method of parenting: the shared household, the children exposed to drug taking and other radical behaviours.

The second thing that struck me was how difficult my students found the 10-page extract. They didn’t know who Helen Garner was, the 1970s were too far away to mean anything to them, and they couldn’t locate themselves in the story. They didn’t know who was speaking, and who she was speaking to. How old was she, where was she, what was happening?

Well, there is only one way to go on, as I tell students – and that is to go on. This is the first and greatest difficulty they face. There’s no reason for them to continue reading. There is so much else to read that is shorter, and not just aimed at them, but, in the case of their Facebook feed, tuned to their experience. Marketed to them. Why would they bother reading something that was neither for them nor about them?

But then there are moments like this one, early on in my English teaching, when my class were reading and struggling with Les Murray’s The Cows on Killing Day. I’d always loved this poem. In it the poet imagines the death by knife of an old cow, from the point of view of the herd. Murray uses a first person compound pronoun, all me, to speak in the cows’ collective voice:

All me come running. It’s like the Hot Part of the sky

that’s hard to look at, this that now happens behind wood

in the raw yard. A shining leaf, like off the bitter gum tree

is with the human. It works in the neck of me

and the terrible floods out, swamped and frothy.

I had a student who had already responded very positively to Helen Garner’s Against Embarrassment, a simple essay that makes a plea for unselfconscious pleasure in performance. Like many students would after her, she had read Garner’s essay in the light of her university enrolment; it made her determined to enjoy herself, to unselfconsciously engage in learning, to stop being critical of herself. She’d worked several years as a dairymaid after leaving school early, thinking she was “too stupid” for university. As we read The Cows on Killing Day aloud, her voice came ringing from the desks at the back of the class: “But this is exactly what it’s like!”

The Cows on Killing Day elicits a variety of reactions from my students, many of whom have been brought up on farms. I’ve had young people furious with me. They say, “I hate this poem. This shouldn’t be written about,” or, “No one likes it. But it’s a part of life.” I’ve also had city or mountains-bred students – there are a couple of them each year – who’ve never killed an animal in their life, and self-righteously feel that the poem is a paean to vegetarianism.

But this student, the ex-dairymaid, read the poem as it is meant to be read. Murray doesn’t ask for sympathy for the cow: his job is simply to use his art to show what it’s like. After this class, my student went from a pass for her first assignment to a distinction for her second. At the end of the semester she told me she’d decided to switch her teaching specialisation to English.

This is what my students have learned: how to read more than 200 words of a text at a time. How to write something about the way they feel. And, finally, how to notice that a text is doing something. Not to simply slump, bored, in front of a block of writing and hope that it goes away. How to notice that it is up to something. Perhaps, in the future, to read a little differently. To feel those ideas about literature, so angrily learned, change the way they see.


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