Monday, January 01, 2018

Feminist rubbish about British schools

Kids shouldn’t be exposed to the moral panic about misogyny

According to a newly published report from the National Education Union (NEU) and UK Feminista, sexism in schools is ‘endemic’. From their first days in uniform, girls apparently run a daily gauntlet of unwanted touching, name-calling and up-skirt photos. In the classroom they face a barrage of misogynistic language and sexist attitudes. Sexual harassment, sexist stereotyping and sexist language are all, apparently, ‘highly prevalent’. To quote the report’s title, when it comes to sexism in schools, ‘It’s just everywhere’. But it is worth asking a few questions before teachers are packed off for re-education, playgrounds are policed, and boys and girls segregated for their own protection.

According to the report, over a third (37 per cent) of female students have personally experienced some form of sexual harassment while at school. Of course, any such incident is unacceptable. But do these figures really demonstrate that sexual harassment is ‘highly prevalent’ and ‘endemic’? The label ‘female students’ encompasses young girls in infant schools right up to 18-year-old young adults. Yet there’s a world of difference between playground kiss-chase, the antics of hormonal teenagers, and young adults negotiating first-time relationships. The report fails to differentiate, however; all are lumped together.

NEU and UK Feminista conflate sexual harassment and sexism. Their report sets out to reveal ‘the voices of girls around the country who are being subjected to sexual harassment and sexism’. Sexism and sexual harassment are not the same thing. Sexual harassment can encompass serious incidents of groping and sexual assault. Sexism, on the other hand, is today used to describe a teacher asking for ‘a strong boy’ to help move some furniture, having different uniforms for boys and girls, or separating boys and girls for PE lessons. The report assumes sexism leads to harassment and that presenting girls as different from boys legitimises sexual assault. What a misanthropic view of young people.

Sexism, according to the report, is endemic. But the sexism described is difficult to pin down. It is described as ‘prejudice, stereotyping, or discrimination, typically against women, on the basis of sex’. It seems to be primarily a feature of language: we’re told that ‘30 per cent of female students in mixed-sex schools have personally been described using language they felt was sexist, compared to 18 per cent of boys’. But when even referring to pupils as ‘boys and girls’ is considered by some to be a dangerous form of gender stereotyping, it is only surprising that as few as 30 per cent of girls report being victims.

The report moves rapidly from sexism to misogyny. We’re told ‘the use of misogynistic language is commonplace in schools’. This blurring of misogyny, serious sexual harassment and everyday sexism serves a purpose: it teaches all girls that they are victims of boys’ bad behaviour. We’re told that 66 per cent of female students and 37 per cent of male students in mixed-sex sixth-forms have experienced or witnessed the use of sexist language in school. By a sleight of hand, an already small sample size is narrowed further, and, by focusing on sixth-formers, reported events stretch back over a 14-year period. If an 18-year-old claims that once, when she was seven, she heard a boy shout across the playground that ‘boys are better than girls’, then that is recorded as an experience of sexist language.

The report also contains a great deal of angst from teachers. ‘I work in a private school where the gender roles are still very clearly defined. The boys wear shorts, the girls long skirts, the boys play football, the girls, netball. Often boys are asked questions in maths/science before the girls – and boys often talk for the girls’, claims one teacher.

Routinely allowing boys to talk for girls is clearly bad pedagogy – but it’s worth remembering at this point that teaching is a profession thoroughly dominated by women. What’s more, campaigns to challenge girls’ underachievement and raise their aspirations are longstanding and well-funded.

What we are not told in this latest sexism panic is just how well girls are doing at school. They outperform boys from their first days and across all subject areas. Girls do better overall in public exams aged 16 and 18. This year, 55 per cent of young women went on to university compared with only 43 per cent of young men. And this is not new: girls have been outperforming boys for a quarter of a century now. If school is really such a daily torment of misogyny and sexual harassment for girls, then it is clearly not holding them back.

Unfortunately, the proposals to challenge sexism in schools could well be to the detriment of both girls and boys. The report suggests an astonishing 69 per cent of teachers claim an overly heavy focus on academic subjects prevents them from tackling sexism. In other words, they want to spend less time teaching children subject knowledge and more time warning them of the evils of sexism. This will further redefine the role of schools away from education towards an explicit socialisation agenda.

UK Feminista and the NEU assume that sexism and sexual harassment are normalised and underreported. In reality, their report fuels a very fashionable panic. It takes trivial and everyday interactions between children and teachers – especially between mixed-sex groups of teenagers – and labels them as harassment and misogyny. The report cites a finding from Girlguiding UK, that 75 per cent of girls and young women aged 11 to 21 report that anxiety about potentially experiencing sexual harassment affects their lives in some way.

It’s not any sexual harassment they have experienced that girls worry about – it is the threat of what is to come. UK Feminista is at the forefront of escalating these worries in the minds of young people.

Unsurprisingly, the report concludes by arguing for quasi-professionals, such as UK Feminista, to be better funded and have a bigger role to play in schools, particularly in government plans for revamped relationships and sex education (RSE). Parents and teachers who care about the education and wellbeing of girls and boys should be campaigning to keep UK Feminista, Everyday Sexism and all the other feminist pressure groups out of schools.


Trump's education cuts aren't 'devastating,' they're smart

It’s the end of the world as we know it – at least that’s what some people would have us believe about President Trump’s education budget.

It’s “a devastating blow to the country’s public education system,” according to National School Boards Assn. CEO Thomas Gentzel. More like a “wrecking ball,” says Lily Eskelsen García, president of the National Education Assn. teachers’ union. No, it’s a veritable “assault on the American Dream,” insists John B. King Jr., former Obama administration secretary of education.

Such hyperbole is reminiscent of the early 1980s, when President Reagan's opponents battled his administration's education cuts, and it's about as inaccurate today as it was back then.

Trump wants to reduce the U.S. Department of Education's discretionary budget by $9.2 billion, from $68.3 billion to $59.1 billion. Close to two-thirds of that reduction (63%) comes from eliminating programs that are duplicative or just don't work.

The administration is proposing a 10% cut in TRIO programs and a cut of almost a third in GEAR UP programs. GEAR UP and TRIO (which despite the name consists of nine programs) are supposed to help at-risk students who hope to go to college, but who might not make it.

The K-12 programs proposed for elimination in the Trump budget are similarly ineffective.

At the behest of the Education Department, the Mathematica Policy Research Group studied a TRIO program and found weaknesses, which it first reported in 2004. The final report found "no detectable effects" on college-related outcomes, including enrollment and completion of bachelor's or associate's degrees. In a striking acknowledgement that these programs don't hold up under scrutiny, lobbyists for the programs got Congress to ban the Education Department from setting up control-group evaluations of TRIO and GEAR UP.

Another sign of dysfunction is that — despite a demonstrable lack of success — grants to run TRIO and GEAR UP programs almost always get renewed. For example, in California, 82% of those who had grants in 2006 to manage this "no detectable effects" TRIO program still had those grants a decade later.

The K-12 programs proposed for elimination in the Trump budget are similarly ineffective.

In 1994, the Clinton administration started the 21st Century Community Learning Centers program, which promised to provide disadvantaged children with after-school enrichment to improve their academic performance. Nearly $18 billion spent over two decades later, there's scant evidence of success. "It's a $1.2 billion after-school program that doesn't work," according to Mark Dynarski of the Brookings Institution. He should know.

Dynarski worked at the U.S. Department of Education during the Clinton administration and directed the 21st Century Community Learning Centers' national evaluation while he was a researcher at Mathematica Policy Research. The three evaluations published between 2003 and 2005 concluded that the achievement of participating students was virtually the same, but their behavior was worse, compared with their peers who weren't in the program.

Another program deservedly put on the chopping block is the School Improvement Grant (SIG) program. Enacted in 2001 as part of President George W. Bush's No Child Left Behind Act, this program gave poorly performing schools fistfuls of cash to turn themselves around and raise student achievement. Turned out the SIG program was more buck than bang — lots more.

Total SIG program funding under the Bush administration was less than $126 million. Regular annual appropriations skyrocketed during Obama's presidency, starting at $526 million. They remained near or north of a half billion dollars throughout his administration, totaling more than $7 billion to date — including a one-time infusion of $3 billion in American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funding.

The Obama administration publicly revealed the SIG program's colossal failure on Jan. 18, 2017, just hours before President Obama's appointees departed. According to the final evaluation by the American Institutes for Research and Mathematica Policy Research for the Education Department, SIG had "no significant impacts" on math achievement, reading achievement, high school graduation, or college enrollment across school and student subgroups.

Commenting on the evaluation, Andrew R. Smarick, a former U.S. deputy assistant secretary of education, called SIG "the greatest failure in the history of the U.S. Department of Education." Seven billion dollars in taxpayer money was spent, and the results were the same, as Smarick put it, "as if this program had never existed."

Cutting costly, ineffective government programs isn't the end of the world. It's part of "[our] moral duty… to make our government leaner and more accountable," as Trump stated during a budget meeting in February. His budgetary effort to cut waste includes the Education Department for good reason.


I’m a student. Here’s how free speech died at university

UNIVERSITIES really do have a free speech problem, and it should no longer be considered controversial or ‘right-wing’ to say so

Luke Kinsella writes from Australia:

ONCE upon a time, society designated universities as intellectual battlegrounds where fights weren’t won by intimidation, but with logic and reason. That’s what separated them from the outside world and its ugly improprieties.

Censorship was antithetical to these refuges of intellectual civility. In fact, it was a sign of cowardice. Unlike the outside world, universities were sanctuaries where all ideas were welcomed and everyone had a seat at the table.

Not anymore. Students around the world have a disturbing intolerance to different opinions. When faced with unfamiliar or offensive views, their gut reaction is to ban them, or condemn those who have them.

In 2015, the Boston Globe reported on a petition created by students at Wesleyan University in protest of their student newspaper’s decision to publish an op-ed critiquing Black Lives Matter (BLM). The petition garnered 147 signatures and called for the newspaper to have its funding revoked. It said the paper failed to ensure Wesleyan University was a ‘safe space for the voices of students of colour’.

I’ve experienced this first-hand. In 2017, I was a columnist for my student newspaper. I wrote a column about the threat to free speech at universities, which every member of the board of editors refused to publish — thus proving my point. Their reason? My criticism of the BLM protesters at Wesleyan.

My editors interpreted my criticism of individual BLM protesters as a rejection of BLM’s entire platform. I never actually criticised their core message: that African-Americans are too often the victim of unjust police brutality — a proposition I agree with.

I criticised the censorious behaviour of individual protesters. There is a difference. Regardless, I was accused of expressing a “damaging” opinion that “endangers students” and is “invalidating to people of colour”.

I have no reservations in describing these students, who I come across every day, as bullies. They’ll laugh at you. They’ll ban you. They’ll make unfounded generalisations about what you believe. And when they know they’ve lost, only to rid themselves of any passing cognitive dissonance, they’ll insult you.

Students should obviously be safe from physical violence. But saying my opinion is “damaging” equates speech with violence. As does the Wesleyan petition, which implies conservative beliefs make students ‘unsafe’.

The belief that speech can be equivalent to violence is an extremely common myth at universities. Students think sticks and stones may break their bones, and words WILL (literally) hurt them. This myth has some sinister implications.

If you think an opinion will cause you physical harm, you’ll seek ‘safety’ from it and use violence in ‘self-defence’. As a result, students defend the ideological homogeneity of their university like they would defend their own physical safety.

We need to teach students that words can’t cause physical harm, and they should never be safe from offensive or confronting ideas. After all, that’s kind of the point of university. You’re supposed to seek out people with whom you disagree, not hide from them, or ban them.

Earlier this year, Ben Shapiro’s visit to UC Berkeley attracted 1000 angry protesters, which forced the university to pay $600,000 in security fees. The pioneers of the 1960s Free Speech Movement, which originated at Berkeley, would hardly consider this ‘free’ speech.

And Berkeley is no anomaly. Since 2000, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) has updated a ‘Dis-invitation Database’ that records attempts to disinvite speakers from coming to American universities. The number of dis-invitations has reached 360 (so far).

Instead of actually disproving opinions they dislike, they’ll just insult them. They have an array of go-to jargon and insults, but their favourites include: ‘problematic’, ’violent’, ‘unsafe’, ‘hate speech’, ‘bigoted’ and ‘invalidating of lived experiences’. They blame everything on a white supremacist, heteronormative, capitalist, imperialist, patriarchal society.

They act like the most victimised people in the world, but many of them are literally the most privileged people of all time. They live in Australia in the 21st century and often, come from extremely privileged families and go to the most prestigious schools in the country.

Using any of the above labels is like a rallying cry for professionally outraged student protesters, who make their peers afraid to associate themselves with certain opinions. FIRE found that 54 per cent of students admit “they have stopped themselves from sharing an idea or opinion in class at some point since beginning college”.

Too often, these labels are complete misnomers. Students will throw them around haphazardly with no concern for the ramifications. Take, for example, the protesters at Shapiro’s event, who chanted: “No Trump, No KKK, No fascist USA” — despite Shapiro not being a Trump supporter, a Klansman or a fascist.

Earlier this year, the University of Sydney Union (USU) blocked funding of the Conservative Club’s screening of a documentary that explores social issues relating to men, and critiques feminism.

The screening went ahead, but was protested by 50 to 60 students screaming: “Sexist, racist, anti-queer, bigots are not welcome here.” Conservative Club member Renee Gorman responded, saying: “I’m not a bigot or a racist, I’m not anti-queer, I’m not all the labels they’ve attached to me.”

Actual bigots exist, but students waste their time going after innocent people. Why do they do it? I think there are four potential reasons. Four reasons why this craziness is going on.

Firstly, students (both left and right) have forgotten the art of respectful disagreement. Pivotal to effective disagreement is giving your adversary’s motives the benefit of the doubt. But students don’t do that — they assume peoples’ motives to be impure, unless proven otherwise.

People are no longer ‘right’ or ‘wrong’, they’re ‘good’ or ‘evil’. Your political opinions are a reflection of how good you are as a person and anything considered ‘offensive’ isn’t just incorrect, it’s immoral, and not worthy of discussion. Pew Research found 40 per cent of American students believe the government should prevent people from saying offensive comments.

Students live in impenetrable echo-chambers — particularly on social media. As a result, they can’t substantiate their opinions against challengers. Why? Because they never have to. Students expect agreement; they expect detractors to change their mind immediately. But in their frustration, they resort to baseless insults. Students’ first instinct is to protest for their beliefs, rather than sit down with the people that disagree with them.

The left is particularly guilty in this regard, but mostly because they make up the majority of students. The right have their stupid go-to slurs as well, which include: ‘Marxist’, ‘social justice warrior’, ‘cuck’ and ‘feminazi’.

At university, political disagreements should be so commonplace, they’re forgettable. But disagreements are so rare, tense and combative, that onlookers watch them as a form of entertainment. Instead of participating, most students grab the popcorn.

The second reason is a form of identity politics which says it’s not the merit of one’s argument that matters, but their racial, gender or sexual identity. Students believe some identities are more qualified to speak about certain issues than others. So most political arguments take the form of: As an X, I believe Y.

And if you speak about a Y that falls outside the scope of your X, you’re not taken seriously. You can only speak about issues pertaining to your own personal identity.

For example, in discussions about feminism, only a woman’s opinion matters. When a man states his opinion, no one actually proves him wrong. Instead, he’s dismissed as not having the necessary ‘lived experience’ to have a valid opinion. Logic and evidence has ceased being the standard for truth, and identity has filled it’s place.

The third reason: virtue signalling. At university, your level of outrage toward certain people and opinions directly corresponds with your social status. Student leaders are ideological clones of each other.

Students will find any way to publicise themselves ‘fighting the good fight’. The more outraged you are, the better person you’re perceived to be. The more you hate the other side, the more your side loves you.

Sometimes, activism is less about actual causes, and more about gaining social brownie points. And with social media, students can broadcast their good deeds to everyone they know. It makes them feel good, and within their respective echo-chamber, it makes them look good.

Students want the thrill and excitement of calling out actual bigots. It gives them a sense of certainty, meaning and belonging. So if some innocent people are caught in the crossfire to provide that sensation, then so be it.

The fourth and final reason is that there is a short supply of bigotry, but a high demand for it. Students want to be offended, and for that, they need offensive people. But as racism and sexism have declined, they have to maintain their high level of outrage by lowering the bar for what’s considered offensive.

Or as sociologists Bradley Campbell and David Manning put it: “As progress is made toward a more equal and humane society, it takes a smaller and smaller offence to trigger a high level of outrage. The goalposts shift, allowing participants to maintain a constant level of anger.”

This is why students often go after innocent people, and have dramatic reactions to seemingly minute offences — or, as they call, ‘micro-aggressions’.

This outage culture only suppresses debate between the left and right — which is no accident. Students don’t want a debate because debates ‘give a platform’ to ‘dangerous ideas’. They want their opinions to be treated like facts.

Despite my dark depiction of universities, I can assure you: I’m not alone. This isn’t some fringe alt-right rant. If you don’t trust me, trust the over 1400 American professors who have joined Jonathan Haidt’s Heterodox academy, an organisation dedicated to improving free speech and viewpoint diversity at universities.

Or trust President Barack Obama, who has also spoken out against political correctness, censorship and the “coddling” of students.

It’s about time we face the facts. We are witnessing the death of universities as they once were, and as they were meant to be.


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