Thursday, May 24, 2018

Hatred at Harvard

Hatred just consumes the Left. All of their accusations against Kushner and Trump are refutable but they show no awareness of that. They are just bigots

Graduates of the Harvard class of 2003 are making known their displeasure with the current White House administration in an unusual way, using the platform of their 15th reunion alumni notes to launch harsh, personal attacks on a former classmate.

“Shame on you, Jared Kushner,’’ Sophia Macris wrote in the traditional Harvard Red Book alumni listings, in the most blunt of multiple critiques targeting President Trump’s son-in-law and official presidential adviser.

The salvos against Kushner — by a small number of alumni — are tucked in among the usual fare of alumni notes, where former classmates proudly recite their latest accomplishments, volunteer work, a move across the country, or the birth of a child.

Kushner is not expected to attend the 15th reunion festivities that begin Thursday in Cambridge, but his younger brother, Josh, is planning on attending his 10th Harvard reunion. Jared Kushner, through the White House, declined to comment.

Harvard has a tradition dating to the 19th century of allowing alumni to write in updates about what they’ve been up to — coming in five-year cycles and known informally, because of its crimson cover, as the Red Book — in a practice meant to encourage them to stay in touch with one another. Normally, those entries are more anodyne; rarely, if ever, do they involve attacks on a fellow classmate.

The Globe spoke to some 2003 Harvard grads who contributed to the Red Book alumni listings ahead of their 15-year reunion, and thumbed through the book itself.

Organizers of the anti-Kushner effort set up a private “Shame on You, Jared Kushner’’ Facebook page about six months ago and urged their class of 2003 peers to use the Red Book as a platform of personal protest. Part of the goal is to let Kushner know that his service in the Trump White House will have lasting consequences, resulting in his potential ostracization from a valuable social network of his peers.

“Mostly, I feel low-grade, constant horror as I watch attacks on refugees, minorities, my most at-risk patients, women’s rights, and the environment, and new threats of nuclear war,” wrote one of Kushner’s classmates who said her grandparents were Holocaust survivors. “Shame on you, Jared Kushner.”

“Shame on you, Jared Kushner,” Chanda Prescod-Weinstein wrote. “And shame on Harvard.”

“I, for one, am actually glad that our Class of ’03 finally has a real, live fascist among us,” Jon Sherman wrote. “Who says Harvard isn’t diverse?”

Kushner, who attended his fifth reunion but not his 10th, did not submit an entry this year. Meanwhile, Hillary Clinton is an honored guest during part of the festivities, receiving the prestigious Radcliffe Medal on Friday.

The younger Kushner did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Harvard declined to comment, but the controversy gained attention after one member of the class — Ben Wikler, who is the Washington director of — shared several entries on Twitter. The Globe also has a copy of the book and reached several of Kushner’s classmates.

By some accounts, Kushner was not a standout student in high school, but his father had dreams of sending his son to Harvard. Charles Kushner pledged $2.5 million to the school to help ensure he got in, according to “The Price of Admission,” an expos√© by journalist Daniel Golden.

During his years on the Harvard campus — and living in Kirkland House — Jared Kushner fit in on the leafy campus. He had an active role in the Harvard Chabad, a campus Jewish group; played junior varsity squash; and was a member of an exclusive social club called The Fly. His yearbook entry listed him as the cooking editor of Current Magazine, a news and campus life publication.

But while getting his degree in government, he managed and developed properties in Somerville. The Globe reported last year on how he made a profit from those properties, but also made costly business errors, amassed housing complaints, and forced one group of tenants to take him to housing court to recover their security deposit.

Harvard students in the past have also tried to appeal to Kushner. Shortly after Trump was inaugurated, a student posted an open letter that was signed by more than 2,000 alumni in 24 hours.

“Harvard’s motto is simple. It is just a single word: Veritas. Truth,” the letter read. “We have seen disturbing signs that the Administration will suppress open thought and debate.”

As some of Kushner’s classmates began preparing for their reunion, they took different approaches in how to respond.

Macris’s full entry is only five words long: “Shame on you, Jared Kushner.”

“For me, I definitively felt like it was more impactful to say you’re not going to hear from me for another five years. This is a one-shot deal,” she said. “Would I have liked to [have] told my classmates to buy my book? Yeah. That would have benefited me a lot more. But that’s not where my head is.”

One classmate wrote a haiku:

“Real tough world right now

Our classmate really involved???

Get out of there now”

Another classmate, Angelina Fryer, alluded to a litany of controversy Kushner has been involved in over the early start to the Trump administration.

“I think what I’m most proud of, however, is what I’ve managed to avoid during the past five years,” Fryer wrote. “I haven’t been accused of making false statements on or material omissions from security clearance disclosure forms. I haven’t been accused of colluding with representatives of a foreign government to affect the outcome of an election. I haven’t been accused of using my government position to sell visas to foreign investors in my family’s businesses. I haven’t been sued for mistreating tenants of violating rental laws. I think we can all be better than that.”

Sherman, a Washington-based public interest lawyer, said his entry was inspired by animus toward Kushner. His grandmother was an Auschwitz survivor, losing 35 members of her family, and he views Kushner’s defense of Trump as a dishonor to her memory. So after updating his classmates on his legal career, and how he’s fallen in love, he turned to Kushner.

“It’s an opportunity — and other people saw it as that as well — to shame him,” Sherman said, calling Kushner “an utter disgrace.”

“I’m glad people are speaking out. This is a free country and there are going to be consequences for the way they’ve behaved during this time. Social consequences. . . . They can’t just return to their old life and walk around and go to restaurants in New York and D.C. and not get constant backlash.”

Prescod-Weinstein said she wanted to be more confrontational. “We should be uncomfortable with the way Harvard functions as a steppingstone for people in power who may have terrible values,” she said.

“He was in Jerusalem with his wife while people were being massacred. I feel so emotional about that,” she added. “He’s a person who is doing horrible things. As a black woman and a Jewish woman, I think it’s disgusting. He’s not alone in doing these disgusting things, but he’s certainly one of the active participants.”

Kushner sat next to Israel's prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, during May 14 dedication of the new US embassy in Jerusalem.
She said she was also disappointed that only a small portion of the 1,600 members of the class decided to speak out against Kushner.

“It’s emblematic of Harvard culture. I think people thought it was rude and didn’t want to be rude. But I think genocide is rude. And I was happy to be rude.”


Evidence-Based Legislation Will Best Protect Our Students

After the Parkland high school shooting, school safety vaulted back atop the list of national priorities. Now, the issue has become even more urgent after the Santa Fe High School shooting in Texas last week. Student demonstrators have received a warm reception by the media and by a public that favors some kind of gun reform.

But while high schoolers declaring that “we don’t feel safe at school anymore” after Parkland, and that “we have a right to a safe education” can be powerful prompts to action, we have yet to see real change at the federal level. Congress did modestly strengthen the federal background-check system and drop prohibitions preventing the CDC from studying gun violence. But significant near-term action is unlikely, with President Trump’s School Safety Commission off to a slow start, and given the rise and rapid fall of popular concern over gun control — evident just two months after Parkland — is liable to be repeated after Santa Fe.

Meanwhile, there has been more action at the state level. On gun control, only a few states (Florida, South Dakota, and Vermont) have passed gun restrictions since Parkland, and due to heavily pro-gun state legislatures, action after Santa Fe is also unlikely. But the less-contentious issue of school safety is getting a lot of traction. Two-hundred pieces of legislation have been introduced in 39 states in the past year — half since the Parkland shooting. The most common address arming school staff, emergency response plans, school resource officer regulations, reinforcing building security, access to mental health services, and emergency drills.

After events like Parkland and Santa Fe, strong emotions, engrained opinions, and calls to action make immediate legislation feel like the first priority. But legislators should resist the urge to enact plans that sound good but aren’t supported by evidence. Instead, they should be responsive to how safe schools actually are, the cost of their proposals, and whether they will truly make schools safer.

Students understandably feel scared in the wake of traumas like Parkland and Santa Fe, and public officials must take these concerns seriously. But evidence deserves its due, too. And, counterintuitively, the data show that, nationwide, schools are safe and becoming safer.

The recently released 2017 Indicators of School Crime and Safety shows improved school safety across nearly every measure. In 2015, 3 percent of students aged 12–18 were victims of a crime at school, down from 10 percent in 1992; the percentage involved in fights at school was halved, from 16 to 8 percent. Additionally, the percentage of students reporting gangs at school dropped from 20 to 11 percent between 2001 and 2015. Measured outside the context of national tragedy, students’ sense of safety also improved, with the percentage “afraid of being attacked or harmed at school” dropping from 12 to 4 percent over 20 years. 

If school safety is improving in general, what about school shootings in particular? According to a forthcoming study by Northeastern University researchers, shootings too are on the decline, with the number of gunshot victims in schools dropping from 0.55 victims per million students in 1992 to 0.15 per million in 2015. (It is important to keep in mind that, while this study gives a general trend, it does not include recent events from 2016-18). By comparison, in 2015, the child motor vehicle fatality rate was 18.6 per million — making vehicular child deaths roughly 120 times more frequent than school-shooting injuries.

Consider the costs of some of the most popular policies. The most common — arming school staff — could be incredibly expensive. In Oregon, school insurance premiums jump $1,500 per armed staff member with safety certification and a military or a law enforcement background, and by $2,500 for those only certified. Arming just 10 percent of Oregon teachers could cost the state $7 million in insurance alone. Another popular option is the one Maryland took: requiring armed school resource officers in every school — at a cost of $15 million for the state and $98 million for local governments. These expensive actions may not work as hoped. In the case of Maryland, for instance, a school resource officer recently engaged, but did not necessarily stop, a school shooter. Even more significant, Santa Fe High School had two resource officers who confronted the shooter early. Worse, these solutions could pose additional dangers — as in Parkland where an armed teacher left a loaded gun in a public (not school) restroom for a homeless man to find and fire.

Of course, costs can be justified to improve safety. But hastily passed measures often look more like quick bets than prudent investments. Given the reality of limited funds, bets that don’t pay off end up wasting resources that could have been used for more prevalent, but less charged, issues. For example, national indicators show that bullying and drugs affect more than one in five students. Resource officers and armed staff can’t address these more commonplace issues the way school counselors can. However, there is only one counselor for every 482 students in U.S. schools, even though they might be a better, though less popular, bet for school safety. Additionally, these resources could have been used for evidence-based ways to protect students as much as possible from gun violence.

Hidden costs also come from layering new programs on already strained school staff. Busy administrators and teachers may not have the bandwidth to juggle carrying guns safely, or to develop more elaborate emergency plans and drills (over 90 percent already have such plans) without dropping other balls. These hidden costs are easy to overlook in the rush to pass legislation after a tragedy.

In the wake of Parkland and Santa Fe, all Americans should be concerned about school shootings. Even if these horrors are rare, no parents, teachers, or students want to risk having their school be next. Smart gun regulation could address the problem of gun violence writ large, but real leadership on school safety should begin by recognizing that schools are actually safer than they feel. Yes, we all want to keep students safe and to find effective solutions, but hasty actions will not accomplish this, and the status quo will continue. Lawmakers should use the time and evidence needed to find legislative actions that actually work without wasting scarce resources or straining existing ones. Our students deserve no less.


Australia: Bringing a new meaning to nanny state: Primary teachers forced to answer 1,000 questions about their students' progress every five weeks so schools can assess their 'feelings and needs'

Teachers are being made to fill in over 1,000 questions about the progress of their students every five weeks under a new system that will assess how children 'express feelings and needs.'

The new Assessing Literacy and Numeracy (ALAN) program is 'over the top,' according to NSW Primary Principals Association executive Rob Walker.

Mr Walker told the Daily Telegraph some schools had been forced to hire relief teachers just to enter data.

The process involves grading every K-2 child on 791 literacy and 307 numeracy indicators every five weeks.

A spokesperson for the program said it will 'help track students movement along the literacy and numeracy continuum.'

Teachers will need to fill out an online form marking each child on listening, speaking phonics, grammar punctuation and interaction.

The Assessing Literacy and Numeracy program is being implemented at 661 schools across NSW this year.

The questionnaire software, called PLAN 2, will be available to all teachers by the end of 2018.

A spokesperson for Education Minister Stokes said PLAN 2 is just one way the department is hoping to improve the learning experience.

'The Department is always looking at better ways to help students and support teachers,' the spokesperson said.


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