Thursday, October 25, 2018

UK: Excluding autistic pupils breaches human rights

Do only minorities have rights?  Normal students can have their education greatly disrupted by mentally abnormal students in their classes.  What about their right to a good education?

Britain is breaching the UN human rights convention with its high rate of school exclusions among children with autism and other special educational needs, the government has been warned.

The Equalities and Human Rights Commission said that the number of exclusions, along with the growing proportion of special educational needs (SEN) children being taught in special schools, means that many are being denied the chance to make the most of their education. In a report to be released on Thursday it will say that this runs contrary to the UK’s commitment to achieve inclusive education under the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

In 2016-17 there were 381,865 fixed-period exclusions, or suspensions, in schools in England, up from 339,360 the year before. The rate for pupils with SEN being suspended was 60 per 1,000 compared with 21 per 1,000 among those without. There were 7,720 permanent exclusions, or expulsions, up from 6,685 in 2015-16. Pupils with SEN were seven times more likely to be expelled than those without.

The most common reason for pupils being expelled was persistent disruptive behaviour. A landmark legal ruling in August, in a case funded by the EHRC, highlighted the problem of children whose disability makes them behave aggressively. The court was considering the case of a 13-year-old boy with autism who was excluded for aggressive behaviour, including attacking his teacher. The judge ruled that schools should not treat such behaviour as criminal or antisocial when it was a result of a child’s condition and not a choice.

The EHRC is also concerned about the number of children in special schools. Many parents with SEN children prefer them to be taught in mainstream schools, to keep them integrated with their peers.

The percentage of children with SEN attending state-funded mainstream secondary schools has fallen from 28.8 to 20.9 in the past eight years; the percentage attending state-funded special schools rose from 38.2 to 44.2.

David Isaac, the chairman of EHRC, said that the two issues were setting children’s rights back by decades and “isolating SEN children from mainstream society and having a knock-on detrimental effect on other aspects of their lives”.

“If we want to have a fair and inclusive society which enables disabled people to participate fully in the community and workplace and to live independently, this must start in school,” he said. “We also want any child excluded from school to have the right to challenge to ensure they are not being unfairly denied access to education.”

The government is conducting a review into exclusions but ministers have already made clear that they intend to take action to cut the numbers. Last week Damian Hinds, the education secretary, said that he was considering making schools take on the exam results of those they permanently excluded for the purpose of league table rankings.

A separate study from Ambitious About Autism found that almost a third of parents with autistic children had given up their job because of school exclusions.


Harvard’s well-off outnumber low-income students 23 to 1

On Harvard University’s campus, the wealthy are well represented, with rich students outnumbering low-income ones, 23 to 1.

But how best to close that vast economic gulf was an issue of deep disagreement during Monday’s testimony in the trial over Harvard’s admissions practices.

The trial centers on whether Harvard’s use of affirmative action in admissions discriminates against Asian-American applicants.

But frequently it can seem as if Harvard’s vast wealth and privilege are also on trial.

“Let’s leave it at ‘Harvard is rich,’ ” said US District Judge Allison Burroughs on Monday, earning a laugh from the gallery during a discussion about the university’s $39 billion endowment, which rivals the gross domestic product of many nations.

High-achieving, low-income students, often the first in their families to attend college, struggle to feel they belong on elite campuses.

Harvard could adopt race-blind admissions and achieve racial and economic diversity if it scrapped the preferences it gives the wealthy and well-connected, said Richard Kahlenberg, an academic at the progressive Century Foundation think tank.

Kahlenberg, a longtime advocate of affirmative action based on socioeconomic factors instead of race, testified on Monday that Harvard could do much more to increase its representation of low-income students on campus.

When it comes to race, Harvard “is doing a very good job getting diversity,” Kahlenberg said. “The socioeconomic diversity at Harvard is deeply lacking.”

A 2017 report from Harvard professor Raj Chetty said that just 3 percent of students at Harvard came from the bottom fifth of the income ladder, while 70 percent came from families of the top fifth of income earners in the country.

Put differently, Harvard had 23 times as many high-income students as low-income students, according to Kahlenberg.

He argued that Harvard should adopt race-neutral admissions standards and give a significant weight to low-income students.

He also suggested that the university would need to ditch the advantage it gives students whose parents attended Harvard, those applicants tied to donors and staff members, and its early admissions program, which tends to benefit students who attend well-resourced high schools with counselors who know to guide some seniors to compete in that smaller pool.

The result, Kahlenberg said, would be that the share of disadvantaged students, defined as those whose family income is $80,000 or less, would increase at Harvard to 54 percent from 17 percent. Harvard would maintain its strong academic standards, he said.

This option would keep the percentage of white students level, while slightly increasing the number of Asian-American and Hispanic students on campus. However, the number of African-American students would drop from about 14 percent to 10 percent under Kahlenberg’s model.

Harvard officials questioned that trade-off. “The racial group that bore the burden of your race-neutral alternatives . . . is African-American students,” said William Lee, a lawyer representing Harvard.

Lee argued that Harvard has investigated race-neutral alternatives but said they fail to meet Harvard’s educational goals of attracting top-level and diverse students.

About a decade ago, Harvard did away with its early-action program — a nonbinding option in which students apply in November and are offered admissions in mid-December. But few other universities followed suit.

And Harvard was losing high-academic performers, including well-prepared black and Latino applicants, to other colleges, university officials said. Harvard eventually brought the program back.

Harvard officials on Monday defended the university’s record of attracting students of low and modest means.

The university does offer a tip, or advantage, to students of modest means, including Asian-American applicants, Lee said. And, he noted, Harvard doesn’t require families who make less than $65,000 annually to contribute any money to tuition and the cost of room and board.

However, Harvard’s own data show that the advantage for low-income students is dwarfed by what the university gives to athletes and children of graduates.

Throughout the trial, which began last week, Harvard has defended its preferences for the relatives of alumni and donors, arguing that they create a vibrant community and ensure that the university has enough money to offer financial aid to lower-income students.

The movement behind a socioeconomic affirmative action plan has gained traction in the United States as race-conscious admissions have come under increased attack and dropped in popularity among the public.

Several states, including California, Michigan, and Washington, have adopted outright bans on race-conscious admissions in public higher education. That has forced them to use other factors to achieve diversity, including economic variables.

In California, which has barred race-conscious admissions since 1996, the results have been mixed.

The most competitive schools in the public system, the University of California Berkeley and the University of California Los Angeles, experienced the most profound drops in black and Latino students and have not returned to their pre-ban levels.

Less-selective colleges in the system have returned to pre-ban levels but have failed to keep up with the state’s soaring Latino population during that time, according to a study by the Civil Rights Project at UCLA.

The gap between the percentage of Latino students who graduate from California’s public high schools and those who enroll as freshmen in public universities grew wider, from 14 points to 24 points between 1995 and 2014, according to the study.

Still, Kahlenberg questioned on Monday whether Harvard has fully explored race-neutral alternatives to admissions. Over the years, the Supreme Court has narrowed the use of race in college admissions. Institutions are still allowed to use race as one factor in determining whom to select, but they must also show that there are no other alternatives to achieving diversity.


Using Diversity to Preserve Mediocrity

It's not just Harvard's admission policies. It's the entire dumbing down of public education.

“In the end the Party would announce that two and two made five, and you would have to believe it. It was inevitable that they should make that claim sooner or later: the logic of their position demanded it.” —George Orwell, 1984

“A Harvard University dean testified that the school has different SAT score standards for prospective students based on factors such as race and sex — but insisted that the practice isn’t discriminatory.” —New York Post, reporting on the lawsuit alleging Harvard University discriminates against Asian Americans

In a nation uncontaminated by identity politics, both of the above statements would be seen as essentially the same. In this one, the “logic” of the American Left demands that a dean at ostensibly one of the foremost citadels of higher education support a race-based admissions policy, one where rank injustice is justified by a single word: diversity.

Thus, Harvard sends recruitment letters to black, Native American, and Hispanic high schoolers with SAT scores around 1100-plus, and Caucasian students from states with low representation at the university with SAT scores of 1310-plus. Asians Americans? To receive the same letter, they not only need higher SAT scores than both other groups, but are further divided by gender: Asian American females need an SAT score of 1350-plus, while males require a score of 1380-plus.

And like many Ivy League schools whose chief attraction has as much to do with elitist social connections as academic rigor, emails indicate Harvard is equally committed to favoring applicants with ties to large donors.

How does Harvard get away with it? “While scores and grades may provide a general measure of cognitive ability and motivation, no universal metric can exactly gauge applicants’ intellect or their value to an institution,” asserts Asian American Harvard alumnus and current UC Berkeley associate professor Robert Rhew. “I would flip the question: Does the racial and ethnic diversity at Harvard enhance the quality of the education there? My answer is a resounding yes.”

Nonsense. If there is no universal metric, then diversity is no more or less likely to enhance the quality of education than anything else.

Nonetheless, Harvard takes a “holistic” approach to admissions that includes “personal ratings.” After analyzing more than 160,000 student records, plaintiffs discovered that Harvard consistently rated Asian American applicants lower than every other race with regard to having “positive” personality traits. They were rated as less likable, less courageous, less kind, and less “widely respected.”

In the real world, such “consistency” is called “prejudice.”

Harvard countered that those reports were incomplete and failed to capture the “nuances” of its admissions process. The university also asserted that weaker recommendations from high-school teachers and guidance counselors may have precipitated the lower personal ratings.

For those with less acumen than Ivy League elites, this is known as grasping at ideologically bankrupt straws.

Moreover, Rhew’s assertions regarding diversity are conspicuously lacking. If it is essential to a good education, why has one critical aspect of it been systematically excluded from the ivory towers of academia? As a study by the National Association of Scholars reveals, 39% of the colleges surveyed did not have a single Republican faculty member. Moreover, among the 8,688 full-time professors with Ph.D.‘s from a sample of 51 of the 60 top-ranked liberal arts colleges, the ratio of Democrats to Republicans is 10 to one.

Again, logic that can’t compete in the arena of ideas “demands” such one-sidedness.

Whatever the outcome, it’s likely that this case will end up before the Supreme Court. And despite plaintiff attorney Adam Mortara’s assertion that “the future of affirmative action in college admissions is not on trial,” it’s impossible to see how the issue can be avoided.

And nothing complicates it more than the reality that Asians are a minority group. In the series of discrimination cases that have ended up before the Court, Caucasians were invariably part of the equation, and thus, the “historical reparations” that engendered the ostensible need for affirmative action afforded the Court leeway to “redress” historical wrongs.

Asian Americans were never part of that legacy. In fact, considering that Japanese Americans were interned by FDR during WWII, a substantial number of Asian Americans also have legitimate grievances regarding historical reparations. Yet because they generally eschew victimization dogma, they remain on the outside looking in when it comes to the racial spoils system.

If SCOTUS can justify favoring one minority group over another — in service to diversity, no less — the notion that the content of one’s character matters more than the color of one’s skin will be tossed on the ash heap of history.

Yet even as this case plays out, no one asks the essential question: Why are such machinations necessary? The answer is as simple as it is damning: Despite decades of leftist promises of reform, there is still a racial achievement gap at the elementary and high-school level — one that has existed for over half a century. And it exists primarily because leftists protect union-controlled, Democrat-supporting failure factories otherwise known as public schools.

Most Americans might be shocked to discover that, a little over a century ago, 99% of U.S. students were literate. And they were literate until the Education Establishment abolished phonics and made children identify sight words.

This dumbing down was no accident. “If professors of education could justify claiming that non-reading is reading, then they could use Whole Word to make children into functional illiterates,” explains columnist Bruce Deitrick Price. “If they could claim that garbled, nearly useless arithmetic is as good as real arithmetic, they could make kids learn Common Core Math. If they could create bogus research to prove that Constructivism is a superior way to teach content, they could make sure everyone knew almost nothing.”

And if everyone knows almost nothing, the “fundamental transformation” of America is more easily attained.

If SCOTUS eliminates discrimination at the college level, the American Left would be forced to confront this contemptible dynamic — and the politics that drive it — where it matters most. “Back in the 1940s, before the vast expansion of the welfare state and the ideology of victimhood used to justify it, there was no such gap on test scores between black schools in Harlem and white, working class schools on New York’s lower east side,” Thomas Sowell explained in 2013.

Today, in New York City’s Success Academies, minority kids far outperform their public-school peers throughout the entire state, proving, as founder Eva Moskowitz explains, there “is something wrong with a system, a monopolistic system that is not allowing kids to succeed.”

NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio’s response? He cut charter-school accommodations in city buildings from 150 between 2009 and 2013, to just 54 between 2014 and this year. “Why would you play politics with education when the results are clear as day?” asked Bronx Assemblyman Marcos Crespo.

Because nothing threatens the Left’s race-baiting, grievance-mongering, identity-politics, social-justice agenda more than an educated electorate. An educated electorate that would ultimately see diversity for what it truly is:

The opposite of meritocracy.


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