Thursday, February 07, 2019

Coastal Domination of Elite Higher Education and Progressive Politics: Are They Related?

A recent Wall Street Journal article profiled 13 Democratic leaders, mostly House members, in the new Congress. I was struck by the fact that every one of them lived in a coastal state—bordering the Atlantic or the Pacific Ocean, not one coming from one of the 31 states where 187 million (a large majority) of Americans live, located in the interior of the country—flyover territory to some. But then I realized something else: all were college graduates (no surprise there), with 12 of them having at least one degree from a school in the northeastern quadrant of the United States. Many of them have degrees from expensive elite private eastern schools: Harvard (two), Columbia, Tufts (two), Middlebury, Mount Holyoke, Georgetown. The eastern elite private schools are truly the home of the nation’s future leaders.

Two facts are largely indisputable: first, the most progressive politicians in the country overwhelmingly come from states with direct coastal access (Pennsylvania is not on the ocean but Philadelphia has direct access to it). Second, the overwhelming majority of the schools perceived as the nation’s best and therefore most selective are in the coastal regions.

Regarding politics, look at the current U.S. Senate. The Republican majority comes overwhelmingly from the interior—42 of 53 senators (the rest are mainly from southern states bordering the Atlantic). In vivid contrast, a large majority of Democratic senators (29 of 47) come from a coastal state (counting Pennsylvania). Colleges, of course, are located all over the country. But the top ones tend to be concentrated in coastal regions. Looking at the latest Forbes Top Colleges list, for example, the top 15 schools are all in coastal states, as are 25 of the top 30 (the exceptions: University of Chicago, Northwestern, Notre Dame, Michigan, and Rice). Expanding the list a bit, some 41 of the top 50 schools are in a coastal state.

Questions arise. Is the similar geographic concentration of progressive politics and prestigious university locations merely a coincidence? If it is a causal relationship, what is the determining factor? Is the East Coast, for example, liberal because it has so many prestigious universities, or are the universities predominantly liberal in their political orientation because of the neighborhood in which they are situated?

In examining those questions it is interesting to observe that the coast/interior distinction politically has sharply grown over time. The U.S. Senate in 1981, for example, was divided very similarly to today (54 Republicans, 45 Democrats, one independent who traditionally had been a Democrat). However, in vivid contrast to today, there were more Republican than Democratic senators from the coastal states (20 vs. 17; if Pennsylvania is considered coastal, it is 22 to 17.) The proportions were similar with regards to the interior states—a modest Republican plurality.

Over time, the country has become more college-educated, and prestigious elite universities with their heavy left-of-center political orientation have increased their association with the political elite. I took 18 key national political leaders—the last five U.S. presidents, the nine sitting Supreme Court justices, and four top congressional current leaders (two each from each party and each house). Between them, they have 21 degrees (averaging more than one apiece!) from just four schools: Harvard, Yale, Princeton, or Columbia. More had attended Britain’s Oxford (three) than all the academically respectable 14 Big Ten schools located in the country’s interior combined (zero).

Contrast that with 18 top corporate CEOs, the head of the 15 largest companies in the Fortune 500 plus three very highly valued high tech companies (Alphabet/Google, Microsoft and Facebook). While all in this group attended college, only three attended one of the four elite schools mentioned in the previous paragraph, and one of them dropped out (Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg). More typically, they attended the University of Arkansas and the University of Tulsa (Walmart’s CEO), the University of Central Oklahoma then the University of Oklahoma (AT&T’s CEO), or Illinois State University (United Healthcare’s CEO). Much of the political elite spent their critical formative years while becoming adults attending elite private eastern schools (and a few coastal schools like Stanford), while the corporate leaders more often went to less exclusive and conspicuously liberal schools in Middle America. While that proves nothing, it reinforces my suspicion that the left-wing political orientation of coastal elite schools increasingly explains the geographic dimension of the nation’s increasingly acrimonious political divide.


The Islamisation of Britain intensifies: Muslim school will not allow girls to eat lunch until after boys have finished

Al-Hijrah school in Birmingham is still segregating boys and girls despite a Court of Appeal ruling in 2017 that found it was unlawful, according to Luke Tryl, director of corporate strategy at Ofsted.

Addressing the women and equalities select committee, he said that Ofsted inspectors are trying to hold schools account for discriminating against girls but feel “isolated” when their stance is not backed up by ministers.

Mr Tryl said that Al-Hijrah school was enforcing a “very strict gender segregation” which included “denying the girls to have their lunch until the boys had had theirs”. “And we had some very discriminatory texts for instance, encouraging violence against women”, he added.

He said that Ousted welcomed the Court of Appeal’s ruling that gender segregation within the school fell foul of equalities laws, but despite the case concluding in mid-2017 the school has still not de-segregated.

While Ofsted inspectors can highlight segregation in their reports, the power of enforcement falls to officials at the DfE.

Mr Tryl told MPs: “The Court of Appeal rightly said that schools needed a transition period where they were segregating and yet still we have not just Al-Hijrah but countless other schools, mixed schools which are segregating on the basis of sex.”

“Similarly other schools who have refused to teach about sexual orientation issues. We have commented on reports but we haven’t seen a change there.”

“This is where I talk about the isolation. We go out there. We make these tough decisions and we often take quite a lot of criticism for the stance we take but we don’t always see the enforcement action we would like to see”, he concluded.


Stricter background checks could ensnare thousands of child care workers

Should someone convicted of assault for a schoolyard brawl decades ago be banned from working in child care?

What if that person was charged but never convicted?

A sea change in state and federal laws governing criminal background checks for child care workers, intended to improve safety in day care, could force out thousands who have a prior offense, even if they’ve worked without problems for years.

The new rules are sparking intense anxiety among Massachusetts day care administrators, who are already scrounging for good employees in an industry with chronically low pay and high turnover. As many as 30 percent of day care workers in Massachusetts leave each year, and many are making little more than minimum wage.

Now, administrators worry the stringent new background checks will drive out many valued employees, especially women, in a tight labor market. Limited screenings began last fall, but the bulk of the early education workforce will come under the microscope soon.

“Everyone is concerned about the safety of children, and at the top of our minds is making sure our centers are as safe as they can be,” said Sharon Scott-Chandler, executive vice president of Action for Boston Community Development, which serves about 2,300 children at 31 sites. “But let’s make sure [the law] doesn’t have a disparate impact on the people we serve and we hire.”

The federal law imposes a lifetime ban on anyone convicted of any one of eight felonies, including murder, arson, and assault, or of a violent misdemeanor against a child, such as sexual assault or child pornography. Banned workers may appeal only the accuracy of the record, not the ruling that says they can no longer work in child care.

But the related new Massachusetts regulations go significantly further. The rules allow regulators to demand legal records from any child care employee or job applicant for virtually any prior criminal offense, such as disorderly conduct or drunken driving, even if the offense is decades old or was committed when they were juveniles.

Regulators at the state’s Early Education and Care Department will review each background check that indicates a conviction — or a charge without a conviction — along with the related documents. Those may include a recommendation letter from a current or prospective employer.

The department will decide whether that person can be hired or retained, and the state will tell child care center administrators only if a worker or prospective employee is “suitable” or disqualified, but won’t share details about the reason for the decision.

That’s a change that makes many administrators uneasy, said Bill Eddy, executive director of the Massachusetts Association of Early Education and Care, the industry’s trade association.

The state has long required background checks for new child-care workers and screens current employees every three years. But, until now, the state has sent the results to day-care centers and let them decide whom to hire.

“An employer has a responsibility to be able to look parents in their eye and say, ‘I know the background of my employees and I am comfortable,’ ” Eddy said. “But now employers will not be able to say that, because they won’t know the background of their employees.”

Workers disqualified under the state rules can reapply in five years.

Ann Reale, the state’s education undersecretary, said regulators need to be tough: Children’s lives are at stake.

“We are making sure that no one has unsupervised access to children who has a crime in their background we think poses a risk,” she said.

Reale said that regulators wanted the authority to review cases in which people were charged but not convicted, because even if authorities didn’t have sufficient evidence to prosecute a person, there may be warning signs of a potential problem.

The new background checks were supposed to go into effect Oct. 1, as required by federal law. But the department, which has struggled for years to hire enough day-care inspectors, is still working on its new computer system. So it has been notifying only candidates whose background checks turned up convictions for the serious felonies and misdemeanors that require mandatory disqualification under federal rules. That translates to 32 candidates, fewer than 1 percent of the background checks run since Oct. 1, the department said.

That’s a fraction of what’s to come.

The department said it anticipates about 15 percent, or roughly 15,000 of the 100,000 checks run annually under the new system, will indicate a prior conviction or charge that needs to be reviewed. It said it intends to hire seven staffers over the next year, in addition to 23 it already has, to review these cases.

But day-care administrators in urban areas say up to 30 percent of their workers have incidents in their backgrounds that would trigger a state review.

Stephen Huntley, executive director of Valley Opportunity Council in Holyoke, said his organization hires staff who look like, and can relate to, the families they serve. Staff members are often women who have been through bruising marriages and child custody battles that end up in court, with related charges or convictions.

Huntley and other urban administrators said their mission is to give people second chances, hiring them to work under strict supervision. They have, he said, rarely run into problems.

He said one model employee in her late 30s, who worked for him for a decade, was convicted of assault for a schoolyard fight 20 years ago as a juvenile. Under the new rules, that’s a mandatory disqualification. She quietly left a few weeks ago.

“I would trust my own kids with her in the blink of an eye,” Huntley said.

Providers also said they worry the state reviewers will not have the cultural sensitivity to understand the conditions and context many low-income workers face, including racism, that contributed to their conviction or charges.

Reale, the state undersecretary, said the state is providing “bias training” to reviewers and insisted the new system will be fairer to workers than one that lets program administrators decide.

“By having our people do it in-house, we have a way of training consistently to the same set of expectations and cultural sensitivity and risk to children that we cannot do when it’s being spread across thousands of programs,” she said.


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