Sunday, May 26, 2019

Mass: Fine Art Museum slammed for taking precautions against boisterous behavior of black students

Boisterous behavior in black schools is well-known.  But that could lead to damage to sometimes frail objects in an art museum

The Museum of Fine Arts found itself under siege Thursday as educators, politicians, and civil-rights activists assailed the renowned institution over reports that minority students from a Dorchester middle school were subjected to racial insults and close security during a field trip.

The field trip - a reward for good grades and good behavior - left the students deeply hurt, said Marvelyne Lamy, a teacher who accompanied the group and posted about the incidents on her Facebook page.

One student, 13-year-old Corlaya Brown, said she noticed the group from the Davis academy were treated differently soon after they walked into the museum to see ancient Greek and Egyptian artifacts after studying them in a Western civilization class.

Upon their arrival, Brown said, a staff member explained the rules: "No food, no drink, no watermelon."

Then, Brown said, she and her classmates noticed security guards following them around the exhibits, telling them not to touch the artifacts and paying closer attention to them than they had to white students from other schools who were visiting the museum at the same time.

"I didn't feel comfortable," Brown said. "I didn't feel safe. I felt disrespected. I felt angry."

Her mother, Tara Brown, said her daughter came home that day asking why she and her classmates had been treated differently from other students.

Lamy, the Davis teacher, said one student overheard a patron likening the pupil to a stripper as she danced to music playing in a fashion exhibit titled "Gender Bending," and that another visitor complained that "there's [expletive] black kids in the way."

Corlaya Brown said the museum officials who came to the school Thursday did not seem to take their concerns seriously. "When they were talking, it sounded like they were nonchalant," she said.

The incident occurred amid an effort by the museum to broaden its reach to minority communities. In a 2015 interview with WBUR, museum officials said that 79 percent of their visitors were Caucasian. In addition, about 20 percent of the 700-plus member staff identified themselves as nonwhite; of those, only 14 percent were in "professional" jobs such as curators, conservators, educators, and management, according to the report.

In a 2017 series on race in Boston, the Globe Spotlight Team counted the number of patrons at the MFA on a Saturday, and found that about 4 percent of roughly 3,000 were black.

By contrast, more than 90 percent of the Davis school's 216 students are African-American or Latino, while 95 percent of the school's staff are people of color, said Arturo J. Forrest, the school's principal.

"This is disgusting and disheartening," state Senator Nick Collins of South Boston said in a tweet. "We need to listen to the experiences of young people of color. When they say they face discrimination & institutional racism daily, this is what that looks like."

Carol Rose, executive director of the ACLU of Massachusetts, said the incident "shows just how pervasive racism is."

"From discriminatory practices in public spaces like museums, to our criminal legal system that disproportionately incarcerates people of color, there is much work to be done to achieve real and sustainable progress toward racial justice," she said.

In an open letter posted Wednesday on the museum website, the MFA apologized to the students and school for "a range of challenging and unacceptable experiences that made them feel unwelcome. That is not who we are or want to be. Our intention is to set the highest of standards, and we are committed to doing the work that it will take to get there."


Before Spending More on Vocational Training, Let’s Ensure It Meets Market Needs

As lawmakers and students grow weary of the rising cost of higher education, vocational training programs are drawing more attention and funding. But a new report finds that these programs are wildly out of step with the needs of today’s job market. To provide a real alternative to higher education, states and schools offering vocational programs should align vocational education with market needs.

Career and Technical Education programs offer options for students looking to avoid student loan debt. These programs equip high school and post-secondary students with the skills and credentials they need to secure jobs for tens of thousands of dollars less than the cost of a traditional 4-year college degree. However, most students are pursuing—and taxpayers are funding—credentials that offer little access to jobs, let alone well-paid ones.

The Foundation for Excellence in Education, a national education research organization, partnered with Burning Glass Technologies, a job market research firm to study U.S. vocational education. They found that in the 24 states they studied, the credentials students earn through career and technical education do not align with job markets.

In total, the study found that for 10 of the top 15 most popular credentials, students are earning more credentials than there are jobs available. In some cases, these credentials lead to no job opportunities at all. “General Career Readiness” credentials, such as financial literacy and basic first aid, for example, account for 28% of credentials earned, yet the study reported zero market demand for them.

Even when students do find jobs with low-demand credentials, they are often low-paying. According to data from the study and the Bureau of Labor statistics, only four of the top nine licenses earned by K-12 students lead to jobs with annual median salaries of approximately $35,000 or more. By contrast, median U.S. household income in 2017 totaled $60,336, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

Worse yet, taxpayers are footing the bill for these programs. A recent oversight report found that in the last few years, the U.S. Department of Education spent hundreds of millions of dollars on vocational education programs including hair and beauty schools, gaming and bartending classes, refrigeration school, and a Professional Golfers Career College. Last year, Congress agreed to channel and additional $1.2 billion to career and technical education over the next six years, and states augment this funding with hundreds of millions of dollars of their own resources.

Instead of funding credentials that translate to few or no jobs, these resources could be helping students obtain credentials that position them for available jobs with significant salaries. For example, the Foundation for Excellence in Education study found that employers are looking to fill tens of thousands of jobs with employees who have EEG/EKG/ECG Certifications, CompTIA A+ Security+ certifications, and with Cisco Certified Network Associates—positions that come with median annual salaries between $50,132 to $82,296 per year.

If the states and nation are earnest about making career and technical programs a viable path to gainful employment, they must do more than fund these programs, they should align the credentials they offer with market demands.

Finland’s vocational education program, for example, is shaped by just such analysis. According to the National Center on Education and the Economy, The Finnish National Board of Education determines what vocational education will be offered throughout the country based on regularly updated analysis of projections for what the the nation’s industry needs will be in 15 years.

This program has proved both popular and successful at helping Finnish students secure jobs. At age 16, Finnish students choose whether to focus on preparing for university or to pursue vocational education. According to the Organization for Economic Development, Finland has one the highest enrollment rates in upper secondary vocational education, with 71% of upper secondary students enrolled in vocational education programs. And overall, Finnish vocational graduates (age 20-64) experience a 73.4% employment rate, several percentage points higher than average vocational graduate employment rate in the European Union.

The United States could do similarly. Industry needs vary from state to state, so states and schools could optimize career and technical education resources by auditing which credentials are in demand in the labor market, and then directing students and funding to those credentials. These adjustments would benefit employers seeking qualified employees in high-demand fields, students seeking cost-effective paths to employment, and schools whose increased graduate employment rates attract more potential students.

Vocational education programs offer students tremendous education opportunities, but with some intentional adjustments, we can make them even more practical.


UK: Oxbridge can force old professors to retire in order to boost diversity, tribunal ruling suggests

Oxford and Cambridge universities can force old professors to retire in order to boost diversity, a tribunal ruling suggests.

Prof John Pitcher, a leading Shakespeare scholar and fellow at St John’s College at Oxford, claimed that he had been unfairly pushed out at age 67 to make way for younger and more ethnically diverse academics.

He sued the College and university for age discrimination and unfair dismissal, claiming loss of earnings of £100,000 - but Judge Bedeau dismissed both claims.

Prof Pitcher, an authority on Elizabethan and Jacobean drama and poetry, had worked at the College for over three decades and wanted to continue beyond the university’s self-imposed retirement age, which at the time was 67.

But the academic, now aged 70, claimed that he was “forcibly retired” under the university’s Employer Justified Retirement Age (EJRA) policy.

Founded in 1557, St John’s is one of Oxford’s wealthiest colleges and counts the former Prime Minister Tony Blair and the writer Philip Larkin among its alumni.   

Prof Pitcher had argued that it was “degrading and humiliating” to have to re-apply for his job after “decades of impeccable service”.

He said he had to “satisfy an unreasonably high threshold test” by proving he is “virtually indispensable to the university”. 

The default retirement age of 65 was axed by the Government in 2011 but an employer can set its own compulsory retirement age if it is in the interests of the institution. Oxford says that its retirement age for senior academics - which has now been lifted to 68 - is aimed at promoting “inter-generational fairness and improvements in diversity”.

Academics can apply to the university to work beyond this in “exceptional circumstances”, for example, to complete a particular project or duty. 

But legal experts have said that other universities may now follow suit  and impose retirement ages, following the judgement in Oxford's favour.

Judge Bedeau said the Prof Pitcher case “exemplifies” the “much vexed question” for employers of how to create opportunities “for the advancement of those in its workforce from different backgrounds to achieve their full potential” while at the same “balancing the needs and interests of those in senior positions who desire to remain employed”.

John Bowers QC, principal of Brasenose College and an expert in employment law, said the case was “very significant”.

“It provides a thorough vindication of the University and College position to have a retirement age,” he told The Daily Telegraph. “There is a strong feeling that the only way to keep refreshing the diversity of the academic community is to keep a retirement age.”


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