Wednesday, February 28, 2024

Biden Transfers More Student Loans to Taxpayers, Wants a ‘Thank You’

Democrats are nothing if not shameless in how they go about buying votes. Worse, Joe Biden is using your money to buy other people’s votes via his student loan “forgiveness” transfer program. He added another 153,000 borrowers to that roster for about $1.2 billion this week.

The timing was exquisite. With all the concern over the fact that he’s in steep cognitive decline, Biden needed to remind voters that he’s a “sympathetic” and “well-meaning” man, not just an “elderly” one with “a poor memory.”

Then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said in 2021 that “the president can’t do” what Biden eventually did anyway. “The president can only postpone, delay, but not forgive,” she explained, saying anything of that sort would require “an act of Congress.”

Frankly, that, too, would be unconstitutional. The Constitution does not grant the federal government the authority to abrogate private contracts between lenders and borrowers, forcing taxpayers to pay back loans they did not take for college degrees they did not earn.

But since when did Washington politicians care much for that musty old parchment?

Indeed, in August 2022, Biden did it anyway in a transparent ploy for votes. In July 2023, the Supreme Court rebuked him in a resounding 6-3 ruling. Biden immediately proceeded to ignore the Court and implemented a workaround to keep up the transfer payments in smaller batches.

Since then, a new White House “fact sheet” says, “The Biden-Harris Administration has now approved nearly $138 billion in student debt cancellation for almost 3.9 million borrowers through more than two dozen executive actions.” Billions more dollars will be spent leading up to the election because millions more borrowers are registered in his program.

Biden has no authority to do that, and the Supreme Court told him so. He doesn’t care. In fact, he’s blatantly daring anyone to play the villain and stop him.

“Tens of millions of people in debt were literally about to be canceled, their debts,” he said Wednesday in revising the history. “But my MAGA Republican friends in the Congress, elected officials, and special interests stepped in and sued us, and the Supreme Court blocked it. They blocked it. But that didn’t stop me.”

Constitutional authority? Malarkey. Checks and balances? Please. Totally unfair to send the bill for loans to people who didn’t take them out? Whatever.

Kind Uncle Joe is here to take care of (not so) poor college graduates struggling to get by, and mean, stingy Republicans aren’t going to stop him.

Remember, this is the same guy warning that Donald Trump is a would-be dictator who threatens democracy.

Speaking of Trump, one thing Biden did learn from his predecessor is to put his name on the check. When approving COVID stimulus checks under his administration, Trump made sure his name was on the checks. Team Biden promised such political games would stop under his administration. They did until they didn’t.

“I promise you I’m never going to stop fighting for hardworking American families,” Biden said Wednesday. “So if you qualify, you’ll be hearing from me shortly.” Politico reported that “he’s sending emails to make sure they know whom to thank for it.” Indeed, in that email, he says, “I hope this relief gives you a little more breathing room.” It ends with his signature.

Again, he’s also making sure people know who to blame if this money gets taken away from them.

“A lot of people can’t even repay, and they try — they don’t miss payments,” Biden said. “They work like the devil every month to pay the bills.”

What about those of us who worked like the devil and paid off our own student loans? What about those of us whose mortgage and escrow payments have gone up hundreds of dollars a month, not because we bought a new house but because of the inflation Joe Biden caused? Where’s our relief?

We get none. We just get another bill so Biden can buy votes. And, as with rampant inflation, we know whose name is on that bill.

Unfortunately, millions of Americans benefit from Biden’s graft, and Republicans are going to have a difficult time opposing or stopping him. House Republicans passed a bill to block him last year, but it failed in the Senate. He wouldn’t sign it anyway.

Establishing standing in court will likewise be tough; without standing, who can sue? Since Biden began the smaller rounds of debt transfer payments, no major lawsuit has been filed.

No, Biden will likely get away with this, and he knows it. The result will be an entitled generation that is learning to depend on the federal government, more expensive college tuition bills going forward, increased federal debt ($34 trillion and counting), and one more huge chunk missing from the constitutional order of checks and balances.

Biden is “saving democracy,” and we’re all paying dearly for it. ?


Students at Beverly Hills middle school hit with AI-generated nude deepfake images

A Beverly Hills middle school was rocked by photos that circulated the internet last week of real students’ faces superimposed on artificial intelligence-generated nude bodies.

According to the Beverly Hills Unified School District, the X-rated deepfake images were created and shared by students at Beverly Vista Middle School — the Los Angeles school district’s sole institution for sixth to eighth grades, according to the Los Angeles Times.

About 750 students age 11 through 14 are enrolled in Beverly Vista, the LA Times reported.

It wasn’t immediately clear who created the nude photos, which were initially shared via group chats between students.

School administrators said they won’t hesitate to expel the culprits when they are identified.

It’s not just Taylor Swift ‘nudes’: Millions of teen girls victimized as classmates turn them into deepfake porn
“Any student found to be creating, disseminating, or in possession of AI-generated images of this nature will face disciplinary actions, including, but not limited to, a recommendation for expulsion,” they said in a statement mailed to parents last week,” the school district’s officials said in a note mailed to parents, per the LA Times.

Parents were also advised to “speak with your children about this dangerous behavior,” which they said “is becoming more and more accessible to individuals of all ages.”

“Students, please talk to your friends about how disturbing and inappropriate this manipulation of images is.”

As of Monday, the school has also launched an investigation with the Beverly Hills Police Department into the nude deepfakes, NBC 4 Los Angeles reported.

“We will be looking at the appropriate discipline so that students understand there are consequences and accountability for their actions,” said Dr. Michael Bregy, Superintendent of the Beverly Hills Unified School District.

Beverly Vista principal Kelly Skon has used her regularly scheduled “administrative chats” to discuss the issue with students in all three grades at the school, she said in another note sent to parents.

Skon said she asked students to “make sure your social media accounts are private and you do not have people you do not know following your accounts,” per the LA Times.

A Beverly Vista student who wished not to be identified told NBC: “It is very scary people can’t feel safe to come to school.”

“They are scared people will show off explicit photos of them,” the student added.

In December, two students were suspended from a Miami high school for using an AI deepfake software to create nude images using headshots of male and female students obtained from the school’s social media account.

One parent whose daughter was a victim of the scheme at Pinecrest Cove Preparatory Academy said she’s hesitant to return to school out of humiliation and fear.

“She’s been crying,” parent Vanessa Posso told CBS at the time. “She hasn’t been eating. She’s just been mentally unstable. She does cheer and she didn’t even want to come to school to do it.”

The offending students were suspended for 10 days from the Florida charter school, but some parents want them booted permanently.

Weeks earlier, more than 30 female students at New Jersey’s Westfield High School fell victim to the practice after learning that the manufactured images were in wide circulation.

According to visual threat intelligence company Sensity, more than 90% of deepfake images are pornographic.

Many also use celebrities’ likenesses, including Taylor Swift, who was the subject of deepfakes — which showed Swift in various sexualized positions at a Kansas City Chiefs game, a nod to her highly-publicized romance with the team’s tight end, Travis Kelce — that took the internet by storm last month.

The account reportedly garnered the images of Swift from Celeb Jihad, which boasts a collection of fake pornographic imagery, or “deepfakes,” using celebrities’ likenesses.

It wasn’t immediately clear which AI website was used to create the pornographic images that circulated Beverly Vista, though there are many free AI-backed image generators on the internet, including OpenAI’s Dall-E, Adobe’s Firefly and Canva, as well as a slew of lesser-known tools such as Freepik, Wepik, Craiyon and Fotor, just to name a few.


Laken Riley murder: Students on UGA campus, joggers nationwide shocked after alleged illegal immigrant killing

The brutal murder of 22-year-old nursing student Laken Riley on the University of Georgia campus last week has sparked concerns among other students and women joggers who run alone.

Riley, a student at Augusta University, was allegedly murdered by 26-year-old Jose Ibarra, an illegal immigrant from Venezuela, while she was jogging along dirt trails near Lake Herrick in Athens in what UGA Police described as a "crime of opportunity."

"It's a mother's worst nightmare," Michelle, the mother of a female UGA student and a UGA alumnus, previously told Fox News Digital.

Michelle said she’s told her daughter countless times to be careful when she walks alone and to only go running with her Labrador retriever.

"It shakes people to their core because it makes people realize there’s a dirty underbelly we don’t see," she said. "My heart breaks. I’ve been praying for [Riley’s] mom every time she comes to mind."

Numerous women have taken to social media to share safety tips for solo female joggers and share their own stories of scary encounters while running. Sarah Lyoness, a Chicago-based runner who is training for a marathon, produced a video sharing jogger safety tips that went viral on TikTok.

"I used to live in Omaha, Nebraska, and there was a trail … away from a lot of traffic. You could see cornfields for miles, and so it was pretty empty. And if I would go early in the morning, if I allowed myself to think about it too much, like, ‘Oh, someone could pop out of the cornfields or I could see a car following me' I was just always aware of my surroundings," she told Fox News Digital. She added that her mom eventually bought a bike to ride with her while she was running in that area.

Lyoness suggests other solo runners always carry a phone or smartwatch, be aware of their surroundings and have a safety weapon like pepper spray while out jogging.

Michael Arterburn, a former police officer, told Fox News Digital running in groups or in daylight isn't feasible for some runners and shared tips for those who run alone.

"Either wear no headphones or just wear one headphone. They made the bone conduction headphones now so that you can hear what's going on around you if someone runs up behind you. You don't want to take away one of your senses," he said. "I recommend runner's pepper gel. … It stays in your hand and instantly activates with just the flick of your thumb."




Tuesday, February 27, 2024

What if digital learning is a catastrophe?

There’s a lot of talk in the papers about the importance of banning smartphones from schools. Quite right too. The privacy issues, the cyber-bullying, the airdropping of dickpics, the kids filming themselves taking ketamine in morning break… all those dismaying differences from the conkers and ink pellets and innocent tuck-shop japes we remember from our own youth. More than that, smartphones are extraordinarily distracting. How are the children to learn if they’re surreptitiously WhatsApping one another under the desk?

But this focus on smartphones in schools seems to me to ignore another issue: what happens outside school. The comprehensive my two older children attend is, as I understand it, typical in not allowing but requiring almost all its out-of-school learning to be done online. Physical textbooks are seldom seen. Exercise books are barely used. Homework is set, completed and marked in cyberspace. This has certain admirable effects – among other things, email alerts can let parents know when homework hasn’t been handed in, and you can see in one place which assignments are required for all the different classes.

Schools seem to have made a put-everything-on-black-and-spin-the-wheel sort of bet on digital learning

And yet and yet. The first problem with this is the obvious one. The school carefully and conscientiously insists that during school hours children should not be distracted by smartphones. But then come the end of school hours, the point at which children are expected to develop the vital skills of self-guided learning, unsupervised, the work must be done on one of the very devices that are most likely to distract and interrupt. On a laptop, or on an iPad, you are only an alt-tab away from TikTok, YouTube shorts, Spotify, Instagram, or any of the other internet timesinks that Silicon Valley has engineered to be addictively more-ish. Grown adults struggle to disengage from them, let alone teenagers with their spongy and unformed brains.

Yes, parents have a role here. I am all too aware of it. Do not imagine, reader, that I am not by now intimately familiar with the ins-and-outs of Broadband Shield; that I do not frequently (and at some cost of time and grief) block various sites at the router during homework hours; that I have not got to the stage of hiding the master password to the parent account offline after discovering my kid was using the saved passwords on my Chrome profile to place TikTok on the always-allowed list. Do not think I haven’t spent a lot of time googling whether it’s possible to prevent a child deleting their internet history (it isn’t). Or arguing about whether homework could be done somewhere the student in question can be supervised full time (student in question very aggressively not keen on this). It’s exhausting.

So, there’s that: the do-your-homework-on-the-distraction-machine thing. That’s the obvious one. But there is something more, and it’s deeper. I worry it may be a nationwide or first-worldwide generational problem. We have shifted learning almost entirely online, and as far as I know we have done so without any evidenced consideration of whether kids learn in the same way, or as well, reading and writing on screens as they do when reading from physical textbooks and writing with pen on paper. Not for nothing has this distinctive mode of online engagement been described as ‘continuous partial attention’. There is good reason to believe you just don’t take in what you read on a website in the same way you do what you read in a book.

Memory and spatial awareness are intimately connected in the brain. We have known this since ancient times. The ‘method of loci’ – popularised by Hannibal Lecter’s ‘memory palace’; you remember things by placing them in an imaginary architecture – goes back to Simonides of Ceos (circa 500BC; absolutely the man you want on the scene if your temple has collapsed and you need to identify some mangled bodies) and is still used by competitive mnemonists. The hippocampus, which is notoriously enlarged in black cab drivers, is the seat of memory and of geography.

This isn’t a trivial point. When you read a physical book you have a series of spatial clues in the process: a sense of left-hand page or right-hand page; orientation with regard to the corners; the physical memory of how far through the book you are, and so on. You can flick back and forth much faster than you can scroll a long document. Everyone who has ever looked for a quotation will know that feeling of three-quarters-up-a-left-hand-page-ness. It may be that a new generation of digital natives will navigate online pdfs with the same ease – that the problem here is old dogs and new tricks – but I have my doubts. Cognition and memory are much more embodied than we like to imagine. Other associative sensory cues – smell, sound, touch, colour – contribute to memory (just ask Proust). Those sensory cues are not present in the nowhere of cyberspace.

My wife and I – even allowing for the teenager’s natural resistance to interference – have really struggled to try to help our daughter with her exam revision. It’s quite impossible to follow what she’s doing as she flicks uncertainly back and forth between Google Classroom, online textbooks, half-written documents, gamified quiz programmes like Caboodle and Seneca and Lord alone knows what else. She’s pursuing her work through a trackless wasteland of tabs and windows. It gives me palpitations just watching her.

As it happens, when you look closely, you see that her school has supplied her with excellent teaching materials, notes, textbook extracts and so on. It’s navigating them that is the challenge. The closest we’ve come to being able to make sense of them was when we printed out hard copies – just like an old-fashioned book. We have even, tentatively, suggested that taking old-fashioned longhand notes might here and there function as an aide-memoire in a way that the provisional, ephemeral, disembodied quality of a note in a Word document may not.

There are lots of reasons why this shift to digital has been made. Some are practical: it’s a lot cheaper and easier not to have to buy textbooks or gather up handwritten essays for marking, to be able to distribute and check homework through tools like Google Classroom. These are quality-of-life improvements for teachers, and quality-of-budget improvements for schools. Others are more utopian. There’s the seductive sense in the culture that learning online must be better because the digital world is the future. There are all sorts of big tech companies with shiny PR machines and billions to gain economically from inserting their products into the education of our children.

But it’s far from clear that – in terms of cultivating deep reading, structured learning and the sort of continual focused attention that educational attainment requires – this is an improvement on the use of dead trees and ink rather than otherwise. Such academic studies as we have on the subject seem to suggest that it is not – though of course it’s tricky to make rigorous or authoritative comparisons, and the data are complex.

A forthcoming study from Columbia University Teachers College, reported a few weeks ago, concludes that: ‘Reading both expository and complex texts from paper seems to be consistently associated with deeper comprehension and learning’.

A 2018 meta-analysis of studies involving more than 170,000 participants, published in Educational Research Review, found a consistent advantage to comprehension on paper over that on screen (at least in digesting informational rather than narrative texts). What’s more, it tentatively suggested that digitally literate users might actually get worse rather than better at taking in texts on screen, citing as a possible explanation ‘people’s stronger inclination toward shallow work in digital-based environments than in paper-based ones’.

I don’t demand we return to blackboards and chalk or inkwells and exercise books. But I do note that schools up and down the country seem to have made a put-everything-on-black-and-spin-the-wheel sort of bet on digital learning, and done so before much in the way of data on the subject was in. It’ll be a generational betrayal if, ten years from now, it becomes clear that the roulette ball’s going to clatter into red.

Education should be one of the things, surely, that helps growing people make sense of hectic chaos of the world – an anchor against being swept up in what Cory Doctorow has memorably called the internet’s ‘ecosystem of interruption technologies’. It will be a catastrophe if education itself is co-opted by that very ecosystem.


UK: Why shortening the school summer holidays helps no one

A new report, funded by the Nuffield Foundation, has recommended that the six-week school summer holiday should be reduced to four weeks, and the two weeks redistributed so that schools have a two-week half-term in October and February. Lee Major, professor of social mobility at the University of Exeter, said that spreading out the holidays more equally throughout the year would ‘improve the wellbeing of pupils and the working lives of teachers, balance out childcare costs for parents, and potentially boost academic results for many children’.

I’m not convinced shortening the summer holidays would actually do any of those things. Firstly, I highly doubt that having extra time off in October and February – two of the darkest, coldest, wettest months of the year – would do much to improve staff or pupil wellbeing. Teachers would inevitably end up working through most of it, and pupils would spend the extra time festering inside, probably glued to multiple screens, because sports camps and social clubs don’t run over winter when the pitches are waterlogged and the energy bills are too high. Instead, we would have them locked up for the whole of July, sweating away in non-air-conditioned classrooms, when the days are longer, lighter, and warmer. Anyone who has ever taught in a school, or read Romeo and Juliet, knows that heat is a catalyst for bad behaviour.

I’m also not sure how it would balance out childcare costs, given that employed parents still get the same number of annual leave days a year, and so would still have the same administrative issue to resolve. Here’s one thing it would definitely do though: push up the already eye-wateringly expensive premium on holidays out of term time. Parents will probably be less willing to go abroad in October and February, where you have to fly long-haul for guaranteed sunshine, meaning that the vast majority of families will be competing to go away in the same four weeks: cue larger costs, larger crowds, and a large impact on seasonal economies like Cornwall’s. Some will choose, understandably, to take their children on holiday in term time instead, as a £60 fine is insignificant compared to the hundreds or even thousands you might save on an off-peak all-inclusive holiday or some earlier Easyjet flights.

Anyone who has ever taught in a school knows that heat is a catalyst for bad behaviour

There is an argument that cutting the summer holidays may help to mitigate the learning loss that happens over a longer break, sometimes called the ‘summer slide’. Yet other countries with excellent education systems have much longer summer holidays than us: Ireland, Italy, Spain and Portugal have 12 weeks; Estonia and Finland have 11 weeks; Canada has ten weeks; America and Sweden have nine weeks; whilst China and South Korea have eight weeks. The UK is already an outlier in many respects: we have the fewest public holidays of any country in the world bar Mexico, the shortest summer holidays of any country in Europe, and we also start school two or three years earlier than most OECD countries. I am not sure quantity of education is the issue here.

Maybe I am just being nostalgic and sentimental, but I genuinely believe that the summer holidays are a sacred time: a precious break from the pressure of homework and tests; a chance for children to spend time outdoors; an opportunity to learn important life skills or pursue extracurricular activities or, God forbid, to cope with being bored. When I think of summer holidays, I think of disappearing on bikes with friends until the sun went down, or setting up makeshift camps in the garden with a hastily-assembled picnic, or endless made-up games with my siblings in the driveway: precious, formative experiences that probably would never have been achieved over this February half-term, where it rained everyday except one.

Perhaps a better alternative would be to keep the summer holidays the length they are (something the majority of teachers and parents want), and instead seriously consider how we can better support working parents, single parents, or disadvantaged families. For example, in Sweden, parents can apply for income-linked summer camps, where children can try fishing, drama and sports, as well as helping out with chores including cooking and cleaning, all for as little as £0 to £28 per day. There are some similar, more affordable options in the UK, like Forest Schools, National Citizen Service, or YMCA and YHA Camps, but the reality is that discounts are limited, and often only for pupils on free school meals. If you are not eligible, then one charity estimates it will cost you on average £943 per child for provision over the holiday, and so the subsidies or opportunities on offer do not go anywhere near far enough.

Shortening the school summer holidays therefore does nothing to ease financial pressures or logistical stresses, but it does take away from the welcome reprieve and mental and physical freedom those six weeks bring. If anything, we should be giving families more flexibility to choose when to take holiday rather than less, because education happens as much outside of school as it does inside.


Decolonising (or radicalising) the Australian curriculum

It appears our educational elites have learned nothing from 2023’s referendum on the Voice to Parliament. Despite promises of a ‘back to basics’ curriculum, this year Victorian teachers will have to contend with a curriculum blinded by Woke racial ideology and historical myth.

One of the ‘texts’ teachers can select for VCE English is a four-minute video of an Australian Indigenous actor reciting a monologue from his play City of Gold featured on Q&A in June 2020. Described as a ‘howl of rage at the injustice, inequality and wilful amnesia of this country’s 21st Century’, an ‘urgent and necessary play’ in light of ‘the global Black Lives Matter movement’, and a ‘powerful message’ urging students to ‘offend your family, call them out’ – the monologue asks that we ‘re-write’ the ‘colonial narrative’.

Classified by the IPA as a text that fits with the agenda of ‘decolonisation theory’, which, according to the pedagogy, involves combating ‘systemic racism’ by not simply including ‘token intellectual achievements of non-white cultures’ into a curriculum but by occasioning a ‘paradigm shift from a culture of exclusion and denial to the making of space for other political philosophies and knowledge systems … a culture shift to think more widely about why common knowledge is what it is, and in so doing adjusting cultural perceptions and power relations in real and significant ways’, the artist addresses students as a ‘Blak Australian’ and tells us that they ‘hate[s] being a token. Some box to tick, part of some diversity angle’.

The monologue then mentions the regularly repeated, but historically incorrect claim that Indigenous Australians were covered by the Flora and Fauna Act which did not classify them as human beings, and that this only changed when the Constitution was amended following the 1967 referendum. ‘C’mon man we was flora and fauna before 1967’ cries the monologue, cadit quaestio. ‘Adjusting cultural perceptions’ and ‘making space for other knowledge systems’, indeed, the play is ‘decolonisation’ theory in action.

This long-debunked myth about the Flora and Fauna Act has made its way into a text set for year 12 Victorian English in 2024. So much for ‘back to basics’. And where are the fact checkers when you need them?

Interestingly, in the VCE annotation for teachers that accompanies the text, the VCLAA warns that the play ‘contains explicit language’. No mention of the historically incorrect claim, of course, as decolonisation theory dictates that ‘anti-racism’ trumps facts. The IPA analysed the list in full here where I also show how the 2024 rules mean that teachers cannot avoid selecting Woke, in particular, ‘decolonisation theory’ texts.

This is all despite Australians voting overwhelming against dividing our country along racial lines only last year. It seems that the educational Powers That Be did not get the memo. The VCLAA, the body responsible for the 2024 text list teachers are to select from, insists on continuing to indoctrinate students with critical race theory largely imported from the United States, providing a list of texts that purport to ‘directly explore Australian knowledge, experience, and voices’ but are thinly veiled anti-colonial or ‘anti-racists’ manifestos.

This monologue is just one of an inordinate number of texts on race in the VCE 2024 English document, with the first post-colonial African novel in English, Chinua Achebe’s 1958 Things Fall Apart, topping the list. Of the 16 texts assigned under the ‘Framework of Ideas’ section, over half deal directly with race, with this monologue and another titled The Hate Race standing out as particularly overt.

The Hate Race is a memoir that links the experience of Indigenous Australians to the trans-Atlantic slave trade. The teachers’ resource states that the text ‘is framed by the racist policies and politics that define Australia’ and gives suggestions on how to approach teaching the text. It illustrates explicitly how Critical Race and Decolonisation theory is weaponised for our Australian context. ‘The Atlantic Slave trade’ is to be considered alongside ‘the impacts of colonisation on Indigenous Australian communities’, while ‘the Ku Klux Klan in the USA, Enoch Powell in the UK, and Pauline Hanson in Australia’ are all grouped under the heading ‘white supremacist political movements’ and suggested to teachers as ‘aspects of history and contemporary politics’ relevant to a discussion of the VCE text.

Faced with a text list that more resembles the 2020 Black Lives Matter movement than English literature as we once knew it, students will miss out on not only the ‘greats’ of the Western canon, but a wealth of Australian literature that celebrates our distinctively Australian way of life based on fairness, equality, freedom, and tolerance. As executive director of the IPA Scott Hargreaves pointed out in 2021, classic works in which Australian artists and writers told their countrymen of our nation and asserted the innate worth of a national culture are now either explicitly cancelled or simply crowed out by a right-on national curriculum full of Woke preening and second-rate texts. Disturbingly, the new 2024 rules mean that the teaching of this ideology is now unavoidable.




GOP Senator Demands Answers About Taxpayer Funding For ‘Woke Kindergarten’ at California...

Republican Sen. Bill Cassidy of Louisiana announced on Friday that he was seeking information about a California elementary school that spent hundreds of thousands on a “Woke Kindergarten” program.

Glassbrook Elementary School reportedly spent $250,000 on “Woke Kindergarten,” a nonprofit that encourages a “global, abolitionist early childhood ecosystem.” Cassidy raised concerns in several letters to the nonprofit and the California Department of Education requesting information on the purpose of the program’s inclusion in light of “failing test scores in crucial subjects like math and reading.”

“The reports regarding Woke Kindergarten are serious. Teachers at Glassbrook Elementary in Hayward, California, reportedly stated that the Woke Kindergarten program is ‘rooted in progressive politics and activism with anti-police, anti-capitalism and anti-Israel messages mixed in with the goal of making schools safe, joyful and supportive for all children,’” Cassidy wrote in a letter to the department.

The nonprofit’s website includes “woke read alouds” in which the founder, Akiea Gross, reads books about the importance “for all of us to affirm people’s identities.” The website also includes resources titled “lil’ comrade convos,” “woke words of the day” and “teach Palestine.”

Cassidy demanded that Woke Kindergarten explain the “purpose” of its activities, as well as “produce copies of all materials used in connection with your program,” according to the letter. The Louisiana senator asked the department to explain if it was aware of the program’s use at Glassbrook and if the department knew where the federal funds were coming from to pay for the program.

During the program’s implementation in the 2022–2023 school year, grades also dropped significantly in crucial subjects, with reading and math at 16% and 14% respectively, according to the California School Dashboard. The school was also ranked as one of the worst-performing elementary schools in the state.

The Hayward Unified School District canceled the contract with Woke Kindergarten in February after immense backlash from conservative commentators such as Ben Shapiro, Jesse Waters and the activist account Libs of Tik Tok. The program was halted because it was “distracting the district,” according to Michael Bazeley, HUSD spokesperson, who formerly spoke with the Daily Caller News Foundation about the situation.

Woke Kindergarten, Glassbrook and the department did not immediately respond to the DCNF’s request for comment.


The School Funding Fraud

Politico reports that billions of dollars in federal pandemic relief aid to schools is running dry.The money must be spent by September, and there is “urgent concern over how schools might get burned when the money’s gone, as the process to request extensions to looming spending deadlines heats up in the coming months.”

Schools might be burned?!

We are led to believe that the cheapskate American taxpayers are not forking over enough cash to the government school monopoly. But the data tell a very different story.

According to the invaluable Just Facts, which is dedicated to researching and publishing verifiable data about the critical public policy issues of our time, the U.S. spent $1.2 trillion on education in 2022. The bulk of the spending, $834 billion, goes to elementary and secondary education, while $226 billion is spent on higher education, and $121 billion goes to libraries and other forms of education.

This total breaks down to $8,993 for every household in the U.S., 4.6% of the U.S. gross domestic product, and 14% of the government’s current expenditures. It’s important to note that these figures don’t include land purchases for schools and other facilities, as well as some of the costs of durable items like buildings and computers. The unfunded liabilities of post-employment non-pension benefits (like health insurance) are also not included.

Unimpressed by any such data, California Teacher Association president David Goldberg bellyached in early February that California has suffered through “decades of deliberate disinvestment in public schools.” The union boss added, “This erratic system of starved school budgets during economic boom years mustn’t continue. We need to find lasting solutions to California’s broken budget system.”

We are led to believe that Golden State legislators are siphoning money from cash-poor schools. However, the Public Policy Institute of California discloses that school spending per pupil is roughly 65% higher than a decade ago in the Golden State. In 2021, the state allotted $22,684 per student, compared to $14,245 in 2012–13. This amount doesn’t include federal monies, which brings the total to almost $24,000. So, a class of 25 students costs taxpayers about $600,000.

The money grabbers’ basic assumption (or at least their selling point) is that spending more equates to better education results. Sadly, so many people buy into this myth and have done so for many years. In 2008, Dan Lips, then senior policy analyst at the Heritage Foundation, wrote, “American spending on public K-12 education is at an all-time high and is still rising. Polls show that many believe a lack of resources is a primary problem facing public schools. Yet spending on American K-12 public Education is at an all-time high. Approximately $9,300 is spent per pupil. Real spending per student has increased by 23.5 percent over the past decade and by 49 percent over the past 20 years.”

It cannot be said enough that there is no correlation between the amount of funding and the level of student proficiency. The most recent Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) noted that the U.S. had additional funding of more than $75,000 per student over a ten-year period. Still, it did not have additional positive effects on academic achievement.


Going to university is not always the right choice

Students with poor grades in high school will be encouraged to go to university and set on a career path that is wrong for them, experts warn, under sweeping recommendations in the federal government’s higher education review that are coming under fire from vice-chancellors.

One higher education expert warned that students with ATARs as low as 45 could make it into university under the blueprint for the sector outlined in the Universities ­Accord review’s final report, released by Education Minister Jason Clare on Sunday.

The biggest review of tertiary education in 15 years has called on the Albanese government to double the number of university places in the next 25 years, reduce the high fees students pay in some subjects and reform the HECS loan scheme to ease the financial impact on graduates.

The recommendations in the review will cost tens of billions of dollars over the next 25 years if fully implemented. They aim to create a highly educated workforce, with more than 55 per cent of 25 to 34-year-olds having a bachelor degree or above by 2050.

The review recommends more government funding to dramatically increase the number of disadvantaged students from poor backgrounds and regional areas at university.

“At the moment almost half of young people in their 20s and 30s have a uni degree. But not … in the outer suburbs … not in our regions. And the accord is about changing that,” Mr Clare said. Although the report was welcomed by most universities, Australian National University higher education expert Andrew Norton warned the attendance target meant that students with an ATAR of only 45 would be going to university,

“Historically most students with ATARs below 50 don’t go,” Professor Norton writes in The Australian. “Those who do, face a high risk of dropping out, and if they finish a reduced chance of getting a well-paid job. Nobody should be encouraged to take courses that probably won’t leave them better off.”

While most of the recommendations are uncosted, Australia’s three wealthiest universities – Sydney, Melbourne and Monash – have slammed a key proposal to tax university income and redistribute resources from richer institutions to poorer ones.

The report calls for all universities to pay an impost on “untied” revenue they earn through their own efforts, including international student fees, unsubsidised domestic student fees, interest and investment income, and business earnings.

The tax, which will fall mainly on universities with high international student income, will contribute half of a $10bn investment in the Higher Education Future Fund, to pay for university infrastructure including campus buildings and student accommodation. The $5bn raised in tax would be matched by the government.

Monash University vice-chancellor Sharon Pickering said the future fund plan would interfere with universities’ ability to deliver on the accord review’s goals of increasing numbers of disadvantaged students and building the workforce skills needed in a modern economy.

University of Melbourne vice-chancellor Duncan Maskell said he was concerned by the proposal. “A new tax on universities will weaken Australia’s current and future productivity, innovative potential and prosperity,” he said.

University of Sydney vice-chancellor Mark Scott, who is also chair of the Group of Eight universities which benefit most from international student fees, said the future fund tax plan “would hurt our reputation and our capacity to attract international students”.

The report made no recommendations on the level of the tax but said it should only commence once a new university funding system was in place and should cease when $5bn had been raised.

It would mainly affect five of the Group of Eight universities which have large numbers of high fee paying Chinese students – Sydney, Melbourne, Monash, UNSW and Queensland.

Western Sydney University vice-chancellor Barney Glover, a member of the accord review panel, said the fund was “important future proofing for the sector” but there was “work to do on design and timing”.

On Sunday Mr Clare said he had an open mind on the tax and the future fund, and would decide over the next weeks and months. “There are some universities who hate it, there are other universities who love it,” he told the ABC.

The review called on the government to reduce the high fees student pay in some subjects, and reform the HECS loan scheme to ease the financial impact on graduates. The review says high university fees of over $16,000 a year in some fields – including humanities, communications, and other society and culture subjects such as human movement – should be reduced.

It also urged reforms to HECS to ease the effect high inflation has on increasing the amount students owe and to reduce the financial impact on HECS debtors when their income first hits the loan repayment threshold.

The report says banks lending practices should be reviewed so people don’t have their home loan borrowing capacity unduly affected by HECS debt.

The review panel, headed by former NSW chief scientist Mary O’Kane, makes 47 recommendations for reforming tertiary education, aimed at dramatically increasing the number of Australians who continue education after finishing school.

The review recommends a goal of having 80 per cent of working age Australians with at least one tertiary qualification (vocational or higher education) by 2050 compared to 60 per cent at the moment.

It urges the government to set an achievement target of having 55 per cent of 25 to 34-year-olds holding a bachelor degree or above by 2050, compared to 45 per cent now. This will require a doubling of commonwealth supported university places for domestic students from 860,000 in 2022 to 1.8 million in 2050.

The review says universities should get more government funding for educating students with higher needs, such as those from low socio-economic status backgrounds, from regional and remote areas, and Indigenous students.

The review also calls for more innovative types of courses such as micro-credentials and degree apprenticeships, payments to ­students for compulsory internships, free university preparatory courses, higher living allowances for needy students, better recognition of prior learning for people starting qualifications, and a “jobs broker” to help students find part-time jobs while they are studying in the area of their course.




Sunday, February 25, 2024

Reflections on the College Admissions Process

In the past two years, I’ve felt my life becoming a collection of useful and beautiful images. I spend early mornings on boats in the Chicago River. I run into Lake Michigan in the winter’s snow. I’m given a private dinner and the chance to ask questions to a journalist persecuted by the Russian state. One Friday night, I write a short play about humans and fish people in love and see it performed by talented actors the next day. I am surrounded by stone arches and nineteen-year-olds who love poetry.

There’s a certain swagger I’ve attained here at an “elite university,” a certain pep in my step now that I feel I’ve become a person worth watching. Students here wear our school colors in our hometowns, contemplate solipsism at “the low IQ of the American population” on flights (as posted on the institution-specific anonymous social platform Sidechat), feel special dancing on the knife’s edge of self-importance and conviction to create change and actualize the potential for which we were chosen. We’re made of our experiences; currently, I owe mine to the institution where I live and learn.

Dispatches from the outside remind me that it wasn’t easy to get here. Claire spoke to me during a free period between two Advanced Placement Classes in her high school’s library. Claire is from my hometown of Durham, North Carolina, and she and I worked together the past few summers. I’d remembered her as precocious and kind–patient with the kids and always carrying a novel. Now, she’s a senior at one of the top private high schools in North Carolina and going through the college process herself.

I told her on the phone that I was staring at a bust of Walt Whitman, sitting on the landing by a library as well. It had been a long morning, and I struggled to form coherent sentences on my first tries. Claire had no such difficulties, even in expressing feelings of stress. Her voice was caring and articulate.

“Last night, after cross country practice and homework, it was 10:30 or 11 and I decided I needed to finish my Duke supp[lemental]. I woke up this morning and tried to go for a run and thought, this is not happening.” She confided in me that she was applying to Duke under the binding early decision program, but that no one had told her how difficult it would be to balance a senior-year course load with college applications. Though she had reservations about her choice to commit to one school so early, she felt it was an opportunity she couldn’t waste. She had so much to say that my hands began to cramp while typing it all up.

“You have the golden handcuffs, right?” I interrupted. I knew this all too well. Many top universities offer tuition benefits to children of certain employees. At Duke, this amounts to $63,000 per year. Claire’s parents are both tenured faculty at Duke’s hospital, and eligible for the benefit. My own father was, too.

“My family has three daughters,” she said. “I couldn’t fathom not having that available to me.” The benefit played a large role in her choice to commit to early decision. “I’m participating in it because you have to, but I find it unethical.”

I was also struck by how matter-of-factly she stated that you have to. It implied she understood that admission to an elite college would be the beginning of a life of successes. Claire’s profile is competitive. Beyond her high test scores, challenging classes, and involvement in school extracurriculars, she spent two years as the president of an organization that represents youth interests to the statewide Democratic party. But for high achievers who want to guarantee entry to the next stage of their lives, college admissions is a game whose rules must be followed.

Before World War II, American colleges accepted virtually all qualified applicants, which were largely white, Protestant men. After a general shift to expand the demographics of student bodies, average test scores increased and admissions processes purported to focus on students’ academic merit, making the process much more selective. Merit itself is complicated; tests like the SAT are known to be historically biased based on race and class. And beyond academics, students already immersed in elite environments through private high schools and wealthy families often have the ability to do high-level research, train extensively at sports, or create nonprofits to do charity work funded out of their parents’ pockets–factors which allow them to add “diversity” to a school in a way their socioeconomic status most likely doesn’t.

Now, admissions rates hover under ten percent for the most selective schools. All twelve “Ivy-plus” schools offer early admission plans (seven early decision, five early action). While early action programs are non-binding, early decision is its own set of golden handcuffs, requiring students to attend if admitted. Through early decision, selective institutions can accept students that they know will be able to pay and fill a certain portion of a new class early. Claire told me her friends who would need to take out loans to pay for college weren’t considering early decision programs.

After all, most applicants to university don’t have the benefit that Claire and I enjoy. According to a study by Ipsos and Sallie Mae, families paid an average of $28,026 for college in 2022, half of which was out of pocket. And money provides not just the means of attending college, but freedom to strategize one’s way into an elite space.

There’s a wealth of scholarship into the question of who gets in, and why. Economics professors Christopher Avery and Jonathan Levin, from Harvard and Stanford, investigated the function of early admission programs to selective universities in 201o using a game theoretical model. They found that, because elite schools want students who are both academically qualified and enthusiastic to attend, early applications serve to sort students who are not only well-prepared, but judge themselves to be good fits for the university.

Here, everything, from your idealized love for a school, to the story about becoming proud of your racial identity, to the hours you poured into the SAT math section, to the niche musical instrument you play, is a resource to spend. And in the application game, you’re rewarded for thinking this way, since there’s a decided advantage to applying early. Controlling for student variables, early admission programs provide a 20 to 30% increase in chance of admission–a similar boost to a 100-point increase on the SAT. And for elite schools that are outside of HYPSM (Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Stanford, and MIT, the colleges consistently judged to be the most prestigious in America), there’s a competitive effect of attracting top students like Claire who want to hedge their bets.

As Claire suspected, early decision applicants tend to possess more material wealth and more cultural capital–subtler social factors that influence class mobility, like connections and inherited knowledge. Professors of education Julie Park and Kevin Eagan found in 2011 that, for every 1% increase in college-counselor-to-student ratio at a high school, students became 1.3% more likely to enroll through college with an early program. Use of a private college counselor increased the figure by 14%. Claire praised her high school’s counseling department to me, saying that applying early was what they’d decided together was Claire’s best option. The resource confirms what most of us already know, that for college applications, knowledge of the game is a resource we pay to have.

And of course, the stress of the year goes beyond financials.

“I have to turn down dinner party invitations, because I know that I will get grilled.” Claire functions as a big sister figure in her family and her community, a fact she told me she’d emphasized in her common application essay. Her parents’ friends often tried to use her as a test run for their own children, or would question her about her “strategy” rather than her academic interests. I realized I’d been making the same mistake and asked her if she was interested in political science. She laughed.

“I couldn’t stand working in politics anymore. It’s been a special place to be.” Claire continually used the term “special,” colored with a certain darkened tone, to mark difficult experiences. It struck me as a conscious attempt to reframe. Claire had a similar attitude when I asked her about admissions-related content online.

“I find relatable college content funny, but I try to stay away from the advice.” She mentioned a TikTok creator who attends Duke and makes attention-grabbing videos predicting where a certain set of stats and extracurriculars would be accepted. For me, consuming this content was like a job, a daily search for data points into what was an ultimately unknowable context: my own admission. Claire continued.

“It created this feeling of insufficiency in myself that I didn’t want to let hang out.”

“You sound very healthy.” I told her. Claire was similar to me–a high-achieving wealthy white girl with many of the same academic interests, but she seemed to be avoiding the worst of it. What had made one of us spiral into online spaces of stress and the other manage perfectly fine?

“I hope I can stay that way.” It’s only October. Gaining early admission would end Claire’s college process as quickly as possible, but there will be many more months of waiting if not.

More here:


More than 150,000 students sue

More than 150,000 students are taking legal action against their universities over online teaching during the pandemic.

They claim education chiefs breached their contractual duty to provide in-person teaching and facilities.

The students want partial refunds of around £5,000 – the typical pre-pandemic difference between the £9,250 in-person degree fee and an online one. It could cost the sector up to £765million.

Their claims are being handled by law firms on a no-win, no-fee basis. The first case, against University College London, is likely to go ahead over the next year. It was paused last summer when a judge gave parties eight months to come to a compromise, but negotiations were unsuccessful.

Canadian Maiah Thompson, 20, spent 16 months unsuccessfully chasing refunds of her £32,100 international fee through existing channels.

She told The Times: 'It wasn't what I was promised. I signed up for a world-famous university, not Zoom lessons.'

UCL vice-provost Professor Kathy Armour said she was disappointed lawyers had 'flatly rejected' alternative resolution routes, adding: 'Throughout the pandemic, we prioritised the health and safety of our whole community and followed Government guidance.'


Co-ed schools ‘healthy’ for teens asserts Australian PM amid elite private schools’ battle of the sexes

This is an old, old debate but there is no denying that single sex schools have produced many notable graduates. There is some argument that single-sex schools are better for girls but not for boys. That would pose quite a policy conundrum

Mr Albanese praised his old boys’ high school, St Mary’s Cathedral College in Sydney, for its decision to admit girls from Years 1 to 7, from 2025. “It’s a good thing they’ve made that decision,’’ he said.

“I think there’s something healthy about boys and girls not being separated until they hit uni is my own personal view.

“My son went to a co-ed school, went through the entire system at Dully and what’s now known as Sydney Secondary College, but to me as Leichardt High and Glebe High.

“From my recollection, I remember that there would be a bit of craziness when we’d have school dances with St Bridget’s at Marrickville or Holy Cross at Woollahra, and that probably wasn’t the ideal.‘’

Mr Albanese’s comments came after two elite private schools began a war of the sexes, over plans for Newington College to become a coeducational school after a girls’ headmaster decreed his students would never play sport with girls from a rival college.

Presbyterian Ladies’ College (PLC) Sydney principal Dr Paul Burgis has cautioned that girls in coeducational schools risk being distracted by boys showing off, or joining in popularity contests to impress male classmates.

In a note to PLC parents this month, Dr Burgis gave an assurance that their daughters would never take part in any sporting, public speaking or musical collaboration with the soon-to-be coeducational Newington College.

“Pubescent girls benefit from being able to practice (sic) and play hard and freely, without an awareness of watching eyes,’’ he wrote.

“No coeducational school is allowed to compete in the sport, speech or cultural programs with IGSA (Independent Girls’ Schools Association) schools.

“I note this because if Newington is to become a coeducational school, it will need to look much further afield than the IGSA schools for its sport, public speaking and musical collaboration.’’

The February 8 email refers parents to a link to a longer missive Dr Burgis wrote in 2022, when Newington College announced its divisive plan to become a coeducational school.

Plans by the 161-year-old Uniting Church boys’ school to admit girls has upset an influential “old boys’’ network.

Some “Old Newingtonians’’ have even withdrawn their bequests to the school in protest.

Dr Burgis’s original missive – which was circulated among Old Newingtonians yesterday – noted that a successful co-ed school “needs to have a majority female population’’.

“I hold this view because in your average group of boys, some will be likely to take on the role of gaining attention by acting counter to what it is the class is trying to achieve,’’ he wrote.

“This may be outwardly disruptive behaviour, or it may be attention-seeking behaviour.

“It could have the purpose of creating laughter or fun.

“Girls are more likely to support the cultural project of the classroom, and would prefer to settle quickly, to be able to listen well, and to talk through any difficulties they might have.

“The needs of girls can easily be set aside in a coeducational setting.’’

The principal of PLC – which charges $42,000 a year in tuition fees for senior students – wrote that “girls learn better in single sex schools’’.

He said the “toughest school for girls’’ is one with a “male-oriented culture’’.

“Is it ethically a good idea to introduce girls because it could benefit boys?’’ he wrote.

“Why … would a highly successful school for boys, with long waiting lists, choose to go coeducational?

“They must have arrived at the belief that something in the culture of the boys is better if girls are about.

“The change is being driven by a perception about boys, rather than the needs of girls.’’

Dr Burgis wrote that “having boys about is an opportunity for distraction’’. “Some girls will seek to be ‘popular’ with the boys. “Others will feel the need to respond to this.’’

Dr Burgis wrote that “it is easy for some of us males, when relaxing, to take up quite a bit of room on the lounge’’.

“On average, we will take up more lounge space more often than our sisters,’’ he wrote. “The effect is that they will have to accommodate us. “In a girls school, girls get a comfortable seat on the lounge without even having to ask.’’

Dr Burgis yesterday told The Australian that his memos to parents should not be mistaken for “us seeking to tell a different independent school what they should do’’.

“Of course as a school which believes wholeheartedly in the education of girls in a single sex environment, PLC Sydney will communicate strongly and positively about the advantages of a girls only education to our families and the broader community,’’ he said.

“We will also explain how girls only sporting programs work.’’

A Newington College spokeswoman declined to comment on the rival school’s critique.

The Newington College website shows that it never intended to join the girls’-only IGSA sporting contests, but plans for girls to compete in the Independent Sporting Association (ISA) contests with co-ed schools Barker, Redlands and St Andrews.

Newington College, which charges up to $42,000 a year, will admit the first girls to preparatory and Year 5 students in 2026, but will wait until 2028 to admit the first female high school students to Years 7 and 11 until 2028.




Thursday, February 22, 2024

SCOTUS’s skittishness on race-based admissions suggests the left’s intimidation is working

The left’s drive to intimidate the Supreme Court is working: Just witness the justices’ decision to blink on an open-and-shut racial-discrimination case.

On Tuesday, the court declined to take on the question of race-based admissions at specialized high schools, effectively OK’ing policies that discriminate against Asian-American students.

Parents brought the case, Coalition for TJ v. Fairfax County School Board, after Fairfax County, Va., rewrote the rules for entry to elite Thomas Jefferson HS for Science and Technology — ditching a process that relied mainly on race-blind standardized testing for one that auto-admitted students from each of the local middle schools and also considered factors like socioeconomic status.

The school claimed the new policies were “race neutral,” but communication between school officials and board members made it clear that increasing racial diversity (by decreasing the number of Asian-American students) was a primary goal of the change.

And, in fact, the change dropped Asian-American admissions from 70% to about 54% of the freshman class.

This cuts straight against the high court’s ruling in two college-admission cases (centered on Harvard and the University of North Carolina) last year, which ordered a complete end to race-based quotas, with strong language about not making up excuses for continued discrimination.

Justice Samuel Alito, joined by Justice Clarence Thomas, issued a scathing dissent to the court’s decision to not to take up the Virginia case, saying that the 4th US Circuit Court of Appeals’ ruling in the school’s favor “effectively licenses official actors to discriminate against any racial group with impunity as long as that group continues to perform at a higher rate than other groups.”

Correct. So why did Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett take a dive?

Maybe they didn’t want to risk another controversial decision in a federal election year, after the Supremes’ strikedown of Roe v. Wade became a huge Democratic rallying cry in the 2022 midterms.

And never mind that while elites fumed over the college-admissions rulings, the majority of Americans, 68%, said the decision was “mostly a good thing.”

But perhaps the left’s long-term drive to delegitimize the court has the justices worried.

That includes physical intimidations like the protests outside justices’ homes in the runup to the Roe reversal, as well hysterical smears — of Amy Coney Barrett and Brett Kavanaugh during their confirmations, and bogus ethics complaints against Justice Thomas.

Not to mention the 2021 drive to pack the court with new liberal members.

The left’s message: If SCOTUS won’t give us what we want, there will be hell to pay.

Alito and Thomas deserve kudos for standing up to the bullies; too bad they seem to be standing alone.


Chairwoman Foxx on Biden Transferring Billions in Student Loan Debt to Taxpayers

Education and the Workforce Committee:

WASHINGTON – Today, Education and the Workforce Committee Chairwoman Virginia Foxx (R-NC) issued the following statement in response to the Biden administration transferring $1.2 billion in student loan debt to taxpayers as President Biden continues to implement his radical income-driven repayment (IDR) rule—known as “Savings on a Valuable Education (SAVE)” plan:

“If President Biden spent half as much time working to address the root causes of our broken student loan system as he does peddling his illegal free college agenda, college costs would be lower, the student loan repayment process would be simpler, and students and families would be able to fill out the FAFSA.

“Unfortunately, Biden believes that more government dependence means more votes come election day—and as a result—has focused his time and energy on harmful initiatives to bolster his ratings.

“Don’t be fooled by this administration’s so-called free college agenda. It means less money in the pockets of hardworking taxpayers, more debt, and a continuing decline of an already failing student loan system.”

Biden’s SAVE scheme:

Is estimated to cost as much as $559 billion – making it the most expensive regulation in history and more than doubling the cost of the current IDR program.

Exacerbates the problems of rising college costs and excessive borrowing.

Subsidizes some graduate students’ loans more than what low-income households receive in federal housing assistance.
Guarantees that up to 80 percent of undergraduate student loan borrowers will never repay their loans fully.

More on Republican solutions to lower college costs:

Last month the Committee passed H.R. 6951, the College Cost Reduction Act. The bill includes bipartisan proposals to tackle widespread concern that the cost of postsecondary education has become insurmountable for too many Americans. This legislation addresses the issues of low completion rates, unaffordable student debt, and the inflated cost of obtaining a college degree. Specifically, H.R. 6951:
Ensures information about costs and return on investment is clear, accessible, and personalized for prospective students and families.

Holds institutions financially responsible for overpriced degrees that leave students with unaffordable debt.
Provides targeted relief to struggling borrowers rather than blanket bailouts for those who don’t need them.
Funds colleges based on student outcomes and lifts excessive regulations that further increase costs to families.

Press release


Harvard condemns anti-Semitic image circulated by student and faculty groups

Harvard University issued a campuswide message Tuesday evening from its interim president condemning an antisemitic cartoon that was circulated – and then disavowed – by two student groups and a faculty organisation.

“Perpetuating vile and hateful antisemitic tropes, or otherwise engaging in inflammatory rhetoric or sharing images that demean people on the basis of their identity, is precisely the opposite of what this moment demands of us,” wrote Alan Garber, the university’s interim president.

“The University will review the situation to better understand who was responsible for the posting and to determine what further steps are warranted.”

The latest controversy at the prestigious university comes after a congressional hearing on campus antisemitism that played a role in the last president’s ouster, as well as recently launched federal investigations into antisemitism and anti-Muslim harassment on a number of campuses, including Harvard.

The cartoon was featured in a recent post on Instagram attempting to link the Black and Palestinian “liberation movements.” The cartoon depicted a hand etched with a Star of David and a dollar sign holding a noose around the necks of what appear to be the Black boxer and activist Muhammad Ali and Gamal Abdel Nasser, who was a longtime president of Egypt. The three groups that posted the image issued apologies after it sparked criticism on social media.

“The inclusion of the offensive caricature was an unprompted, painful error – a combination of ignorance and inadequate oversight,” wrote the Harvard Undergraduate Palestine Solidarity Committee and Harvard’s African and African-American Resistance Organization in a joint statement. The groups said the cartoon had come from the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, an activist organisation from the 1960s.

“We apologise for the hurt that these images have caused and do not condone them in any way,” wrote the Harvard Faculty and Staff for Justice in Palestine, which had reposted the image. “Harvard FSJP stands against all forms of hate and bigotry including antisemitism.” Walter Johnson, professor of History and of African and African-American Studies, resigned as a faculty adviser to the Harvard Undergraduate Palestine Solidarity Committee and from Harvard Faculty and Staff for Justice in Palestine.

“Like many others, I was shocked and dismayed by the image,” he wrote in an email to The Wall Street Journal on Wednesday. “I have stepped down from both my role as faculty adviser to the PSC and FSJP. I remain supportive of the work of those organisations in calling attention to the ongoing catastrophe in Gaza. My conversations with my students and colleagues, however, are private, and I won’t comment on them.”

The university said in a statement Monday that it is reviewing the matter and referring it to the Harvard College Administrative Board, suggesting that disciplinary action could follow.

Not everyone was satisfied with the apologies. Harvard’s Jewish Law Students Association issued a statement saying that the post of the cartoon was shared by several other Harvard student groups.

“At a time when antisemitic incidents are at an all-time high and Holocaust denial is spreading both in the U.S. and abroad, Harvard faculty and students must understand and be held to account for the tremendous consequences of proliferating insidious tropes,” the group wrote. “Merely acknowledging that their content was ‘antiquated’ or removing their post does not remedy the harm they caused by lending credibility to antisemitic falsehoods.” Harvard has endured widespread scrutiny since some critics and donors accused the former president of not swiftly condemning the Oct. 7 Hamas attacks on Israel and not adequately addressing antisemitism on campus. In a December congressional hearing, its then-president, Claudine Gay, was asked whether calling for the genocide of Jews violated Harvard’s code of conduct. She responded that it could, depending on the context. Gay resigned in January after she was later accused of plagiarism.




Wednesday, February 21, 2024

University of Chichester students launch discrimination claim after 'decolonising' black history degree is axed

University students have launched a discrimination claim after a 'decolonising' black history course was scrapped. They say the University of Chichester breached the Equality Act as the course was created to encourage more black students into academia.

The History of Africa and the African Diaspora Master's by Research (MRes) was set up in 2017 to 'decolonise the curriculum'. It was led by Professor Hakim Adi, who was shortlisted for the Wolfson History Prize.

Labelled the first African-British history professor in the UK, Professor Adi said the axing was an 'attack' on black history.

He added yesterday: 'As a result of the MRes, we encouraged many black students to embark on PhD research. We established one of the largest cohorts of black postgraduate history students in the country. 'These students have been left without appropriate supervision and their studies have been completely disrupted.'

Figures in the curriculum included Haitian independence leader Toussaint Louverture, South African human rights activist Alice Kinloch, and Amy Ashwood Garvey, co-founder of Jamaica's Universal Negro Improvement Association and wife of Marcus Garvey.

Last summer, the university announced the course would be suspended because too few students signed up, which led to Professor Adi losing his job. It said the course was financially unviable to take on new applicants but existing students could continue.

However, the 14 students taking action say they are not taught by a specialist and have launched a 'letter before action', alleging discrimination and breach of contract.

Jacqueline McKenzie, of lawyers Leigh Day, which is representing the students, said the axing of the course 'stopped our clients' academic careers in their tracks', branding the decision 'clear discrimination'.

Jabari Osaze, an MRes student said: 'Chichester should have focused its efforts on recruiting more students like me but instead it seems they undervalued the programme.

'They have treated their students and the world-renowned expert historian who ran the programme extremely poorly.'

An online petition has gained 14,000 signatures and an open letter has been signed by more than 300 academics and staff.

In a linked case, the Black Equity Organisation is also bringing legal action and has issued a judicial review.

A university spokesman said: 'The MRes programme has not been terminated for existing students but is suspended to new applicants pending a review.

'PhD students study individual programmes of research and should not be conflated with the MRes programme.

'The university is committed to ensuring that all existing students are able to complete their studies successfully and that alternative teaching and supervisory arrangements are in place for these students.'


California substitute teacher left elementary school students in tears after watching ‘inappropriate images’ in class

A California substitute teacher was removed from his classroom after viewing “inappropriate images” in front of his elementary students — a traumatic event that left several students in tears, officials said.

West Covina Unified School District Superintendent Emy Flores said that the disturbing incident occurred sometime before noon Friday, shortly before a concerned parent called Cameron Elementary School demanding to know why her son had called her sobbing.

When the school’s principal Slyvia Fullerton checked on the boy, she instead found “several students crying,” Flores said in a statement Sunday.

The substitute teacher — who has not been named — was ordered to leave the classroom while Fullerton tried to reassure the traumatized children before ultimately bringing them to the on-site Mental Wellness Room.

According to the kids, the man was watching “naked people” on his phone, which was blatantly displayed within the young students’ line of vision, exasperated parents told NBC 4.

Parent Stacy Mathews claimed many of the students huddled together in a corner because they felt uncomfortable. “He wouldn’t let them go to the bathroom,” Mathews told the station.

After learning what had happened, Flores immediately alerted district administrators, Child Protective Services and local law enforcement to investigate the perverted claims.

As of Wednesday, there have been no arrests in the case, but the West Covina Police Department said a probe into the incident is ongoing. “We want to reassure the community that the police department is treating these allegations with the utmost seriousness. An investigation is currently underway to thoroughly examine the situation and gather all the necessary information,” Chief Richard Bell said in a statement.

Flores said the substitute teacher had passed a rigorous background check without alerting district officials to any red flags.

Dozens of parents protested outside the elementary school Tuesday, demanding that law enforcement arrest the substitute teacher.

“When we found out on Saturday that he wasn’t arrested, [my daughter] was scared thinking that he was going to come back and come back to get them for tattling, is how she worded it,” Mathews said.

West Covina is a suburban city located roughly 19 miles east of Downtown Los Angeles.


‘We made the wrong decisions’: COVID-era mass school closures condemned

Mass school closures that stretched for months during the pandemic were unnecessary and led to a cascade of social and educational problems that threaten a generation of Australian children, top education experts say.

Governments have failed to examine the fallout from one of the most far-reaching decisions prompted by COVID-19, which disrupted the schooling of millions of students and resulted in an attendance crisis and persistent behavioural issues.

A panel of pre-eminent Australian education experts has flagged the profound impacts that school closures during COVID-19 have had on students’ education and wellbeing.

They called for a plan for future closures that puts the long and short-term needs of children at the centre of policy decision-making.

The Sydney Morning Herald convened experts on education and child social development to assess the impact of COVID on students after the federal government failed to include the decision to close schools in its independent inquiry into how the nation managed the pandemic.

They included the chair of the NSW education regulator, Peter Shergold, and the National Children’s Commissioner Anne Hollonds.

Schools in NSW switched to remote learning in 2020 and 2021. Strict infection controls continued to interrupt learning and social interaction for months on end.

The COVID fallout: Education

This month marks four years since China’s COVID-19 outbreak was deemed a public health emergency of international concern, heralding the start of a traumatic period many of us would prefer to forget. While a federal government inquiry is examining some national responses to the crisis, key decisions made by states will not be properly scrutinised.

The Herald is concerned our political leaders have not adequately studied the lessons – good and bad – of our most recent experience, and we plan to ask tough questions over the coming months about the pandemic’s impact on education, health, border closures and lockdowns and policing. This is the first of our three-part series looking at the impact of COVID on education. The forum discussions with nine expert panellists were broken up into two sessions: one examining the wellbeing and behaviour of students, the second on academic and learning disruption.

The panellists warned the aftershocks of the decision to close schools are still being felt in classrooms, playgrounds and homes. Some of the worst aspects were the skyrocketing truancy rate, school refusal and significant issues with student discipline and distraction in the classroom, and self-regulation in the playground.

Shergold, a former top public servant who led an independent review into the pandemic in 2022, said the lingering effects of school shutdowns on students, teachers and parents underscored the importance of scrutinising unilateral decisions by state governments to mandate remote learning.

In September, the federal government announced a long-awaited inquiry into the pandemic response, but school closures are not included in the terms of reference. Former NSW premier Dominic Perrottet has previously joined health experts in urging the inquiry to examine the social damage and repercussions of long periods of remote learning.

“The danger of school closures, which we always knew, was that it was going to accentuate disadvantage,” said Shergold. “After the closures in early 2020, we made the wrong policy decisions about closing school systems.”

In NSW, more than 1.2 million students either learned remotely or had minimal supervision in schools for more than five months. Schools were shut down between March and May in 2020, and then again in 2021 from July to the end of October. Hundreds of schools and childcare centres were closed again in the following months.

Unlike in Victoria, there was minimal supervision at schools for students, but attendance was discouraged. Shergold said the unity of national cabinet fractured as state governments forged ahead with decisions to shut schools, despite the federal government urging parents to send their children to classes.

State decisions were often politically driven, some panellists said, ignoring the risk of long-lasting impacts on young children and teenagers, especially the most disadvantaged students who were most affected by the closures.

“It was clearly the Commonwealth position to keep school systems open,” Shergold said. “It was states that were unpersuaded, and that’s why this present inquiry seems so bizarre that we’re not going to address their policy responses. It’s a crucial part of the story and ensuring that we’re better prepared for the next pandemic.”

He said early in 2020 there “was a fog of war, and there was ill preparation – in Australia between federal and state governments – for a pandemic”, noting it was understandable schools closed in the first months.

But after evidence emerged that children were less likely to spread the virus, and schools were not transmission hotspots, the system-wide closures were unwarranted, he said.

“We had Treasury pleading with us not to shut school systems. Part of the issue was that parents started to voluntarily withdraw their children from schools, and they were voting with their feet ... I think NSW reacted to that,” he said.

The state government also faced persistent pressure from the NSW Teachers Federation to shut down in-person classes, leaving minimal staffing to support essential frontline services workers. Some of Sydney’s private schools began to defy official advice and close, putting pressure on other systems to follow suit.

The advice provided by chief health officers was that attending school represented a low health risk to students, and studies in 2021 reaffirmed transmission between children in schools was minimal.

Hollonds agreed the first closure early in the pandemic, which lasted seven weeks, was unavoidable, but the longer closure of 2021 was unnecessary.

“Maybe they should have only been short term, where there was a ‘hot-spot’, not the 15 weeks we saw across all of NSW,” she said.

She said the public debate over school closures not only ignored the needs of children, but demonised them as “germy super-spreaders”. “It felt Dickensian, some of that discourse,” she said.

Shergold noted that the shift to online learning was implemented well across systems and schools, and effort was made to address the digital divide. But he emphasised that after the first mass closures a more targeted approach should have been taken to only close individual schools when needed.




Tuesday, February 20, 2024

Edinburgh University’s new rector must save it from gender ideology

Simon Fanshawe has been installed as the rector of Edinburgh University. The arrival of the comedian and Stonewall dissident to the post will hopefully bring to an end a dismal episode in the life of one of Britain’s greatest academic institutions. But don’t bank on it. The campaign by transgender activists and others to uninstall Mr Fanshawe is already underway – and they know what they are doing.

For the past decade a collection of campus zealots has been allowed to run rampant in this supposed seat of higher learning. They have threatened the health and livelihoods of lecturers and banned freedom of speech – often with the tacit acquiescence of the university authorities.

One of Mr Fanshawe’s predecessors as rector, the Labour Party activist and feminist Ann Henderson, became afraid to appear on campus following her intimidation by trans activists, annoyed that she wouldn’t utter the dogma that ‘transwomen are women’. With the endorsement of the University and College Union (UCU) these activists have been allowed to prevent the showing of films like ‘Adult Human Female’, which was regarded as transphobic because it questions gender ideology. James Kirkup shed light on this in The Spectator as the editor of Edinburgh’s student newspaper wrote about why she stood by her decision not to cover the film’s screening.

This academic institution has been invaded by the curious quasi-religious belief that people can change sex by an act of the imagination.

Liberal minded academics like the social scientist Dr Neil Thin have faced attempts to hound them out of their jobs. In Thin’s case, it was for simply making wry observations about student groups claiming to be anti-racist yet holding events that excluded white people. Dr Thin also criticised the lamentable decision by the University Court to cancel the Enlightenment philosopher David Hume on the basis of an allegedly racist footnote to an 18th-century essay.

At the height of the recent campus culture war, university authorities shamefully agreed to rename the Hume Tower after they received a petition from students claiming that it offended the international student body. They couldn’t bear the pain of attending lectures in a building dedicated to such a racist, even though Hume was a lifelong opponent of racism. They were reportedly going to rename it the Julius Nyerere tower, until someone pointed out that the Tanzanian dictator and Edinburgh alumnus was a rampant homophobe. It is now called after its address, 40 George Square – which was built in 1766 and bears the name of the monarch, George III, who vastly extended the British Empire. It would take a stone not to laugh.

Mr Fanshawe will find no shortage of comic material in Edinburgh University campus but the campaign against him is no joke. The black-balling bigots are well versed in the arts of covert intimidation and until now have gone largely unchallenged by a supine university administration that seems incapable of defending its own staff let alone freedom of speech.

So who are these people? Edinburgh University Labour Students have leapt to condemn Fanshawe’s election because of his alleged views on transgenderism. An open letter has been set up by an anonymous user on that accuses the new rector of being a transphobe and a bigot.

Fanshawe is neither. Nor has he threatened ‘the legitimacy of trans people’ as has been alleged by Jonathan MacBride of the University’s staff pride network. Fanshawe was one of the founders of the LGBT campaign group Stonewall and has been a lifelong campaigner for the rights of sexual minorities. His crime however has been to be openly critical of Stonewall’s insistence on promoting the idea that ‘transwomen are women’ and demonising anyone who disagrees. He has also spoken in favour of ‘women’s sex-based rights and protections’, rather in the manner of the author JK Rowling who has been one of the biggest donors to the University in the past. Certainly, the group Edinburgh Academics for Academic Freedom can hardly believe what has happened: ‘We’re over the moon’

The fact that the lecturers’ trade union, the UCU, has supported the curbs on free speech and thought in Edinburgh University, for example with the Adult Human Female showing, tells you all you need to know. This academic institution has been invaded by the curious quasi-religious belief that people can change sex by an act of the imagination.

I am myself a former elected rector of Edinburgh University and I have been bewildered and appalled at what has happened to this institution since I stood down in 2012. I could never have imagined that this flight into obscurantism could have happened here of all places. But as Sir Tom Devine, emeritus professor of history at Edinburgh, said: ‘A sinister culture had been allowed to develop in Scotland’s greatest university.’ Hopefully Fanshawe, an open-minded rector and chair of the university court, will be able to guide this addled institution back to something resembling sanity.


Drag as Subversive Education

One element of the LGBTQ+ assault on childhood is Drag Queen Story Hour (DQSH), in which children are entertained by fat men dressed as prostitutes. These events have become common across the country in libraries, bookstores, schools, and (God help us) church.

Since no child has ever asked to be read to by a freakish man bursting out of a spandex dress, woke parents presumably expose their children to DQSH to advertise their own progressive bona fides. Drag is, indisputably, “adult” entertainment for a hardcore sexual subculture, but the woke narrative maintains that the raunch is toned down for the kiddies. “It’s innocent fun!” “Kids love dressing up in bright colors and glitter!” “There’s no explicit stuff, so what’s the harm?” “It’s an entertaining family atmosphere!”

But Big Drag (yes, DQSH has turned into an industry) is a bit more honest about what’s going on than are the welcoming venues and complicit parents. The home website crows that DQSH “captures . . . the gender fluidity of childhood and gives kids . . . unabashedly queer role models. . . .” Presenting gender fluidity as an established fact and offering “queer role models” to children suggests that the goal isn’t just to entertain but to accomplish something that starts with “gr” and ends with “ooming.”

And Big Drag’s aspirations go far beyond the occasional event at the local library. Academic literature from the realm of K-12 education now argues that drag should be considered a valid part of a child’s schooling. That literature, buried in journals the average person will never read, removes any doubt about what DSQH’s “family-friendly fun” is actually up to.

A good example of the academic infusion of drag into schooling is a 2021 paper published in the journal Curriculum Inquiry and entitled “Drag Pedagogy: The Playful Practice of Queer Imagination in Early Childhood.” The paper is co-authored by a Canadian education professor and a New York drag queen who goes by “Lil Miss Hot Mess.” (Yes, that’s the name under which he published this supposedly professional paper.)

This paper promotes “queer and trans cultural forms as valuable components of early childhood education” and describes drag as one of these components. Drag, it argues, is a way to teach children to be transgressive, to break rules and deconstruct norms. DQSH is thus part of what the paper advocates as “drag pedagogy” that “offers one model for learning not simply about queer lives, but how to live queerly” (emphasis in the original). “This approach,” the paper says, “can support students in finding the unique or queer aspects of themselves – rather than attempting to understand what it’s like to be LGBG.”

So drag helps children learn not just to empathize with people who identify as LGBT, but to live that way themselves. Further, this shattering of norms must extend beyond sex roles and behaviors to disruption of the racist, white-supremacist capitalist system itself (what the paper calls “coloniality and racial capitalism” that imposes “gender normativity” on children who just want to be free – to “live queerly”).

The paper repeatedly emphasizes drag as a vehicle for deconstructing all aspects of normal society. While learning through play is a staple of early-childhood pedagogy, this paper argues that drag is an even better form of educational play because “it ultimately has no rules – its defining quality is often to break as many rules as possible! . . . [D]rag is firmly rooted in play as a site of queer pleasure, resistance, and self-fashioning.” The drag queen’s presence announces that the focus will be on “bending and breaking the rules” with “a premium on standing out, on artfully desecrating the sacred.” He will “foster collective unruliness” so that children will learn “strategic defiance” of all limits and norms.

The paper also promotes what it calls “camp curriculum” – “embrac[ing] failure and shame.” For example, the picture book The Hips on the Drag Queen Go Swish, Swish, Swish “encourages kids to move their hips in ways often coded as effeminate.” (This book was written by Lil Miss Hot Mess, of whose literary talents there apparently is no end.) And drag has a strong element of critical theory, encouraging the analysis and deconstruction of culture through a queer lens.

An arresting admission in the DQSH paper occurs as a brief mention in the Conclusion section. Normal people are constantly assured that children are safe at LGBTQ events such as DQSH and pride parades because those events are designed to be “family-friendly” (see here, here, and here, for example). Is DQSH in fact family-friendly?

"It may be that DQSH is 'family friendly,' in the sense that t is accessible and inviting to families with children, but it is less a sanitizing force than it is a preparatory introduction to alternate modes of kinship. Here, DQSH is 'family friendly' in the sense of 'family' as an old-school queer code to identify and connect with other queers on the street," the paper offered.

In other words, DQSH isn’t intended to offer children wholesome entertainment free of sexual imagery or innuendo; rather, it aims to welcome kids into the greater queer “family,” where they can shake off all conventions, norms, and values - including those of their parents. This “old-school queer code” is being used to snooker naïve parents into handing over their children to a very different, and very dark, world.

From the queens’ point of view, perhaps the greatest advantage of DQSH is the simplest: It gives them physical access to innocent children. The paper agrees that “many queens reflect that DQSH allows them to build relationships with young people that otherwise might not be possible.” What is meant by “building relationships” is left unsaid.

If woke parents understood what DQSH advocates are actually trying to accomplish, they might let their kids spend their free time playing in the back yard. But given the cultural lure of appearing more progressive than thou, maybe not. In any event, DQSH has a mission, and that mission extends far beyond bright colors and glitter.


A Teacher Was Filmed Cross-Dressing at School. Here's What Happened Next

A Texas teacher who was filmed cross-dressing at school was placed on administrative leave after a video of his extravagant Valentine’s Day outfit was circulated by Libs of TikTok.

The teacher, Rachmad Tjachyadi, teaches chemistry at Hebron High School in Lewisville.

According to the New York Post, Tjachyadi wore an “all-out pink dress and cowboy hat” on Valentine’s Day at the school. A video of the outfit was posted on X (formerly known as Twitter).

Libs of TikTok claimed that the teacher has a fetish for wearing women’s clothing.

In an email to parents, Hebron Principal Amy Boughton said, “the staff member has been placed on administrative leave while the district reviews the situation.”

“It would be natural for our families to have questions about this situation, but because this is a personnel matter currently under review, there is no additional information the district can share,” Boughton added.

Students at the school have created an online petition demanding that he be allowed back to school. So far, it has over 12,000 signatures.

"Recently, Mr.Tjachyadi was put on blast on twitter for wearing a pink dress for a spirit day. He is being called a pedophile, among other names, however, this is NOT the case and he is beloved by many students at Hebron. He is a great teacher, he explains chemistry very well and has created a very fun and safe environment for his students. He does not deserve to be defamed and lose his job,” the description stated.

“He has been an inspiration to many students, and has created a space where everyone can feel valued and safe. He is in no way a pedophile or publicizing a "fetish,” it added.

Reportedly, Tjachyadi has been teaching in Texas schools since 2002.