Friday, September 19, 2014

Should we judge a potential partner on their degree?

Gaynor Sbuttoni, an educational psychologist, tells me: “It can be useful but it’s not the be all and end all. Obviously education does affect the person you are, so from that angle you might prefer to be connected with someone who has a similar education background. But if you think about it, there are lots of couples from different educational backgrounds - they get together and it works.”

Her only concern is that, in some relationships, a stark educational difference might lead to problems: “The danger is if it’s an unbalanced relationship, and [one person] considers themselves to be lesser by having a ‘poorer’ education.”

This is something experienced by a friend of mine. She went to a top university and when she met her (now ex) boyfriend, he was intimidated. He’d been to a community college but never progressed to university. Though he was on a similar intellectual level to her – they both loved discussing politics – he had a chip on his shoulder about it.

That complex never faded and, after a year, they split up. She blames it on the difference in their education.

Jo Barnett, a dating coach, isn’t surprised. She thinks education is pretty important when dating, as two people who have been to university are likely to have more in common: “You have got shared experienced, you’re going to be on a similar wavelength. I know people do look at that criteria,” she says.

But Barnett thinks that the trend is reversing and that we're less judgemental now.

With the emergence of social media and budding tech entrepreneurs, she says: “What’s more important is what you’re currently doing and what you want to be doing. People judge very much on the now. If I come across someone who’s studying to be a doctor, marvellous, but you’re still not working.”

Of course, it’s all very well trying to find common ground with someone you’re dating. But what about when you're making education the sole focus of your search?

A friend, Rebecca, 25, tells me she found herself becoming obsessed with people’s professions and education when she was using an online dating site earlier this year.

“I have judged in the past and I felt really bad about it," she says. "But I don’t have more info to go on. If I’m making decisions based on a limited amount of information there has to be a checklist.”

I think there’s a danger in going too far. When you are just swiping through people’s profiles on your phone, you can forget they’re a real person. They may have gone to a prestigious uni but do you actually think they seem nice? It’s easy to ignore the obvious pitfalls when there’s so much choice.

Sbuttoni agrees: “Is it right that you judge the papers someone receives as a measure of their educational successes? And if you’re deciding to quantify a person by their education, what is that? How valuable is that to you?

“You don’t actually get to know a lot about the person you’re dealing with by their education. The person’s capability of emotion is much more important in a relationship that what their actual education is.”

She's right. A degree isn't going to keep you together through the highs and lows.

"We all judge – it’s normal,” says Barnett. “The struggle is using the restraint not to judge.

“I think [people who judge on education] should realise they’re not doing themselves any favours because you’re dismissing people you don’t know.”

 If you’re focusing so closely on the superficial, you’re closing yourself off from other options.

Yes, you might meet someone who has a similar life experience to you, but - isn’t that kind of dull? Maybe – shock horror – you might just have more fun with someone who has a different story to tell.


Teachers Hope to Erase Union Dues That Deny Free Speech

Fourth-grade teacher Rebecca Friedrichs doesn’t support a new state law allowing self-identifying transgender children in the public school system to choose which bathrooms, locker rooms and shower facilities they will use.

Allowing these students to occupy the same private space with classmates who don’t share their biological traits, Friedrichs believes,  puts the interests of a few ahead of those of the many — and is potentially embarrassing and damaging for other students. She says she feels the same way about permitting transgender children to join all-male or all-female teams as they see fit.

Frankly, she says, “it’s hard for me to protect the modesty of other children.”

Friedrichs, a 27-year teaching veteran who works in Anaheim, Calif., also thinks it is a mistake for the state teachers union to push so hard for tenure to protect bad teachers. She supports school choice for parents because it helps poorer families get more out of the educational system.

And she backed Proposition 8 — the 2008 ballot initiative that upheld marriage in California as the union of a man and a woman — because she believes it is bad for society.

Yet, Friedrichs spent money to advocate the “transgender student” bill. She also spent money to push for more protections for tenured teachers, and to oppose school choice and Prop 8.

Why would she pay to advance policy positions she opposes?  Because, as a teacher in a big union state that doesn’t revere the “right to work,” she must.

Friedrichs used to belong to the California Teachers Association, the state affiliate of the powerful National Education Association. She volunteered for the teachers union in her school and attended CTA’s state conferences.

But she left when their disagreements began to pile up.  “If the union is on one side of a debate, it’s a sure bet that I’m going to be on the opposite side,” Friedrichs quips in an interview with The Daily Signal.

So she joined the Christian Educators Association International, a non-profit group that represents Christians in public schools.

Under current law, Friedrichs still must, in her words, “spend part of my workday paying for political activism that I don’t support and that I think is actually harmful to education.”  This is wrong, she says. And she’s going to court to prove it.

Taking On the Teachers Unions

Friedrichs and nine other California teachers — along with the  Christian Educators Association International — sued the CTA, several local unions and the NEA.

The teachers’ claim: Union rules and state law violate the First Amendment by requiring them to fund speech and advocacy they don’t support.

California is an “agency shop” state. Teachers pay about $1,000 per year in union dues even if, like Friedrichs, they don’t belong to the union.

Non-members can apply to be reimbursed for the portion of their dues that goes to political advocacy, usually $300 to $400. But it is not easy, and it brings scrutiny and stigma from the union.

Moreover, the teachers union itself decides how much to spend on political activities. It sends a letter with the figures each year, and non-members have six weeks to submit an official objection and then get in line for a rebate.

This process grew out of the Supreme Court’s 1977 decision in Abood v. Detroit Board of Education, which said public employees who object to political expenditures still have to pay all their dues up front but could receive a refund later. This “opt out” arrangement later was extended to include private unions in a 1986 ruling, Communication Workers v. Beck.

The Christian plaintiffs in Friedrichs v. CTA argue the opt-out arrangement doesn’t sufficiently safeguard their free speech rights.

“The union decided what is political and what isn’t,” Rebecca Friedrichs says.  “We are only allowed to opt out of the overt political portion of the dues, and the union decided what is political and what isn’t,” Friedrichs says, adding:

We disagree with their assessment. Teachers are afraid to opt out because they don’t want to suffer the consequences of being a fee payer. They lose their liability insurance, and they are labeled by union leaders. That’s why we need an opt-in system, so the dues [for advocacy] are voluntary.

‘It’s the Unions Who Are Free-Riding’

This all began in the mid-1900s, when the U.S. Supreme Court  “carved out an exception to the First Amendment” for labor law, says Terry Pell, president of the Center for Individual Rights:

In an effort to maintain labor peace, the court reasoned it was necessary to outlaw ‘free riders’ who might object to the union stance but still draw benefits from collective bargaining.

CTA, the state affiliate of the National Education Association,  argues the premise of Friedrichs’ case is flawed because union membership is voluntary and the refunds safeguard teachers’ free speech rights. 

“Individuals who chose to join pay union dues,” NEA General Counsel Alice O’Brien says. “We are proud that some 3 million educators have chosen to join together to form NEA.”

But Friedrichs — who spoke in August at The Heritage Foundation as part of a panel on Americans who want to leave unions  – isn’t persuaded. Nor do she and the other plaintiffs see merit to the “free rider” argument.

“There’s a big difference between what the union views as a benefit and what I view as a benefit,” Friedrichs says. “It is the unions who are free-riding on me. They are using my money for their agenda.”

Karen Chavez-Cuen, another plaintiff, has taught elementary school music for 20 years in the Chino Valley Unified School District. In an interview with The Daily Signal, she says the opt-out system is flawed because much of the bargaining process itself is “inherently political.”

Take tenure protection, Cuen says:

The union is just relentless in pushing for more protection for ineffective teachers, and it’s impossible to fire them. And the rest of us have to cover for them and undo the damage to our kids. It’s fine that I get a refund, but there’s a make-believe distinction between what’s political and what’s not.

The case has reached the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. The complaining teachers have asked the court to expedite the case to the Supreme Court on the basis that only the nation’s highest court has the authority to overturn its own precedent. The Ninth Circuit has yet to rule on that request.

‘Wouldn’t It Be Wonderful?’

Meanwhile, an organization called Privacy for All Students is working to place a referendum on the November ballot that would allow voters to overturn the law providing for transgender students to have their choice of facilities. The law, officially titled the School Success and Opportunity Act, is commonly referred to as “The Bathroom Bill.”

Because of  a dispute over the validity of certain signatures, it isn’t clear the proposed referendum will qualify for the ballot.

“We have options for transgender students such as adult bathrooms that could be available to them whenever needed,” Friedrichs says. “But it’s hard for me to protect the modesty of other children because of a bill that has been pushed with my money.”

If the case is fast-tracked to the Supreme Court next year and the plaintiffs receive a favorable ruling, it would mean the union would have to solicit voluntary contributions for political causes such as transgender rights.

“What we are asking for is pretty straightforward,” Karen Chavez-Cuen says.

“Wouldn’t it be wonderful if the only people joining the union and making donations were the ones who wanted to do so voluntarily?” Cuen says. “And wouldn’t be wonderful if the people who didn’t want to join and make these contributions had that freedom? What we are asking for is pretty straightforward.”


Obama’s Latest Hostile Takeover Target: Private Career Colleges

The Obama administration’s latest college crusade claims it will help students. In reality, it’s a hostile takeover attempt by government of the private for-profit career college sector that will hurt students, taxpayers, and the economy.

Education Secretary Arne Duncan acknowledges that the “majority of career colleges play a vital role in training our workforce to be globally competitive.” Yet he insists that students must be protected from debt he says is foisted on them by a relative handful of bad actors.

Rather than hold those select institutions accountable through existing laws, since 2010 Duncan has been attempting to use his department to gain control of the private for-profit career college sector, which is the fastest growing nationwide increasing from 200,000 students in the late 1980s to 2 million as of 2010 (pp. 2, 5, 7-8).

This isn’t the Obama administration’s first attempted takeover of higher education.

Thanks to an Obamacare provision the U.S. Department of Education took over direct lending to students. Duncan insisted that the feds would be more efficient and cost-effective than private lenders, but costs actually went up. In recent years the Obama administration has also pushed interest rate freezes on federal student loans, which have done nothing to make a college education more affordable.

The administration’s latest takeover scheme is attempting to impose onerous regulations on all private for-profit career colleges.

Back in 2010 the U.S. Department of Education unveiled a set of proposed “gainful employment” rules requiring private for-profit colleges to meet mandated loan repayment rates and debt-to-earnings levels before their students could qualify for federal student aid.

In 2011 the department unveiled the final gainful employment regulations, which deemed students’ employment “gainful” only if it was “in a recognized occupation.” The regulations further mandated that at least 35 percent of former career college students must be repaying their loans; the estimated annual loan payments cannot exceed 30 percent of their disposable income; or the estimated annual loan payments cannot exceed 12 percent of former students’ total earnings.

The regulations were supposed to go into effect on July 1, 2012, but they were struck down the day before by Federal Judge Rudolph Contreras for being “arbitrary and capricious.”

In 2013 the Obama administration revived its crusade against what Duncan called “predatory” career colleges with proposed mandates that are no less arbitrary or capricious than their predecessors. Under the new proposed regulations unveiled earlier this year, for students to qualify for federal aid for-profit career colleges must prove the estimated annual loan payments of graduates do not exceed 20 percent of their discretionary earnings, or 8 percent of their total earnings, and the default rate for former students does not exceed 30 percent.

Duncan justified the move saying that “of the for-profit gainful employment programs the Department could analyze and which could be affected by our action today, the majority—72 percent—produced graduates who on average earned less than high school dropouts. The Washington Post’s Fact Checker found that this claim didn’t come close to passing the Pinocchio Test:

Could attending a for-profit institution actually result in a three-out-of-four-chance of earning less than a high school dropout?...In straining for a striking factoid, the Education Department went too far.

Department of Education officials insist that 90 percent of career college students losing aid will find suitable alternatives, but independent research concludes the figure will be far lower.

Should the Obama administration succeed and gainful employment regulations take effect next year, more than 4 out of 10 students currently enrolled at private for-profit career colleges could lose access to federal financial aid. Over the next decade as many as 7.5 million students could lose access.

And who are these students?

Most of private career college students are older adults, more than half (51 percent) are low-income, and 80 percent of them are the first in their families to attend college (pp. 9 and 23). Moreover, close to half of all career college students (49 percent) are high-risk students, compared to less than 20 percent at public and not-for-profit institutions.

Compared to public institutions private for-profit career colleges enroll more women and minorities, not to mention more than one-quarter of military family members (28 percent).

These students seek out private for-profit career schools precisely because the public and non-profit sectors aren’t the right options for them, including not offering the desired degree programs or flexible schedules that help them balance family and career responsibilities. Forcing these students into schools and programs the feds (and their union allies) prefer won’t help them or taxpayers.

The net taxpayer cost of a private for-profit college student is $183 compared to more than $13,000 per public college student (2013 Fact Book, p. 40). If private for-profit options aren’t available, many of these students would have to transfer to public colleges at cost taxpayers nationwide an additional $1.7 billion annually. In the long-run gainful employment regulations could cost students and taxpayers even more.

As many as 23 million skilled and educated workers are needed over the next decade, and private for-profit career colleges specialize in offering degree programs in the highest-growth occupational fields (2013 Fact Book, pp. 37-39).

At a time when 90 million Americans are undereducated, 12 million are unemployed, and family incomes are down, a government takeover of education through gainful employment regulations is the last thing American students, taxpayers, or our economy needs.


Thursday, September 18, 2014

School Orders Girl to Remove ‘Virginity Rocks’ Shirt

Virginity does not rock at Ramay Junior High School in Fayetteville, Arkansas.

That’s the lesson 13-year-old Chloe Rubiano learned. Chloe is in the eighth grade. She is also a good church-going girl. So you can imagine her mom’s surprise when she got in trouble at school.

Chloe showed up at school wearing a T-shirt that reads: “Virginity Rocks.”   “It’s a positive message,” said Bambi Crozier, Chloe’s mom.

But school officials disagreed. They said the shirt could cause a classroom disruption and contained sexual content. Apparently some folks at Ramay Junior High don’t understand the concept of virginity.

The 13-year-old, who bought the shirt at a Christian music festival, was told she had to change shirts.

“It was so bizarre,” Mrs. Crozier told me. “She had the shirt for several years at wore it a number of times to school.”

I called the school district hoping to talk to the person in charge of the fashion police – but no one’s called me back. A spokesperson told local news outlets that they have a rule banning any clothes that might cause a distraction.

“Why is it such a bad thing to talk about virginity when they’re handing out condoms and girls are pregnant?” Mrs. Crozier wondered. “It blows my mind.”

It does make you wonder why the guidance counselors are doling out condoms to the junior high crowd.

“I think they’re bigger concern (is) they just don’t want to talk about virginity,” she said. “Today, people think that virginity is a dirty word. It’s not in our household.”

Or maybe they’re concerned the “Virginity Rocks” shirt might cut down on condom distribution?

Who knows?

Mrs. Crozier said her daughter did as she was instructed to do and put on a gym shirt.

“We totally believe in respecting rules,” she said. ‘We totally believe in listening to leadership. If that’s what their request is – that’s okay. There are certain battles in life you are going to choose and whether or not you can wear a shirt is not a big deal.”

So being a good church-going girl, Chloe abided by the school’s orders – because heaven forbid a 21st century teenager be caught promoting abstinence. Planned Parenthood must be having convulsions.

Mrs. Crozier said she was taken aback by the national attention her daughter’s shirt has received.  “All I did was post on Facebook to my friends,” she said. “Now my daughter has gone viral.

Chloe, meanwhile, seems to be taking her 15 minutes of fame in stride.  “She thinks it’s cool,” Mr. Crozier said. “She updated her Instagram page to say ‘Chloe: As Seen on TV.’”


Ohio high school band learns about Marxism — the hard way

MARXISM: A lesson in Marxism was probably the last thing the Cuyahoga Falls high school marching band expected from their school board.

The Cuyahoga Falls High School marching band accepted an invitation to play at Disney World, with a lesson in Marxism thrown in.

After two years of working, fundraising and saving, the only thing left for the band members was official approval from the school board.

On Jan. 21, the board voted unanimously to approve the field trip, which cost $1,250 per student. But here’s the catch. If a student can’t go and cites “financial hardship,” the program must come up with the money.  Either that student goes, or no one does.

Students and their parents are doing what they can. According to news reports, one student sold entertainment books and worked as a pet sitter. Another sold various items to raise the cash.

Band director Brandon DuVall said every band member had access to enough fundraising money to cover the costs.

But now, thanks to the school board, a student could claim financial hardship – at the last minute. Either the rest of the band would have to come up with the money, or they all would suffer.

The school board said two policies led to the decision. Educational opportunities should not be restricted based upon a student’s inability to pay, and, second, students cannot be charged for transportation costs on a school day.

The board, which got conflicting legal opinions, ultimately decided the trip would not violate the transportation policy. DuVall and Superintendent Dr. Todd Nichols were left to deal with the transportation issue.

Financial hardship, they decided, would be defined by eligibility under the National School Lunch Act and the Child Nutrition Act of 1966. Any student who qualifies for free or reduced meals would pay 50 percent of the participation fee. The Instrumental Music Patrons charitable organization and the school board would pay the balance.

“From each according to his abilities to each according to his needs.”  —  Karl Marx

This might not have been the lesson the school board intended to teach, but it’s the one the band members learned – the hard way.


Nanny State: Vermont Bans Desserts in School

In what may be the ultimate Nanny State move, Vermont has outlawed consuming or bringing brownies, cakes, or cookies to school. The mandates are part of a new program titled “Smart-Snacks-in-Schools” and will apply to lunch items, vending machines, and fundraising events between midnight and half and hour after school. reported:

    “These changes are really supporting the types of diets that we as a country should be following to have a healthy diet and lifestyle,” said Laurie Colgan, child nutrition program director at the Agency of Education, in an interview with the Vermont Watchdog.

    This healthy lifestyle has already been instated within the school.

    “The new school lunch pattern has low-fat, leaner proteins, greater variety, and larger portions of fruit and vegetables,” Colgan said. Additionally, “the grains have to be 100 percent whole-grain rich.”

    Colgan said this does not have to mean an end for fundraising. Rather, she is encouraging schools to turn fundraising away from schools, and focus on non-food items such as flower bulbs, cards, and wrapping paper.

So what do you bring to celebrate your birthday with your classmates? Shelley Mathias, principal of Edmunds Elementary School in Burlington, suggested fruit shish kebabs.

Mathias also confided to the Vermont Watchdog that she has never seen desserts served at her school in the four years she has been there:      “The kids like kale here, and they eat broccoli.”

Really? Now there is certainly nothing wrong with encouraging healthy habits at school, but to forbid children to eat desserts is taking supervision to the extreme. This is just another Big Government power grab where laws replace individual responsibility.


Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Top British school to provide lessons in true grit: £34,000-a-year college to teach pupils how to deal with setbacks

A leading public school is to give pupils lessons in ‘grit’ to help them emulate children in high-performing East Asian nations such as Singapore.

Wellington College will encourage youngsters to adopt beliefs more commonly associated with so-called ‘tiger mothers’ – that ability is not fixed and hard work will eventually pay off.

The Berkshire school – which charges boarding fees of £34,125 a year – aims to find the best way of teaching pupils to persevere in the face of academic setbacks, instead of assuming they are simply not clever enough.

It has become known for adopting innovative approaches including ‘happiness’ lessons to boost pupils’ well-being and outlook on life.

Working with a Harvard University researcher in a two-year project, pupils will be introduced to cutting-edge brain science which emphasises the role of effort and practice – rather than relying on innate talent.

If successful, the initiative could be introduced in other schools.

The lessons will aim to explode the widely-held view that only some children are born ‘smart’. Instead of giving up, they will be told that working hard will boost their abilities in areas they find difficult.

Schools in countries such as Singapore, South Korea, China and Japan, which regularly top global league tables, are known to value hard work rather than focusing on natural ability.

But experts warned youngsters should not be ‘drilled at all costs’.  Project leader Dr Christina Hinton, of Harvard Graduate School of Education, said she believed it was right to encourage hard work, but that the approach ‘should be paired with compassion’.       

Dr Hinton said: ‘The results would show these countries excelling and they would also show that they adopt a growth mindset, that the harder you work the better you will do.

‘You’ll hear things like, “that’s such a beautiful project, you must have worked so hard” as opposed to “that’s such a beautiful project, you must be so bright or so talented or so smart”.

‘Right away, the cultural assumption is that if you did something very well then you worked very hard, as opposed to then you are talented.

‘Actually that is more accurate from a neuroscience point of view. Working really hard at something does develop your brain and your abilities.

‘It’s a really important concept and important to correct that misconception in pop culture and definitely with children.’

Dr Hinton said she believed tiger mothers were ‘right’ in their belief in encouraging hard work.

But she added: ‘It should be paired with compassion. It’s good for students to work really hard but it’s important to really invest in things that they personally feel are important and interesting, not what someone’s forcing them to do.

‘If a student is really passionate about something themselves and they are working really hard, that’s the ideal case. They will be more what we call intrinsically motivated or internally motivated. I think it’s problematic if there’s too much pressure coming from external forces making them do things.

‘Kids can’t just do what they want all the time, of course. But it needs to be a supportive environment, and for them not to be drilled at all costs, that’s not good education.

‘Some neuroscience shows that if your brain is too stressed in that way, it’s not as effective at learning. You really want to support them emotionally while you are supporting them to be hard workers, I think that’s important.’

The project is being carried out in conjunction with three local state schools and the techniques it develops could be adopted by schools around the country.

It is one of the first to emerge from Wellington’s new educational research centre which was launched this month to eliminate ‘guesswork’ and ‘hunches’ from teaching practice.

Tasks are likely to include spotting shortcuts around the school which have become well-trodden paths as more people have walked on them.

‘We use that as a metaphor for what’s happening in the brain - that the more you are using your circuits the more strengthened they are becoming,’ Dr Hinton added.

‘There are genetic contributions but the environment has a really powerful impact on the brain. Nothing is set in stone genetically.’

The moniker ‘tiger mother’ was popularised by US law professor Amy Chua who described how she chivvied her daughters to achieve academic and musical success Chinese-style in a best-selling guide which provoked fierce debate in Britain.

The Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, published in 2011, was described as ‘the story of my family’s journey in two cultures’.


Teach-in at Brown U highlights sharp divides over Gaza

Panel addresses political context behind violence in Gaza, draws some criticism from audience

A teach-in on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict grew tense Wednesday evening as opinions clashed in a MacMillan 117 filled to capacity.

The event, entitled “Why Gaza Matters: The War and its Consequences,” featured a panel of five speakers followed by a question-and-answer session that continued nearly an hour over the planned time frame.

The panel was moderated by Beshara Doumani P’17, director of Middle East studies and professor of history, who encouraged students to ask tough questions and voiced his hope to “bridge the gap between public discourse and academic knowledge on the issue.”

Panel speakers addressed the historical, political and international dimensions of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Professor of History Omer Bartov said the conflict is a “deadlock” that stems from the fundamental idea that it is better to gain territory than to gain peace. On both sides, “no leader has been produced who has had the courage and sense to make the sacrifices that are called for,” he said.

“This conflict is very personal to me,” said Sa’ed Atshan, postdoctoral fellow in international studies, who is from Palestine. “My family and friends are there,” he said, adding that a few of his friends’ family members had died in the conflict. Atshan showed a presentation to the audience, including slides with photos of relatives of friends who had lost their lives.

Many describe Gaza as an “open-air prison” where people are “trapped in a brutal siege with nowhere to go for safety,” Atshan said, adding that those living in Gaza are being “denied the basic rights.”

Atshan also addressed how the American media treats the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and said the mainstream media in this country assumes that Israel and Palestine are “symmetrical in terms of the power they yield” despite an actual imbalance. He described Israel as an occupying force with nuclear weaponry, while he characterized Palestine as “a colonized, occupied, stateless population.”

Melani Cammett, professor of political science, highlighted the political dimensions of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

“Conflict and violence empower extremists,” she said, adding that support for Hamas was bolstered during periods of heightened tension, such as when the Israeli blockade began to take effect in 2008.

Cammett said data has shown a “lower level of self-reported economic security” for Palestinians who are unaffiliated with or opponents of Hamas, which she said was likely due to “discretionary access” for Hamas supporters in the Gaza. “The blockade disproportionally hurts people who were less supportive of Hamas,” she added.

“It’s tragic how extremes on both sides are feeding and legitimizing each other to produce no solution other than more and more violence,” Bartov said.

Cammett highlighted the recent decrease in global public approval of Israel, with the United States emerging as an exception. There has been “strong and consistent support” for Israel in the United States, she said, including higher public support for Israel among Republicans than among Democrats, a characterization that raised a question during the question-and-answer session about Cammett’s motivation behind associating support with Israel with conservative opinions at Brown. Cammett responded to the question by saying she had no objectives behind the characterization other than the available data.

Nina Tannenwald, director of the international relations program and senior lecturer in political science, said the concept of human rights is central to the conflict, and there is no prospect of a stable solution without addressing the “grievances” on both sides.

Violation of international law on one side does not justify the violation by the other, Tannenwald said. Though Israel has the right to self-defense and Palestinians have the right to resist occupation, there are limits to both parties’ actions, she added.

In the question-and-answer session that followed, Adam Bennett ’16 said the panel lacked representation of and support for Israel, garnering claps and shouts from the audience, some of whom yelled that the panel was biased. Bennett also questioned whether the role of the panel was to foster “an objective conversation” about the conflict or to serve as a forum for the Middle East Studies program.

When the panel members moved on to address the next question, some audience members  said the panel was “a stacked deck.” Doumani reiterated that the panel would only address four questions at a time, prompting two audience members to exit the room.

Nancy Khalek, assistant professor of religious studies, expressed her disappointment over some community members’ “angry departure” of the teach-in before it had concluded.

“The value of a teach-in comes from actually listening to each other,” Khalek said, calling for people to discuss the situation in Gaza with “a slightly more open mind and a little more empathy for each other.”

In response to Bennett’s question, Atshan asked audience members to consider“why don’t we have anyone who supports Hamas” in the auditorium. Atshan urged the audience “not to impose our own labels” and to “listen empathetically to what others have to say,” which led to snaps of approval among some audience members.

Matt Dang ’16 said he was “surprised, to say the least” at the abrupt change in tone during the question-and-answer session. It was interesting to see the clear divide in strong opinions in the auditorium, as the open discussion became more of an argument, he said.

Jonathan Tollefson ’15.5 said he was surprised at the lengths to which audience members went to try to defend Israel.

Carly West ’16 said she saw the panel as an “interesting mix of constructive, insightful people with civil questions and sharp, emotive reactions.”


All schools 'should run a longer day' to benefit poor pupils

Schools should run a longer day to prevent pupils from working-class white families falling behind their peers, according to the Department for Education.

All state primaries and secondaries should consider extending the school day to give pupils more teaching time and access to "character building activities".

This is likely to include extra-curricular activities such as sport, cadet forces, the Duke of Edinburgh award and debating societies which are seen as vital to the development of important "life skills" outside the classroom.

In a report, officials said pupils from poor backgrounds benefited the most from a longer day because it gave them time to “complete work in a calm and supportive environment” – away from often chaotic home lives.

The DfE failed to set out recommended opening and closing times but evidence from the Education Endowment Foundation - a government-funded charity - has found that some schools extended the day from the usual seven or eight hours to 12.

It would involve running lessons and extra-curricular activities from 7am until 7pm.

But the EEF has indicated that "smaller increases are associated with greater gains, and with more than three of four hours a day the benefit decreases".

Schools should plan their day based on “what works in the best interests of their pupils’ education and not simply on tradition”, the DfE said.

Some schools that have already extended the day make it compulsory for pupils to attend extra lessons but extra-curricular activities run into the evening are often option.

The conclusions were made in response to a report from the Commons education select committee in June that found large numbers of working-class white pupils – particularly boys – were being turned off school.

Figures show poor white British children – those eligible for free school meals – perform worse in their GCSEs than any other ethnic group, with just a third gaining five good grades last summer. This compares with more than three-quarters of poor children from Chinese families, 61.5 per cent of those from Indian backgrounds and 59.2 per cent of poor Bangladeshi pupils.

In a report today, the DfE endorsed many findings of the report, including calls to increase the length of the school day.

Since 2011, all state schools in England have been able to run classes into the evening without undertaking a “prescriptive” application process, the DfE said.

The report said: “Longer days can mean schools have more time to work with pupils who need additional help, and can open up opportunities for pupils to access purposeful, character building activities that help them build the confidence to succeed when they leave school.

“Some schools, including some in disadvantaged areas, are already recognising the benefits of longer days and are re-organising their timetables to ensure a good balance of teaching, extracurricular activities and supervised self-directed work.

“Those schools report that just having a dedicated time of the school day to complete work in a calm and supportive environment can make a big difference to pupils; increasing confidence and engagement in schoolwork.”

The report said the DfE would not enforce a longer day but told how Ofsted, the education watchdog, was planning to “identify successful practice in this area as part of its inspection” process.

These examples will be published on the Ofsted website as evidence of the benefits of a longer day, it emerged.

In a series of further conclusions, the DfE also set out plans to boost the language and vocabulary skills of all poor children amid fears large numbers of pupils start compulsory education unable to speak properly.

New hubs will be set up in children’s centres to target infants from 96,000 families “at risk of language delay”, it was announced.

The DfE also raised the possibility of overhauling the way it classifies pupil deprivation, which gives schools access to additional funding through the "pupil premium".

Currently, deprivation is based on the number of pupils claiming free school meals but the system has been criticised in the past because some parents fail to register.

The DfE said it was investigating the possibility of matching parental income and benefits data with pupil records to establish an automatic entitlement to extra funding. Clauses set out in the new Small Business, Employment and Enterprise Bill may enable this link to be made, it emerged.


Tuesday, September 16, 2014

School Board Bans Chapstick: Gateway Drug to What ... Maybe Burt's Bees Lip Balm?

The extent of idiotic zero-tolerance policies in public schools is almost unbelievable. Now comes this new example from Augusta County schools in Virginia - banning chapstick. As the News Virginian reports:

    "An 11-year-old Stuarts Draft Elementary School student has collected petition signatures and officially asked the county school board to allow elementary students to use Chapstick.

    Stuarts Draft fifth-grader Grace Karaffa appeared before the school board Thursday night, saying she had requested the substance while on the playground after suffering chapped lips.

    "I was told I couldn't use it. Then later that day they (lips) started to bleed so I asked for Chapstick again and I was told that it was against the school policy for elementary kids to have Chapstick,'' Grace said.

    Grace asked the school board to change its policy. "Chapstick allows the human body to heal the lips themselves and protects them in any weather from drying out,'' she said. She concluded her speech by saying, "Please school board, allow us to have Chapstick."

The response?

    "George Earhart, the assistant superintendent for administration with the Augusta County Schools, said Chapstick is considered an over-the-counter medication by the school board. The board has a policy regarding such medicines. He said Chapstick could be allowed if a physician asked for a student to use it, and it was administered by a school nurse.

    Earhart said one of the reasons for the policy is concerns about elementary students sharing medications. He said the student's request was taken under advisement by the school board."

The whole school board must devote a second's thought to this "issue"? Amazing. Lesson of the day: Bureaucracy turns adults into Epsilon-minus Semi-Morons.


Welcome to College—Now Please Stop Thinking

When freshmen first arrived at Canada’s University of Western Ontario a few weeks ago, they were introduced not to cutting-edge research or “the best which has been thought and said” (in Matthew Arnold’s magisterial phrasing), but to a brazen, petty, and all-too-common act of censorship that infantilizes young adults even as it chills free speech and open communication among students and faculty alike.

A student publication at the university, The Gazette, published an irreverent special issue for incoming freshmen. Among the articles was a clearly satirical piece titled, “So you want to date a teaching assistant?” It included such tips as, “Do your research. Facebook stalk and get to know your TA. Drop in on his or her tutorials, and if you’re not in that class — make it happen…. Ask your own smart questions, answer others’ dumb questions, and make yourself known in the class. Better yet, stand out as a pupil of interest.”

If any hard-of-humor students didn’t understand the ironic nature of the advice, there was this: “Know when to give up. At the end of the day, TAs are there to guide you through the curriculum – so there’s a good chance you have to be okay with that and only that. They may not be giving you head, but at least they’re giving you brain.”

The piece immediately set off “a furor,” with the union representing T.A.s calling for the piece to be taken down for promoting sexual harassment and the university provost publicly castigating the paper for being “disrespectful.” The offending material was quickly pulled off from the paper’s website and the editors wrote a groveling, ritualistic apology, promising to report “on these issues in a more serious manner in the future.”

This episode represents what pedagogues like to call a “teachable moment,” but the lesson being learned has nothing to do with the higher-level thinking or analysis you’re supposed to learn at college. It has to do with straitjacketing students (and faculty, too) into a rigid, narrow, and altogether inhuman mode of expression in which the overriding principle is to never give offense, real or imagined.

The Western Ontario case might have happened anywhere. Indeed, to get a sense of how thin-skinned colleges have become, check out the long and always-growing case list of The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), which pushes for freedom of expression on campuses.

One of FIRE’s recent cases involved a female University of Oregon student who was initially disciplined for yelling the sexual innuendo “I hit it first!” at a couple she didn’t know (the school backed down after FIRE intervened). Not all cases involve sexually suggestive language: FIRE is also suing a number of schools for unconstitutionally restricting specifically political speech. Among the cases: California’s Citrus College threatened to remove a student who was gathering signatures on a petition critical of the National Security Agency’s surveillance of Americans.

Why are we treating the next generation of leaders, entrepreneurs, and citizens as hot-house flowers that cannot for one second be discomfited by what they see, hear, or read? Isn’t one of the main reasons to go to college precisely to be pulled out of the world in which you grew up? It is not particularly difficult to espouse free expression for all without endorsing everything that gets said in the marketplace of ideas. It’s exactly in the conversations among those with whom we disagree that old ideas get made better and new ideas flourish. But suppression of speech, whether done by the medieval Church, anti-sex crusaders in the 19th century, or contemporary campus commisars, leads nowhere good.

Yet last year saw the mainstreaming of so-called microagressions, or “quiet, unintended slights” that perpetuate racism, sexism, and classism. According to popularizers of the concept, microaggressions often masquerade as compliments, such as when a man tells a woman she did well in math. Churlish, yes, but actionable speech?

The same sort of hyper-sensitivity is apparent with the rise of “trigger warnings,” in which professors are asked or mandated to give advance notice when engaging course materials that might offend students who have experienced traumas in the past. As a student at Rutgers put it, undergraduates shouldn’t be forced to encounter The Great Gatsby without first being told that the novel “possesses a variety of scenes that reference gory, abusive and misogynistic violence.” Suggested language for professors in a trigger-warning guide at Oberlin runs like this: “We are reading this work in spite of the author’s racist frameworks because his work was foundational to establishing the field of anthropology.”

We’re told that college is an absolute necessity in today’s advanced society. Higher education alone can cultivate the critical thinking skills and independence of thought that drives not just economic innovation but social progress too. Yet over the past 30 or so years, college has become an irony-free zone, one in which every utterance is subjected to withering cross-examinations for any possibility of offense across a multitude of race, class, gender and other dimensions.

As the Western Ontario case demonstrates, when offense is taken, open discussion and debate is no longer the preferred method for dealing with disagreements. No, the bad words must be disappeared and the malefactors forced not simply to apologize but to admit their errors in thinking and promise not to do it again. That’s the way a cult operates, not a culture. And it’s certainly no way to help young adults learn how to engage the world that waits them after graduation


Oppose Common Core? You're Probably Some Nutjob Creationist, Says Bill Nye

Nye is actually an engineer, not a scientist

Bill Nye the Science Guy ("He's not our Science Guy!" the Reason audience retorts) has waded into the Common Core debate. Per usual, he thinks those who disagree with him are—almost by definition—anti-science.

After conceding one criticism of the national education standards—that they could shackle teachers and make learning boring—Bill Nye opines that much of the opposition to Common Core comes from Creationists who don't want evolution being taught in schools. As he says in his video:

    The concern is, and I understand this, you would keep students from having fun and getting excited about anything. But the other reason people seem to, my perception of what people don't like about Core curricula, is it forces them to learn standard stuff when they could be teaching their kids things that are inconsistent with science. I'm talking about people who want to teach Creationism instead of biology and that's just bad.

Since Bill Nye doesn't mention any of the other criticisms against Common Core, he implies by omission that this is it: Core opponents are just evolution deniers in disguise.

(To clarify, the Common Core tackles math and English, not science. The national science standards technically were published under a different title, the Next Generation Science Standards, though many of the same people were involved. NGSS has received a lukewarm response, even from some groups that vigorously support Common Core.)

Creationist hostility to evolution might be motivating some people to oppose national standards. The science standards also establish that human action is a major contributing factor to climate change, and I'm sure that (more legitimately debatable) point also fuels some Core opposition.

But there are many, many other reasons people oppose Common Core. Chiefly: There is very little evidence that these standards will improve schools. In fact, a comprehensive Brookings Institution study released earlier this year found that states were better off using standards that didn't resemble Common Core at all.

But even if the Common Core was shown to slightly boost academic achievements, it would not necessarily be worth implementing, given the massive financial cost of retraining teachers, buying new instructional materials, and upgrading schools' technological capabilities to meet standardized testing requirements.

The Cato Institute's Neal McCluskey, a critic of the standards, told me that there is plenty to dislike about national education standardization.

"For a scientist, Bill Nye provided a very unscientific analysis of core curriculum critiques," he told Reason. "There are many who have read the research and seen that centralized standards have little if any positive effect on outcomes; who are content experts and think standards like the Common Core are highly problematic; who realize that innovation requires people being able to try new and different things rather than being forced into one model; who know that different children learn things at different rates; who don’t like the politicization of education that necessarily accompanies government standards-making; and so on."

It seems to me that Bill Nye is projecting his own feud with Creationists onto a different policy debate.


Monday, September 15, 2014

The Newest Threat on College Campuses: Microaggression

Andrew Klavan

Well, it’s back to school time and all across our country, college students are suffering from an insidious form of oppression called microaggressions.  These are defined as commonplace verbal or, behavioral indignities…  that communicate racist or sexist slights or insults…”

Microaggressions take place when, for instance, a woman sees a black male and clutches her purse more tightly making it too damn hard for him to snatch the thing away from her… or when two men hear a woman speaking and look at one another like this [makes a face] the universal sign language for “irrational woman.”  So don’t let them see you do that because you know women.  [makes the face]

To combat the tragedy of microagression, we here at the Revolting Truth have collected some real life MA experiences and submitted them to experts for commentary and advice. Trigger warning:  these are genuine examples of microaggression and may cause you to experience some of the terrifying injustice of being a minority or female college student in today’s America.

All right, here’s one from the website, The MicroAgressions Project:  [quote] “I wanted to get my nephew a My Little Pony coloring book since I like MLP…  My brother, however, objected…  I ended up getting my nephew a Batman one, but I don’t like Batman.  It made me feel angry and sad that my brother is so entrenched in stereotypical gender roles.”

Wow.  We submitted this sad story to Aran, an Iraqi Yazidi women, who sent this reply:

“Dear American College student.  I am very sorry to hear of your My Little Pony incident.  I perhaps can identify with some of your suffering as I was forced to watch while Islamists murdered my beloved husband and children before selling me into sexual slavery.  Like you, I too felt forced into stereotypical gender roles.  I hope your nephew enjoys his Batman.”

Here’s another tragic tale of micro-aggressive woe from a powerful performance piece called I Too Am Harvard:  [quote] “I am a Harvard university student of mixed race, and people sometimes come right up to me and ask, ‘What are you?’”

We sent this description to our friend Lisa in the Central African Republic.  Lisa gave this helpful reply:

“Dear Harvard student.  How rude to be asked what race you are. It reminds me of the time I was hunted down by Muslim Seleka Rebels, dragged into the jungle and raped for hours before being set on fire.  Even though I know how difficult it is there, I too sometimes dream of going to Harvard.”

Well, thanks to Lisa for that sympathetic reply.  Here’s one more true life atrocity from an American female pre-med student.  [quote]  “My MCAT instructor keeps referring to the unnamed writers of certain passages with male pronouns. It made me feel stupid and unvalued…”

Our correspondent Fairly in Afghanistan responds…  “Dear American pre-med student.  How terrible to have to overcome such difficulty as male pronouns in getting to go to school.  I too have suffered difficulties getting to school when men rode by on motorbikes and threw acid in my face.  Of course this is nothing compared to male pronouns, but I do sort of miss my face sometimes. I used to be very pretty.”

Well, I hope this advice has been helpful to all those American college students suffering from microaggression.  We here at the Revolting Truth understand that this sort of savage oppression can really harsh your buzz, especially if you already have a hangover and crabs.


UK: Parents remove 14 children from school after headmistress bans packed lunches

Parents have removed around 14 children from a primary school after they introduced a blanket ban on packed lunches.

Milefield Primary School in Grimethorpe, Barnsley, South Yorks., only informed parents of their controversial move in a letter sent home with the children on the last day of term in July.

And despite repeated calls from parents for their thoughts to be heard, the new dinner policy was implemented when the kids returned to school last Friday.

Angry dad Adam Martin, 31, has now taken his three children, Harry, four, George, five and Amelia, seven, out of the school after losing all faith over the lunch dispute.

Gas engineer Adam said: "I feel like our freedom of choice has been taken away.

We were appalled to be told our children couldn't take in pack lunches and further incensed with how the school have dealt with the situation.  "We like our kids to have a packed lunch because, not only does it save us money, but it also allows you to be able to let your children eat what they like.  "When you have fussy eaters, as children quite often are, it means you can make sure they are eating a full balanced meal.

"The pack lunches we make are healthy and nutritious, we don't need somebody to tell us what our children should be eating.  "We feel very strongly about this. I'm sure this must be violating some kind of human right."

According to their strict new rules the only options open to parents now is to let them have a school cooked lunch or to go home.

Adam is part of a Facebook group of around 60 parents who are angered about the move.  "So far," he said, "around 14 kids have been removed from the school because of this.

"Another problem with this is that the school only has one choice of meal so the kids either have to like it or lump it."

Another parent, IT consultant Mick Curphey, 39, has kept his children, William, eight, and Beth, seven, in school as he does not want to disrupt them, but he is angry at the decision and is hoping for pack lunches to be reintroduced.

He and wife Debbie, 37, an estimator for a manufacturing company, both work but are still unhappy at the extra cost.  Mick said: "The cost of packed lunches is swallowed up in our weekly shopping bill so we basically don't feel the cost. But if we have to pay for lunches it is more money we have to find to pay another bill. Our food bill will not come down.

"Every evening we make pack lunches for all four of us for the next day. We consider our packed lunches to be healthy.

"The cost of school meals for our two - £3.50 a day - works out at around £682.50 a year - £80 more than our energy bills.  "That is an awful lot of money to find. We know some people who have four kids and when you look at those costs it just gets atrocious.

Milefield Primary School are proud of their decision to ban pack lunches.

Headteacher Paula Murray said: "We're not forcing anyone. We're encouraging the promotion of healthy eating and it's had such positive impact and we're only into day four of the actual programme being run out in the school.

"The parents have the choice of taking their children home if they don't want them to have a school meal.

"We have got to work towards what's best for our children and a large proportion of children in the school - over 97 per cent of parents are in favour of the changes."


Army officer told he cannot enter his daughter's school while wearing a uniform

Lieutenant Colonel Sherwood Baker says he is just a father who was trying to help his daughter find her way at her new high school.

Lt... Baker has served in the Army for 24 years. This past week he was told by Rochester Adams high school security that if he wanted to get into the high school with his daughter he was going to have to go home and change his clothes.

Baker's wife, Rachel Ferhadson says, "Before he was allowed in, the security guard stopped him and said sorry your not allowed in the school. Security told him men and women in uniform weren't allowed because it may offend another student." says he was simply coming to the school to speak with his daughter's counselor regarding her class schedule but was turned away at the doors because he was not wearing a tie.

Rochester Schools superintendent Robert Shaner, who is a veteran himself, quickly took care of the situation apologizing to the family for their troubles.

Shaner sent a letter to Fox 2 which says: "The district has apologized for any perception that individuals in uniform are not welcome in the school. The district does not have a policy excluding individuals in uniform and will be working with administration and the firm that handles our security to make sure district policies are understood and communicated accurately."

The Baker family has scheduled a meeting with the principal of Adams high school in the coming days.


Sunday, September 14, 2014

College Refuses Reinstatement Of Anti-Israel Prof

The University of Illinois’s board of trustees voted 8-1 Thursday to reaffirm the college’s decision to revoke a job offer to a controversial academic after he made anti-Israel remarks on Twitter.

The vote hardly marks the end of the saga, however, as both protests and a possible lawsuit loom in the future.

Steven Salaita, who was slated to begin teaching at the school’s Department of Native American Studies this fall, drew ire over the summer when hundreds of anti-Israel tweets made during Israel’s recent Gaza incursion came to wider public attention.

Salaita suggested that Israel was “making anti-Semitism respectable” and said Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu should begin wearing a necklace made of Palestinian childrens’ teeth.

Facing an outcry from both the public and several donors, Chancellor Phyllis Wise announced that she was revoking her recommendation to the board of trustees. Thursday’s vote constituted an affirmation by the board of Wise’s decision.

Critics, including over thirty faculty members who released a letter supporting the decision, say that Salaita’s statements went well beyond valid political commentary into the realm of hate speech.

“Dr. Salaita’s public expressions of hatred and his public endorsement of violence have no place in the University of Illinois,” said the professors in a public letter.

Others, however, argue that Salaita is a victim of political censorship that has violated his free speech rights. In late August, 64 Illinois faculty published a letter demanding Salaita’s reinstatement, and over 1800 faculty at other schools have pledged to boycott the school if Salaita is not hired.


D.C. Sixth-Grade Teacher Has Students Compare Hitler, Bush

A D.C. sixth-grade teacher will apologize for an assignment that asked students to draw comparisons between former President George W. Bush and Adolf Hitler.

The McKinley Middle School teacher sent students home with a Venn diagram and asked them to compare and contrast Bush and Hitler.

At least one parent found it troubling on a number of levels. He told News4 he sees a certain lack of respect for the office of the president. And the instructions read "both men who abused their powers," which the parent said presents opinion as fact.

D.C. Public Schools released a statement late Wednesday saying the teacher has admitted poor judgment and will apologize to students. The statement explained the students are in a War and Peace unit in which they consider “when conflict is warranted.”

A letter sent to McKinley parents Thursday said the school would talk to students in the class about why a different assignment would have been more appropriate.  "The District of Columbia Public Schools (DCPS) curriculum and guidance documents for teachers do not include what was suggested in this assignment," the letter reads.

The complete DCPS statement:

“The District of Columbia Public Schools provides teachers with an English-Language Arts curriculum that outlines the topics, texts, and standards to be taught within instructional units, while allowing teachers the flexibility to decide the best approach and day-to-day lessons for their students.

One of the units at the beginning of the year is about War and Peace, allowing students to explore different perspectives and determine when conflict is warranted, and when peace should prevail. This week, a DCPS teacher created a worksheet to assign as homework which asked students to compare and contrast President George W. Bush and Adolf Hitler, after reading two texts.

No DCPS curriculum materials suggest in any way that teachers should compare the texts in this manner or compare Hitler to any other individual. One text, “Fighting Hitler – A Holocaust Story" is part of the current suggested materials. The text about President Bush is not suggested as part of the current year’s curriculum, but was included last year in a separate unit. The teacher deeply regrets this mistake, and any suggestion to malign the presidency or make any comparison in this egregious way.

“The teacher admits to extremely poor judgment and short sightedness and will apologize to students. The school will also send a letter home to families explaining the incident and offering to address any additional questions should they arise.”


Stanford University Agitprop Press

What state of intellectual life have we reached in the United States when a reputable American university press – Stanford University Press – sponsors a blog about Israel and Gaza and publishes only one-sided essays critical of Israel?    Where is the traditional orientation to provide a fair range of balanced coverage or to stimulate enriched exchange?

The Stanford University Press blog and essays can be found here.   New essays are being added.

The “contribution” of these Stanford Press-sponsored essays to our understanding is that alleged “racism” explains or is “the foundation” of Israel’s Operation Protective Edge.  Professor Joel Beinin of Stanford University shares this “powerful” and completely uncorroborated insight.  In the process, the good professor makes false charges, overreaches about the sources of Israeli response, as if the response came from the Israeli right only, and fails to consider counterclaims.

None of the essays at the blog – not a single one — mention Hamas (the Islamic Resistance) or its fascist agenda.  None mention the firing of thousands of rockets by Hamas into Israel.  The diversion of scarce concrete and other resources under Hamas rule in Gaza since 2009 to the construction of terror tunnels is not deemed a subject worthy of attention.  The effort by Hamas to cripple the airport of a neighboring sovereign state and halt air traffic is also somehow missed in this collection.

Ceasefires – willingness to permit them to protect civilian life?  You will not find anything here. Nothing is said to readers that might give them insight about Hamas’ behavior or the dynamics of Hamas as an organization.   Little is said to help understand why Egypt is suddenly on Israel’s side in this conflict.

Instead, readers are treated to at times thoughtful, but always handwringing, explorations of Palestinian suffering.    This is necessary to help us comprehend the terrible plight of the Palestinians.  For example, considerable focus is devoted to the limits on Palestinian movement in Gaza, where people are indeed confined in a population the size of Detroit during its heyday to “a city-sized prison scape.” Attention is rightly paid to enforced immobility and to real privation; readers of multiple viewpoints can sympathize.

But the causes of such enforced immobility, the nature of Hamas rule in the portion of Palestine it has arrogated to its tight control, the opportunities for Palestinians to have a say in their own lives under Hamas rule, the opportunities for Palestinians to shape their future – none of this is approached.  Are these things not important?  Is it not relevant that in the West Bank at the same time there was considerable economic development? True, nothing will avail fully until a negotiated peace is reached.

The efforts by Hamas to keep the population in their homes as human barriers to the Israeli incursion, regardless of the consequences, go unaddressed in this blog.  So too do the firing of rockets and the building of tunnel entrances and exits from within densely populated Palestinian civilian spaces.  Neither is the punishment of death addressed that is meted out to Palestinians who protest Hamas’ behavior: these poor people are executed as alleged Israeli collaborators.

I have gotten used to the kinds of elisions and silences in these kinds of essays.  According to such writers, Palestinians are a people on whom Israelis act.  They never act themselves; their organizations bear no responsibilities for what happens.  Some of their activities, like firing rockets, are not deemed worthy of mention.  The creation of networks of terror tunnels is skipped over.  Everything is rationalized as a response to occupation.  Nothing is relational, a product of interaction between two sides in historical context.  Instead, Israel does this, Israel causes that.  All this is remarkable coming from academics who are ostensibly sworn to deal fairly with complexity.

What does Stanford University Press have to say about this “service” it is providing to readers?  I’d like to hear the Press’ rationalizations about its new-found political commitment.  Is it appropriate for a University Press to sponsor one-sided political opinion?  Don’t we have opinion journals for that?  What does it do for the name of the university?  We shall see.