Friday, December 26, 2014

Student Debt and Default Explode While U.S. Department of Education Fiddles

A new report from the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Inspector General (OIG) examined what steps it had taken from fiscal years 2011 through 2014 to improve student debt and loan repayment rates.

In a nutshell, a big fat nothing—and taxpayers will be stuck paying off tens of billions in bad loans as a result. According to the OIG:

The Department’s outstanding student loan debt portfolio more than doubled in the last 6 years, from $516 billion at the end of FY 2007 to $1.04 trillion at the end of FY 2013. Based on the most recent official cohort default rate information published by the Department, 1 in 10 borrowers who were required to begin repaying their loans in FY 2011 defaulted on their student loans within 2 years and about 1 in 7 borrowers defaulted within 3 years. (p. 1)

Here are some other troubling statistics:

As of June 30, 2014, nearly 40 million borrowers had outstanding student loans totaling about $1.1 trillion that were either held or guaranteed by the Department. (p. 4)

Based on information contained in the Department’s FY 2015 Budget Proposal, graduating seniors with student loans held an average of $29,384 in combined private [not federally subsidized] and Federal student loan debt in award year 2011-2012, 27 percent more than the average combined debt of $23,118 in award year 2007-2008. (p. 4)

Total private and Federal student loan debt is currently the second largest form of debt in the nation, behind only home mortgages. (p. 4)

Borrowers are defaulting on their Federal student loans at the highest rate since 1995. (p. 4)

We’ll recall that back in 2010 Education Secretary Arne Duncan was blasting heavily subsidized private lenders and insisting that federal “direct lending” through his department was a better plan. Nearly two years later, student debt continued to balloon. We also know that the “cohort” default rate used by ED underestimates the actual student loan default rate significantly—a fact the OIG admits in a footnote (p. 5, n. 8). Also buried in a footnote is this disturbing fact:

According to estimates contained in the Department’s FY 2015 Budget Proposal, the Federal government will not be able to recover between $0.04 — $0.13 of every loan dollar (calculated on a cash basis and excluding collection costs) that goes into default. (p. 5, n. 9)

Given that outstanding loan debt now tops $1.04 trillion, that works out to anywhere from more than $40 billion to over $135 billion each year, plus who knows how much more in unspecified collection costs.

Making matters worse (but hardly shocking as far as government bureaucracies go) the OIG found:

The Department does not have a comprehensive plan or strategy to prevent student loan defaults and thus cannot ensure that default prevention efforts conducted by various offices are coordinated and consistent. (p. 13)

[The Department] did not explicitly establish default prevention activities in the 2009 TIVAS [Title IV Additional Servicers] contracts or adequately monitor calls to delinquent borrowers. (p. 18)

The Department now has 30 days to come up with a corrective action plan. While we wait with bated breath for that one, we’ll be piling on all those billions of dollars in bad government-held student loan debt to our public debt. According to a 2012 Council on Foreign Relations report:

With a pair of new laws in 2008 and 2010 [the Ensuring Continued Access to Student Loans Act of 2008 and the Student Aid and Fiscal Responsibility Act of 2009, or SAFRA], Congress fundamentally changed the student loan market, making the U.S. government the sole supplier of Federal student loans, rather than just the ultimate guarantor. In itself, this does not affect the government’s net debt,” noted the CFR. “This new direct lending does, however, add to the gross debt held by the public. The $1.4 trillion in direct federal student loans that will be outstanding by 2020 will amount to roughly 7.7% of gross debt. This is 6.3 percentage points higher than it would have been had the scheme not been nationalized.”

The feds nationalized student loans under the guise of eliminating the middle man to keep college costs down (it hasn’t). Just days before SAFRA passed the House, Duncan took to the press, preaching:

We’re not asking the taxpayers for one single dollar. We’re simply making the choice to stop subsidizing banks, to invest our young people back here.

SAFRA sponsor Rep. George Miller (D-CA) was similarly breathless, and Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) gushed that this federal lending takeover was a cornerstone of the Obama Administration’s overall “fiscally sound,” deficit-reducing 2010 budget.

So here we are today. Technically, Duncan was right: we’re not paying one single dollar. We’re paying tens of billions of them.


Common Core: Leftist and Islamic indoctrination

The fundamental transformation of the United States is a euphemism for destroying American values and traditions fostered by an unholy alliance of America's radical left and militant Islam, in essence, to take down the country from within.

This totalitarian marriage of convenience is distinguished by the traits they share - their hatred of Western civilization and a belief that the United States is the embodiment of evil on earth. While Islamic radicals seek to purge the world of heresies and of the infidels who practice them, leftist radicals seek to purge society of the vices allegedly spawned by capitalism -- those being racism, sexism, imperialism, and greed.

Central to the success of the America-haters is "submission," either to the state or sharia, and a rejection of the belief that individuals "are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights."

That is, the core of Western Judeo-Christian ideology maintains that the individual, through the exercise of his or her reason, can discern the Divine Will and seek "Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness" unmediated by commissars and mullahs.

In response, America's domestic enemies promulgate notions that attack the basis of Western Judeo-Christian civilization, which emphasizes the uniqueness and sacredness of the individual. They also promote policies that weaken the ability to transmit to the next generation the values and traditions upon which the United States was built.

Anti-American, messianic political movements can only succeed when the individual believes that his or her actions are determined, not by personal destiny endowed by the Creator, but by the destiny of the community, endowed by a ruling elite.

The Common Core State Standards (CCSS), a one-size-fits-all, top-down national education system, embraced by Democrats and big government Republicans like Jeb Bush, does just that, turning schools into re-education camps for leftist and Islamic indoctrination - as most universities and colleges already are.

Under Common Core students are asked to rewrite sentences containing subliminal anti-American messages such as "The commands of government officials must be obeyed by all" and "he (the president) makes sure the laws of the country are fair" and "the wants of an individual are less important than the well-being of the nation."

Presumably, that includes blind obedience to Obama's unconstitutional executive orders, an acceptance of Marxist-style wealth redistribution and a dilution of the Bill of Rights.

Todd Starnes of Fox News reported that a high school in Farmville, North Carolina, promotes Islam and the Prophet Muhammad in a Common Core vocabulary assignment handed out to seniors in an English class.

The worksheet says: "In the following exercises, you will have the opportunity to expand your vocabulary by reading about Muhammad and the Islamic word."

One sentence reads: "The zenith of any Muslim's life is a trip to Mecca." For using the word "erratic," the lesson included this statement: "The responses to Muhammad's teachings were at first erratic. Some people responded favorably, while other resisted his claim that ‘there is no God but Allah and Muhammad his Prophet."

Another section required students to complete the following sentence:

"There are such vast numbers of people who are anxious to spread the Muslim faith that it would be impossible to give a(n)___ amount."

This is not the first controversy caused by Common Core. One assignment asked students in California to question the Holocaust. Another lesson teaches a messianic view of Barack Obama, while a third falsely claims white voters rejected Obama due to race. A Common Core lesson taught in Arkansas asked students to remove and replace two amendments from an allegedly "outdated" Bill of Rights.

Courtesy of the Obama Administration, Common Core has become both a means to remove parents and the local community from the educational process and a vehicle for leftist and Islamic indoctrination, designed not to teach children how to think, but what to think.

Consequently, unless such anti-American brainwashing is stopped, future generations may not only lose their liberty, but they may, quite literally, get their heads handed to them.


Ratbag CUNY newspaper editor Gordon Barnes calls for violent war to be waged on police


A DISTURBING editorial in a City University of New York (CUNY) grad-student newspaper calls for rioters protesting the deaths of Eric Garner and Michael Brown to arm themselves and wage violent war with cops.

“The time for peace has passed,” says a revolutionary editorial titled In Support of Violence that was penned by editor-in-chief Gordon Barnes in the December 3 issue of The Advocate.

“The problem with the protesters’ violence in Ferguson is that it is unorganised. If the violence was to be organised, and the protesters armed — more so than the few that sparingly are — then the brunt of social pressures would not be laid onto middling proprietors [of looted small businesses], but unto those deserving the most virulent response of an enraged populace,” Barnes writes in the CUNY Grad Centre’s publication.

“The acts of looting, destruction of property and violence directed towards state representatives is not only warranted, it is necessary,” says Barnes, a doctoral student in history who once studied in Cuba.

The New York Post reports that the editorial — illustrated in the online version with the circled, capital A that symbolises anarchy — also urges rioters to emulate the Black Panthers and Malcolm X instead of Martin Luther King and other advocates of nonviolence — and hopes the unrest will morph into a revolution.

“The violence against property, that is destruction and theft, is only an unorganised form of something with the potential to be far more revolutionary and inspiring,” says Barnes, who is paid from $10,000 to $20,000 a year as a graduate assistant and who also pockets an annual stipend of $24,000 as a Presidential MAGNET fellow, according to his LinkedIn page.

The screed was posted online the same day a grand jury declined to indict Officer Daniel Pantaleo in Garner’s death, which is mentioned in an online note but not in the original editorial.

It also ran 11 days before CUNY Professor Eric Linsker was busted on assault and other charges for attacking cops at a protest on the Brooklyn Bridge, and 17 days before two NYPD officers were assassinated by a madman in Brooklyn seeking revenge for the Garner and Brown killings.

The 1861-word, densely written and jargon-filled diatribe ultimately issues a direct call for more violence in the streets.

“What is needed now is to take the next step from indiscriminate attacks to ones directly pointed at state power as well as at the lackeys and apologists who allow it to prosper,” says Barnes, who also studied at Instituto de Filosof√≠a de Cuba and is a graduate of the Valley Forge Military Academy and Temple and Rutgers universities, his LinkedIn page says.

The paper added a disclaimer at the end of the piece, saying the views are Barnes’ only.

CUNY Grad Centre President Chase F. Robinson condemned the editorial.

“While freedom of speech must be protected, and the views expressed by the editor in chief of this student newspaper are stated as sole views, we deplore calls of any kind for violence. As Martin Luther King’s birthday approaches, we should instead recommit ourselves to nonviolence as the true path to social justice,” Robinson said.


Thursday, December 25, 2014

How to Reform No Child Left Behind

Lawmakers already are talking about reauthorizing No Child Left Behind — the George W. Bush-era education initiative. “I’d like to have the president’s signature on it before summer,” said Sen. Lamar Alexander, the Tennessee Republican who will assume chairmanship of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee when Congress convenes in January.

But lawmakers should be pursuing bold education reforms, not searching out weak legislative compromises that fail to limit federal overreach. Congressional conservatives should take this opportunity to rewrite No Child Left Behind in a way that empowers state and local educators, not Washington bureaucrats.

Previous proposals introduced by Alexander and Rep. John Kline, R-Minn., would have streamlined No Child Left Behind and created some nominal flexibility for states and school districts. But more substantive reforms are in order. The following four policy goals should accompany any reauthorization of NCLB:

First, policymakers should enable states to completely opt out of the programs that fall under No Child Left Behind. One such proposal is the Academic Partnerships Lead Us to Success Act . Including the A-PLUS approach in a prospective reauthorization of No Child Left Behind would let states consolidate their federal education funds and use them for any lawful education purpose they deem beneficial. This would allow states to escape NCLB’s prescriptive and programmatic requirements and use funds in ways that would better meet their students’ needs.

Next, policymakers should work to reduce the number of programs that fall under No Child Left Behind. The original Elementary and Secondary Education Act — the precursor to NCLB — included five titles, 32 pages and roughly $1 billion in federal funding. By the time ESEA was reauthorized for the seventh time in 2001 as No Child Left Behind, new mandates had been imposed on states and local school districts, and the law authorized dozens upon dozens of federal education programs, a reflection of national policymakers’ tendency to create a “program for every problem.”

To pay for the dozens of competitive and formula grant programs funded under NCLB, the annual cost of the federal initiative now exceeds $25 billion. The growth in program count and spending over the decades has failed to improve educational outcomes for students and, as such, should be curtailed.

Policymakers also should eliminate burdensome federal mandates. Accountability and transparency “should be vehicles to reinvigorate the relationship of the American people with their schools rather than merely mechanisms employed by government officials to oversee and hold government schools accountable,” wrote former Deputy Education Secretary Eugene Hickok and education researcher Matthew Ladner in a 2007 analysis of NCLB.

To achieve that goal, Congress should eliminate the many federal mandates within NCLB masquerading as accountability, including Adequate Yearly Progress requirements, Highly Qualified Teacher mandates and costly “maintenance of effort” rules, which require states to keep spending high in order to receive federal funding.

Finally, and at a minimum, policymakers should include a state option for Title I funding portability. The $14.5 billion Title I program accounts for the bulk of No Child Left Behind spending. It serves one of the 1965 ESEA’s original and primary purposes by channeling additional federal funding to low-income school districts.

However, Title I funds are distributed through a convoluted funding formula which, as researcher Susan Aud has noted, includes “provisions that render the final results substantially incongruent with the original legislative intention.”

To make Title I work for the disadvantaged children it was intended to help, the program’s funding formula should be simplified, and Congress should let states make the funding “portable,” allowing it to follow a child to the school of his parents’ choice — public, private, charter or virtual.

During any prospective ESEA reauthorization, Congress should reduce program count (and associated spending), eliminate federal mandates on states and local school districts and create portability of Title I funding. Such an approach represents a first small step toward reform. Bold reforms are needed, including the opportunity for states to completely exit the 600-page regulatory behemoth that is No Child Left Behind.


Harvard students in the forefront of the cold war on Israel

Where there is no aggression, the Left invent “microaggression”

Harvard’s dining hall pulled SodaStream machines after members of the college’s Palestine Solidarity Committee and other activists deemed the product a “microaggression.”

Water dispensers purchased by a firm owned by Israeli-based SodaStream were removed by the Harvard Undergraduate Dining Services (HUDS) at the behest of its students.

“These machines can be seen as a microaggression to Palestinian students and their families and like the University doesn’t care about Palestinian human rights,” sophomore Rachel J. Sandalow-Ash, a member of the Harvard College Progressive Jewish Alliance, told the Harvard Crimson on Wednesday.

The campaign to remove the product started last fall when students emailed House masters to arrange a meeting with Harvard officials, the Crimson said.

Harvard University leadership has now launched an investigation into the dining hall’s decision.

“Harvard University’s procurement decisions should not and will not be driven by individuals’ views of highly contested matters of political controversy,” said Harvard provost Alan Garber in a statement, The Daily Caller reported Thursday. “If this policy is not currently known or understood in some parts of the University, that will be rectified now.”


Jeb Bush’s Common Core Problem

Jeb Bush has long advocated for all 50 states to adopt Common Core national standards.

Now that the former Florida governor has all but confirmed his plans to run for president in 2016, the issue threatens to overshadow his likely campaign.

Bush’s name, matched with consistently high polling numbers among potential 2016 Republican candidates, makes landing a seat in the Oval Office feasible. But in order to reach the general election—to perhaps take on Hillary Clinton—Bush must first overcome concerns about Common Core with conservative primary voters.

Bush’s longstanding support for Common Core is no secret: Over a year ago, Frederick M. Hess, an education expert at the American Enterprise Institute, predicted that if he decided to run for president, “Common Core could be his Romneycare.”

What is Common Core?

Common Core standards were created by the National Governors Association and Council of Chief State School Officers, and funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. The goal, supported by the Obama administration, was to increase education standards in America.

Among conservatives, however, the issue one of the most controversial. Several politicians have flip-flopped on the issue, pulling their support or even abandoning the standards in their states.

The Heritage Foundation is among the organizations that have rallied against Common Core.  The crux of the argument, as laid out by Heritage’s Lindsey M. Burke and Jennifer A. Marshall, is this:

National standards are unlikely to make public schools accountable to families; rather, they are more likely to make schools responsive to Washington, D.C. Furthermore, a national accountability system would be a one-size-fits-all approach that tends toward mediocrity and standardization, undercutting the pockets of excellence that currently exists.

Many of Bush’s deep-pocketed GOP allies—so-called “establishment” Republicans like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce—don’t see eye-to-eye with conservatives on the issue.

Federal incentives like Race to the Top grants and No Child Left Behind waivers for states that adopted Common Core topped off what critics call “a national takeover of education policy.”

A reform-minded governor

Bush’s backstory with Common Core standards is two-fold.

During his eight-year tenure as the Sunshine State’s governor, he led one of the most successful education reforms in the country. In fact, his efforts were so effective, education experts are still trying to analyze them to this day.

Schools and districts in Florida are now graded on a straightforward A-to-F scale where parents easily understand that it’s better to have a child in an A-rated school than one that received an F.

Parents also have access to education tax credits, private school choice for special-needs students, virtual education, charter schools and public school choice.

In addition, transparency about school performance enables parents to be well informed, holding schools accountable to parents.

Education experts often argue that no one has a greater, more genuine interest in a student’s education than their parents.

But as Burke, Heritage’s leading expert on education policy pointed out, what worked in Florida might not work on a national scale. She said:

Gov. Bush was a leader on education reform in Florida during his tenure. Florida, in fact, has stood as a model for other states. The challenge for national policymakers is to recognize that what worked well in one state might not work as well in another, and that states need flexibility to find out what works best for the unique students who reside there.

Promoting Common Core

The challenge for national policymakers is to recognize that what worked well in one state might not work as well in another. @lindseymburke

In a 2011 Wall Street Journal op-ed co-authored with former New York City schools chancellor Joel Klein, Bush praised the standards, stating:

The Common Core State Standards define what students need to know; they do not define how teachers should teach, or how students should learn. That is up to each state. And they are built on what we have learned from high-performing international competitors as well as the best practices in leading states.

Over the course of the next three years, Bush, with the Foundation for Excellence in Education, an education policy think tank that Bush founded and chairs, encouraged state legislators to adopt the standards.

For example, in early 2013, Bush and his foundation set out to remind Oklahoma state legislators of the “myths” surrounding Common Core.

He sent them an in-depth email, which can be viewed in its entirety here. In it, they wrote:

There is a lot of misinformation flying around about Common Core State Standards. Below is a roundup of recent articles, opinion pieces and posts by policy advisors, debunking Common Core myths and highlighting voices in the transition to these new standards. You’ll also find quotes from teachers weighing in on Common Core and see how state and business leaders are supporting the higher standards.

Bush’s new tone

More recently, Bush has toned down his support.  In a speech last month at the 2014 National Summit on Education Reform—just one week before Thanksgiving when he pondered a presidential run with his family—Bush argued, “The rigor of the Common Core State Standards must be the new minimum in the classrooms.”

But in the same speech, he also made it a point to acknowledge the disagreement on the issue—something he has been criticized in the past for ignoring.

Even if we don’t all agree on Common Core, there are more important principles for us to agree on. We need to pull together whenever we can. It starts with a basic question: If we were designing our school system from scratch, what would it look like?

I know one thing: We wouldn’t start with more than 13,000 government-run, unionized and politicized monopolies who trap good teachers, administrators and struggling students in a system nobody can escape.

We would be insane if we recreated what we have today.  So let’s think and act like we are starting from scratch.

Whether his 2016 campaign will try to downplay his support for Common Core or remain true to his position is not yet clear, but one thing is for certain: A Bush on the 2016 presidential ticket will once again bring education to the forefront of the national debate.


Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Photophobia again

British school orders parents to delete Facebook video of their four-year-old daughter performing as an innkeeper in nativity play

A couple were ordered to delete a video of their child performing in a nativity play by her school because of concerns about the online safety of pupils.

Douglas Holmes said his four-year-old daughter Emmi-Rai had played the role of innkeeper in her nativity play at Ynysboeth Primary School in Abercynon.

His partner Lisa Evans filmed their daughter's performance and posted the video on Facebook.

But the next day she was asked to take it down by a teacher who appeared in the video.

Mr Holmes, 30, said 'My partner doesn't usually post videos on Facebook. But some parents couldn't go to the play because of work. A friend of ours couldn't make it and we managed to catch her daughter in our video so she posted the video.

'She wasn't offending anybody but she was asked to remove it. We have removed it just in case they decided to take any further action.

'I was very angry when she came back from the school and told me they wanted her to take it down from her personal profile. We should be allowed to share our daughter's experience with other people if we want to.'

The incident follows a number of disappointments for children who have seen nativity plays cancelled in recent years or their parents charged to watch. 

A spokesman for Rhondda Cynon Taf council said schools do not want to spoil parents' enjoyment of special occasions such as Christmas concerts, but there were occasions when the protection of children is necessary, particularly due to the widespread nature of social media.

He said at Ynysboeth Primary School some parents had specifically requested that the child's images were not shared on social media.

One group that campaigns for personal freedom called for 'common sense' to be used and urged the school to stop behaving like 'Scrooge'.

Mother-of-four Miss Evans, 33, said she felt the school's reaction had been extreme and that she did not understand it because its website has a picture of every child anyway.

She said: 'It is absolutely outrageous and has been blown out of all proportion. 'As far as I am concerned my parental rights have been taken away.

'We weren't told specifically told by the school not to put up any videos but politely asked if we could refrain from doing so - but it certainly wasn't an order. I never usually post videos - I only did it because a lot of parents had work commitments and couldn't make the play.

'One of the mum's was really grateful I'd posted it up and she thanked me because she hadn't been able to make it.'

Miss Evans said she posted the video on Monday evening and was told by teacher to remove it the next morning, when she dropped her daughter off at school.

She added: 'It was then that her teacher told me she had been made aware of the video and asked me to remove it because she was in it - for just three seconds.

'She did not mention the children or child protection - if she had of course I would have removed it immediately.'

'My Facebook settings are extremely protected and private - only my close friends can see anything I can post.

'The whole thing is totally crazy - at the end of the day the school website has a picture of every child in the school and that is open to anyone to see. I really don't know what all the fuss is about.'

A spokesman for Rhondda Cynon Taf council said schools needed the permission of all parents to allow filming or photography of their children in school.

He said: 'If just one parent or carer objects to group photography, then the head teacher does not allow it to happen.

'At Ynysboeth Primary School a significant number of parents or carers specifically requested that their children's images do not appear on social media. 'The headteacher made it clear to the audience that photography was allowed, but not for distribution on social media. 'Unfortunately a minority ignored those wishes and published them anyway.

'There are children in our schools who are protected by means of court orders and under no circumstances can the identity or location of these children be revealed. To do so could expose them to unacceptable risk.'

He said headteachers felt it was necessary to ban photography or filming of some events because they work closely with adoptive and foster carers to ensure the well-being and safeguarding of their children.

Andrew Allison, from the Freedom Association said that 'common sense' was needed. He said: 'Child protection is obviously a serious issue, however, some common sense is needed here. Sharing a video of your child in a nativity play is a natural thing a proud parent does.

'Considering there is a photograph of every pupil on the school's website, and Miss Evans' security settings on Facebook are set to private, the school should stop behaving like Scrooge and allow other parents who couldn't attend the nativity play a chance to share the experience.'

The incident in Abercynon follows a number of disappointments for children who have seen nativity plays cancelled in recent years or their parents charged to watch.

According to a Netmums survey conducted earlier this month, just two in five schools allow parents and loved ones to take photographs freely at school plays.

At one in six, cameras are banned completely, while 14 per cent of schools video the performance then charge parents for copies. And a third of schools ask parents to sign forms stating they will not share snaps on social media, the survey said.

One mother who responded to the survey online said that she agreed with photographs not being shared on social media, pointing to her own situation involving her adopted son.

She said that if his photograph was to be posted on social media his birth parents might be able to determine his location - something, she argued, that would threaten his well-being.
Without proper precautions, children can be exposing details of their lives to anyone who logs on

One school in Middlesbrough was today praised after it sent a letter to parents urging them not to post any photos taken at the school nativity on social networking sites.

The letter, sent by St Edward’s RC Primary School, said it was a 'priority' for children to be kept 'as safe as possible'. The letter stated: 'Please could you ensure that you have not placed any photographs of Foundation Stage or Key Stage Christmas performances on to any social media websites including Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.'

And the school, which was named best state school in the north-east by the 2014 Sunday Times Parent Power publication last month, has the support of parents who agree with the message, according to The Gazette.

Official guidance issued by the Information Commissioner's Office states that parents should be able to take photos of their children at events such as school plays and sports days, without fear of breaching the Data Protection Act.

In 2010, Christopher Graham, the Information Commissioner, urged parents of children appearing in plays and other school events to 'stand ready to challenge any schools or councils that say "Bah, Humbug" to a bit of festive fun'.

His comments came after one father, Lee Ingram, spoke out over being threatened with arrest when he notified a school that he wanted to take a photo of his daughter, then five, in her nativity in 2007.

However, photographs are only exempt of the Data Protection Act if they are taken for personal use - to be put in a family photo album, for example. And there is debate as to whether social media falls under this exemption.


Dubious British food in school dinners too

Frozen cheese sandwiches and a donut: Clegg confronted by angry mother over unhealthy school dinners

Children given free school meals have been served mouldy and frozen sandwiches, Nick Clegg was warned today.

The Deputy Prime Minister, who has championed the policy of free lunches for under-7s, vowed to investigate claims a school in Somerset was providing 'unhealthy' meals which left pupils hungry.

But he hit back at critics of his scheme, insisting 1.6million children – around 85 per cent - were now getting the benefits of a school lunch.

Since September all children under the age of seven in England's schools have been offered a free meal.

Mr Clegg argues that pupils who have school meals are healthier and achieve more academically.

But today he was confronted by a listener on his LBC radio phone-in who claimed schools were struggling to provide acceptable food.

The caller, Nicola, from Somerset, said her daughter's school did not have the capacity to provide hot lunches for the increased number of children entitled to free school meals. Instead they have been given a packed lunch.  'Now these packed lunches, obviously, are cold, they're sandwiches and very unhealthy donuts,' she said.

The sandwiches are either cheese, ham, or tuna. There is no capacity for requests such as no butter, or whatever, if they don't particularly like it.

'There have been occasions when… the sandwiches turned up frozen. There was another occasion when they turned up in mouldy bread.

Nicola, who refused to name the school, said: 'Most parents I know are now sending in their children with additional food, they are coming home hungry.'

The Liberal Democrat leader, who championed the free school meals policy, told her: 'It sounds totally unacceptable and you are quite right as a mum to be immensely annoyed.'  He added: 'If what you said is absolutely right, it hasn't changed at all since the beginning of term, and that they are providing such poor value and poor quality cold meals, that's completely wrong.  'It's not what is happening across the vast majority of the rest of the school system.'

He promised to look into the case and 'make sure something is done about it'.

The on-air exchange came as Mr Clegg released figures showing more than 1.6 million infant pupils are eating free school dinners.

The Deputy Prime Minister and Lib Dem leader said the official figures showed that a decision to offer all five to seven-year-olds a free meal at lunchtime has had a very high take-up in its first three months.

The policy was introduced into England's 16,500 primary schools in September.  In total, 1,640,530 youngsters - around 85% of infant pupils - have a school meal at lunchtime.

'Well over a million and a half infants are enjoying a school meal at lunchtime, giving them a better start to afternoon lessons and a healthy boost for their first years in school,' Mr Clegg said.

'The other good news for families is that this saves them up to £400 per child a year on the cost of a packed lunch.

'The naysayers about this policy can eat their hats, and all the leftover sprouts.'

Earlier this year, the expense of the free meals policy sparked a coalition row, with former education secretary Michael Gove and schools minister David Laws later writing a joint article insisting they were behind the scheme.

Some head teachers initially warned that the policy would cause difficulties in schools which did not have the kitchen and dining facilities to feed all of eligible pupils during the lunch hour.


UCLA Prof Assigns Pro-Israel Book in Order to Trash It

The angry man himself

It seemed too good to be true: the required reading in UCLA history professor James Gelvin's fall 2014 class, History of the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, 1881 to Present, includes a pro-Israel book, Alan Dershowitz's The Case for Israel (2004). Described by the New York Times Book Review as "[e]specially effective at pointing to the hypocrisy of many of Israel's critics," the Washington Post Book World called it a "lively, hotly argued broadside against Israel's increasingly venomous critics."

Why would a professor so openly critical of Israel assign such a work? To balance his own unfavorable views on the topic, perhaps? To spark classroom debate on complex issues?

Not quite. A source at UCLA tells Campus Watch that students are reading Dershowitz in order to locate and write about the alleged errors, a requirement that does not extend to any of the other reading material.

Would that Gelvin's students could apply such scrutiny to his own book, The Israel Palestine Conflict: One Hundred Years of War (2014), which is also required reading. Martin Sherman, formerly of the University of Southern California and the Hebrew Union College, reviewed the book for the Middle East Quarterly in 2010 and concluded that it provides:

"... an account of the Israel-Palestine conflict which is appallingly shallow, shoddy, and slanted. ... [I]t will certainly underscore the mendacious manner in which this topic is dealt with in mainstream academe"

Nor does it apply to the third assigned book, Jimmy Carter's The Blood of Abraham: Insights into the Middle East (1985), although Gelvin recommends in the course syllabus that students purchasing them from the UCLA bookstore do the following:

"Be sure to borrow or buy used copies of the Dershowitz and Carter books. I'll be damned if either of those two poseurs get a dime in royalties from my course"

Such hostility may surprise, given Carter's scathing anti-Israel polemic, Palestine: Peace not Apartheid (2006), and his many public apologias for the terrorists of Hamas. But his 1985 work describes his experience negotiating the Camp David Accords between Israel and Egypt, an act long despised by anti-Israel activists for its required recognition of Israel's legitimacy by the Arab world's leading state. Whatever the case, Gelvin's course syllabus grandly informs students that both Carter and Dershowitz are "poseurs."

Elsewhere in the syllabus, Gelvin employs the jargon of post-colonialism, referring repeatedly to the "Zionist Colonization of Palestine" and to "Zionism and colonialism." His online reading assignments include several anti-Israel so-called "new historians": University of California, San Diego sociology professor Gershon Shafir; University of Arkansas anthropology professor Ted Swedenburg; University of Oxford emeritus professor Avi Shlaim; and the (now repentant) Ben Gurion University history professor Benny Morris. However, he also incorporates reading material from early Zionist leaders Theodor Herzl and David Ben Gurion, and former Brandeis University president Jehuda Reinharz.

Gelvin's approach to the Arab-Israeli conflict is summed up in the syllabus's introduction, where he describes it as simply a "dispute between the two rival sets of nationalisms." By emphasizing nationalism and downplaying religion and culture, Gelvin, like many of his cohorts in Middle East studies, is able to portray both sides as morally comparable and equally at fault.

This is not the first time Gelvin's tendentiousness has been obvious to his students, some of whom described him at Bruinwalk, a website that features reviews of UCLA professors, as follows:

"Professor Gelvin is not a historian but rather an advocate of [the] Palestinian cause."

"I feel bad for people who enter his class hoping to get an unbiased and fair representation/analysis of the situation in the Middle East—all you will get is a one-sided OPINION."

"My experience of the Arab-Israeli conflict, through Gelvin's eyes, has left me feeling angry at Israel."

"I hope anyone that takes his class can tell the difference between what's fiction and reality. If you thought you learned history, you didn't; you only learned what he wanted you to know.

. . . My grade on the papers definitely went up after I started to write them [sic] pro-Arab."

In response to the emergence of academic watchdogs, he claimed in 2003 that "[w]hat really irks those guys is that I don't use my classroom for political purposes, and thus my lectures don't advance their political agenda."

In light of such evidence, however, Gelvin's attempts to portray himself as an objective scholar are unconvincing. By engaging in this blatant misuse of power, Gelvin is doing a disservice to his students and to the field of Middle East studies. It's all there in the syllabus.


Student claims he was expelled from W&L for consensual sex

A day after Rolling Stone published an article describing a brutal gang rape at a University of Virginia fraternity house, a former Washington and Lee student claims he was expelled for having consensual sex with another student who eight months later regretted the encounter and claimed rape.

The former W&L student has filed a federal lawsuit claiming the private Lexington university discriminated against him because he is a male, and because it wanted to avoid the negative public scrutiny that UVa was experiencing. Moreover, the student, identified as John Doe in the lawsuit, contends W&L’s Title IX officer advocates to female students that “regret equals rape.”

“W&L has created an environment where an accused male student is fundamentally denied due process by being prosecuted through the conduct process under a presumption of guilt. Such a one-sided process deprived Plaintiff, as a male student, of educational opportunities at W&L on the basis of his sex,” John Doe claims in the lawsuit.

W&L spokesman Brian Eckert said, “We don’t feel it is appropriate to discuss the specifics of a legal proceeding, but we’re confident that we correctly follow our established university policies and procedures, as well as federal mandates. We’re committed to treating all students fairly and maintaining a safe environment on our campus.”

John Doe claims that twice, he had consensual sex with a student identified in the lawsuit as Jane Doe. The first encounter occurred in his room at the Pi Kappa Phi fraternity house where they went after an off-campus party on Feb. 8. Both had been drinking, he said.

He claims they sat on chairs in his room and talked for about an hour. He said Jane Doe then said that while she doesn’t usually have sex with a man when she first meets him, she found him very interesting. He said she moved toward him, initiated kissing, took off her clothes except for her underwear and got into bed with him. He said at no point did she say she did not want to have sex.

He claims she spent the night, that he contacted her later through Facebook and that they had sex again in early March. He said she told her friends she had a good time. But at a Pi Kappa Phi St. Patrick’s Day party a few weeks later, Jane Doe left when she saw him kissing another woman, who is now his girlfriend.

It wasn’t until July that Jane Doe told a friend that she was sexually assaulted, the lawsuit claims. Then in October, Jane Doe, as a member of a student organization against sexual assault called SPEAK, attended a presentation by W&L Title IX officer Lauren Kozak. According to the lawsuit, Kozak shared an article, “Is it possible that there is something in between consensual sex and rape … and that it happens to almost every girl out there?”
The article talks about alcohol-fueled sex in which the woman later regrets the encounter.

“Ms. Kozak introduced and discussed the article with the members of SPEAK to make her point that ‘regret equals rape,’ and went on to state her belief that this point was a new idea everyone is starting to agree with,” the lawsuit contends.

Five days after the presentation, Jane Doe reported to Kozak she was sexually assaulted but indicated she did not want to pursue a complaint, the lawsuit said.

By the end of October, Jane Doe changed her mind once she learned that both she and John Doe had been accepted into a program to study in Nepal for a semester, the lawsuit states.

John Doe claims that Kozak then led an investigation biased against him from the outset; he was ordered not to talk with anyone about it, and he was prevented from obtaining information to disprove the allegations.

He further claims that he could not present witnesses or question any of Kozak’s summaries during a Student-Faculty Hearing Board where he was charged with sexual misconduct.

“Moreover, based on Jane Doe’s own complaint, she admits that she ‘initiated making out,’ ‘took off her clothes except for her underwear and got into the bed. She took off her underwear in the bed. He also got naked. She was fine with all of that.’ Under W&L’s policies, the ‘responsibility of obtaining consent rests with the individual who initiates sexual activity,’ and, by her own account, Jane Doe admits that she initiated the sexual activity. The burden to establish ‘consent,’ or, in this case ‘lack of consent,’ should have been assigned to Jane Doe,” the lawsuit contends.

Eckert pointed to the university’s website to explain the policies, procedures and the president’s position on sexual misconduct. An interim policy was adopted over the summer and Kozak was named as the Title IX officer in order to comply with U.S. Department of Education regulations.

The policy sets out the framework for reporting and investigating complaints of sexual misconduct as well as the posting of Student-Faculty Hearing Board proceedings.

Hearing results for the fall of 2014, which includes John Doe’s case, will not be posted until the end of the term.

The Student-Faculty Hearing Board conducted two inquiries in May, both against law students. Both students were found to be in violation of sexual misconduct and unwanted sexual touching; both were suspended for one year.

In February 2013, the board expelled a student for sexual misconduct. In 2012, it held three similar hearings, finding no policy violation for two of the students. The third student was found to have harassed another student and was suspended for a term.

The university’s current policy requires dismissal when a student is found to have had sex without consent, but it allows for a range of punishments for other sexually related offenses.

John Doe said that, since Jane Doe initiated sex, she, not he, would need to obtain consent. Therefore, “W&L engaged in blatant gender bias” by relying on gender stereotypes as to whom should be responsible for sexual assault.

He also contends the timing of the publication of the Rolling Stone article, “A Rape on Campus: A Brutal Assault and Struggle for Justice at UVa,” influenced W&L’s decision.

The article described the story of a gang rape at a UVa fraternity house that has been mostly debunked. However, allegations that sexual assaults on campuses are not treated as the crimes that they are remains a topic of academic, political and public discussion. So, too, has the question that has been raised about procedures and the makeup of university boards adjudicating these complaints.

John Doe contends W&L’s procedures violate federal law and his due process rights.

John Doe is seeking a monetary award to compensate him for damages to his well-being, his reputation, educational opportunities and career prospects. Further, he seeks to have the expulsion reversed and his disciplinary record expunged.


Tuesday, December 23, 2014

UK: Where are all the maths teachers? Two-thirds of secondary schools struggle to recruit

Two out of every three secondary schools have struggled to recruit enough maths teachers in the past year, an alarming survey suggests.

They also had difficulty finding English and science teachers, with almost half having problems in key subjects.

The findings will add to growing concerns over the supply of teachers, which has been affected by the growing pupil population and the expansion of the School Direct programme.

School Direct, which involves training on the job, has filled just 61 per cent of the teaching places it was allocated this year. Headteachers say the problem is also exacerbated by large workloads and ‘teacher bashing’ by the Government and Ofsted.

Overall, 25 per cent of schools still have at least one vacancy in maths, 23 per cent do not have enough science staff and 20 per cent are short of English teachers.

The Association of School and College Leaders surveyed almost 800 secondary headteachers across the country.

Some 63 per cent had problems recruiting maths teachers last year; 48.8 per cent for science, and 45.4 per cent in English.

They defined recruitment problems as not having enough good quality applicants for the jobs.

More than one in ten are having difficulty filling roles in geography, modern languages and design and technology.

Mark Jackson, headteacher of Haslingden High School in Lancashire, said he had just two applicants for a maths position.

He added: ‘We were struggling all last year to get an English teacher. Part of the problem is that there is so much pressure on English teachers. There is a lot of marking; it is an incredible workload.’

A Department for Education spokesman denied a shortage, adding: ‘The teacher vacancy rate has remained low at around 1 per cent or below since 2000.’


Best Present Schools Could Receive

Will Congress Repeal Annual Testing of K-12 Students?

Senate staffers told Education Week a pending reauthorization of No Child Left Behind could include an end to the federal mandate that all students take math and reading tests every year.

Let’s quickly review who would be for and against such a provision.

For: teachers unions, school administrators, other establishment types embedded in the existing system, and lovers of federalism.

Against: civil rights groups, reformey groups on the political Right and Left, data mongers, and the Republican establishment.

That’s not a hard and fast list, but an educated guess based on post-NCLB history. It also indicates the unfortunate unlikelihood that easing back on federal testing mandates will become law, as the folks with the most power within the current ruling class weigh in for annual testing mandates.

Of course, if the feds eased their mandate, states could create their own. In other words, we don’t need a federal mandate for annual tests to remain national policy. The possibilities here are typically lost on establishment types, who prefer to legislate at the federal level because it’s harder to go state-by-state, and because they believe in uniformity and compliance over freedom and diversity.

Another consideration is that annual testing is a hard-won status quo for the Right, who properly insisted that if we must have government-run education, at least parents and the public should be able to see its results. The problem with that argument is that this slight increase in transparency has not meant genuine accountability. We can now know for certain which schools fail to teach even a tenth of their students to read, but that doesn’t mean such schools ever close or improve. So while the right-wing establishment pretends testing equals accountability, the results of this policy prove them wrong.

Perhaps the best argument against federal testing mandates is that there is no authority for federal involvement with education, period. It is simply not legal for the national government to tell states what to do with their schools. Not only that, federal bossypants behavior has not benefitted children. So there really is no point, except to supply and inflate the salaries and egos of the already-upper-income meddlers determining education policy.

It’s time for people to stop using good intentions as their sole justification for federal involvement with education. Ending the federal testing mandate would be a good start.


Vandalized: Residence of U-M Student Who Dared to Mock Trigger Warnings

Omar Mahmood is a student at the University of Michigan. He considers himself a political conservative and a Muslim. And until recently, he enjoyed writing for both of the campus's newspapers: the institutional, liberal paper, The Michigan Daily, and the conservative alternative paper, The Michigan Review.

After penning a satirical op-ed for The Review that mocked political correctness and trigger warnings, The Daily ordered him to apologize to an anonymous staffer who was offended and felt "threatened" by him. He refused and was fired.

Last week, he became the victim of what The College Fix has described as a "hate crime." The doorway of his apartment was vandalized in the middle of the night; the perpetrators pelted the door with eggs and scribbled notes like "shut the fuck up" and "everyone hates you you violent prick." They left copies of the offending column and a print-out picture of Satan.

The column that caused such a controversy, "Do the Left Thing," was published in The Review last month. It's a first-person narrative in which Mahmood pretends to be a left-handed person who is offended by the institutional patriarchy of right-handedness. A sampling:

He offered his hand to help me up, and I thought to myself how this might be a manifestation of the patriarchy patronizing me. I doubt he would’ve said those violent words had I been white, but he would take any opportunity to patronize a colored m@n or womyn. People on this campus always box others in based on race.  Triggered, I waved his hand aside and got up of my own accord. ...

The biggest obstacle to equality today is our barbaric attitude toward people of left-handydnyss. It’s a tragedy that I, a member of the left-handed community, had little to no idea of the atrocious persecution that we are dealt every day by institutions that are deeply embedded in society. So deeply embedded, and so ever-present, that we don’t even notice them.

Satire is of course a perfectly acceptable—and particularly important— vehicle for registering dissent with ideological orthodoxies, especially one as pervasive as the culture of political correctness at the modern university campus. Reasonable people can disagree about whether this piece hits home, but not about whether it's a valid contribution to the campus debate.

A staffer at The Daily who saw the piece was furious, however, and complained to editors. One of Mahmood's bosses at The Daily told him that article—which ran in The Review, remember—created a hostile work environment and made the staffer feel "threatened." Mahmood was asked to apologize, which he refused to do.

Daily editors dug up the paper's bylaws and found a provision that forbids students to work for both papers without prior permission from the editor-in-chief. He was told to resign from The Review immediately. After he failed to do so, he was sent a termination letter.

I can't recall whether that rule was ever enforced during my tenure as editorial page editor at The Daily in 2009. But it does exist, and appears to give The Daily just cause to fire Mahmood. But it's difficult to believe that his work at both papers is the root cause of his termination, rather than the views he expressed.

As Susan Kruth of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education warned, The Daily's actions could end up stifling student-journalism by making writers afraid to express contrarian views:

Of course, independent student newspapers like theDaily are not bound by the First Amendment, but students who value unfettered debate and free expression do not punish peers for saying or writing things with which they disagree. Instead of forcing Mahmood to choose between writing satire and reporting for the Daily, any editor who was offended by his column should have offered his or her own counterpoint to Mahmood.

Instead, the Daily’s actions will serve to make students reluctant to write further satire, confining their writing either to the non-controversial or, perhaps, to less entertaining forms.

That was the end of the story—until last week, when The College Fix reported that Mahmood's off-campus apartment was vandalized. The four criminals wore hoods and baggy clothing to disguise themselves; less brilliantly, they changed in full view of the apartment complex's security camera. They appear to be women of unclear ages. The video footage is available here.

I spoke with Mahmood, who tells me the police are looking at the matter. And I understand that some people have identified the women in the video footage. I will publish an update when their identities are confirmed.

The whole string of events is a sorry indictment of the rampant illberalism of the modern, "liberal" college campus, where writing something that offends someone else is considered threatening, but censorship, vandalism, and actual threats are not.


Monday, December 22, 2014

Profs Have Stopped Teaching Rape Law Now That Everything 'Triggers' Students

The influence of the "trigger warnings" movement is now so pervasive that many law professors can't even teach a class on a delicate subject without facing an onslaught of requests from students for feelings accommodation.

Harvard Law School Professor Jeannie Suk sheds light on the difficulty of teaching students about rape law when the forecast for campus is always persistent offendedness:

"Students seem more anxious about classroom discussion, and about approaching the law of sexual violence in particular, than they have ever been in my eight years as a law professor. Student organizations representing women’s interests now routinely advise students that they should not feel pressured to attend or participate in class sessions that focus on the law of sexual violence, and which might therefore be traumatic. These organizations also ask criminal-law teachers to warn their classes that the rape-law unit might “trigger” traumatic memories.

Individual students often ask teachers not to include the law of rape on exams for fear that the material would cause them to perform less well. One teacher I know was recently asked by a student not to use the word “violate” in class—as in “Does this conduct violate the law?”—because the word was triggering. Some students have even suggested that rape law should not be taught because of its potential to cause distress."

Suk—who is one of the signatories on this statement of opposition to Harvard's illiberal sexual assault policy—goes on to note that the very real, terrible consequence of not teaching rape law will be the proliferation of lawyers ill-equipped to deal with such matters. Victims of sexual assault deserve competent legal representation; the legal system needs prosecutors, defense attorneys, and judges who have vigorously studied the nuances of rape adjudication. Social progress on all these fronts will be rolled back if law professors stop educating students about rape. That would be a travesty of justice.

It's time to admit that appeasing students' seemingly unlimited senses of personal victimhood entitlement, unenlightened views about public discourse, and thinly-veiled laziness is not merely wrong, but actively dangerous. Colleges are supposed to prepare young people to succeed in the real world; they do students no favors by infantilizing them.

But worse than that, by bending over backwards to satisfy the illiberal mob, colleges are doling out diplomas to people who are prepared for neither real life nor their eventual professions. Should medical colleges abdicate their responsibility to instruct students on how to administer a rape kit to a victim, or ask a victim difficult questions about her trauma, because that discussion is triggering to some of the students?

It would be better for professors to instruct students on how to confront their uncomfortable emotions and grow beyond them, but alas, that seems less and less common.


Kid Suspended for Bringing an Empty Shell Casing to School

Question: What explosive device presents zero threat to anyone?

Answer: An empty rifle shell. And yet, a student at Chanute Elementary School in Chanute, Kansas, was just suspended for five days for bringing one to school. His mom told The Chanute Tribune that Principal Gary Wheeler said her son got off easy. He could have given the boy 168 days to cool his heels.

(Which sounds suspiciously like a plea bargain made by a corrupt D.A.)

But anyway: Why would a boy have a rifle shell with him at all, if he wasn't some kind of gun-crazed threat to all child-kind?

Carlson said her son, Camron Carlson, was out with her the night before, Tuesday Dec. 2, where she was sighting a rifle for deer hunting season with a friend, and he picked up one of the empty shell casings and put it in his pocket.

Carlson said her son had told his friends that they had been sighting rifles the night before, and that the shell casing fell out of his pocket.

“There was no threat,” she said. “My child’s never been in a fight at school. He was just being a boy and bragging because it’s cool.”

The reporter, Joshua Vail, does a good job of tracking down the school handbook, which states that the punishment for a minor infraction is supposed to be detention, talking to the student and/or parent notification. Punishment for carrying a weapon or ammo is 186-day expulsion.

Except a spent shell is not ammo any more than ashes are fireworks. Who's the person in this story in need of an education?

Anyway, if all this sounds eerily familiar, perhaps you are recalling the 2008 case in Winchendon, Mass., when Bradley Geslak, age 10, received a 5-day suspension for bringing a rifle shell casing he got from a vet at his town's Memorial Day celebration. In that incident, according to the local News Telegram:

"The family said they were also told that the next step might involve assigning a probation officer to Bradley"

Ah, the wisdom of our elders: Treating kids as criminals when there was zero intent and zero harm. That's zero tolerance for you.


‘We don’t feel welcome in our own universities’

Pro-Israel students on the censorship and intolerance they face

Picture the scene. A university society has organised an event on campus involving an external speaker. Then, despite following the bureaucratic students’ union procedure for getting the event approved, the society receives notification two days before the event is due to take place that it has been ‘flagged’ as controversial. Further measures, the society is told, will be required for it to be signed off. After various squabbles between society and SU over the format and provisions for the event, it goes ahead uncensored. But, as the event is about to get underway, the SU’s ‘safe-space officer’ bowls down. He appoints himself doorman. He stops certain students from entering. At one point, he asks the speaker to leave. And it culminates in him squaring off with the event’s organiser, leaving him cowed and humiliated.

The problem? This was an event organised by a pro-Israel student society - and nothing is more likely to bring out the student censors, the intolerant monitors of campus life and thought, than the issue of Israel. You want to say something positive about Israel on a UK campus? Then you do so at your own peril.

Sami Steinbock, an international politics student at King’s College London (KCL) and former president of the KCL Israel Society, was the student organiser in the scenario described above. He had organised a talk by Hen Mazzig, a lieutenant in the humanitarian unit of the Israel Defence Forces. Until, that is, the SU heavy had other ideas. Talking to me from Israel, the only place he says he ‘actually feels safe’, Steinbock describes how deeply threatening KCL has become for pro-Israel students. ‘Frankly, I do not feel welcome at my own university’, he says. ‘Why they have these safe-space officers is beyond me.’

He says this isn’t the first time anti-Israel sentiment has flared up at King’s. It began in April, when the students’ union tried to push through a motion that would align the union with the anti-Israel Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement. The debate got ugly. ‘One Jewish student was labelled as “mentally retarded” and another was reduced to tears’, he says. ‘I’d never seen students been made to feel so uncomfortable for simply identifying with a certain political viewpoint.’

The BDS motion was eventually overturned by the union’s trustees, citing concerns over free speech and discrimination. But Steinbock assures me that the ‘hateful’ atmosphere around pro-Israel students persists. And it isn’t consigned to King’s. Luisa Peress, a third-year medical student at Queen Mary University in London, has had similarly grim experiences that fly against the values of inclusivity and safety that students’ unions so often trumpet. ‘When it comes to Israel, rules change – there is a double standard’, she says.

Queen Mary Students’ Union recently voted on reaffirming its twinning with the Islamic University of Gaza, an institution alleged to have links to Hamas. Peress planned to speak against the motion, but was urged to tone down her remarks by her peers. The university’s Jewish Society, of which she is a member, is frequently booed into silence at student meetings, she tells me. She took some convincing, but, in the end, she decided to self-censor. ‘This, to me, was a sign of defeat and the annihilation of freedom of speech on campus. We are being urged into silence at some of the most prestigious universities in the world, in which you would expect support for freedom of thought.’

These students are acutely aware that censoriousness is not an affliction unique to pro-Palestinian - or rather, anti-Israel - students. Sam Adari, the current president of King’s College London’s Israel Society, reflects: ‘There is a fashion at the moment among students to be anti-free speech and shout down any opinion because it is “offensive” – a word that has been given vastly too much weight and credence today.’ But it seems anti-Israel students have become somewhat more aggressive and closed-minded. Jonathan Hunter, a student at Oxford and a former campus director for the pro-Israel group StandWithUs, explains that, as the Israel-Palestine debate has become more and more hysterical – with overblown talk of a Palestinian ‘genocide’ and Israel being an ‘apartheid state’ – anti-Israel students have become increasingly intolerant. ‘The censorious nature of “pro-Palestinian” groups complements their pathological obsession with Israel and the conflict’, he says.  ‘They are so self-righteous and engrossed with the intricacies of their cause that they simply cannot allow for dissenting opinion.’

And this belligerence, Steinbock says, can sometimes slip into anti-Semitism. ‘I know a lot of students who are scared to be identified as a Jew on our campus and refuse to wear their kippah due to anti-Semitic remarks being made’, he says.

The rage against pro-Israel students exposes the farce that student politics descends into when intolerance seeps in. While keffiyeh-waving campus politicos may feel they’re helping the Palestinian cause by shouting down the other side, actually such intolerant behaviour devalues their position. By refusing to argue, to pit their ideas against those of the opposition, they display weakness, not strength.

Elliot Miller, president of University College London’s Jewish Society, tells me of his and his peers’ ceaseless attempts to get the pro-Palestinian society to share a platform. In the end, the UCL Friends of Israel Society posted an open letter to the Friends of Palestine Society, pleading for a chance ‘for students at UCL to hear both sides of the debate on an equal and civil platform, from which they can form their own opinions’. As yet, they’ve had no response.

These students’ experiences of being shouted down or shut up are repeated on campuses across Britain, and increasingly in other Western countries, too. Zionist speakers are no-platformed or booed off campus, while both students and academics agitate for their universities to have nothing to do with Israeli universities or thinkers. The end result is a climate of intolerance around the issue of Israel, making students who are pro-Israel, or who are in Jewish societies sympathetic to Israel, feel that it is a risk to express themselves and hold public debates.

One of the most pernicious ways in which pro-Israel sentiment is shut down is through the branding of it as ‘offensive’ or ‘distressing’ to the student body. SUs and others are now obsessed with keeping students ‘safe’ - by which they mean safe from certain ideas. Safe Space policies, now on statute at students’ unions across the UK, mandate, to quote one example, that the university should be ‘free from intimidation or judgement’; students, it says, should ‘feel comfortable, safe and able to get involved in all aspects of the organisation’. The message here is clear: debate is dangerous, and students shouldn’t be challenged.

The rise of the Safe Space policy has unleashed an unhinged and rootless form of campus censorship. Any idea that has the potential to upset students, or simply cause them discomfort, is seen as a problem, potentially needing to be stamped out. SU attacks on Israel societies and meetings is sometimes justified under the banner of protecting students from ‘harm’ and keeping them within ‘the safe space’ - and the flipside of this is the implicit depiction of any student who is pro-Israel as harmful and unsafe. In a move that would make Orwell proud, certain students’ beliefs are rebranded as dangerous, toxic things that must be closely policed. It’s no wonder some pro-Israel students feel surrounded by hostility on campus: their very belief system is presented as harmful.

But university should never be a ‘safe space’. From the lecture hall to the campus-quad picket lines, university is a space in which ideas should be fiercely contested. This is sometimes convivial, amicable and constructive, but at other times it can be forthright, unrelenting and aggressive. Students should be exposed to all sorts of ideas, including ‘unsafe’ ones, and all student societies must have the freedom to express themselves. However much it tries to sell itself as radical action to strike a blow for the Palestinian cause, the current crusade against pro-Israel students in Britain is blatant political censorship cynically dressed up as concern for students’ safety.


Phonics anyone?

Comment from Australia

Changing entrenched attitudes in education is like trying to turn an ocean liner -- the momentum has to be maintained for a long time. Such is the case with reading instruction, where it has taken decades to see real recognition of the need for teachers to be trained in proven, effective methods.

While there have been glimmers of hope in the past -- the 2005 National Inquiry into the Teaching of Literacy, for example -- this year there were strong signs the ship is finally turning. Increasing numbers of schools are adopting explicit teaching methods.

The NSW government announced it will only accredit teaching degrees that include evidence-based methods of reading instruction. The national curriculum review and the federal government endorsed an emphasis on explicit, effective teaching methods. New executives of the board of the Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership (AITSL) are evidence-driven reformers. The potential for significant reform in 2015 is great


Sunday, December 21, 2014

From just two hours a week to a relentless 14, after-school workloads across the globe

A new study reveals just how much time teenagers spend on their homework across the globe.

According to a brief from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, or OECD, homework varies drastically from country to country, with the average 15-year-old American spending six hours a week on it in 2012 and those in Korea and Finland spending less than three.

In Shanghai, students tend to be burdened with the most time-consuming assignments, with the average teen spending about 14 hours a week on them - or two hours every single night.

Also on the high end of the spectrum is Russia, where students spend about ten hours a week on homework.

According to the study, the amount of time teens spend on homework has decreased since 2003 in most countries - apart from in Austria, where it has increased slightly.

In the U.S., the average amount of time spent on homework has remained roughly the same at six hours for the past ten years.

'The decline in time spent doing homework might be the result of changing patterns in how students use their free time, reflecting, for example, the growing importance of the Internet and computers in adolescents’ lives,' reads the study.

'It might also be the result of changes in teachers’ ideas about whether to assign homework, and how much is enough or too much.'

The report found that students from socio-economically advantaged backgrounds and those who attend socio-economically advantaged schools tend to spend more time doing homework.

This led researchers to question whether homework reinforces the existing performance gap between students from differing backgrounds.

The study reads: 'The bottom line: Homework is another opportunity for learning; but it may also reinforce disparities in student achievement.

'Schools and teachers should look for ways to encourage struggling and disadvantaged students to complete their homework.'


High School: Islamic Vocabulary Lesson Part of Common Core Standards

Parents in Farmville, North Carolina want to know why their children were given a Common Core vocabulary assignment in an English class that promoted the Prophet Muhammad and the Islamic faith.

“It really caught me off guard,” a Farmville Central High School student who was in the class told me. “If we are not allowed to talk about any other religions in school – how is this appropriate?”

The Islamic vocabulary worksheet was assigned to seniors.

“I was reading it and it caught me off guard,” the student told me. “I just looked at it and knew something was not right – so I emailed the pages to my mom.”

“In the following exercises, you will have the opportunity to expand your vocabulary by reading about Muhammad and the Islamic word,” the worksheet read.

The lesson used words like astute, conducive, erratic, mosque, pastoral, and zenith in sentences about the Islamic faith.

“The zenith of any Muslim’s life is a trip to Mecca,” one sentence read. For “erratic,” the lesson included this statement: “The responses to Muhammad’s teachings were at first erratic. Some people responded favorably, while other resisted his claim that ‘there is no God but Allah and Muhammad his Prophet.”

Another section required students to complete a sentence:  “There are such vast numbers of people who are anxious to spread the Muslim faith that it would be impossible to give a(n)___ amount.”

I spoke to one parent who asked not to be identified. She was extremely troubled by what her child was exposed to in the classroom.

“What if right after Pearl Harbor our educational system was talking about how great the Japanese emperor was?” the parent asked. “What if during the Cold War our educational system was telling students how wonderful Russia was?”

The parent said the material was classwork disguised as Islamic propaganda.  “It’s very shocking,” she said. “I just told my daughter to read it as if it’s fiction. It’s no different than another of fictional book you’ve read.”

A spokesman for Pitt County Schools defended the lesson – noting that it came from a state-adopted supplemental workbook and met the “Common Core standards for English Language Arts.”

“The course is designed to accompany the world literature text, which emphasizes culture in literature,” the statement read.

The problem is it’s emphasizing a specific culture and religion – and the school district acknowledged there were concerns “related to the religious nature of sentences providing vocabulary words in context.”

“Our school system understands all concerns related to proselytizing, and there is no place for it in our instruction,” the statement goes on to say. “However, this particular lesson was one of many the students in this class have had and will have that expose them to the various religions and how they shape cultures throughout the world.”

I asked the school district to provide me with a copy of vocabulary worksheets that promoted the Jewish, Hindu and Christian faiths.  The school district did not reply.

I also asked for the past or future dates when the students would be given those vocabulary worksheets.  The school district has yet to reply.

The student I spoke with told me they have not had any other assignments dealing with religion – other than the one about Islam.  Why is that not surprising?

Based on its official statement, Pitt County Schools seems confident that the vocabulary lessons are in compliance with three Common Core standards related to literary. If you want to look up those standards, reference CCSSELA-Literary L11-12.4.A, 12.4.D and 12.6.

Since the Common Core folks seem to be infatuated with sentence completion – let me try one out on them.  Use “Islamic” and “proselytizing” in the following sentence: Somebody got their ____ hand caught in the ____ cookie jar.


More 'Tolerance' From Stalinist Universities

Honestly, sometimes leftist thought police surprise even me, not so much with their unreasonableness, extremism and tyrannical tactics but with their brazenness in openly showing who they are. Each new day's headlines trump yesterday's.

A few weeks ago, Fox News' Todd Starnes reported on a Marquette University student's encounter with his ethics instructor. The professor, Cheryl Abbate, was leading her "Theory of Ethics" class in a discussion about the application of philosophical theories to controversial political issues.

Among the issues listed on the blackboard were gay rights, gun rights and the death penalty. Professor Abbate removed gay rights from the list before the discussion began, with the summary explanation, "We all agree on this."

This puzzled the student, as he certainly did not agree with his instructor's view on the issue and believed it should have been open for discussion along with the other issues. He approached Abbate after class and expressed his opinion that the class should have been allowed to discuss gay rights.

The student recorded his conversation with Abbate without her permission or knowledge. Questions concerning the impropriety of that secret recording aside, the substance of the recorded exchange is illuminating.

The student asked, "Are you saying if I don't agree with gays not being allowed to get married that I'm homophobic?"  The teacher said, "I'm saying it would come off as a homophobic comment in this class."  After further discussion, Abbate said, "You don't have a right in this class (an ethics class) especially to make homophobic comments."

When the student persisted that he is not homophobic and that the professor was restricting his rights and individual liberties, Abbate shot back: "You can have whatever opinions you want, but I will tell you right now, in this class homophobic comments, racist comments, sexist comments will not be tolerated. If you don't like it, you are more than free to drop this class."

The student took her up on the offer and dropped the class. His complaint with university officials went nowhere.

As totalitarian and censorial as Abbate's behavior was, what followed was arguably worse.

Marquette professor John McAdams learned about the incident and expressed his strong disapproval on his blog, Marquette Warrior. McAdams wrote: "Like the rest of academia, Marquette is less and less a real university. And when gay marriage cannot be discussed, certainly not a Catholic university."

Boy, did McAdams step in it. It's not just university students whose speech is suppressed there. On Dec. 16, McAdams received a letter from the dean relieving him of his teaching duties, saying he was under investigation and banned from campus.

To get a flavor of the terse three-paragraph letter, take a look at the first sentence of the final paragraph from Dean Richard C. Holz: "You are to remain off campus during this time, and should you need to come to campus, you are to contact me in writing beforehand to explain the purpose of your visit, to obtain my consent and to make appropriate arrangements for that visit."

In its letter to McAdams, the university did not specify the charges against him, but President Michael R. Lovell wrote a letter to the campus community and said: "This is a matter of official policy, but it's also a matter of our values. Respect is at the heart of our commitment to the Jesuit tradition and Catholic social teaching. ... The university will not tolerate personal attacks or harassment of or by students, faculty and staff. ... We deplore hatred and abuse directed at a member of our community in any format."

There you have it. We have a professor at a university (a Catholic one, no less) — an institution ostensibly dedicated to intellectual and academic inquiry and the free flow of ideas and expression — prohibiting certain relevant views from even being discussed in the classroom, encouraging a dissenting student to drop the class if he doesn't approve of the Stalinist tactics, and casting opposing views as "hatred."

Then we have another professor who expresses his strong dissent of such Stalinist practices and is consequently subjected to worse Stalinist practices in the form of being summarily suspended from his duties and banned from the campus as if he were a serial felon or known terrorist.

Do leftists even pretend to be intellectually open and behaviorally tolerant anymore? If they do, will anyone take them seriously?

Defenders of these abominably indefensible actions will tell you, indignantly, that they give no quarter to those who are intolerant. But what they mean is that they are militantly intolerant of people who express views different from their own, even if the people expressing those views are highly respectful of everyone concerned.

What scares me more than the left's deliberate muzzling of people's expression is that it's doing so with an air of moral superiority, coupled with a perfect blindness to the perniciousness of its actions, its overt hypocrisy and its moral bankruptcy.

The enemies of liberty and tolerance continue their scorched-earth oppression of their political opponents under the fraudulent banners of tolerance and liberty — and it is truly sickening and highly disturbing.