Friday, January 16, 2015

Common Core: Republican Minefield?

Nine months from now, Republican candidates for president will meet on the stage of the Reagan Presidential Library (with the old Air Force One providing great visuals) for the first debate of the 2016 race. It seems likely that among those in attendance will be at least four – Chris Christie, Bobby Jindal, Mike Huckabee and Jeb Bush – who support (or once supported) the Common Core. Republicans are about to find out what’s been percolating among the grassroots. Properly undertaken, a debate about Common Core could be healthy for the party and the country. Or it could be an unholy squabble over rumors and bogeymen. We’ll see.

The old joke has it that America will never adopt national education standards because Republicans hate anything with the word “national” in it, and Democrats hate anything with the word “standards” in it. Common Core’s advocates accordingly worked through the National Governors Association and other state groups. Backed with funding from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Common Core has now been adopted by 41 states. The Obama administration boosted participation by dangling waivers from some requirements of the No Child Left Behind law, as well as stimulus funds, to states that adopted Common Core. That alone was enough to alienate many Republicans.

Common Core is not a national curriculum. It doesn’t prescribe how children should be taught, but does set benchmarks for what kids in K-12 should know and when. Chester E. Finn Jr., president emeritus of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, is a Reagan alumnus who mostly favors the Core. “It’s superior to the standards” in 75 percent of the states, he explains. Assuming wide adoption and smooth implementation, it would solve the problem of our national mobility – high by international standards – unduly handicapping children. Fourth graders in Spokane would be learning the same math skills as those in Dubuque and Miami. It would also permit parents to evaluate their own schools based on uniform standards.

Conservatives like rigor and accountability. What they emphatically do not like is the leftist, anti-American propaganda that has infiltrated school curricula around the nation. At the moment, despite many claims to the contrary on the Internet, Common Core does not contain history standards, only math and English ones. Aware of the huge backlash that greeted the Clinton-era attempt to promote highly tendentious national history standards (Lynne Cheney played a starring role in exposing them), Common Core’s backers have steered clear – for now.

But as my Ethics and Public Policy Center colleague Stanley Kurtz has argued, left-wing activists are forever beavering away, shaping what young Americans learn about their past and accordingly what they believe about the present. One vector is the College Board, the company that designs and administers the Advanced Placement tests. The AP American history test is currently under revision, and none of the changes is good. As Finn and Frederick Hess wrote in National Review Online, “There’s little about economics that doesn’t feel caricatured or framed in terms of government efforts to combat injustice. Students are introduced to decade after decade of American racism and depravity, with little positive context for the nation’s foreign engagements or its success creating shared prosperity. … The bias is especially stark when it comes to the 20th century’s iconic presidents. FDR and LBJ are treated reverently … (whereas) Reagan is described … as a man of ‘bellicose rhetoric.’”

Kurtz notes that one of the prime movers of the Common Core program, David Coleman, has recently been named president of the College Board. “Under his leadership,” Kurtz warns, “the College Board has begun to radically redesign all of its AP exams.” It is, Kurtz fears, a “backdoor way to seize control of subjects that would be too hot to handle if formally labeled Common Core.”

There are many reasons to favor high standards in schools and to adopt a national curriculum. The danger, of course, is the political content. At some point, Common Core may attempt to adopt objectionable history standards. That hasn’t happened yet. In the meantime, the College Board is the battlefield. The changes to AP U.S. history have not been formally adopted. The College Board is open to comments. The deadline is February. Here’s the link.

Conservatives should deluge them.


Branded RACIST at five

A little girl who said her friend was 'brown'. A boy who asked a black child if he was from Africa. How teachers are reporting primary school pupils as bigots in official records

Summoned to a meeting at her seven-year-old son’s primary school, Hayley White was prepared for a quick chat about his behaviour.

But when she was told that Elliott had been at the centre of an ‘incident’ with another pupil that was so serious she would have to sign an official form admitting he was racist, she refused to believe what she was hearing.

‘When I arrived at the school and asked Elliott what had happened, he became extremely upset,’ said Ms White, who is a 32-year-old NHS worker. ‘He kept saying to me: “I was just asking a question. I didn’t mean it to be nasty”.’

It turned out that while in the playground Elliott had approached a four-year-old boy and asked him whether he was ‘brown because he was from Africa’. On returning home, the younger boy had told his mother about the comment, and she had informed the school, hoping that they could have a quiet word with Elliott.

Instead, the school’s anti-racism policy swung into action in full force.  At a meeting with Elliott’s teacher and the deputy head of Griffin Primary School in Hull, Ms White was asked to read a copy of the school rules, and in particular its zero-tolerance policy on racism.

‘I was told I would have to sign a form acknowledging my son had made a racist remark, which would be submitted to the local education authority for further investigation,’ she said. ‘I refused to sign it, and I told the teacher that in no way did I agree the comment was racist. My son is inquisitive. He always likes to ask questions, but that doesn’t make him a racist.’

It was a point echoed by Karl Turner, Labour MP for Kingston-upon-Hull East. ‘It seems the matter has been taken out of all proportion, and common sense seems to have gone completely out of the window,’ he said.  No doubt that is a conclusion that most right-thinking people would also reach.

But the reality is that across the country each year, thousands of children as young or even younger than Elliott are being branded racists, homophobes and bigots over minor school squabbles, or even innocent questions.

Few such incidents are ever discussed, because unlike Elliott’s mother — who bravely spoke out about his treatment three years ago — most parents are so shocked by the accusations levelled at their child that they dare not challenge them publicly.

An obsession with equality and diversity also appeared to be at the root of a news story this week about Ofsted inspectors who asked children aged ten at a Christian school if they knew what lesbians ‘did’. They are also said to have questioned pupils about transsexuality and asked if any of their friends felt trapped in ‘the wrong body’.

But there is something particularly toxic about allegations of racism, not least because there is a danger that the more children are branded racist, the more divisions will be sown between children of different colours and creeds where none existed before.

Shockingly, thanks to a desperation to satisfy equalities legislation, one-off comments by pupils aged just three or four are being officially recorded by over-zealous teachers.

And while in the past these reports might have simply focused on supposed ‘racism’, in some areas of the country teachers are now being encouraged to note down an ever-growing range of so-called ‘prejudice-based’ incidents.

This includes behaviour deemed offensive on the grounds of ‘gender identity’, ‘appearance’ and even ‘home circumstances’ — for example calling a male fellow pupil a ‘girl’, or ‘posh’ can count as abuse.

Experts fear that young children often do not understand the significance of what they are saying, and that dealing with them in such an overblown manner risks exaggerating a minor issue.

Worse still, they warn that there can be serious consequences for young children, who can effectively end up being branded as bigots throughout their school career.

This is because some primaries are passing records on to each child’s next school, which means the damaging allegations stay with them into their secondary education.

‘It can also create a climate of fear because the child does not then know what they can or can’t say. The politically correct agenda dominates over the interests of children — if the label carries on through the rest of their school career, it can be very dangerous.’

To get an insight into the way in which children’s behaviour is being monitored, a detailed look at the policy being pursued by one local education authority — Brighton and Hove City Council — is revealing.

It expects all secondary and primary schools to record and report bullying incidents centrally.

For this purpose, in September 2012 it produced a two-page document entitled ‘Brighton and Hove Schools bullying and prejudice-based incident reporting guidance form’.

The first page — running to several hundred words — offers teachers no less than nine separate tick-box options with which to describe the bullying. With each option, examples are given of language or behaviour that might have been used.

So it is that next to the category for ‘disability/special needs/medical condition’, examples of derogatory language are given as ‘retard/ spaz/geek/nerd’.

For ‘gender identity’ bullying, the words suggested are ‘sissy/butch, she/he, gender bender’. Another category is ‘home circumstances’, where bullying might involve the use of the words ‘chav’ or ‘posh’.

Teachers are also asked to tick the type of behaviour involved in the bullying. Again, multiple options are spelled out in minute detail. These include directing ‘dirty looks’, ‘jokes’ and ‘sarcasm’ at another pupil.

On the second page of the form, teachers are expected to fill in by hand a description of the incident in question. I have seen a number of these reports.

One, for instance, submitted by a primary school teacher, reported that a mother had complained pupils aged six and seven had called her son ‘Chinese boy’ at playtime because they did not know his name.

Another relates how a child was teased because of her appearance. It reads: ‘Xxx was called “doughnut”, “fat bucket of KFC”, “fat custard cream” whilst joining in a game’.

In another case, at a Brighton nursery, a child aged three or four was the subject of an incident report and subjected to ‘counselling’.  This was, apparently, in response to an incident when she was ‘looking at pictures of people with different eye colours and said “yuk not black” and discarded all the black faces, then said “I want a boy”.’

According to a spokesman for Brighton and Hove, all these reports would be submitted and analysed by the council.

‘Our city-wide approach enables us to work with schools to address issues and provide support where needed,’ he said. ‘This helps tackle bullying in the most appropriate way. Responding according to type of bullying provides an effective way to tackle the complex issues.’

But author Adrian Hart, who obtained the reports via a series of Freedom of Information requests while researching his new book That’s Racist!, disagrees. He believes that the authorities’ obsession with ‘racist’ and ‘prejudiced’ behaviour has resulted in trivial playground arguments being taken out of context and exaggerated beyond their real meaning.

‘In the real world of schools, the playground is a frenetic, messy place colonised by children who will insist on behaving, well, childishly,’ he says. ‘The customs and tradition of this social group dictate that they fall out, make up, fall out again. They show off, use “inappropriate” language and are notorious for their flippant cruelty.’

He adds: ‘Children’s everyday games, interactions and fallings-out are being elevated to a level far beyond playground banter. They are perceived as mini-adults, investing words with a prejudice and power that bears no relation either to their age or the context in which they are living and playing.’

Of the 13 Brighton primary schools he surveyed, five said they would attach incidents of prejudice-related bullying to the child’s reports submitted to the next school.

The latest research by Mr Hart is particularly interesting because it had been widely assumed that schools were no longer collecting such detailed information.

Under New Labour, the reporting of ‘racist’ incidents became recommended practice in education authorities across the country.

As a result, when Mr Hart previously investigated the issue for civil liberties group the Manifesto Club in 2011, he found that schools in England and Wales were routinely submitting 30,000 reports a year.

But that year, the coalition government made it clear it no longer expected schools to act in this way, leaving it to their own judgment as to how they recorded bullying incidents.

So when Mr Hart revisited his research, the expectation was that this change of attitude would be reflected in the figures.

Focusing on the 30 local authorities that had reported the most pupils under Labour, he found that while 17 had ceased collecting ‘racist’ incident reports, 13 continued to do so. Six of these had actually expanded their reporting criteria to take in a wider range of ‘prejudice-related’ bullying.

He discovered that in 2012-13, schools had reported some 4,348 incidents to the 13 authorities. But what also emerged was that even schools who were not required to report to local authorities were still collecting such reports.

The reason, Mr Hart believes, is their desire to satisfy Ofsted inspectors.

‘Any schools seeking to gain or maintain “outstanding” Ofsted ratings have quickly learned that demonstrating compliance with equalities duties means inspections can be faced with confidence,’ explains Mr Hart. ‘It’s absolutely fair to say that schools across the country are continuing unabated in their practices,’ he said.

So it is that Mr Hart learned that at individual primary schools in Birmingham — an authority which no longer requires its schools to do so — incident reports were still being logged.

One report he obtained under an FOI request read: ‘Xxx said she hated Christians during a discussion with Miss xxxx.’

Another begins: ‘Xxxx called xxxx an African rat. Xxxx said: “I know I shouldn’t have called it her because I am black as well.” ’

The impact these formal accusations of racism or discrimination can have on pupils and their parents should not be underestimated.

On websites dedicated to parenting matters, discussions abound about such incidents.

In one, a mother called Kelly tells how her eight-year-old son had got into trouble after playing a game of tag in which everyone who was ‘it’ was given the name of a sikh guru, a subject about which they had been learning in class.

When an Asian boy was tagged, he complained to a teacher.

‘My son and his friend have now lost two days’ worth of break and lunch playtimes and I received a letter on Saturday advising that it’s a racist remark and will be reported to the LEA to stay on my son’s file,’ she wrote.

‘In my eyes it was a game. OK maybe the boys should have been told off as it upset the other boy, but to be labelled racist when it’s a name they’ve been learning about at school through the week? I’m mortified.

‘I’m starting to wonder what this world is coming to, it almost appears that you cannot say anything without someone misinterpreting it as a racist comment.’

Another mother wrote about how her five-year-old child had got into trouble for referring to her best friend as ‘brown’.

‘They said as this is the 2nd time she has made a “racist” remark it will be put on record and reported to the council,’ she wrote. ‘I was so upset! My daughter is NOT racist, she is five years old, she has coloured family members and family friends. Now it is down on record that my child is racist. I spoke to my daughter and she does not understand what she has done wrong . . . she said “mummy but she is brown, she has brown skin”.’

But Chris McGovern, of the Campaign for Real Education — himself a former headmaster — fears that the ‘offending’ child’s interests are instead being sacrificed for the sake of political correctness.

‘In many cases in many schools we have over-zealous bureaucrats who have responsibility for politically correct behaviour, who are almost brain-washed by their teacher training and put upon by their local authorities,’ he said. ‘As a result, they are looking for examples of racist or homophobic comment which may not in fact mean anything to the child.

‘The enforcers of these politically correct positions need to justify those positions: they look for evidence and find what they are looking for. It is a bit like witch-finding — they are seeking out examples to justify their position.’ With the end result, of course, that pupils find themselves being treated like criminals.


Florida Schools Ban Bibles After Pressure from Atheists

 Amid mounting pressure from both atheist groups and concerned parents, Orange County (Fla.) Public Schools have banned Bible distribution in several area high schools after Satanists and an anti-religion group announced plans to pass out their own literature.

One of the largest school systems in the country with more than 180,000 students, OCPS had allowed World Changers of Florida, a Christian group, in conjunction with the Florida Family Policy Council to passively distribute Bibles to high school students on Jan. 16 -- which is National Freedom of Religion Day -- for the past three years.

Under the school system’s policy at the time, Bibles could be placed on a table in a common area for students to pick up if they chose to do so.

Last year, the Freedom From Religion Foundation, an atheist group, sued for the right to distribute its own literature after losing a battle to have all outside materials banned from the schools. One of the group’s proposed pamphlets included a small leaflet titled “An X-Rated Book: Sex and Obscenity in the Bible.”

In addition, as reported, the Satanic Temple also announced plans to pass out literature in Orange County high schools, including “pamphlets related to the Temple’s tenets, philosophy and practice of Satanism, as well as information about the legal right to practice Satanism in school.”

After initially refusing to allow FFRF to distribute “An X-Rated Book,” along with a few of the group’s other materials, the school system relented in the midst of a heated court battle and gave the group permission to pass out all of their proposed materials “without condition,” according to court documents.

But now, OCPS has stated it will not allow any materials to be distributed, including atheist pamphlets, Satanist coloring books -- or Bibles.

“Nothing’s going to be going on in this district this month,” confirmed Kathy Marsh, communications director for OCPS.

Marsh said no materials will be allowed from outside groups until the school system’s distribution policy can be “reworked” to avoid future problems. The school system is currently in talks with its attorneys to hash out the most efficient policy, she added.

“The intent would be to create a policy that would prevent potential distributors of information from-- or assist, I should say, assist potential distributors of information so they fully understand what is and isn’t allowed, and they don’t run into an area that is gray. So we can make it extremely clear to them that which is welcome in Orange County Public Schools, and that which is not,” Marsh explained.

While similar to the original policy, the school system’s new proposed policy states that “Materials of a denominational, sectarian, religious, political and partisan nature shall not be permitted to be distributed.”

For Florida Family Policy Council President John Stemberger, the school board’s decision to ban Bible distribution in the face of opposition was “unfortunate.”

“It required courage on their part, which is lacking,” he said. He believes the school board caved in to pressure after concerned parents spoke out at board meetings against Satanist materials being made available in schools.

“This is precisely what the Freedom From Religion people want,” Stemberger added. “They want to get rid of religion, and that’s their strategy. And everybody’s played into the strategy. It’s unfortunate.”

Not making Bibles available to students who want them removes a Christian voice from public schools, and also keeps students from accessing an important piece of history, Stemberger added.

“It further underscores the public school experience as a completely secular experience, meaning God is not mentioned, God is not recognized, and God is not incorporated in any way -- which is an unfortunate thing,” he said.

“Irrespective of whether someone’s a Christian or not, I think the Bible is something that is one of the key documents that gives us Western civilization and is one of the greatest pieces of literature of all time. It is clearly the best-selling book of all time of any culture anywhere in the world. So the fact that children are not being exposed to that, those who attend public school, is an unfortunate thing.”

Stemberger said the FFPC will remain active in the discussions surrounding any future policy decisions. “If they have study groups or positions that are open, we will attend them and attempt to talk with them about this.”

A representative from the Freedom From Religion Foundation was not immediately available for comment.

The Orange County School Board will meet to discuss the proposed changes to the policy on Jan. 29.


Thursday, January 15, 2015

Lawmaker Wants to Mandate Second Amendment Education In Schools

A South Carolina lawmaker outraged over the absurd suspension of a student who turned in a fictional story about shooting a neighbor’s dinosaur is firing back at the absurd “zero-tolerance” policies of some left-wing school boards in the Palmetto State by proposing a bill that would mandate teaching the history and importance of the Second Amendment.

    The Second Amendment Education Act of 2015 would give students the opportunity for reasonable expression of the second amendment at school without fear of punishment.

    “If we let that go unchecked, the second amendment will cease being a freedom enjoyed under the United States Constitution,” Rep. Clemmons said.

    Three weeks of a high school student’s coursework on the Constitution would be dedicated to learning about why the right to bear arms was included in the Bill of Rights.

    The state superintendent of education would be responsible for developing the three-week high school curriculum using the National Rifle Association as a resource.

    Clemmons is also proposing making December 15 “Second Amendment Awareness Day” for students at all grade levels. Students would be encouraged to submit essays and posters highlighting the second amendment to the General Assembly Sportsman’s Caucus to judge.

It’s an indictment of how corrupt and naked polarized academic administration has become that lawmakers feel compelled to pass laws to protect students from being punished for merely discussing the exercise of basic, pre-existing human rights protected by both the South Carolina and United States constitutions.

That allowed, I’m curious as to how many actual hours of classroom time Clemmons would dedicate to the measure in the three-week high school curriculum window he proposes, which seems obsessively balanced towards just the Second Amendment.

Yes, Bearing Arms is a Second Amendment-focused site, but many students today seem to have a poor grasp of civics in general. Providing them a lopsided education that doesn’t give them an intellectual framework for the context of the Second Amendment seems almost as absurd as suspending students for writing about shooting dinosaurs.

What would I recommend instead?

I would like to see the re-imposition of legitimate, mandatory, year-long civics courses, something that seems to have fallen out of favor in many school districts which would rather teach children about anal sex and alternate genders than the theoretical and practical aspects of citizenship, their rights and duties as citizens, and how those relationships work between citizens and governments in our constitutional republic. Discussions about constitutional rights including the Second Amendment would be naturally embedded and discussed in a much richer context in such a course.

I’d suggest that Rep. Clemmons drastically alter the Second Amendment Education Act of 2015 (.DOCX Format download), stripping it down to an act that protects the rights of faculty and students to discuss the Second Amendment and firearms-related issues from punishments by overzealous anti-gun educators.  I’d then suggest a completely separate bill to focus on broadening civics education, replacing some of the social science propaganda being pushed these days as an educational necessity.

We’re all better served in the Second Amendment community by well-rounded students with a classical education.


EEOC: School Wrong to Fire Teacher Who Gave Bible to Student

A New Jersey school district violated the law when it fired a teacher who handed a Bible to a student, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ruled on December 15, 2014. The ruling was made public Tuesday.

The EEOC determined there was reasonable cause to believe the Phillipsburg School District discriminated against Walt Tutka, a substitute teacher. The EEOC also said religion and retaliation played a factor in Tutka's firing.

"This is a great indication the EEOC is taking religious liberty seriously and they are going to enforce the law—and in this case make sure Walt's rights are protected," Liberty Institute Attorney Hiram Sasser told me.

Liberty Institute is a law firm that specializes in religious liberty cases.

"This sends a message to school districts that their natural allergic reaction to religion is misplaced, and not only is it wrong—but it's also an egregious violation of the law," Sasser said.

As I first reported, Tutka was working as a substitute teacher on Oct. 12, 2013, when he ran afoul of school policies. He told a straggling student at the end of a line, "The first shall be last and the last shall be first."

The student asked on a number of occasions where the line was from, and Tutka told him it was from the Bible. When he discovered the child did not have a Bible, Tutka gave him his personal copy. It was not all that unusual because Tutka is a member of Gideons International, a ministry known for providing Bibles to school children across the world.

On Oct. 18, Tutka was summoned to the principal's office, where he was accused of violating a school policy that bans the distribution of religious materials and another that directs teachers to be neutral when discussion religious material.

He was fired on Jan. 14.

Sasser said he hopes the school district will reinstate Tutka.  "If they don't do the right thing, they will face some serious consequences," he told me. "They are going to be liable for damages."

I reached out to George Chando, the superintendent of the Phillipsburg School District. He declined to return my call.

My advice to him is to do the right thing, or Liberty Institute will go after him like a pit bull going after a pork chop.

Sasser said the EEOC ruling should serve as a warning to other school districts around the nation. "You can't just fire people because they happen to hand a Bible to somebody while they are at work," he said.

Sasser said he believes the school district was out to get Walt because he is a Gideon. I obtained a copy of an email from Phillipsburg Middle School Assistant Principal John Stillo that suggest the school district had an issue with the well-known religious group.

"It has been brought to the administration's attention that Gideons may be near our campus to distribute literature to our students," Stillo wrote in a memo to the school's staff. "Please make sure they DO NOT step foot onto our campus at any time. There will be added police and security presence at dismissal."

Gideon International has a long history of providing Bibles to public school students, but many districts have banned the religious society in recent years. Ironically, the Gideons are welcome to distribute Bibles and deliver speeches in Russian schools.

The Phillipsburg School District should rehire Walt. And it owes him a big apology. They waged a disgusting public war against this fine, upstanding man simply because he gave a child a Bible. Shame on you, Phillipsburg School District. Shame on you.


UK: Competition for places at top private schools reaches 'boiling point' with children sitting as many as seven entrance exams in desperate attempts to make the grade

Intelligent British parents are desperate to keep their kids out of a "multicultural" school

Competition for places at Britain's top private schools has reached 'boiling point' as children take several entrance exams in attempts to make the cut.

The number of prep schools has increased in recent years but few private schools have opened, meaning children have had to sit numerous exams at different institutions.

Thousands of 10 and 11-year-olds will sit English, maths and basic IQ tests this month to see if they make the grade.

Prudence Lynch, headmistress of Kensington Prep, a girls' school in west London, told The Times that parents 'almost explode' from stress as children sit up to seven exams, some nearly a day long.

She said: 'The pressure is beyond boiling point. There aren't enough places.

'The number sitting entrance exams for most of the senior schools has doubled - those that used to have 300 sitting the exam now have 600 or 700.

'We're having to try to prepare 10-year-olds to have sophisticated exam technique as well as knowing how to answer the questions, such as writing legibly, looking at the clock and dividing up the questions, not spending too long on a question that is worth only one mark, allowing time to review what you've done.

'It's not just about aptitude, it's about those tricks to go with the aptitude.'

This week more than 1,000 children sat 11+ exams at Upper Latymer School, in Hammersmith, almost double the number ten years ago.

The independent school in west London was attended by the likes of Hugh Grant, Heston Blumenthal and MP Keith Vaz.

Meanwhile Magdalen College School in Oxford saw a 40 per cent rise in applications for entrance examinations.

At Francis Holland School, in Chelsea, registrations for their tests have skyrocketed from 230 in 2009 to 730 this year.

Lucy Elphinstone, the school's headmistress, said: 'We interview every candidate to try to get past the prepared, formulaic interview from children who have been rehearsed by parents or tutors.

'We try to do something surprising that will get past the prepped interview, but these are ten-year-old children and we want to make them feel comfortable, rather than do an Oxbridge-style interview that scares the daylights out of them. You often see a wonderful spark when they talk to you that you wouldn't get just from an exam paper.

At a conference in London, she added: 'There is very little innocence and freedom left for children ... pressure on places is becoming such that parents are beside themselves with anxiety to get their children into schools.'


Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Six Reasons Why Obama's Free Community College Is a Poor Investment

Let’s get this straight. First, we are a nation with an $18 trillion debt that, five years into a business cycle upturn,  that still cannot come close to balancing the federal budget despite Obama-induced tax increases.  Second, we have a very significant problem of overinvestment in higher education that manifests itself in a large proportion (one-third to one-half) of recent college graduates taking jobs that usually go to high school graduates –they are “underemployed,” many of them still living with their parents and dependent on parental financial support. Third, and related to that, for every ten students that enter community college, only three graduate within three years.  Fourth, despite the first three points, President Obama wants to encourage increased community college attendance by making it costless to the consumer.

It is true that around State of the Union time the President usually makes pronouncements about higher education, and that, in the past, little has come of most of his proposals. Still, it is worth mentioning six reasons why this is a monumentally bad idea—and why he proposed it.

First, the federal system of government has worked well in our nation, with the central government doing some things like monetary policy and providing defense and homeland security, and, historically, the states handling other things, like providing highways and schools, albeit with some federal financial assistance. The diverse nature of U.S. higher education is one of its strengths –we have 50 different ways of providing postsecondary education, and the nation has benefited from having diverse approaches. New Hampshire and Massachusetts devote little public money to higher education, but have great private schools; Michigan and California more generously support public universities, and have several great ones. People migrate to the state whose public service provision fits their tastes.

Second, a significant portion of persons going to community colleges come from at least moderately affluent families, and subsidizing their education more than presently is a waste of resources. Truly low income students, for whom financial barriers to college access are real, already receive Pell Grants that typically cover virtually all of community college tuition. Related to that, the evidence is strong that students do better in college when they have “skin in the game,” that is, when they have to pay part of the cost. Thus, even controlling for other factors, students graduate in higher proportions from relatively more expensive private schools than public institutions.

Third, the recent post-graduation job experience is not very good for community college graduates, perhaps one reason why the popularity of these schools is in decline, with enrollments down significantly in the past four years. For many high school graduates, one year training in a certificated jobs program at a private career college, or perhaps at a community college, makes more sense than getting a two year associate degree.

Fourth, why should we give “free” education at public community colleges, while at the same time the Obama Administration, through highly discriminatory regulatory policies, has virtually declared war on for-profit higher education? While the evidence is perhaps mixed, there is a good deal of it that suggests that often students do well going to schools like the University of Phoenix, or Strayer or Ashford universities.

Fifth, as mentioned previously, the U.S. government’s finances are somewhat precarious, which has already led to its first credit downgrade in modern American history. The unfunded liabilities associated with Social Security and Medicare alone reach into the tens of trillions of dollars. We should be seeking ways to shrink those liabilities, particularly given the decline in the proportion of Americans who are working (itself probably largely a manifestation of the modern welfare state). The Obama proposal worsens an already serious fiscal problem.

Finally, the past large expenditures for federal student financial assistance, such as the Pell Grant and student loan programs, have contributed importantly to the tuition fee explosion. Community colleges have been less impacted by this, but it is likely the Obama proposal would lead to a fee explosion at the two year schools.

The Obama idea is probably dead on arrival in the Republican controlled Congress. The President almost certainly knows this. Then why is he proposing it? It is dangerous to impute motives, and I tend to be highly cynical of contemporary politicians. That said, I suspect the President is appealing to his Democratic base, telling them that the entitlement programs they love and want expanded depend on Democratic political control.  I think the President, always partisan, wants to be able to characterized Republicans as insensitive, affluent, selfish persons uninterested in the disadvantaged (a line he has used many times previously, with mixed success). Also, I suspect he wants to develop a historical legacy among liberal historians as the bold president who tried to bring to America the full manifestation of the European style welfare state.


Harvard Prof Blasts Feds’ 'Flawed' Approach to Campus Sex Harassment

Harvard Law Professor Elizabeth Bartholet recently described the federal government’s “flawed” approach to sexual assault policies on the Ivy League campus as “a moment of madness.”
Bartholet was speaking out against recent findings by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) that Harvard Law School was in violation of Title IX for failing to provide a “prompt and equitable” response to sexual harassment complaints.

Harvard’s new school-wide sexual harassment policy, which it crafted in response to pressure from the federal government, was slammed by Bartholet and 27 other Harvard Law School faculty members in an October op-ed in The Boston Globe.

The faculty expressed concern that “Harvard has adopted procedures for deciding cases of alleged sexual misconduct which lack the most basic elements of fairness and due process, are overwhelmingly stacked against the accused, and are in no way required by Title IX law or regulation.”

“The federal government’s decision that Harvard Law School violated Title IX represents nothing more than the government’s flawed view of Title IX law,” which forbids gender discrimination at schools receiving federal aid, Bartholet said in a recent e-mail to The Wall Street Journal’s Law Blog.

“The Department of Education’s (DOE) Office of Civil Rights (OCR), which issued the decision, is not the ultimate decision-maker on law,” she pointed out.

Bartholet, who is an expert on civil rights and family law at Harvard Law, where she has taught since 1977, also condemned the law school's agreement to cooperate with OCR.

“I believe that history will demonstrate the federal government’s position to be wrong, that our society will look back on this time as a moment of madness, and that Harvard University will be deeply shamed at the role it played in simply caving to the government’s position,” she wrote.

“The courts are responsible for interpreting the law,” she explained. “And I trust that the courts will eventually reject the federal government’s current views.

“The courts’ decisions to date, including the U.S. Supreme Court, show a much more balanced approach to sexual harassment, one which recognizes the importance of vindicating the rights of those victimized by wrongful sexual misconduct, while at the same time protecting the rights of those wrongfully accused, and protecting the rights of individual autonomy in romantic relationships.”

President Obama began a push last January for changes to sexual harassment policies on campuses nationwide with an executive order to establish a White House task force to protect students from sexual assault.

In May, Harvard Law School was put on a growing list of schools facing federal investigation by DOE for their handling of sexual abuse allegations. The list increased 50 percent in just six months last year.

However, Bartholet and other members of the Harvard Law School faculty complained that the new policy, which “expands the scope of forbidden conduct” while “lodging…the functions of investigation, prosecution, fact-finding, and appellate review in one office,” is “inconsistent with many of the most basic principles we teach.”

“The goal must not be simply to go as far as possible in the direction of preventing anything that some might characterize as sexual harassment,” they wrote. “The goal must instead be to fully address sexual harassment while at the same time protecting students against unfair and inappropriate discipline, honoring individual relationship autonomy, and maintaining the values of academic freedom.”

“The law that the Supreme Court and lower federal courts have developed under Title IX and Title VII attempts to balance all these important interests,” they noted.

In contrast, “the university’s sexual harassment policy departs dramatically from these legal principles, jettisoning balance and fairness in the rush to appease certain federal administrative officials,” the professors concluded.


UVA Reinstates Fraternity At The Heart Of Rolling Stone’s Gang Rape Fiasco

The University of Virginia has reinstated phi Kappa Psi, the fraternity at the heart of Rolling Stone’s botched gang rape story, after Charlottesville police said the story about an alleged gang rape could not be substantiated (via WaPo):

    “We welcome Phi Kappa Psi, and we look forward to working with all fraternities and sororities in enhancing and promoting a safe environment for all,” Sullivan said in a statement.

    In the wake of the article’s publication online in November the Phi Kappa Psi house was vandalized and the fraternity voluntarily suspended its charter at the university as police investigated the allegations. In December, the fraternity issued a statement denying the claims described in Rolling Stone and noted that its own inquiry into the allegations revealed factual inaccuracies.

    “We are pleased that the University and the Charlottesville Police Department have cleared our fraternity of any involvement in this case,” said Phi Psi president Stephen Scipione, a junior. “In today’s 24-hour news cycle, we all have a tendency to rush to judgment without having all of the facts in front of us. As a result, our fraternity was vandalized, our members ostracized based on false information.”

    Last week, Sullivan announced a new contract between the university and fraternities that included enhanced safety measures for social activities designed to discourage binge drinking. The university said that Phi Psi was the first fraternity to sign the updated agreement, and fraternity officials said that Phi Psi members have participated in a sexual assault awareness program.

Yet, as the Washington Examiner’s Ashe Schow wrote, Captain Gary Pleasants said in an email that the investigation isn’t over; “no substantive basis that the alleged incident occurred at THAT fraternity,” he wrote. “We are still investigating and will release a statement once that investigation has been completed.”

Rolling Stone has yet to fire anyone over this horrific journalistic foul-up. They’re re-reporting the story with the same author, Sabrina Rubin Erdely, who initially misreported the story in their November edition last year.

Erdely hasn't tweeted anything since Nov. 30 of 2014.  Also,  Liz Garber-Paul, a Rolling Stone fact-checker, hasn't tweeted anything since Dec. 1 of last year.


Tuesday, January 13, 2015

The academy’s first freedom fighters

Last year, the treatment of three academics ignited a public debate about academic freedom.

American academic Steven Salaita hit the headlines in the summer. He had accepted a position as professor of American Indian studies at the University of Illinois and resigned his existing post, only to find his job offer had been rescinded. Reports claimed Salaita’s appointment was overruled by institutional managers once they became aware of his proclivity for sending anti-Semitic tweets. A recently published internal investigation criticised ‘the use of civility as a standard in making hiring decisions’. Salaita’s case is still under review and the university is attempting to reach a financial settlement with him.

In the UK, Thomas Docherty, a professor of English and comparative literature, and a renowned critic of government higher-education policy, was suspended from his post at Warwick University for nine months over allegations of insubordination towards his head of department. He stood accused of sarcasm and inappropriate sighing in job interviews. Docherty has since been reinstated and, although he’s faced with a hefty legal bill, all charges against him have been dropped.

In Australia, Barry Spurr, professor of poetry and poetics at the University of Sydney, was suspended for sending racist and sexist emails. These emails, sent privately to around a dozen senior academics and officials within the university, but considered newsworthy because of Spurr’s appointment as a consultant to the federal government’s national English curriculum review, were then published in the Australian magazine New Matilda. Students subsequently launched a successful campaign to have Spurr removed from the university. The cases of Spurr, Salaita and Docherty have prompted a debate about the meaning and importance of academic freedom in today’s universities.

This discussion needs to continue in 2015, a year that marks the centenary of the first formal declaration of the principles of academic freedom. On 1 January 1915, several academics gathered at the Chemistry Club in New York for the inaugural meeting of the American Association of University Professors (AAUP). Those present elected the philosopher and educationalist John Dewey as its president, and established the Committee on Academic Freedom and Tenure. This led to the publication later that same year of the Declaration of Principles of Academic Freedom. The signatories demanded freedom of inquiry and research; freedom of teaching within the university or college; and freedom of extramural utterance and action. The significance of this declaration can be seen in the fact that, a century later, it continues to act as a benchmark in discussions of academic freedom.

The establishment of the AAUP, and its subsequent focus upon academic freedom, was triggered by several high-profile incidents in which professors had either resigned or been dismissed from their universities for espousing political or religious views that contradicted the stance of their institution’s financial backers. In 1895, Edward Bemis, a professor of economics and history, was dismissed from the University of Chicago after his sympathy with the cause of striking workers was reported in the press. The sociologist Edward Ross was dismissed from Stanford University in 1896, after he criticised the university’s sole benefactor, Jane Leland Stanford, in his teaching. Other Stanford professors resigned in solidarity with Ross; these included the economist Arthur Lovejoy, who would later play a crucial role in forming the AAUP.

The AAUP was not established specifically to defend academic freedom but instead to enhance the status and autonomy of professors by professionalising academics and subject disciplines. Academic freedom was just one element of the demand that authority in the university should lie with scholars rather than administrators. Founding members argued that the principle of tenure and the professional autonomy for scholars to teach, research and manage their own affairs as they saw best were essential for maintaining academic standards.

Then, as now, interest in academic freedom was often a pragmatic response to defending individuals at risk of losing their jobs. The first task of the AAUP’s Committee on Academic Freedom and Tenure was to respond to one particular incident: the dismissal of four professors (and the subsequent resignation of 15 others) at the University of Utah for expressing views which ran counter to those of the institution’s trustees. The report into this investigation led to the Declaration of Principles of Academic Freedom.

Although pragmatically driven, the AAUP declaration has stood the test of time because it stands for far more than just a defence of individuals’ jobs. That broader principles were at stake can be seen in the number of professors who resigned rather than compromise their beliefs. The president of Brown University, E Benjamin Andrews, resigned his post in 1897 rather than meet the demand of the trustees that he ‘exercise forbearance in expressing his views’ in order to secure a sizeable institutional donation from Rockefeller. Andrews claimed he could not comply ‘without surrendering that reasonable liberty of utterance… in the absence of which the most ample endowment for an educational institution would have little worth’.

Central to the AAUP declaration was recognition that working in academia was unlike other forms of employment in private business, and that scholars served a social role in relation to knowledge which lent them a duty to ‘impart the results of their own and of their fellow-specialists’ investigations and reflection, both to students and to the general public’. In order for them to carry out this role, they needed to work ‘without fear or favour’ so that, ‘in the interest of society at large, that what purports to be the conclusions of men trained for, and dedicated to, the quest for truth, shall in fact be the conclusions of such men, and not echoes of the opinions of the lay public, or of the individuals who endow or manage universities’.

The AAUP declaration is of its time; it is steeped in the aspiration to take knowledge out of the hands of amateurs and to professionalise its pursuit within the academy. Nonetheless, its central tenets relate not to the particular conditions and preoccupations of those working in higher education in 1915 but to the less historically specific principles regarding the liberal scientific method and Enlightenment ideas about the nature of knowledge. Former AAUP president Cary Nelson suggests the declaration ‘relies on the scientific method as a model for the ideal exercise of academic freedom. In a broad, multi-disciplinary context, that means rationality, willingness to test hypotheses against evidence, openness to counter claims by peers, and so forth.’ The reason for the AAUP’s longevity is the relationship drawn between academic freedom and the fulfilment of the scholarly ‘calling’, which Dewey described as ‘none other than the discovery and diffusion of truth’.

When academic freedom is evoked today, it is all too often portrayed as a matter solely for individuals, especially those with a fondness for social media. It can appear to be taken for granted until a ‘get out of jail free’ card is needed by academics suddenly apologetic at having ‘misspoken’. In 2015 we need a reminder that the principles of academic freedom, so eloquently defined a century ago, are about the collective goals of scholarship as much as they are about defending the jobs of individuals. Academic freedom is fundamental to the purpose of a university and integral to the pursuit of knowledge.


Yes, the Obama Administration Really Does Want to Redistribute Teachers

Politico has finally picked up on a story that School Reform News reported for you months ago: The Obama administration isn’t kidding in its demands that states figure out how to redistribute the best teachers. But there are several logistical problems:

*    A state can’t force good teachers to move to high-needs schools. And the factors that influence teachers’ decisions – such as salary, support and working conditions ‒ are made locally, not at the state level.

*   The federal government’s influence is also limited.

*    The U.S. Department of Education hopes to use public pressure to prod states to take action: It plans to publish updated state equity profiles every two years, but it doesn’t have much other leverage.

Another problem: The way the federal government labels teachers “high quality” depends on credentials that essentially say nothing about a teacher’s actual quality. States will spend taxpayer dollars generating Rube Goldberg plans to do the impossible using bad data related to the problem – if there is one. It sounds more like a federal education scheme all the time.

The article mentions, but ultimately skates past, a genuine impediment to getting quality teachers to high-need positions and schools: One-size-fits-all teacher pay schedules. Many districts cannot offer a potential hire more money for a proven track record or for filling a high-need position. A Los Angeles Unified School District official told Politico the same story one hears from district leaders across the country: They have a terribly difficult time finding special-needs teachers, especially for the most disabled children, as well as chemistry and physics teachers.

Money is a communication device. Higher pay for higher-demand work communicates what jobs society needs done more than others, inducing people to move outside their comfort zones and fill them. Perhaps some enterprising state could write that into its compliance proposal.


The Cross Examined College Prep Course

Mike Adams

I am pleased to announce that next summer I’ll be embarking on a new adventure with my friends Frank Turek and J. Warner Wallace. We’ll be touring churches across America with a one-day college prep course that is designed to help parents and children prepare for college so they will not lose their faith while they are there. Take a few minutes to go on to Frank’s website and see what we’re up to and how you can bring us to your town.

Frank and J. Warner are world-class apologists. They will supply rich substantive information on defending the truthfulness of the Christian worldview. They will also provide guidance to those who will be dealing with attacks on Christianity from secular professors. My presentation will be a little different. I will actually spend two hours laying out a ten-step plan that will help young people (and their parents!) get prepared for the college experience.

The first hour of my presentation will cover five steps needed to prepare for college before actually arriving on campus. The second hour will cover five steps needed to survive college after you get there. A brief summary of the ten steps follows:

    1.The One-Book-A-Month Regimen. I’ve been a professor for twenty-two years. During that time, I have seen a steady decline in student writing skills – especially over the last decade or so. I am convinced that the principal reason for this is that most students no longer read on a regular basis. Some of that may be due to the fact that students have to work longer hours to pay for school. But some of it is just due to laziness. So parents need to make sure their children get into the habit of reading at least a book a month by the time they are sixteen. This will improve their vocabulary and thus sharpen both their writing and oral communication skills. This will make them more likely to succeed in college.

    Getting teenagers into a regular reading regimen will also help to implement the fifth point of the ten-step plan, which we will get to later. The best way to get started is to tie your teenagers allowance to a monthly reading assignment or perhaps increase that allowance by adding a monthly reading assignment to their existing monthly household chores. Also consider requiring a written report to make sure they do their reading. If that’s not possible, arrange a time at the end of the month to discuss the reading. This may seem like a lot of trouble but it’s worth it. Trust me (and keep reading).

Note: This does not mean your teen has to start off reading heavy material on politics and religion. If he is into sports then let him start off by reading twelve sports biographies in a year. Just get him reading something that interests him.

    2. Worldview Training. Having a teenager explore books and accumulate knowledge on his own helps to foster a sense of intellectual independence and curiosity. That is a good thing but it’s not enough. At some point, a teenager must learn that there are limited options when it comes to developing a comprehensive view of the world. Attending a respected worldview camp can be the best way of sorting through the options.

    In my completely biased view, the best worldview camp out there is Summit Ministries, based in Manitou Springs, Colorado. I’ve been teaching out there all summer long over the last five years. My fellow Cross Examined College Prep Course instructors Frank and J. Warner teach there, too. We encourage you to go to to get a better idea of what happens during their two-week summer worldview training camps. I would encourage parents to get their kids into one of these training camps by the age of seventeen. The investment is worth it.

    Another Note: Parents are sometimes willing to spend an extra $120,000 on a college education by sending their kids to a $40,000 per year Christian school instead of a $10,000 per year secular school. This is done in the hopes of keeping their kids from losing faith. This can be unwise for a couple of reasons: First, the so-called Christian school still might fill your kid’s mind with nonsense. Second, for $1200 (this is a limited-time price so see the website) you can send your kid to Summit and ground him so solidly that he might end up going to that secular school and making a real difference with his peers.

    3. FIRE Prevention. What good is it if a teenager learns how to defend his faith and then goes off to a college that won’t let him do it? Indeed, there is wild variability in the extent to which secular universities limit free speech. Given that a) much of the censorship is on the grounds of “offensiveness” and b) the Gospel is highly offensive, Christian students need to know what they are getting into. The university policies most limiting of free speech have been well documented by a group known as the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, or FIRE. (See In fact, they rank hundreds of universities using a green light, yellow light, and red light system. In addition to giving green lights to the universities most respectful of free speech, they actually publish a list of the top ten free speech campuses in America. Schools like the University of Virginia, Arizona State, and my own alma mater Mississippi State have been recognized in recent years. Perennial losers have included Bucknell University and Brandeis University.

    Taking the time to peruse the FIRE website will help eliminate some really bad choices from your list of potential colleges. I’ll write another installment with some more advice on how to shorten the list even further … and how to survive when you finally make the transition to college life.


Monday, January 12, 2015

All the Children Left Behind

As millions of students returned to school this week after Christmas break – pardon, “winter holiday” – 535 children legislators convened in Washington to determine, among other things, whether they will allow to continue unchecked the steep deterioration of America’s educational system.

No Child Left Behind, the behemoth federal legislation that’s left not simply one child but an entire generation behind, may be approaching its day of reckoning. Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Rep. John Kline (R-MN), chairs of their respective chambers' education committees, are preparing an overhaul of the legislation that would divest the federal government of much of its control over education – control our Constitution never authorized Washington to have in the first place.

Signed into law in 2002, No Child Left Behind (NCLB) was the successor to the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), first passed as part of Lyndon Johnson’s “Great Society.” Easily the most far-reaching federal legislation affecting education, ESEA, in its initial form, was 32 pages long, included five titles and provided about $1 billion in federal education funding. Thanks to the growth of federal mandates, programs and general bureaucracy, in fiscal year 2014, funding for NCLB surpassed $25 billion. This, of course, is only a fraction of the more than $130 billion the federal government spends on elementary, secondary and higher education.

The late Ted Kennedy, NCLB’s initial sponsor, once complained, “The tragedy is that these long overdue reforms are finally in place, but the funds are not.” Wrong. Even as education funding skyrocketed over the years, so-called reforms failed to improve education for America’s children. Naturally, the Left’s response is always more money, more regulation and more federal control. Considering the smashing success of Common Core in its nascent years, however, more people are beginning to question whether little Susie really should be learning math according to Washington bureaucrats.

Not surprisingly, the prospect of disentangling federal tentacles from education is an ambitious one. Still, several proposals on the table are not only viable but also quite likely to yield real improvement in the quality of education available to children.

For starters, federal education funding has become so tied to federal mandates that local – and parental – control over education has all but disappeared. To remedy this, the Heritage Foundation notes, “[P]olicymakers should enable states to completely opt out of the programs that fall under No Child Left Behind.” Instead states should be able to “consolidate their federal education funds and use them for any lawful education purpose they deem beneficial.” Such an opt-out option would return a significant portion of educational control to states and local school districts, a fierce contrast to unelected Beltway bureaucrats playing educational puppet masters.

It’s called federalism. The nation should try it.

Similarly, reform should address bureaucratic mandates that hide behind the face of supposed accountability – for example, Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) requirements. Like many federal programs, AYP requirements sound good on the surface, but in actuality their effects are detrimental. As the Washington Examiner notes, “The longer a school fails to make adequate yearly progress, the more dramatic its required restructuring. Schools can even be taken over by the state or face mass replacements of school staff.” (As if this is the sure way to scholastic excellence.) Certainly, measuring student progress can be beneficial, but the federal government’s dictating such measurements and issuing penalties for failing to make the grade has clearly failed.

Additionally, as proponents of true education reform have long said, any legislation truly aiming to provide students the opportunity for the best education possible will allow families to choose public, private, parochial or charter schools. So, to the horror of teachers unions everywhere, a meaningful overhaul of federal education legislation must allow for funding portability, in which dollars follow the child instead of being used to hold children hostage in failing schools.

Of course, for those who (rightly) argue that the federal government has no constitutionally authorized role in education at all, a more appealing option would be for states not simply to opt-out of federal programs and “consolidate” federal education funds but for them not to send these funds to Washington in the first place.

It’s a battle whose outcome is far from determined, as powerful teachers unions have a reckless president and his pen on their side. But if ever Congress has a chance to do something that not only helps restore a bit of our constitutional order but also supports true educational opportunity for America’s youth, it’s now.


Mississippi: Common Core opponents make statement at Capitol

Gov. Phil Bryant stood in solidarity Tuesday with more than 100 Common Core opponents from across the state who spent the first day of the 2015 legislative session rallying lawmakers to repeal the controversial academic standards.

Speaking from the steps of the Capitol, Bryant told the crowd it's the state — not the federal government — that dictates educational goals and assessments for its schoolchildren. He said Mississippi should repeal Common Core and implement its own standards.

"We're determined that after nearly 100 years of failure, our public school system will succeed," Bryant said.

To do that, he said, won't take more money but more people demanding better education.

Mississippi adopted Common Core State Standards in 2010, along with 45 other states. The standards set the educational goals all public school students must attain but doesn't determine the curriculum by which those standards are taught. Local school districts do that.

The state Department of Education said on its website that it adopted the standards "because they provide a consistent, clear understanding of what students are expected to learn so that teachers and parents know what they need to do to help them."

But state Sen. Michael Watson, R-Pascagoula, disagreed and cited the state Board of Education's own minutes showing it adopted the standards "based on finding of imminent peril to public welfare in the loss of substantial federal funds from the Race to the Top Grant … ."

Watson, among at least 11 lawmakers who publicly oppose Common Core, spoke at the rally.

"The fight is here. The fight is now," he told the crowd. "Let's not stop until we completely rid Mississippi of PARCC and the Common Core State Standards."

PARCC stands for the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, a consortium of states developing the tests that will measure Common Core-based student learning.

Watson and state Sen. Angela Hill, R-Picayune, want to replace Common Core with standards from other states that an independent study deemed superior to Common Core. Among them are the math standards from California and language arts standards from Massachusetts.

They said the standards are public domain and free for the taking.

Among the many concerns voiced by parents and grandparents in the crowd is that Common Core will treat schoolchildren not as individuals, but as products to be manipulated and monetized. They worry it's a slippery slope that starts with education and ends with Soviet Union-era socialization.

"It's all about money," said Barbara Macko of Brandon, who attended the rally with her husband, Todd. The couple don't have children but have nieces and nephews in public schools.

But many Mississippians do support the standards, which schools have slowly been implementing for the past few years. Educators, in particular, say students have risen to the new expectations and that they'll eventually produce a more educated population.

The Mississippi Association of Educators also supports Common Core, saying it has only two problems: The state hasn't fully funded its implementation and lawmakers see students only as test scores, not children.

"The solution," MAE said in a news release, "is to return the art of teaching to the professionals: educators."

Rita Buse of Tupelo said she also wants teachers to have more flexibility but said Common Core won't provide it. She fears it will further restrict them.

"What's wrong with the Three R's — reading, writing and arithmetic?" Buse said. "A lot has been accomplished with just your basic reading and math skills. Give the teachers back their authority and put more money into the classroom instead of administrative offices."

Buse also said Common Core is needlessly frustrating for students and cited the problems her otherwise academically advanced grandson has experienced.

Bea Harrison of Jackson County said her grandson, who is 11, also struggles with school under Common Core.

"He was a straight-A student, but he came home with a C in math and said, 'Nana, I just don't understand,'" Harrison recalled. "He was also an avid reader, but they discouraged him to read what he wants, and now he doesn't like to read much anymore."

Mississippi's top educational experts, including State Superintendent of Education Carey Wright, have long predicted a temporary drop in grades as students acclimate to the new standards. But they said students ultimately will improve and grades will rise.

It could take a year or two for that to happen, Wright has said.

But that's a year or two longer than Common Core opponents want to wait.


Obama Wants to Make Community College Free, Because Why the Heck Not?

President Obama teased the nation Thursday night with promises of a glorious "free community college for all" plan. And really, who can be against free stuff?

Obama made the announcement while aboard Air Force One en route from Detroit to Phoenix. He offered few details but did say that the first two years of community college should be free for people putting in the effort to learn those skills:

"Put simply, what I'd like to do is see the first two years of community college free for everybody who's willing to work for it. That's right, free for everybody who is willing to work for it."

Of course, "free" really means "paid for by someone else." I don't think the president is offering to reach into his own pockets to pay everybody's tuition fees, so taxpayers can probably expect the cold hands of government to reach into theirs instead.

On the other hand... free! It's a fun word to say, that's for sure.

Obama will offer a full explanation of his proposal during his forthcoming State of the Union address on Tuesday, January 20. Citizens can expect to hear about lots of other "free" things they will be required fund.


Sunday, January 11, 2015

Dartmouth College accuses dozens of students of cheating in sports, ETHICS and religion class

Dartmouth college has suspended 64 students accused of cheating in a sports ethics class and charged them with breaking the exclusive Ivy League school's honour code. 

College officials confirmed the number of students charged but declined to comment further until the appeals process ends later this month.

The students under investigation are all athletes who were being given special classes in ethics and religion.

Prof Randall Balmer noticed he was receiving far more answers to his questions than students in the class.  He confirmed that most of the students had been suspended for a term.

The alleged scandal involves hand-held electronic clickers which are used to answer questions during college classes.

It is believed that some students may have passed their clickers onto their classmates who answered the questions on their behalf.

According to The Boston Globe, the scandal was unearthed after Prof Balmer noticed that he was receiving significantly more answers to his questions by electronic clicker than the number of students sitting before him in the lecture theater. 

Prof Balmer described the situation of cheating in an ethics course was ironic and 'very sad and regrettable on many levels'.

He said: 'A lot of the students will probably come away with a stain on their transcripts. And, a level of trust that is so necessary for students and teachers has been betrayed, and I feel sad about that.'

Prof Balmer reported his concerns, which initially involved 43 of the 280 students in the class. A further 21 came forward after details of the investigation were made public.

The college confirmed that honour code violations were considered 'major misconduct'.

Prof Balmer added: 'I think honour no longer is something that has a lot of resonance in society, and I suppose in some ways it’s not surprising that students would want to trade the nebulous notion of honour with what they perceive as some sort of advantage in professional advancement.'

According to college newspaper The Dartmouth, Prof Balmer has decided against failing those students found guilty of cheating and instead reduced their grades by one letter.

More than seven in 10 of the students on the course are members of the various college athletics teams.

Prof Balmer said: 'Part of the reason I designed this course was that I had the sense that some athletes coming here to Dartmouth might have felt just a little bit overwhelmed or intimidated academically.

'I wanted to design a course that would appeal to their interests and allow them to have an early success in the classroom, and I’d hoped that they would be able to build on that success throughout their time at Dartmouth.'


UK: Latin storms state schools

Once the preserve of private schools, the language of the Romans is even booming in Britain's inner cities

'Res ipsa loquitur,' (the thing speaks for itself) said MP and columnist Boris Johnson when asked to describe his love for Latin. Steeped in classics, he thinks it 'tragic' that the subject has been 'ghettoised in independent schools' for decades. So Johnson will be the first to welcome today's news that Britain's state schools are experiencing an astonishing renaissance in Latin.

The number of state secondary schools offering Latin has soared from 200 three years ago to 459, new research will reveal today. From after-school clubs for gifted pupils to pan-European contests and on-line courses, Latin is in vogue.

Some say the revival is being driven by popular culture. Television, films, radio and books are filled with stories based in a bygone age, according to Peter Jones, of the National Co-ordinating Committee for Classics. 'One thinks of Boris Johnson's book on the Roman empire or a film such as Gladiator that raises issues of conflict and a sense of value.

'A great spin-off from that is a greater interest in the ancient world,' he added. 'Latin is no longer perceived as an elite subject simply studied by pupils at Eton.' He and other classicists fiercely dispute the argument that Latin is not a relevant subject in the 21st century. They point out that concepts of freedom, democracy and citizenship, embedded in modern politics, were first developed by the Greeks and Romans.

Moreover, learning Latin can help pupils with modern languages. 'I have been trying to learn Czech,' said Anne Dicks, head of classics at Malvern St James, an independent girls' school. 'Although the vocabulary is different, the structure is the same as Latin.'

Last week pupils from across Europe turned up in Paris, Berlin and Malvern, Worcestershire, to battle it out in a European Latin competition that Dicks helped organise. On the Saturday of a bank holiday weekend they turned up to tackle a tough translation.

Will Griffiths, the director of Cambridge School Classics Project (CSCP), who carried out today's research, said many people wrongly assume that Latin is only taught well in the independent sector. His study highlighted schools such as George Green secondary, a comprehensive in Tower Hamlets, east London, where pupils stay after school to learn the language. Other schools were using a new online course from CSCP which allows pupils to learn Latin without a specialist teacher.

At another school in Kilburn, northwest London, where 87 per cent of students are from ethnic minorities, Latin is also booming. 'It is wonderful that so many schools are bringing it back,' said Johnson who recently visited the school. 'It is because people are looking for something that is intellectually stimulating, rewarding and delivers lasting value. If you are able to compose sentences in Latin you will never write a dud sentence in English.'

Johnson, who was yesterday crowned president of the Joint Association of Classical Teachers, called on the government to change the rules so Latin could be taken instead of a modern foreign language when children turn 11.

It is not just secondary schools. Latin is being used as a tool to teach younger children basic English grammar. Barbara Bell, a classics teacher at Clifton High School in Bristol came up with Minimus, a series of Latin books for children that is now being used in 2,500 primary schools. Children learn about Flavius and Lepidina, a couple from AD100, through comic strips.

Bob Lister, a lecturer in education at the University of Cambridge will argue in a forthcoming book that Latin is being used by teachers to stretch the brightest pupils. 'I think there has been a sea change in the attitude towards the gifted child,' he said.

But his book, Changing Classics in Schools, will also highlight a crisis in the subject due to a lack of teachers. 'There is a very serious problem with recruiting,' said Lister. Within recent weeks he has heard of two comprehensives that received no applications at all when they advertised for classics teachers. Figures suggest that there are four or five jobs for each trainee - a shortage that could provide an obstacle to Latin's comeback.


Common Core Boosters Trying to Scare States into Keeping National Standards

Last year wasn’t a good year for Common Core, and the myth-makers are already hard at work publishing some new spin, but first let’s review what we’ve learned over the past five years. Common Core national standards are:

Costly (here, here, and here)
Weak (here and here)
Intrusive (here)
Politicized (here)
Anything but “voluntary” (here, here, here, here, here, and here)
Unconstitutional (here, here, here, here, and here)

In short, the more parents and taxpayers learn about it, the less they like it, and a growing number of states are looking for the nearest exit, including Indiana, along with South Carolina, Missouri, and Oklahoma. States considering ditching the national standards also include Tennessee and Mississippi, and several more states are dumping their membership in taxpayer-subsidized Common Core testing consortia (here and here).

In fact, the election of incoming Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction Diane Douglas is widely hailed as a victory for parental and local control over education, and a real blow to Common Core and the federal control of education it represents.

Time will tell just how earnest state elected officials are about restoring local control over education, but for now it seems fair to say that Common Core’s in trouble.

So members of the Common Core boosters club are changing tactics.

In their Washington Post editorial last month, Thomas B. Fordham Institute President Michael J. Petrilli and the Institute’s national policy director Michael Brickman argue that replacing Common Core “state” standards with better ones would be virtually “impossible.” Why?

...because Common Core, though not perfect, represents a good-faith effort to incorporate the current evidence of what students need to know and do to succeed in credit-bearing courses in college or to land a good-paying job—and the milestones younger students need to pass to reach those goals. ...

Starting from scratch, on the other hand, pulls the rug out from under educators who have spent almost five years implementing Common Core in their classrooms.

Thankfully, Sandra Stotsky sets the record straight. As Strauss explains:

While serving as senior associate commissioner in the Massachusetts Department of Education from 1999-2003, she was instrumental in developing one of the country’s strongest sets of academic standards for K-12 students as well as the strongest academic standards and licensure tests for prospective teachers. She served as the English language arts expert on the National Validation Committee for the Common Core State Systemic Initiative (2009-2010), which she has strongly critiqued.

Stotsky aptly dismisses Petrilli and Brickman’s “impossible” claims, stating:

"Their claims have no legs to stand on.  Massachusetts once had standards that looked nothing like Common Core, were judged to be among the best in the country, and have an empirical record of contributing to academic gains for all Bay State students. ...

Contrary to the implication by Petrilli and Brickman that first-rate standards are not easy to implement, I know that it was easy to implement the Massachusetts 2001 English language arts and 2000 mathematics standards. How do I know? Because I was there. Bay State teachers did not moan and groan after these standards were officially approved by a Board of Education chaired by currently incoming Secretary of Education James Peyser. They simply implemented them without a fuss. ..."

Why don’t Fordham Institute’s Petrilli and Brickman, or Common Core defender Jeb Bush, ask each Department of Education or Department of Public Instruction in each state to send out a survey to all the state’s English, mathematics, and science teachers just asking for anonymous suggestions on how to revise the state’s Common Core-based standards. We would soon find out how welcome a different set of standards would be.

State citizens, taxpayers, and elected officials should not allow themselves to be cowed by the Common Core bullies.

Want better standards? Look to successful states like Massachusetts—not Washington bureaucrats, DC insiders, or special interest groups.

SOURCE. (See the original for links)