Friday, March 20, 2015

America is often said to be a land of second chances

Just not for 7-year-olds. At least, not when they’re in the public school system.

Back in 2013, a boy then in second grade in Anne Arundel, Maryland, was suspended for two days for what was deemed a “gun-related” offense.  It was also a Pop Tart-related offense.

No, he didn’t shoot a Pop Tart; he bit his Pop Tart into the shape of a gun. There’s a dispute as to whether he then pointed the high-calorie weapon at the ceiling or at other students. Either way, unless the strawberry filing was piping hot (it wasn’t), there wasn’t really anything to fear.  Still, school officials pretty much freaked out.

Of course, the incident did occur just months after the Newtown, Connecticut, school shooting, when six- and seven-year-olds were feeling the full weight of adult hysteria about guns, pastries, pointed fingers, etc.

Fast-forward to the present: the Maryland lad’s parents are still fighting to clear this gun-related black mark from his permanent record, fearful it could damage him even decades from now. I don’t blame them.

Unfortunately, last week the Maryland State Board of Education upheld the suspension. A spokesperson for the local schools claimed it was warranted because of the lad’s “long history of disciplinary issues,” adding that the school “has gone to every conceivable length to assist that student.” The attorney for the family says they will appeal.

My kids have been homeschooled, but next year my youngest will attend a public high school. I just hope we can find a good, inexpensive attorney to go with her.


Raising children in an increasingly obsolete system

Sixteen years ago, fresh out of high school, I remember forking over $3,800 to take a Carlton Sheets real estate coaching program. I desperately wanted to learn about buying real estate in order to make a living without going to college. Just months out of high school, at age 18, I bought my first rental property. However, it had nothing to do with the Carlton Sheets coaching program. Well, at least not the expensive portion I bought. The real value that helped me was a $99 packet of DVDs that was included. Through these videos and my own actions, I was able to acquire over a million dollars in real estate by age 22 with very little money.

At age 19, I took my one and only college class, “Real Estate Principles”, where I sat in a room with a hundred other kids and listened to dozens of lectures by our instructor. This will always go down as the biggest waste of time in my adult life.

For today’s kids, this type of education is an even greater misallocation of time and capital, because the unconventional means of education is 50x more efficient than it was fifteen years ago. And the best part: it usually costs you nothing.

Fifteen years ago, I could have purchased a DVD to learn real estate principles in a matter of 8 hours. Today’s kids can do the same, only they won’t even have to buy a DVD. Instead, they can simply watch a series of YouTube videos.

Education in a college classroom is a lot like a $200,000 Hillary Clinton speech… what could she or your professor teach you that you can’t easily pick up on the Internet for free?

Or what about those one to three thousand dollar investment conferences? My goodness, the same speakers have hundreds of videos on the Internet.

Besides YouTube, you also have iTunes, and think of all the blogs available to us. The best thinkers in the world are all sharing their information and research for free. And for the most part, unless they are famous, all are very reachable via email or Twitter. I’ve emailed and spoken to three billionaires in the past week! Jim Rogers, Eric Sprott and Carlo Civelli… they don’t know me, but do respond to emails. and can help you learn real-world skills for 50 bucks. Forget about four years and $30,000 of debt. With the way technology and information sharing is becoming easier and easier for all of us, college classrooms for most people are becoming obsolete.

Technology is making education more efficient, yet there are still millions willing to get in debt to spend years and years in a classroom, when at the click of a mouse, they have an entire world of information just waiting for them. All they have to do is let go of the idea that their education comes through structured (and expensive) academia.

Given the incredibly rapid pace of technological advancement, one has to wonder if a student who enters college in 2015 will even have a relevant degree in 2019.

There are companies today who in a few years will be introducing body scans that can predict diseases that you won’t have for years. In a decade, most of us won’t even be driving our own vehicles. Driverless vehicles will reduce traffic, collapse the price of auto insurance, and make all of our lives safer and more efficient. Entire industries will be radically changed through the creative destruction process.

As a parent of three children between 11 months and 5 years, these are some of the things I think about today. I am thinking about what the world will look like for three adults in 2032.

I have no idea what the world will look like, but I do know it won’t reflect the demands of today. Employment, business, and education will all look much different. The U.S. itself, and the current monetary system we’ve lived under for the past 60 years, will have likely changed as well. With the rise of digital currencies and an entire continent (Asia) currently decoupling itself from western rule, big changes are coming.

The conventional way to raise your kids at this moment in time is treacherous, in my opinion — specifically with regards to their education.

Ultimately, a child will need to emerge as their own person, separate from you and free to pursue their own interests. Being able to learn independently could be a huge advantage. Yet if you look at what is accepted as normal parenting today, I think we overly encourage reliance on schools to teach our children. In my opinion, children should be encouraged to learn from experience. Experts, teachers, and instructors are all important when it comes to refining your education and experience, but the traditional idea that learning comes through academics appears to be little more than statist dogma.

Teaching a child the basics; to read well, speak well, and write well, will give them the liberty to self-teach.

Problem-solving skills, learned from play time and the pursuit of your own interests, are all one in the same. Talk to any successful person, and they will tell you they love what they do. Conventional parenting has separated the two; self-interest and play time are at home, and learning is at school. The source of education is not school, it’s in the way you interpret and learn from experience using what’s between your left and right ear.


Leveling the playing field for online education

Governments at all levels annually give traditional colleges about one-third of a trillion dollars.  That's roughly $1000 per American per year, a massive subsidy.

Question: Why don't cheerleaders for online education loudly call for slashing or ending this subsidy, to put traditional colleges on an even footing with the online alternative?  In my experience, even libertarian fans of online education rarely make a big deal out of these subsidies - even though they are a very big deal indeed.

A few possibilities:

1. The cheerleaders want to "level up" rather than "level down."  They want online education to enjoy the same generous subsidies as traditional college, not compete in a genuinely free market.

2. The cheerleaders think arguing for cuts in college subsidies is politically hopeless in the face of Social Desirability Bias.

3. The cheerleaders think online education is so awesome it can beat traditional education despite the tilted playing field.


Thursday, March 19, 2015

Obama: 'Critically Important' to Fund 'English-Learning for Large Portions of Our Student Population'

He's got a point

Improving public education "is a monumental task and it requires resources," President Obama said on Monday.

Millions of dollars should be spent on "special education and English-learning for large portions of our student population that may need extra help. That's going to be critically important," Obama told a gathering of school officials and educators at the White House.

The president announced in November that he will allow millions more illegal aliens to live and work in the United States without fear of deportation. This follows his 2012 decision to defer deportation for certain illegal aliens who came to the U.S. as children.

And it follows a summer-time influx of illegal immigrants from Central America, many of them children who are now enrolled in America's taxpayer-funded schools.

In his remarks on Monday, President Obama noted that Republicans are about to release their budget: "My hope is that their budget reflects the priorities of educating every child," he said.

"But I can tell you that if the budget maintains sequester-level funding, then we would actually be spending less on pre-K to 12th grade in America's schools in terms of federal support than we were back in 2000. And that's adjusting for inflation.

"The notion that we would be going backwards instead of forwards in how we're devoting resources to educating our kids makes absolutely no sense."

Obama outlined five "core principals" [principles?] that guide his thinking on public education:

-- Making sure that we continue to provide resources to the poorest school districts and not creating a situation where we can suddenly shift dollars from...poorer districts to wealthy districts;

-- Making sure that we continue to focus on low-performing schools and that they are getting additional resources;

-- Making sure that we are continuing to young people are performing (including specific "subgroups");

-- Making sure that we've got high standards and high expectations for all our kids, and making sure that we are providing the resources to teachers and principals to meet those high standards;

-- Making sure that we are investing in special education and English learning for large portions of our student population that may need extra help.

Obama said if those priorities are not reflected in the Republican budget, "then we're going to have to have a major debate."

In his fiscal year 2016 budget, Obama is requesting $773 million for English Language Acquisition grants, an increase of $36 million, to provide increased support to states as they help "the significant growing number of English learners in U.S. schools attain English language proficiency and become college- and career-ready."

Obama's Education Secretary Arne Duncan told CNN on Monday that "budgets have to reflect our values," and that requires spending money "at every level," from pre-K to higher education. (In January, President Obama proposed "free" community college for "responsible" students.)

Although high school graduation rates are improving among every group, Duncan warned against taking a step backwards:

"[S]o we have to challenge states to invest party in those communities where children have the greatest challenges. We've got to make sure Congress, through the budget process, understands that education is the best investment we can make in our children, our families and our nation, ultimately in our nation's economy.

"There's nothing political or ideological about this," Duncan insisted. "We have to work together to give our children a real chance for success in life."

The Obama administration's 2016 budget requests $70.7 billion in discretionary funding for the Department of Education, an increase of $3.6 billion, or 5.4 percent, over the 2015 level.

That includes $131 million for the Office for Civil Rights, an increase of $30.7 million, for an additional 200 full-time employees to help ensure that the Department’s Office for Civil Rights has the resources to respond to complaints of discrimination and to ensure that Federal grantees follow civil rights laws.


UK: The non-virgin Sturgeon flashed her majorities: QUENTIN LETTS watches a leftie love-in at the LSE

Scots Nationalist leader Nicola Sturgeon, tickling the London Left’s underbelly, was subtle, wry – and, naturally, an economic lunatic. They loved her!

She made a speech at the London School of Economics, Labour’s equivalent of holy turf, and called for bigger welfare spending, an end to Trident and more money for Scotland.

The LSE is the sacred wigwam of Fabianism. Posh Islingtonian offspring here squat at the feet of grey-shoed Keynesians and learn that heady brew of snootery and egalitarianism, the distinctive stamp of brahmin Marxists.

Here at the LSE, while chanting ohmm and smoking peacepipes, they worship Sid and Beatrice Webb, the dotty duo of Victorian socialism. From birth they ingest sacred texts by Mother Toynbee and Citizen Aaronovitch and Brother Rusbridger – and believe them!

They denounce Thatcher, idolise Kinnock, as Chinese toddlers once saluted Mao before settling down to breakfast gobblings of garlicky porcupine giblets. The People’s Party is stencilled into their beings like laundry numbers on hotel sheets.

But yesterday, hearing a lime green-clad Sturgeon talk of an alliance of ‘progressives’ (regressives might be more accurate) they cheered this leader of the previously hated Scots Nats. They preferred her to Miliband by a mile.

Yesterday she might as well have been the leader of the opposition. She had the poise, the mischief, the neck.

In Leeds, as we all saw on telly, Leader Ed’s own head gave a wobb-let as he called the idea of a Labour-Scots Nat deal ‘nonsense’. He lifted his eyes – two mournful Duplex coach headlights – straight to camera, as politicians now feel they must when they are in sincere-emote mode.

Lifeless, nasal as a blocked drain, he said: ‘Labour will not go into coalition with the SNP. There will be no SNP ministers in any Government I lead.’

Anyone believe him? God, how depressing he is. He needs to start mainlining Haliborange. Here in London, a beaming, chirrupy Sturgeon (can sturgeon chirrup?) said, yep, she’d be on for a ‘working relationship’ with Labour.

‘We can lock the Tories out of Government,’ she chuckled. Cheers. Whoops. Applause. Her audience, a mix of students and older wonks in the Sheikh Zayed lecture hall, squeezed knees and oozed delight.

Salvation from the voters of England (rightwing dogs) was at hand. Labour could lose the popular vote in May yet still seize power. May the Ukip moustaches be praised!

In her speech, Miss Sturgeon twice mentioned Mrs Webb (‘Beetrice’). She made some reasonably sensible suggestions about how budget day at Westminster could be changed. She only slightly gloated about her party’s electoral success.

Alex Salmond, she was not. There was none of the Salmond smirking – the way he gives an English audience that fighty leer. She played little riffs of irony. The hairdo really is astounding. Does she use the same barber as wiggy Michael Fabricant?

After flashing her majorities at Mr Miliband, she came over all modest and said of course one had to wait until after polling day, for the voters must nae be taken for granted. Yeah yeah.

Miss Sturgeon said she would not do any coalition deal with the Tories. More cheers. Delighted squeals. They were equally cheerful when she said ‘the time had come for quotas’ for female MPs.

One bloke at the back had a bit of a go at her, accusing her of ‘banging on’. Miss Sturgeon, jesting: ‘Is that a technical term?’ Bloke at the back: ‘It’s technical enough for the SNP.’

Audience: Oooh! The next questioner, a joyless bluestocking with a better idea of LSE orthodoxies, apologised to Miss Sturgeon, saying ‘that was a slightly atypical LSE question’. Clapping from the audience.

The bloke at the back (who had asked a perfectly sensible question about Scottish oil revenues) was presumably later tried and shot. I, meanwhile, am off to the bookie to put a fiver on Scotland being independent by 2018.


UK: The White Student’s Burden: PC racialism on campus

Student officials who want to protect 'the weak' undermine universalism

If you are, at any point, unsure what race or gender you are, or which way you sexually swing, go to a university debate. About anything. Doesn’t matter if you’re taking about gender relations or Gaza, sooner or later you’ll have your privilege, or lack thereof, checked for you.

Speaking on a panel in Oxford this week, as part of spiked’s ongoing Down With Campus Censorship! tour, it wasn’t long before I heard the immortal non-rebuttal: ‘Well, that’s all very well for you to say, as a white-cis-heterosexual male.’ In Edinburgh the following night, we didn’t even have to wait to go out for questions before I was reminded of both the colour of my skin and the contents of my pants by one of my white-cis-heterosexual female opponents in the course of her opening remarks. For the rest of the evening, ‘speaking as a [insert multi-hyphenate identity here]…’ was, naturally, the preface to almost every audience contribution.

Privilege-checking has become a source of mockery for students who actually retain one foot in reality. But this trend, so popular among SU bods and blue-haired pseudo-radicals, hasn’t come out of nowhere. These are the children of multiculturalism. People who, from nursery on, have been constantly reminded just how different we all are, and how we’ve been placed into our own pre-packaged boxes.

It’s a tragedy that even a discussion of something as universal, as human, as freedom is so quickly divided up along racial or sexual lines. Sure, none of us think in abstract. Our ideas are inevitably informed by our experience. But even bothering to come together and talk about these things assumes that we can reach some sort of understanding: that the best ideas, and the most cogent arguments, will win out no matter who they come from. They can appeal to the reason of all of us. The rise of this new, PC-garbed racialism on campus – the eternal, whiny chorus of ‘check your privilege’ – rubbishes this universalist spirit. On some essential level, goes this toxic logic, we can never understand one another, let alone come together to pursue common goals.

This trend is writ large in student politics today. The NUS has an executive officer for black students, disabled students and women. Most individual students’ unions also have their own equivalents. And yet there appears to be little clamour for it. Engagement in students’ union politics is at an all-time low. And the obsession with black and minority ethnic (BME) and disabled ‘representation’, in particular, seems to be much more top-down than bottom up.

At Oxford University Students’ Union (OUSU), outgoing vice-president for welfare, Chris Pike, has made instituting so-called liberation officers within the individual colleges one of his top priorities. But, even though motions have been passed to install them in various junior common rooms (JCRs), many of the places have gone unfilled. Speaking to some Oxford students after the debate this week, they told me about one college in which BME students were rounded on in order to stand for the new position. They all refused. One eventually ran a campaign promising to ‘do nothing’ in order to show up how farcical the whole affair was.

Underneath all the talk of trying to redress white privilege, beyond all the white-cis-heterosexual-male self-flagellation, is a strangely neo-colonialist dynamic. Students’ unions, run, in the main, by the white middle classes, are taking it upon themselves to look after vulnerable black students. This is made most clear in the censorious climate on campus today – the main justification for which is the alleged vulnerability of ethnic minorities. Everything from Marine Le Pen to microaggressions are clamped down on in the name of protecting them from being somehow mortally offended.

The rise of this new racialism on campus speaks to the complete collapse, not only of the Enlightenment principles of freedom and tolerance, but also what has, for hundreds of years, sprung from those values: progressive politics. Throughout history, progressive movements have looked to extend freedom to those who were otherwise denied it. From the Suffragettes to the Civil Rights Movement, it was about refusing to believe that particular groups were somehow different – too weak, too brutish or too stupid – to play a role in how society was run. According to the patronising logic rampant on campus today, Sylvia Pankhurst or Martin Luther King would never have made it out of the house, let alone changed the world.

Currently, many are celebrating the fiftieth anniversary of the Selma to Montgomery voting-rights marches. The speech MLK gave in Montgomery, Alabama, should give pause for thought to the student radicals of today: ‘We must come to see that the end we seek is a society at peace with itself, a society that can live with its conscience. And that will be a day not of the white man, not of the black man. That will be the day of man as man.’ On campuses today, this beautiful, universalist dream is far from becoming a reality.


Australia:  Radical tolerance for the Left but intolerance towards conservatives

THE intolerant Left was at it again on Wednesday, this time at the taxpayer-subsidised Univer­sity of Sydney where a group of demonstrators attempted to disrupt a lunchtime lecture by Richard Kemp on ethical dilemmas of military tactics.

Kemp, a retired British military officer and security consultant, is a former commander of British armed forces in Iraq and Afghanistan. He was the subject of a tough but fair interview by Fran Kelly on Radio National Breakfast on Wednesday before proceeding to Sydney University for a public event hosted by a couple of academics.

During his Radio National interview, Kemp supported the tactics used by the Israel Defence Forces in its recent war with Hamas-led Gaza.

Kemp’s point was that, by placing its rocket launchers and building its attack tunnels in heavily populated areas, Hamas essentially used the citizens of Gaza as human shields. Consequently, the legitimate actions of the IDF, in stopping the rockets and destroying the attack tunnels, inevitably would have the unintended consequence of killing and injuring civilians.

This was a tough-minded but valid point. No democratically elected government — whether based in London, Paris, Washington or Canberra — would do nothing while a declared enemy across a border fired rockets and planned military raids aimed at killing and kidnapping. Why should the democratically elected leaders of Israel be expected to act differently?

According to the report by Glen Falkenstein on the J-Wire website, Kemp had covered only non-state militant groups in Ireland and Afghanistan when a small group of demonstrators entered the lecture theatre. As is common with the extremes of Left and Right, demonstrators prefer slogans to argument. So this lot chanted in unison: “Richard Kemp / You can’t hide / You support genocide.”

Of course, Kemp has never advocated genocide. And he was not trying to hide. To the radical Left, however, such facts are of no moment. After all, “hide” rhymes with “genocide” and there was a lecture to disrupt.

A demonstrator, equipped with a megaphone, drowned out Kemp and the academic moderator.

Enter Jake Lynch, director of Sydney University’s Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies. He happens to be one of the leading activists in the Australian chapter of the boycott, divestment and sanctions campaign aimed at disabling the Israeli economy. Lynch was present in the audience when the attempted disruption began.

On Thursday, I engaged in correspondence with Lynch and he provided me with some brief iPhone videos of the occasion, which he had filmed. The footage indicates that protesters physic­ally resisted attempts by security to remove them.

Lynch’s iPhone video indicates that a middle-aged woman threw water at some demonstrators. A still photo of the occasion shows Lynch thrusting a $5 note in the face of a person he called the “older lady”.

Lynch advised me that he did this to warn the woman in question that he “would have no option but to sue her for assault if she carried on — which would cost her a lot of money”.

This seems highly unprofessional behaviour on the part of one of Sydney University’s associate professors with respect to a member of the public visiting the campus.

You wonder what the vice-chancellor thinks about such action on the part of one of his senior academics.

In the event, Lynch’s legal threat was of no moment.

As Lynch conceded in his correspondence with me, he “emerged without injury” from the occasion.

But not without involvement. Lynch did not object to the attempt by the left-wing radicals to disrupt Kemp’s address.

In Lynch’s words: “I took a seat at the meeting, and left it only to remonstrate with University security guards when they used force to eject the demonstrators.”

In other words, Lynch’s position is that the demonstrators should have been allowed to prevent Kemp from speaking. According to Lynch, “The security guards’ sole remit in such circumstances should be to prevent harm being done.”

I asked Lynch whether he would accept protesters attempting to disrupt speeches at his Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies by opponents of Israel such as John Pilger and Hanan Ashrawi.

His response was the familiar “that’s different” argument.

Lynch wrote to me as follows: “I would dispute the parallel with John Pilger or Hanan Ashrawi. I have never heard either of them deliver a speech that was disingenuous or deceitful in the way of the remarks by Colonel Kemp.”

This rationalisation of intolerance overlooks the fact Kemp’s speech was disrupted before he even discussed Israel or the Hamas Islamists who run Gaza.

Lynch uses his influence to run campaigns against Israel. He is the poster-boy for the Left’s dominance of so many social science departments at so many Australian universities.

Born in 1965 to members of the British Communist Party, Lynch joined the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament when the middle-class radicals who comprised the CND believed the West should disarm.

This would have left the communist dictatorship in Moscow victorious in the Cold War.

As Lynch revealed in an ABC Classic FM interview with Margaret Throsby in April 2009, he criticises all Western leaders, but always from the Left. His targets include Barack Obama, Gordon Brown and Kevin Rudd, in addition to political conservatives.

The evidence suggests that what takes place at Lynch’s centre is little more than a left-wing stack. He believes that anti-Israel demonstrators have a right to disrupt lectures provided no physical harm is caused, but does not advocate such behaviour for his own functions.

This is a manifestation of what left-wing Marxist philosopher Herbert Marcuse once advocated. Marcuse called for tolerance for the Left but “intolerance towards the self-styled conservatives”.  It’s unlikely that the student demonstrators today have heard of Marcuse, but they practise his teachings, nevertheless.


Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Bright British pupils do 50% worse if they're poor

Hmmm.  I have read the PDF of this study and am not greatly impressed.  I am perfectly sure that the overall conclusion (headline above) of the study is pretty right but I see some deficiencies in methodology and in the reasons given for the findings.

I am particularly unimpressed by the measure used to classify children as "bright".  The authors assess that by the grades in core subjects attained at the end of primary school.  But that is a product of many things -- as the report itself acknowledges -- rather than straight intelligence.  So what it tells us will necessarily be obscure.  The authors were obviously up against the current anti-intellectual horror of IQ measurement.  Nonetheless, school attainment does correlate substantially with IQ so the measure used was not entirely hopeless and did produce intelligible results.

I see the results as reflecting mainly school quality.  The authors did assess that but the measures used were, I think, distorted by political correctness.  Assessing a school as "poor" when it contains mostly minority students would cause much grinding of mental gears and the final assessment will probably therefore be dishonest to a substantial degree.  And in another bow to political correctness, the authors seem to have taken no notice of race.  The very word "race" is a no-no, of course.  Yet it is a major factor in educational attainment. In the USA, educators have been agonizing for years over the "gap" in black versus white school attainment.

So it's my suspicion that a frankly-done study would show that students who fall behind their previous levels of attainment during High School do so very largely because they are sent to  poor schools.  Poor people live in poor locations, where the schools too are poorer in various ways.  And a major reason why why schools in poor areas offer an inferior education is that poor areas are also the major location for minorities.  And middle-class parents flee as if from the plague when it comes to sending their children to schools dominated by minorities.  They know, as I suspect we all do, that minorities are harder to discipline, harder to teach and tend to drag standards down to the lowest common denominator.  A bright student sent to such a school will undoubtedly receive an inferior education.

And since I am already deep into political incorrectness, I will mention something else.  The popular category "minorities" is inadequate.  Children of subcontinental origin appear to be no great problem.  It is children of sub-Saharan African ancestry who give themselves and everyone else big problems.  Their combination of high restlessness and low IQ make them a bane on any classroom.  Where they are present in numbers, the amount taught will be minimal indeed.

So the solution to the problem of disadvantaged bright children is a lot simpler than the authors of the study below suggest:  Academic selection.  Send high IQ pupils to schools where they will be in the company of other bright students only.

So we return to the old Grammar School controversy.  Leftists hate such schools because they are "elitist" and transgress against the impossible ideal of "equality". 

But perhaps there is a middle way.  Grammar schools have a whole ethos that separates them from other State schools.  But why not have a State school that is generally indistinguishable from other State schools except that it requires success in an 11-plus exam for enrolment? Any other "solution" is pissing into the wind. 

Because I believe (and research has long shown) that IQ is the overwhelmingly main factor in educational attainment, I predict that such schools would get results as good as formal Grammar schools.

To break any mental logjams about IQ, let me refer readers to an amazing study here  -- which shows how wide is the reach of IQ.  It is the main factor in something well outside education and in a field that one would not expect -- unless one already knew how  wide is the reach of IQ into human behaviour.  Just read the first sentence under "Results".

If the Tories win the forthcoming election, academic selection may be revived to a degree but I can see no hope for poor but bright pupils otherwise.


Bright children from poor backgrounds are half as likely as their richer peers to succeed in tougher A-level subjects, a study shows.

Researchers found those from disadvantaged families were far less likely to study and score highly in English, maths, science, humanities and languages.

Pupils who do not take these so-called ‘facilitating’ subjects have less chance of obtaining a place at the prestigious Russell Group universities, which often favour them.

Researchers commissioned by the Department of Education at Oxford University also found poor children are much less likely to get three A-levels in any courses.

The wide-ranging study also showed that going to a decent nursery, reading for pleasure and attending an outstanding school can boost a disadvantaged pupil's chances of getting good results. Taking part in school trips and getting into a daily homework routine can also help them.

The research is based on data drawn from more than 3,000 young people who have been tracked from the age of three for the Effective Pre-School, Primary and Secondary Education (EPPSE) project.

Researchers found that just a third of bright but disadvantaged students took one of more A-levels facilitating subjects, compared to 58 per cent of their wealthier peers with the same academic ability.

Less than a fifth of the poor students followed gained at least a B in these subjects, compared to 41 per cent of their advantaged classmates.

The findings also show that just over 35 per cent of the sixth-formers identified as clever based on their test results at age 11 got three A-levels in any subjects, compared to 60 per cent of their high-achieving, richer peers.

An analysis of the data found that sixth-formers who did two to three hours of homework each night were nine times more likely to gain three A-levels than those who did none.

The study said: ‘Spending time on homework is likely to reflect both student motivation and engagement, study skills and independence, school policies and the priority teachers attach to encouraging students to study at home (or provide opportunities after school), as well as parental attitudes and support.’

The study concludes that encouraging reading for pleasure, educational trips, the chance to go to a good nursery and school, feedback on school work and a supportive home life can help disadvantaged youngsters to get good results.

It suggests that bright, poor students should get ‘enrichment’ vouchers, funded through the Pupil Premium - public funding for disadvantaged children - to help with educational trips, reading for pleasure and studies outside of the classroom.

 We must ensure that access to the best schools and opportunities for academic enrichment outside school are available to all students

Sir Peter Lampl, chairman of the Sutton Trust which commissioned the report, said: ‘The fact that bright disadvantaged students fall so far behind when they reach their A-levels shows that government and schools urgently need to do more to support able students from less advantaged homes.

‘We must ensure that access to the best schools and opportunities for academic enrichment outside school are available to all students. It is also vital that schools advise their students on the right subject choices at GCSE and A-level so as to maximise their potential.’

Professor Pam Sammons, co-author of the report, said: ‘There is no silver bullet that alone can make a difference but a combination of good schools and pre-schools, the right home learning environment and supportive teachers ready to monitor progress and provide good feedback can all ensure that bright but disadvantaged students get the chance of a good university education. There are important lessons here for teachers and policymakers seeking to reduce the equity gap in attainment.’


Conservatives Critique Jeb Bush’s Stance on No Child Left Behind, Common Core

As president, George W. Bush made passage of No Child Left Behind one of his first priorities. Now, his brother Jeb Bush is speaking out in favor of reauthorizing the law as he plots his own run for the White House.

“The goal of conservatives should be to limit federal intervention in education by restoring state and local control of education,” says @lindseymburke

Writing for The Washington Post, the former Florida governor blamed President Obama for failing to improve the legislation. Instead, Bush said the current administration has issued “a patchwork of waivers and side deals, given out by fiat and without consistency.”

Claiming that “most states had no accountability system” prior to No Child Left Behind, Bush said the 2002 law created “a common yardstick.”

“Now, all states participate in the National Assessment of Educational Progress, a series of high-quality tests known as the Nation’s Report Card,” Bush wrote. “The results give us an apples-to-apples comparison among states. Annual testing and reporting also force states to confront their failures, especially the substandard education often offered to disadvantaged children.”

Bush acknowledged “NCLB is far from perfect,” but said its flaws “can be fixed in the reauthorization process.” He said changes should put “local districts in control of making vital decisions about standards, curriculum and academic content.”

Reauthorization Debate in Congress

Last month, as the House prepared to vote on the law’s reauthorization, GOP leaders quietly pulled the bill after a backlash from conservative lawmakers who said the proposal didn’t go far enough in scaling back the federal government’s role in education. Senators are reportedly close to reaching a bipartisan deal on their own version of the bill.

Lindsey Burke, the Will Skillman fellow in education policy at The Heritage Foundation, said reauthorizing No Child Left Behind without significant changes would be settling for the status quo.

“If we really want states to ‘take the lead on education,’ as Gov. Bush proposed in his op-ed,” Burke told The Daily Signal, “the best option on the table for doing so isn’t a reauthorization of a 620-page No Child Left Behind rewrite.”


Burke has championed the Academic Partnerships Lead Us to Success (A-PLUS) legislation that would let states completely opt out of the programs and mandates authorized under education law. They could then direct funding to their education priorities as opposed to mandates from Washington.

“The goal of conservatives should be to limit federal intervention in education by restoring state and local control of education, not reauthorizing the nation’s largest K-12 education law in a way that codifies four decades of ineffective policy,” she said.

Burke added that Florida’s recent improvements to its own educational system are proof of what the states can accomplish when they are free from excessive intrusion from the federal government.

“Gov. Bush is correct in saying the federal government ‘should be subservient to the role of states,’” Burke said. “In order to get there, however, we need to stop the federal education spending spree, and begin eliminating the dozens upon dozens of grant programs that have accumulated at the U.S. Department of Education over the decades.”

As governor of Florida from 1999 to 2007, Bush spearheaded several education reforms in the Sunshine State, leading it to make some of the greatest education gains in the country, Burke said.

“Gov. Bush is in a good position to recognize that the best path forward is to allow states to completely free themselves from large scale federal directives like No Child Left Behind,” she said.

Conflict Over Common Core

In the op-ed, Bush also addressed the hot-button issue of Common Core education standards, which many conservatives oppose.

“We’ve seen more than 40 states voluntarily work together to create the Common Core standards for language arts and math,” Bush wrote. “I support such rigorous, state-driven academic standards. Some states would rather set their own standards, and that’s appropriate, provided they are high standards. But no matter what, no state should be forced to adopt standards mandated by the federal government.”

“Common Core grows federal intervention in education by putting federal fingerprints on the content taught in local schools across the country,” says @BrittanyLCorona

Brittany Corona, a research assistant in domestic policy studies at The Heritage Foundation, said the creators and early supporters of Common Core—Achieve Inc., National Governors Association, and Chief Council for State School Officers—had a different idea in mind. They called for federal incentives to be attached to the adoption of the standards in their 2008 report, “Benchmarking for Success.”

“From the beginning,” Corona said, “the effort has been incentivized by federal funding. Common Core can largely be described as an extension of the same failed logic of No Child Left Behind: all that’s missing in education is more centralization.”

Common Core supporters maintain there’s nothing nefarious about the standards. Michael Brickman, national policy director at the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, recently told The Daily Signal that Common Core is just a “set of goals and expectations” to standardize what students across the nation know when they graduate from high school.

“In many cases, it’s the exact things that conservatives have been calling for for a long time,” said Brickman, “mainly, a back-to-basics approach of focus on reading, writing and arithmetic.”

Brickman said everyone should know “what’s actually in the standards.”

“Let me be clear, I’ve seen some of the posts on Facebook about confusing math, I’ve seen the posts about what they don’t like about indoctrinating curriculum in schools. … They’re right. The parents who are out there concerned about those things are absolutely right. But they need to know that these things have nothing to do with Common Core.”

Brickman said that Common Core is often blamed for decisions made at the local level. He said that parents should remain engaged with their local school districts.

Heritage’s Corona, however, maintains that Common Core is the wrong approach to education reform.

“Common Core grows federal intervention in education by putting federal fingerprints on the content taught in local schools across the country,” she told The Daily Signal. “States should also ‘take the lead’ in their own standards writing and test creation, ensuring state autonomy over decisions about what is taught.”


Oklahoma's Campus Totalitarians

A video showing Oklahoma University Sigma Alpha Epsilon (SAE) fraternity members chanting racial slurs and singing about lynching has put the spotlight on the inherent conflict between First Amendment-protected speech and college speech codes begetting “zero tolerance” policies. These policies have mistakenly enshrined the “right” not to be offended.

There is little question the chant was offensive. “There will never be a n—– at SAE. There will never be a n—– at SAE. You can hang him from a tree, but he can never sign with me. There will never be a n—– at SAE,” belted out students on one of five buses chartered to take them to a Founder’s Day party at a country club in Oklahoma City two Saturdays ago.

The fraternity’s national organization conducted its own investigation and announced it was shutting down the OU chapter. “We apologize for the unacceptable and racist behavior of the individuals in the video, and we are disgusted that any member would act in such a way,” their statement reads. “Furthermore, we are embarrassed by this video and offer our empathy not only to anyone outside the organization who is offended but also to our brothers who come from a wide range of backgrounds, cultures and ethnicities.”

All well and good, but then University President David Boren crossed the line. He expelled two students identified as leaders of the chant, using the dubious rationale that has usurped the Constitution on far too many college campuses. It is the idea that offensive speech creates a hostile learning environment, and, as night follows day, such an environment engenders a “zero tolerance” policy. “I have emphasized that there is zero tolerance for this kind of threatening racist behavior at the University of Oklahoma,” said Boren. “I hope that the entire nation will join us in having zero tolerance of such racism when it raises its ugly head in other situations across our country.”

Barbara Arnwine, president and executive director of the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, claims Bowen and OU “would’ve been compelled to do something” or the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division would have gotten involved via Title VI of the Civil Rights Act. Title VI “prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, and national origin in programs and activities receiving federal financial assistance.”

Several legal scholars weighed in on the issue, and most believe the university trampled the Constitution.

“The courts are very clear that hateful, racist speech is protected by the First Amendment,” said Erwin Chemerinsky, a constitutional scholar and dean of the law school at the University of California, Irvine. UCLA constitutional expert Eugene Volokh agrees, explaining there is no constitutional exception for speech that creates the aforementioned hostile environment, nor speech that simply refers to violence absent a direct threat to an individual.

Geoffrey Stone, a professor of law at the University of Chicago, addressed the Title VI argument, noting that it is intended to combat literal discrimination, and statements by students in a private environment aren’t close to violating it. “The statements were made in the innocuous setting of a bus,” he explained, “and any disruption came from the showing of the video, not from the students' speech.”

Volokh also tackled the burden of proof issue, explaining the university might be able to discipline students involved in the frat’s admissions decisions if they can be shown to “have denied membership to people based on race, or intentionally tried to communicate to potential members that they would deny them membership that way.” And while SAE may insist that those who depart from its principles no longer use its name, and students who have engaged in the chant may pay a social and economic price for their actions in the court of public opinion, Volokh insists the government or University of Oklahoma “generally cannot add to this price, whether the offensive speech is racist, religiously bigoted, pro-revolutionary, or expressive of any other viewpoint, however repugnant it might be.”

On the other hand, the university might pay a price for expelling those students based solely on what they said. A board representing OU’s disbanded SAE chapter hired lawyer Stephen Jones, who served as Timothy McVeigh’s lead defense attorney during the Oklahoma City bombing trial, “to assist them in evaluating” their legal position, Jones revealed. He further explained he was retained “to protect the due process rights, the First Amendment rights, and the Fourteenth Amendment rights” of the fraternity’s members. The board is primarily concerned about their “physical safety,” Jones said, adding that some of them “have frankly been afraid to go to class.”

Jones outlined the parameters of a possible lawsuit, insisting the university’s response to the video was a “premature rush to judgment” that implicitly painted all fraternity members “with a tar brush” identifying them as bigots or racists.

For far too long, university campuses have been strangled by political correctness that actively promotes a stultifying conformity at best, and outright totalitarianism at worst. In his book “Unlearning Liberty,” Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) president Greg Lukianoff chronicles hundreds of examples of campuses where the need for “intellectual comfort,” an obsession to punish those who “offend,” the emergence of “free speech zones,” and student demands for “trigger warnings” for “sensitive” course materials have rendered the free and open exchange of ideas completely obsolete. Even worse, students who fail to abide by such restrictions face mandatory sensitivity training, kangaroo student courts where they are presumed guilty until proven otherwise – or, as this case and many others like it indicate, expulsion for constitutionally protected speech.

America has long abided the immortal words attributed to Voltaire: “I do not agree with what you have to say, but I’ll defend to the death your right to say it.” That is the essence of the First Amendment, and it doesn’t evaporate once one steps onto a college campus – no matter who gets offended by something as “uncomfortable” as Freedom of Speech.


Australian PM ready for poll fight on deregulation of universities

PRIME Minister Tony Abbott has reaffirmed his commitment to the government’s university reform package and planned curtailment of growth in pension spending, as well as the crackdown on local Islamist extremism foreshadowed last year.

In a wideranging exclusive interview with The Australian on Sky News yesterday that included a defence of his style of government, Mr Abbott also defended his doubts on funding remote indigenous communities.

He said his Coalition government’s resolution mattered rather than its struggle for strong support as measured in opinion polls.

The Prime Minister told editor-at-large Paul Kelly and foreign editor Greg Sheridan of The Australian that the higher-education funding reforms were very important to universities, which needed regulatory strings loosened if they were to be among the best in the world.

Asked if the fee changes might be dropped like the Medicare co-payment recently, Mr Abbott said failure of these reforms affecting taxpayer-subsidised student fee levels would impede the universities and indicated his government would be prepared to take the changes to the next election if frustrated in the Senate.

“This is a reform which has already been adjusted somewhat in the process of bringing it thus far. But the reform as adjusted is one we stand by,” he told Sky News.  “I am expecting that the Senate will see sense because just about every vice-chancellor is campaigning for this.”

The government plans to press ahead with its universities reform package in the Senate this week.

Christopher Pyne says he is “contemplating victory” for his higher education reforms, which will be decided by a Senate vote on Wednesday.

Vowing to “fight to the end” on the contentious reform package, the Education Minister said this morning that passing the legislation to deregulate the sector was critical for the university sector.

“I’m contemplating victory on Wednesday because it’s too important not to win for students and for universities and for Australia,” Mr Pyne told ABC Insiders program this morning.

“I’m never embarrassed about putting forward a good reform policy and fighting for it.  “I have never left the battlefield. I always fought right through to the end and we will fight right through to the vote,” he said.

He said there was no “credible alternative” to deregulating universities, and urged crossbench senators to embrace reform.

Mr Pyne said negotiations with the crossbench would continue early this week.  “Everything is on the table except the centrepiece of the reform which is deregulation, which is going to be good for universities and students, all the other matters are open to negotiation.”

Mr Pyne said he was “not contemplating” what would happen in the event the bill was voted down.

Labor’s deputy leader Tanya Plibersek said the opposition would work with the higher education sector to ensure adequate future funding.  “We are happy to work with the higher education system to ensure funding is adequate,” Ms Plibersek said.

Mr Abbott said just one Australian university was now ranked in the world’s top 50. “Why not try to get two in the top 20. Unless we take the dead hand of Canberra away that is going to be extremely difficult,” he said.


Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Six ways Australia’s education system is failing

The article below is written from a Leftist viewpoint but most of it is accurate.  There is some sleight of hand in discussing immigration effects, though.  Just because East Asian immigrants -- mostly clustered in certain schools like James Ruse High in NSW -- do exceptionally well, it does not mean that Middle Eastern and African students clustered in low socio-economic areas are of no concern.  Such students do indeed produce lowest-common-denominator teaching and thus drag down standards throughout the schools concerned -- to the detriment of Anglo-Australian students also there.

It is also unfair to compare Anglo-Australian students with students in Northeast Asia -- who have markedly higher IQs than we do.  They will of course do well at school but that will reflect their greater individual abilities, not the quality of the education they receive.  Australian students can only usefully be compared with students in other European-origin populations

I am also not convinced that monolingual education is a bad thing.  We already speak the international language of science and business so where is the problem? As it happens, I have some academic qualifications in three foreign languages but that mainly reflects my cultural and academic interests.  For instance, I like to watch operas and operettas performed in the original German and I have found it useful to read Karl Marx in his original German.  I have in fact been the first person to put online translations of some of old Karl's more obnoxious utterances. But there are not exactly throngs of Australian students with that aim.

Amid debates about budget cuts and the rising costs of schools and degrees, there is one debate receiving alarmingly little attention in Australia. We’re facing a slow decline in most educational standards, and few are aware just how bad the situation is getting.

These are just six of the ways that Australia’s education system is seriously failing our kids.

1. Australian teens are falling behind, as others race ahead

The Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) survey tests the skills and knowledge of 15-year-old students in more than 70 economies worldwide. And it shows that Australian 15-year-olds’ scores on reading, maths and scientific literacy have recorded statistically significant declines since 2000, while other countries have shown improvement.

Although there has been much media attention on falling international ranks, it is actually this decline in real scores that should hit the headlines. That’s because it means that students in 2000 answered substantially more questions correctly than students in 2012. The decline is equivalent to more than half a year of schooling.

Our students are falling behind: three years behind students from Shanghai in maths and 1½ years behind in reading.

In maths and science, an average Australian 15-year-old student has the problem-solving abilities equivalent to an average 12-year-old Korean pupil.

An international assessment of school years 4 and 8 shows that Australian students’ average performance is now below that of England and the USA: countries that we used to classify as educationally inferior.

The declining education standards are across all ability levels. Analysis of PISA and NAPLAN suggests that stagnation and decline are occurring among high performing students as well as low performers.

2. Declining participation in science and maths

It has been estimated that 75 per cent of the fastest growing occupations require science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) skills and knowledge.

The importance of STEM is acknowledged by industry and business. Yet there are national declines in Australian participation and attainment in these subjects. We are also among the bottom of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development’s (OECD) 34 nations on translation of education investment to innovation, which is highly dependent upon STEM.

Fewer than one in ten Australian students studied advanced maths in year 12 in 2013. In particular, there has been a collapse in girls studying maths and science.

A national gender breakdown shows that just 6.6 per cent of girls sat for advanced mathematics in 2013; that’s half the rate for boys, and represents a 23 per cent decline since 2004. In New South Wales, a tiny 1.5 per cent of girls take the trio of advanced maths, physics and chemistry.

Maths is not a requirement at senior secondary level in NSW, Victoria and Western Australia, although it is compulsory in South Australia, and to a small extent in Queensland and the Northern Territory. In NSW, the requirement for Higher School Certificate (HSC) maths or science study was removed in 2001. The national curriculum also makes no requirement for maths or science study after Year 10.

Australia is just about the only developed nation that does not make it compulsory to study maths in order to graduate from high school.

A recent report by the Productivity Commission found almost one-quarter of Australians are capable of only basic mathematics, such as counting. Many universities now have to offer basic (school level) maths and literacy development courses to support students in their study. These outcomes look extremely concerning when we review participation and achievement in maths and science internationally.

3. Australian education is monolingual

In 2013, the proportion of students studying a foreign language is at historic lows. For example in NSW, only 8 per cent studied a foreign language for their HSC, the lowest percentage ever recorded.

In NSW, the number of HSC students studying Chinese in 2014 was just 798 (635 of which were students with a Chinese background), whereas a decade ago it was almost double that number, with 1,591.

The most popular beginner language in NSW was French, with 663 HSC students taking French as a beginner in 2013. These numbers are extremely small when you consider that the total number of HSC students in NSW: more than 75,000.

These declines, which are typical of what has happened around the country, have occurred at a time when most other industrialised countries have been strengthening their students’ knowledge of other cultures and languages, in particular learning English.

English language skills are becoming a basic skill around the world. Monolingual Australians are increasingly competing for jobs with people who are just as competent in English as they are in their own native language – and possibly one or two more.

4. International and migrant students are actually raising standards, not lowering them

There are many who believe that Australian education is being held back by our multicultural composition and high proportion of migrant students. This could not be further from the truth. In the most recent PISA assessment of 15 year olds, Australian-born students’ average English literacy score was significantly lower than the average first-generation migrant students’ score, and not significantly different from foreign-born students.

The proportion of top performers was higher for foreign-born (14 per cent) and first-generation students (15 per cent) than for Australian-born students (10 per cent).

Students from Chinese, Korean and Sri Lankan backgrounds are the highest performers in the NSW HSC. The top performing selective secondary schools in NSW now have more than 80 per cent of students coming from non-English speaking backgrounds.

5. You can’t have quality education without quality teachers

The entry scores of people studying teaching in Australia are lower now than in the past. Photo: ShutterStock
While there are many factors that may contribute to teacher quality, the overall academic attainment of those entering teaching degrees is an obvious and measurable component, which has been the focus of rigorous standards in many countries.

An international benchmarking study indicates that Australia’s teacher education policies are currently falling well short of high-achieving countries where future teachers are recruited from the top 30 per cent of the age cohort.

In Australia between 1983 and 2003, the standard intake was from the top 26 per cent to 39 per cent. By 2012/2013, less than half of Year 12 students receiving offers for places in undergraduate teacher education courses had ATAR scores in the top 50 per cent of their age cohort.

Teacher education degrees also had the highest percentage of students entering with
low ATAR scores, and the proportion of teacher education entrants with an ATAR of less than 50 nearly doubled over the past three years. We cannot expect above-average education with below-average teachers.

6. Early learning participation is amongst the lowest in the developed world

While Australia has recently lifted levels of investment in early childhood education, this investment has not been reflected in high levels of early childhood participation. In Australia, just 18 per cent of three-year-olds participated in early childhood education, compared with 70 per cent on average across the OECD. In this respect, we rank at 34 out of 36 OECD and partner countries.

Australia also ranks at 22 out of 37 on the OECD league table that measures the total investment across education as a percentage of Gross Domestic Product.

While low levels of expenditure and participation curtail any system, there is more negative impact from a lack of investment in early childhood than there would be from a lack of funding further up the educational chain. Nobel prize winner James Heckmann has shown how investment in early childhood produces the greatest returns to society.


Conditioning kids to have state-approved sex

The whiff of Brave New World in consent classes for 11-year-olds.

At the beginning of Brave New World, the director of the Central London Hatchery and Conditioning Centre proudly shows a group of students into a room of sleep-learning infants. He gets a nurse to explain what’s happening. ‘We had Elementary Sex for the first 40 minutes’, she tells him. ‘But now it’s switched over to Elementary Class Consciousness.’ For Aldous Huxley, writing in 1932, the idea of state-conditioning centres and infant sex education was far-fetched and horrific - both perfectly set the scene for the nightmare vision of the future he wanted to portray.

Fast-forward to the present day and government plans for mandatory lessons in sexual consent for all children from the age of 11 raise barely an eyebrow. Announcing the proposal earlier this week, the UK education secretary Nicky Morgan argued that the sex education currently on offer does not go far enough. New sex consent classes are needed to target all children (at the moment independent schools and individual parents can opt out) and go ‘beyond the biology’ to include an even greater emphasis on relationships and an explicit discussion of the concept of consent. All of this has to take place before children are likely to become sexually active.

It seems there’s now a state-sanctioned way to have sex and conduct relationships. Parents clearly can’t be trusted to convey this officially approved method in their own homes; instead, teachers need to step in to make sure children receive all the correct messages. Kids deemed barely old enough to walk to school alone will be taught about rape. Yet the only criticism being levelled at Morgan’s proposals is that they are too little, too late.

Morgan has suggested sex consent classes are needed to keep children safe from abuse and exploitation in light of the ‘unimaginable pressures’ they face. The chief executive of the Personal, Social and Health Education (PSHE) Association, a body which advises schools and teachers on sex education, has linked the need for consent classes to the horrific child exploitation that occurred in Rotherham and Oxfordshire. Girls were routinely abused by gangs of Asian men and systematically betrayed by the social workers and police officers who should have helped them. The idea that a few classes in consent would have prevented this is either extremely naive or, worse, a way of pushing responsibility for what happened back on to the girls themselves.

In reality, Morgan is responding to broader pressure from groups such as the Sex Education Forum, which fights for ‘quality sex and relationships education’ for all young people. Last year, the National Union of Students got on board with this project and, not content with organising its own consent classes for university students, has mounted a high-profile campaign to get statutory sex and relationships education included in all party election manifestos. There are shared assumptions about the pervasive influence of pornography on children, a lack of awareness around the issues faced by LGBT people, and the existence of a dominant rape culture. Despite there being far more heat than light in the analysis of this litany of social ills, campaigners have taken their lead from successive governments that have sought solutions to every adult problem through the re-education of children.

Sexual consent classes are far more problematic than teaching kids how to make a profit in the hope they’ll become future entrepreneurs. Lessons are to focus on ‘healthy relationships’ in an ‘age appropriate’ manner; but who is to say what a healthy relationship looks like? And who, besides a parent, is in a position to judge what is age appropriate for any individual child? Writing in the Guardian, Justin Hancock (‘someone who’s experienced in this field’)  argued that consent classes are needed so that people can have ‘mutually pleasurable’ relationships. But as the popularity of Fifty Shades of Grey shows, when it comes to sex there’s no right answer to the question of what people find pleasurable.

Before children get a chance to grow up and discover sex for themselves, the state will step in and enter their heads and their bedrooms. Consent classes will teach them that relationships should proceed in a particular way and that the decision to have sex with someone should be subject to explicit and ongoing negotiations. Much as the babies in Brave New World are conditioned to reject flowers and nature, children are to be taught that when it comes to sex, passion and spontaneity are dangerous. They’ll be taught that sex without formal consent is abuse and as such, boys are potential rapists and girls are victims-in-waiting. By establishing associations between sex and rape, relationships and abuse, children will be taught to fear intimacy. Consent classes preach the need for constant vigilance and for people to monitor each other’s behaviour, even when in private. The privacy of the relationship will appear risky territory, best guarded against by citing scripts rehearsed in the public safety of the classroom.

Not that long ago, political radicals argued that schools were part of the ‘ideological state apparatus’ and that the church and state’s repressive moral instruction about sex was a means of disciplining individuals and controlling the population. Those arguing for sex consent classes today see themselves as crusaders against rape culture and the protectors of children from abuse. But allowing the state to condition children’s attitudes towards the most private area of their lives will do far more harm than good. Tomorrow’s young adults will be denied the pleasure and the pain of working things out for themselves.

Towards the end of Brave New World, the main character, Bernard, rails against the emotionless sex his education has conditioned him to expect. He tells Lenina, ‘I want to know what passion is. I want to feel something strongly.’ Let’s hope this desire for passion isn’t educated out of children before they ever get to experience it for themselves.


America-phobic Bullies Target Old Glory

Some wonder why conservatives get the impression that many leftists are not patriotic. Well, how about their belief that the ideas of nationalism and patriotism are noxious? We told you!

As you've probably heard by now, Associated Students of the University of California, Irvine voted to ban the American flag from an "inclusive" space on campus. Don't you just love loaded liberal words, such as "inclusive," which mean the opposite of what they imply? Is the American flag includable there?

The language of the bill, passed by a vote of 6-4, with two abstentions (some real courage there), asserts that flags "construct cultural mythologies and narratives that in turn charge nationalistic sentiments" and that "flags construct paradigms of conformity and sets (sic) homogenized standards for others to obtain which in this country typically are idolized as freedom, equality, and democracy."

Before proceeding, let me pause briefly to thank my parents for raising me to recognize such psychobabble for what it is and God for the discernment to filter it. This kind of thinking is amazing but is the logical extension of modern leftism.

To quote the old Ginsu knife ad, "But wait; there's more." The bill also claims that the American flag "has been flown in instances of colonialism and imperialism" and that "symbolism has negative and positive aspects that are interpreted differently by individuals." Well, what do you know? People have different interpretations? What could be more dangerous?

Now for the zinger — and where this line of thinking often ends up: "Freedom of speech, in a space that aims to be as inclusive as possible can be interpreted as hate speech."

Following the disturbing preamble, the bill includes these resolutions: "Let it be resolved that ASUCI make every effort to make the Associated Students main lobby space as inclusive as possible ... that no flag, of any nation, may be hanged on the walls of the Associate Student (sic) main lobby space ... (and) that if a decorative item is in the Associate student (sic) lobby space and issues arise, the solution will be to remove the item if there is considerable request to do so."

These are your tax dollars at work, training students to be ready for a job upon graduation — at community organizing.

After news reports of this insanity, Breitbart News spoke to a UCI student who said she had heard a member of the ASUCI discussing "the (American) flag and how it triggered people." "Trigger," she said, was the word the person used, as in "the flag triggers me." Oh, boy. She speculated that one motivation for the student bill was to prevent "illegal citizens" from feeling bad.

To their credit, UCI administrators stated that they did not endorse the bill, calling its passage a "misguided decision," and the student body's executive cabinet vetoed the bill.

But the controversy and angst over the matter continue as a group of university professors signed a letter supporting the students who attempted to ban the flag. Their rationale? They wrote, "U.S. nationalism often contributes to racism and xenophobia, and ... the paraphernalia of nationalism is in fact often used to intimidate." And: "We admire the courage of the resolution's supports amid this environment of political immaturity and threat, and support them unequivocally."

I am not sure what these pointy-heads are referring to with "political immaturity and threat," but it's obvious that — typical of leftists — they are projecting. You will notice that the intolerance, immaturity "hate" and agitation involved in this brouhaha are coming from those denouncing Old Glory, not those displaying it proudly. These malcontents said not just "nationalism" but "U.S. nationalism," and they didn't show a smidgen of concern for the free expression rights of those displaying the flag.

This is the very mentality that leads people such as President Obama to mock the notion of American exceptionalism. They have a desire to defer important national matters to international bodies, have a gross underappreciation for the U.S. Constitution and advocate open borders. They see themselves as citizens of the world, perhaps more than of the United States.

Why would you care about people flooding illegally across our borders if you are not keen on protecting America's unique system of liberty? Why would you want immigrants to be required to go through a naturalization process whereby they learn the basics of American civics in order to attain citizenship if you don't believe our system is special?

I'll tell you what is offensive and unacceptable, and that is the ongoing distortion of the language employed by these bullies to suggest that positive pride in our nation equates to fear and hatred of foreigners and racism. This is outrageously false, and only those who think that way are capable of accusing others of such warped thinking.

If you believe that the American flag is offensive and emblematic of racism and xenophobia, what's next? Are you going to suggest that we fundamentally transform the United States of America?


Teachers Speak Out Against Common Core

One of the most outrageous features of Common Core education standards is the way they pit teachers against parents. Textbooks and curricula aligned with Common Core actively discourage parental involvement in homework, and new methods for solving math problems are structured in such a way that few parents can understand them enough to help their children.

With this dynamic in place, it’s easy to think of the teachers as the bad guys, trying to separate children from their parents with ever increasing levels of control. But this is a mistake. Common Core was not designed by teachers, but rather by bureaucrats who do not understand the classroom, and many teachers are among the loudest voices of opposition, angry at the way the standards prevent them from effectively doing their jobs.

To illustrate this point, Becky Gerritson of the Wetumpka Alabama Tea Party filmed interviews with a number of teachers willing to speak out about their frustration with Common Core.

One woman, who asked not to be identified, spoke out about the negative psychological impact the increased high-stakes testing is having on children. Whereas her students formerly loved school, she now reports that they are “crying constantly.” “We’re becoming cookie cutter teachers,” she continued. “Our children are cookie cutter children.”

Carol Brown, a kindergarten teacher of 19 years, protested the way the standards force children as young as five or six to spend all day taking written tests, with no time for creative play. When she voiced her concerns publicly, she was told she had to stop or else quit her job. Unwilling to be allow herself to be gagged, she quit.

Mike Parsons, a veteran teacher in Huntsville, Alabama, spoke out about privacy and data collection concerns. “We’re starting to profile our kids,” he said. “Parents are unaware of this.”

Lisa Harris, a retired teacher from Georgia, puts her finger on why the standardization and federalization of education is a problem.“I never saw two children that were alike. They all needed individualized attention,” she said, noting the difference been equality and fairness. The quest for equality means that students are treated unfairly, not receiving the attention they need, and being forced to conform rather than pursue their own path. Applying an “equal” curriculum to a wide variety of students who each learn differently and at different paces is not fair to anyone.

Harris also noted that Common Core is not a Republican or Democrat issue. It goes beyond that, instead dividing people who understand how children learn from those in the federal government who don’t. “The problem with all of this,” Harris said, “is that it’s being controlled by bureaucrats who know nothing about education, in Washington, DC.”

It's not just individual teachers who oppose Common Core, but an increasing number of teachers unions, who were initially supportive of the standards, have come out against them after seeing the devastating effects on classrooms.


Monday, March 16, 2015

This is LONG overdue: College Brass to be Sued Personally Over Date Rape Accusations

Banzhaf finally does something really useful

 The costs to schools of dealing with allegations of date rapes and other campus sexual assaults, which may have already topped 100 million dollars, could skyrocket under plans announced this morning to sue nor only colleges, but also key academic administrators, for violating the constitutional rights of accused students.

The plans – and an explanation about how and why conducting expulsion hearings which do not permit accused students to cross examine accusers and others violates their right to Due Process under the U.S. Constitution – were revealed by public interest law professor John Banzhaf.

The controversial professor, “The Man Behind the Ban on Cigarette Commercials,” and “a Driving Force Behind the Lawsuits That Have Cost Tobacco Companies Billions of Dollars,” has also been called an “Entrepreneur of Litigation, [and] a Trial Lawyer’s Trial Lawyer.”

That’s because he helped develop and popularize many novel legal theories in addition of those related to tobacco. These include victories against food companies over the issue of fat (“The Man Big Tobacco and Now Fast Food Love to Hate,” and the lawyer “Who’s Leading the Battle Against Big Fat”), a leading Supreme Court decision protecting the environment, several novel law suits attacking governmental corruption, and over 100 successful legal actions protecting women from sex discrimination.

On this basis he announced at a press conference this morning at the National Press Club that “nobody can accuse me of being anti-woman, a men’s-rightist, or even a diehard conservative or libertarian.”

According to Prof Banzhaf, state schools considering dismissal of students charged with date rape or other sexual assaults must provide them with Due Process by assuring them of various procedural protections, including the right to cross examine adverse witnesses.

These fundamental rights cannot be taken away or abridged by the university, by any federal agency, or even by Congress, because they grow out of a constitutional principle and formula established by the U.S. Supreme Court. Moreover, entities and individuals – such as college presidents – who violate these rights can be sued in federal court, not only for monetary damages, but also for attorney fees.

The Supreme Court rule and formula provides that when people face serious losses based upon the finding of specific individual facts – whether that’s a loss of benefits, or of a job, or the loss of student status – the entity making the decision must adopt any procedural protection likely to help prevent an unfair loss of the benefit, unless it’s too expensive or otherwise too burdensome to do so.

Thus, in date rape situations, where there’s often no other evidence but his word against her’s, the accused must be able to use what Wigmore famously called “the greatest legal engine ever invented for the discovery of truth,” cross examination.

In other words, the right to be able to cross examine is most vital when the only two witnesses to an event tell diametrically opposed versions of the same event – which is typical in date rape cases.

For example, in a case known as Donahue v, Baker, 976 F.Supp. 136 (N.D. NY. 1997), a rape charge against a male student hinged solely on whether a female had consented to the act of sexual intercourse which both agreed had taken place.

The federal court held that the accused had a constitutional right to cross-examine the complainant because the only evidence that the act had not been consented to was her testimony, and the determination of guilt or innocence therefore rested solely on her credibility.

This fundamental principle has also been recognized by several federal courts of appeals.

For example, in Winnick v. Manning, 460 F.2d 545 (2d Cir. Conn. 1972), the court said: “if this case had resolved itself into a problem of credibility, cross examination of witnesses might have been essential to a fair hearing.”

This principles was echoed only a few years ago in Flaim v. Med. College of Ohio, 418 F.3d 629 (6th Cir. Ohio 2005) where the appellate judges quoted from exactly the same statement of the law.

Several lower federal courts have also reached the same conclusion.

It’s unfortunate but true that universities often react more quickly and effectively to legal and other pressures than to fairness, reason, or logic, says Banzhaf. For too long they failed to act decisively to complaints of rape because of pressure from coaches and big donors, and concerns about their reputations.

Then they overreacted to legal threats from the federal government to begin expelling students accused of rape, even if they has to scrap most procedures providing fairness, Banzhaf argues.

So, to help counter, or counterbalance, this pressure from the federal government, Banzhaf said he planned to work with others to put college president and other administrators on notice that they must begin providing students facing dismissal for date rape the fundamental procedural protections required by the Due Process clause of the United States Constitution, or face potential legal liability.

If they refuse, he plans to help attorneys representing the student to “SUE THE BASTARDS” – with law suits being brought not only against the school, but also its responsible administrators.

They must understand that being sued in one’s individual capacity is very unpleasant and taxing, even if the university promises to reimburse the administrator for any adverse judgments.

Being named as a defendant in a law suit can affect a person’s credit rating where the notation can remain for many years, regardless of the outcome of the litigation.

Many such individuals may also find it necessary to hire their own attorneys, not completely trusting that university lawyers will give their interests the same priority as their employer’s.

Finally, they may have to submit to pre-trial discovery.

So, to protect both their own interests, as well as the interests of their college or university, Banzhaf and his colleagues hope they will reexamine their institution’s procedures for deciding cases of date rape claims to be sure that they provide the accused with all the Due Process to which he is entitled.

Otherwise, like the tobacco companies and food companies and many others who believed they could never be held liable, they may be surprised when plaintiffs’ lawyers “Sue The Bastards.”


Lazy for a living: Why some millennials never need to work again

My grandparents were a part of the “greatest generation” and my parents’ generation ushered in the modern technological era, but it’s my generation—popularly referred to as the “Millennials”— that will bear the distinct mark of being the first group of Americans that never had to work, struggle, or strive to engage in any activities except those we personally enjoy.

Never before in human history has a group of people been given the astounding opportunities Millennials experience today. Many of us were born in the richest nation of the world, blessed with endless streams of knowledge thanks to the development of the Internet. We haven’t been drafted into a major world war, the vast majority of us have access to quality medical care, and more of us today are college educated than at any other time in America’s past.

But despite the numerous opportunities presented to Millennials, my generation also has the ability to choose to reject traditional nine-to-five work due to decades of policy changes and an unprecedented effort to redistribute American wealth. A savvy Millennial with a desire to avoid work at all costs can navigate the government’s bureaucracy, and without breaking a single law, can live the rest of his or her life without paying for anything.

“Of course you could live off of government services,” you’re thinking, “but who wants to live in a perpetual state of poverty?” That’s the insanity of the system. You no longer have to be poor to receive government services. All you need to do is go to graduate school.

When a student is enrolled in an undergraduate program, the student may only borrow a total of $31,000 for costs. The remainder of the costs must be paid by private student loans or by a parent’s federal student loans. If a student doesn’t have parents who are eligible to borrow, the federal government allows a student to borrow up to $57,500 for expenses.

Students are not required to pay any federal loans back while enrolled in school, and loans can be used to pay for living costs, including food, housing, and other necessary expenses.

The aggregate limits placed on federal undergraduate student loans prevent students from attending an undergraduate program forever, and most students’ parents are required to loan a portion of the expenses themselves, which also prevents endless borrowing by students.

All graduate students, however, are treated as though they are independent students, regardless of whether or not they still live with or rely on their parents. All graduate students are also eligible to borrow as much money as they need to cover a program’s “cost of attendance,” which includes money for necessary living expenses. Although each graduate program is responsible for determining how much loan money students are eligible to receive for living expenses, many programs allow students to borrow up to $20,000 per year on top of the cost of tuition and fees.

Because there are no set annual or aggregate borrowing limits for graduate students, they can continue to borrow loans from the federal government for as long as they want so long as they remain in some graduate school program. There are no limits to the number of graduate programs an individual can enroll in over a lifetime, and like federal undergraduate loans, graduate students do not have to pay their loans back until they are no longer enrolled at least half-time. This means graduate students are eligible to go to school forever without having to pay any of their own money.

While a student is enrolled and his or her loans are in deferment, which means the student is not required to make payments, interest continues to accrue. At some point, a student may want to leave school, and if the student has $500,000 of debt from 15 years of higher education, it would have been impossible in the past to survive without restructuring debt through the legal system. Fortunately for the lazy Millennial, the government has created loan repayment programs that make paying loans back easy or entirely unnecessary.

Federal income-based repayment plans, which are ordinarily only available to those with high levels of debt, allow students to make payments based on income. As a student earns more money, the payments get higher. If a student earns no money, however, the student is required to pay nothing.

This, of course, doesn’t mean debt disappears. Debt continues to accrue interest until it’s paid off, so surely this means a student will eventually have to pay back the loans, right? Wrong.

Any student’s federal graduate school loans, as well as qualifying federal undergraduate loans, are forgiven after 25 years of being in repayment, even if a student is using a federal income-based repayment plan and has never actually paid a dollar towards his or her education.

Meanwhile, an individual remains eligible for all other government services, including food stamps, free government cell phones, and Medicaid, even if a student is loaning out $20,000 per year or more for living expenses while enrolled in graduate school.

Loopholes like this one is just one example of many ways Millennials are able to live off of government services without actually having to deal with many of the problems normally associated with poverty. Programs like those mentioned above are well-intentioned, but the end result could be billions of wasted dollars that never get repaid and a 2008-like economic crash sparked by a popping student loan bubble.

It’s time to wake up America.


West Virginia House Passes Common Core Repeal Bill

The West Virginia House of Delegates voted to repeal Common Core standards on February 28, passing a repeal bill by a 74-19 vote.

“‘We can do better’ [than Common Core] is a constant refrain from parents, teachers, and legislators,” said Jim Shaffer, executive director of the Public Policy Foundation of West Virginia.

Shaffer said many West Virginians who oppose Common Core feel ignored by the state Department of Education.

“There's a real sense that the Department of Education in West Virginia is not listening,” he said. “West Virginia should exceed Common Core. We reject the idea of federal standards.”

Brittany Corona, a domestic policy researcher at The Heritage Foundation, said the bill also reflects pushback against the testing regimes developed by Common Core-aligned testing companies such as Smarter Balanced.

“Those are really the tentacles that are strapping in a lot of states right now,” Corona said of the testing consortia aligned with Common Core.

“This is the latest of many different measures of pushback across the nation,” Corona said. “It's ultimately parents and local leadership that are pushing back against Common Core. Every child is unique and has their own needs. The people who best understand those needs are those closest to the students, namely parents and local leadership.

State Senate Education Committee Chairman Dave Sypolt (R-Preston) sent a corresponding bill to a subcommittee. The subcommittee will study the bill and report to the full committee in the near future.

“Common Core is not something that came out of nowhere,” Corona said. “It is largely an extension of the same flawed logic we've seen since the '60s. It's further centralization of education. Two of the bigger and more beautiful things about the pushback against Common Core is that it is mostly parent-driven and is allowing states to be innovators in their own right. They are coming up with their own ways to push back, whether by executive order as in Louisiana or a legislative measure like in West Virginia.”


My public school had a real social mix, but now only the mega-rich can afford the fees

UKIP leader Nigel Farage reports from Britain:

As I neared the end of my time in the early 1980s at Dulwich College, the south London public school, I was told by my Careers’ Master that I should aim for a job as an auctioneer.

J. G. Dewes – a former English cricketer who opened the batting for Middlesex in 1947 and for England against Australia in 1951 – must have spotted that I was quite ballsy, probably good on a platform, unafraid of the limelight, a bit noisy and good at selling things. All of those traits were identified, nurtured and promoted at Dulwich College. I owe that school an enormous debt.

It looked and felt like one of the great classical public-school institutions such as Westminster School or Eton College. But Dulwich was different. During the 1940s, under a Labour government, the college began a scheme called 'the Dulwich Experiment’.

The scheme was devised to educate able children from poor backgrounds, where their school fees would be met by the local authorities. My first impression of the Dulwich Experiment hit me in my first full year at the school in 1975. The social mix was quite extraordinary. There were boys like me – white, middle-class, whose fathers worked in the City – but there was also a huge number of boys who had won scholarships and bursaries covered by the local authorities.

It wasn’t just the ethnic mix. Because Dulwich is a south London school with very few boarders, unlike most public schools, it attracted boys from all over London and parts of the south-east.

I remember my first class quite vividly. Sitting on one side of me was the son of the chief executive of a global company, who was enormously rich. They had a huge house in Farnborough Park in Kent, with staff. On the other side of me was a boy who would become a good friend and whose father was a coal merchant in Penge, also in south-east London.

Exactly twenty-five years after me, my eldest son went there. It was in many ways even better for him. The quality of the teaching was much higher – in my day a number of the teachers were terribly good old chaps and they had had a good war, but were hardly cutting-edge teachers.

There is another vital difference. When my son was there, the social mix was entirely different from my day. When Sam reached the sixth form, he was the boy who came from the poorest family by far. When I was at Dulwich, rich families had holiday homes in Salcombe or Cornwall. When Sam was there, rich families had holiday homes with yachts in St Lucia. The change reflected how the professional rich – the lawyers, fund managers and accountants – had become massively, massively richer over the last twenty-five years.

And there was no boy in Sam’s year whose father was a coal merchant in Penge because successive governments, after I left, began to take away the local authority grants to pay for able, poor kids to go to Dulwich. The college did try to build its scholarship system up, but could not get the numbers to the previous scale because of the cost. In reality, Dulwich just could not match the sheer volume of money that was coming from the government. Now, the government spends the same amount of money to send kids to schools where they achieve far less of their true potential.

The grants system started to go under the Tories but Labour did nothing to fight for it either. What I see in the comparative experiences of the school for me and Sam, I see replicated in what happened to British society over the last twenty-five years – a shocking widening of the class system, where the rich have got a lot richer and the poor are robbed of opportunity to attain their best. As a country we are underselling ourselves.

Dulwich also taught me how to mix with people. I can genuinely go up to anyone and have a conversation with them regardless of their background. To be fair, the City also helped with that. I look at other politicians and see how awkward they are around people they don’t know. The likes of Cameron and Clegg have only ever mixed with a very narrow social stratum of society. I think that is also why people find it difficult to pinhole me – am I posh or not? They just don’t know.

Having the benefit of a Dulwich schooling really helped form my views on education. Getting rid of the grammar school system was a wicked thing to do; selective schools help kids from poor backgrounds achieve higher levels of attainment. For decades, the grammar school was one of the most effective vehicles of getting poor children out of poverty and making something of themselves.

The lack of a state system of selective schools has created a terrible apartheid of those given opportunity and those who only get opportunities if they are extremely lucky.

I remember visiting Dulwich just after the 2010 European elections. My old headmaster – David Emms – was there. He had long taken the view when I was at school that I was bloody-minded and difficult. He always saw that I was a wind-up merchant and wrote in my leavers’ report that the school would never be quite the same without me, in an 'upside-down sort of way’.

But he also told me often that he had tremendous confidence in me. That day, visiting the school twenty-five years later, he told me he had voted for me in the 2010 European elections. That meant a lot.