Friday, April 10, 2015

Enjoyment of school is highly heritable

A huge and fascinating article below but it is greatly regrettable that the authors failed to control for an obvious confounder -- IQ.  I reproduce only the abstract below but I have read the whole article and I can see no mention of IQ in it at all.  Yet it seems to me that we have here a clear case of double counting.  It is highly likely that dull kids find school a trial and that smart kids find it a breeze, not only being easy but producing praise from teachers and others.  Many teachers smiled on me in my schooldays.

So are we just measuring IQ below?  Impossible to be certain but highly likely, I think.  I suspect that the authors have simply found that smart kids enjoy school more.  Which is much less surprising than their findings initially appear.  Try alternative explanations for the findings.  I can't think of any.  

With all the data that the authors must have had, it is strange  that IQ was not controlled for. Why did they not?  They DID control for social class, which it is often too politically incorrect to mention, so why not IQ?  Perhaps that was a step too far in what they felt free to mention. 

I have myself had a considerable number of articles published in the academic journal concerned so it vexes me that the current editor has put out an article with such a large and unacknowledged hole in it. There is a layman's version of the article here

Why children differ in motivation to learn: Insights from over 13,000 twins from 6 countries

Yulia Kovasa et al.


Little is known about why people differ in their levels of academic motivation. This study explored the etiology of individual differences in enjoyment and self-perceived ability for several school subjects in nearly 13,000 twins aged 9–16 from 6 countries. The results showed a striking consistency across ages, school subjects, and cultures. Contrary to common belief, enjoyment of learning and children’s perceptions of their competence were no less heritable than cognitive ability. Genetic factors explained approximately 40% of the variance and all of the observed twins’ similarity in academic motivation. Shared environmental factors, such as home or classroom, did not contribute to the twin’s similarity in academic motivation. Environmental influences stemmed entirely from individual specific experiences.


Senators Demand Education Reform

Sen. Grassley wants to keep the federal government out of the classroom

Education is - both traditionally and constitutionally - a local issue. Yet for many years, the federal government through the Department of Education has been bullying states into taking certain actions. For example, the adoption of common standards and testing requirements, in exchange for grants or waivers. As long as these incentives are in place, it is very difficult for states to independently and meaningfully repeal Common Core, as we saw with Indiana’s faux-repeal that was actually just a rebranding of the standards.

This is a problem. States and municipalities need the flexibility to design their own standards, curricula, and tests to meet the needs of local parents, students, and teachers. Fortunately, there are those in the U.S. Senate who recognize this.

Earlier this year, Senator Roberts and Senator Crapo each introduced bills to stop the federal government from incentivizing the states to adopt common education policies. FreedomWorks issued letters of support for both those bills, and while the chances of them passing as independent legislation is slim, they provide a good model for language to be included in any reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, in its latest incarnation popularly known as No Child Left Behind.

Last week, Senator Chuck Grassley has authored a letter expressing the same sentiment. This letter demands that any reauthorization of No Child Left Behind include language forbidding the Department of Education from incentivizing states to adopt federal standards. This is essential if we are to return autonomy in education to state governments and kick the feds out of the classroom. Rep. Steve King has authored similar language on the House side.

At this point, the people who will ultimately decide whether to include this language in an appropriations bill are the members of the Subcommittees on Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education in the House and Senate.

We’re going to keep an eye on this and provide any updates necessary to ensure that we get real education reform this year, and no reauthorization of No Child Left Behind without the Grassley/King language included.


Opposition to Common Core a Bipartisan Issue

Common Core education standards are such bad policy that they have done what many thought impossible - brought Democrats and Republicans together.

Last week, two Washington State Senators hosted a legislative meeting to discuss what can be done to remove the standards from Washington schools. Sen. Maralyn Chase, a Democrat, and Sen. Pam Roach, a Republican, were able to put aside their political differences and work together for the sake of protecting the interests of children across the state.

“Someone has to stand up for the kids,” said Roach. “Washington’s constitution specifies that providing for basic education is the Legislature’s top priority. As a parent and grandparent I know ‘providing’ for children means more than money. Providing for education also must be about more than money.”

“Common Core is uniting liberals and conservatives like no issue I have seen,” said Chase.

Part of this pushback is a response the Washington State Supreme Court, which has essentially threatened to hold legislators in contempt over an issue of school funding.

“Lawmakers set the policies that guide how education dollars are spent. Common Core does not make the best use of those dollars,” Roach said.

“Our state fell victim to the ‘testing-industrial complex.’ Now it is up to us to defend the children by withdrawing from Common Core,” said Chase.

The two senators are cosponsors of a bill that would remove Common Core standards from Washington and require the state to return to earlier standards that did not place so much emphasis on standardized testing. While the chances of their bill advancing this year are slim, given Washington’s political climate, the lawmakers are looking forward to 2016 when presidential politics are likely to make Common Core a key issue.

The event included presentations from educators, activists, education policy experts, and was moderated by Dora Taylor, of the League of Women Voters Education Committee.


Thursday, April 09, 2015

UK: Faith school fears as union says teachers must promote gay lifestyle: Leaders call for 'positive portrayal of same sex relationships' to be made 'compulsory'

Schools should be forced to promote gay relationships in sex education lessons, union leaders say.

The National Union of Teachers has called for a ‘positive portrayal of same sex relationships’ in lessons to be made ‘compulsory’ under the next government.

It said MPs had a duty to tackle ‘homophobia, biphobia and transphobia’ in schools and create a ‘positive climate of understanding about sexuality’.

But critics accused the NUT of ‘thought control’ and said the ‘intolerant’ proposals risked ‘oversexualising’ children at a young age.

Meanwhile, Christian groups warned it would compel teachers at faith schools to act against their beliefs.

However, the union said the changes were needed to tackle prejudice which was ‘still strongly prevalent in our schools’.

Simon Calvert of the Christian Institute said: ‘This motion is itself an act of intolerance towards mainstream Christians and their beliefs. It would force Christian teachers to have to choose between their faith and their job.

‘I wonder whether Christian members of the NUT who have paid their dues can expect any help from the NUT when their jobs are on the line.’

He added that Church schools already teach ‘love and tolerance’ of others without having to explicitly approve of same sex relationships.

The proposal was contained in a motion on lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) rights passed by the NUT at its annual conference in Harrogate yesterday.

It stated: ‘Conference instructs the executive to call upon the present and future government to … make it compulsory that all schools’ sex education policies include a positive portrayal of same sex relationships.’

The NUT said only 10 per cent of LGBT teachers felt confident to be ‘out’ to students.

Other proposals included promoting LGBT History Month – which celebrates gay and transgender rights movements – in every school.

The motion also advocated supporting transgender students and staff ‘while transitioning and after’.

Christine Blower, NUT General Secretary, said: ‘We need education policy that develops curriculum for children and young people that supports the democratic values of a diverse Britain – including LGBT equality.’

The law would also see teachers at Muslim and Jewish schools compelled to promote gay marriage and other issues that go against their beliefs.

The proposal comes amid a row over the government’s new requirement for schools to teach ‘fundamental British values’, which include tolerance of other faiths and lifestyles.

Christian schools have complained they were branded ‘intolerant’ and marked down by Ofsted after children were asked about gays and lesbians.

Durham Free School is set to close after inspectors branded it an educational failure and said some children displayed ‘discriminatory’ views towards people of other faiths.

Meanwhile, Grindon Hall Christian School in Sunderland was put in special measures after failing to meet Ofsted’s British values criteria. Inspectors were said to have asked pupils if they knew what lesbians ‘did’ and if any of their friends felt trapped in the ‘wrong body’.

The drive was formed in response to the Trojan Horse scandal in which Muslim hardliners allegedly tried to impose an Islamic agenda on schools in Birmingham.

The NUT motion renewed fears teachers would be required to go beyond their remit in tackling such a sensitive subject.

Andrea Williams from Christian Concern said: ‘This kind of policy is dangerous for our children who are being oversexualised at a very young age.

‘They are being introduced to concepts and having normalised same sex relationships which robs them of their innocence and is not good for their emotional and moral wellbeing.’

Chris McGovern, of the Campaign for Real Education, said: ‘The rights of groups who oppose gay marriage on sincere religious grounds should be respected as much as those who support gay marriage. Thought control should not be promoted by the NUT.’

A Church of England spokesman said it is ‘fully committed to sex and relationship education that allows room for exploration and discussion of relationships, within a framework of Christian values’.

Sex and relationships education is mandatory for pupils at council-run secondary schools. It is also compulsory for children aged between five and 14 at council-run schools to learn about sex as part of the science curriculum.


Free nursery places 'make no academic difference'

£800m has been spent annually on free places for three-year-olds since 1998. Researchers say the main benefit has been to make childcare cheaper for families with young children.

They conclude that while the policy may have encouraged more mothers to return to work, there was no long term effect on children's academic development.

The studies were carried out by the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) and Essex and Sussex universities.

Since 1998 all three and four-year-olds in England have been entitled to 12.5 free hours of early education a week. This has now been expanded to cover disadvantaged two-year-olds, and raised to 15 hours a week.

The hope was to achieve a "double-dividend" - improving children's school readiness and their mothers' employment prospects, the researchers said.

The studies show that between 1999 and 2007, there was a 50% increase in the proportion of three-year-olds in England benefiting from a free nursery place, rising from 37% to 88%.
The policy lead to a 2% increase in the proportion of mothers in paid work, the researchers found.

Among those who did not also have another child under the age of three, there was a 3% increase in the numbers in jobs.

The studies go on to say that overall, the increase in free places improved the results of English children at the age of five by two percentage points on average.

Although there is modest evidence that free places had more impact on poorer children and those learning English as a second language, there is no evidence that it helped disadvantaged youngsters to catch up, the researchers conclude

They also found no evidence of educational benefit at the age of seven and at 11.

Jo Blanden, of Surrey University, said that "on the face of it", the results seemed to question whether the policy had proved to be value for money.  "More than 80% of the children taking up free places would probably have gone to nursery anyway," she said. "And children's test scores do not seem to be any higher in the longer term as a result of the policy."

"In fact the main benefit of the policy seems to have been to make childcare cheaper for families with three-year-olds.  "It is tempting to say that the money would have been better spent on the poorest children.

"However, the policy's universalism may have benefits if it encourages greater take-up of provision among children from more disadvantaged backgrounds or if it mixes children from different backgrounds in the same early education settings."


UK: 80 leading headteachers warn of Ed's U-turn on school reforms: Chiefs use letter to say there is clear evidence academy-style system [charters] is benefiting children

The heads of some of Britain’s best state schools today warn of the dangers of a Labour government reversing radical education reforms.

In a letter to the Daily Mail, 80 current and former leaders say there is clear evidence that academy-style freedoms are benefiting a generation of children.

But they say Labour – and some senior Lib Dems – appear to be threatening to reimpose state controls.

The letter, signed by the heads of good and outstanding autonomous schools, was backed yesterday by David Cameron.

In it, they claim there is evidence that the most successful education systems benefit from schools with academy-style freedoms.

They say such schools are more likely to be ranked ‘outstanding’ by Ofsted and more likely to improve.

‘Secondary schools which have converted to academy status outperform other schools – by a margin of almost 10 per cent,’ they wrote.

But the heads expressed alarm at comments by Ed Miliband that Labour would reimpose ‘a proper local authority framework for all schools’.

Senior Lib Dems were also accused of suggesting they no longer support freedom for acdemies, which are able to control pay, conditions and the curriculum.

‘This is not the time to stop something that is working to the benefit of so many children in schools,’ wrote the heads.

Schools on the letter include Torquay Boys’ Grammar School, ranked in the top 100 for GCSE results this year. United Westminster Schools in London is also on the list, and includes Grey Coat Hospital – where Mr Cameron’s daughter Nancy starts this year.

Tom Clark, chairman of Freedom and Autonomy for Schools National Association, which organised the letter, added: ‘Our only concern is that the autonomy which has worked well for pupils stays in place.’

Mr Cameron said yesterday: ‘Ed Miliband would put all this at risk.’

As the General Election campaign turned to education yesterday, the Prime Minister also attacked Labour yesterday for opposing the expansion of free schools – which are run by groups such as teachers, parents and charities and are outside of local authority control. He said the opposition’s antipathy appeared to be based on a concern that ‘if we set up a good new school, everyone will want to go there’.

‘Yes – that’s the whole point,’ he told the Mail. ‘How can you possibly be against an excellent school setting up another excellent school?’

He accused Labour of being ‘anti free schools’ for suggesting it wants to scrap the scheme. ‘It’s that mindset that says choice, freedom, responsibility, aspiration – that these are things to worry about rather than celebrate,’ he added.

The education reforms, masterminded by Michael Gove, have been hailed by Mr Cameron as the most important ‘for a generation’.


Wednesday, April 08, 2015

Why Are US Colleges So Afraid of Letting Students Speak Freely?

“Congress shall make no law abridging the freedom of speech.” The words of the First Amendment couldn’t be plainer. Yet more than two centuries after the Bill of Rights was written, they remain the subject of fierce debate.

Actually, I should amend that (no pun intended). These words would be the subject of debate—if debate were permitted. But these days, apparently, we’re all so thin-skinned that we can’t bear to hear an opinion that challenges our worldview.

This is even true, ironically, at our institutions of higher learning. Some colleges are far more interested in swaddling their students in a protective bubble than in teaching free speech.

Consider what happened to Omar Mahmood. The University of Michigan student last year wrote a satirical piece for the campus newspaper, The Michigan Daily, listing the ways that the pervading culture of right-handedness victimizes left-handed people.

“The biggest obstacle to equality today is our barbaric attitude toward people of left-handydnyss [sic],” he wrote. “It’s a tragedy that I, a member of the left-handed community, had little to no idea of the atrocious persecution that we are dealt every day by institutions that are deeply embedded in society.”

Anyone familiar with the political correctness that pervades so much of society will recognize what Mahmood was lampooning. The victim mentality is particularly acute on many campuses, with professors nursing and even inflaming cultural conflicts on every level, leaving everyone walking around on eggshells.

In such an environment, Mahmood’s column could have served a valuable purpose. An actual debate—imagine!—could have ensued.

But no. The Daily’s editors couldn’t risk damaging the precious little psyches of his fellow students with anything as retrograde as a dissenting point of view. Mahmood had created a “hostile environment” for those hothouse flowers, he was told. Why, an unidentified staffer “felt threatened” by his column. Somebody pass the smelling salts.

Mahmood’s apartment was vandalized. He was fired from the Daily, of course.

Unfortunately, this isn’t an isolated incident. Hardly a week goes by without news about one campus or another preventing unpopular views from being expressed. According to the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), which tracks such violations, most U.S. colleges are guilty.

“This isn’t just an American problem,” Jim DeMint, president of The Heritage Foundation, noted in a lecture at Yale University. “Academia spans nations, and its diseases can swim across oceans.” Thus, for example, Oxford University canceled a pro-con debate about abortion “because, apparently, men aren’t allowed to have opinions on such things anymore.” Even the pro-abortion debater found that ridiculous.

More and more, this is our world. We don’t debate, we demonize. The New York Times Magazine documented this trend in a chilling article titled “How One Stupid Tweet Blew Up Justine Sacco’s Life.” It showed how Sacco and others have lost jobs, endured vicious threats and been forced into hiding for daring to make ill-conceived jokes or off-the-cuff remarks that others found offensive.

Part of the problem, surely, is rooted in basic ignorance of American history and our founding documents. That’s why I opened by quoting the First Amendment. It may strike some readers as too basic to even mention, but numerous surveys show an alarming degree of ignorance and illiteracy.

Heck, you don’t even need a survey. Jimmy Kimmel and other late-night comics often mine this ignorance for laughs with their man-on-the-street interviews.

But there’s nothing funny about the underlying cause. Or with its effect: a society where political correctness makes debate impossible and only those who express the “accepted” opinion are permitted to speak.

“You don’t communicate with anyone purely on the rational facts or ethics of an issue,” wrote Saul Alinsky in “Rules for Radicals,” the bible of the so-called progressive left. “Pick a target, freeze it, personalize it, and popularize it.”

Personally, I’ll stick with the First Amendment.


UK: More than 40% of new teachers leave profession within first 12 months: Excessive workload blamed as number who quit triples in six years

Almost half of new teachers leave the profession in their first year because of an excessive workload, say union leaders. The number has tripled in six years, according to an analysis of figures by the Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL).

They said many young trainee teachers were deciding not to take up posts because they realised ‘what teaching had become’ when on their work placements.

The most recent statistics show that in 2011, around 10,800 newly-qualified teachers did not take up a teaching post – up from 3,600 in 2005.

Around 40 per cent of newly-qualified teachers were not in the classroom after a year in 2011 – compared to 20 per cent in 2005.

Mary Bousted, the ATL’s general secretary, told the union’s annual conference in Liverpool yesterday that an increased workload and bureaucracy had made teaching an unappealing profession.

She said: ‘How is it at the end of the coalition’s term in office that not only are record numbers of teachers leaving the profession mid-career, but there is also a crisis of teacher supply?

‘This crisis is happening right at the very start of teachers’ careers. Teachers are leaving in their first year, or not starting teaching when they have completed their training.’

Miss Bousted described teaching as being ‘incompatible with a normal life’ because it is ‘monitored to within an inch of its life’ due to the demands of heads keen to impress Ofsted inspectors.

She said the latest figures represented a ‘dismal retention rate’ and meant thousands of qualified teachers never even entered the profession.

She added: ‘Why are we losing the next generation of teachers – that new blood for the profession which should be bright-eyed and bushy tailed, full of promise and ambition?

‘Is it, I wonder, because trainee and newly qualified teachers see very early on just what teaching has become and decide that they do not want to be a part of it?

‘Is it that they learn as they work with exhausted and stressed colleagues that teaching has become a profession which is incompatible with a normal life?’

She added that teaching had become a profession ‘monitored to within an inch of its life’ because of the stringent demands of heads keen to impress Ofsted inspectors.

She said: ‘Is it in any way surprising that trainee and newly qualified teachers make the decision to make use of their talents and abilities in a different profession?

‘It is sad – but true – that students and NQs are being told by the teachers they meet during training that with current workload, inspection and pay, this is no career to enter.’

It comes after the union criticised education secretary Nicky Morgan’s efforts to tackle teachers’ workload as ‘a major PR exercise’ with ‘no significant policy response’.

Mrs Morgan pledged last year to help reduce teachers’ workloads, and included a promise not to make alterations to qualifications in the academic year or during a course unless in ‘exceptional circumstances’.

The measures followed a survey launched by Mrs Morgan last October called the Workload Challenge survey, which generated 44,000 returns.

The Department for Education said: ‘More than 44,000 teachers responded to the Workload Challenge, an unprecedented effort by the government to engage with the profession and understand their concerns.  ‘As a result we have made a series of public commitments setting out how those challenges will be addressed.

'Today, as we promised to do, we have published a protocol introducing among other things a minimum lead in time of one year for significant changes to accountability systems, qualifications or the curriculum.

'This will ensure schools can be better prepared to deliver new policy and achieve what we all want – the best education for our children.’


British teachers set to call for schoolchildren aged up to seven to be given classroom time for play – because they're not ready for reading, writing and maths

Teachers are set to call for 'play in the curriculum' for schoolchildren up to seven as this is more suitable than educating them in a formal way.

Many children are not ready to sit down and do reading, writing and maths when they start school at the age of four or five, according to the National Union of Teachers (NUT).

At its annual conference in Harrogate, it will say schools should follow the lead of countries like Finland and introduce 45-minute lessons immediately followed by 15-minute play times.

It is also likely to say lunch and break times are being used for 'coaching and cramming', depriving youngsters of their 'fundamental human right to play' with their classmates.

A resolution due to be put forward at the conference says: 'Primary schools are now being driven more and more towards a test and accountability culture which in turn makes them drive children of primary age to be educated in a formal way.'

It goes on to suggest learning through play is known to help youngsters develop vital communication and social skills and that 'over-formalisation of learning can cause disaffection with school'.

The motion calls on the NUT to support play in the curriculum at Key Stage 1 (five to seven-year-olds) 'to reflect the needs of the children'.

Speaking ahead of the conference, NUT general secretary Christine Blower said many children are not ready for the 'formal sitting down' and 'come on let's do some work stage'' before they are seven.

'There is a question about whether we're expecting children to do things they're not developmentally ready for,' she said.

The resolution, set to be heard on Saturday, also says: 'Lunchtime and break times are being used for coaching and cramming sessions, thus depriving primary age children of their fundamental human right to play and have free time to socialise with their peers.'

The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child says children have the right to play and rest, it adds.

Ms Blower said: 'In Finland, there are 45-minute lessons and then they have a break. Between each teaching session they have a break. One thing about our children is that, relatively speaking, they are rushed from pillar to post. Not so much in primary school, but in secondary school.

'Having a break between lessons gives a bit of space to reflect on the lesson they've just had.'

The motion calls on the NUT to campaign in England and Wales for new laws to ensure children have a right to appropriate breaks and lunchtimes.

The resolution comes amid growing debate over what children should learn, with politicians and education experts increasingly calling for schools to teach values such character, teamwork and resilience alongside academic subjects.


Tuesday, April 07, 2015

UK: Up to 100 Islamist teachers could be banned from schools after investigation into their links with Trojan Horse scandal

Up to 100 Islamic teachers could be banned from working in schools for life following an investigation into their alleged links to the Trojan Horse scandal.

It is understood a teaching watchdog is working on possible disciplinary cases against current and former staff members at some schools in Birmingham where extremist Islamic views were being forced on pupils and staff.

This includes allegations an al-Qaeda style video featuring masked gunmen was copied in a classroom and teachers punished pupils by making them kneel on tiles.

More than 50 teachers - called the Park View Brotherhood - also alleged exchanged as many as 3,000 messages in a WhatsApp group which included offensive comments about British soldiers and claimed the murder of soldier Lee Rigby was a hoax.

It is understood the National College for Teaching and Leadership (NCTL) - the profession's watchdog responsible for banning teachers from classrooms - is looking at 30 disciplinary cases, with an expectation many more teachers will be targeted for their part in the affair.

The probe into the Islamic plot last year found evidence of anti-Western rhetoric, intolerance towards gays and creating the perception of a worldwide conspiracy against Muslims.

Golden Hillock School, Nansen Primary School, Park View School - all run by the Park View Educational Trust - Oldknow Academy and Saltley School in Birmingham were placed in special measures after inspectors found systemic failings in safeguarding pupils against extremism.

Another school investigated, Alston Primary, was already in special measures.

Allegations under investigation include claims that an al-Qaeda style video was copied at Park View Academy and teachers punished children by making them kneel on the floor, the Sunday Times reports.

A group of teachers - called the Park View Brotherhood - also alleged exchanged messages in a WhatsApp group where they claimed the murder of soldier Lee Rigby and the Boston bombings, where two bombs were set off at the finish line of the city's marathon, were a hoax.

Professional hearings are set to begin next month.

The teaching watchdog has obtained 'dossiers' about some of the 100 staff it is investigating from the Department for Education as part of its inquiries.  They are understood to include information from last year's Trojan Horse probe headed by Peter Clarke, the former head of counterterrorism at Scotland Yard.

His report, published in July, found there had been a 'co-ordinated, deliberate and sustained action, carried out by a number of associated individuals, to introduce an intolerant and aggressive Islamic ethos into a few schools in Birmingham'.

It also highlighted a 'disconcerting pattern' in the schools, including nepotism in staff appointments, bullying of senior teachers, a 'strategy of harassment to oust the head teacher' and the 'reinforcement of Muslim identity to the exclusion or disparagement of others'.

A source told the Sunday Times: 'The 100 or so include teachers, teaching assistants and teaching staff. The Department for Education is feeding in information to help corroborate some of what the NCTL has, and, in other cases, flag up new targets.'

'In some cases, some of those teachers and staff are still working at schools, and in other cases they have been removed. 'But although some of them have been removed, the NCTL does not want them to end up anywhere else.'  


Progressive Fruits


"Death to America! Death to America!" shouted a million Iranians in the capital square. Every year they would gather to chant, and every year I would show film clips to my students. It was always instigated by Iran's government in a country that calls itself "The Islamic Republic of Iran," which, I'm sure, President Obama would insist has nothing to do with Islam as he negotiates with the ayatollahs.   

My teaching ran directly counter to what was being taught in the vast majority of American public school classrooms. Most American students hear that Islam is a religion of peace. A majority of the world's muslims are peaceful, most teachers claim. About the latter, they are correct. About the former? Fourteen hundred years of history gives lie to any assertion that Islam is a religion of peace. Yes, it was relatively peaceful between the defeat of the Ottoman Empire in 1918 to the Iranian revolution in 1979, but in virtually every other period since about 600 AD, Islam has been anything but.

But I was an anachronism. Those calling themselves Progressives have been in charge of education in America at all levels for almost two generations and the results are coming in. During the span of just two days I read about the following:

Students at the University of California at Irvine voted to ban the American flag in a portion of campus because they want to be "inclusive." I figured: Oh well, that's California - the left coast - the land of fruits and nuts - run yet again by Jerry "Governor Moonbeam" Brown. No big deal. Par for the course.

Then a dean at Cornell University was asked by an undercover conservative posing as a Moroccan student if he would welcome ISIS on campus. "Sure," he said. Then he was asked if the "student" could invite "a freedom fighter [from ISIS] to come and do like a training camp for students." And the response? "You would be allowed to do something like that. It's just like bringing in a coach, to do a training, a sports trainer or something," said the dean. Perhaps the dean doesn't know that ISIS is at war with western civilization - which isn't a required course anymore at Cornell, or at 86% of all other American universities either. Students at Cornell are instead required to take a course in a non-western culture.
Then Meredith Shiner, a reporter at Yahoo News, commented on Senator Ted Cruz's announcement that he was running for president, by tweeting: "Bizarre [for you, Senator Cruz] to talk about how rights are God-made and not man-made in your speech announcing a POTUS bid? When Constitution was man-made?"  

 Hmm. Shiner graduated from Duke University, worked at Roll Call and Politico before Yahoo News, yet she's a progressive who clearly doesn't know much. She doesn't know, for instance, that the concept of God-given rights isn't in our Constitution. It comes from our Declaration of Independence, which was written shortly after the "shot heard 'round the world" was fired in Lexington, Massachusetts. But things have changed even there.

After students at Lexington High School voted a theme of  "American Pride" for a school dance, their progressive school administrators cancelled it because it excluded other nationalities. "People consider America to be a melting pot, so the fact that it was even considered offensive is what people are a little surprised about," said student Sneha Rao. I'm not surprised. That's progressive education in action. 
This was a little closer to home. I grew up less than twenty miles from Lexington. Yes, I know it's in Massachusetts, sometimes referred to as "The People's Republic of Massachusetts" and it's a famously progressive state like California, but still. American pride is offensive? In America? What have we become?  

Even closer to home, I read that a lacrosse coach at Fryeburg Academy was encouraged to resign because he posted a letter on his Facebook page. This guy coached some of my former students. The Conway Daily Sun reported: "The letter, written by ‘An American Citizen' was about Obama's speech given in Cairo in 2009 [in which he] said that Islam has long been a part of American history." The letter goes on to criticize Islam, saying Muslims are still the largest traffickers in human slavery, which the US State Department reported in 2009. It claims Muslims were allied with Hitler in World War II, which they certainly were. Hitler's Mein Kampf remains a best seller in Turkey and across the Middle East. In Arabic, it's called "My Jihad." My former students know all this.   

 The letter claims Muslims were either silent on or pleased with the September 11th attacks. That's dismaying, but also absolutely true. For years I showed students video of Muslims dancing in the streets of East Jerusalem, which progressive mainstream media outlets quickly squashed. Visiting there in 2005, I was advised by my Palestinian guide not to leave the hotel by myself - because it wasn't safe for Americans.

The Sun reported that although Coach Lees was to meet with top administrators about the letter, "athletic director Sue Thurston told him a decision to fire him had already been made," so he resigned. Unless there was something more damning in "the letter" than the Sun reported, it looks like Fryeburg Academy officials should bone up on the history of Islam. 


Australia: Fast-track to university enrages Leftists

Concerns have been raised over a program which allows school students to gain entry to university without completing their final year certificate - and is only being offered to pupils at a prestigious Sydney private school.

The University of Sydney is running a pilot of a 17-week bridging diploma for Year 11 students at the elite school Scot's College, Fairfax Media reported, stirring fears among student groups and university staff that the program allows parents to 'buy' their sons entry to the sandstone university.

The program was devised by the university's commercial arm, Sydney Learning, and students who completed the course successfully were guaranteed places in a number of undergraduate level courses, including bachelor degrees in health sciences, liberal arts and science, animal and veterinary bioscience, visual arts, music and oral health, or in a diploma of law.

Minutes of a university Academic Board meeting show staff were worried over how the course was being advertised to Year 11 students 'as an alternative to completing the HSC', with 'concern noted about possible implications for the university's reputation'.

Eight Scot's students gained 'direct entry' to the university after completing the program in 2014, according to a letter sent to parents by principal Dr Ian Lambert, while 166 students completing the HSC. 

Rose Steele, the president of the National Union of Students, told Daily Mail Australia that while it was important there were alternative pathways available for students to gain entry to university, it was 'really concerning' if this program was only open to students who could afford it.

'NUS really believes education should be open to all and not just those who can afford it,' Ms Steele said.

Scot's College does not advertise their fees for tuition, sport and other curriculum activities, but in 2013 they were reported to be $30,900 per year.

Dr Lambert, the college's chief, was quoted telling the Sydney Morning Herald that the diploma was designed with students 'in the middle rank of learners' in mind.


Monday, April 06, 2015

Church schools must not select on the basis of faith because it discriminates against the poor, warn vicars

Christian schools shouldn't choose Christians?

Church of England schools should stop selecting pupils on faith because it discriminates against the poor, a group of vicars has claimed.

They say the system is open to abuse and many oversubscribed schools reject non-churchgoing families even though they may live nearby.

Many Christian schools give priority to families who regularly attend services, a practice which they say preserves their faith ethos.

But the clergymen said affluent parents were more likely to cheat the system by going to church just to get their children into a C of E school, which are often high-performing.

In an open letter published yesterday, an alliance of Left-leaning clergy and laypeople called for an end to religious selection.

They claimed the Church was being ‘turned to the advantage of those who are already advantaged’, and said it presented a ‘slow-burning crisis’.

The comments, made in a letter to The Guardian, sparked anger from the Church of England, which labelled their arguments ‘doctrinaire’.

The letter’s 20 signatories included Christina Baron, lay member of the General Synod, Barry Sheerman, Huddersfield Labour MP since 1979, and Theo Hobson, a theologian and religious commentator.

Simon Barrow and Jonathan Bartley of the Christian think-tank Ekklesia also signed it, as did Reverend Richard Kirker, founding member of the Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement.

Also on the list were Reverend Una Kroll, a women’s equality campaigner, former teachers’ union president John Swallow and Oxford professor Keith Ward.

Referring to a 2013 survey by the Sutton Trust, they said 6 per cent of parents with a child at a state-funded school admitted to attending church services in order to get their child into a Church school.

They said the level of false Church attendance rose to 10 per cent among affluent parents in the socio-economic group A.

The letter said: ‘On a superficial level this is in the Church’s interest, as attendance figures in many parishes are inflated and the standard of our schools boosted by the admittance of children from more affluent families.

‘Ultimately however the universality of the Church is being turned to the advantage of those who are already advantaged. We believe this issue presents a slow-burning crisis.

‘We urge the Church to review and then amend its national guidance on pupil admissions, so that schools are guided towards having open admission arrangements.

‘Church of England schools should look outwards, as an expression of the warmth and generosity of its mission to the whole community.’

Yesterday, a Church spokesman said: ‘The arguments set out in the letter are so flawed and inaccurate they need to be placed in special measures. 'The interpretation of the data cited is mistaken and the arguments doctrinaire.’

Rev Nigel Genders, the Church’s chief education officer, said the Church’s secondary schools have an average of 10 per cent selection by religious criteria and some have more pupils on free school meals than the national average.

He continued: ‘We run Christian schools for everyone, providing an inclusive and effective education, we are not – as the article seems to imply – running schools for middle class Christians.’

Simon Calvert, of the Christian Institute, added: ‘There’s a push to try to secularise Church schools and it’s a shame that a group of liberal Anglicans are playing into that.’


Why the yearning for selective schools?

If you happen to be stuck in a room full of teachers, education policy wonks, or other school-related busybodies and, perhaps unsurprisingly, are bored, take my advice: lob the words ‘grammar school’ into the air, then sit back and enjoy the spectacle. The think-tank Civitas has bravely waded into the great grammar-schools debate with the publication this month of The Ins and Outs of Selective Secondary Schools.

Few topics are better guaranteed to polarise education debates than the idea that children aged 10 or 11 should sit a test to determine their choice of secondary school. For ‘traditionalists’, moist-eyed in reminiscence of some golden age of standards and discipline, the widespread closure of grammar schools in the 1970s was the point at which the UK started going downhill. Meanwhile, ‘progressives’ loudly despair at the wickedness of an academically elitist system that, they argue, reinforces social inequality and places excessive pressure on young children.

England’s 164 remaining grammar schools are a legacy of the 1944 Education Act that legislated for a tripartite system of grammar, technical and secondary modern schools. Technical schools never took off to any great extent and instead a binary division of children developed. Roughly the top 20 per cent, ability-wise, of children earned a coveted grammar-school place, leaving the rest to be sent to secondary moderns, with a less academic and more practically oriented curriculum.

Campaigns against grammar schools began almost as soon as the 1944 act was passed and have continued ever since. The selection process was accused of reproducing the privilege of middle-class children who, disproportionately selected through the entrance test, were then rewarded with further social advancement, usually starting with a university place. Such arguments gathered momentum in the 1960s and, when the Labour Party’s Anthony Crosland was appointed secretary of state for education and science in 1965, he saw his first priority in office as the dismantling of the grammar schools.

Crosland, and others, argued for comprehensive schools on the egalitarian grounds that all children deserved access to the same curriculum. Real growth in the numbers attending comprehensive schools took off in the first half of the 1970s when Margaret Thatcher was secretary of state for education. In the 1970s, grammar schools went seriously out of fashion and the radical idea that every child was educable and that some things were important enough for everyone to know, came to dominate thinking, if unfortunately not practice.

Schooling in England has changed beyond all recognition since the 1970s. Today, the remaining grammar schools are not pitted against a comprehensive ideal but against myriad school types including academies, free schools, independent schools, specialist schools and church schools. At the same time, an assumption that all children are entitled to an academic knowledge-based curriculum has given way to a focus on transferable skills; a preoccupation with children’s physical health and emotional well-being; and the promotion of values in newly introduced citizenship lessons and sex and relationships education. In other areas of the curriculum, traditional subject knowledge has been squeezed to make room for promoting skills, self-esteem and emotional literacy.

Sadly, schools ambitious enough to take any child and to provide them all with a subject-based academic education are few in number. Michael Gove, despite heavy criticism from many in the educational world, did attempt to reintroduce a more knowledge-driven curriculum for all pupils. However, the differences between what is on offer to children in grammar schools, and those being educated elsewhere within the state sector, persist. Grammar schools serve as an unwelcome reminder of the education rarely found elsewhere and, importantly, that many parents clearly want for their children.

Over the past two decades, there has been a political compromise where the remaining grammar schools continue to sit, often uneasily, within their local communities. They are usually highly regarded by parents who invest considerable resources in attempting to secure a place for their child. At the same time, they have come to represent everything loathed by a more values-driven and child-centred educational establishment. The unabashed competitive entry process and teaching of a predominantly academic curriculum is out of kilter with the more skills-based and therapeutic approach to comprehensive schooling.

That grammar schools still exist in the face of such longstanding hostility from many teacher-trainers, academics and teachers’ unions, shows the desire among parents for their children to have at least a chance at a rigorous academic education. It also shows parents are not convinced their child will be best served by the local specialist sports college. Allowing free rein to parental aspirations exposes the extent to which proponents of the new educational orthodoxies are out of touch with more mainstream views.

That grammar schools continue to rouse such emotion long after they should have withered away tells us much about the impoverished nature of educational debate in Britain over the past 40 years. There has been barely any discussion about what children should know and why; instead, we have an ever-present obsession with the relationship between schooling and social class. Despite the neurotic fixation with school-types, none of the structural changes made have actually come close in the minds of parents to providing the academic education they want for their children.

Instead, despite four decades of child-centredness, children continue to be used as pawns in games of school experimentation and social engineering. Grammar schools are neither the root of all evil nor the solution to every problem in society: but they do provide a useful reminder as to what knowledge-based education looks like.


Anti-Israel academics: the world’s least convincing free-speech warriors

Another week, another act of political censorship at a British university. This time the victim of the insidious campus culture of clamping down on anything provocative is an anti-Israel conference that was due to take place at Southampton University next month. Designed to question the ‘legitimacy in international law of the Jewish state of Israel’ - that is, the right of Israel to exist - the conference provoked disquiet among Israel supporters. A petition slamming the conference as one-sided and prejudiced, started by the Zionist Federation, garnered 6,500 signatures. The Jewish Board of Deputies and various MPs, including communities secretary Eric Pickles, opposed the conference. And so Southampton Uni has now reportedly told the organisers that it cannot go ahead, and it did so in what is now the favoured sly lingo of every campus censor who wants to shut down allegedly shocking things - it said the conference raised ‘health and safety’ concerns. Once, things were silenced to protect our moral sensitivities; now, stuff is censored to protect our health and safety.

The pulling of the conference, under what the organisers describe as ‘political pressure’, is really bad, yet another blow against the principle of academic freedom and the need for open, robust and challenging debate in the academy. Even if the conference was one-sided and prejudiced, so what? Academics and students must be free to discuss all issues in whatever way they see fit. There is no doubt that many so-called radical university attendees and teachers these days display an alarming double standard in relation to Israel, demonising it in a way they do to no other state on Earth and openly dreaming that it will one day disappear, on the grounds that it is an ‘illegitimate’ entity.

That is an unattractive political outlook, no doubt. But the way you challenge ideas you don’t like is by allowing them to be expressed in order that you can better knock them down through argument, articles, discussion, debate. Suppressing the expression of an idea does no one any favours, since it silences one side’s outlook and it robs the opposing side, the ill-advisedly censorious side, of the chance to put counter-arguments, to tussle in a public forum with those it thinks are wrong.

However - and this is a very big however - the conference organisers and their sympathisers in the media, the academy and on Twitter must be the least convincing defenders of academic freedom in living memory. These anti-Israel thinkers and campaigners are currently crying ‘Censorship!’ as loudly as they can, depicting themselves as a persecuted minority silenced by powerful political actors (You Know Who).

A professor of law at Southampton, and a co-organiser of the conference, said ‘the controversial nature of the conference is precisely where [the principle of] freedom of speech leads – that’s where the commitment to freedom of speech is tested’. He’s right about that; but he’s wrong if he thinks we’re going to buy the idea that today’s shrill and many opponents of Israel are glorious defenders of free speech or controversial discussion. On the contrary, the anti-Israel lobby is possibly the most censorious mob on British campuses today, practising, week in, week out, the very same censoriousness it now cries about being victimised by.

Whether they are No Platforming Zionist speakers and representatives of the Israeli government, or demanding an academic boycott against any professor or thinker or book that comes from Israel, or agitating for the removal from Britain of Israeli dance troupes or theatre groups or filmmakers - as if they were all diseased with contagious Zionism - anti-Israel campaigners have become dab hands at shutting down debate, at silencing those they (irrationally) hate. Their everyday currency is censorship.

In recent months, Israel societies on campus have had to cancel events following loud and censorious disruptions and have even faced demands that they be shut down on the basis that they make their campuses into Unsafe Spaces - which means they hold views that small numbers of student-union bureaucrats consider foul. Indeed, in the Guardian article that sympathises with the silenced Southampton discussants it is casually mentioned that the organisers of the conference have ‘voiced support for an academic boycott [of Israel]’. So these self-styled warriors for academic freedom back the highly illiberal and discriminatory tactic of never exchanging thoughts or ideas with Israeli thinkers and instead banning them from British campuses. You couldn’t make it up.

So not only do modern-day Israel-bashers harbour an alarming double standard in relation to Israel; they also have a double standard on freedom of speech, seeing it as something they should enjoy but which supporters of Israel should not. Which of course is not freedom of speech at all. If you call for Israeli speakers or academics or events to be shut down but demand that your own events be protected from censure, you are fighting for privileged speech; you’re actually promoting a bigoted worldview that explicitly treats people differently, saying that some people’s views (mine) are worthy of broadcast but other people’s (theirs) are not. Here’s an idea: how about all sides stop calling for censorship and instead have the cojones to challenge their opponents in the public realm, with words and ideas rather than bans and boycotts?


Sunday, April 05, 2015

UK: Student politics: where biology trumps brains

Te Independent ran an anonymous article on Friday calling for white males to be prevented from running in students’ unions elections. The piece, which has since been taken down, blamed students’ apathy towards student politics on the dilettantism of the young white men in charge. Claiming that student politics had always mirrored Westminster politics in its white-male-dominated character, the writer called for women and members of ethnic minorities to be given power on the grounds that they’re the only individuals capable of enacting change at universities. White men, the piece concluded, ‘it is time for you to bow down’.

It was a shame that the Independent quietly pulled the article, because what seemed like an extreme viewpoint is actually an accurate representation of the current views of aspiring student politicos. Many UK universities held their student union elections this month, which presumably provoked the anonymous writer to pen his/her tirade against white privilege. However, his/her argument is old news. In fact, student elections have now become so concerned with equal-opportunities policies that it is difficult to find a union that doesn’t adhere to the popular demand for multicultural representation.

In other words, student politics already resembles an identity-obsessed clique, its members playacting at politics in their safe spaces and designated areas. The most common proposals in students’ union election manifestos tend to be either more liberal toilet signage or cheaper beer, which indicates the lack of substance to SU politics.

Alongside this, the National Union of Students has recently created specific officer roles to represent women, black students, disabled students and LGBT students, and it encourages universities to do the same. The problem with student politics is certainly not one of unequal representation.

The lack of interest among the majority of UK students in anything to do with their SUs that doesn’t involve booze is precisely down to the failure of SUs to do anything of consequence. It’s difficult to maintain a political conversation when the audience changes every three years, but it’s easy to make a splash. This is the prevailing desire of most student-elected officers: to get in, get a good name and leave after a year with a bumper sticker on their CVs.

Fair play, but it’s got absolutely nothing to do with politics. That SU officers suffer from delusions of grandeur, and believe themselves to be at the forefront of radical politics in the UK, is down to their ability and desire to shock. Campaigns based on identity, which play on politically correct contemporary fashions, pull in tweeters and headlines, but certainly not students.

The heralding of everything that is not white and male is not a new idea at universities. Indeed, it has been a trend in teaching on many courses in the humanities since the Seventies and Eighties. However, what the Independent article has done, much as the closing down of an abortion debate with a male panel at Oxford did, is to expose just how central the issue of identity is to student politics today.

Student politics, dominated by identity, is in a wretched state. Those trying to be elected to their SUs seem to assume that what you are is more important than what you say and do. If young people continue to think that biology trumps brains, it won’t just be student politics that becomes farcical. It will soon be a problem for the adult world, too.


Diversity -- or Meritocracy?

By Patrick J. Buchanan

A voracious and eclectic reader, President Nixon instructed me to send him every few weeks 10 articles he would not normally see that were on interesting or important issues.

In 1971, I sent him an essay from The Atlantic, with reviews by Time and Newsweek, by Dr. Richard Herrnstein. My summary read:

"Basically, (Herrnstein) demonstrates that heredity, rather than environment, determines intelligence — and that the more we proceed to provide everyone with a 'good environment' the more heredity will become the dominant factor ... in their success and social standing."

In a 1994 obituary, The New York Times wrote that Herrnstein, though he "was often harassed ... and his classes at Harvard were disrupted," never recanted his heresy. He wrote "I.Q. and Meritocracy" in 1973, and in 1994 co-authored with Charles Murray the hugely controversial "The Bell Curve: Intelligence and Class Structure in American Life."

What brought this back was a piece buried in the "B" section of The Washington Post about the incoming class at Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology in Fairfax County.

TJ High is an elite magnet school that admits students based on their academic aptitude and achievement and offers "courses in differential equations, artificial intelligence and neuroscience."

According to the Post, 70 percent of the incoming freshmen are Asians, the highest percentage ever for a school already 60 percent Asian. Ten years ago, the student body was 32 percent Asian.

White students make up 29 percent of the school today, but are only 22 percent of the entering class. The class of 2019 will have 346 Asians and 102 whites, but only 12 Hispanics and 8 blacks.

Of the 2,841 applicants for 2015, one in four Asians was admitted and one in eight whites, but only one in 16 Hispanics and one in 25 black students. Of low-income students, only one in 33 applicants got in.

What do these numbers tell us?

Thomas Jefferson High is a meritocracy where the ideological dictates of "diversity" do not apply. Second, Asian students, based either on nature or nurture, heredity or environment, or both, are, as of today, superior in the hard sciences to other ethnic groups.

These numbers suggest that as Asian Americans rise from 5 percent of the U.S. population to 15, they are going to dominate the elite high schools and colleges devoted to STEM studies: science, technology, engineering, mathematics.

And in the professions built around expertise in science and technology, to which private and public capital will be directed, the social standing of Asian Americans is going to rise, leaving black, Hispanic, low-income and poor Americans further behind.

In the Post article, there is no breakdown of which Asian minorities excelled. In international competitions among high school students, Chinese, Koreans and Japanese are the top scorers, above Filipinos, Vietnamese and Indonesians.

Two years ago, an activist group filed a complaint against Fairfax County with the U.S. Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights alleging that the admissions process at TJ High discriminates against blacks, Hispanics and the poor.

But as the white share of the student body at TJ High is falling fastest, if there is discrimination, the admissions process must be giving an unfair break to Asians. For it is Asians who are the biggest beneficiaries of what is going on at the school.

Why are Asian kids succeeding spectacularly?

Is it because they are naturally talented at STEM studies? Is it because they have a better work ethic? Is it because their parents demand they get their homework done and monitor their grades? Is it because far fewer Asians come from broken homes?

It cannot be that Asians have been more privileged.

Chinese laborers in the Old West were terribly treated. Japanese were excluded and put into camps during World War II. Chinese, Japanese, Koreans, Filipinos and Vietnamese here are largely from families that endured the hell of the Asian wars of the 20th century.

And while Fairfax County generously supports its school, it does not spend what D.C. does. And how are D.C. schools doing?

The Post reported yesterday: "Only 58 percent of D.C. students graduate high school within four years, and only about half of students are proficient in reading and math."

So how is TJ High responding to its Asian problem?

Jeremy Shughart, admissions director at TJ, has a committee "reviewing the application process to improve diversity at the school."

Says Shughart, "The committee is looking at a variety of admissions components and making recommendations for possible adjustments to future admissions cycles. ... (We) will continue to work on increasing diversity at TJHSST and will continue to pursue outreach efforts to ensure talented underrepresented populations of students with a passion for math and science consider, apply to, and attend... Fairfax County Public Schools believes in the value of diversity."

That is bureaucratic gobbledygook for saying they are going to start looking closer at the race and ethnicity of student applicants and begin using this criteria to bring in some — and to reject others.

Race discrimination, against Asians, is coming to Fairfax County.


Nevadans deserve better options than Common Core

If Common Core is so intellectually healthy for Nevada’s children, then why does it require constant promoting and defending?

To assuage Nevadans’ concerns with this national education initiative, Nevada System of Higher Education Regents Michael Wixom and Jason Geddes, in an op-ed for the Review-Journal, quoted former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee on Common Core standards: “They’re not something to be afraid of, indeed, they are something to embrace.” These gentlemen neglected to tell Nevadans that Huckabee no longer supports this set of national curriculum mandates and tests that private organizations created with federal funds.

Behind the miracle of biblical proportions that 45 states agreed to use Common Core before it was published, there is the truth that Keith Rheault, Nevada’s then-superintendent of public instruction, in 2009 signed a memorandum of agreement for the state to participate in the Common Core Standards Initiative. That locked close to half a million public school children into the prepackaged scheme we now call Nevada Academic Content Standards.

This was apparently done without the knowledge or approval of Nevada’s legislature — which means without the knowledge or approval of the people of Nevada, which includes the parents of those aforementioned children.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, various teachers unions, and endless recipients of money from Bill Gates’ private foundation who cheer Common Core are cheering for cut-and-paste students. They are applauding and rewarding an education-to-workforce machine that is cheating the children of Nevada’s families out of a joyful and liberal education fit for free citizens.

Wixom and Geddes nowhere demonstrate that Common Core gives children a high-quality education. Instead, they rely on appeals to authority and name-dropping to encourage readers to support Common Core. A real education would have taught them and readers that arguments demand evidence. And the evidence does not favor Common Core.

Common Core’s intricate, edubabble commands reward children for sitting silent and motionless while filling out reams of worksheets to plod toward their someday career. The standards demand endless, mindless “cold reads” of disconnected reading selections, and hair-tearing, inefficient and ineffective methods for learning basic math procedures. Common Core math sets U.S. students two years behind our international peers by eighth grade.

If our nation’s leaders truly wanted “first-class standards,” as University of Arkansas professor emerita Sandra Stotsky suggested for Nevada students, then why don’t we adopt our nation’s highest-rated standards, from Massachusetts? These propelled Massachusetts to No. 1 in the nation for four consecutive administrations of the National Assessment of Educational Progress, and put the state near the top of global test performance.

Nevada parents need to ask some tough questions. Why is Gov. Brian Sandoval suspiciously silent on this topic, as other Republicans line up to criticize its obvious flaws? Why is the U.S. Chamber of Commerce burning cash to market an initiative it hopes moves responsibility for workforce training from businesses to taxpayers? Why do policymakers deny parents a seat at the table in deciding the education of their own children?

Why are our federally hand-picked Common Core testing company’s invasive and experimental assessments replacing proven, knowledge-based tests? Is it right to allow these tests to take so much time from teaching?

Here’s the No. 1 question all Nevadans —and all Americans — need to ask: Why must all roads lead to Common Core? Why are there almost no options other than Common Core-aligned for public, private and home-school students among college-entrance exams, annual tests and curriculum? Common Core didn’t drop from heaven, after all. People made it, and people have many different and valid ideas about how to educate children.

It is fundamentally unjust to children and taxpayers to inflict upon us all an untried education regime without our knowledge or consent. No amount of advertising can paper over the truth about Common Core: It is academically mediocre, socially manipulative and politically illegitimate.

Nevadans deserve better. The only obstacles to securing a truly better education are ignorance, power-brokering and apathy.