Friday, August 14, 2015

Battling the Educrats for History

The College Board owns and publishes both the “framework” for the nation’s Advanced Placement U.S. History course and its exam to receive college credit after mastery is demonstrated by high school students. The Board has been busy “revising” its initial “standards” and curriculum after a prairie fire of criticism was lit by the flame of facts from teachers of American history. The revelation of the deliberate extraction of American Exceptionalism from our nation’s history as taught in public school and funded by our tax dollars caused controversy and should be further exposed.

An entity previously known for its dedication to high standards in educational curriculum and testing, the College Board not only owns the Advanced Placement for U.S. History (APUSH) tests but also the SAT exams, which are used by millions to measure “scholastic aptitude” as a readiness for moving to higher education. However, the College Board has been proven to be just another institution complicit in rewriting America’s history, and that impacts more than college credit. These institutions of the Left coexist and coordinate to poison the minds of our students against their own nation’s incredible founding to become committed citizens of a global and social collectivism.

Interestingly, the content of both the APUSH and the SAT exams is written by a separate “nonprofit” from Princeton, the Educational Testing Service. The more educrats, the better, right?

First released in October 2012, the initial rendition of the revised curriculum and testing of APUSH was set to begin in 2016. As information about the drastic changes were exposed, however, the College Board was not so much moved by public comment or parental concern but by the existential threat arising from legislative aims to cease funding without revisions — read: corrections.

A recent Newsweek article was meant to assure all concerned that no malevolent intent existed. But this little statement sums up the “impetus” of APUSH’s erasure of any reference to the greatness of America and its heroes: The educrats sought to “redirect the course away from rote memorization of facts and toward historical thinking skills.”

Translation: Who needs the facts of history to frame the portrait of a nation’s greatness? The unwashed masses must be taught to synthesize their own thinking about centuries of the American experience based on their own local relations and opinions at the ripe age of 16-17 years of age, so Academia seems to support.

Larry Krieger, a retired history teacher who now tutors and writes preparatory books for APUSH testing, saw through the new focus on cultural and racial divisions that have been scattered across our nation’s history. He quickly uncovered the previous APUSH lesson structure that honored an American identity etched in fierce independence of those seeking religious liberty, then governmental restraint that moved into the pioneer movement of Manifest Destiny was abandoned. Krieger, along with countless others got busy in exposing yet another act of destruction toward America.

Whether it was the lesson that many Founding Fathers were “bigots” with their power “built on a belief in white racial superiority and a sense of American cultural superiority” or the praise of mixed racial unions found in the Spanish colonies contrasted to the “rigid racial hierarchy” found among the Puritans who settled in the New England settlements of the English colonies, the noticeable absence of contrasting forms of governance of more democratic pursuits versus the Spanish authoritarianism had been discarded as so “yesterday.”

A letter signed by more than 120 scholars and released on June 2, 2015, ripped into the College Board’s adoption of social activism over scholarly academics: “The new version of the test will effectively marginalize important ways of teaching about the American past, and force American high schools to teach U.S. history from a perspective that self-consciously seeks to de-center American history and subordinate it to a global and heavily social-scientific perspective.”

States like Tennessee, Georgia, Oklahoma, North and South Carolina, Colorado and Texas either passed resolutions or made public statements from their state capitols that will end funding of APUSH in their public schools without the removal of overtly anti-American and highly socialized content.

The College Board and its defenders of the second edition of its revisions of history attest to the 142-page “framework” as providing “key concepts” and not a “list of groups, individuals, dates or historical details” — formerly known collectively as history. Instead, these supernovas of the educational elite offer “thematic learning objectives” that do “not promote any particular political position or interpretation of history.”

In an almost mocking attempt to placate critics, APUSH now includes an addition of “American and National Identity” that employs the phrase “American Exceptionalism.” Perhaps it’s a small victory that such a nod was given at all, but it’s not enough.

John Winthrop declared to the passengers traveling aboard the Arbella that left England for the New World in 1630, “We shall be as a city upon a hill, the eyes of all people are upon us.” Winthrop, soon afterward elected as governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, is renowned for this speech that has echoed throughout history, but he is still absent from the revised APUSH “framework.”

We must mount up as guardians of our American Exceptionalism and contact our state legislative leaders demanding the defunding of the College Board’s testing. This display of arrogance and a direct assault on America should be a call to action for all who are keepers of our American story. The treasure of the truth of America’s courageous founding led by men and women of shared sacrifice who were called and committed to the ideal of America should increase in value as time passes, not be treated like some dime-store trinket.


History, American Democracy, and the AP Test Controversy

Historical study and history education in the United States today are in a bad way, and the causes are linked. In both cases, we have lost our way by forgetting that the study of the past makes the most sense when it is connected to a larger, public purpose, and is thereby woven into the warp and woof of our common life. The chief purpose of a high school education in American history is not the development of critical thinking and analytic skills, although the acquisition of such skills is vitally important; nor is it the mastery of facts, although a solid grasp of the factual basis of American history is surely essential; nor is it the acquisition of a genuine historical consciousness, although that certainly would be nice to have too, particularly under the present circumstances, in which historical memory seems to run at about 15 minutes, especially with the young.

No, the chief purpose of a high school education in American history is as a rite of civic membership, an act of inculcation and formation, a way in which the young are introduced to the fullness of their political and cultural inheritance as Americans, enabling them to become literate and conversant in its many features, and to appropriate fully all that it has to offer them, both its privileges and its burdens. To make its stories theirs, and thereby let them come into possession of the common treasure of its cultural life. In that sense, the study of history is different from any other academic subject. It is not merely a body of knowledge. It also ushers the individual person into membership in a common world, and situates them in space and time.

This is especially true in a democracy. The American Founders, and perhaps most notably Thomas Jefferson, well understood that no popular government could flourish for long without an educated citizenry—one that understood the special virtues of republican self-government, and the civic and moral duty of citizens to uphold and guard it. As the historian Donald Kagan has put it, “Democracy requires a patriotic education.” It does so for two reasons: first, because its success depends upon the active participation of its citizens in their own governance; and second, because without such an education, there would be no way to persuade free individuals of the need to make sacrifices for the sake of the greater good. We now seem to think we can dispense with such an education, and in fact are likely to disparage it reflexively, labelling it a form of propaganda or jingoism. But Kagan begs to differ with that assessment. “The encouragement of patriotism,” he laments, “is no longer a part of our public educational system, and the cost of that omission has made itself felt” in a way that “would have alarmed and dismayed the founders of our country.”

Why has this happened? Some part of the responsibility lies within the field of history itself. A century ago, professional historians still imagined that their discipline could be a science, able to explain the doings of nations and peoples with the dispassionate precision of a natural science. But that confidence is long gone. Like so many of the disciplines making up the humanities, history has for some time now been experiencing a slow dissolution, a decline that now may be approaching a critical juncture. Students of academic life express this decline quantitatively, citing shrinking enrollments in history courses, the disappearance of required history courses in university curricula, and the loss of full-time faculty positions in history-related areas. But it goes much deeper than that. One senses a loss of self-confidence, a fear that the study of the past may no longer be something valuable or important, a suspicion that history lacks the capacity to be a coherent and truth-seeking enterprise. Instead, it is likely to be seen as a relativistic funhouse, in which all narratives are arbitrary and all interpretations are equally valid. Or perhaps history is useless because the road we have traveled to date offers us only a parade of negative examples of oppression, error, and obsolescence—an endless tableau of Confederate flags, so to speak—proof positive that the past has no heroes worthy of our admiration, and no lessons applicable to our unprecedented age.

This loss of faith in the central importance of history pervades all of American society. Gone are the days when widely shared understandings of the past provided a sense of civilizational unity and forward propulsion. Instead, argues historian Daniel T. Rodgers, we live in a querulous “age of fracture,” in which all narratives are contested, in which the various disciplines no longer take a broad view of the human condition, rarely speak to one another, and have abandoned the search for common ground in favor of focusing on the concerns and perspectives of ever more minute subdisciplines, ever smaller groups, ever more finely tuned and exclusive categories of experience. This is not just a feature of academic life, but seems to be an emerging feature of American life more broadly. The broad and embracing commonalities of old are no more, undermined and fragmented into a thousand subcultural pieces.

* * *

This condition has profound implications for the academy and for our society. The loss of history, not only as a body of knowledge but as a distinctive way of thinking about the world, will have—is already having—dire effects on the quality of our civic life. It would be ironic if the great advances in professional historical writing over the past century or so—advances that have, through the exploitation of fresh data and new techniques of analysis, opened to us a more expansive but also more minute understanding of countless formerly hidden aspects of the past—were to come at the expense of a more general audience for history, and for its valuable effects upon our public life. It would be ironic, but it appears to be true.

As historian Thomas Bender laments in a recent article, gloomily entitled “How Historians Lost Their Public,” the growth of knowledge in ever more numerous and tightly focused subspecialties of history has resulted in the displacement of the old-fashioned survey course in colleges and universities, with its expansive scale, synthesizing panache, and virtuoso pedagogues. Bender is loath to give up any of the advances made by the profession’s ever more intensive form of historical cultivation, but he concedes that something has gone wrong: historians have lost the ability to speak to, and to command the attention of, a larger audience, even a well-educated one, that is seeking more general meanings in the study of the past. They have indeed lost their public. They have had to cede much of their field to journalists, who know how to write much more accessibly and are willing to explore themes—journalist Tom Brokaw’s celebration of “the greatest generation,” for example—that strike a chord with the public, but which professional historians have been trained to disdain as ethnocentric, triumphalist, or uncritically celebratory. Professional historians complain that such material lacks nuance, rigor, and is prone to re-package the past in terms that readers will find pleasing to their preconceptions. They may be right. But such works are at least being read by a public that is still hungry for history. The loss of a public for history may be due to the loss of a history for the public.

Instead, it seems that professional historiography is produced mainly for the consumption of other professional historians. Indeed, the very proposition that professional historiography should concern itself in fundamental ways with civic needs is one that most of the profession would find suspect, and a great many would find downright unacceptable—a transgression against free and untrammeled scholarly inquiry. Such resistance is understandable, since conscientious historians need to be constantly wary of the threat to their scholarly integrity posed by intrusive officials and unfriendly political agendas.

There can be no doubt that the professionalization of the field has brought a remarkable degree of protection for disciplinary rigor and intellectual freedom in the framing and pursuit of historical questions. But must abandonment of a sense of civic responsibility come in tandem with the professionalization of the field? This presents a problem, not only for the public, but for the study of history itself, if it can no longer generate a plausible organizing principle from its own resources.

* * *

Consider in this regard our startling incapacity to design and construct public monuments and memorials. Such edifices are the classic places where history and public life intersect, and they are by their very nature meant to be rallying points for the public consciousness, for affirmation of the body politic, past, present, and future, in the act of recollection and commemoration, and recommitment to the future. There is a profundity, approaching the sacramental, in the atmosphere created by such places, as they draw together generations of the living, the dead, and those yet unborn in a bond of mutuality and solidarity. The great structures and statuary that populate the National Mall in Washington, D.C.—such as the Lincoln Memorial and the Washington Monument—or the solemnity of Arlington National Cemetery, do this superbly well. There is a sense, too, that cemeteries honoring fallen soldiers of the Confederacy somehow deserve our general respect, even if the cause for which they fell does not. But these structures were a product of an earlier time, when the national consensus was stronger. Today, as illustrated by the endless deadlock over the design and erection of a memorial to Dwight D. Eisenhower in Washington, a drama that has become a fiasco, we seem to find the construction of monuments almost impossibly difficult. And in a different but not unrelated way, the sudden passion to cleanse the American landscape of any and all allusions to the Confederacy or slaveholding—a paroxysm more reminiscent of Robespierre than of Lincoln—also suggests the emergence of a public that is losing meaningful contact with its own history.

Why has this happened? In the case of the Eisenhower memorial, it happened because the work of designing the memorial was turned over to a fashionable celebrity architect who proved incapable of subordinating his monumental ego to the task of memorializing a great American hero. But more generally, it has happened because the whole proposition of revering and memorializing past events and persons has been called into question by our prevailing intellectual ethos, which cares little for the authority of the past and frowns on anything that smacks of hero worship or piety toward our forebears. The past is always required to plead its case before the bar of the present, where it generally loses. That ethos is epitomized in the burgeoning academic study of “memory,” a term that refers in this context to something vaguely suspect.

“Memory” designates the sense of history that we all share, which is why monuments and other instruments of national commemoration are especially important in serving as expressions and embodiments of it. But the systematic problematizing of memory—the insistence on subjecting it to endless rounds of interrogation and suspicion, aiming precisely at the destabilization of public meanings—is likely to produce impassable obstacles to the effective public commemoration of the past. Historians have always engaged in the correcting of popular misrenderings of the past, and that is a very important and useful aspect of their job. But “memory studies” tends to carry the debunking ethos much further, consistently approaching collective memory as nothing more than a willful construction of would-be reality rather than any kind of accurate reflection of it. Scholars in the field examine memory with a jaundiced and highly political eye, viewing nearly all claims for tradition or for a worthy past as flimsy artifice designed to serve the interests of dominant classes and individuals, and otherwise tending to reflect the class, gender, and power relations in which those individuals are embedded. Memory, argues historian John Gillis, has “no existence beyond our politics, our social relations, and our histories.” “We have no alternative,” he adds, “but to construct new memories as well as new identities better suited to the complexities of a post-national era.”

The audacity of this agenda could not be clearer. It is nothing less than a drive to expel the nation-state, and completely reconstitute public consciousness around a radically different idea of the purpose of history. It substitutes a whole new set of loyalties, narratives, heroes, and notable events—perhaps directed to some post-national entity, or to a mere abstraction—for the ones inhering in civic life as it now exists. It would mean a complete rupture with the past, and with all admired things that formerly associated themselves with the idea of the nation, including the sacrifices of former generations. Ernest Renan argued that a nation was “a large-scale solidarity, constituted by the feeling of the sacrifices that one has made in the past and of those that one is prepared to make in the future,” as part of a “clearly expressed desire to continue a common life.” That solidarity, that quest to continue a common life—all would surely be placed in jeopardy by the agenda Gillis proposes.

* * *

It is at precisely this point that the recent controversy over the new Advanced Placement (AP) U.S. History framework comes into play. Not that the College Board—the private New York-based organization that administers the advanced placement exam to American high school students—openly espouses such a radical agenda. Instead, the College Board argues that its 2014 revision of the AP exam has sought to make the exam more perfectly reflect the contents of a typical collegiate introductory survey course in American history. On the surface this would seem to make sense, since the avowed purpose of AP is to provide a shortcut to college-level credit. But it is also a huge problem, since, as Thomas Bender himself has observed, the introductory survey course, once the glorious entryway to a college history department, is now its neglected and unwanted stepchild.

The Advanced Placement exam has become a fixture in American education since it was introduced in the years immediately after the Second World War, and many colleges and universities in the U.S. (and more than 20 other countries) grant credits or advanced placement based on students’ AP test scores. For many American students, the AP test has in effect taken the place of the required U.S. history survey course in colleges and universities. This makes its structure and makeup a matter of even greater importance from the standpoint of civic education, since many of these students will never take another American history course. The pervasive use of the test has had many sources, but surely its widespread adoption is testimony to the general trust that has so far been reposed in the test. The test has retained this trust by striking a sensible balance between and among different approaches to the American past. In addition, rather than issuing detailed guidelines, the College Board until very recently has made do with a brief five-page document outlining the test’s general framework for the use of teachers, and leaving to them the distribution of their teaching emphases. This was a reasonable, respectful, and workable arrangement.

In this light, the 134-page framework in the 2014 iteration of the test represents a radical change and a repudiation of that earlier approach. It represents a lurch in the direction of more centralized control, as well as an expression of a distinct agenda—an agenda that downplays comprehensive content knowledge in favor of interpretive finesse, and that seeks to deemphasize American citizenship and American world leadership in favor of a more global and transnational perspective. The new framework is organized around such opaque and abstract concepts as “identity,” “peopling,” and “human geography.” It gives only the most cursory attention to traditional subjects, such as the sources, meaning, and development of America’s fundamental political institutions, notably the Constitution, and the narrative accounting of political events, such as elections, wars, and diplomacy.

Various critics have noted the political and ideological biases inherent in the 2014 framework, as well as structural innovations that will result in imbalance in the test and bias in the course. Frankly, the language of the framework is sufficiently murky that such charges might be overstated. But the same cannot be said about the changes in the treatment of American national identity. The 2010 framework treated national identity, including “views of the American national character and ideas about American exceptionalism,” as a central theme. The 2014 framework grants far more extensive attention to “how various identities, cultures, and values have been preserved or changed in different contexts of U.S. history, with special attention given to the formation of gender, class, racial, and ethnic identities.” The change is very clear: the new framework represents a shift from national identity to subcultural identities. Indeed, the new framework is so populated with examples of American history as the conflict between social groups, and so inattentive to the sources of national unity and cohesion, that it is hard to see how students will gain any coherent idea of what those sources might be. This does them, and all Americans, an immense disservice. Instead of combating fracture, it embraces it.

If this framework is permitted to take hold, the new version of the test will effectively marginalize traditional ways of teaching about the American past, and force American high schools to teach U.S. history from a perspective that self-consciously seeks to decenter American history. Is this the right way to prepare young people for American citizenship? How can we call forth the acts of sacrifice that our democracy needs, not only on the battlefield but also in our daily lives—the acts of dedication to the common good that are at the heart of civilized life—without training up citizens who know about and appreciate that democracy, care about the common good, and feel themselves a part of their nation’s community of memory? How can we expect our citizens to grapple intelligently with enduring national debates—such as over the role of the U.S. Constitution, or about the reasons for the separation of powers and limited government—if they know nothing of the long trail of those particular debates, and are instead taught to translate them into the one-size-fits-all language of the global and transnational?

* * *

We often speak these days of global citizenship, and see it as a form of advanced consciousness to which our students should be made to aspire. But global citizenship is, at best, a fanciful phrase, abstract and remote, unspecific in its requirements. Actual citizenship is different, since it entails membership in the life of a particular place. It means having a home address. Education does young people no favors when it fails to equip them for that kind of membership. Nor does it do the rest of us any favors. We will not be able to uphold our democracy unless we know our great stories, our national narratives, and the admirable deeds of our great men and women. The new AP U.S. History framework fails on that count, because it does not see the civic role of education as a central one.

As in other areas, we need an approach to the past that conduces most fully to a healthy foundation for our common, civic existence—one that stoutly resists the culture of fracture rather than acceding to it. This is not a call for an uncritical, triumphalist account of the past. Such an account would not be an advance, since it would fail to give us the tools of intelligent and morally serious self-criticism. But neither does an approach that, in the name of post-national anti-triumphalism, reduces American history to the aggregate sum of a multitude of past injustices and oppressions, without bringing those offenses into their proper context—without showing them as elements in the great story of a longer American effort to live up to lofty and demanding ideals. Both of these caricatures fail to do what we have a right to expect our history to do. Nor, alas, will professional historians be much help, since their work proceeds from a different set of premises.

Historians will find their public again when the public can find its historians—historians who keep in mind that the writing of our history is to be for that public. Not for in the sense of fulfilling its expectations, flattering its prejudices, and disguising its faults. Not for in the sense of underwriting a particular political agenda. But for in the sense of being addressed to them, as one people with a common past and a common future, affirmative of what is noblest and best in them, and directed towards their fulfillment. History has been a principal victim of the age of fracture. But it can also be a powerful antidote to it.


Australia: Father denied access to Perth Modern School exam questions

Bureaucratic secrecy at work.  Feedback from parents would be too much trouble!  Just trust us

An elite Perth school does not have to hand over a chemistry test to a parent who fought for three years to see the questions his daughter answered during the senior school assessment in August 2012, the Supreme Court of Western Australia has ruled.

The ruling backs an earlier finding from the state Information Commissioner, Sven Bluemmel, that the father of the student was contemplating "parental debate" and "informal collateral disagreement" about the quality of the test at the inner-city government high school for academic high achievers, the Perth Modern School.

Such debate undermined the finality of the assessment and review process and was not in the public interest, Mr Bluemmel ruled in November last year.

The father argued that tests should be disclosed to aid "a prod-uctive feedback mechanism from parents and to improve the quality of the tests at the school". He said the quality of the questions would improve through continual feedback.

The West Australian Education Department let the man, known as H, have his daughter's test answers but not the test questions. He sought an external review of that decision and, when Mr Bluemmel sided with the department, appealed to the state's Supreme Court, which on Friday rejected his appeal.

Judge John Chaney said the father raised many arguments as to the merits of his claim for access to the test but the court could only rule on whether there was a legal flaw in Mr Bluemmel's decision. There was not.

The Education Department had argued that disclosing tests would force teachers to spend time writing new questions that met strict criteria. "This will result in many more hours devoted to developing a bank of effective questions, at the expense of other teaching duties," the department argued.

Mr Bluemmel accepted it was in the public interest for parents to make a contribution to students' learning.  "However, I do not consider that the complainant has established that there is a public interest in parents being able to debate the content of each test and the teachers' marking of each individual test," he wrote.

"In particular, I do not consider that the complainant has shown that the quality of the tests is such that parental debate, of the kind contemplated by the complainant, would significantly affect the quality of the tests or their marking and thus add to a student's education.

"Further, it is clear from the complainant's submissions that he would seek to subject exam questions to informal collateral disagreement. This would undermine the finality of the assessment and review process. I agree that this would be contrary to the public interest."

Mr Bluemmel was satisfied the school had agreed to discuss academic issues with the father and held a meeting with his wife.


Thursday, August 13, 2015

Academic Fascism

By Walter E. Williams

George Orwell said, "There are some ideas so absurd that only an intellectual could believe them." If one wants to discover the truth of Orwell's statement, he need only step upon most college campuses.

Faculty leaders of the University of California consider certain statements racism and feel they should not be used in class. They call it micro-aggression. To them, micro-aggressive racist statements are: "America is the land of opportunity." That is seen as perpetuating the myth of meritocracy. "There is only one race, the human race." Such a statement is seen as denying the individual as a racial/cultural being. "I believe the most qualified person should get the job." That's "racist" because it gives the impression that "people of color are given extra unfair benefits because of their race."

These expressions don't exhaust the list of micro-aggressions. Other seemingly innocuous statements deemed unacceptable are: "Everyone can succeed in this society, if they work hard enough," "When I look at you, I don't see color," or "Affirmative action is racist." Perhaps worst of all is, "Where are you from or where were you born?" For more of this, see a document released by The College Fix ( titled "Diversity in the Classroom," UCLA Diversity and Faculty Development.

This micro-aggression nonsense, called micro-totalitarianism by my colleague Dr. Thomas Sowell (, is nothing less than an attack on free speech. From the Nazis to the Stalinists, tyrants have always started out supporting free speech, and why is easy to understand. Speech is vital for the realization of their goals of command, control and confiscation. Free speech is a basic tool for indoctrination, propagandizing, proselytization. Once the leftists gain control, as they have at many universities, free speech becomes a liability and must be suppressed. This is increasingly the case on university campuses.

Daniel Henninger, deputy editor of The Wall Street Journal's editorial page, writes about the campus attack on free speech and different ideas in his article titled "Obama Unleashes the Left: How the government created a federal hunting license for the far left" (

He says that in the Harvard Crimson, an undergraduate columnist wrote: "Let's give up on academic freedom in favor of justice. When an academic community observes research promoting or justifying oppression, it should ensure that this research does not continue." The student was calling for the suppression of the research of conservative Harvard government professor Harvey Mansfield.

Oberlin College proposed that its teachers be aware of politically controversial topics such as "racism, classism, sexism, heterosexism, cissexism, ableism, capitalism and other issues of privilege and oppression." The presumption that students must be protected rather than challenged in a classroom is at once infantilizing and anti-intellectual.

Last year Vassar College faculty and students held a meeting to discuss the school's movement to boycott Israel. Before the meeting, an English professor announced the dialogue would "not be guided by cardboard notions of civility." That professor's vision differs little from Adolf Hitler's brown-shirted thugs of the paramilitary wing of the Nazi Party in their effort to crush dissent.

Azusa Pacific University "postponed" a speech by political scientist Charles Murray to avoid "hurting our faculty and students of color." Brandeis University officials rescinded their invitation to Somali writer and American Enterprise Institute scholar Ayaan Hirsi Ali, whose criticisms of radical Islam were said to have violated the school's "core values." Brandeis officials claimed that allowing her to speak would be hurtful to Muslim students.

Western values of liberty are under ruthless attack by the academic elite on college campuses across America. These people want to replace personal liberty with government control; they want to replace equality before the law with entitlement. As such, they pose a far greater threat to our way of life than any terrorist organization or rogue nation. Leftist ideas are a cancer on our society. Ironically, we not only are timid in response, but also nourish those ideas with our tax dollars and charitable donations.


Clinton Unveils Plan to Tackle College Sticker Shock

If you don't like how much college costs, wait until it's free!

Funny how the Democrat candidates for president are working a platform of college affordability to buy the votes of young Americans. Hillary Clinton unveiled a plan Monday that she claims will reduce the cost of college, a plan that requires the U.S. government spend $350 billion enticing states to lower their tuition prices. We’re guessing tuition would rise by about, oh, $350 billion.

Also her plan would require students work 10 hours a week to pay for their education. Talk about fun camps…

As Fox News notes, Clinton does not have the most radical income redistribution plan in the Democrat scrum, as socialist Bernie Sanders has proposed taxing Wall Street in order to make public universities free.

 On its basic level, the astronomical price for college rests in Big Government’s attempt to make college affordable, and thus mostly a Democrat-caused problem. It was easy to procure the government loans that inflated the cost of college. By instituting those polices, the government divorced the price of education from the effort needed to pay for it.

In other words, it was easy to take on tens of thousands of dollars of debt; after all, what does the future hold? Democrats are now saying government should pick up the tab directly. Hello, massive government spending.


Extreme campus rape policies coming under fire from judges

Judges across the country are saying “no” to the “yes means yes” standard of affirmative consent for date rape.

The legality of the standard – adopted on California and New York campuses by state legislatures and in effect on numerous other colleges throughout the country – is in question following a series of recent rulings that cite a lack of due process.

“These decisions are harbingers,” said John Banzhaf, a professor at George Washington University Law School and a public interest lawyer. “It does take time for new ideas to percolate through the system.”

Under the standard, the accused, typically a male, has to prove he obtained consent, even if neither party remembers what happened. The standard forces the accused to prove his innocence, rather than be proven guilty.

Proponents of the “yes means yes” law claim it’s a necessary step to combat sexual assaults, which some studies suggest occur at a high frequency on campuses.

But judges in California, Tennessee and Virginia say it goes too far.

A student expelled from the University of California-San Diego had an “unfair” hearing, Superior Court Judge Joel M. Pressman ruled in July. The John Doe accused in the case said he was unable to cross-examine his accuser and other witnesses. He also said he was forced to submit questions to a hearing panel in advance, and many of his questions were then rejected. Pressman agreed this was a violation of his due process rights.

A student found guilty of sexual misconduct by the University of Tennessee because he couldn’t prove he obtained verbal consent had his verdict overturned by a Chancery Court judge on Aug. 4.

A student expelled from Washington and Lee University for alleged sexual misconduct will be allowed to continue with his gender bias lawsuit against the school, U.S. District Court Judge Norman Moon ruled on Aug. 8. In the lawsuit, a Title IX officer at the school is quoted during a presentation she gave to the woman who later accused John Doe. The Title IX officer is alleged to have said “regret equals rape” and “went on to state her belief that this point was a new idea everyone, herself included, is starting to agree with.” Shortly thereafter, an allegation of misconduct was launched against John Doe. The Title IX officer played a significant role in the investigatory process.

A right to due process at state universities may seem like a novel concept, but Banzhaf said the fourth amendment protection was never intended to apply solely to the court system.

“The Constitution trumps everything else,” he said. “So no matter what the Department of Education or Department of Justice suggest, regardless of what a state’s statute provides, or what the University decides, the Constitution trumps it all.”

The Supreme Court somewhat settled the due process question in its 1976 Mathews vs. Eldrige decision, a case cited by Chancellor Carol L. McCoy in the University of Tennessee decision.

“The fundamental requirement of due process is the opportunity to be heard ‘at a meaningful time and in a meaningful manner,’” McCoy wrote. “Due process is flexible and calls for such procedural protections as the particular situation demands.”

Banzhaf explains that means that not every element of protection for the accused must be provided in every case. A “minimal amount of procedural protection” – such as the right to cross examine witnesses – must be provided in all cases, however.

The University of Tennessee announced on Monday that it would implement a new sexual misconduct policy, to take effect on Aug. 19. The changes reportedly involve “easy-to-read” mandatory reporting charts and making prohibited conduct “front and center” in training manuals. Nothing about expanded due process is noted.

That could change, however.

The American Bar Association on Aug. 4 adopted three resolutions focusing on campus assaults and gender-based violence. Some of the language includes “assuring that the rights of those accused of such acts are recognized, respected and protected.”

These protections for the accused are vital from both a fairness perspective and a financial outlook, Banzhaf said. Not only can universities be sued by those accused of assaults whose due process rights may have been violated, Banzhaf added, but administrators can also be sued and possibly held individually liable.

“Colleges who are smart are going to look at these cases and say maybe we should start thinking about this when we craft our policies,” he said.


Wednesday, August 12, 2015

The Daily Caller Presents: The Third Annual College Stupidity Awards

As the summer of 2015 winds down, it’s once again time to celebrate the stupidest and most outrageous events that occurred on campus during the last academic year with The Daily Caller’s Third Annual College Stupidity Awards.

For the 2014-15 version of cringe-worthy political correctness run amok, outrageous suffocation of free speech and ridiculous, fascist buffoonery on the part of bureaucrats, just keep scrolling. It’s all here as TheDC looks back on the academic year that was.

In April at the University of Michigan, a showing of the movie “American Sniper” was canceled because a few students complained it was “insensitive” to Muslim people. Michigan’s new football coach, Jim Harbaugh, protested the protest, tweeting “Proud of Chris Kyle & Proud to be an American & if that offends anybody then so be it!” The taxpayer-funded school first substituted “Paddington” for “American Sniper.” “Paddington” is a children’s movie about a talking, stuffed teddy bear and his series of adorable misadventures on the streets of London. Michigan students had the opportunity to watch both “American Sniper” and “Paddington.”

In April on the main campus of Pennsylvania State University, the editors of The Daily Collegian published a 433-word editorial arguing that Rolling Stone’s fabricated, completely retracted article, “A Rape on Campus”” demonstrates that “false accusations” of rape “are extremely unlikely.” In the bizarre, unsigned op-ed, The Daily Collegian lamented the fact that the Phi Kappa Psi chapter at the University of Virginia is now suing over damages caused by the Nov. 19 article by disgraced journalist Sabrina Rubin Erdely.  Erdely’s bombshell article full of lies falsely accused seven Phi Psi members of brutally gang-raping a female student with the alias “Jackie” in September 2012.

This spring, the University of Colorado Boulder proudly launched an on-campus spying campaign that encourages students to report incidents of “bias” to government officials at the school. The new and very extensive online “bias” reporting mechanism solicits nearly two dozen pieces of information about perpetrators of “bias” including their names, addresses, phone numbers and student ID numbers. The point of the “Bias Incident Reporting” scheme is to make the taxpayer-funded University of Colorado campus free of “demeaning and hurtful statements.” To advertise the scheme, the university created and paid for posters featuring demeaning and hurtful statements which denigrate various cultures and ethnic groups. “Go back to Africa, you don’t belong here,” one school-funded poster reads. “Your mom must be the janitor ’cause that’s the only job for dirty Mexicans,” declares another. Except for the school officials behind the “Bias Motivated Incident” poster campaign, there appears to be no evidence that anyone on the CU Boulder campus has ever said these things.

At the University of North Texas, a school that pays its newly appointed vice president of diversity and inclusion a sweet salary that is more than any governor in any state makes, students petitioned school officials to replace Texas Gov. Greg Abbott as the keynote speaker at the 2015 spring commencement ceremony. The petition focused on the fact that some students have political disagreements with Abbott, a Republican. “Governor Abbott is an advocate for immigration reform, border patrol, and anti-equal marriage laws,” it read. The petition did not suggest a replacement graduation speaker with views aligning with those of the 36,168-student commuter school.

Chancellor R. Bowen Loftin, the highest-ranking official at the University of Missouri, became pathetically unglued in July and threatened to hunt down students and alumni over a photograph from 2012 of some people holding a Confederate flag. In an official statement, Loftin suggested that students could feel physically threatened by the three-year-old photo’s appearance on Twitter. The three-year old image which caused Loftin to lose his composure appeared on Twitter on July 12 at a Twitter account called Frat Scenery. In all likelihood, the people holding the flag were fans of the University of Georgia football team in town to watch the Bulldogs absolutely throttle Mizzou by a score of 41-20.

Hilariously, officials at Georgetown University put pressure on an off-campus group to edit an April 17 lecture posted on YouTube because parts of the video show the militant feminist student protestors and other students. The lecture entitled “What’s Right (and Badly Wrong) with Feminism?” was part of the Luce Lecture series. The featured speaker was resident American Enterprise Institute scholar Christina Hoff Sommers. One of the militant feminist students described Sommers — 5’7″ and about 130 lbs. — as “an extremist anti-feminist speaker that dismisses and denies survivors of sexual assault and the real harm of rape culture.” A handful of feminist students demanded “trigger warnings” prior to the speech by Sommers. Lauren Gagliardi, Georgetown’s assistant director for the center for student engagement, informed the campus College Republicans via email that the school would “step in” if Luce, an independent conservative women’s organization, refuses to edit the YouTube video. It remains unclear exactly what special legal power Gagliardi believes she or Georgetown possesses.

Over the course of this academic year, George Washington University — America’s lyingest, cheatingest college — bizarrely contemplated a ban on a sacred Hindu symbol because it resembles a Nazi swastika. The administration at the fancypants $62,485-per-year school in Washington, D.C. also left open the option of expelling a Jewish student who brought the symbol, a Sanskrit svastika [with a ‘v’], to campus. John Banzhaf, a famed public interest law professor at the GW Law School, took up the cause of the embattled student. “It’s like banning the 6-pointed Jewish Star of David because some people might mistake it for the pentagram symbol and human sacrifice, or expelling a student for using the word ‘niggardly’ because other students may mistake it for a racist word and get upset,” Banzhaf analogized.

In May, a group of slouchy, overwhelmingly white and comfortably well-fed students at Tufts University very briefly went on a hunger strike on behalf of 20 janitors laid off by the administration. The hunger strike went on for about a week. The students involved ended the stunt out of concerns for their own health and went back to their normal lives on the marginally prestigious, $61,277-per-year Boston-area campus. One student striker, Zoe Jeka quit her hunger strike on Friday when her blood pressure dropped. Also, Jeka presumably had tools on hand to measure her blood pressure. The custodians remain laid off.

LGBTTQQFAGPBDSM is an actual acronym that exists in the real world populated by actual human being thanks to Wesleyan University. The acronym — for student housing — is an attempt to include every conceivable kink and gender identity (except heterosexual) in the already-long acronym LGBTQ. In its alphabet soup, the fancypants private college in Connecticut recognized Questioning, Flexual, Asexual, Genderfuck, Polyamourous, Bondage/Disciple, Dominance/Submission and Sadism/Masochism.

Officials at Marquette University suspended tenured political science professor John McAdams in December because he wrote a blog post criticizing a colleague’s refusal to let a conservative student debate gay marriage during a philosophy lecture. The philosophy professor, Cheryl Abbate, had allegedly called the student’s concerns about gay marriage “homophobic.” “Everybody agrees on this,” Abbate said according to the student, “and there is no need to discuss it.” The Catholic university relieved McAdams of all teaching duties.

Word came out this summer that the University of New Hampshire had a Bias-Free Language Guide advising students not to use the word “American” because it is “problematic.” Other “problematic” terms in the ultra-politically-correct guide included “illegal alien,” “foreigners” “mothering,” “fathering” and “homosexual.” According to the university’s website. Once news of the Orwellian guide spread nationally, the taxpayer-funded school’s president quickly made it disappear.

Officials at Dixie State University in Utah banned libertarian students from stapling fliers on school bulletins in March. The reason? The bureaucrats concluded that the fliers “disparaged” two American presidents and a dead communist revolutionary.  Specifically, the fliers — created by the university’s chapter of the Young Americans for Liberty as advertisement for the group’s info session — depicted Barack Obama, George W. Bush and Che Guevara in a negative light. Backed by the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, the students have since sued the public, taxpayer-funded school on free speech grounds.

At Goddard College, an obscure private school in Vermont, former Black Panther Party member and convicted cop killer Mumia Abu-Jamal was scheduled to be the fall commencement speaker this year. Abu-Jamal was convicted of killing Philadelphia police officer Daniel Faulkner in 1982. He has been serving a life sentence ever since. Abu-Jamal earned a bachelor’s degree from Goddard in 1996. He “returned” to campus via a pre-recorded speech that was broadcast to graduates and ceremony guests.

New Jersey’s publicly funded Kean University attempted to fill the position of “specialist for residence life” at its satellite campus in China this year. There’s just one hitch: You should be a member of the Communist party if you want to snag the job. The still-extant job posting explicitly declares: “Membership in Chinese Communist Party is preferred.” Applicants must also state their height and birthplace. Known as Wenzhau-Kean University, Kean’s China campus is a jointly Chinese-American institution offering dual degrees to English-speaking students.


The Wrong Solution to Crushing Student Loan Debt

The story we’re about to share is completely true. It was just published by Bloomberg and describes how the Obama administration is working to relieve the crushing burden of student loan debt by making taxpayers pick up the tab for the wasted education of a 29-year old Chicago woman who graduated with a doctorate degree.

Laura Strong, a 29-year-old in suburban Chicago, owes $245,000 on student loans for the psychology Ph.D. she finished in 2013. This year, she says she hopes to earn $35,000 working part-time jobs as a therapist and yoga teacher—not enough to manage a loan payment of about $2,000 a month. But Strong isn’t paying anything close to that. She’s one of at least 3.8 million Americans who’ve qualified for federal programs that tie payments to income and eventually forgive debt for some struggling borrowers, leaving taxpayers to pick up the tab.

Clearly there’s a lot that has gone wrong here. For example, Laura Strong could have pursued a degree program that would have led her to a genuinely productive career, one that if people valued her line of study enough to justify her academic program’s enormous tuition bills, would have led to a well-paying job in her field of study. But that was something that was not to be found waiting for her at the end of her studies, and as a result, she has instead found herself with a fool’s gold-plated trophy diploma, which she might as well have been awarded for participation rather than meaningful academic achievement.

But with $245,000 of student loan debt to show for her poor choices, we have to recognize that the bad decisions that led to her personal taxpayer-funded bailout weren’t made in a vacuum. She got the federal government to loan her the money to rack up that tuition bill. And in fact, she may have been exploited by the government-academic industrial complex that was counting on her being bailed out even as they jacked up her tuition bills year after year.

Income-based repayment was introduced under President Clinton, but the programs weren’t heavily promoted until late 2013, when the Obama administration began sending e-mails to borrowers, including Strong, telling them, “Your initial payment could be as low as $0 a month.” The number of people using these plans has quadrupled since 2012. About half of borrowers taking out the Department of Education’s Grad Plus loans, which finance advanced-degree studies, are in income-driven plans. Most borrowers in the programs have payments capped at 15 percent of income, with allowances for housing and other expenses. In December the Obama administration is expected to expand the number of borrowers eligible for a payment cap of 10 percent. In a July 27 speech at the University of Maryland’s Baltimore campus, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said the plans protect people going into socially valuable but low-paying lines of work from crushing debt. “That’s good for them. That’s good for our economy. It’s good for our society,” he said.

Critics say the plans are a hidden subsidy to well-off students and colleges, which can justify tuition increases by reassuring students that they may not have to repay their debt. In a seminar at Georgetown Law, Charles Pruett, assistant dean for financial aid, was captured on video telling alumni they could “ignore” debt balances if they spent 10 years in government or nonprofit jobs, which would qualify them for early loan forgiveness. (The video was first reported in 2013 by the New America Foundation, a Washington think tank.) Pruett says Georgetown promotes the programs to encourage graduates to take public-service jobs. “It’s an earned benefit, not a giveaway,” he says.

It seems like an awful lot of nonsense to go through to justify being able to work in a “socially valuable but low-paying line of work,” which is really just a polite way of saying a “job that really doesn’t require all that much education.” Kind of like a minimum wage-paying cashier’s job at a fast food restaurant and many of the kinds of jobs that can be easily taken over by today’s automation technology.

And all to benefit the government-academic industrial complex, at the expense of those they exploit.

There is a better way to handle that situation, one that puts the cost of bad decisions directly on those who contribute to both making and enabling them. Allow all student loans, whether issued by private lenders or the federal government, to be fully discharged in bankruptcy.

Here, people like Laura Strong who have made poor choices in pursuing their academic path would bear the direct penalty of going through bankruptcy proceedings. While that would limit their ability to take out other kinds of loans, it would actually have the benefit of lasting for fewer years on their record than the government’s preferred “income-based repayment” alternative, which is really just the same as an income tax—one that’s additionally imposed on people who have proven to only be capable of earning low incomes.

At the same time, the federal government would have a strong incentive to be a lot less wasteful in how it doles out federal direct student loan dollars, as it would no longer be able to profit when many of the students whose educations they fund turn out to not be capable of paying them back because people don’t value them very much or because the economy won’t support them.

And with a federal government that can no longer subsidize the growth of tuition at U.S. universities to the extent they have, that tuition growth in the future would be much more restrained, which would actually help make pursuing college and advanced degrees more affordable for those who can genuinely benefit from gaining that level of education.

It seems odd to suggest that bankruptcy is a better solution than alternatives that avoid that outcome, but where student loan debt is concerned, the benefits would far outweigh the costs for everyone but the government-academic industrial complex.

And as long as U.S. taxpayers are going to be made to bear the cost, they might as well get something positive to show for it by sticking it to the people who are gaming the system for their own benefit.


Jeb Bush And The Common Core Debacle

During the first round of the 2016 GOP presidential debates, Jeb Bush was pressured by the moderators to explain his history of pushing for Common Core implementation across the country. In his statement, Bush said:

“I don’t believe the federal government should be involved in the creation of standards directly or indirectly, the creation of curriculum or content. It is clearly a state responsibility. I’m for higher standards…”

In his statement though, Bush avoided the specific answer the moderators wanted, which was whether or not he did or did not endorse the current Common Core curricula be adopted by various states. This isn't the first time Bush has dodged the question, back in December of 2014 Bush had this to say about the implementation of off a common curricula adopted by states:

"...Standards are different than curriculum...I would be concerned if we had a national curriculum influenced by the federal government. My God, I’d break out in a rash."

Here's why the way Bush phrased his response is so telling, he spent his portion of his answer time during the debate to state what Common Core is not instead of giving an actual answer. Bush simply stated these two known facts:

1) Common Core is not a federal standard of education

2) Common Core is not a product of the Department of Education

Even though he did say he was against the federal implementation of core curricula, he did say however that states did have the right to opt-in or opt-out of implementing a shared standard similar to other states . That's where he managed to slip in the answer to the question though, the proverbial devil in the details; Common core is a program which states can choose opt into, which he wants states to do as long as standards for students are high.

This should concern anti-Common Core activists, since one of the biggest issues is that the Department of Education did funnel a lot of federal money into states which chose to take part of Common Core, therefore providing a huge incentive without actually endorsing the program.

A key moment during this debate debacle was when Senator Marco Rubio responded to the former Governor's remarks:

“Here is the problem with Common Core. The Department of Education will never be satisfied. They will not stop with making it a suggestion. They will make it a mandate. In fact, what they will say to local communities is, 'You will not get federal money if you don't do things the way we want you to.' They will use Common Core and any other requirements that exist nationally to force it down the throats of our people in our states.”

Rubio's statement hit at the heart of the issue; its that even though this progressive policy isn't federally born, the money offered to states that adopt the system is what has influenced the culture of corruption we have been seeing throughout the country since its inception.

As of now, only two of the GOP candidates in the prime time debate stood strong against Common Core since the beginning, Senators Ted Cruz and Rand Paul . Ohio Governor John Kasich recently started to follow this wave by cutting all state spending to Common Core exams. The rest of the candidates on stage have all come to oppose Common Core, such as New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker .


Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Judge: NY Teacher Exam Not Discriminatory Just Because Minorities Score Lower

A federal judge in New York has deigned to allow a teacher licensing exam which tests rudimentary academic skills and knowledge.  Judge Kimba M. Wood issued her ruling Friday, reports The New York Times.

In June, Wood had struck down another test of basic knowledge used by New York City to vet potential teachers. Wood concluded that the test illegally discriminated against racial minorities because members of racial minorities scored lower on it.

Members of racial minorities also score lower on the test Wood has allowed but, she reasoned, the low scores on the new test of basic knowledge are totally different than the low scores on the old test of basic knowledge.

Wood, a judge in the Southern District of New York, ruled that the two tests are different because the new one more accurately evaluates the skills needs for teaching successfully.

The teaching licensure exam Wood has allowed is called the Academic Literacy Skills Test (ALST). It focuses on reading and writing skills and is aligned with the national Common Core standards for English.

Education materials behemoth Pearson, which has a $32 million five-year contract to develop New York’s Common Core-related tests, developed the literacy skills test.

Prospective teachers seeking certification in the state of New York must take the literacy test as well as three others.

The Academic Literacy Skills Test first appeared in the 2013-14 school year.

Would-be black and Hispanic teachers have failed New York’s Academic Literacy Skills Test at a considerable clip. Just 41 percent of black teacher candidates passed the test on the first attempt. Just 46 percent of Hispanic teacher candidates passed on their first try.

The first-time pass rate for white teacher candidates on the test has been 64 percent. Over 80 percent of America’s current teacher workforce is white.

In a court filing, former New York State deputy commissioner of education Ken Wagner asserted that the literacy test and the other three teacher licensing tests “ensure that each newly certified teacher entered the classroom with certain minimum knowledge, skills and abilities.”

New York State Education Department spokesman David Tompkins lauded Wood’s ruling.  “Our students need and deserve the best qualified teachers possible, and the ALST helps make sure they get those teachers,” Tompkins said, according to the Times.

Critics of testing academic skills as a way to license teachers argue that tests of basic literacy can only measure how well someone can speak and write.  “The question is, is that one of the criterion for determining who will be a good teacher?” Alfred S. Posamentier, former education dean at Mercy College in the swanky suburbs north of Manhattan, told the Times. “My sense is that the answer is no.”

Due to complaints from professors and officials in university education departments, soon-to-be teachers don’t actually need to pass the literacy exam until June 30, 2016. If they fail the literacy test, they can display their English language prowess through coursework.

At issue in Wood’s Friday ruling and her previous ruling is the concept of disparate racial impact. The basic rule when disparate racial impact occurs as the result of an employment test is that proponents of the test must show that the test assesses skills specifically necessary for the job.

The New York City test Judge Wood threw out was called the Liberal Arts and Science Test (LAST-2). It tested a basic high school-level understanding of both the liberal arts and the sciences.

Approximately 4,000 teachers and teaching applicants lost their jobs or did not get hired because they couldn’t pass the old test.

Members of minorities failed the old test at a substantially higher rate than white people did. Hispanic and black applicants had a passage rate of only 54 to 75 percent of the passage rate for whites.

One sample question from the old test asked prospective educators to identify the mathematical principle of a linear relationship when given four examples; another asked them to read four passages from the Constitution and identify which illustrated checks and balances. Besides factual knowledge, the test also checks basic academic skills, such as reading comprehension and the ability to read basic charts and graphs.

This neutral subject matter contained an insidious kernel of racism, Judge Wood ruled.

Wood is most famous as President Bill Clinton’s second failed choice for United States Attorney General. She ran into trouble because she hired an illegal immigrant as her nanny.


Modern College Students Can’t Laugh About Anything

A new article for The Atlantic magazine dives into the anti-septic world of college stand-up comedy, where the humor of a joke is measured by how well it avoids giving offense.

The article, “That’s Not Funny!,” chronicles Caitlin Flanagan’s journey to a convention held by the National Association for Campus Activities (NACA), where administrators and student government representatives venture to choose potential stand-up comics to book for on-campus performances. And what performers do these students choose? Only the ones who avoid saying anything remotely offensive.

“They wanted comedy that was 100 percent risk-free, comedy that could not trigger or upset or mildly trouble a single student,” Flanagan writes. “They wanted comedy so thoroughly scrubbed of barb and aggression that if the most hypersensitive weirdo on campus mistakenly wandered into a performance, the words he would hear would fall on him like a soft rain, producing a gentle chuckle and encouraging him to toddle back to his dorm, tuck himself in, and commence a dreamless sleep—not text Mom and Dad that some monster had upset him with a joke.”

The situation, Flanagan surmises, reflects the broader “infantilization” of college students, who must be kept happy and entertained lest they wander off, taking their tuition money with them. She names comedian after comedian forced to sanitize acts or risk being shut out of a lucrative market.

One comic Flanagan discusses brings the house down, only to be rejected by most schools when his routine crosses too many racial boundaries.

“We’re a very forward-thinking school,” an Iowa student says. “That thing about the ‘sassy black friend’? That wouldn’t work for us.”

“We don’t want to sponsor an event that would offend anyone,” says a student activities planner from Western Michigan University.

Even the comics allowed to perform at the convention, Flanagan notes, were screened in advance, with members who could enhance the “diversity” of the event favored even if they were unprepared while anybody with overly risqué was screened out.

“As I listened to the kids hash out whom to invite, it became clear that to get work, a comic had to be… deeply respectful of a particular set of beliefs,” Flanagan says. “These beliefs included, but were in no way limited to, the following: women, as a group, should never be made to feel uncomfortable; people whose sexual orientation falls beyond the spectrum of heterosexuality must be reassured of their special value; racial injustice is best addressed in tones of bitter anguish or inspirational calls to action; Muslims are friendly helpers whom we should cherish.”

Flanagan’s work reinforces the concerns of Chris Rock and Jerry Seinfeld, both of whom grabbed headlines in the past year by saying they avoid college campuses due to their political correctness


College Lays Off Hundreds, Blows $900k On President’s Mansion

The University of Akron, a public college in Ohio, is attracting ridicule over the revelation that it has spent lavishly to renovate its president’s house while also trying to plug a $60 million budget hole.

In an emergency effort to rapidly cut its expenses by $40 million, Akron has announced that it is eliminating 215 positions at the school. Victims of the cuts include the school’s non-profit publishing company, a big chunk of its theater staff, and its baseball team.

Scrutiny over the deep, rapid cuts has led to local press discovering that one reason for the school’s big financial hole is a massive splurge last year on the university president’s house.

According to documents obtained by the Northeast Ohio Media Group, the school spent about $950,000 renovating a house for current president Scott Scarborough, who arrived at the school late last year. The house already belonged to the school, but had received no significant work in 15 years under Scarborough’s predecessor.

While several hundred thousand dollars were spent on renovations to the heating, plumbing, and other essential parts of the house, this price tag also included a host of lavish improvements.

For example, an invoice published by The Akron Beacon-Journal found over $150,000 in spending on furnishings and decorations for the house. Purchases include several thousand-dollar chairs, five thousand-dollar kitchen stools, and an $1,800 bedroom mirror.

Most notoriously, though, the purchases include a $556 decorative olive jar, which has been swiftly singled out for ridicule by those critical of Akron’s excess. The olive jar already has its own Facebook and Twitter pages, with its “comments” including statements along the lines of “Holy shit! I cost that much?”

Akron is a public college, but has tried to defend the house spending by saying it was paid for exclusively from private donations rather than public funds. But the school also assigned a substantial number of school staff to spend hundreds of hours working on the renovation, and those staff were state employees.

Akron has had to suppress a great deal of bad publicity stemming from the layoffs, even creating a special page entitled “Just the Facts” to counter claims such “The University’s academics wallow in mediocrity” and “The University’s graduation rates are awful.”


Monday, August 10, 2015

Preventing the tyranny of the minority: Disinvitation and dissenting opinions

Haverford College, the prestigious and bucolic liberal arts school located in the Philadelphia suburbs, made national news in May 2014 when Robert Birgeneau, former chancellor of the University of California, Berkeley, withdrew as commencement speaker following student complaints about his role in the 2011 Berkeley Occupy protests. The students’ letter, as summarized by, urged Birgeneau “to meet nine conditions, including publicly apologizing, supporting reparations for victims, and writing a letter to Haverford students explaining his position on the events and ‘what you learned from them.’ Birgeneau declined and withdrew.”

Birgeneau’s disinvitation was one of many high-profile events during that graduation season; Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Condoleezza Rice, and Christine Lagarde were all disinvited at different commencements or withdrew in response to student demands. This troubling trend made national news, prompting FIRE to compile a comprehensive report on the issue, and earned a chapter in FIRE President and CEO Greg Lukianoff’s Freedom From Speech. An important aspect of these disinvitations is that they are often prompted by a small group of vocal students who do not necessarily represent the views of the student body. Disinvitations are pernicious blights on college reputations that shortchange open-minded students interested in learning about dissenting viewpoints.

While I am not a student at Haverford College, most of my social circle is there. This summer I am living on Haverford’s campus, which is a member of a class-sharing consortium with my school, the University of Pennsylvania. After reading Freedom From Speech, I set out to learn what the campus attitude was at the time of the disinvitation.

It was extremely difficult to find anyone who even knew the people who called for Birgeneau to withdraw. One rising senior I spoke to was a sophomore at the time of the disinvitation. Her memory of the event was that it was a relatively small group of students that wanted the speaker to step down, whereas most of the campus community members were perfectly happy to hear the chancellor’s thoughts. This student made it clear that the group who demanded Birgeneau’s disinvitation proceeded without the support of the majority of the student body or the administration, and the resulting withdrawal was a serious blow to the credibility of discourse on campus.

An article in The Clerk, Haverford’s independent student newspaper, quoted then-sophomore George Ordiway as saying, “We sort of entered the dialogue with a conclusion, and wanted to work backwards[.] … We need to approach with a slightly more open mind.” His hesitancy about the letter’s tone and intensity of its demands reveals the issues with disinvitation, insofar that it creates hostility that could limit open dialogue. Indeed, Birgeneau’s incisive response demonstrates that he had no desire to engage with demands that decried one aspect of his history rather than looking holistically at his accomplishments. One of his colleagues, Dr. Nadesan Permaul of Berkeley, wrote to the school and berated them, stating the student body “missed an opportunity to validate the very principles that Berkeley students are rightly famous for championing; ‘free speech.’” The disinvitation at Haverford is microcosmic for the disintegration of the intellectually challenging exchange of ideas on campuses.

One theory explaining the problems of disinvitation may be found in John Stuart Mill’s seminal work On Liberty. In it, he points out the absurdity of those who refuse to acknowledge other positions or arguments:

    "Strange that [those who do not recognize the other side of arguments] should imagine that they are not assuming infallibility when they acknowledge that there should be free discussion on all subjects which can possibly be doubtful, but think that some particular principle or doctrine should be forbidden to be questioned because it is so certain, that is, because they are certain that it is certain".

And many students intuitively understand the need to face their dissenters. My friend at Haverford believes that it was important for Birgeneau to speak at her campus because even if people disagreed with his opinion because of his actions, they would have been able to solidify their arguments by hearing him speak. Disinivitations that come from a minority of students harm the rest of the student body’s ability to exchange ideas.

The principle behind inviting a speaker is to give them the benefit of assuming they have something worthwhile to say. Disagreeing with a single facet of a speaker’s beliefs shortchanges a more nuanced conversation about issues that are necessary to form developed opinions. If you are interested in other disinvitations that have taken place in recent years, check out FIRE’s new disinvitation database so you can speak out in an informed manner when a small group attempts to push a speaker off-campus.


UK: Green light for the first 'new' grammar school in 50 years

Ministers are set to announce the first 'new' grammar school in 50 years, reviving the decades-old row over the role of academic selection in the State system.

Sources have told The Mail on Sunday that a Whitehall battle over whether to give the green light to the school in Sevenoaks, Kent, has finally been resolved after Government lawyers dropped their opposition.

If Education Secretary Nicky Morgan now approves the school, it will be hailed as a victory for Tory traditionalists who argue that the comprehensive system has made it harder for bright children from poor families to attend top universities and claim the best jobs.

Opponents argue that a selective system stigmatises those pupils who do not pass the 11-plus and damages nearby comprehensives.

Laws passed by Labour under Tony Blair make it illegal to open a new selective school, but do not bar existing schools from expanding.

The proposed new school for 500 girls in Sevenoaks would evade the ban by being classified as a 'satellite' branch of the all-girls Weald of Kent grammar, ten miles away in Tonbridge.

If the new school is a success, at least 12 further 'grammar satellites' are in the pipeline.

A previous attempt to open the Sevenoaks school – which has planning permission and a £16 million building fund – was rejected in 2013 on the basis that it was designed to be co-educational and could not be legally justified as the 'same' school if it took boys.

Then Ms Morgan's advisers warned that if the teaching staff were not contracted to work at both school sites, they might be considered separate institutions.

This newspaper understands that the Government has been satisfied by assurances from Kent County Council that there will be 'regular staff traffic' between Tonbridge and Sevenoaks.

A senior education source said: 'We were determined to make sure the new grammar was legally watertight. The last thing we wanted was for our opponents to accuse us of rushing into an ideologically-motivated decision.'

A Department for Education spokesman said legal advice was still being considered.


UK: University gender gap growing warns admissions chief

A worrying gender gap has emerged in higher education, with girls dominating admissions to leading universities, the head of the admissions service has warned.

Urgent action is needed to boost the number of boys applying to university to stop them becoming a “disadvantaged” minority, according to Mary Curnock Cook, the Ucas chief executive.

Young women are on average a third more likely to progress to higher education, Ucas statistics show. In some parts of the country, that number increases to 50 per cent.

Speaking to The Telegraph, Ms Curnock Cook said: “It means there is something like 32,000 young men missing from university.”

Her comments come just days before hundreds of thousands of teenagers are due to collect their A-level results on Thursday this week. Competition for places at top universities is expected to be especially fierce this year, with record numbers of applicants to Oxford, Cambridge and other top 10 institutions.

Ms Curnock Cook called for a "laser focus" on the issue of fewer boys going to university than girls.

If you look at most independent schools and high performing secondary schools, many of them will have a person whose full time job is to support their sixth formers.

She said: “My concern is in five or ten years’ time young men will be the new disadvantaged group. I remain astounded that there is not more political and societal focus on this."

The gender gap is most pronounced among pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds. Boys who live in the poorest 20 per cent of areas or who receive free school meals lag furthest behind girls in university admissions.

The figures will fuel concerns that white working class boys are under-achieving at school, with worse exam results than many other groups.

Ms Curnock Cook also warned that too many pupils are failing to study the A-level subjects they need to win places at the country's elite universities.

Teenagers from poorer homes are often studying vocational qualifications and are not being given the "handholding attention" they require to compete with their more affluent peers, she said.

While there has been a "major social change" over the past decade in terms of disadvantaged young people entering higher education, more needs to be done to tackle inequality and loosen the grip of middle-class children on top university places, she said.

Ms Curnock Cook said young people from richer backgrounds were currently six or seven times more likely to go to elite Russell Group universities, down from nine times in 2006.

"The gap has improved but it’s more challenging to tackle," she said. “If you look at the affluent population, their participation in higher education has been static for a decade. All the growth is coming from less affluent groups.

[But] it is true to say that those pupils are quite significantly more likely to be taking vocational qualifications rather than A-levels. We need more people from disadvantaged backgrounds to be doing better at GCSEs and progressing onto A-levels and then to [top] institutions.

A-level results: UCAS website crashes as results traffic quadruplesThe UCAS website had to be taken down because it was inundated with inquiries  Photo: GETTY IMAGES Ucas and Telegraph Clearing provide advice on Results Day

“If you look at most independent schools and high performing secondary schools, many of them will have a person whose full time job is to support their sixth formers.

“Then you go to an academy in a more deprived area and probably the school’s main focus is getting above the floor targets at GCSEs, including English and maths.

“Even if in a school like you have a handful of people who would be capable to do well at A-level and progressing, they are probably not getting the handholding attention than people from more affluent backgrounds are getting.”

Universities have come under increasing pressure to widen their access to students from different background. Many now run summer schools and other outreach programmes in a bid to boost their intake from poorer students.

Controversially, some elite universities now make lower A-level offers to pupils from deprived state schools than they do to other teenagers, believing that they will succeed in higher education even if they have lower grades at school.

But Ms Curnock Cook said that academic achievement in secondary school and even primary school was still holding students back.

"If someone has not done well in primary school it is even more difficult to bring them up in secondary school, so it goes right back to the very start," she said.

"Improvements in education achievement are very important. The other thing that characterises the problem very much is the ability of schools to support progression with really good advice and guidance."


Sunday, August 09, 2015

Despite Problems, Mississippi Education Savings Accounts Show Promise

An innovative new education law in Mississippi expands school choice options for parents of special-needs students.

After protests arose because the initial rollout of the law placed onerous burdens on parents who applied, the Mississippi Department of Education (MDOE) relaxed the restrictions, and the law is now showing great promise.

Senate Bill 2695 set up a five-year pilot program for up to 500 parents per year in Mississippi to apply for educational savings accounts (ESAs) in order to customize the education of their special-needs children. The ESA legislation passed into law in April. Funding for each ESA can amount to up to $6,500. Parents can use ESA funding for a wide variety of services, including private school tuition, tutoring, and advanced therapy.

Early in June, as the July 1 launch approached, MDOE received criticism for the burdens it placed on parents applying for the program.

Empower Mississippi, a free-market think tank, issued a strong statement criticizing the rollout of the program. The criticisms included a very short application window over summer vacation, the inability to view application documents prior to the opening of the application window, and limited ways to send in applications.

Fixing the Problems

It appears officials addressed many of these problems, according to Empower Mississippi. Empower Mississippi President Grant Callen says MDOE has increased the application window and posted the application online.

“This is a great improvement from the initial 10-day application window, which would have limited access to these scholarships,” said Callen. “They’re now saying that once the enrollment has reached 50 percent of the available ESAs, all approved applications will be placed on a waiting list and MDOE will determine a deadline for a random selection process for the remaining scholarships.”

Callen lauded the innovative nature of this new law.

“This law represents a dramatic leap forward in the way we educate students with special needs, and more broadly, the way we think about public education in Mississippi,” said Callen. “In this age of innovation and personalization, why not allow parents the freedom to customize an education that they determine is right for their child? We’ve talked in America since the time of Thomas Jefferson about education funding, but very little about education delivery. This law will provide the proper incentives for achieving desired outcomes for students with special needs.”

Advancing Education Freedom

Jason Bedrick, a policy analyst for the Center for Educational Freedom at the Cato Institute, says this ESA program represents a great advance in education freedom.

“ESAs empower families to completely customize their child’s education,” said Bedrick. “This is particularly important for families that have students with special needs. Sometimes, a student’s assigned district school is unable to meet his or her needs, so the ESA enables his or her parents to seek out alternatives. In Arizona, a 2013 survey found that parents of students with special needs were unanimously satisfied with the education they were able to purchase for their children with an ESA.”

Bedrick says this model is the future of education in Mississippi and other states.

“In Arizona, the ESA program was originally limited to students with special needs, as in Mississippi,” said Bedrick. “However, the legislature has subsequently expanded program eligibility several times. It now also includes students assigned to district schools with a ‘D’ or  ‘F’ letter grade according to the state accountability system; children of active-duty military members; youth adopted from the state’s foster care system; and students living on Native American reservations. I expect that we will see states such as Mississippi, Florida, and Tennessee expand their eligibility criteria over time as well.”


Number of Homeschoolers Increases Nationally

Parents choosing to home school their kids remain part of a growing movement across the country. According to a recent report in the National Catholic Register, the number of families now practicing some type of home education grew by 62 percent between 2003 and 2012. The report cites U.S. Department of Education statistics, highlighting the swell of homeschoolers as well as their reasons for seeking an alternative to traditional schools.

Parents are choosing this course of action based on a variety of motives, which also look different today from years past. Fewer today choose home schooling for religious reasons, while more feel the quality of their child’s education will be better because of home schooling as compared to traditional schooling, according to the report.


State's Largest Teachers Union Fails to Disclose 30 Percent of Its Income

The Michigan Education Association, the state's largest teachers union, routinely submits financially reports to the federal government, as it is legally required. But the reports can leave outsiders wondering about the source of the roughly 30 percent of its income that is categorized under the heading of “All Other Receipts.”

That’s the only description the Michigan Education Association provides to account for more than $30 million of its annual income. Specifically, on its 2014 LM-2 disclosure form, the MEA reported over $38 million in receipts from unspecified sources under the "All Other Receipts” heading.

“This is something that isn’t commonly seen on a union disclosure report," said Nathan Paul Mehrens, president of the Americans for Limited Government Foundation. "It begs the question: Where did this money come from?”

Mehrens served in the U.S. Department of Labor under George W. Bush, where his job included designing union disclosure forms. “The LM-2 disclosure form, like most balance sheets, has various line items, such as ‘dues and fees,’ that describe the sources of the funds,” he said.

According to Mehrens, the mystery revenue raises several questions. "This line is for sources that don’t fit into any of the specified descriptions," he said. "However, a union is allowed to report money it received in the ‘All Other Receipts’ category only if it received the money in individual amounts of less than $5,000.”

“In order to reach $38 million with payments that fall below the $5,000 threshold, the sheer volume involved seems problematic,” Mehrens continued. “Even if we assume that the $38 million MEA listed under ‘All Other Receipts’ came in amounts of $4,999, that would represent 7,667 transactions.”

During February 2014 testimony before Julia C. Stern, an administrative law judge who was hearing a labor case involving members quitting the union, MEA Executive Director Gretchen Dziadosz was asked about the $33 million that MEA reported on its 2013 report under "All Other Receipts."

“I didn’t prepare on this, I couldn’t tell you without my accounting staff,” said Dziadosz, whose name appears on the LM-2 forms as the union's contact. “They are the ones who helped prepare this. I do not have personal knowledge of that.”

Michigan Capitol Confidential left a telephone voice message for MEA spokeswoman Nancy Knight requesting comment on the funds. So far, the call has not been returned.

The mystery money may be related to the union’s health insurance division, the Michigan Education Special Services Association, which long ago was described as the money machine that subsidizes the union's other work, including political activism. MESSA administers school employee health insurance benefits underwritten by Blue Cross Blue Shield.

Mehrens was asked if MESSA could be the source of the $30 million-plus figures MEA reports as “All Other Receipts.”

“That’s a possibility,” he said. “But back in 1959 when these disclosure regulations were put in place, the report of the committee that originally passed them said their purpose was to allow union members a full accounting of their union’s financial transactions.”

“At the very least, MEA should provide something that reveals the source of these millions of dollars,” Mehrens added. “With any reporting system there are weaknesses, but based on what I’ve seen, the way this union is reporting contradicts the whole notion of financial disclosure. Union members are entitled to a full accounting of MEA’s transactions.”

By contrast, other unions typically report less than one percent of their annual incomes on the “All Other Receipts” line. The United Auto Workers reported approximately $1.1 million, or less than 0.5 percent of its total income of $219 million. The Service Employees International Union reported less than $200,000, while its total income was $321 million. The Teamsters reported just over $291,000, with roughly $182 million in total income. The National Education Association, the parent organization of the MEA, reported approximately $421,000 in "All Other Receipts," with over $385 million in total income.

The MEA had the highest total receipts of all NEA state affiliates that filed LM-2s, with the Pennsylvania NEA affiliate finishing second. It had nearly $95 million in total receipts, and just over $630,000 for other receipts.