Friday, August 28, 2015

Academic Fascism again

By Walter E. Williams

Last week's column highlighted college oncampus absurdities and the ongoing attack on free speech and plain comm sense. As parents gear up to fork over $20,000 to $60,000 for college tuition, they might benefit from knowing what greets their youngsters. Deceitful college officials, who visit high schools to recruit students and talk to parents, conceal the worst of their campus practices. Let's expose some of it.

Christina Hoff Sommers is an avowed feminist and a scholar at the American Enterprise Institute. She's spent a lifetime visiting college campuses. Recently, upon her arrival at Oberlin College, Georgetown University and other campuses, trigger warnings were issued asserting, in her words, that her "very presence on campus" was "a form of violence" and that she was threatening students' mental health. At Oberlin, 30 students and the campus therapy dog retired to a "safe room" with soft music, crayons and coloring books to escape any uncomfortable facts raised by Sommers.

The problem for students and some professors is that Sommers challenges the narrative, with credible statistical facts, that women are living in a violent, paternalistic rape culture. As a result, she has been "excommunicated from the church of campus feminism" in order to protect women from her uncomfortable facts. This prompted Sommers to say, "There's a move to get young women in combat, and yet on our campuses, they are so fragile they can't handle a speaker with dissenting views." I wonder whether there will be demands for the military to have therapy dogs and safe rooms in combat situations.

The University of New Hampshire published a "Bias-Free Language Guide," which "is meant to invite inclusive excellence in (the) campus community." Terms such as "American," "homosexual," "illegal alien," "Caucasian," "mothering," "fathering" and "foreigners" are deemed "problematic." Other problematic terms include "elders," "senior citizen," "overweight," "speech impediment," "dumb," "sexual preference," "manpower," "freshmen," "mailman" and "chairman." For now, these terms are seen as problematic. If the political correctness police were permitted to get away with it, later they would bring disciplinary action against a student or faculty member who used the terms.

The offender would be required to attend diversity training, the leftist equivalent of communist re-education camps. In a rare instance of administrative guts, UNH President Mark Huddleston said he is offended by many things in the guide and declared that it is not university policy.

Florida State University has an "Equal Opportunity and Non-Discrimination Statement," which says, "Behavior that may be considered offensive, demeaning, or degrading to persons or groups will not be tolerated." That's both broad and troublesome. Say that you're a Muslim student and offended by homosexuality. Can you demand termination of campus activities that support homosexual activities?

A 2014 report by the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education ( found that 59 percent of the 427 higher-education institutions it analyzed have policies that infringe on First Amendment rights. FIRE found that the University of Connecticut prohibits "actions that intimidate, humiliate, or demean persons or groups, or that undermine their security or self-esteem." The University of South Carolina prohibits "teasing," "ridiculing" and "insulting."

In 2012, FIRE listed the "12 Worst Colleges for Free Speech" ( In no particular order, they are the University of Cincinnati, Syracuse University, Widener University, Harvard University, Yale University, Saint Augustine's College, Michigan State University, Colorado College, Johns Hopkins University, Tufts University, Bucknell University and Brandeis University.

University presidents, other academic administrators and faculty members all too often find the well-worn path of least resistance most attractive. They give support to claims of oppression and victimhood. These close-minded people are simply the "grown-up" leftist hippie generation of the 1960s and '70s.

You might ask: What's Walter Williams' solution to these problems? For starters, benefactors should stop giving money to universities that endorse anti-free speech and racist diversity policy. Simply go to a university's website. If you find an office of diversity, close your pocketbook. There's nothing like the sound of pocketbooks snapping shut to open the closed minds of administrators.


British Schools ordered to build up children's 'resilience to radicalisation' by teaching British values in fresh crackdown on terror

Schools have been asked to build up children's 'resilience to radicalisation' by teaching them British values.

From last month schools were placed under legal duty to take action to stop children being drawn into terrorism.

The Department for Education has now issued advice for teachers – and even childcare providers - on how to make sure they are fulfilling their new duty.

It says: 'Schools and childcare providers can also build pupils' resilience to radicalisation by promoting fundamental British values and enabling them to challenge extremist views.

'It is important to emphasise that the Prevent duty is not intended to stop pupils debating controversial issues.

'On the contrary, schools should provide a safe space in which children, young people and staff can understand the risks associated with terrorism and develop the knowledge and skills to be able to challenge extremist arguments.'

The obligation to protect children from the risk of radicalisation should be seen as part of schools' wider safeguarding duties and is similar to the requirement to guard against other harms such as drugs, gangs and sexual exploitation, the advice said.

Schools are expected to assess the risk of children being drawn into terrorism, which can include support for extremist ideas that are 'part of terrorist ideology'.

Extremism is defined by the Government as 'vocal or active opposition to fundamental British values, including democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty and mutual respect and tolerance of different faiths and beliefs'.

The definition also includes calls for the death of members of the UK armed forces.


UK: The great High School re-marking fiasco: Hundred lose university places waiting for wrong grades to be changed

Hundreds of teenagers are missing out on their first choice of university because of an ‘unfair’ exam marking system and admissions process, head teachers warn.

Some pupils who get the right A-level results for their preferred degree courses – but only after having papers re-marked and upgraded – are being told their university places have already gone.

Official figures reveal that record numbers of A-level grades were overturned on appeal last year, with 122,500 scripts challenged and 23,200 changed. This compares to 59,500 challenged and 10,550 changed in 2010.

However some are taking so long to be re-marked that pupils are plumping for their second choice of university just to ensure they have a place. And many students from poorer families who fear they may have got the wrong grades cannot afford to contest the results, according to teaching unions.

The Headmasters’ and Headmistresses’ Conference (HMC), which represents leading private schools, said a significant number of independent and state students were facing ‘real unfairness’.

This year some schools are already reporting high numbers of challenges – with Royal Grammar School, Newcastle, saying it has requested 117 re-marks compared to 83 at the same time last year.

A number have had their results dramatically bumped up just a week after they were published. Among them, Brighton College has five more A* grades after remarking and Magdalen College School in Oxford also has five extra A*s.

HMC said that while the proportion of teenagers suffering unfair treatment was small, the impact on individuals could be huge.

Marion Gibbs, the head of the £15,000-a-year James Allen’s Girls’ School in South London, said she was ‘very angry’ about the treatment of one of her pupils by Durham University. She said the girl achieved the required grades for her language degree after a re-mark which took two working days.

But Mrs Gibbs said: ‘The university said it had no place for her. The girl is devastated.’

She said Durham had offered the pupil a place in 2016 but she did not want a gap year, adding: ‘It is her whole life. She set her heart on Durham.’ She added the marking system needed an urgent overhaul, and the exam boards have set up a working group to try to recruit new markers.

Another head, Adam Pettitt of Highgate School in North London, said one of his pupils achieved the grades to study psychology at Durham after a re-mark. ‘She got an email from Durham apologising they couldn’t honour the offer this year, but could in 2016,’ he said.

‘The girl couldn’t afford a gap year, so gave up her place to go to Southampton.’ He added that the university was acting like an airline bumping people off a flight because it has overbooked.

Durham had warned it could not guarantee immediate places for pupils after re-marks. HMC said it also had reports of another eight or so universities, including Warwick and Bristol, holding on to borderline candidates for longer than reasonable before deciding whether to take them, jeopardising their chances of obtaining alternative places.

Exam boards were also taking too long to re-mark many papers, it said, adding: ‘We call on the boards to deal with poor assessment more quickly, and universities to give students fairer treatment.’

A third head, from a West country independent school, said that schools were also concerned about infuriating cases of ‘dire’ marking, particularly when results improved by up to two grades on appeal, sometimes rising from a C to an A.

State school leaders were also critical. Steve McArdle, assistant head at Durham Johnston comprehensive, said that while schools would pay the £50 to have fast-track re-marks when there was a glaring error, neither they nor pupils could always afford speculative reassessments.

He added there could be hundreds of poorer pupils missing out on university places for this reason.

Durham University declined to comment yesterday, while Warwick said it was unaware of significant issues and Bristol said it ‘endeavoured to let students know about their place as quickly as possible’.

A spokesman for the Joint Council for Qualifications, which represents exam boards, said: ‘Boards have robust systems in place to ensure marking is accurate.

‘A post-results system is in place for schools that wish to query a student’s grade. This is completed as quickly as possible. It is important to note that less than 1 per cent of grades are changed.

‘Boards have encouraged universities to keep places open until the post-results system is complete.’


Thursday, August 27, 2015

Rape trial casts harsh light on 'sex traditions' at elite US boarding school

A prefect at an elite US boarding school is accused of raping a 15-year-old girl as part of a competition among sixth-form boys to take the virginity of younger female students in their final days before graduation.

The trial of Owen Labrie, a 19-year-old who was bound for Harvard, has cast a harsh light on hidden traditions and sexual escapades at St Paul's, a $56,000  a year school whose alumni include John Kerry, the US secretary of state.

Labrie allegedly told police after his arrest last year that he was "trying to be number one" in the competition and prosecutors said he made a list of girls he was interested in, and capitalised the name of his alleged victim.

Both prosecution and defence agree that Labrie emailed the girl and asked her to take part in "a senior salute", a custom where graduating boys try to spend time with younger students before they leave.

The case has confronted the school with questions on whether teachers knew about the "senior salute", a tradition that has been passed down for years among older students, but did nothing to stop it.

Labrie said in the email he had gained access to a secluded room in the campus's multi-million dollar science building, which offered views of the sprawling St Paul's campus sometimes referred to as "Millville".

"I want to invite you to come with me to climb these hidden steps and bask in the nicest view Millville has to offer," he wrote.

The girl initially said no but later changed her mind and agreed to meet him after Labrie enlisted one of her classmates to help persuade her.

What happened next is a matter for the jury. The alleged victim told the court through tears last week that Labrie forced himself on her even though she told him she did not want to have sex. "I was raped," she said.

The defence team says the pair did not have sex and Labrie himself is expected to take the stand to give his version of the story.

Both sides have relied on emails and Facebook messages between the teenagers as well as testimony from Labrie's friends, many of whom are now at Ivy League universities.

In one message after the alleged incident, the girl joked to Labrie: "I also lost my earring up there. haha." Labrie's lawyers said it was unlikely someone who had just been raped would type out the light-hearted message.

But several of Labrie's friends testified that he told them he had sex with the girl, undermining his claim there was no sexual intercourse. In one message after the meeting, the girl asked if he wore a condom and he responded by asking if she was on the Pill.

The court heard how boys would try to "slay" girls, a term that could mean anything from kissing to sex. Labrie was part of a small Facebook group called "Slaymakers Anonymous" and boys would allegedly map out their conquests in a diagram on a school wall before it was painted over.

Students walking through the dining hall would rub the engraved name of an alumni called "Slaymaker", hoping his suggestive surname would give them luck in their sexual exploits.

St Paul's has declined to comment in detail on the case but Michael Hirschfeld, the rector, said the school would crack down on students taking part in "any game, 'tradition,' or practice of sexual solicitation or sexual conquest under any name".

The trial continues.


Here’s How Hurricane Katrina Changed Schools in New Orleans

For all its devastation, Hurricane Katrina swept into this city an opportunity to embark on one of the greatest education experiments in America.

In the aftermath of the 2005 storm, instead of rebuilding a public school system where roughly two in every three schools were deemed “failing,” the city transformed almost all of its traditionally run public schools into independently operated charter schools.

Charter schools changed the city’s approach to education, eliminating attendance zones, removing unions and giving parents a real say where they send their kids to school.

To document the drastic changes that have taken place in education since Hurricane Katrina, The Daily Signal traveled to New Orleans to speak with students, parents, educators and charter school operators about the transition. Their story is told in our new video.

Today, 92 percent of students in New Orleans attend charters.

Instead of graduating roughly 54 percent of its students, as New Orleans did before the storm, the city’s public schools (both charter and non-charter) now graduate 73 percent of students, even beating the national average in male graduation rate.

Last year at Cohen College Prep, one of the city’s worst-performing schools before Hurricane Katrina hit, 100 percent of its students were accepted into college. It’s these kinds of statistics that have led some to dub the charter school movement, “the silver lining to the storm.”

Charter schools operate as public schools in New Orleans; they don’t charge tuition, provide yellow buses around the city and follow state standards such as Common Core.

Yet, instead of being run by the government, charters are operated by a private nonprofit or for-profit organizations.

Local and state school boards grant those organizations strict contracts. If a school fails, its charter is revoked and given to new organization to operate.

In exchange for that responsibility, charter schools have more autonomy over their daily operations, including hiring, firing, budgeting and instruction decisions.

The system’s biggest advocates admit things aren’t perfect, and there’s still vast room for improvements. In the 2013-14 academic year, 10 of 80 charters received an “F” grade. Three of these schools have since shut down, and one, Andrew H. Wilson, has been turned over to a new charter operator.

The system symbolizes a change in attitude that has taken over New Orleans since Hurricane Katrina—most notably that failure is no longer an option. Today, more than ever before, residents are determined to show the country they can lead, and in doing so, serve as a model for others to follow.


Revealed: Half of all UK university graduates are languishing in low-skilled jobs which do not need a degree

Labour's controversial drive to send half of all youngsters to university has resulted in thousands of debt-laden graduates languishing in jobs they are over-qualified for, a shock report has warned.

The detailed study found that more than half of all those with a degree are now doing non-graduate jobs. Among Western nations, only Estonia and Greece have worse records on the issue.

Peter Cheese, chief executive of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, which produced the study, said Britain was producing graduates far faster than it produces high-skilled jobs for them to do, leaving thousands stuck in jobs they are over-qualified to do.

He said that work or apprenticeships could be a ‘much better choice’ for thousands of school-leavers currently being encouraged to go to university.

‘The assumption that we will transition to a more productive, higher-value, higher-skilled economy just by increasing the conveyor belt of graduates is proven to be flawed,’ he said.

‘It is crucial that we, as a nation, take stock now of whether our higher education system is delivering desired returns for graduates, organisations or individuals.’

Tony Blair set a target in 1999 to get ‘50 per cent of young adults going into higher education in the next century’.

The pledge was controversial from the start, with critics warning there was no point in youngsters studying for three years to gain expensive qualifications they would not need in later life.

The new report suggests it has had little impact on raising the number of skilled jobs in the economy, with the result that many people leaving university cannot get a graduate level job.

Around one in 12 people working in low-skilled jobs, such as call centres and coffee shops, now have a degree.

In total, almost 60 per cent of graduates are now working in jobs that do not require a degree.

The study also found that degrees are now being demanded for entry into careers that never required them in the past, such as nursing or the construction industry.

It found this was more likely to be designed to help employers ‘filter’ applicant than any real increase in skills levels.

The report warned it was likely that ‘these individuals are no more or less productive in such jobs than their mothers or fathers’.

The study found that the UK now has the second highest ‘graduation rate’ in the developed world, with 54 per cent of young people getting a degree. Germany, by contrast, has a rate of just 31 per cent, with many more young people going into apprenticeships and vocational training after school.

The new report will raise worries about the sustainability of the university funding system. Students are eligible for government loans to cover the £9,000 a year cost of their tuition fees.

But the loans only have to be paid back when the start earning £21,000 a year – a figure that many in low-skilled jobs will never reach. Unpaid student debts are written off after 30 years.

Mr Cheese said: ‘This situation is unsustainable given that the Government estimates that 45 per cent of university graduates will not earn enough to repay their student loans. It's crucial we as a nation take stock now of whether our higher education system is delivering desired returns for graduates, for organisations, and society.

‘Just as importantly, we need to start a national debate about how to generate more high-skilled jobs.’

A spokesman for the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, which oversees the university sector, last night denied there was a major mismatch between the number of graduates and the number of skilled jobs.

The spokesman said: ‘We are providing the right mix of university places and apprenticeships to ensure more people have the opportunity to advance their careers and businesses get the skills they need to grow. Demand for higher education remains strong and graduates enjoy a pay premium that reflects their value to employers.’


Wednesday, August 26, 2015

School Band Told to Stop Performing 'How Great Thou Art'

It's one of the most wonderful songs of Christian worship, brought from Sweden to America by the Billy Graham crusade.  At over 100 years of age the late George Beverly Shea was still singing it wonderfully.  We needed him so he delayed his trip "home" as long as he could.  See below:

Todd Starnes

There was no halftime show under the Friday night lights at Mississippi’s Brandon High School — the marching band had been benched.

The band was ordered off the field because the Christian hymn “How Great Thou Art” was a part of their halftime show — in violation of a federal court order.

“The Rankin County School Board and District Office are very saddened students will not be able to perform their halftime show they have worked so hard on this summer,” the district wrote in a statement to the Clarion Ledger newspaper.

In 2013 a student sued the district over a series of Christian meetings that had been held on school property, the newspaper reported. The district later settled the lawsuit and acknowledged they had violated the student’s First Amendment rights.

In July, U.S. District Court Judge Carlton Reeves ruled the district had violated the agreement after a Christian minister delivered a prayer at an awards ceremony.

Judge Reeves, who was appointed to the bench by President Obama, came down hard on the school district — ordering them to pay thousands of dollars in fines. He also warned the district that future violations would cost them $10,000.

“Defendants are permanently enjoined from including prayer, religious sermons or activities in any school sponsored event including but not limited to assemblies, graduations, award ceremonies, athletic events and any other school event,” the order reads.

Word about the band getting benched spread across the town quicker than kudzu. I must have received emails and Facebook messages from nearly the entire state — from Desoto County to Yazoo City.

Something must be done to right this wrong, people said. A message had to be sent to the likes of Judge Reeves. Locals gathered in coffee shops and garages to devise their plan.

And what they did — would become known as the musical shot heard around the world.  During halftime of Friday night’s game — a lone voice began to sing the forbidden song.

“Then sings my soul, my Savior God to Thee,” the singer sang.

Brittany Mann was there and she witnessed the entire moment of defiance.

“We were just sitting there and then one by one people started to stand,” she told me. “At first, it started out as a hum but the sound got louder and louder.”

She said it was a “truly incredible” moment to watch hundreds of people singing together in the stadium.

“At that moment I was so proud of my town — coming together and taking a stand for something we believe in,” she said. “It breaks my heart to see where our country is going — getting farther and farther away from the Christian beliefs that our country was founded on.”

I suspect Miss Brittany wasn’t the only one who felt a sense of pride in the Magnolia State on that warm summer night.

“We may be pictured as toothless, barefoot, uneducated people around the country, but we are far from it,” nearby resident Mandy Miller told me. “I’m from Mississippi and I’m not ashamed to take a stand.”

Oh what a sight it must have been — as hundreds and hundreds of people stood together and with one voice — sent a message to Judge Reeves.

“This is the kind of thing that makes me proud to be from the South,” Miss Mandy told me. “We are getting tired of being told to sit down and shut up. People are ready to fight back.”

Miss Mandy is absolutely right. The time has come to stand up to the secularists. The time has come to put an end to their cultural jihad.

I hope the Rankin County School Board will reconsider its decision and allow the marching band to resume performing “How Great Thou Art.”

And should Judge Reeves make good on his threat to financially punish the school district, I will personally pay the $10,000 fine.


Teacher Protests Union’s Planned Parenthood Donations, Fights for Ability to Donate to Pro-Life Charity

A Pennsylvania teacher is suing the state’s largest teachers union, the Pennsylvania State Education Association, for preventing her from donating her nonmember fees to a pro-life charity.

In an interview with The Daily Signal, Linda Misja, a teacher at Apollo-Ridge High School, said she has never paid for representation by the union, which she does not want.

She said joining the union would violate her religious beliefs.

Misja, a devout Catholic, objects to the union’s decision to donate to Planned Parenthood, the nation’s largest abortion provider.

The Daily Signal is the multimedia news organization of The Heritage Foundation.  We’ll respect your inbox and keep you informed.

“I support people’s right to choose to be in a union, but the union’s politics violate my faith, and the law in Pennsylvania allows me to honor my faith.”

Misja applied to become a religious objector, and was approved. Under Pennsylvania law, unions are able to extract nonmember fees from teachers, but religious objectors are permitted to donate funds equivalent to union dues to charity.

Misja selected a local pro-life pregnancy resource center, the New Castle chapter of People Concerned for the Unborn Child, where she has volunteered to teach young women facing unexpected pregnancies.

The union, however, rejected her choice of charity because it “furthers” her “religious beliefs.”

“They said this charity would ‘further my religious beliefs,’” Misja said. “Helping young women who have already made a hard choice is not furthering my beliefs. It is doing the morally correct thing to do: help young people. Never in my life before have I had enough spare change to donate to a good charity like this, and so this denial hurts even more to me personally. I have been poor, been on public assistance, I have known how hard it is to make ends meet, and so I wanted my money to help locally so that I could know where it was and what good it may be doing.”

She said the union is “cherry-picking which charities I can donate my money to.”  “That’s my money, and the people who need it aren’t getting it.”

The funds taken from Misja’s paycheck have been sitting in an escrow account maintained by the PSEA for three years.

“My paycheck says ‘voluntary deduction,’” Misja said. “I assure you, it’s not voluntary.”

“The point for me is simple, this case is about my individual freedom as an American and as guaranteed under the Constitution. I am for the freedom of all teachers to choose to associate or not. I support people’s rights to choose to be in a union, but the union’s politics violate my faith, and the law in Pennsylvania allows me to honor my faith. I demand a full accounting of where my forcibly-taken monies have gone and what they have supported.”

Misja said that the recent release of several undercover videos showing Planned Parenthood executives discussing the sale of fetal organs has only strengthened her resolve to have the union honor her choice of charity.

“I have been watching the horrific Planned Parenthood videos and am even further appalled that any part of my forced teacher union contributions are going to fund not only the butchering of innocent human babies but the sale of their body parts,” Misja said.

“I believe teachers may be unaware that their union dues, forced or voluntary, support such atrocious practice against the most vulnerable and innocent in our society. Teachers need to thoroughly investigate what their dues support.”

“Freedom, to me, is having the choice to not donate to causes that violate one’s deeply held moral beliefs,” Misja said. “The murder of babies and the sale of their precious body for profit violates my beliefs.”

Misja said that she has a right to direct her own funds where she sees fit.

“It’s all I want to do, to teach and to teach well. I will not give up my fight, and now, I feel even more strongly that I cannot.”

James Sherk, senior policy analyst in labor economics at The Heritage Foundation, said Misja’s lawsuit “shows the importance of the Supreme Court’s recent decision to hear Friedrichs v. CTA.”

“Government unions have become highly politicized,” Sherk said. “The union objected to money going to a charity that helps women in crisis pregnancies simply because that charity did not endorse abortion. Teachers should have the freedom to spend—or give away—their money as they see fit. They should not be forced to pay dues to a union that fights against their most deeply held beliefs, nor should unions get a veto over where forgone dues get redirected.”


Australia: Religious groups warn students will leave state schools after religion lessons are dumped in Left-run Victoria

Axing religious instruction from the Victorian curriculum could drive students away from state schools and into the non-government system, religious providers have warned.

The state government's announcement on Friday that special religious instruction would be moved out of regular class times from 2016 was warmly welcomed by the Australian Education Union and many public education advocates, who have long argued that the current arrangement was at odds with a secular public school system.

But chaplaincy organisation Access Ministries, the main provider of religious instruction, said the decision had eroded "equality and opportunity".

Access Ministries spokesman Rob Ward said state school parents who could not afford, or chose not to send their children to faith-based schools would suffer.

"The decision seems to emphasise secularism at the expense of faith."  He said it would lead to more parents choosing faith-based schools over state schools.

Under the changes, weekly 30-minute SRI classes will be moved to lunch time or before and after school, making way for new new content on world histories, cultures, faiths and ethics, and respectful relationship education.

United Jewish Education Board president Yossi Goldfarb said removing SRI from the curriculum could deter Jewish families from sending their children to state schools.

"I think there are certainly many Jewish families who choose a school partially because of the SRI program that is offered at the school."

Opposition education spokesman Nick Wakeling said the government had created chaos for parents and broken an election promise.

"Parents in schools across Victoria will face the prospect of juggling new and varied after-school hours pick-ups just to suit the ideological whims of Daniel Andrews."

Education Minister James Merlino said state schools would not lose enrolments.

"We've got a fantastic education system in Victoria and it's up to parents where they send their children."

Mr Merlino said it was unjustifiable to devote half an hour of the curriculum a week to only 20 per cent of primary school students.

No learning took place when SRI was provided within class time, he said.

Australian Principals Federation Victorian president Julie Podbury said it was "completely unacceptable" that her members had not been consulted about the major change to the curriculum.

"This change will cause major repercussions in some schools to school planning, staffing, programs and more importantly to relationships with community groups. These relationships have been built up over many years and are hard earned."

The number of primary school students in SRI plummeted after the state government changed its policy in 2011, requiring parents to "opt in" to the classes rather than "opt out".

Enrolments fell from 92,808 Victorian students in 2013 to 53,361 in 2014 – a 42 per cent plunge.

East Bentleigh Primary School assistant principal Sue Jackson welcomed the changes, saying they would give teachers more time to focus on an already crowded curriculum.

Ms Jackson said the primary school offered Jewish SRI to about 25 students, who have to catch up on class work after attending the religious lessons.

The school will continue offering SRI but shift it to either lunchtime or after school.

The Greens said changes to SRI did not go far enough. Greens education spokeswoman Sue Pennicuik said children needed to play, rest and socialise during lunch time, not "be cooped up in the class room doing SR."

"While the removal of SRI from formal class teaching hours is certainly a step forward, it doesn't go far enough. SRI should be removed from government schools completely."


Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Hillary Clinton's College Tuition Plan Flunks Econ 101

'There ain't no such thing as a free lunch," economist Milton Friedman was fond of saying.

What he meant was that every policy has a cost, and that cost should be carefully considered. It is easy to be deceived by lofty promises while disregarding what it takes to fulfill them.

With her latest proposal for higher education changes, Hillary Clinton is employing the Santa Claus strategy of promising Americans free money in exchange for their votes.

In a nutshell, she wants to spend $350 billion to directly reduce tuitions at universities across the country and eliminate the need for student loans.

A good idea, right?

The student-loan bubble is undeniably a problem, and it would be great if more people could afford to go to college. Out-of-control tuitions are making higher education unreachable for many Americans, so it's easy to see why Clinton would propose something so appealing on the surface.

Unfortunately, the surface is where the idea's appeal stops.

There ain't no such thing as a free lunch, and that $350 billion has to come from somewhere. We're already facing over $18 trillion in debt, a number that gets bigger every day.

Since spending cuts are anathema to Democrats (and, regrettably, to many Republicans) Clinton is proposing the evergreen "more taxes on the rich" to fund her plan. She couches these higher taxes in terms of ending loopholes and deductions, but the net result is still that people pay more of their money to the government.

Ignore for a moment the fact that the incentive effects of higher taxes — even targeted on the richest Americans — would reduce productivity, cost jobs and end up hurting people at the lower end of the income ladder.

Let's even ignore the fact that nearly 35% of high school graduates don't even go to college, and would therefore bear the expense of a service they don't use. The monetary costs are only a small fraction of the costs in terms of opportunity for students, and the overall quality of education.

Fact is, Clinton's proposal merely pushes more people into a broken system, without doing anything to fix the fundamental problems with higher education in America.

We've seen this approach before. It's the same tack Barack Obama took with his signature health care law.

The Affordable Care Act focused on driving consumers into a broken health care framework, a strategy that has only resulted in lower quality of care for higher prices. Clinton's plan will drive consumers into a broken education framework, and we can expect the results to be similar.


Charter school revolution in  Britain gets results

Next month, David Cameron will become the first Conservative Prime Minister to send his offspring to a state secondary school – a fact that he loves dropping into conversation. When discussing education in parliament recently, the Old Etonian declared a personal interest: reform matters, he said, “if you have children at state school, as I do”. Except, of course, his daughter Nancy won’t be going to any old state school. She’s off to join Michael Gove’s elder child at Grey Coat Hospital school in Westminster, which is as good as a private school. And, if anything, harder to get into.

In a way, the average independent school is pretty egalitarian: if you have the cash, you can buy a place. But to get into the best state school, money is nowhere near enough. A house in a leafy catchment area is a prerequisite, then a five-year game begins. A speedy baptism, where appropriate. Dinner with the vicar, where it helps. And then years of school-gate intelligence-gathering: how big is the catchment area? Whom to nobble, and how? Playing Britain’s state-school game is a long and arduous task, but the prize is the best education that money can’t buy.

While politicians have spent years moaning about the state-private divide, teachers have been hard at work breaking it down. Each January, the Government now releases results for each school – and the data destroys the idea of feepaying schools having a monopoly on excellence. For A-Levels, England’s 500 top state schools actually outperform the 500-odd private schools – in spite of having a fraction of their budget. This really is quite extraordinary. It’s well-known that our private schools are the best in the world; what’s less well-known is that the best state schools are even better.

Colchester County, Dover Grammar, Liverpool College, Reading School, Wolverhampton Girls – they’re not as famous as Eton, yet they all outperform it in the A-Level league tables. Of course, they all have entrance exams so they’re all dealing with pretty exceptional raw material. And often, dealing with parents who have been happy to move house, fake a divorce, pay for private tuition; anything to get past the 11-plus.

This is why Anthony Seldon, former Master of Wellington College, speaks about a “middle-class stranglehold” on the best state schools and wants parents to pay.

His argument is certainly coherent: if such schools are colonised by the rich and well-connected, why not ask them to pay fees just as the universities now do? The answer, of course, is that parents have already paid through their taxes. But at least his analysis goes beyond the tired (and tiresome) state vs private argument.

You could abolish every private school in England (as the Labour Party has been advocating, on and off, since 1943) and still end up with a hideously unequal state system which educates the richest best and the poorest worst. The Prime Minister is not slumming it with Grey Coat Hospital School, as he well knows. But his reforms are helping to break the link between poverty and bad results.

The staggering advances being made by state schools in Britain are the work of teachers and pupils, rather than politicians. On the A-Level league table, Grey Coat Hospital now sits right next to Mossbourne Community Academy – formerly the infamous Hackney Downs school in East London. Pupils threw stones at staff, discipline was non-existent and academic achievement was pitiful. Yet its closure in 1995 was deeply controversial. To its defenders, the problem lay with the pupils rather than the school. They’re dealing with troubled families with chaotic lives, the argument ran, so its failure was the result of deep social problems, not bad teaching. Exactly the same argument – blame the parents – is trotted out today by the enemies of school reform. It’s the soft bigotry of low expectations.

Now, Mossbourne – which serves the same neighbourhoods as it did in 1995 – is one of the best in the land. A quarter of its pupils qualify for free school meals, yet 85 per cent secured five good GCSEs yesterday, far above the national average. It’s amazing what pupils from deprived neighbourhoods can do, given great tuition.

It’s a hugely cheering thought: children from communities once served by the worst school in Britain can now attend one as good as that used by the Prime Minister. This was exactly what Tony Blair was aiming for when he and Andrew Adonis started their City Academy reforms, setting schools free from local authority control. Soon, there will be 5,000 Academies.

Yet vindication of Blair’s reform has come at a time when Labour has lost interest in helping pupils in this way. Its likely next leader, Jeremy Corbyn, has pledged to end what he calls a “failed experiment”. Only the most ideologically blinkered could persuade themselves that reform has failed. The city that has undergone the most reform, London, emerged yesterday with the strongest GCSE results in England.

The school chains based in the capital who first started worked with Blair – Harris Federation and ARK – have yet again published amazing exam scores. Council-run schools have also raised their game; competition and choice are working.

Colchester County, Dover Grammar, Liverpool College, Reading School, Wolverhampton Girls – they’re not as famous as Eton, yet they all outperform it in the A-Level league tables

When Boris Johnson is asked about his education, he cheerily replies that he would like “thousands of school as good as the one I went to: Eton”. Once, this would have been seen as preposterous: how can state schools compete with a £35,000-a-year Leviathan? But each year shows what teachers can do, given enough power and trust.

Battersea Park was a failing school when Harris took it over last September with only 45 per cent of its pupils securing five decent GCSEs. Yesterday, it announced this has risen to 68 per cent.

King’s Maths School, a free school in London, released its first-ever results earlier this week. Its average points score is among the top 10 schools in the land. Not the top 10 per cent; the top ten schools.

The staggering advances being made by state schools in Britain are the work of teachers and pupils, rather than politicians. Kenneth Baker, Tony Blair and Michael Gove simply offered increasing amounts of freedom to teachers, and their faith has been amply rewarded.

For those who had despaired of ever finding a remedy for sink schools, this is nothing short of miraculous – and it’s only just beginning. School reform can now be seen as the greatest achievement of the Labour years, even if the Conservatives are the only ones who believe in it.


Amid Declining Participation, USDA's School Lunch Program Embraces 'Cultural Inclusion'

The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 changed the nutrition requirements for school lunches and breakfasts, but the U.S. Agriculture Department says the law also gives schools the flexibility to prepare meals that are "familiar to kids from culturally diverse backgrounds."

Blogging at the USDA website on Wednesday, Dr. Katie Wilson, deputy undersecretary for for food, nutrition and consumer services, hailed the nation's "diversity" of people, ideas, and culture: "One of the way culture is expressed is through the foods we eat," she wrote. "Our nation's school meals should be no exception."

Wilson said she recently participated in one of USDA's "Team Up For School Nutrition Success" training workshops, where she learned how school food authorities are finding creative ways to meet the government-mandated nutrition standards while preparing meals that are "tastier and more appealing for this tough audience."

"For instance, I learned that in Puerto Rico, it is common for children to eat arroz con habichuelas y carne de cerdo (rice and beans with pork). Schools are finding ways to prepare this same meal in a healthy way that satisfies the palates of children who are used to eating it at home.

"In the same way, school children in the Southwest region of the United States enjoy burritos and refried beans that are similar to what they might have at home. In West Virginia, schools have found ways to offer healthy versions of Southern-style cooking like sausage gravy and a long-time favorite in the state—the pepperoni roll.

"Our goal at USDA is to ensure children have access to nutritious food that nourishes their growing bodies -- all while embracing diverse cultural customs and cuisines. I’m confident that through cultural inclusion and nutritious choices, schools across America will pave the way for a healthier next generation," Wilson concluded.

Under the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act, school food preparation is an increasingly regulated industry. In March, the USDA published a rule, effective as of July 1, requiring a minimum amount of annual training for all school nutrition program directors, managers, and staff.

USDA said the training will vary according to the position and job requirements.

The rule also sets minimum hiring standards for new state directors of school nutrition programs, state directors of distributing agencies that oversee USDA Foods, and school nutrition program directors.

Amid the stricter nutrition standards and hiring criteria, participation in the National School Lunch Program has declined since the law was passed.

In 2010, the year the Healthy and Hunger-Free  Kids Act passed, a record 31.8 million children participated into the National School Lunch Program, according to the latest data (as of Aug. 7, 2015). The same number -- 31.8 million -- participated in 2011, but then the number began to drop -- to 31.7 in 2012 (the first year the new nutrition standards took effect), 30.7 in 2013, and 30.4 in 2014.

The percentage of children getting free or reduced-price meals continues to increase, however: In 2014, 71.6 percent of children were getting free or reduced price school lunches, compared with 70.5 percent in 2013, 68.2 percent in 2012, 66.6 percent in 2011, 65.3 percent in 2010.

In 1969, the earliest year for which data is available, 15.1 percent of children were getting free or reduced price lunches.

As participation has dropped, costs have gone up. The cost of the school lunch program was $11,355,872,476 in Fiscal Year 2014, up from $10,414,118,759 in Fiscal Year 2012, partly because of rising food costs and a higher percentage of children getting free or reduced-price lunches.

As of Aug. 7, 2015,  thirty-seven states showed declining school lunch participation in the three years since 2012, when the nutrition rules changed. In the remaining 13 states plus the District of Columbia, participation increased steadily only in North Dakota and the District of Columbia in those same three years.

In the remaining 12 states, participation dropped in 2013, then recovered slightly in 2014.


Monday, August 24, 2015

British 'education' is a con

By Peter Hitchens

The giant fraud that is Britain’s education system strides ever onwards, messing up many more lives than it improves.

But so many of us –parents, children and teachers – are so deeply implicated in it that we dare not admit the length, breadth and height of the folly.

Like ‘National Offer Day’ each March, when our viciously selective state secondary schools deny so many children a good education (usually because their parents are poor), the second half of August is a time of bad news for many.

Not everyone is jumping about and simpering when A-level or GCSE results arrive. A lot of those who do, don’t yet know that they have been cheated or are about to be.

I’ll be chided for being ‘churlish’ for saying this. I don’t care. I think illusions which will later shrivel up into so much crumpled paper are far crueller than an unwelcome truth told in time.

Perhaps the greatest deception of all is the wild scheme to persuade nearly half of all our young people to go to university. Like that daft advertising slogan ‘exclusively for everyone’, the problem is obvious if you think about it. If it’s for everyone it’s not exclusive. Elites are small. If they’re big, they’re not elites.

All serious elite institutions, from the great London clubs to the Central Committee of the Soviet Communist Party, have always made sure that most people can’t get into them. That’s the point.

Last week we learned that the alleged universities which so many children strive to enter give them no benefits. Even the few genuinely elitist colleges cannot any longer guarantee a future for their products. Years later, many thousands of graduates are toiling away at jobs they could have got – and done – without spending three years getting into lifelong debt which will, in many cases, never be repaid.

Why do we do this? Why have we, in effect, raised the school-leaving age to 21 for a large chunk of the population? Why, come to that, do we annually import large numbers of qualified nurses and other professionals from poor countries which can’t afford to lose them? Why is almost every unskilled or semi-skilled job in this country now done by Eastern Europeans, when (at the most recent count) the UK has 922,000 young people aged between 16 and 24 who are not in employment, education or training (NEETs)?

As always, there are two possible explanations. One is that our governments know what they are doing and consciously seek to turn this country into a third-world, low-wage economy.

In which case this stage is simply a transition towards that, designed to soften the blow of youth unemployment and manoeuvre its victims into paying for it by getting into debt. In that case many of the new ‘universities’ will be bulldozed for affordable housing within 20 years, and their degrees will be quaint souvenirs, like Russian Tsarist bonds.

The other explanation is that the people who run this country are so stupid that they believe their own propaganda.

I wish I could work out which of these was worse, and which was true.


Compound Education Waste

In recent years California has raised per-pupil education spending about 50 percent to $13,000 a year.

As Dan Walters of the Sacramento Bee shows, despite this increase, “national academic testing has found that California’s students rank near the bottom in achievement.” The response of the state’s education establishment is to attack the tests.

As Walters notes, governor Jerry Brown and other politicians “have strangled the test-based accountability system that California adopted in the late 1990s.” The California Teachers Association, “despised a system that not only graded schools on how well they were improving academic achievement, but provided the basis for ‘parent trigger’ actions to seize control of ill-performing schools.

Nor did the CTA like the potential for using the data to judge teachers’ competence.” But the CTA is getting what it wants. Brown is pushing a Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF) that gives extra money to districts with high numbers of English learners.

As Walters notes, State Superintendent Tom Torlakson, “a close ally of the CTA, told school districts they could spend LCFF money on teacher salary increases, countermanding a directive from his own staff.”

In similar style, low academic performance is no barrier to pay increases for education bureaucrats, such as Steven Martinez of the Twin Rivers District in the Sacramento Area. His recent 8.3 percent increase boosted his pay to $260,000. The deputy superintendent and the two “associate superintendents” also get more than $200,000, plus generous benefits but salaries are not the only issue.

Diana Lambert of the Sacramento Bee writes that the Twin Rivers district and its allies have now paid off former deputy superintendent Siegrid “Ziggy” Robeson to the tune of $300,000.

 She had supervised the Twin Rivers police department, under fire for “police brutality, false arrest and towing an excessive number of cars for profit.” Twin Rivers has been shoveling out money in a series of legal settlements including $400,000 for former facilities director Jeff Doyle and $150,000 to former director of visual arts Sherilene Chycoski.

Deputy superintendent Bill Maguire, salary $239,000, explains that mistakes were made and the district needs to “hold firm in the interest of the children.” For taxpayers the lesson is simple. When tabulating the cost of government, always account for compound waste in the government monopoly education system.


Phonics call for Australian schools

Around this time last year, a review of the Australian curriculum commissioned by the federal government called for a revision of the primary school curriculum to place greater emphasis on literacy and numeracy, particularly in the early years. It found that the curriculum did not adequately cover the essential components of effective reading instruction, especially phonics. The results of national and international testing show the consequences of less-than-exemplary instruction-unacceptably high numbers of children failing to achieve even minimal literacy and numeracy standards.

At the time, the review's recommendations were characterised as proposing a 'back to basics' curriculum, but this view is not commensurable with a closer reading of the report. Far from proposing a hollowed-out, skills-based curriculum, a large part of the review report is devoted to the importance of content - the facts, concepts and ideas that embody what it means to be well-educated.

This week, it has been reported that the draft version of the revised curriculum contains more detail about the scope and sequence of the building blocks of written language - phonemic awareness and phonics. This is a welcome development. While schools often claim to teach phonics, the existing Australian curriculum gave the impression that this was a minor aspect of early literacy teaching.

Again, this has been described as a back-to-basics approach. Or even worse, as 'drill and kill'. Yet phonics instruction is far from basic - it is highly specific and scientific, and for many children, essential. Even the most ardent phonics advocate would not suggest that phonics is all children need to be good readers. They also need a good vocabulary and good general knowledge. First you need to be able to work out what the word is, then you need to understand what it means.

At this stage it is not clear exactly how other areas of the primary curriculum might have changed.  New ACARA chair Professor Steven Schwartz has said that the revised curriculum will allow schools more 'creativity' in their teaching of subjects like history and geography. Ideally, that means that history, geography and social sciences are embedded in comprehensive literacy programs, and vice versa. Either way, it would be wrong to assume that phonics comes at the expense of knowledge


Sunday, August 23, 2015

America’s youth are selling off their future income for the chance to go to university

STUDENTS are betting on their long-term incomes, with investment firms now covering the cost of their degrees, in return for a percentage of their future salaries.

In the US, student debt is now so out of control, that it totals $US1.2 trillion — more than the GDPs of Australia, New Zealand, and Ireland combined.

That huge figure is weighing down a generation, potentially preventing people from enjoying higher education.

But a new approach to student debt is taking hold in the country, allowing investment firms to pay for the tertiary degrees of young people in exchange for a percentage of their future income. Known as Income Share Agreements (ISA), the idea effectively creates a share market for future members of the workforce for companies to bet on.

If students earn more than expected when they enter the workforce, they pay back more. If they earn less, they pay back less.

Companies are even producing algorithms to predict student potential in an attempt to earn a return for investors.

Elida Gonzalez, 23, of California recently signed up with a company called 13th Avenue Funding to get a loan of $US15,000. Now she’s on the hook for five per cent of her income for the first 15 years of her employment. If she turns out to be wildly successful, she will pay back much more than if she went with a traditional loan.

She is studying with hopes of becoming a physician’s assistant and could end up paying back $60,000 for the $15,000 loan, reports the Wall Street Journal — something which she says she is “willing” to do.

“Equity is always more expensive than debt”, Chris Brycki, founder and CEO of Sydney investment firm StockSpot told

He’s taken an interest in the emerging market of ISAs in the US and views them as the free-market solution to the burdensome system of student loans in the country.

Unlike Australia’s HECS system which provides loans on non commercial terms that don’t incur interest, in the US, student loans have some of the toughest conditions imposed on them and are becoming crippling for a generation of unemployed graduates.

Mr Brycki believes young people who “back themselves” to be successful in the workplace will stick with the traditional student loans while others who are less confident will be more inclined to seek out the ISA option.

From an investor’s point of view, this could be a problem. These pools of ISA loans are only attractive if they have a good diversity of students, he said.

For instance, those undertaking a liberal arts degree might be more inclined to sign up for an ISA while those studying to enter high demand and well paid industries such as engineering will stick with a regular loan.

“Everyone jokes in Australia that if you do an arts degree then you won’t have to pay back your HECS,” he said. A similar sentiment in the US could almost undermine the scheme or create extortionate terms for the investment loan.

As Andrew Davis, the founder of Educational Equity in Chicago, which offers income-share agreements put it:

“If you start a new medical-insurance business you don’t go looking for the sickest people to insure.”

There is also uncertainty as to the time frame the loans will be repaid. Most ISAs have a repayments threshold — similar to Australia’s HECS system — that means graduates won’t have to make a payment until they earn at least $US18,000 a year. The median wage in the US per person is $US26,695.

That being said, Mr Brycki believes “the market works out pretty quickly what the risk is.” The returns for investors “won’t be astronomical” he said. Unless of course they strike gold with the next Mark Zuckerberg.

ISAs are seen by many as a way of tackling (or at least transferring) the burgeoning student debt in the company which has grown to alarming proportions in recent years. Student debt has surged in the past decade to represent the second largest form of debt in the country. It has trebled in that time to reach $US1.2 trillion.

However the idea of commodifying someone’s future employment prospects is seen by some as somewhat predatory and critics of the idea say it’s taking the education system in the wrong direction.

“It feels icky to me,” David Bergeron, a former Obama White House education adviser, told the Wall Street Journal.

A feeling that was echoed by Kevin Roose of New York Magazine who said these programs amount to making low income students “indenture themselves to patrons in the investor class.”

Others however champion the ISA market for offering the opportunity of higher education to those who would otherwise struggle to access university.

“This concept is quite innovative in its approach to financing college,” Wisconsin Republican Tom Petri said in a release. “These plans would help all students get the financing they need — including students from disadvantaged backgrounds — but without the anxiety that comes with traditional loans.”

While many companies such as Upstart, Pave, and Lumni are getting in on the action, they have faced plenty of challenges because at the moment the market exists in a legal wilderness.

Earlier in the year senator Marco Rubio and Tom Petri introduced legislation that seeks to formally define their terms. The legislation in currently pending in Congress and should provide the much needed legal framework for the emerging market. The bill outlines details such as the maximum length a contract can last (30 years) and the cap on income a fund seeker can owe (15 per cent).

Meanwhile these companies are developing elaborate algorithms that use data points like education, standardised test scores, credit history, and job offers to ensure investors get a return on their bet.

However the stringent due diligence of these loans will likely nullify the purported virtue of providing a university path way for under privileged students.

“It would defeat the whole purpose,” Mr Brycki told “It would become a last resort” for those student who amount to a risky investment.

However while the kinks continue to be worked out, the popularity of the idea is gaining momentum.

Indiana’s Purdue University (one of the biggest schools in the country’s mid west) is the latest institution to endorse the model and is currently soliciting a firm to establish an ISA fund.

“This no-debt, low-risk option is another way we can help keep our school within financial reach of all qualified students,” Purdue University President Mitch Daniels said in a statement this month.

With the skyrocketing cost of certain degrees in the county, it’s certainly not a sure thing for investors but Mr Daniels said a Purdue University student is a “a very sound investment.”


Kansas School District Seeks $1 Million In Emergency Funds To Handle Influx Of Refugee Students

The Wichita, Kansas school district is seeking nearly $1 million in extraordinary needs funds from the state to help handle an expected influx of refugee students.

According to the Wichita Eagle, the school district expects to enroll up to 150 new refugee students this year. Last year, 132 refugees were enrolled in city schools. With the influx and some attrition, the district expects to have 220 enrolled in all — an 88 percent increase year over year.

“Episcopal Wichita Area Refugee Ministries and the International Rescue Committee in Wichita have each received allocations and are actively relocating refugees to Wichita,” Jim Freeman, the Wichita school district’s chief financial officer, wrote to the state on Monday, according to The Eagle.

“As a result the district is seeing a dramatic increase in the number of school-aged students who are refugees from Burma, Somalia and the Congo region of Africa. Some have lived in refugee camps for decades; all are fleeing persecution, oppression and war.”

The school district is one of 38 in the state that have applied for extraordinary needs funds. The fund was created as part of a new block grant school finance system that was signed into law earlier this year. The new system does not automatically increase funding for districts for increased student enrollment.

Besides the costs associated with accommodating the additional students, the refugee students will require special services from the school district.

“Not only do they have huge learning gaps, they also have difficulty adjusting from refugee camp survival mode to a new country, culture and classrooms,” Freeman wrote in his plea for the extraordinary needs funds.

“Students exhibit post-traumatic stress syndrome, emotional handicaps and behavior issues which impact learning, participation and performance in class.”

To help the students, the school district says it needs eight teachers, two counselors to help students with PTSD and eight paraprofessionals to help students learn English.

A spokeswoman for the Wichita school district told The Daily Caller that it receives no grants through the Episcopal Wichita Area Refugee Ministries or International Rescue Mission. Nor does it receive federal money to help serve the additional students.

The Episcopal Wichita Area Refugee Ministries did not respond to a request for comment.

The group began resettling refugees in Wichita in June 2012. According to a 2011 Wichita Eagle article, the group intended to coordinate the largest refugee resettlement in the city in 30 years. According to its website, in 2012, the group resettled 22 Burmese refugees. It planned to resettle an additional 35 to 40 in 2013, with increases in following years.


Rubio's College Reform: Any Other Republicans Care to Engage the Issue?

One of the many issues on voters' minds, particularly young voters, during the 2016 election will be the rising costs of college education. While a federal government even remotely bound by the Constitution would not be involved in education at all — instead leaving such matters to the states per the Tenth Amendment — the reality is that it is involved. Naturally, the result is that we have witnessed bad policy from the feds, though it doesn’t have to be that way. Like it or not, conservative candidates need to engage in the higher education debate — they need to the counter the Big Government, top-down approach with a better alternative. And that alternative needs to first and foremost focus on Liberty.

Last week, we noted that Hillary Clinton had unveiled her plan for reducing the cost of college. In short, her plan is to confiscate $350 billion from taxpayers for redistribution to students, along with attempting to entice states to lower tuition rates.

This top-down approach to solving the high costs of college education certainly is not in the best interest of our nation, or the future of those who aspire to earn a degree. Every time the federal government proposes to spend more money on a program or policy, the cost generally goes up. And Hillary’s plan continues to, as economist Stephen Moore put it, “reward the ivory-towered, money-guzzling beast with another $350 billion.”

Yet for millennial voters specifically, the message they are hearing from Clinton and other Democrats is, “We care. We care about young voters. We want to make your lives better by making college more affordable.” End of pandering and deceitful sound bite.

The rhetoric worked with ObamaCare, so why not try to win young voters with similar rhetoric on the issue of college costs? Republicans can’t repeat the mistake of showing up to the game late. But so far there haven’t been many alternatives to challenge Clinton’s higher education reform proposal. The Republican candidates need to become engaged on this issue, but even more so they need to be able to articulate how their plan is better than any Big Government scheme.

So far at least one candidate has done so, and that is Marco Rubio. Unlike Clinton, who wants to spend more taxpayer money to supposedly fix the high costs of education, Rubio outlined a plan for modernizing higher education. Perhaps the best part of his plan is that it doesn’t raise taxes.

Rubio’s approach is different than Clinton’s in that his plan doesn’t spend more money on a system that’s already broken. Instead he proposes to address the cost of higher education by “promoting choice, competition, greater access and lower costs.”

First, he wants to fix accreditation, which would allow more institutions to become certified to provide degrees. To do this, he wants to “establish a new independent accrediting entity designed to welcome affordable and innovative education providers.” Under this part of his reform, higher education would be exposed to the market forces of choice and competition — in other words, free-market principles — which would lower education costs and provide new avenues for individuals to earn their degree or certification.

Second, Rubio calls for changing the way graduates repay their student loans. He wants to make payments “automatically proportional to a graduate’s earnings, thus reducing the financial risks of pursuing a degree.” He also proposes to allow students to partner with investors who will pay students tuition in return for a small percentage of their salary for a certain number of years following graduation.

Third, he wants to provide college applicants detailed information about how much they can earn with a degree from a certain school. This would give potential students the ability to understand whether or not a degree from a particular university — or more so a particular field of study will be worth the financial burdens or risks associated with it.

Rubio wants to make it possible for as many people in the U.S. to achieve the American Dream, rather than simply having that dream handed to them. For him, it’s about Liberty. Under his proposal there is more freedom of choice, more financial freedom and greater competition leading to higher quality. And there is no increase in spending on behalf of the federal government. Rubio’s plan empowers the individual, whereas Clinton’s plan enslaves the nation with more debt and rising costs.

To date, Rubio is the only Republican candidate to put forth a solid alternative to Clinton’s proposal. Where are the rest of the candidates on higher education reform? Certainly, there are many other pressing issues such as terrorism, immigration, abortion that the candidates want to and of course need to focus on. But the issue of the increasing costs of college must be highlighted as well, because it is directly tied to the economy. Jobs, economic growth and wages are on just about every American’s mind today, and much of that is tied to being able to afford college.

Liberals have historically done a good job selling the lie to the American people that spending more money will “fix” the problems with higher education — or whatever the problem might be. On the flip side, conservatives have insufficiently articulated better alternatives.

If conservatives want to have any chance of winning the “youth vote,” then they must be engaged in this debate. They can’t assume Hillary’s plan is so evidently terrible that voters will see through it. To do so is political insanity, and would be an outright refusal to recognize the danger of bad policies imposed on the nation. We have already been through the gambit of bad policies under the Obama administration, and we can’t afford another four years of this madness.