Friday, September 04, 2015

Is School Choice Working in DC?

 It is the second week of June and classes at Thurgood Marshall Academy (TMA) have already been dismissed for the academic year. However, these high school students are still in the charter school’s library preparing to present their academic portfolios for evaluation before a panel of teachers. This once-a-year routine is an example of the academic rigor of an inner-city public charter school like TMA.

So why are charter schools so popular?

D.C. Public Charter School Board Chairman Darren Woodruff told the Washington Examiner, "Parents like the quality education, academic rigor, diverse programs and innovative approaches that public charter schools offer."

According to a Washington Examiner article this month, “Black families unsatisfied with traditional public schools are flocking to Washington, D.C.'s charter schools.” The article cited the D.C. Public Charter School Board's latest annual report, which stated that in the 2014 to 2015 school year, 83 percent of the students in Washington charter schools were black compared to only 67 percent of the student population in traditional public schools, a four percent decrease from the 2011 to 2012 school year.

National Affairs chimes in: “Charters mostly serve poor and minority students who would otherwise be stuck in the worst urban schools. Over 56% of their students are Hispanic and African American, versus 39% in district schools.” TMA, which opened in 2005, is nearly 100 percent Black.

Skyler Harris, Jr. just presented her portfolio in front of the panel. The junior said that “[she] learned a lot about law and the government and how lawyers make their decisions… This is a law-based school and other schools don’t really have that opportunity as much as Thurgood does.”

Harris mentioned the opportunities TMA offers such as going to law firms and interacting with lawyers. There, students receive tutoring and participate in law-related programs. “They get to help you be successful and they’re just here to help you, along with the teachers and staff at Thurgood,” said Harris.

As a college preparatory public charter high school, TMA students receive 90 minutes each of English and math lessons per day, twice the amount than in a traditional public school. Executive Director Alexandra Pardo emphasized the critical role that basic math and English play in helping other disciplines. “In order to be able to do science and social studies I need to have basic math skills. So if I cannot compute a one-step equation, I can’t be successful in a chemistry class. And if I cannot read a chemistry textbook… or a history textbook… I can’t access the content of social studies.”

When asked what makes TMA different than other charter and public schools, Pardo replied, “I don’t think it’s a question of what makes us different. I think the question is what has worked for us to be successful.” One way TMA has thrived is due to “[the] faculty and staff, and finding a team and a cadre of individuals who are absolutely dedicated to the work that [the school does] and also believe in the students. And [who] are not willing to sacrifice their beliefs for student outcomes and believe that our students can achieve and are willing to put in the hard work,” the executive director said.

As schools across the U.S. start a new year, the subject of successful charter schools such as TMA should be as important a part of today’s debate about the future of our education system as Common Core.


'Exams put pressure on children – that is their virtue'

Those who think children should never be challenged by exams are the enemies of good education, writes Barnaby Lenon, former head at Harrow

This year, nearly one third of GCSE/IGCSE entries from pupils at independent schools achieved an A* grade, compared to 7 per cent nationally. Sixty-one per cent of entries from pupils at independent schools achieve an A* or A grade, compared to 21 per cent nationally.

Even in the north of England, where entries achieving the top grades have seen the biggest fall, independent schools continue to do well, with 56 per cent achieving the top grades of A* and A, against the 18 per cent recorded in national figures.

And independent schools continue to do well in the traditional subjects such as maths, sciences and modern languages with many of our pupils going on to study these at A-level and then university. With languages in decline nationally many universities are now dependent on independent school students for their survival.

Exams are an essential element of a child's education because of the tremendous value of committing knowledge and information to the long-term memory. For most children, carrying what they have learnt in school into adult life depends in large measure on them being forced to memorise it. A typical 16-year-old boy can reel off 100 or so words in French three months before he sits the GCSE. On the day of the exam that figure has grown to 400+ – all driven by fear of the exam.

Exams put pressure on children, and that is their great virtue. Girls are more likely to want to please the teacher and are therefore more motivated during the course. Boys do not especially want to please teachers – in my experience of teaching boys, 80 per cent are relatively idle during the term but most make a big effort preparing for exams.

So exams are the essential building block of motivation. Ask any teacher who has had to teach an unexamined course to 15-year-olds, as many schools used to do with religious studies. It was a hapless task and almost all schools now insist that pupils take the RS GCSE as a way of improving attitudes in lessons. Anyone who thinks that exams are a bad thing has never taught a class of teenage boys. Exams work because they make pupils work.

The age at which pupils are required to be in education or training has recently risen to 18 so why do we need exams for 16-year-olds at all? Because in the English system we typically drop down from 10 GCSE subjects to four A-levels at that age.

On average one of those A-levels is a subject not done at GCSE, so most pupils drop about seven subjects at the age of 16. It is vital that, having studied these seven subjects for up to 12 years, pupils be examined in all of them in order to consolidate what they know and measure their progress.

Exam results are the necessary qualification for moving to the next level. We do not want pupils embarking on A-levels unless they have a GCSE performance which suggests they might achieve something worthwhile. We do not want students embarking on a medical degree if they cannot get an A grade in chemistry – they would be too likely to fail.

The alternative to exams is continuous teacher assessment. In England in recent years we have experimented with teacher assessment and it has been disastrous. Many teachers hate it because they come under huge pressure to get good marks for all pupils (where do you think grade inflation came from?) and because these ‘controlled assessments’ have been found to be intensely dull. Instead of getting on and teaching a course as they would wish, the academic year becomes dominated by dreary teacher-assessed coursework.

GCSEs have been reformed and new syllabuses will be introduced this September. January exams and resits have been scrapped, so halving the number of exams for many students. Exam ‘modules’ are dead. Grade inflation is being turned back. New syllabuses are being produced in every school subject to make them more relevant and demanding, bringing our courses up to the level of the best in the world. More stretching questions are being introduced, there will be less teaching-to-the-test, coursework will only be allowed when it is obviously better than a written exam as a way of measuring a child’s knowledge and ability.

GCSEs are designed to be taken by the full ability range so a small number of the questions have to be easy. Journalists pluck out those easy questions and poke fun at them – but those easy questions make up five per cent of the paper.

Pupils in successful countries take exams. They force children to place the knowledge they have been presented with into the memory. Once in the memory new things start to happen in the brain – like analytical thinking and the creation of links between different bits of knowledge. Educated people know things and the reason they know things is not simply because ‘they have been taught it’. Far too many children are taught things but know nothing. The essential step in the process is commitment to memory.

Of course exams cause anxiety and distress but those who think children should never be challenged in this way are the enemies of good education. Teenagers, and especially boys, have to be driven to succeed. Exams are that driver.


The founding of the modern research university

A fascinating new book explores the Kantian origins of the modern university

Towards the end of "Organizing Enlightenment: Information Overload and the Invention of the Modern Research University", Chad Wellmon writes:

‘The sometimes nervous, sometimes euphoric debate about MOOCs [massive open online courses] crystallised our confusions about the place of the university and exposed our anxieties about what constitutes authoritative knowledge in a digital age.  As our institutions and digital technologies change so quickly, the capacity of the research university to fulfil its historical purpose – to generate and transmit authoritative knowledge by forming people in the practice of science – has been cast into doubt.’

It is the contention of Wellmon, associate professor of German Studies at the University of Virginia, that contemporary debates around the rise of new media technology and education, with the discussion of MOOCs a prime example, are underpinned by an anxiety about who or what has the authority to preserve and transmit knowledge. This is also an anxiety about the relationship of younger generations to the world of existing knowledge.

Wellmon distinguishes the modern research university, as a humanist institution that inducts students into a cultural tradition, from the medieval educational institution, which developed theologians and priests. As Wellmon sees it, the modern research university, as it emerged in Germany during the early nineteenth century, has produced both disciplinary knowledge and disciplinary scholars. Wellmon is interested in how this type of institution came to be a centre of epistemic authority, and the process by which it did this, through its devotion to wissenschaft (science or knowledge in general).

In the main, Organizing Enlightenment offers up a fascinating story about books, cultural fears and moments where individuals have made great intellectual leaps that have not only contributed to our common cultural and intellectual progress, but have also resolved particular epistemic anxieties – moments, that is, when the status of existing knowledge was in doubt. Wellmon locates the first moment of epistemic anxiety at some point during the late sixteenth century, when there was a growth in trade and markets and an increasing interest in knowledge about the natural world.  The consequent expansion of knowledge resulted in a proliferation of bibliographies, lexicons and encyclopaedias. But at some point, the sheer amount of these ‘technologies of print’ threatened to fragment the unity of knowledge.

Unfortunately, Wellmon’s account of this, and other important cultural developments, is unsatisfying. He squeezes several complex objective and subjective factors into one simple explanation involving changes in ‘technologies of print and/or information’. True, he does expand on this phrase, citing ‘different forms of media, institutions… and practices of the self and how they shape each other’, but this is not very helpful.

For example, his account of the first moment of epistemic anxiety in the late sixteenth century seriously underestimates the significance of the reintroduction of Ancient Greek and Latin texts into medieval scholarship. Aristotle’s early classifications of natural phenomena were admired and considered authoritative by some scholars. But Aristotle’s claim that man had always existed sat uneasily with the idea that man had been made by God at a particular moment in time. Much subsequent medieval scholarship was in large part aimed at limiting possible threats to Christian doctrine posed by Ancient Greek and Latin texts. This involved the study, and writing, of a huge range of works. The result, noted by Wellmon, was an increasing number of bibliographies, lexicons and encyclopaedias. But these were produced as much by monastic scholars pursuing moral and intellectual interests as by the existence of trade or markets per se.

During the sixteenth century, the tension between what Wellmon calls an ‘information overload’ and prevailing beliefs and customs became untenable, and the epistemic authority of existing religious doctrine and scripture weakened. In these conditions of epistemic anxiety, the work of Francis Bacon and others produced a new source of epistemic authority – science. The terms ‘science’ and ‘scientific’ at this point in history did not refer to the narrowly technical idea of science that we have today. It was a full-blooded, humanist endeavour to organise and produce new knowledge about the world, based upon observation and empirical methods. For example, Bacon aimed to:

"[C]ollect out of the records of all time what particular kinds of arts and learning have flourished in what ages and regions of the world… The occasion and origin of the invention of each art, the manner and system of transmission, and the place and order of study and practice… the principal controversies in which learned men have been engaged… in a word everything which relates to the state of learning."

Although the aim of Bacon and others was to benefit humanity with new practical knowledge, this was still understood within religious terms. For example, Bacon wanted man to control nature not to get one up on God, but to return humanity to a state of prelapsarian unity.

The various ways of producing and interpreting knowledge during Bacon’s time didn’t just generate material benefits; they also created a sphere of freedom. Texts, once in the market and out of monasteries, were open to a wider range of interpretations. With more books in circulation than ever before, the ‘free selection and judgement’ of texts, to quote sixteenth-century scholar Conrad Gesner, was left to readers. This spirit of freedom, combined with systematic learning, formed the wellspring for the early Enlightenment, epitomised by Denis Diderot and Jean le Rond D’Alembert’s humanistic 20-year-long enterprise, the Encyclop√©die. Unlike earlier encyclopaedias, which had been extensive collections of disparate information, Diderot’s version hoped to find ‘the general principles that form the basis of each science and each art, liberal or mechanical, and the most essential facts that make up the body and substance of each’.

It was an ambitious endeavour, the pursuit of which eventually led to another moment of ‘information overload’, and a failure to find the much-hoped-for general principles of knowledge. Once again, conditions of epistemic anxiety also gave rise to new solutions, this time in the form of Immanuel Kant’s ‘critical technology’. Referring mainly to the Critique of Pure Reason, published in 1781, Wellmon explains that in trying to address the problem of growing epistemic confusion and anxiety, Kant decisively limited knowledge to the phenomenological realm and located its unifying principle within human reason – a universal faculty of which each individual possesses. He thus laid the intellectual basis for a new form of knowledge, as well as a ‘technology’ of knowledge production – the modern research university. For Wellmon, Kant’s breakthrough was to ground the authority of knowledge in human reason, rather than in something external to humans. This is an exemplary achievement, a crowning glory of Enlightenment humanism.

Kant’s ideas influenced his philosophical peers like Friedrich Schelling and Johann Fichte, and were taken up by Wilhelm von Humboldt, who played a significant role in Prussian culture and public education in the early nineteenth century. Humboldt shaped the institutional practices and ethos at the University of Berlin and others along Kantian lines. Humboldt’s idea of the university exemplified the modern research university, an institution dedicated to producing both disciplinary knowledge and the disciplinary scholar. Epistemic authority was to be located in the institution of the university, and, to maintain this authority, universities required academic freedom. Humboldt argued that the state’s duty was to provide financial and administrative support, but to stay out of knowledge production itself. Wellmon concludes:

‘The research university became a vital institution of modernity not because it had a monopoly on the materials and technologies of knowledge, but because it provided ethical and normative resources for making sense of them. This was its primary purpose in the past. And we would do well to let it guide us into the future.’

Organizing Enlightenment is perhaps more interesting than compelling, but it’s central message is vital: knowledge is not information, and the way it is produced is not just an epistemological question – it is also a moral and ethical one.


Thursday, September 03, 2015

This University Has A Course On 9/11 Sympathizing With Terrorists

A University of North Carolina English course on the 9/11 attacks comes with a lengthy reading list of works that critics say portray Americans as the bad guys and radical Islamists as sympathetic, but some of the professor's former students warn those taking the class not to disagree with the professor.

According to a posting by a UNC student on higher education blog The College Fix, “Literature of 9/11” offers a syllabus of reading assignments that include poems, memoirs and graphic novels widely perceived as presenting terrorists in a sympathetic light and the U.S. as an imperialist nation. The course is taught by associate professor Neel Ahuja, and according to a review of his course syllabus, most of the reading focuses on justification. Required reading includes “Poems from Guantanamo: Detainees Speak,” a collection of poems written by terror detainees; “Reluctant Fundamentalist,” a work of fiction in which the protagonist is a successful Pakistani in the U.S. who eventually comes to believe America to be evil; and "Sirens of Baghdad," the final installment in a trilogy of novels focusing on Islamic fundamentalism.

“[The book] brings the reader inside the mind of an unnamed terrorist-to-be, an Iraqi Bedouin, radicalized by witnessing the death of innocents and the humiliation of the civilian population by the American forces in the Second Gulf War,” reads a review from Publisher’s Weekly. “Without apologizing for the carnage caused by either side in the conflict, the author [Yasmina Khadra] , a former officer in the Algerian army, manages to make the thoughts of a suicide bomber accessible to a Western readership, even as the scope of the terrorist's intended target, meant to dwarf 9/11 in its impact, and the method's plausibility will send a shiver down the spine of most readers.”

Ahuja did not respond to requests for comment but university officials defended the course.


Why Home Schooling?

By Walter E. Williams

Many public primary and secondary schools are dangerous places. The Justice Department's Bureau of Justice Statistics and the Department of Education's National Center for Education Statistics show that in 2012, there were about 749,200 violent assaults on students.

In the 2011-12 academic year, there were a record 209,800 primary- and secondary-school teachers who reported being physically attacked by a student. Nationally, an average of 1,175 teachers and staff were physically attacked, including being knocked out, each day of that school year. In Baltimore, each school day in 2010, an average of four teachers and staff were assaulted. Each year, roughly 10 percent of primary- and secondary-school teachers are threatened with bodily harm.

Many public schools not only are dangerous but produce poor educational results. According to the National Assessment of Educational Progress for 2013, sometimes called the Nation's Report Card (, only 33 percent of white 12th-graders tested proficient in math, and 47 percent tested proficient in reading. For black 12th-graders, it was a true tragedy, with only 7 percent testing proficient in math and 16 percent in reading. These grossly disappointing educational results exist despite massive increases in public education spending.

Many parents want a better education and safer schools for their children. The best way to deliver on that desire is to offer parents alternatives to poorly performing and unsafe public schools. Expansion of charter schools is one way to provide choice. The problem is that charter school waiting lists number in the tens of thousands. Another way is giving educational vouchers or tuition tax credits for better-performing and safer schools. But the education establishment fights tooth and nail against any form of school choice.

Another viable alternative increasingly chosen is home schooling. In 1970, there were only 10,000 home-schooled children. In 2012, according to recently released data from the National Center for Education Statistics, there were about 1.77 million children who were being home-schooled ( Parents give a number of reasons for home schooling. Many want a safer environment for their children — away from violence, alcohol and other drugs, psychological abuse, and improper and unhealthy sexual indoctrination found in public schools. Some want to teach and impart a particular set of values and beliefs to their children.

In terms of academic achievement, home-schoolers beat out their public school counterparts. In reading, language, math, science and social studies, the average home-schooler scores somewhere near the 80th percentile. The average public school student taking these standardized tests scores at the 50th percentile in each subject area. Home-schoolers also tend to score higher than their public school counterparts on college admittance tests, such as the ACT and SAT.

Home schooling is not without its critics. Some of it is ludicrous, as shown in an excellent article in City Journal titled "Homeschooling in the City," by Matthew Hennessey. Stanford University political scientist Rob Reich has called for tighter regulation of home schooling to ensure that "children are exposed to and engaged with ideas, values, and beliefs that are different from those of the parents." My question to Reich is: Whose ideas and values should children be exposed to? Georgetown University law professor Robin L. West worries that home-schooled children grow up to become right-wing political "soldiers" eager to "undermine, limit, or destroy state functions." West would like to see home schooling more highly regulated and home-schoolers subjected to mandatory testing and periodic home visits in order "to give the state a window into the quality of home life, and a way to monitor signs of abuse."

Home-schoolers have a defense against this sort of meddling. The Home School Legal Defense Association is a nonprofit organization established to defend and advance the constitutional right of parents to direct the education of their children. The National Home Education Research Institute provides educational resources and research for home-schooling parents. Its founder, Dr. Brian D. Ray, recently published "African American Homeschool Parents' Motivations for Homeschooling and Their Black Children's Academic Achievement." His findings are proof that home schooling is effective for not only white youngsters but black youngsters, as well.


School places desperation revealed: Millions of British parents are relocating their families and even changing job to secure their child a better education

They are desperate to keep their kids out of dangerous "black" schools

Millions of parents have moved house and even changed jobs to be within their desired school catchment area, research shows.  One in four parents has relocated their family so their children qualify for a place at a good school.

But a survey found almost half of all families who move to be within a catchment area will leave as soon as they have secured places for all of their children.  Less than a quarter said they planned to live in the area they had moved to for their children long-term.

A survey of 4,500 parents found that, of those who have relocated, many had been forced to make major sacrifices. One in three have been forced to change jobs, while the same number had left behind family or close friends.

One in four had to downsize in order to secure a house in the right catchment area, while the same proportion paid more for their new property than they could comfortably afford.

A third of those who moved admitted they were now in an area they did not even like.

The report, by Santander Mortgages, found parents must typically pay a fifth more than the regional average for a home near a top school, which equates to £32,000 more.

Astonishingly, the figures suggested many parents can afford to buy a second home in a bid to secure a spot at their desired school.

Fuelling suggestions that many parents are cheating the system, four in 10 of those who have moved to be in the right catchment area apparently bought a second home to do so.

A fifth of people who relocated said they had rented a property to get their child into their desired school.

Many councils have tried to clamp down on families pretending to have a home near the best schools while in fact still living outside the catchment area.

Some local authorities require evidence such as utility bills to prove the family is genuinely living full-time in the house.

Miguel Sard, of Santander UK said: ‘With competition for school places fiercer than ever, parents are making significant financial and lifestyle sacrifices to be within the catchment area of desirable schools.

‘All buyers will have a wish list of what they want their new home to have and being within a certain school catchment is increasingly common amongst young families – but can often come at a cost.

‘Many of these sought-after areas command significant premiums, so it’s important that parents don’t stretch themselves beyond their means if they are looking to move.’

Regionally, the North East and London has the highest proportion of parents moving to secure an address within a specific catchment area, with almost half saying they have done so. This compared to one in 10 in Wales.

Younger parents are the most likely to purchase or rent a new property to be within a certain catchment area, with half of under-35s doing so, compared to one in five aged between 35 and 54.


Wednesday, September 02, 2015

Yet Another College Is Sued Over Its Sex Assault Policies

Colgate University, a small liberal arts school in New York, has become the latest university hit with a lawsuit alleging that it wrongly expelled a student for sexual assault.

The anonymous student filing the lawsuit was kicked out in April, a mere month before his graduation, after he was found responsible on charges of non-consensual digital penetration, nonconsensual touching, and sexual exploitation.

According to Reuters, the student accuses Colgate of expelling him even though a preponderance of evidence pointed towards his innocence. He also says he was the victim of gender bias, that his punishment was disproportionate to the alleged wrongs, and that Colgate’s investigation was unfair.

The accusations against the student were brought by three different women, but notably their claims were only filed with the school in October 2014, even though they were all said to have occurred in the 2011-12 school year, meaning the incidents were over two years old by the time accusations were brought.

“I would like to have my records cleared, and I would like to be able to go back and finish my degree,” the former student told Reuters in an interview. “I understand that accusing someone of sexual assault like this is no laughing matter, but I also think it’s terrible to be wrongly accused like this.”

Colgate has declined to comment on the matter, because it is pending litigation.

The student’s attorney in the lawsuit is Andrew Miltenberg, a New York lawyer who has distinguished himself by representing several other college students accused of sexual assault. Notably, he is also representing Paul Nungesser in his defamation lawsuit against Columbia University.

Nungesser was accused of raping Emma Sulkowicz, the “Mattress Girl” who hauled a mattress around Columbia for her entire senior year before appearing in a sex tape in June that reenacts her alleged assault.

Miltenberg told Reuters there is evidence that his client’s conviction and expulsion were substantially caused by faculty pressure rather than a fair airing of the facts.

Lawsuits are an increasingly popular option for students who say that universities have wrongly rolled back due process protections in their zeal to punish sexual assault. In July, a California judge ruled that the University of California, San Diego, improperly denied due process to an accused student. One month later, a former student at Washington and Lee was allowed to proceed with a lawsuit alleging his expulsion stemmed from gender bias


Secondary schools fail to get teenagers into work - despite booming jobs market

The study from the pro-free school charity the New Schools Network found that, in areas with failing secondary schools, young people aged between 16 and 18 were more likely to be unemployed than adults of all ages

Young school leavers are disproportionately more likely to be unemployed even in areas which are seeing a jobs boom, new research has found.

The study from the pro-free school New Schools Network found that, in areas with failing secondary schools, young people aged between 16 and 18 were more likely to be unemployed than adults of all ages.

Campaigners for free schools said this made the case for more of the independently run schools to challenge the failing institutions and help the poorest children succeed.

In a study of the 20 local authorities with the worst performing schools, between 6.6 per cent and 9 per cent of the teenagers were not in education, employment or training.

This compared to a national average of 4.7 per cent, according to the New Schools Network, an independant charity that provides advice and resources for those interested in starting a free school.

In most of the council areas, the unemployment rate had fallen in the five years since 2010.

A number of chains have already been told that they cannot take on any more academies until concerns over standards have been addressed A number of chains have already been told that they cannot take on any more academies until concerns over standards have been addressed   Photo: Rex Features

Nick Timothy, the director of the network which is part-funded by Government grants, said: “Parents want to send their children to a school that gives its pupils a great education and prepares them for life after school – whether that’s going on to further and higher education, taking up training, or going straight into work.

“But this research shows that in too many parts of the country, secondary schools are letting down their pupils.

“In areas where there are failing schools, there are disproportionate numbers of young people not in employment, education or training – despite the fact that in almost all of these places, unemployment has fallen over the last five years.”

Stockton on Tees topped the table in terms of correlation between failing schools and NEETs, despite increased job opportunities, with 9 per cent of 16 to 18 year olds being unemployed or not in training despite the area's unemployment rate for all adults falling by 1.9 per cent since 2010.

Mr Timothy - who was an adviser to Home secretary Theresa May before the general election - said the figures made the case for more free schools to be set up to challenge those which are below standards.

He added: “We urgently need more good new schools – not just where there is a shortage of places but where standards have been too low for too long.

“Free schools are better placed to drive up standards and give parents what they want because they give more control to heads, teachers and governors, rather than politicians and bureaucrats.

“They are twice as likely as other state schools to be rated outstanding by Ofsted – and we need more of them.”


Charter schools would boost grades in Australia: new report

This article from the "Age" was taken down yesterday but is now back up.  Amusing.  Maybe too many people noticed the deletion

US-style privately-owned public schools should be rolled out in Australia to boost academic standards, a new report by libertarian think-tank, the Centre for Independent Studies argues.

Privately-run public schools, or charter schools as they are known in the US, are funded by the government and run by private entities, which have full autonomy over the schools' finances, staffing and curriculum.

The schools, which do not charge fees, could boost innovation in the sector by giving schools more freedom, and givingdisadvantaged students more choice, writes the report's lead author,  Trisha Ja.

"Disadvantaged families are not currently catered for, either because their choice of public school is restricted by zoning, or because they cannot afford school fees, or they do not want a religious education for their children," the report said.

The think tank is also controversially lobbying all state and territory governments to consider allowing for-profit private companies to run the charter schools.

A for-profit school would attract more capital than non-profits, and would run more efficiently, the authors said.

"There is no objective reason not to allow for-profit companies to operate non-government schools ... especially if they have a proven track record of successful school provision and a stable company structure," the authors said.

"Almost all other forms of education provision have a for-profit sector – early childhood education, after-school tutoring services, disability support services, technical education and training, and universities … the exception is actual management of schools."

Privately-owned public schools are becoming increasingly prevalent in the US, while similar models have been rolled out in the UK, Chile, Sweden and New Zealand.

Studies show the average impact of charter schools range from "null to small positive effects", the report finds.

But some schools have boosted results for disadvantaged students, with successful schools adopting a "no excuses" approach, with a focus on traditional maths, reading instruction and strict discipline.

Critics argue charter schools do not achieve better results than public schools, and claim increasing competition in the sector leads to greater inequality. They also warn against for-profit charter schools, pointing to evidence overseas of financial mismanagement and fraud in the sector.

Under former Liberal Premier Jeff Kennett, Victorian public schools were given more autonomy over budget and staffing, making Victoria one of the most autonomous education systems in the country.

Victorian Education Minister James Merlino said autonomy was leading to "some great local innovation" in schools, but policies under the previous Napthine government's "autonomy agenda" – which included plans to set up "federated" school councils and give parents a greater say in the running of schools – resulted in "cuts and abandonment".

Australian Education Union Victorian president Meredith Peace said the government should be focusing on supporting under-resourced schools rather than boosting competition in the system.

"In Victoria in recent years, schools have become increasingly isolated and are forced to compete more and more with each other with limited funding. This is producing a wider equity gap and a wider gap for our kids, particularly those from disadvantaged backgrounds."

Federal Education Minister Christopher Pyne said the federal government is on track to increase autonomy in Australian schools, and has allocated $70 million to make public schools more independent.


Tuesday, September 01, 2015

Blob at University of Tennessee tells staff and students to stop using 'he' and 'she' - and switch to 'xe', 'zir' and 'xyr' instead

The University of Tennessee has told its staff and students to stop calling each other 'he', 'she', 'him' and 'her' - and to start referring to one another with terms like 'xe', 'zir' and 'xyr' instead.

The Knoxville branch of the public university, which has 27,400 students, sent a memo round to its members filled with unusual new parts of speech to avoid referring to anybody's gender.

According to a gay rights official at the university, the new language regime will make the university 'welcoming and inclusive' and stop people feeling 'marginalized'.

The university published the instructions on its website on Wednesday after they were emailed to every member of the university by the institution's Vice Chancellor for Diversity.

Officials have since insisted the the guidelines are not compulsory and that they do not want to 'dictate speech'.

Donna Braquet, who runs the university's Pride Center, wrote the guidelines, which are accompanied with a long table demonstrating how to replace the regular parts of speech.

She also advises staff members not to call roll in class, and to instead greet every student by asking them to announce their name and pronoun of preference.

Instead of 'he' and 'she', Braquet suggests four alternatives.  One is the commonplace strategy of using 'they', 'them' and 'their' for individuals rather than groups.

She also suggests 'ze' and 'xe' - both pronounced 'zhee' - and a variety of secondary conjugations to be used for anybody who rejects the traditional gender binary.

Barquet argues that if everybody follows her instructions, campus will become 'more inclusive'.  She wrote: 'When our organizational culture shifts to where asking for chosen names and pronouns is the standard practice, it alleviates a heavy burden for persons already marginalized by their gender expression or identity.'

There is no information on the numbers of students on campus who do not identify as the traditional genders, as the university's official data only recognizes male and female.

In an interview with, Rickey Hall, the university's vice chancellor for diversity, said he was 'ancedotally' aware of students on campus who reject traditional gender divisions.

After a backlash from critics who called the proposals 'ridiculous' and 'absurd', the university clarified that nobody would be forced into using the terms.

In an interview with Fox News commentator Todd Starnes, Tennessee state senator Mae Beavers, a Republican, said: 'It’s the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard.  'If you must interview a student before you greet the student, that’s not acceptance – that’s just absurd.'

A statement from a university spokesman said: 'We would like to offer clarification of the statements that have been made referring to gender-neutral language.  'There is no mandate or official policy to use the language. The information provided in our Office of Diversity and Inclusion newsletter was offered as a resource to our campus community on inclusive practices. 'We recognize that most people prefer to use the pronouns he and she; we do not dictate speech.

'We do strive to be a diverse and inclusive campus and to ensure that everyone feels welcome, accepted, and respected.'


Viral Education Falls Flat

A video featuring the head of the History Department at the U.S. Military Academy recently “went viral” on social media. That fact offers a sad commentary on the state of intellectual discussion and critical thinking in today’s culture. The colonel, who appeared in uniform and identified himself as a West Point faculty member, delivers a three-minute speech that purports to “settle once and for all” the question of whether the War Between the States was fought over slavery.

Aside from the dangers of relying on social media as a source for academic insights, the post highlights a disturbing trend that both ends of the political spectrum are perpetuating. Much like the climate change alarmists who argue that “the science is settled” and that no reasonably intelligent person could believe the changes are being driven by anything other than humans, the ostensibly conservative organization under whose banner the colonel appears apparently wants us to believe that we should stop thinking for ourselves because someone else — who at first glance appears reputable and authoritative — has done the thinking for us.

Regardless of whether we accept or reject his thesis (and his credentials), we should reject his sponsor’s and other media outlets' position that only “idiots” could possibly arrive at a different conclusion than their favored view.

The idea that anyone could definitively answer in three minutes a question that scholars have dedicated volumes to for well over a century should be laughable, but the earnest responses from a large number of viewers and hundreds of thousands of “shares” may be indicators of just how far we’ve fallen.

Perhaps even more disturbing is that an organization that purports to be a “University” and a senior leader from our nation’s military academy both support this attack on reasoned discussion and critical thought. The essence of education is teaching students to collect and analyze evidence, apply logic and develop conclusions, not telling them they’re stupid if they don’t see it their professor or institution’s way.


Here's What Students Think of Michelle Obama's School Lunches

Public schools are continuing to serve the federally mandated fruits and vegetables, but a new study claims the fresh produce is going into trash cans more than tummies.

Since 2012, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has implemented a requirement – widely championed by First Lady Michelle Obama – that children must select either a fruit or vegetable for school lunches subsidized by the federal government. However, a new report published this week by researchers at the University of Vermont found that even though students did add more fruits and vegetables to their plates, as the “Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act” enforces, “children consumed fewer [fruits and vegetables] and wasted more during the school year immediately following implementation of the USDA rule.”

The report, entitled “Impact of the National School Lunch Program on Fruit and Vegetable Selection,” noted that average waste increased from a quarter cup to more than one-third of a cup per tray. Observing students at two northeastern elementary schools during more than 20 visits to each, researchers took photos of students’ trays after they chose their items, as they were exiting the lunch line and again as they went by the garbage cans.

“The architects of the Act want their children and schoolchildren across America to eat healthy, hearty meals," Joe Colangelo, director of the product testing and consumer advocacy organization Consumers’ Research, told "Unfortunately, our government does not have a perfect record of influencing the eating habits of American citizens.”


Monday, August 31, 2015

Jeb's College Plan Even Worse Than What He Recently Decried

If presidential contender Jeb Bush is looking to improve his standing among wary conservatives, his newest “idea” isn’t the way to do it. Let’s review: In January’s State of the Union, Barack Obama pitched a “free” community college plan, which Democrats quickly abandoned thanks to an upswell of negative feedback, including from Mr. Bush. During a visit to New Hampshire in April, Bush criticized the proposal, rightly opining, “The idea of giving something free — it’s political. It’s poll driven. Someone did a focus group. Free stuff. Free community colleges, it’s a great sound bite.”

So it’s a little strange — no, contradictory — that he embraced this week a plan that’s adopted straight from Obama’s “great sound bite.” The Hill reports, “Jeb Bush threw his support behind a Tennessee plan to give two years of community college to students tuition-free on Monday, the same plan that helped inspire President Obama’s similar proposal earlier this year.” Said the governor, “There are great programs around the country — one of the ones I most admire is a project called Tennessee Promise, where every student that participates gets their community college education, at least for the first two years, debt free, free of tuition.” The cherry on top? “If kids can’t graduate with a four-year degree in four years, there ought to be some payback to their families or to them, or there’s got to be some support for the loans they’ve taken out,” he continued (emphasis added). It’s one thing to flip-flop and side with Obama’s disastrous policies; it’s quite another to make them appear somewhat preferable in contrast.

Earlier this month Hillary Clinton unveiled her own plan to tackle sticker shock that — similar to the plans above —involves redistributing hundreds of billions of dollars in taxpayer revenue. Bush could learn a lesson or two from his Florida colleague and campaign rival Marco Rubio, who instead advocates a free market-based platform to lower tuition costs. “When Bush proposes policies like this, it’s no wonder why Republicans haven’t won a presidential election since 2004,” notes Hot Air’s Taylor Millard. Meanwhile, back in New Hampshire, Bush boasted of his “I’m-not-kidding conservative record.” He’s got to do better than embrace Big Government-sponsored boondoggles if wants to take the reins in the White House.


Maryland College Blocks Conservative Civics Club

A college student in Maryland has been denied permission to start a conservative civics club.

Moriah DeMartino, an incoming freshman at Hagerstown Community College (HCC) in Maryland, wanted to start a Turning Point USA club. Turning Point is a non-partisan organization that teaches the Constitution and advocates free markets and limited government.

The request was denied. Heather Barnhart, HCC’s club and student organization advisor, told DeMartino that a Turning Point club could only be started is a Democratic club was also launched. Barnhart also said that the school already has a Political Science Club, and their policy is not to allow clubs that “duplicate the purpose and mission of existing clubs.”

The college allows various clubs, including a chapter of the National Organization of Women. DeMartino released the following statement:

"The college is attempting to handle this situation professionally. However, with that being said, I do feel that my right as a student activist is being denied in an unfair manner. There are other groups on campus that have a clear bias in their views, with no groups that have opposing views to them, so why is my club being denied?"



Three current articles below:

Does Australia have poor quality teachers?

In its amusing Leftist way, "New Matilda" has broached this question.  Conservative State and Federal politicians have said that the quality of teaching in Australian schools needs to be raised and this has aroused "New Matilda" ire.  So I read the characteristically long-winded article concerned right through looking for contrary evidence.  There was none. It was just a very wordy fulmination.  It was just an outpouring of rage, as one expects from Leftists. I reproduce some of it below.

Most amusing of all, they DO look at the evidence on one thing:  The policy of the last Labour government of giving every child a laptop computer.  So this wonderful Leftist idea worked wonders? No. They quite fairly point out that it did no good at all!

So are there any scholarly comments or constuctive suggestions in the article?  I can't see any.  It is just an offended shriek.

I was also amused that the two female writers confessed that they are not themselves teachers.  Leftists love "ad hominem" arguments so let me use one against them.  I taught for many years at both the secondary school and university levels and, along the way, got to see a bit about my fellow teachers.  And the unavoidable conclusion is that teacher quality is very patchy. 

And teacher training has got nothing to do with it.  Like university degrees for nurses, it may even be a negative influence.  The expansion of teacher training from one year to four has certainly not been shown to raise teaching quality.

As the "Teach for America" program has clearly shown, teachers are largely born, not made.  And born teachers are rare.  So I concur with the judgements of some of my fellow conservatives that teaching quality in our schools is often poor.

Unlike them and unlike "New Matilda", however, I have a solution that works and has been working for many years.  Teachers themselves usually decry it but the evidence has long been in.

What is needed are large class sizes so that the limited teaching talent that is available can be spread widely.  I can dig up plenty of research evidence to that effect if anybody wants it.

Teachers are the scapegoats for any shortcomings in our education system. Maurie Mulheron, the President of the NSW Teacher’s Federation, who is an actual teacher, who has taught actual students, in actual classrooms, argues that, “Many of our schools are akin to emergency wards in hospitals. No-one talks about the quality of doctors and nurses – they talk about the quality of health and the resources the hospitals need”.

Furthermore, reforms have characteristically happened to schools and teachers, rather than in collaboration with them. Funds are issued and cut upon the whim of the politician, and the syllabus, particularly Australian history, is a political plaything.

But if you ask Christopher Pyne, he will insist that a researcher once told him that “teachers are the biggest influence on student’s achievement”, and thus you do not need any more ‘resources’ aka ‘money’.

Piccoli and Pyne must be the products of exceptional maths teachers, because what they are doing is economically clever, albeit socially inexcusable. Pyne, in an article written at the beginning of the last year, argued:

“The quality of our teaching and quality of our teachers is seen as one of the important, if not most important, determinants affecting education performance…. A quality education system must be underpinned by quality teachers. The profession knows it, parents want it, our students deserve it and the nation needs it.”
Inspiring stuff. Except for the part where he says that teachers have been very bad for a while now, and despite his best efforts, he cannot sculpt a quality education system out of crappy teachers.

Apparently teachers are letting down parents, students, and, well, not to exaggerate, but the entire nation. You know how everything in the United States is Obama’s fault? Teachers are Australia’s Obama.

Can’t get a job? Thanks TEACHERS

Kicked your toe? Thanks TEACHERS

Nation goes to war? Thanks TEACHERS

If we weren’t so angry, we would almost respect Pyne’s political manoeuvre to shift all blame for everything that goes wrong onto one of the most underpaid and undervalued occupations.

It is borderline genius.

To clarify, Pyne would have us believe that it is the individuals who educate our nation’s children, who teach them to read and write, and add and subtract, and speak languages and draw, and play the bloody recorder (now THAT, they owe an apology for), and understand their bodies and sexual development, and discipline and focus, who are to blame for students’ less than exceptional results.

It is the individuals who accept the wage which may mean they can never own a home in Sydney, or claim helicopter rides on tax, or go out to fancy lunches and get drunk on Fridays, who must work harder, and study Masters and PhDs which do not necessarily correspond to more money, who need to ‘be better at your job plz’ quote Mr Pyne.

Pyne might have had a little more credibility if he had read the research correctly.

The Conversation ran an article a few years ago, which clarified that whilst teachers are the biggest in-school influence, various other school and non-school factors far outweigh the influence of teachers. Funding matters, as does socio-economic status, and available resources.

We’re no ‘Education Minister’, but we do not accept that the alleged “dumbing down” of students is a result of teacher quality.

You know what this week is, Pyne and Piccoli? It’s Book Week.

Primary School teachers all over Australia are dressed as Little Red Riding Hood. We would take your argument more seriously if you were dressed as Voldemort and Humpty Dumpty respectively. Oh, and Joe Hockey can be Robin Hood, except he steals from the poor and gives to the rich.

There is a great deal that NAPLAN cannot test. Among them is enthusiasm for learning and teacher quality.

So it’s time for Pyne and Piccoli, who have fabricated the teacher’s fall, and criticised them for not doing it all, to get all the state governments and all those Liberal men, to try and build up the teaching profession again. [How?  More money, I guess.  That's the invariant call from teacher unions.  It has never been shown to work, however]


US-style independent schools could boost grades in Australia: new report

The excerpt below is what appeared in The Brisbane Times, the Brisbane tentacle of the Fairfax hate organization.  It was a lead-in to a story in the "Age".  I read the Fairfax press most days and I have yet to see one positive story about the Abbott government since it was elected.  They are fanatical.

So how come the story below is favourable to conservative ideas?  It was a mistake, apparently.  It has now been wiped from all Fairfax platforms. Only the paragraph below remains.  CIS will no doubt publish Trish Jha's report  in due course so we will eventually see what it says anyway

US-style privately-owned public schools should be rolled out in Australia to boost academic standards, a new report by libertarian think-tank, the Centre for Independent Studies argues. Privately-run public schools, or charter schools as they are known in the US, are funded by the government and run by private entities, which have full autonomy over the schools' finances, staffing and curriculum.  The schools, which do not charge fees, could boost innovation in the sector by giving schools more freedom, and giving disadvantaged students more choice, writes the report's lead author, Trisha Ja."..

Student Fascists at a Melbourne university

Student protesters have forcibly restrained as they sought to block Education Minister Christopher Pyne from visiting a Melbourne university.

Mr Pyne arrived at the Footscray campus of Victoria University this morning to speak at its centenary celebration, from which media were barred.

About a dozen protesters scuffled with security guards and tried to block Mr Pyne's access to the building, but they were pushed aside.

Mr Pyne left about 30 minutes later in his car via a rear garage door and did not speak to reporters.

The students were reportedly protesting over Mr Pyne's proposal to deregulate university fees.


Sunday, August 30, 2015

Advanced Placement Framework Is Pure Anti-American Propaganda

It is a sorry state of affairs that American public education is not much more than propaganda. The Advanced Placement U.S. History (APUSH) curriculum and testing has made recent news for its abandonment of facts that support America’s exceptionalism. Leftists laughably pass it off as education to “redirect the course away from rote memorization of facts and toward historical thinking skills.” But such revisionism of our nation’s past is dangerous for its future.

Only after public outcry did the College Board “revise” the APUSH framework to include a patronizing reference to “American exceptionalism.” That checked the proverbial box so as to prevent state legislatures controlled by conservative believers in America-first to refrain from the termination of taxpayer funding. The Leftist educrats have not substantively improved the APUSH curriculum or testing. Instead, they perpetuate the type of education that lives up to famed Communist and Soviet leader, Vladimir Lenin, who declared, “Give me four years to teach the children and the seed I have sown will never be uprooted.”

Keep in mind a chilling fact that makes the reversal of this “framework” critical: The American History portion will be followed by AP European History and AP U.S. Government rewrites. Unless the College Board and its committed cultists are met with impactful opposition to their efforts to destroy the best of American history, additional aspects of our children’s education will soon follow suit. The educrats will continue rewriting facts to fit their false narrative of America and its impact on the world.

The College Board makes money for each test taken by students seeking college credit for work in their junior and senior years of high school. High schools are praised and rewarded by the percentage of students that take the advanced placement coursework and participate in testing. And who foots the bill for public schools? Taxpayers.

The College Board is overseeing a complete transformation of America’s story. Far from relaying a set of facts about events that have set the course of the world, the educrats offer a new version of history that’s nothing but telling teenagers what to think, not how to think.

The financial conflict of interest alone should set Americans into action to halt the use of their hard-earned tax dollars to fund educrats. Add to that the revelations of a few AP teachers who have confronted and exposed this a pure anti-American propaganda.

Elizabeth Altham of Our Lady of the Sacred Heart Academy, a private, Catholic K–12 college-preparatory school in Rockford, Illinois, is an award-winning master of AP History who has been faithful and effective in equipping students with the facts. Yet Altham has dared to risk the certification by the College Board in order to publicly call into question the revisionist nature of the curriculum.

Yes, another little conflict is that the College Board provides the certification to those who follow the breadcrumbs.

Altham observes that the APUSH framework has “placed inordinate emphasis upon the bad behavior of European invaders and colonists, and upon ‘trends and processes,’ while neglecting the good behavior of many of those men, and the importance of the characters and choices of individuals; also, it neglected the philosophy of government the colonists brought with them.”

The conflict for Altham, as with other good teachers, is whether to do what’s best and right or succumb to the requirements of the College Board for certification and teach a curriculum based on falsehoods and assumptions that disfigure America.

Altham is joined by Marc Anderson, who retired from the U.S. Air Force. Now a public school teacher in Pennsylvania through the “Troops to Teachers” initiative, Anderson’s infuriation at the APUSH fraud is his greatest obstacle to fulfill his duties in teaching.

Anderson, a Christian who has served on America’s frontline of defense in our Armed Forces, has unapologetically taught his students that America’s founding arose from the desire for religious liberty — pilgrims fleeing an oppressive monarchy and a state-controlled church. He teaches them our exceptional history of standing on the side of good versus evil.

But Anderson had to join other AP U.S. History teachers in a College Board course that instructed teachers to relay the narrative blaming America first, last and always for the world’s problems.

As this leftist organization, the College Board, thrives on your tax dollars to distort the image of America into an oppressive, bigoted society where success only results from greed and harm to the collective good, a national school curriculum is being written by the socialist Left. As the cry against Common Core elicits immediate anger, the control of the story of the United States of America in the hands of those whose life experiences extend no further than a faculty lounge or their local coffee house with free Wi-Fi must now be rejected and halted.

In his 1985 State of the Union Address, President Ronald Reagan gloriously declared, “There are no constraints on the human mind, no walls around the human spirit, no barriers to our progress except those we ourselves erect.”

We’re watching the Left erect the walls of propaganda, constraining the human mind. They’re passing it off as education, but it will end the authentic progress of America in its exceptionalism and confine each to a social collective commitment to the state rather than individual liberty.


Academic Freedom Under Siege

Six weeks ago, Northwestern University President Morton Schapiro wrote a fine op-ed in the Wall Street Journal in which he offered a ringing endorsement of academic freedom. As he observed, a university must have "a compelling reason to punish anyone -- student, faculty member, staff member -- for expressing his or her views, regardless of how repugnant you might find those views." Indeed, he added, "freedom of speech doesn't amount to much unless it is tested," and if freedom of speech isn't aggressively protected "on college campuses, where self-expression is so deeply valued, why expect it to matter elsewhere?"

It is therefore both surprising and disappointing that Northwestern University recently found itself embroiled in two embarrassing violations of the core principles of academic freedom. Sadly, a university that should be a national leader in promoting and protecting these values allowed itself to lose sight of its very reason for being.

The first of these controversies began a little over a year ago. Atrium is a journal published by Northwestern University's Medical Humanities and Bioethics Program. Each issue focuses on a different theme, and each contributor is expected to explore the theme "in different, thought-provoking ways." The Winter 2014 issue of Atrium, which was edited by Professor Alice Dreger, included a series of lively articles on the theme of "Bad Girls."

One of the articles, written by William Peace, then the 2014 Jeannette K. Watson Distinguished Visiting Professor in the Humanities at Syracuse University, was titled "Head Nurses." In this essay, Peace, who is disabled, told the story of how 36 years earlier a young woman nurse, with whom he had grown close, provided oral sex to him during rehabilitation in order to address his deep concerns that, after a severe health problem left him paralyzed, he could no longer be sexually active.

Apparently, Peace's essay, which was written and edited in a responsible, mature, and thoughtful manner, so upset the authorities at Northwestern University's Feinberg School of Medicine that they ordered the story removed from the online version of Atrium. This act of blatant censorship, in direct contravention of any plausible understanding of academic freedom, remained in place for fourteen months, over the continued objections of Peace and Dreger.

Northwestern finally reversed course only after Peace and Dreger made clear that they would take the matter public if the university did not relent. Presumably, the university's concern was that the inclusion of such an "offensive" article in Atrium might put off some of the university's donors and the hospital's patrons, either because of its acknowledgement of oral sex or because it might be construed as demeaning to women. Neither concern is a justification for censorship. The journal, the issue, and the essay were all squarely within the bounds of academic freedom, and Northwestern University should have stood proudly in support of that principle.

As Bill Peace later noted, "obviously, sexual relations between patients and health care professionals is inappropriate," but "what I object to even more" are those "who are dedicated to branding medical institutions by censoring legitimate scholarship and attempting to erase the lives and experiences that they deem embarrassing."

The second controversy began several months ago when Northwestern University professor Laura Kipnis wrote a piece in the Chronicle of Higher Education in which she raised important questions about the regulation of student-faculty relationships, the meaning of consent, the procedural irregularities that frequently taint the efforts of colleges and universities to address such issues, and the messy and destructive lawsuits that often follow.

Kipnis' article is a serious, provocative, and valuable contribution to the ongoing debate about these often difficult and vexing issues. Among other things, Kipnis charged that some of the recently enacted campus codes dealing with such matters have had the effect of infantilizing women students. This, she reasoned, is not a good thing.

In response to this essay, several students at Northwestern staged a protest demanding "a swift, official condemnation" of the article because they had been made to feel uncomfortable by her thoughts on the subject. One woman student went so far as to describe the essay as "terrifying." Shortly thereafter, a women student who had filed sexual assault charges against a professor at Northwestern filed a Title IX (sex discrimination/sexual harassment) complaint against Kipnis because of the publication.

As Kipnis traces in a powerful new article published this week in the Chronicle of Higher Education, for the past several months she has been subjected to a star-chamber proceeding in which outside investigators retained by Northwestern University have sought to determine whether her initial essay somehow constituted unlawful retaliation, "intimidation, threats, coercion, or discrimination" against the student who had previously filed the sexual assault charge against the faculty member at Northwestern.

As anyone who has read Kipnis' initial article can discern, the accusation is ludicrous on its face. An essay that takes aim at the substantive values and procedures employed by universities in their efforts to regulate sexual relationships on campus is not, and cannot rationally be taken to be, an act of discrimination, retaliation, or harassment directed against any particular student who may have filed such a complaint.

What Northwestern should have done in the face of such a complaint was to dismiss it as quickly and decisively as possible and to reaffirm the fundamental right of members of the university community to write, speak, argue, and complain openly and vigorously about matters of public concern. Instead, Northwestern put Kipnis through months of "investigation" for doing nothing more than writing an interesting and provocative article in a journal of considerable repute.

It was only after Kipnis went public in her second article this week that Northwestern finally informed her that the charges against her were unfounded. As evidenced in both of these situations, it seems, not surprisingly, that the best way to get universities to stand up for academic freedom is to call them out publicly on their lack of commitment to the principles for which they are supposed to stand.

In fairness, I have to say that, at least in the Kipnis incident, this is not all Northwestern's fault. The Department of Education has run roughshod over colleges and universities in recent years by demanding, on pain of loss of federal funds, that these institutions take extreme measures, often inconsistent with basic notions of due process, to deal with complaints of sexual abuse. But this is not much of an excuse, because the Kipnis case was not an instance in which she was accused of sexually abusing anyone. She was accused, rather, of writing an article that upset some students. Turning that into a federal case is beyond the pale.

Northwestern, and other universities, must have the courage to live up to President Schapiro's ringing declaration that a university must have "a compelling reason to punish anyone -- student, faculty member, staff member -- for expressing his or her views, regardless of how repugnant you might find those views." That is, after all, what makes a university a university.


ACLU Files Lawsuit to Block School Choice for Nevada Children

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has just filed a lawsuit intended to block students from participating in Nevada’s groundbreaking near-universal education savings account (ESA) option. The ESA option was signed into law this spring by Gov. Brian Sandoval, R-Nev., and began accepting applications a few weeks ago.

More than 2,200 parents have already applied to participate in the ESA option, which provides students with a portion (roughly $5,100 annually) of the funds that would have been spent on them in their public school in an ESA account that they can then use to pay for a variety of education-related services, products, and providers.

They can use their ESA to pay for private school tuition, online learning, special education services and therapies, textbooks, curricula, and a host of other education-related expenditures. As the name implies, parents can also save unused funds, rolling dollars over from year-to-year to pay for future education costs.

The ACLU’s lawsuit alleges that the ESA program “violates the Nevada Constitution’s prohibition against the use of public money for sectarian (religious) purposes.” Yet ESA funds go directly to parents, who can then choose from any education option that is right for their child.

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The Foundation for Excellence in Education explains that the Arizona Court of Appeals noted in a similar case in 2013,

    “The ESA does not result in an appropriation of public money to encourage the preference of one religion over another, or religion per se over no religion. Any aid to religious schools would be a result of the genuine and independent private choices of the parents. The parents are given numerous ways in which they can educate their children suited to the needs of each child with no preference given to religious or nonreligious schools or programs.”

The Institute for Justice, which will be defending the ESA option, is confident it does not violate the state’s constitution.

Tim Keller, a senior attorney with the Institute for Justice, declared that,

    “Nevada’s Education Savings Account (ESA) Program was enacted to help parents and children whose needs are not being met in their current public schools, and we will work with them to intervene in this lawsuit and defeat it.”

    “The United States Supreme Court, as well as numerous state supreme courts, have already held that educational choice programs, like Nevada’s ESA Program, are constitutional. We expect the same from Nevada courts.”

Education director for the Goldwater Institute, Jonathan Butcher, had this to say,

    “Every child deserves the chance at a great education and the opportunity to pursue the American Dream. Lawsuits such as this challenge parents’ ability to help their children succeed,”

    “Nevada has a unique law that makes flexible learning options available to every child attending a public school and a treasurer that has committed his team to listening to public comments and designing a successful education savings account program. Opponents should give students the chance to succeed with these accounts.”

Education savings accounts are one of the most promising paths forward on choice in education. They enable families to direct every single dollar of their child’s state per-pupil funding that is deposited into their account to a wide variety of education options. Arizona became the first state, in 2011, to enact the ESA model.

Today, five states, including Arizona, Mississippi, Tennessee, Florida, and Nevada have ESAs in place, with Nevada’s being notable because it will be available to every single child currently enrolled in a public school. It is the first program universally available to all public school students. Arizona, which has the longest-running ESA option, has had great success for participating families.

As Marc Ashton, father to Max Ashton who is legally blind and used the ESA prior to finishing high school explained,

    “A blind student in Arizona gets about $21,000 a year. That $21,000 represents what Arizona spends to educate a student such as Max in the public-school system.”

“We took our 90 percent of that, paid for Max to get the best education in Arizona, plus all of his Braille, all of his technology, and then there was still money left over to put toward his college education,” Marc explains. “So he is going to be able to go on to Loyola Marymount University, because we were able to save money, even while sending him to the best school in Arizona, out of what the state would normally pay for him.”

That type of customization and innovation is what the ACLU is threatening now in Nevada. It’s a shame that special interest groups continue to threaten choice in education, when choice is what is needed so badly, for so many.