Friday, September 18, 2015

Alice Dreger and the policing of academic thought

Misguided feminists are dictating what academics may publish

The latest brouhaha to come out of Northwestern University, the Illinois institution beset by censorship scandals, is one that has seen Alice Dreger, a renowned professor of medical humanities and bioethics, resign over a controversial journal she edited. It’s a skirmish indicative of the underlife many academics feel confined to these days, a state of affairs that has seen the curtailing of the combustible and imperfect forces that drive innovation in the sciences, technologies and humanities.

The conflict began for Dreger when she guest edited Atrium, the journal of the medical humanities and bioethics programme at Northwestern’s Feinberg School of Medicine. In an issue titled ‘Bad Girls’, she included an article by William Peace, an adjunct instructor in Syracuse University’s honours programme. ‘Head Nurses’ was about Peace’s experience in a physical-rehabilitation hospital in the Seventies, a stay that lasted more than a year and brought him into close contact with a lot of young female nurses. (He suffered from a neurological disorder that left him a paraplegic at the age of 18.)

Peace wrote about a reasonable fear he had then: namely, if being in a wheelchair for the rest of his life would prevent him from having sex. Although it was a question no medical professional seemed prepared to answer, an answer existed. With a wonder that is still discernible, he describes the time a nurse came to his bed in the middle of the night and fellated him, an experience he recalls with warmth and gratitude.

Peace elaborated, saying that, at the time, the youngest nurses – recent graduates – were sent to teach young paralysed men like him how to insert and remove catheters. An intimate procedure he found humiliating – especially since he found some of the nurses attractive. There was an upside, however. These nurses were also poorly paid, worked long hours and were assigned the least desirable tasks.

The end result, Peace reports, were relationships of mutual empathy, the kind that develop naturally between young men and women when they are thrown together for months at a time, working under difficult circumstances and toward challenging goals. Peace spoke to that emotional context in the article, a context that included encouragement, frankness and, of course, physical contact.

There were two significant critiques of ‘Head Nurses’. One came from Dreger’s dean, Eric Nielson, who felt he was protecting Northwestern Memorial Health Care, the corporation that had recently acquired Northwestern’s Feinberg School of Medicine. The other came from feminists Rachelle Barina and Devan Stahl at, the website of The American Journal of Bioethics.

When it came to Northwestern, Nielson was concerned about branding and had the article removed from the online version of Atrium. It was ironic: the medical school, which was once free of the interventions of corporate world, had for a decade allowed Dreger to explore edgy experiences typified by Peace’s narrative. However, a new dependence on corporate funding apparently changed that. On her personal blog, Dreger quotes a message to the faculty at the medical school, emphasising how it has now become a medical ‘centre’:

‘Starting today, the look of your campus-access badge will reflect our Northwestern Medicine identity… This will be a powerful symbol to our community and visitors that we’re working together as one unified medical centre… Carriers of both the NU Wildcard and the NM ID badge will still have access to all the benefits of the Wildcard advantage programme, including dining and retail discounts.’

Dreger joked in the blog that if she’d kept her job, she would have also kept her 15 per cent discount at participating restaurants. I spoke to Dreger about the incident, and, levity aside, she made the point that ‘academic freedom is fundamentally the opposite of a brand’, and that, while brands are about singular messages, ‘academic freedom is about having the potential to be off-message’. Peace contends that his writing about sex, as a disabled man, is at the root of his critics’ discomfort, and is precisely why a journal like Atrium should publish him.

Feminists Barina and Stahl argued that ‘according to Peace, his nurse initiated the blowjob without his request. Nevertheless, it is hard to see her act as radically distanced from the cultural expectations placed on her to care for and affirm the manhood of her male patients through the use of her body. Moreover, her act perpetuates the assumption that women best care for men by putting their bodies in the service of unreciprocated sexual pleasure.’

They wrote a follow-up to this, after the controversy became public, insisting they oppose censorship, stating that a subsequent article, written by Peace in the Chronicle of Higher Education, situated his experience in a clearer and more sympathetic context. Despite their belated disclaimer, it’s hard to see Barina and Stahl’s responses as ‘radically distanced’ from a censoriousness designed to keep Peace out of a conversation – about sex and disability – that he initiated.

On a more prosaic level, Barina and Stahl also assert that Peace’s accommodating nurse did not experience reciprocal pleasure while engaging in fellatio with him, a curious assumption, especially since the woman is no longer alive to deny it. However, I doubt a denial would even have a place in their argument. And that’s because they are relying on an assumption which stems from the broader belief that heterosexual sex is all about power and therefore inherently bad.

But Barina and Stahl got it wrong in another way: they misunderstood the disability context Peace was writing in. What the disabled will tell you themselves is that their physical conditions require different lexicons of eroticism, not all of which are intelligible to those who define sexual pleasure purely in orgasmic terms. Peace’s discussion surely pushes towards a broader lexical knowledge of disability and this is apparent by how he starts his story: ‘It was late at night and I had pissed all over myself and the bed.’ He describes how it felt to fail on an ADL – an activity of daily living – and how, as a young man, asking for help was difficult. So if a power dynamic did exist between Peace and the nurse, I would argue it was lateral and that her gesture needs to be understood in that context.

Having cared for a disabled parent, I understood Peace’s intentions in ‘Head Nurses’. I know that talking about urinating, defecating and pleasant sensations all at the same time is part of the compression that characterises discussions about disabled bodies. I recognised that when my mother’s occupational therapist stressed the importance of giving myself enough time to perform a proper toilette for my mother in both the morning and evening. The tactile pleasure my mother would derive from it, she said, was important to her emotional wellbeing. It’s a conversation I’ve had with those who work in physical rehabilitation; they’ve taught me to appreciate that having a diaper changed, when one is old and frail, can actually be a pleasing experience. It’s a subversive thought, one that challenges conventional notions about the horrors of old age.

I remember the feminist slogan from the Seventies – the personal is political. Maybe it’s still true. But as Peace and Dreger’s experiences show, it can also be code for ‘Hold on, there are some dumb rules coming your way’. I wonder when those of us who care about the vulnerable became afraid of those who claim to do so with more zeal. When did we cede our freedom to the academy’s most misguided alarmists?


Obama defends free speech on campus??

Speaking at North High School in Des Moines, Iowa, yesterday President Barack Obama said he did not think colleges should block guest speakers who are “too conservative.”

Obama made the observation during a question-and-answer session with students and their parents.

Before answering the question, the president said: “When I went to college, suddenly there were some folks who didn’t think at all like me.  And if I had an opinion about something, they’d look at me and say, well, that’s stupid.”

Here is an excerpt from the president’s presentation:

    "When I went to college, suddenly there were some folks who didn’t think at all like me.  And if I had an opinion about something, they’d look at me and say, well, that’s stupid.  And then they’d describe how they saw the world.  And they might have had a different sense of politics, or they might have a different view about poverty, or they might have a different perspective on race, and sometimes their views would be infuriating to me.  But it was because there was this space where you could interact with people who didn’t agree with you and had different backgrounds that I then started testing my own assumptions. And sometimes I changed my mind.  Sometimes I realized, you know what, maybe I’ve been too narrow-minded.  Maybe I didn’t take this into account.  Maybe I should see this person’s perspective.

     So that’s what college, in part, is all about.  The idea that you’d have somebody in government making a decision about what you should think ahead of time or what you should be taught, and if it’s not the right thought or idea or perspective or philosophy, that that person would be -- that they wouldn’t get funding runs contrary to everything we believe about education. I mean, I guess that might work in the Soviet Union, but it doesn’t work here. That’s not who we are.  That’s not what we’re about.

    Now, one thing I do want to point out is it’s not just sometimes folks who are mad that colleges are too liberal that have a problem.  Sometimes there are folks on college campuses who are liberal and maybe even agree with me on a bunch of issues who sometimes aren’t listening to the other side.  And that’s a problem, too.

    I was just talking to a friend of mine about this.  I’ve heard I've of some college campuses where they don’t want to have a guest speaker who is too conservative.  Or they don’t want to read a book if it has language that is offensive to African Americans, or somehow sends a demeaning signal towards women.  And I’ve got to tell you, I don’t agree with that either.  I don’t agree that you, when you become students at colleges, have to be coddled and protected from different points of views.

    I think that you should be able to -- anybody should -- anybody who comes to speak to you and you disagree with, you should have an argument with them.  But you shouldn’t silence them by saying, you can’t come because I’m too sensitive to hear what you have to say. That’s not the way we learn, either".


Support for Higher Teacher Salaries Drops When People Find Out How Much Teachers Earn

Americans consistently underestimate how much is spent annually to educate children in the nation’s public schools, including how much teachers are being paid.

But when they are told the actual amount, the percentage of the public that supports increasing teacher salaries drops from about two-thirds (63 percent) to less than half (45 percent), according the ninth annual Education Next poll.

“When the public is informed of teacher salaries, support for increasing salaries declines,” the EdNext poll found. “Support drops even further when the public is reminded that an increase would be funded by tax dollars.”

The poll was conducted in May and June by Professors Paul Peterson and Martin West of the Harvard Kennedy School of Government.

“People estimate that their local school districts spent $6,307 per child when we know from U.S. Department of Education statistics that it’s actually twice that” – or an average of $12,440 per child, Peterson told

“The response has been very consistent from year to year,” he said, adding that the steep drop in public support for more education spending is significant.

“You don’t get an 18 point difference very often,” he noted.

Americans also guessed that the 4 million public school teachers in the U.S. receive an average yearly salary of $38,294 – considerably lower than the actual average of $55,510, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Peterson said the poll questions did not include other teacher compensation, such as health benefits and pensions.

The 4,083 respondents, which comprised a nationally representative sample, were divided into two groups. Both groups were asked whether teacher salaries should decrease, increase, or stay the same, but only members of one group were also given the current average teacher salary in their state.

Peterson attributed Americans’ low-ball estimates on per-pupil expenditures and teacher salaries to a general lack of media coverage of the issue.

“About 50 percent of a local school district’s expenditures come from its own resources. The rest is from the state and federal governments,” he explained. “But what people think about is the money raised from the local tax base.”

Peterson concluded that the more information on current expenditures Americans have, the less inclined they are to support higher taxes in order to further increase spending on education.

“If they are aware of how much money is being spent, they might also have higher expectations,” he added.


Thursday, September 17, 2015

Obama promotes shell game in student loan system

IMAGINE YOU ARE adrift in a small, overcrowded lifeboat that is quickly taking on water. Calmly, the captain stands. “Don’t panic,” he urges, “I have this under control.” He then proceeds to drill a few holes in the bottom of the boat, “to let the water out.”

Ridiculous as it sounds, that picture captures President Obama’s plan for dealing with the student loan crisis. With borrowers awash in a sea of debt, and the system taking on record defaults, the president and his allies blithely concoct different ways for those borrowers to walk away from their obligations. Meanwhile, college costs spiral ever upward, and taxpayers are left with the bills.

For decades, the federal student loan system has proven invaluable to millions seeking higher education. But during the past 10 years, student debt has tripled to $1.2 trillion as the federal government has all but wiped out private lending for college.

Today, 7 million borrowers — nearly 20 percent — have gone more than a year without paying a dime on their loans. The number of such severe delinquencies is up 6 percent over last year, despite an aggressive push by the Obama administration to put borrowers into programs that limit payments and often forgive debt. This is not a sustainable path.

These “debt relief” plans, which cap monthly payments at 10 to 15 percent of discretionary pay, have seen record enrollments swell by over 50 percent in just one year. That’s fine for the borrowers, but often not enough to put a dent in the loan balance. In some cases, borrowers can walk away from their remaining debts after just 10 years. Obama will be long gone by then, with taxpayers left holding the bag.

Like drilling holes in a leaky lifeboat, capping payments represents activity that does nothing about the underlying problem: exploding tuition costs and a rising mountain of debt.

A recent paper from the New York Federal Reserve suggests that the government is a big part of the problem. By analyzing changes in federal lending limits, Pell Grants, and tuition costs, the paper concluded that the expansion of and access to subsidized lending has accelerated tuition increases at colleges around the country. It estimates that for each new dollar in subsidized loans or Pell Grants, tuition rose by more than 50 cents. As a result, over the past decade tuition prices have increased far beyond the inflation rate, faster even than costs for medical care.

To date, that’s a problem that few in Washington have been willing to tackle. At universities, the price hikes are consumed by bloated faculties, extravagant capital spending, and administrative overhead that never stops growing. These costs have little to do with the core activity of teaching, and everything to do with branding, marketing, and reputation — attributes then used to justify even higher prices.

Colleges and universities set tuition at what the market will bear. Aggressive, subsidized lending enables the market to bear ever higher prices. This is a problem exacerbated by government policy, abetted by universities, and ignored by legislators.

Instead, proposals keep coming to reduce payments, defer payments, reduce debts, and forgive debts. But that debt is owed to us. Forgiving student debt simply converts personal debt into public debt. Instead of students repaying the government, the government borrows to pay off the students. This federal debt must ultimately be paid back later using taxes collected from those same students.

That, friends, is a shell game.

“Student debt relief” sounds enticing, but “tuition cost control” is more like it; and it won’t happen until government stops feeding the beast.


Can evidence set teachers free?

The researchED conference, held in London last Saturday, attracted an audience of somewhere between 600 and 700 people. This is no mean feat. But, as keynote speaker and schools minister Nick Gibb said, the rise of researchED, a teacher-led organisation, reflects a new appetite for evidence-based practice among teachers. As evidence has long been used to impose silly practices on schools, the mission of reasearchED is to tool-up teachers so that they can challenge government dictates.

The conference covered a wide range of issues and subjects. Oliver Quinlan, who runs Nesta’s digital education projects, gave an interesting presentation on the ways ICT is changing education. He raised an important point about how technology is changing the nature of subjects themselves. So, for example, in music some traditional skills are still required in the syllabus, but the recording of music has been completely transformed by technology. To what extent technological changes represent an improvement is a fascinating question for future work to consider.

Other sessions, meanwhile, seemed to miss the mark. ‘How Does the Brain Solve Reading?’, run by Kathy Rastle from the University of London, was aimed primarily at advocating phonics-based reading strategies to improve literacy. However, her thesis was based on several unexplained assumptions – the most important of all being her claim that decoding phonemes, which is an act based on sensory input, is the same as accessing meaning.

Some of the best sessions of the day examined some of the broader political and philosophical issues affecting education today. Tim Oates, who was chair of the panel responsible for the recent review of the national curriculum, discussed politicians’ penchant for looking to the education systems of other countries without considering their particular cultural contexts. What’s more, education blogger David Didau explored whether teachers would do better to recognise that what they know will always be less than what they don’t know. Teachers, he said, should embrace uncertainty.

Didau raised an intriguing idea. Indeed, embracing uncertainty would be a helpful counterbalance to the unrelenting quest for the predictability and certainty that is associated with education research. However, I began to wonder whether the real problem is that the rise of evidence-based teaching has only encouraged teachers to ignore the considerable amount they do know, in terms of subject matter and pedagogy, and focus instead on learning evidence-based practice.

This was a thought that returned to me throughout the day. After years of evidence-based education policy, becoming research literate is an attractive proposition to teachers. It does, as ResearchED founder Tom Bennett explained, allow teachers to question barmy government initiatives. But I’m not convinced that becoming dependent on research and statistics will make teachers any more autonomous than before. A focus on research, even for the best of reasons, tends to undermine subject knowledge and experience. Moreover, the evidence-based model of teaching and knowledge has profound philosophical implications for the profession – it should not be so easily accepted.

All in all, it was a stimulating day. It was fantastic to speak with others who are looking for new and innovative answers to problems in education. But as much as researchED is helping some teachers strike out against government dictates, the underlying logic of evidence-based teaching needs to be further interrogated.


Alternative freshers’ week: giving the lie to the ‘lad culture’ panic

What do you get if you cross £1 pints, misogyny and a casual attitude to sexual assault? The answer – if you believe what the National Union of Students (NUS) and the government are saying about our universities – is freshers’ week. The annual welcome week for first-year undergraduates is renowned for its drunken debauchery. For many, it epitomises the ‘unsafe’ and ‘tasteless’ nature of life at a UK university. But this bad reputation has been called into question by the rise of the newest uni trend – the ‘alternative freshers’ week’.

In response to a rise in teetotal students, many universities are now offering a week’s worth of booze-free activities, as an alternative to the pub crawls and the club nights. Salsa classes, nightbus tours, theatre trips and ice-skating events are becoming increasingly popular, and are serving to expose the NUS’s hyperbole about how pervasive booze-fuelled ‘lad culture’ really is.

Universities are often depicted as unsafe and dangerous places for women, minorities and homosexuals, who are all viewed as potential victims of abuse or assault. Male students, meanwhile, are painted as untameable, sex-obsessed animals, who are driven into a feeding frenzy at the mere thought of cheap pints, casual sexism and the LAD Bible Facebook page. If people actually believed that this characterisation were true, it would be a miracle if anyone other than knuckle-dragging, misogynistic alcoholics ever applied to a university.

The fact that students’ unions across the land are planning their alternative freshers’ events in the same week the government launches its NUS-inspired inquiry into sexual assault on campus suggests it is time to question British students’ bad rep.

The issue here is that the definition of sexual assault peddled by NUS fearmongers is so watered down that innuendos and sexual jokes are lumped in with genuine cases of criminal behaviour. This serves only to give students an appalling and undeserved reputation, while distracting from the few cases of actual assault which rightfully demand care and attention.

Nevertheless, students face constant, patronising criticism from their students’ unions, which are supposedly there to look out for our interests, with the NUS having published a series of reports suggesting that sexist banter and a ‘pack mentality’ among male students are creating an intimidating environment for women. The rise of the activity-packed alternative freshers’ offerings makes you wonder how they even find the time to grope each other – in between dance lessons and games of ‘raveminton’.

This month, thousands of students will descend upon their campuses for the first time. Thankfully, they won’t be the intimidating lads the NUS believes they are. Ice skating, anyone? 


Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Texas professor sparks outrage after he bans students from saying: 'God Bless you' in class if someone sneezes

A Texas professor has sparked outrage after he banned students from saying 'God Bless you' in class if someone sneezes 'because it could be disruptive.'

The professor from The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley, has not been named, but his unusual list of demands have gone viral on social media.

In a long list of do's and don't for the new college year, the professor detailed a list of demands that students should follow.

It included:  'Please refrain from saying, 'God bless you' during the classes and exams.'

An image of the demands spread across social media soon after the first day of class.

Marcos Villarreal, a student at the university told Action 4 News: 'It's kind of ridiculous, first amendment, freedom of religion. It's there. We shouldn't have to block that out of school'.

Meanwhile, John Taylor was in shock over the rule.

He told Action 4 News: 'You shouldn't have a boundary on what you believe in, especially in the classroom.

'I would've not said anything, but it would've bothered me because as common courtesy, I say God bless you to people who sneeze.'

The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley professor distributed the syllabus on the first day of school. The name of the professor and the course has not been released.

Along with the rule on what not to say in class, the professor listed the semester's coursework and also asked students to refrain from using electronic devices - such as cellphones.

The university said in a statement: 'The professor's syllabus sought to identify examples of potentially disruptive behavior the professor believed could hinder the classroom learning environment, including use of cellphones.'

'The intent was not to limit the religious freedoms of UTRGV students, but to avoid unsolicited comments that might distract others.'

The university announced that the offending rule has since been removed.


British teacher brainwashes primary school children into writing letters of support to Syrian jihadis calling them 'diamonds'

A teacher working in a British classroom had pupils send handwritten letters to 'hero' Syrian terrorists.  The decorative notes - which include drawings and finger-paintings - were addressed to Al Qaeda affiliated Jabhat al-Nusra fighters.

The children described their planned recipients as 'diamonds', 'role models' and 'brothers'.

It is not known at which school they were written, but are thought to have been penned under the persuasion of the unidentified class teacher.

The pupils were forced to write in both English and Arabic, opening each of their notes: 'To our brothers in...'

Images of the letters were shared on Twitter by a woman using the handle @irhabiyya_18, which translates to 'terrorist_18'.

Keeping her identity hidden by choosing not to display her own photograph in her profile picture, the unknown woman uses her social media account to promote the jihad. She has previously shared extremist views using the account, and boasted to her 500 followers about the content of the letters.

When posting them online, she wrote: 'lil kids put their heads together to "post" letters to the muhajideen :)'

She followed that up by tweeting: 'Please encourage these lil enthusiastic daughters of this ummah...they eagerly awaiting a response...' before adding how particularly fond she was of one of the notes.

The letters were discovered online by American think tank The Middle East Media Research Institute.

Haras Rafiq, head of the counter-extremism Quilliam Foundation, said: 'She is clearly brainwashing youngsters. These kids are vulnerable.'

The teacher's Twitter page also features sickening images of beheading victims.


UK: Giant secondary school with 2,500 pupils and 16 forms in each year is planned as the crisis over rocketing pupil numbers deepens

A giant secondary school with 16 forms of entry and more than 2,500 pupils is being planned as the pupil places crisis deepens.

Councils are drawing up controversial proposals to cope with the ‘unprecedented’ bulge in student numbers that is now transferring from the primary to secondary sector.

Local authorities across the country are struggling to cope with the increased school population following a baby boom that began more than a decade ago and immigration.

Barking and Dagenham, East London, says it experienced the ‘highest growth’ in infants aged up to four in London, which is ‘starting to move through into secondary provision’.

The Times Educational Supplement revealed that the council has now asked all its secondaries to look at admitting more students.

This includes requesting one current ten-form entry secondary school to consider growing to 16-forms of entry, which would take its roll to more than 2,500 pupils.

If the proposals are agreed, the school - which has not been named - would be among the biggest of its kind in the country.

A spokeswoman for Barking and Dagenham council said the borough ‘continues to see rapid child population growth’.  She said: ‘Projected figures suggest that by 2020 we will have around 1,000 more pupils entering Year 7, so we will need around 30-35 more forms of entry.

‘To address this, we have been working with our secondary schools to look at the best way to meet the increased demand.

‘One possibility, where there is sufficient space, is rather than place two or three forms of entry into already busy secondary schools and science, sports and arts facilities become over burdened, is to add six or more forms of entry.

‘This would allow the creation of new school buildings so that specialist provision is available as well as basic classrooms.

‘These proposals are being discussed with schools and no decisions have been taken. This is an option available to more than one school.’

The council has one of the largest population changes seen in any borough across the country due to the age of residents, the rise in birth rates and ‘changes in migration patterns’.

Meanwhile one of the country’s largest secondaries - Thomas Deacon Academy in Peterborough - is also considering expanding from 12 to 15 forms of entry.  It currently has 2,025 pupils - compared to a national secondary school average of 957.

Principal, Julie Taylor, said the school was ‘heavily oversubscribed and the situation isn’t going to get any easier’.

Ashfield School, an academy in Kirkby-in-Ashfield, Nottinghamshire, already has 2,500 pupils and 183 teachers. Each year group is split into 18 forms, with average class sizes of 22.

Headteacher, Dick Vasey, told the TES he was not concerned about a generation of children being educated at large secondary schools.  He said: ‘One of the advantages of a big school is that we’ve got more resources, so we get smaller class sizes and a broader curriculum choice.’

A downside is that new pupils tend to get lost on their way to lessons, at least for the first few weeks but new signage has been installed ‘to make things a bit clearer’.

He said that ‘for obvious reasons’, the school has no staffroom. ‘We would need about 200 chairs in there,’ he added.

Ruth Bagley, chief executive of Slough borough council, said the town was facing an ‘unprecedented’ rise in secondary pupil numbers.

Between 2012 and 2022, the number of secondary places would have to rise by 64 per cent, with the number of forms of entry across the borough’s secondary schools rising from 57 to about 95.

Ms Bagley said the council was exploring ‘every opportunity’ to create new places and had made plans for the expansion of three of the town’s 11 schools.

A Department for Education spokeswoman said: ‘Significant investment during the last Parliament has helped to create half a million new school places since May 2010.

‘A further £7billion has already been committed to crate even more places over the next six years. We have also changed the rules to make it easier for schools to expand.’=


Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Obama trades college-ranking plan for a data clearinghouse

President Obama on Saturday abandoned his two-year effort to have the government create a system that rates the quality of the nation’s colleges and universities, a plan that was bitterly opposed by presidents at many of those institutions.

Under the original idea, announced by Obama in 2013, all of the nation’s 7,000 institutions of higher education would have been assigned a ranking by the government, with the aim of publicly shaming low-rated schools that saddle students with high debt and poor earning potential.

Instead, the White House on Saturday unveiled a website that does not attempt to rate schools with any kind of grade, but provides information to prospective students and their parents about annual costs, graduation rates, and salaries after graduation.

Obama praised the new website in his weekly address, saying that by using the new College Scorecard, “Americans will now have access to reliable data on every institution of higher education.”

But the new website falls far short of what the president had hoped for. When he announced the plan at the State University of New York in Buffalo in 2013, Obama put colleges on notice that schools performing poorly on his rating system would eventually lose access to billions of dollars in federal student aid money.

“I’m proposing major new reforms that will shake up the current system,” Obama said at the time. “Taxpayers shouldn’t be subsidizing students to go to schools where the kids aren’t graduating.”

Aides to Obama had described him as privately demanding from his staff bold action that would hold schools accountable, especially those that had low graduation rates and poor postgraduate income potential — even as they continued charging students tens of thousands of dollars each year to attend. Administration officials said at the time that the rating system would be in place by 2015.

But the plan quickly ran into opposition. Critics, including many of the presidents at elite private colleges, lobbied against the idea of a government rating system, saying it could force schools to prioritize moneymaking majors like accounting over those like English, history, or philosophy.

Officials at many schools said the government had no business competing with college rating services like those offered by US News and World Report. Many chose blunt language to describe what they said was a misguided effort by Obama and his administration.

Charles L. Flynn Jr., president of the College of Mount St. Vincent in New York, called the president’s idea “uncharacteristically clueless.”

Adam F. Falk, president of Williams College in Williamstown, Mass., predicted that it would be “oversimplified to the point that it actually misleads.” And Kenneth W. Starr, who is the president of Baylor University in Waco, Texas, and who, as a prosecutor, led the investigations of President Bill Clinton, called it “quite wrongheaded.”

For months, administration officials dismissed the criticism, saying that the status quo was unacceptable and that the president was determined to make a rating system work.

In 2014, Cecilia Muñoz, the president’s chief domestic policy adviser, responded in an interview to the complaints from college presidents by saying: “There is an element to this conversation which is, ‘We hope to God you don’t do this.’ Our answer to that is: ‘This is happening.’”

But more than a year later, the new scorecard unveiled Saturday does not attempt to rank colleges. And a fact sheet distributed by the White House makes no mention of linking the availability of federal student aid to a government ranking of a specific college.

David L. Warren, president of the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities, which strongly opposed the president’s rating plan, said Saturday that he supported providing more information to students and families.

“This is a step in that direction,” Warren said. “It also appears that the tool will allow colleges and universities to tailor their profiles, which allows for showcasing the diversity of institutions nationwide.”

White House officials said the scorecard — which can be found at — will allow students and parents to compare schools based on measurements that are important to them.

Using the website, for example, a student might search for schools with average annual costs of under $10,000, a graduation rate higher than 75 percent, and average salaries after graduation of more than $50,000 per year.


No, Britain's schools are not full of tiny sex offenders

The criminalisation of children has reached terrifying heights

Want a perfect example of the rape-culture panic? On Friday, the BBC published figures suggesting that, over the past three years, 5,500 alleged sex crimes in UK schools were reported to the police. Of these, 4,000 were allegations of physical sexual assault and more than 600 were allegations of rape. At least one fifth of the alleged offences reported were said to be perpetrated by children, while the details of the rest were unknown.

It wasn’t long before the figures were being used to justify the inclusion of consent classes in schools. Children’s commissioner for England, Anne Longfield, called for ‘a relationships and sex component to be part of the national curriculum’. This comes after the Department for Education published guidance earlier this year on teaching children as young as 11 about sexual consent. Despite the lack of detail in determining the age of alleged abusers, the findings were taken as proof that children are becoming sexual abusers at a younger and younger age.

This is bonkers. Firstly, the BBC’s reporting of the numbers was full of bald assertions. Jon Brown, head of sexual-abuse programmes at the NSPCC, was quoted in the BBC report, saying that ‘accessing hardcore pornography is warping [children’s] view of what is acceptable behaviour’. This claim was made in spite of the fact that decades of research has failed to demonstrate any link whatsoever between exposure to pornography and sexual-assault prevalence.

Children have not transformed in recent years into a marauding gang of sexual offenders; nor are they any more sexually aggressive today than in the past. In fact, these stats say less about our children’s newfound tendencies towards sexual perversion and more about our own warped idea of what constitutes sexual criminality.

The criminalisation of children in recent years, especially around sex, is startling. In 2013/14 the UK prosecuted over 1,600 young people for rape and sexual violence. And yet, many of the reported cases amount to little more than the cack-handed and unthinking application of the law to innocent, childlike behaviour. In 2010, the nation was shocked when two boys, aged 10 and 11, were found guilty of rape for – in their lawyers’ words – ‘playing doctors and nurses’ with an eight-year-old girl. Other cases have involved slightly older children ‘sexually touching’ younger complainants in what, again, amounted to little more than childish games. Today, we are increasingly recasting harmless events, and other ambiguous moments in young people’s sexual development, as sexual violence.

The recent spike in allegations only shows that parents, teachers and students are becoming all too willing to report these incidents to the police rather than deal with them themselves. This is a problem. It’s a problem if children are beginning to read otherwise innocent or merely awkward sexual contact with one another through the prism of criminal abuse. But it’s an even bigger problem if adults involved in these cases feel incapable of dealing with young people’s behaviour without the intervention of the authorities.

Involving the police in these incidents has huge consequences. A criminal trial is extremely demanding and has the potential utterly to disrupt a child’s schooling; the whole process is likely to be hugely embarrassing for everyone involved; and many of the accused are likely to be advised to plead guilty as quickly as possible in order to minimise punishment. Children who are found guilty are given criminal records that stay with them for life. They can even be put on the sex offenders’ register for lengthy periods. Having to disclose their past as part of applying for employment or a place at university may seriously put these young people off doing either.

So, no, our schools are not filled with young sex offenders – nor are young people being warped by online pornography. These figures expose a problem not with the kids, but with us adults, who apparently feel unable to deal with young people’s behaviour without recourse to the criminal law. This is being driven by the panic around rape and sexual violence, which encourages us to see more and more innocent behaviour as criminal. It’s time to kick rape law out of our schools. As adults, we have a responsibility to manage the behaviour of young people without immediately running to the cops.


Divesting from free speech

How environmentalists shut down debate on campus

Students campaigning to get universities to divest from fossil fuels are in two minds about free speech. They want it for themselves, but don’t seem keen on free speech for their opponents.

The divestment movement didn’t invent free-speech hypocrisy, but divestment activists offer a range of old and new reasons as to why opposing views should not be tolerated.

The debate is over

The divestment movement claims to like debate. It is convinced that anyone with an open mind can’t help but agree that divesting is a good thing to do.

‘Colleges would already be divesting if it were just about the arguments, because there are plenty out there’, says full-time campaigner Jess Grady-Benson, leader of an ardent student divestment campaign at Pitzer College in California. Bill McKibben, founder of the activist group and the international divestment movement, declared at a recent rally: ‘We won the argument. Twenty years ago we lost the fight and that’s because the fight was never about data.’

If, in your own mind, you have won the substantive argument, but your opponent continues to persuade the audience to his side, what can you do? Declare the debate to be over? Yank the microphone away from the moderator? Refuse to share a platform with anyone who so wrongheadedly persists in thinking the debate is not over? These might sound like exaggerated metaphors, but they are actual examples of what divestarians have done in the past. The commandeering of the microphone, for example, took place when a group of divestment activists, calling themselves Mountain Justice, took over a debate on divestment with Swarthmore College’s board of trustees. The rowdy group then went on a 90-minute screed about the need for ‘radical emancipatory action’ and cancelled the question-and-answer section where students and faculty could weigh in. When two students in the audience dared to ask if the meeting could be returned to order, divestment activists clapped them down in unison and told them to leave.

Delaying by debating

The divestment movement is sometimes in favour of debate, but in the same breath it spurns debate as a delaying tactic. Dialogue, it says, is enemy territory occupied by the fossil-fuel industry – debate is the industry’s way to buy time. Naomi Oreskes, a Harvard historian of science, has convinced activists that the fossil-fuel industry has tainted scientific literature, political processes and the media. Anyone who advocates dialogue is immediately suspect.

Swarthmore activist Kate Aronoff verbalised the movement’s free-speech angst in a post called ‘F*** Your Constructive Dialogue’. She criticised her liberal friends who were mimicking conservatives in ‘deploying identical arguments in defence of tolerant civil discourse’. She found the dialogue suffocating and wanted sheer ‘conflict’.

Declaring debate to be over and deciding that there was no ground for debate in the first place is contradictory, but it all leads to the same conclusion – only the divestarians have a moral claim to free speech. Dissenters are either fools or knaves, and it would be a waste of precious time to give them the opportunity to speak. That time is better spent in preventing them from speaking.

Smear your opponents

McKibben says the divestment movement’s censorious tactics do the whole world a favour by cutting through political posturing and getting back to the facts. Fossil-fuel companies have ‘bought’ the politicians and the media, apparently, and the divestment campaign exposes the soundbite half-truths they are paid to say.

But the divestment movement has itself honed the art of slanting messages and demonising opponents. Indeed, demonisation is its entire purpose.

McKibben says that divestment’s aim is to ‘revoke the social license’ of the fossil-fuel industry and turn companies into ‘pariahs’. Anyone who happens to oppose divestment is up for being labelled a pariah, too. Boards of trustees who vote against divestment learn this immediately – they are accused of climate-change denial, oligarchical behaviour and, in almost every case, money grubbing. Most US colleges promote sustainability and nearly 700 American colleges have taken pledges to go carbon neutral. Nevertheless, if they don’t rush to divest entirely, they still get painted as pawns of the fossil-fuel industry.

Polarising opinion

The divestment movement insists it is taking steps towards political healing. Once corporations quit buying the political system, it says, the people will make the ‘right’ decision about climate change. ‘Left to our own devices, citizens might decide to regulate carbon’, says McKibben, but right now we ‘aren’t left to our own devices’ – you know, because of the Koch brothers, the US Chamber of Commerce and the Republican Party peppering us with propaganda.

Divestment campaigns intentionally make political divides worse. They want to sidestep real debates about energy policy and carbon taxes and boil them into simple ‘yeas’ and ‘nays’ on divestment. Campaigns at Harvard, Middlebury College, Tufts University and more, asked dissenters to get ‘on the right side of history’. According to divestarians, those who disagree with them are not only factually and morally incorrect, but also historically illiterate.

Isolating opposition

This polarisation goes deep. Divestment activists may well open an abbey soon – they don’t mingle with the non-believers. Innumerable activists have refused to speak to myself and others because we oppose divestment. Harvard psychologist James Recht, active in Harvard’s divestment campaign and the nationwide American Faculty/Staff Divestment Network, filled me in on the new speech codes within the divestment movement. ‘We expect our peers to be forthright about their attitudes and their political views. If someone agrees with me, we tend to talk openly about our interests. And if someone disagrees…’ He trailed off. The divestment movement’s motto might well be this: free speech for me, but not for thee.

Of course, none of this would matter if the opposition to the divestment movement was hypothetical – if the debate really was over, or the opponents were merely stooges. But, in fact, the opposition is robust, thoughtful and well-armed with cogent arguments and compelling evidence – a situation that suggests the divestarians’ aversion to debate is based on something other than principle.

Selling off oil stocks in the name of eco-purity does not in fact help the environment. Someone else will simply buy up those divested stocks. What’s more, divestment costs money and those stocks are valuable. And campaigning sucks student time away from studying and channels it into emotionally addictive but pointless activism. It scapegoats an industry, but lets consumers off scot-free.

Divestment, however, is today’s fastest-growing student movement. Beginning at a handful of small colleges in 2011, the drive to persuade colleges to divest is now an organised presence on more than 500 campuses. Thirty-seven universities, including Oxford, Stanford and Georgetown, have acceded to the pressure by divesting or promising to do so in the future.

The breadth of the movement shows that climate demagoguery is a force to be reckoned with. It has done virtually nothing to clean up pollution, but has gone far in scrubbing the free exchange of ideas from the academic environment. 


Monday, September 14, 2015

Colleges brainwash students into believing 9/11 was our fault

Not all of us will be mourning 9/11 victims and their families this Friday on the 14th anniversary of the attacks. Hundreds of college kids across the country will instead be taught to sympathize with the terrorists.

That’s because their America-hating leftist professors are systematically indoctrinating them into believing it’s all our fault, that the US deserved punishment for “imperialism” — and the kids are too young to remember or understand what really happened that horrific day.

Case in point is a freshman-level English class taught at several major universities across the country called “The Literature of 9/11” — which focuses almost entirely on writings from the perspective of the Islamic terrorists, rather than the nearly 3,000 Americans who were slaughtered by them.

The syllabus, which includes books like “The Reluctant Fundamentalist” and “Poems from Guantanamo: Detainees Speak,” portray terrorists as “freedom fighters” driven by oppressive US foreign policies.

Even highly ranked University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill has adopted the curriculum. The 9/11 seminar is taught by UNC associate English professor Neel Ahuja, who specializes in “post-colonial studies.”

In Ahuja’s twisted worldview, al Qaeda terrorists are the real victims. “Abu Zubaydah’s torture may be interpreted as simply one more example of the necropower of US imperialism, the power to coerce and kill targeted populations,” Ahuja recently wrote in an academic paper criticizing the war on terror.

He says America’s depiction of the 9/11 terrorists as “monsters” is merely an attempt to “animalize” them as insects and justify “squashing” them in “a fantasy of justice.”

This colonialist “construct” of an “animalized enemy,” he added, “dovetails with the work of mourning the nation after 9/11 (which in the logic of security must be made perpetual, melancholic).” To him, it’s all cynically designed to justify more “imperial violence” against “Muslim, Arab and South Asian men.”

Ahuja goes on to decry the US “colonization” of Afghanistan and northwestern Pakistan, along with “aerial bombing (and) indefinite detention” of al Qaeda terrorists at Gitmo. In other writings, the professor bashes Israel and sides with Palestinian terrorists, further revealing his agenda.

He clearly has an ax to grind, which critics say the university gives him license to exercise through “The Literature of 9/11” curriculum.

A group of concerned UNC students has complained to administrators that the 9/11 course, also taught at the University of Maryland and other campuses, is being used to brainwash impressionable underclassmen.

“These readings offer points of view that justify terrorism, paint the United States and its government as wholly evil and immoral and desecrate the memory of the victims of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks,” the UNC College Republicans said in a recent letter to Chancellor Carol Folt.

“There is not a single reading required that focuses on the lives of the victims, the victim’s [sic] families, American soldiers (or) families of American soldiers,” they added. “Nor is there a perspective that portrays the United States as acting in good faith before, during and after the Sept. 11 attacks.”

The course, moreover, “does not teach students how to think, it teaches them what to think,” the letter continued. “And the material it presents is an apologetic for the violence and murder against the United States.”

The university replied that freshmen should be exposed to differing points of view, even radical ones.

“Part of the college experience is the opportunity to learn from those who have differing points of view. Carolina’s first-year seminar program is part of that growth,” the administration said in a press statement, while insisting “the university isn’t forcing a set of beliefs on students.”

But several students who have taken the course warned in a professor review blog that Ahuja, who earns $72,100 a year spewing his unAmerican propaganda, does not tolerate dissent.

“He favors kids who share his views, so learn to do that,” said one reviewer. “A very interesting guy, just don’t disagree with him.”

Added another student, in a January 2014 post: “I would avoid contradicting him openly.”  “AGREE WITH HIS STANCE IN YOUR PAPERS!!!!!” advised another in November.

What’s happening in Chapel Hill is not isolated. Presenting terrorists in a sympathetic light and the US as an imperialist nation is standard fare. This is what, in varying degrees, most college kids are learning today, all over the country


Five Caveats to Obama’s ‘Free’ Community College Proposal

“[F]or every young person willing to work hard, I want two years of community college to be as free and universal as high school is today,” President Obama announced Wednesday in a speech at Macomb Community College in Warren, Mich. The president’s remarks came as part of a renewed effort to garner support for his America’s College Promise initiative, which would include $60 billion in new federal spending over 10 years to make community college “free” for students who maintain a 2.5 GPA.

*    Obama stated that free community college “is a concrete way to reduce the cost of education for young people, to improve the skills of workers so they get higher paying jobs, and to grow our economy.”

Yet low-income students already have access to federal Pell Grants, which can be used to finance their tuition obligations at a community college.

Indeed, the number of Pell recipients has doubled since 2008. So the proposal will serve as little more than a federal handout to the community college system. And it goes without saying that the initiative isn’t actually free. Someone has to pay that $60 billion price tag, and that someone is American taxpayers.

Community college is already a cost-efficient means of accessing some higher education. Throwing $60 billion in federal subsidies to the two-year colleges, however, will likely encourage those schools to become less cautious about spending, and poorer stewards of public funds.

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Obama’s remarks mirrored those he made during a similar pitch at the same community college in Macomb back in 2009.

*    During that speech the president argued that the initiative “will reform and strengthen community colleges…from coast to coast so they get the resources that students and schools need — and the results workers and businesses demand.”

Existing federal and state subsidies, however, are already robust. According to the College Board, 31 percent of federal Pell Grant funding goes to students enrolled in community colleges.

Although average tuition and fees at community colleges across the country are around $2,700, students receive $1,700 on average in aid – primarily constituted of federal Pell Grants – to defray those costs.

Among those students earning associates degrees from community colleges, 62 percent graduated with no debt; 70 percent of students leaving community college earning a credential did so debt-free.

*   “Community colleges are the heart of the American dream,” Obama declared.

Although the community college system has been a worthwhile pathway for many students to jumpstart their careers or obtain the skills and credentials they need, the schools’ structure are not working out for many more. Just 20 percent of students who begin community college each year complete their program within 150 percent of the standard time, according to the U.S. Department of Education. In other words, just 20 percent of students complete their studies within three years. And, as the Cato Institute’s Neal McCluskey found:

    According to the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center, only 20 percent of community college students transfer to four-year schools, and only 72 percent of those will have finished or remained enrolled four years later. So, from what we can tell, we are looking at completion for just around 34 percent of community college students.

*    When Obama pitched his plan during his State of the Union address earlier this year, he urged making community college as “free and universal in America as high school is today.”

More than one-third of students have to take remedial courses when they enter college, as they leave high school unprepared for university-level work. Free community college would put even less pressure on high schools to produce graduates who are prepared for college-level work, as they could expect the new free community colleges to fill in what the high schools are failing to do. The proposal is more likely to produce a six-year high school system than a two-year gratis workforce preparation experience.

*    “Free community college for responsible students. It’s an idea that makes sense,” Obama argued.

Does it make sense? Once again, the administration is pursuing initiatives to subsidize rising costs, instead of working with Congress on policies that actually would address the driver of college cost increases: the open spigot of federal student aid. Over the past several decades, college costs have risen at more than twice the rate of inflation, thanks in large part to federal subsidies.

Higher education in the United States has a long and celebrated history, pre-dating federal spending and the numerous programs and requirements that exist today. More federal spending and intervention will not serve students or taxpayers well, and will ultimately drive up costs for both.


Australia: Melbourne University porn ban angers Ormond College students

Banned on feminst grounds.  Feminists are the new prudes

Students have been banned from accessing pornography at the University of Melbourne's largest residential college, sparking a fiery campus debate on sexual freedoms and censorship.

Ormond College has blocked access to adult sites on its Wi-Fi network, stating pornography does not allow people at a "formative stage of life" to develop a "healthy sexuality".

But some students have reacted angrily to the move, arguing they pay $200 a semester for college Wi-Fi, and in the privacy of their own rooms they should be allowed to access legal adult sites.

In a recent student newsletter defending the move, college master Dr Rufus Black said pornography was exploitative and "presents women primarily as sex objects who are a means to the end of male pleasure".

Dr Black, an ethicist and theologist, argued that allowing the college's 400 students to access porn on its network would be condoning the objectification of women.

"Pornographic material overwhelmingly presents women in ways that are profoundly incompatible with our understanding of what it is to treat people with respect and dignity," he said.

He maintained that even same-sex pornography was treating another person as a "means to an end", and that porn was addictive.

"The way that it functions is that it desensitises viewers so that they need to consume more of it or more extreme versions to achieve the same level of arousal."

However, first year law student Thibaut​ Clamart​, 24, wrote a newsletter response objecting to the ban, saying it was a "moralising statement" and that not all pornography was demeaning.

He told The Sunday Age the ban was so broad it included any form of erotica or sex education, and many students felt their freedom of expression was being limited.

"We all agree there is an issue with the current state of mainstream porn but banning it is not the answer. It won't educate people, it is condescending and paternalistic," he said.

"If their argument is that it's about respecting women and enabling young people to discover their sexuality without having the repressive influence of porn, that makes the assumption that looking at porn is going to perpetuate those attitudes and you're going to behave like a porn actor."

In 1991 Ormond College was embroiled in scandal when two female students accused the then college master Dr Alan Gregory of sexual harassment, an incident which ignited fierce debate on sexual politics on campus.

The case was later documented in Helen Garner's controversial book The First Stone, with Garner accusing the two complainants of "puritan feminism".

Dr Black said the porn ban was not prompted by student complaints but was informed by a "well-held view that pornography depicts women for the gratification of male sexuality".

Sex educator Maree​ Pratt, who was invited to talk to Ormond students last month supported the college's stance and said there were high levels of gendered aggression in pornography, with 88 per cent depicting physical aggression such as gagging and choking, and 48 per cent including verbal aggression.

"It also conveys a range of problematic messages around pleasure, consent, body image and sexual health. Pornography is shaping young people's sexual understandings, expectations and practices," she said. "A study last year from the UK showed a normalisation of coercive heterosexual anal sex among 16 to 18-year-olds."

Rachel Withers, president of the Melbourne University Student Union, said as long as students were accessing legal sites what they viewed in the privacy of their own rooms should be their decision.

"I would personally prefer to see colleges tackling issues around respect for women's bodies and consent through educational programs and ensuring students receive comprehensive information on consent as part of their college orientation," she said.

Dr Black rejected claims the ban was a restriction on freedom of expression. "We're not in any way restricting their ability to do what they want with their own personal resources but the college's internet is a common resource therefore what it gets used for is a question of community values."


Sunday, September 13, 2015

Lessons for Taxpayers from Record Low SAT Scores

Nearly 1.7 million high school students took the SAT college aptitude exam this year—a record high. But the good news appears to stop there. According to Bloomberg Business:

Students in the high school class of 2015 turned in the lowest critical reading score on the SAT college entrance exam in more than 40 years, with all three sections declining from the previous year [math, writing, and science].

The SAT reports on the percentages of students earning College Readiness Benchmark scores, indicators suggesting a strong likelihood that they will pass college-level courses in core subjects. The results indicate alarming numbers of students are not prepared.

Less than two-thirds of American college-bound high school students earned benchmark scores in English (64 percent), dropping to below half in reading (46 percent), math (42 percent), and science (38 percent). Less than one-third of college-bound students (28 percent) earned benchmark scores in all four core subjects.

Some might be tempted to blame such low scores on the growing number of English learner students taking the SAT. This is a mistake because frankly, a significant majority of native speakers aren’t performing well in core subjects either. According to the latest results from the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), also known as the Nation’s Report Card, just 36 percent of eighth grade public school students are proficient or better in English and math, dropping to 33 percent in science and 27 percent in writing. (Eighth grade is the latest level for which scores across subjects and student groups are available.)

Obviously, student learning doesn’t seem to improve once they enter high school—even though average per-pupil spending now exceeds $13,000.

This wasn’t supposed to happen. Over a corresponding 50 year period, presidents and DC politicians have all promised a federal “fix” to poor educational performance, staring with LBJ’s Great Society programs.

Major programs of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965, dubbed No Child Left Behind by President George W. Bush, have not worked after decades of tinkering. Case in point:

– By 1984, illiteracy will be eliminated. That didn’t work.

– By 2000, high school graduation rates would reach 90 percent. Nope.

– Also by 2000, American students were supposed to be global leaders in math and science. That didn’t work, either.

– By 2014 all students will be proficient in reading and math. Nope again.

Rather than learning from history, we’re allowing Congress to reauthorize the NCLB/ESEA rather than simply ending it and returning funds to taxpayers. Even worse, most states recklessly signed on to Common Core long before the standards were even finalized.

And as far as I can recall, not one Common Core advocate has ever explained why this time we should expect different–much less better–results from continued federal “leadership” in education.

What we should be doing is putting parents in charge of their children’s education dollars by enacting education savings accounts, or ESAs. So far five states have done so: Arizona, Florida, Mississippi, Tennessee, and Nevada. Under such programs parents use funds the state would have sent to public schools for their preferred education providers instead, including private, online, or home schools, as well as tutoring and other services. And, leftover funds can be used for future expenses such as college.

Parents’ chosen providers have to get real results or risk losing students to other providers that will. Competition for students and funding works. Heavy-handed “accountability” mandates and more empty promises from government don’t.

Until we put the real experts back in charge of education, namely children’s parents, we can expect more over-promising and under-delivering from politicians in our states and Washington, DC, and worst of all, more under-performance from students who haven’t mastered basic subjects.


Settlement in Suit on Dogs in College Housing

The U.S. Department of Justice announced Thursday that it has reached an agreement with the University of Nebraska at Kearney that will assure the right of students with psychological difficulties to have support dogs in campus housing. The department sued the university over the issue in 2011.

The settlement requires the university to change some policies and to pay $140,000 to two students whose requests for support dogs were denied. “This is an important settlement for students with disabilities not only at UNK but throughout the country,” said a statement from the principal deputy assistant attorney general, Vanita Gupta, head of the Civil Rights Division. “Assistance animals such as emotional support dogs can provide critical support and therapeutic benefits for persons with psychological disabilities."

The university has denied any legal wrongdoing in the case, and has maintained that it was only this suit (and a judge's earlier ruling on it) that clearly said that the Fair Housing Act applies to housing run by colleges and universities. The university also said that the settlement preserves the right of a college to inquire about the need for having a support animal.


San Francisco School Makes All Bathrooms Gender Neutral

There’s nothing wrong with single-stall, gender-neutral bathrooms, per se, but the problems come when schools declare all their facilities “gender neutral” spaces in the name of transgender rights. Miraloma Elementary in San Francisco stripped the gender segregation from its bathrooms that service its students in Kindergarten and first grade.

The school’s principal, Sam Bass, told the San Francisco Chronicle that the school of about 300 youngsters made the change to accommodate six to eight students who, in the words of the report, “don’t fit traditional gender norms.”

Instead of respecting the privacy of all students, the school’s administration is imposing an ideology on a group of students at a stage where some of them are still struggling to stay potty trained. As Hot Air’s Jazz Shaw notes, there is a difference between what transgender activists want and what is considered discrimination. “If a school told a gender confused student that they needed to go do their business in an outhouse they dug behind the school, that would be discrimination.

If they are offered a bathroom (even a separate "gender neutral” one) which has commodes and sinks and showers and the same facilities as everyone else, then they are already bending over backwards to accommodate you. Let’s just knock it off. This is organized insanity.“