Friday, October 30, 2015

Politically Correct Conditioning: It Starts Early In School

Some can recall a time when our campuses of higher education were zones where free speech thrived. That was another era, though. Today's students want speech restricted. How did it come to this?

The results of a poll that should be shocking, but sadly aren't, show that 51% of students favor their "college or university having speech codes to regulate speech for students and faculty."

Oddly, 95% say that "the issue of free speech" is important at their college or university, while 73% believe that the First Amendment is "an important amendment that still needs to be followed and respected in today's society." Only 21% told the Buckley Free Speech Survey that it is "outdated" and "can no longer be applied in today's society and should be changed."

Maybe these findings are not so odd, after all. In today's America, "free speech" and "First Amendment rights" tend not to include any expression that doesn't conform to left-wing ideology.

Seven years ago, almost two entire college generations in the past, the Acton Institute observed, "Students at colleges and universities who articulate conservative and traditional views are at particular risk of bullying and indoctrination by campus administrators and faculty who are zealous ideologues."

In that same commentary, author Ray Nothstine noted, "Some administrators practice a brand of radicalism intent on punishing students who dissent from the ideology of the campus power structure."

This, says Nothstine, is a danger to free society because "students (will) become accustomed to having their rights limited and will be more lethargic in countering possible oppression from a growing and intrusive state."

Remember, this was written in 2008. Students, it seems, are now fully accustomed to being told what they can and cannot say, and what they can and cannot think, and are just fine with it. In fact, they apparently want more restrictions.

The conditioning of minds begins early. High school kids are suspended for mild expressions of faith; elementary school students can be forced to undergo psychological evaluations if they draw a picture of Jesus on the cross; kids who wear shirts with the American flag or name of a conservative group are sent home to change; schools monitor students' social media for speech that administrators don't like; and sixth-graders have been assigned to "revise" the "outdated" Bill of Rights.

Perhaps worse than all of the above is the failure of teachers to present or even tolerate alternatives to what they're teaching.

As disturbing as it is, this is the educational world where our children are growing up. Free speech and expression are tolerated only when in accord with the left-wing doctrine of faculty and administrators.

It's a chilling look into a grim future.


Survey: 49% of College Students Feel ‘Intimidated’ When Expressing Beliefs Different From Professors

Forty-nine percent of U.S. college students admit they feel “intimidated” when they express beliefs or opinions that differ from their professors, according to a new nationwide survey of 800 undergraduates.

When researchers asked: “Have you felt intimidated to share your ideas, opinions or beliefs in class because they were different than your professors and course instructors?” 49 percent responded that they did, including 14 percent who said this happens “frequently”.

Fifty percent of survey respondents also said they felt intimidated by classmates when sharing different or unpopular beliefs.

The vast majority (95 percent) of students surveyed said that the issue of free speech is “important” to them, and 87 percent agree that listening to those with whom they disagree has educational value.

However, despite their strong support for free speech, a majority (51 percent) of students favor on-campus speech codes even though only one in 10 believes that colleges should regulate speech even more than they do now.

More than half (52 percent) of the students surveyed think that their college or university should forbid certain people with a history of “hate speech” from speaking on campus even though the same percentage also believes that the First Amendment does not make an exception for speech that some consider “hateful”.

And nearly three-quarters of student respondents (72 percent) favor disciplinary action for “any student or faculty member on campus who uses language that is considered racist, sexist, homophobic or otherwise offensive.”

According to a demographic profile of students who agreed to take the online survey, 44 percent described themselves as “liberal”, 32 percent as “moderate”, and 20 percent as “conservative”. Forty-two percent said they were Democrats, 29 percent identified as Independents, and 26 percent as Republicans.

The survey was sponsored by the William F. Buckley Jr. Program at Yale University, which was founded “to increase intellectual diversity” at the Ivy League school and other college campuses. It was conducted by McLaughlin & Associates between September 19th and 28th.

 “The survey results confirmed some of what we expected, but they also revealed troubling surprises,” executive director Lauren Noble said. “It is the opinion of the Buckley Program that university campuses are best served by free and open speech, but lamentably, that opinion is anything but unanimous.”


How technology can help with  Australia's (and the world's) educational problems

But no substituite for a demanding curriculum -- JR

A recent UN Education Agency commissioned report [PDF/2.3MB] estimated that at least 250 million of the world's primary school age children are unable to read, write or do basic mathematics at all. The same number of children are also struggling to improve to a functional level, and this is not a problem linked solely to developing countries.

In Australia, as in many other developed countries, we are facing the very real possibility that, in the near future, the generation approaching retirement will be more literate and numerate than the youngest adults.

Solving Australia's challenges or the problem of global illiteracy and innumeracy is a huge task but it's essential if we are to improve the health, wellbeing and life chances of the world's children.

I would argue that there has never been a better time to be in education. The technology we have available to us now means that the difficulties of the past shouldn't constrain our future or, more importantly, our children's future.

I believe that this is achievable and that the answer lies in making learning both accessible and efficient. The opportunities that technology opens up in this regard are just astounding and, in terms of learning, it can be of tremendous assistance.

Mastering skills such as number recognition, automatic recall of times tables or being able to smoothly blend groups of letters to form words takes time. It is therefore vital that children are motivated and engaged sufficiently to persevere.

Technology is a tool to help learning not a replacement. A number of people are of the opinion that technology shouldn't be used in education. I fundamentally disagree. Technology can be used to improve learning. It is ubiquitous to children's lives these days and to take it away seems false. You would not go into a hospital and say "I don't want modern treatment, please give me what worked in the 1940s or '50s"!

Technology isn't just an aide to the child it can give so much to the teacher, parent, education system. Technology can help reveal to us how children learn which, in turn, enables us to teach in better ways. We are able to identify the areas of the curriculum that children struggle to grasp.

For example if you go back five years and ask most maths teachers what basic skills children find difficult and they would have flagged division as one of the hardest.

In fact the data from millions of records, in scores of countries, suggests otherwise. Subtraction is the element that children find the most challenging. Once they have mastered that area then others fall more easily into place.

Technology cannot and does not replace the great teacher but it can bring in others into the equation who can be also hugely supportive and motivational to the child.

In my experience technology that opens the door to the child's support group to take an active role in education will have the biggest impact on learning and help us radically improve life outcomes for millions of children.


Thursday, October 29, 2015

Some Common Core nonsense

You must not know too much or think for yourself.  Rigid adherence to a formula is required:  Very Leftist, very Fascist

AN ONLINE post of a third grade maths quiz has caused a firestorm after it showed a student was marked down even though they gave the correct answer.  The quiz, posted to Reddit, has caused outrage because the student was marked down purely for the way they calculated the right answer.

Focusing on basic whole number multiplication, the first question asked the student to calculate 5 x 3 using repeated addition.

The student answered 5+5+5 = 15, but this was marked incorrect by the teacher who advised the accurate answer was 3+3+3+3+3=15.

Question two was equally as contentious with the student being asked to draw an array to solve 4x6.

For their answer, the student drew six rows of four dashes, but this was marked incorrect by the teacher who advised the correct answer was four rows of six dashes.

New York high school math and physics teacher Frank Noschese said the questions were part of the Common Core standards — an educational initiative in the US detailing what students should know in English and maths at the end of each grade. “The standards just lay out what kids should know and be able to do, not actual lessons,” he told Tech Insider.

Mr Noschese said while Common Core stipulates goals for knowledge in each grade, the specific interpretation of these standards is up to the discretion of individual states, districts and teachers.

“If the teacher specifically said ‘5x3 means five groups of three and 4x6 means four groups of six’ these answers are wrong because of the teacher’s forced interpretation,” he said.

“But mathematically, what the kid did is also valid. Kids likely know that five groups of three is equal to three groups of five.”



American History Must Be a Priority in Schools

We frequently hear about American students’ low-test scores in science and math, and everyone from the PTA to candidates for the White House is rightly concerned with how to improve them. Indeed, this concern is a major part of our national conversation. And those who worry about our educational system often suggest that better instruction in these areas could help solve America’s economic, fiscal, and social problems, too.

Certainly, there are plenty of good reasons to boost our efforts in science and math. But we should not lose sight of the fact that there are other subjects in which we face a similar challenge. Regrettably, American students perform even worse when the topic is American history.

At first, this might seem somewhat less worrisome. But in fact, if our students are failing to learn the very basics about what it means to be American -- which is a condition for good citizenship -- this is at least as fundamental a challenge for our country as our students’ technical skills.

It’s easy to forget that, since our nation is based not on a shared ethnic background or cultural heritage but instead on shared ideas, being American actually requires us to know something. It requires us to learn about our country’s founding principles and our Founding Fathers. And it requires us to appreciate how these principles and the Founders’ ideas have contributed to keeping Americans free.

Our Declaration of Independence states, “all men are created equal, that they are endowed by our Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” To be American is to affirm these fundamental ideals. We need our students to learn, understand, and develop an appreciation for them.

Historically, America did a remarkable job of ensuring that new generations as well as new immigrants to the United States learned about American history and as a result, learned how to be American. But in recent decades, the collapse in American history education has caused our national memory to begin to slip away.

The lack of knowledge about our country’s past is at least as great a challenge as we face with science and math education, and recent results of a Department of Education National Assessment of Educational Progress survey suggest how significant that challenge is: Just 20 percent of fourth-graders, 17 percent of eighth-graders and 12 percent of twelfth-graders are at grade-level proficiency in American history. (These numbers are even lower than the percentage of students who are proficient in math nationwide.)

What does this mean? Only one in three fourth-graders can identify the purpose of the Declaration of Independence. Less than half understand why George Washington was an important leader in American history. And most fourth-graders don’t know why the Pilgrims left England.

These are alarming findings. They suggest that we’re letting our shared understanding of what it means to be American disappear. And they imply that part of fixing our educational system -- part of properly preparing our young people for adult life -- must include making students familiar with American history.

It is in this spirit that I have written a series of bestselling children’s books to help young people learn American history with Ellis the Elephant. In this series Ellis learns about American Exceptionalism, Colonial America, the American Revolution, westward expansion, and much more. In my latest book, Christmas in America, Ellis discovers the joy of Christmas and how this special holiday has been celebrated throughout our nation’s history.

Visits to historic sites like George Washington’s home at Mount Vernon or Independence Hall in Philadelphia are also wonderful ways to inspire a love for American history. And of course, interactive online courses, television programs like Liberty’s Kids, and educational games like Oregon Trail can teach important history lessons, too.

There are many things young people need to learn before they’re ready to accept the full responsibilities and privileges of life as an adult citizen, but surely what it means to be American is among the most important. To help pass on this history to the next generation of Americans is one of our schools’ most important tasks--and an obligation for each of us, as well.


Freedom of speech and rigorous debate no longer accepted in practice at Australian universities

OUR universities do not sit in some sort of moral or ethical vacuum and so changes at these institutions have ripple effects into broader society. One only needs to look at the sexual revolution or the anti-Vietnam War movement to see the influence that universities have over the wider world.

This is why change away from an acceptance of freedom of speech at our universities is so concerning.

My experience as a student magazine editor for the past year has shown me that freedom of speech no longer has de facto acceptance on campus. Universities are no longer a place of inquiry or rigorous debate. Academic censorship is rife.

Take Bjorn Lomborg, the Danish environmentalist who sought to establish a research centre at the University of Western Australia and Flinders University. At both institutions he has faced resistance form students who staged protests and leveraged their student bodies to prevent such a centre from being established.

Their rationale? They do not agree with his findings and they’re not prepared to engage in debate.

Lomborg’s situation is strikingly similar to that of Galileo when he posited that Earth revolves around the sun, and not vice-versa. The church was not willing to hear out the argument and simply cast Galileo out.

If anything exemplifies the dangers of academic censorship it is the case of Galileo. How do we expect our society to advance when new ideas cannot be discussed because of an unwillingness by some precious, self-centred students?

These same students also want to limit free expression by mandating the use of “trigger warnings”, as well as censoring books they find uncomfortable or challenging. A “trigger warning” is a device that has emerged in the past two decades that seeks to warn a reader where a post traumatic reaction may be induced based on the content.

This has gone from warning of a discussion about rape to now including things such as ‘‘how many calories are in a food item’’ and “drunk driving’’. The discussion of these things doesn’t actually harm anyone, it’s just that students now demand to live in a cotton-wrapped world.

Great works such as The Great Gatsby, Metamorphoses and Mrs Dalloway have been banned from university reading lists simply because some self-absorbed students find the content emotionally challenging and upsetting.

Seemingly anything that infringes on a student’s apparent “right” to feel comfortable is cast out and banned from campus (including Mexican themed parties).

Further, the attitudes of the ever-increasing number of “social justice warriors” towards those who they disagree with is creating an environment that is not conducive to the exercise of speech, of free thought, and of debate.

You risk being labelled “fascist scum” if you happen to be of conservative ilk or simply opposed to communism or radical feminism. If you seek to express a view that doesn’t conform to that espoused by the revolutionary socialist groups on campus, then you are “racist”.

Don’t support gay marriage? You’re “homophobic”. Not a fan of unisex toilets? “Transphobic”. Radical, self-obsessed students have initiated this massive smear campaign against any opponents and in doing so they have significantly shifted the threshold, at least on campus, of these terms.

Naturally, people don’t like to be labelled as “racist” or “homophobic” and so the liberal use of these terms by these radicals is only shutting down speech and debate.

I simply ask: How would Galileo get on in today’s university?

My bet is that he would be driven out by an angry horde, upset that a “cis gendered”, heterosexual white male had dared to challenge the view of an oppressed, incredulous minority without even so much as including a trigger warning.

Who cares about deregulation? The real issue at our universities is the erosion of freedom of speech.


Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Children Are Not Creatures of the State: New Hampshire Edition

Politicians across the country like to claim that they’re all in favor of local control of education—until parents and their locally elected officials actually start trying to exercise it.

The small New Hampshire town of Croydon is a case in point.

Like many small towns in New Hampshire, Croydon does not have public schools to serve all grade levels so it contracts with education providers in neighboring towns. At issue now is the Croydon School Board’s decision to allow five elementary students to attend the neighboring Newport Montessori School. As’s Steve Mac Donald explains:

    "State law allows towns to pursue these agreements, sending taxpayer education dollars to any accredited school, public, charter, or private, even in neighboring states, with the exception of religious schools. The local board, at the behest of voters, negotiates contracts and approves taxpayer-funded tuition payments to those schools. The money follows the student."

This plan has been in place for high school students for more than 25 years. Back in 2007 the Croydon school board began investigating ways to expand similar options for elementary school students. When it unveiled its choice plan for this school year, the state board cried foul and has threatened to withhold some $39,000 in state funding.

State Board Chair Virginia Barry, who insists that “the districts’ legal obligations must supersede parental demands,” claims letting public dollars follow students to schools of their parents’ choice violates state law.

No so, counters Dr. Jody Underwood, chair of the Croydon School Board. Underwood explains:

    "There are communities on the borders of Vermont and Maine who send their kids to Vermont and Maine private schools. They are not controlled by the state Board of Education at all."

Former State Supreme Court Justice Chuck Douglas agrees with the Croydon Board, and insists that Barry’s interpretation of state law is incorrect. As it stands now, the Croydon School District plans to fight the state in court.

Meanwhile there are several commonsense realities the court and parental rights’ defenders within and beyond New Hampshire should keep in mind. As Bill Walker recently argued in the Nashua Telegraph:

    "Why are high state officials spending our tax money to fight diversity in education? It’s not because they don’t believe in diversity for their own children.

    For the members of the political classes and government-employee unions, choice is assumed to be their children’s birthright. President Obama’s children go to private school. Gov. Maggie Hassan’s children went to private school. In Philadelphia, 44 percent of the public-school teachers send their own children to private school, and they are right to do so. ...

    Canada has had publicly funded school choice since the 1800s. In the province of Alberta, less than half the students go to the geographically closest school.

    More than half of U.S. states have some sort of school choice program. ...

    Choice is a long tradition in New Hampshire. The town of Derry sends its children to Pinkerton Academy; Coe- Brown Academy receives public students as well. The Rivendell District that serves Orford magi­cally mingles its tax funds with those from another state.

    New England towns have always put education above arbi­trary political barriers; students have crossed state borders for hundreds of years."

Walker is right. Using public funds for personal education choices is not an earth-shattering idea.

Vermont and Maine have had town tuitioning voucher programs since 1869 and 1873, respectively, and more than 9,000 students are currently using publicly-funded vouchers to attend schools of their parents’ choice in those states.

In fact, public schools across the country are spending more than $1.4 billion on private school programs, according to the U.S. Department of Education.

Nationwide, parents of nearly 130,000 students ages 6 through 21 with disabilities are also using federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) funds to send their children to the private schools they think are best for their children, including religious, parochial schools. (My tally is based on 2013 data from the U.S. Department of Education Child Count and Educational Environments, 2013.)

And let’s not forget, currently, nearly 9 million college students nationwide are using more than $32 billion in Federal Pell Grants to attend the colleges and universities of their choice, public and private, nonsectarian and religious alike.

Right now more than 24,000 New Hampshire undergraduate students are using more than $81 million in Federal Pell Grants to attend postsecondary institutions, including more than 11,000 students who are using nearly $38 million in public funds to attend the private and proprietary postsecondary institutions of their choice. (See U.S. Department of Education, Table 22.)

Finally, New Hampshire enacted one of the country’s most unique tax-credit scholarship programs in 2012. It allows businesses to take credits against their state taxes for contributions to non-profit scholarship organizations so parents can send their children to the private or home school programs of their choice.

Children are not creatures of the state, and public school officials in Croydon should be commended for their efforts to put the best interests of children ahead of petty, parochial politics.


In some countries, college-educated more likely to keep the faith

Social scientists have long accepted that religious faith tends to dwindle among college students. However, a new study shows that the highly educated's loss of faith varies among nations.

Comparatively religious nations, such as the U.S., Turkey, Mexico, Italy and Israel, tend to see the strongest reduction in religiosity among the college-educated, according to research by sociologist Philip Schwadel of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

And, in more than one-fifth of the nations he studied, including New Zealand, Sweden, Russia and South Korea, higher education actually has a positive effect on religiosity. That could be because the highly educated tend to be more heavily involved in organizations and thus more likely to join and attend church.

"The results illustrate considerable cross-national differences in both the impact of higher education and the social significance of religiosity," Schwadel said. "In some nations, the highly educated are less religious than other citizens, in other nations they are more religious."

To examine the impact of higher education across nations, Schwadel used data from more than 46,000 people from 39 nations collected in the 2008 International Social Survey Programme, which asked a series of questions related to religious beliefs and activities.

Schwadel found that a university degree has a positive effect on religiosity in nine nations, a negative effect in 18 nations and no significant effect in 12 nations.

The study involved predominantly Christian nations and sheds little light on whether higher education has a different impact on non-Christian nations. Data was collected from 23 countries in Europe, seven from Asia or the Middle East, and three from South America. The U.S., Mexico and the Dominican Republic were included, as were South Africa, Australia and New Zealand.

Less than 4 percent of the respondents were Muslim, 2 percent identified as Buddhists and less than 2 percent identified with other East Asian religions. About 70 percent of the Muslims participating in the survey were from Turkey.

"Although the non-Christian nations in the sample did not unduly influence the results, this may change with a more diverse sample, particularly since there are generally higher levels of religious practice and belief in majority Muslim nations," Schwadel noted.

Schwadel developed a scale to measure religiosity among individuals in each nation based upon survey responses about frequency of prayer; strength of belief in God; self-identification as being religious; and frequency of attending religious services. On average, people in the Philippines were the most religious, while people in the Czech Republic were the least religious.

Other factors considered included percentage with university degrees, race, gender, age and gross domestic product. The study also accounted for whether participants lived in urban areas, whether they lived in a communist or former communist country, and how much religion is regulated in their nation.

Although respondents with university degrees reported relatively low levels of religious participation, Schwadel said the secularizing effect of higher education should not be exaggerated. Sex, age and marital status appear to be stronger factors in whether people are religious, he noted.

Schwadel found no association between a nation's average level of higher education with levels of religious belief among its people. However, rising per capita gross domestic product strongly correlates with declines in a nation's religiosity, suggesting that a different measure of modernity may be at play.

While those who live in a communist or former communist nation are less likely to be religious, Schwadel found that variation in the effect of higher education on religiosity is not related to whether a nation is communist or formerly communist. He studied nine such nations: Croatia, Czech Republic, Hungary, Latvia, Poland, Russia, Slovak Republic, Slovenia and Ukraine.

The negative effect of higher education on religiosity seen in relatively religious nations could be the result of less educated segments of the population emulating the beliefs adopted by the highly educated, Schwadel said.

"Secularity may be a form of status differentiation for the highly educated in relatively religious nations, but it cannot serve that function in relatively irreligious nations," he said.

Schwadel called for more long-term study of how social networks and cultural capital influence the relationship between higher education and religious belief.

Schwadel's study was published in the most recent issue of the Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion.


Illinois School District Is Standing Up to the Federal Government’s Bullying Over Transgender Students and Locker Rooms

Township High School District 211, like many school districts, is wrestling with how to balance the interests of transgender students with the privacy rights of other students. Here’s what the district does to accommodate transgender students, according to a newsletter the school emailed Oct. 12:

"Transgender students can “use restrooms in accordance with their gender identity, as there are private stalls available.”

Transgender students “can participate on sex-identified sports teams.” In other words, if you were born as male and have a male physique, you can play on the girls team if you identify as female.

“[T]ransgender students have access to a support team with extensive training in addressing the identity development needs of adolescents. This support team, in partnership with the student and parents, works through the options available for sex-specific facilities, as well as name and gender references on school rosters.”

However, that’s not good enough for the Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights (OCR), according to the school district’s newsletter, penned by Superintendent Daniel Cates:

The OCR has taken the position that the district’s decision to not allow unrestricted access to the locker room is inadequate and discriminatory. The OCR has directed that transgender students should have full access to sex-specific locker rooms for changing during physical education classes and after-school activities. Likely litigation and enforcement action, including the potential loss of federal education funds, may be imposed by the OCR.(emphasis mine)

Read that again: a school district is facing the loss of federal funds because they won’t allow a student born the opposite-sex access to a same-sex locker room and now that student has filed a complaint with the Office of Civil Rights.

When I contacted the Office of Civil Rights to confirm the school was representing what the OCR was threatening to do accurately, a spokesman told me “we don’t discuss the details of our investigations,” but didn’t deny the school district’s assessment of the situation.

This is insane.

This is not a situation where a school is turning the other way as a transgender student faces bullying or assault. In fact, the school has instead instituted several policies that should satisfy the interests of transgender students without grossly disrupting the learning environment. What’s left is a very narrow situation relating a time when people are changing in an open room.

In fact, according to a Chicago Tribune editorial published Oct. 19, the school has even floated the idea of a compromise that would allow transgender students access to the locker rooms:

District 211 is willing to provide private dressing stations within its locker rooms—not just one, but six to 10, Cates says. They could be used by any student who is uncomfortable changing clothes in front of anyone else for any reason.

You’d think that would be good enough.  You’d think wrong. The editorial continues:

Problem solved, right? No.

The sticking point is that while they’d be available to all students, they’d be mandatory for one. The district would require the transgender girl to use the stalls. That’s not acceptable to the Office of Civil Rights, which insists on the same rules and accommodations for all students.

The school district met with federal officials Wednesday, but it’s not looking like they’ll change. “We continue to work with OCR in a conscientious attempt to reach a resolution regarding this individual case,” said Tom Peterson, the district’s communications director, in a statement, according to the Daily Herald.

Is the federal government really on solid legal ground? A letter sent to District 211 from conservative legal groups Alliance Defending Freedom and Thomas More Society disputes that:

Allowing students to use opposite-sex restrooms and locker rooms would seriously endanger students’ privacy and safety, undermine parental authority, violate religious students’ free exercise rights, and severely impair an environment conducive to learning. These dangers are so clear-cut that a school district allowing such activity would clearly expose itself to tort liability. Consequently, school districts should reject policies that force students to share restrooms and locker rooms with members of the opposite sex.

Didn’t it also used to be the case that if a school district allowed a person with male anatomy to undress in front of a bunch of girls it would be considered unlawful sexual harassment?

But legalities aside … what about common sense? Where is the role for the local authorities, for the school district superintendent, to exercise their own judgment, in light of what they know about the community and the schools, and decide the best way to balance transgender students’ requests with other students’ rights and expectations?

And what about non-transgender students? Sure, I think it’s likely that some of them would have no problem with sharing a locker room with a transgender student. But what about some of the others? What about the adolescents, already embarrassed about their changing bodies, who do feel uncomfortable changing in an open room with someone whose anatomy may not match the gender he or she now identifies with?

Do we really want the federal government to insist that those adolescents’ preferences need to be ignored, overridden?

The national conversation tends to revolve around the wants and preferences of transgender students. But it’s not transgender students, but those who support locker rooms being restricted to those born a particular sex at birth, who are facing the federal government’s bullying right now.


Tuesday, October 27, 2015

‘Liberal academics let censorship happen’

The demand for equality that emerges on college campuses today is primarily underpinned by two things: identity politics and a perception of individuals as suffering from trauma. Students have become attached to the particular trauma they identify with; they see it as a badge of honour and any perceived slight becomes a threat to their sense of who they are.’

More than a decade after the publication of his book, Restoring Free Speech and Liberty on Campus, Professor Donald Downs is not positive about the state of academic freedom. ‘Things go in cycles’, he tells me when we meet. ‘In the 1980s and 90s, censorship was driven by political correctness. There was some blowback and things got a little better. Now censorship is coming back as liberty and equality are increasingly pitched against each other. This time it’s students who, in the name of equality, are demanding a climate free from offence, waging a war against microaggressions and calling for trigger warnings. Students are leading the way in stifling intellectual dissent and academics don’t know how to handle this. Too often they just acquiesce.’

Downs, softly spoken and thoughtful, seems an unlikely free-speech champion. Indeed, he initially supported speech codes when they were introduced at the University of Wisconsin, where he has been professor of law since 1980. It was the experience of watching his colleagues’ ‘lives and careers ruined by censorship’ that provoked his change of mind. Although, as he tells me, he had always been careful to draw a distinction between the rhetoric and targeted application of hate speech. In Restoring Free Speech and Liberty on Campus, published in 2004, he charts the attacks on free speech that began to take place across American universities in the late 1980s, and the campaign he helped coordinate at Wisconsin to get speech codes overturned.

Downs notes that the speech codes introduced at this time had more to do with promoting a general climate of sensitivity and diversity than with tackling specific incidences of prejudice. This broad-brush approach demanded a code to cover every eventuality and allowed policies to proliferate. The University of Michigan, he tells me, had 20 separate policies at one point, dealing with such things as climate, harassment, speech and diversity – ‘they were being made up as they went along’. Although these codes were often written and implemented by administrators who had little understanding of the academic environment, Downs is clear that faculty cannot be let off the hook: ‘They let this situation happen.’ Liberal academics, often politically sympathetic to the issues covered, generally trusted administrators to implement policies appropriately. To criticise speech codes, Downs remarks, ‘was to make a statement that you were insensitive to racism or sexism and few were prepared to do this’.

Restoring Free Speech and Liberty on Campus provides a startling snapshot of a particular point in the battle against campus censorship: ‘During most of the twentieth century, threats to academic freedom came from the political right, and from outside institutions of higher learning. The new attacks on free thought that arose in the later 1980s turned this pattern on its head: they have arisen from leftist sources inside the ivory tower.’ The book also provides a salutary lesson in how free speech can be regained. Downs emphasises throughout that ‘rights won through politics and legislation are more likely to change people’s thinking because majorities have to be convinced to agree’.

However, Downs offers readers far more than just a historical record and campaign manual. He explores the social and political developments that have resulted in censorship being seen as a progressive rather than an authoritarian force. He tells me that when a society has a strong sense of itself and of its own culture, it can afford to be tolerant of dissent. When society is not strong, but ‘existentially insecure’, ‘illiberal elements can come to the fore and people become dogmatic’. He argues that this pervasive insecurity, which began to afflict the Western world in the late 1980s, has also had an impact on individuals. ‘People have begun to feel more insecure and vulnerable. They readily identify as victims and define themselves by traumas, real or imagined.’ He argues that many of the original advocates of speech codes shared a view that students needed an ‘administrative apparatus to support their self-esteem, psychological wellbeing and identities’. He is clear: ‘In reality this represented a return of in loco parentis legislation to campus in a new and politicised guise after its banishment in the 1960s.’

Interestingly, he locates the origins of much of today’s campus censorship in the political legacy of the Free Speech Movement (FSM), the student rebellion against campus censorship at Berkeley in the mid-Sixties. Although ostensibly concerned with free speech, from the outset the movement was ‘torn between libertarian and moralistic impulses’. He reminds me there was never a ‘golden age’ of free speech on campus and it would, for example, have been impossible for representatives of the US military to have had a platform on campus at the time of the Vietnam War. ‘Free speech was important to FSM but mainly as the vehicle by which to address more substantive political concerns, including the nourishment of solidarity. Even at Berkeley, one of FSM’s lasting legacies is not free speech but censorship by the students themselves.’

The influence of ‘an anti-liberal New Left’ led to notions of political solidarity being replaced by a concept of equality premised upon sensitivity to individual differences. Downs argues that this view, which has taken root on college campuses, demands ‘ideological conformity’ and ‘stifles thought’. In Restoring Free Speech and Liberty on Campus, he suggests that identity politics, with its obsessive focus on what divides rather than unites people, exploits marginal differences ‘to thwart the process of individual self-determination and discovery’. He is not at all opposed to diversity but he understands that ‘diversity works best when it is allied with liberal principles of freedom – not when it conceives of liberal freedom as an enemy’. Ironically, this new identity-driven emphasis on equality and diversity proves to be ‘surprisingly paternalistic’ as it ‘construes individuals as too weak to withstand the rigours of critical discourse’.

Downs is pleased to see signs of an emergent backlash against campus censorship. But he’s adamant that it’s the views underpinning censorship that really need to be challenged. He has the intellectual and political insight needed to pick apart the identity politics and the perception of trauma that has infected university communities. Restoring Free Speech and Liberty on Campus is a great starting point for those prepared to join him in battle.


Obama administration, sharing blame, calls for limits on school testing

Faced with mounting and bipartisan opposition to increased and often high-stakes testing in the nation’s public schools, the Obama administration declared Saturday that the push had gone too far, acknowledged its own role in the proliferation of tests, and urged schools to step back and make exams less onerous and more purposeful.

Specifically, the administration called for a cap on assessment so that no child would spend more than 2 percent of classroom instruction time taking tests. It called on Congress to “reduce over-testing” as it reauthorizes the federal legislation governing the nation’s public elementary and secondary schools.

“I still have no question that we need to check at least once a year to make sure our kids are on track or identify areas where they need support,” said Arne Duncan, the secretary of education, who has said he will leave office in December. “But I can’t tell you how many conversations I’m in with educators who are understandably stressed and concerned about an overemphasis on testing in some places and how much time testing and test prep are taking from instruction.

“It’s important that we’re all honest with ourselves,” he continued. “At the federal, state, and local level, we have all supported policies that have contributed to the problem in implementation. We can and will work with states, districts, and educators to help solve it.”

Teachers unions, which had led the opposition on the left to the amount of testing, declared the reversal of sorts a victory. “Parents, students, educators, your voice matters and was heard,” said Randi Weingarten, the president of the American Federation of

The Obama administration will urge Congress to limit the time students spend on testing to 2 percent of total school time.

And even some proponents of newer, tougher tests said they appreciated the administration’s acknowledgment that it had helped create the problem, saying it had done particular damage by encouraging states to evaluate teachers in part on test scores.

But the administration’s “testing action plan” — which guides school districts but does not have the force of law — also risks creating fresh uncertainty on the role of tests in America’s schools. Many teachers have felt whiplash as they rushed to rewrite curriculum based on new standards and new assessments, only to have politicians in many states pull back because of political pressure.

Some who agreed that testing has run rampant also urged the administration not to throw out the No. 2 pencils with the bath water, saying tests can be a powerful tool for schools to identify weaknesses and direct resources. They worried that the cap on time spent testing — which the administration said it would ask Congress to enshrine in legislation — would only tangle schools in more federal regulations and questions of what, exactly, counts as a test.

“What happens if somebody puts a cap on testing, and to meet the cap ends up eliminating tests that could actually be helpful, or leaves the redundancy in the test and gets rid of a test that teachers can use to inform their instruction?” asked Michael Casserly, the executive director of the Council of the Great City Schools, an organization that represents about 70 large urban school districts.

Michael J. Petrilli, the president of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute and one of the most vocal proponents for higher standards and tougher tests, said, “There’s plenty of agreement that there’s too much testing going on.” But, he added, “we have to be careful, as with anything federal, that it doesn’t lead to unintended consequences.”

The administration’s move seemed a reckoning on a two-decade push that began during the Bush administration and intensified under President Obama. Programs with aspirational names — No Child Left Behind, Race to the Top — were responding to swelling agreement among Democrats and Republicans that higher expectations and accountability could lift the performance of US students, who chronically lag their peers in other countries on international measures, and could help close a chronic achievement gap between black and white students.

States, led by the National Governors Association and advised by local educators, created the Common Core standards, which outlined the skills students should have upon graduation, and signed on to tests tied to those standards.

But as the Obama administration pushed testing as an incentive for states to win more federal money in the Race for the Top program, it was bedeviled by an unlikely left-right alliance. Conservatives argued that the standards and tests were federal overreach — some called them a federal takeover — and called on parents and local school committees to resist what they called a “one-size-fits-all” approach to teaching.

On the left, parents and unions objected to tying tests to teacher evaluations and said tests hamstrung educators’ creativity. They accused the companies writing the assessments of commercializing the fiercely local tradition of US schooling.

As a new generation of tests tied to the Common Core was rolled out last spring, several states abandoned plans to use the tests, while others renounced the Common Core, or rebranded it as a new set of local standards. And some parents, mostly in suburban areas, had their children opt out of the tests.

Duncan’s announcement — which was backed by his designated successor, John B. King Jr. — was prompted in part by the anticipation of a new survey from the Council of the Great City Schools, which set out to determine exactly how much testing is happening among its members.

That survey, also released Saturday, found that students in the nation’s big-city schools will take, on average, about 112 mandatory standardized tests between prekindergarten and high school graduation — eight tests a year. In eighth grade, when tests fall most heavily, they consume an average of 20 to 25 hours, or 2.3 percent of school time. The totals did not include tests like Advanced Placement exams or the ACT.

There was no evidence, the study found, that more time spent on tests improved academic performance, at least as measured by the National Assessment of Educational Progress, a long-standing test sometimes referred to as the nation’s report card.

“Because so many actors are adopting and requiring tests, you often find a whole portfolio of tests not being very strategic,” said Casserly, the council’s executive director. “It’s often disjointed and disconnected and incoherent in many ways, and it results in a fair amount of redundancy and overlap.”

Still, he said: “We don’t think tests are the enemy. We think there’s an appropriate place for them.”

The administration said it would issue “clear guidance” on testing by January. Some of the language of the announcement Saturday was general; it said, for example, that tests should be “worth taking” and “fair.” Like new guidance from many states, it underscored that academic standards and curriculum are to be fleshed out locally.

But it also said that tests should be “just one of multiple measures” of student achievement, and that “no single assessment should ever be the sole factor in making an educational decision about a student, an educator or a school.”

Still, it emphasized that the administration was not backing away entirely from tests: The announcement said tests should cover “the full range of relevant state standards” and elicit “complex student demonstrations or applications of knowledge and skills.”


Girl Gone Wild: Hillary’s $350 Billion “Free” College Plan

Hillary Clinton didn’t become Washington, D.C.’s #1 Girl Gone Wild by winning wet T-shirt contests but by offering the most seductive plan on college affordability. Here’s how we can beat her at her own wild game…

Hillary knows Obama won the youth vote in two consecutive presidential elections by promising to erase the burden of college loans. She also knows the average college student graduates with $33,000 in debt. Finally, she knows independents and Republicans are offering young voters little by way of a counter offer.

Today I’ll lay out a three-step proposal we can use to counter Hillary’s offer to strip $350 billion out of the economy over ten years and make college tuition “free.”

Mrs. Clinton tries not to look or sound like a spring breaker at the beach,favoring matronly pantsuits and frequently mentioning that she’s a “grandmother.” She pitches herself as a boring yet trustworthy “Mrs. Clause”—handing out free college tuition while wearing a Santa suit. But, beneath the surface, it’s crystal clear that Hillary is the wildest girl in Washington.

Here’s how independents and Republicans should fight back on behalf of college students and offer a more meaningful college affordability solution.

1.) Helping Millions of Jobless College-Educated Millennials

Together, we must expose a story that the Obama administration’s own Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) quietly released this month: there are 6.5 million (6,455,300 to be exact) more Millennials with college degrees than there are jobs for them now. Furthermore, when you account for all the jobs forecasted to be created between now and 2022, the BLS says there still will not be enough jobs.

Translation: You’d likely be better off investing four years and $100,000 into starting your own company than getting a college degree because there are will be an oversupply of Americans with degrees through at least 2022.

The greatest weakness in Hillary’s sales pitch to young voters is her premise that a college degree is necessary for success.

Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Ralph Lauren, LeBron James, Michael Dell and Rush Limbaugh are only a few examples of people who rose to the top of their field without a college degree. In fact, dedicating four years to obtaining a degree could have doomed their careers. And we wouldn’t be using technology products that we now take for granted, like iPhones and Microsoft software.

The truth is that we must recover our economy in order to employ young people and taking $350 billion out of the economy will not help. No matter how many “free” degrees a young person obtains, they still won’t get interviewed for job openings that don’t exist when companies cannot afford to expand and hire.

GOP candidates should start educating young people on these facts so they don’t fall for Hillary’s plan, which relies on them buying into her false premise that college is necessary for career success.

2.) A Better Proposal (Hint: Concealed Carry)

Here’s a proposal: we will match Hillary’s experiment to spend $350 billion over ten years on college education, but we have one condition. Our one condition is: the only schools that get funds are those that will allow professors, staff and students to carry concealed firearms on campus.

College campuses are now one of the most deadly places in America; in the past few weeks alone we’ve had four shootings. Republicans have an opportunity to stand up and say that no young person should be pressured by a self-serving politician to choose between the safety of their life and a free education.

Clinton is not going back to college anytime soon and, even if she were, she has lifetime Secret Service protection. She’s unperturbed by the prospect of walking to chemistry class and running into the next Christopher Harper-Mercer, Steven Jones or Elliot Rodger. She doesn’t face the dangers that your children face.

Hillary is capitalizing on the fact that we haven’t done a good job of informing our children of two stories within American history which they are too young to intuit from their experience: One, gun free zones didn’t always exist in America. Two, ever since Bill Clinton pushed hard for gun free zones there has been an uptick in mass violence and today we are at a historic high.

3.) Emphasize Entrepreneurship

A final way in which we can resonate with Millennial voters on the topic of college education is by emphasizing how our free market policies will allow them to become successful entrepreneurs. This is because 70 percent of Millennials say they aspire to be independent and work for themselves someday, according to research from Deloitte.

PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel launched a scholarship program proving that Millennials are willing to give up a four-year degree for the opportunity to be an entrepreneur. Republicans should expand upon Thiel’s message by showing young people that a pricey college degree is optional for career success.

College degrees aren’t worth what they used to be. Ivy League students are hiring writing tutors and Harvard Business School grads are complaining they feel unprepared for the modern workforce. This is because increasing federal aid to institutions of higher learning encourages them to raise their prices without improving the quality of education.

Republicans will be seen as “student advocates” if they hold colleges and Democrats accountable for profiting off the backs of students and endangering their lives in gun free zones. We will attract young people with the message that success is not one-size-fits all. Meanwhile, Hillary Clinton’s plan will leave students in the same position as they are now—in debt and unemployable.

For more information and history that you can offer Millennials about student loan debt and gun free zones, you can also read “Let Me Be Clear.”

Share this with every young person in your life—before their life is forever set back by the policies of Girl Gone Wild Incognito, Hillary Clinton.


Monday, October 26, 2015

Declining Student Resilience: A Serious Problem for Colleges

None of this is surprising in the light of the way Leftist academics have gone hysterical about minor matters, such as "micro-aggressions", "trigger warnings" etc.  Students have been TAUGHT to feel threatened and helpless amidst the rough and tumble of everyday life. They have been taught that they must be protected from evil influences by their elders at all times.

And the relentless attacks on Christianity have not helped either.  Christianity gives people guidelines about how to behave and comfort amidst distress.  I was greatly helped by the  behaviour guidance I received from Christianity in my teenage years. I was given wisdom that I could have got from nowhere else. So although I have been an atheist for all my adult life, I sent my son to a church school and encouraged his interest in the faith.

In a world where all values and traditions are questioned, young people can be forgiven for feeling confused and alienated -- not knowing which way to jump or how to behave wisely.  Christian teachings put their feet back onto the path of tried and true values

And the assistance of the clergy and Christian youth workers is valuable but often not accessible on campus.  They would once have done much of the personal counselling and support that is now being demanded of academics -- JR

A year ago I received an invitation from the head of Counseling Services at a major university to join faculty and administrators for discussions about how to deal with the decline in resilience among students. At the first meeting, we learned that emergency calls to Counseling had more than doubled over the past five years. Students are increasingly seeking help for, and apparently having emotional crises over, problems of everyday life. Recent examples mentioned included a student who felt traumatized because her roommate had called her a “bitch” and two students who had sought counseling because they had seen a mouse in their off-campus apartment. The latter two also called the police, who kindly arrived and set a mousetrap for them.

Faculty at the meetings noted that students’ emotional fragility has become a serious problem when it comes to grading. Some said they had grown afraid to give low grades for poor performance, because of the subsequent emotional crises they would have to deal with in their offices. Many students, they said, now view a C, or sometimes even a B, as failure, and they interpret such “failure” as the end of the world. Faculty also noted an increased tendency for students to blame them (the faculty) for low grades—they weren’t explicit enough in telling the students just what the test would cover or just what would distinguish a good paper from a bad one. They described an increased tendency to see a poor grade as reason to complain rather than as reason to study more, or more effectively. Much of the discussions had to do with the amount of handholding faculty should do versus the degree to which the response should be something like, “Buck up, this is college.” Does the first response simply play into and perpetuate students’ neediness and unwillingness to take responsibility? Does the second response create the possibility of serious emotional breakdown, or, who knows, maybe even suicide?

Two weeks ago, that head of Counseling sent us all a follow-up email, announcing a new set of meetings. His email included this sobering paragraph:

    “I have done a considerable amount of reading and research in recent months on the topic of resilience in college students. Our students are no different from what is being reported across the country on the state of late adolescence/early adulthood. There has been an increase in diagnosable mental health problems, but there has also been a decrease in the ability of many young people to manage the everyday bumps in the road of life. Whether we want it or not, these students are bringing their struggles to their teachers and others on campus who deal with students on a day-to-day basis. The lack of resilience is interfering with the academic mission of the University and is thwarting the emotional and personal development of students.”

He also sent us a summary of themes that emerged in the series of meetings, which included the following bullets:

    Less resilient and needy students have shaped the landscape for faculty in that they are expected to do more handholding, lower their academic standards, and not challenge students too much.

    There is a sense of helplessness among the faculty. Many faculty members expressed their frustration with the current situation. There were few ideas about what we could do as an institution to address the issue.

    Students are afraid to fail; they do not take risks; they need to be certain about things. For many of them, failure is seen as catastrophic and unacceptable. External measures of success are more important than learning and autonomous development.

    Faculty, particularly young faculty members, feel pressured to accede to student wishes lest they get low teacher ratings from their students. Students email about trivial things and expect prompt replies.

    Failure and struggle need to be normalized. Students are very uncomfortable in not being right. They want to re-do papers to undo their earlier mistakes. We have to normalize being wrong and learning from one’s errors.

    Faculty members, individually and as a group, are conflicted about how much “handholding” they should be doing.

    Growth is achieved by striking the right balance between support and challenge. We need to reset the balance point. We have become a “helicopter institution.”

Reinforcing the claim that this is a nationwide problem, the Chronicle of Higher Education recently ran an article by Robin Wilson entitled, “An Epidemic of Anguish: Overwhelmed by Demand for Mental-Health Care, Colleges Face Conflicts in Choosing How to Respond" (Aug. 31, 2015). Colleges and universities have traditionally been centers for higher academic education, where the expectation is that the students are adults, capable of taking care of their own everyday life problems.  Increasingly, students and their parents are asking the personnel at such institutions to be substitute parents. There is also the ever-present threat and reality of lawsuits.  When a suicide occurs, or a serious mental breakdown occurs, the institution is often held responsible.

On the basis of her interviews with heads of counseling offices at various colleges and universities, Wilson wrote:

    “Families often expect campuses to provide immediate, sophisticated, and sustained mental-health care. After all, most parents are still adjusting to the idea that their children no longer come home every night, and many want colleges to keep an eye on their kids, just as they did. Students, too, want colleges to give them the help they need, when they need it. And they need a lot. Rates of anxiety and depression among American college students have soared in the last decade, and many more students than in the past come to campus already on medication for such illnesses. The number of students with suicidal thoughts has risen as well. Some are dealing with serious issues, such as psychosis, which typically presents itself in young adulthood, just when students are going off to college. Many others, though, are struggling with what campus counselors say are the usual stresses of college life: bad grades, breakups, being on their own for the first time. And they are putting a strain on counseling centers.”

In previous posts (for example, here and here), I have described the dramatic decline, over the past few decades, in children’s opportunities to play, explore, and pursue their own interests away from adults. Among the consequences, I have argued, are well-documented increases in anxiety and depression, and decreases in the sense of control of their own lives. We have raised a generation of young people who have not been given the opportunity to learn how to solve their own problems. They have not been given the opportunity to get into trouble and find their own way out, to experience failure and realize they can survive it, to be called bad names by others and learn how to respond without adult intervention. So now, here’s what we have: Young people,18 years and older, going to college still unable or unwilling to take responsibility for themselves, still feeling that if a problem arises they need an adult to solve it.

Dan Jones, past president of the Association for University and College Counseling Center Directors, seems to agree with this assessment. In an interview for the Chronicle article, he said:

    “[Students] haven’t developed skills in how to soothe themselves, because their parents have solved all their problems and removed the obstacles. They don’t seem to have as much grit as previous generations.”

In my next post I’ll examine the research evidence suggesting that so-called “helicopter parenting” really is at the core of the problem. But I don’t blame parents, or certainly not just parents. Parents are in some ways victims of larger forces in society—victims of the continuous exhortations from “experts” about the dangers of letting kids be, victims of the increased power of the school system and the schooling mentality that says kids develop best when carefully guided and supervised by adults, and victims of increased legal and social sanctions for allowing kids into public spaces without adult accompaniment. We have become, unfortunately, a “helicopter society.”

If we want to prepare our kids for college—or for anything else in life!—we have to counter these social forces. We have to give our children the freedom, which children have always enjoyed in the past, to get away from adults so they can practice being adults—that is, practice taking responsibility for themselves.


GAO: 73% of 8th Graders Don’t Know Much About Geography

Seventy-three percent of American eighth graders tested below the proficiency level in geography last year, according to a report to Congress by the Government Accountability Office (GAO).

Analyzing nationally representative test data from the U.S. Department of Education, GAO found that only 27 percent of eighth graders nationwide scored at either the proficient (24%) or advanced (3%) level on standardized geography tests in 2014.

Nearly half (48%) exhibited only partial mastery of the subject, and a quarter (25%) scored below basic competency on the geography tests.

The 2014 results showed virtually no improvement since 1994, when 4 percent of eighth graders tested at the advanced level, 24 percent at the proficient level, 43 percent at the basic level, and 29 percent were below basic competency, the GAO reported, even as Americans become increasingly dependent on location-based technologies such as GPS (global positioning system).

“Geography is generally taught as part of social studies, but data show that more than half of eighth grade teachers reported spending a small portion (10 percent or less) of their social studies instruction time on geography,” the report to the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Humans Services, Education, and Related Agencies stated.

Although “research suggests that K-12 education is critically important for learning the fundamentals of geography,” GAO’s analysis of teacher survey data found that geography skills - “such as spatial dynamics and connections, use of maps and globes, and other countries and cultures” – were typically taught just “one or twice a month.”

Even though geography is defined as one of 10 core academic subjects in the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 (ESEA), states do not have to include it in their mandatory assessments.

As a result, educators said they were under “pressure to emphasize other subjects” such as math, reading, and science, and that “allocating resources for geography education was challenging in the face of greater national and state focus on tested subjects.”

However, the lack of proficiency in geography among three quarters of eighth graders is worrisome because the need for future workers who have advanced geographic skills is increasing.

“According to the Department of Labor, employment of specialists in geography, or geographers, is projected to grow 29 percent from 2012 to 2022 – much faster than the average 11 percent growth for all occupations,” the GAO report noted.

“Among the many activities that can depend on analysis of geospatial data are maintaining roads and other critical transportation infrastructures, quickly responding to natural disasters…and tracking endangered species,” it stated.


Education Dept. Urges Schools to 'Better Support Undocumented Youth'--And Help Them Apply for DACA

The U.S. Education Department is out with a new "Guide for Success" that suggests the "important" ways teachers and school administrators can support the growing number of "undocumented youth" in the nation's public high schools and colleges.

"The Department hopes that educators, schools, and campuses will, as they see fit, draw upon the tips and examples in this Guide to better support undocumented youth and, ultimately, move us closer to the promise of college and career readiness for all," the guidance says.

Undocumented children "represent one of the most vulnerable groups served by U.S. schools," and therefore "it is imperative that educators and other personnel understand the unique needs of these students and receive high-quality training and support on how to best serve them."

The guide reviews the rights of undocumented students; explains non-citizen access to federal financial aid and private scholarships; and offers "tips for educators" on how to support undocumented  youth in high school and college.

At the top of the "tips" list: Share information about President Obama's Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which gives temporary legal status to children who were brought to this country illegally by their parents.

Since the program began in 2012, more than 680,000 young people have received a temporary reprieve from deportation, and another 400,000  may become eligible in the next few years, the guide notes.

Beyond reducing "the stigma of being undocumented," DACA gives illegal aliens access to internships, "stable transportation and housing," and paid work experience.

In addition to promoting DACA, high schools are urged to "embrace and value" the diversity and cultural backgrounds of all students.

Specifically, teachers should "understand the cultural and educational backgrounds" of their students; they should "model multicultural sensitivity"; they should "engage in self-reflection to address personal biases and increase multicultural competence"; and they should "incorporate discussions around diversity and immigration into instruction."

High schools also should "consider establishing safe spaces" where undocumented children can "share, engage with their peers, and build a school-based support system."

Beyond all the diversity and multiculturalism pointers, the guide urges secondary schools to help undocumented students understand how they can get into -- and pay for -- college.

Among other things, teachers and school administrators should "encourage scholarship sponsors to change their policies to be inclusive of undocumented students."

And finally, teachers and school administrators should "be empathetic and build positive relationships with undocumented youth and their families." This includes speaking to families in their own language, hiring interpreters if necessary.

'Undocumented Immigrant Awareness Day'

The tips for higher education include the creation of "open and welcoming environments" by hosting an "undocumented immigrant awareness day" on campus; educating all students "about the challenges and strengths of undocumented students, such as by hosting an Undocumented Week; and "each day, highlight(ing) an issue faced by undocumented students or celebrat(ing) an accomplishment of the undocumented immigrant community."

And, of course, colleges should designate key staff as "DACA specialists" to give accurate information and guidance to eligible, undocumented students.

There's much more in the guide, which states that these are only suggestions: "The U.S. Department of Education does not mandate or prescribe practices, models, or other activities in this Guide," it says.

The Education Department plans to  release a similar resource guide for early-learning and elementary school settings in the coming months.

John King, who is now performing the duties of the deputy education secretary, introduced the new guide during a roundtable with undocumented students at San Francisco State University, which is described as a leader in supporting the success of undocumented youth.

"The university has advisers to help undocumented students successfully navigate financial aid options and other university resources, as well as a task force of faculty, staff and students dedicated to supporting the academic, professional and personal success of undocumented students and prospective students," the Education Department explained.

San Francisco, of course, is a sanctuary city, which does not honor routine requests from federal immigration officials to keep criminal aliens in local jails until immigration officials can take custody of them.

On July 1, a Mexican national -- released because the local sheriff's department refused to honor an ICE detainer -- shot and killed  32-year-old Kate Steinle as she strolled with her father along the San Francisco waterfront.


Sunday, October 25, 2015

UK: Children aged 11 who can't write their own name: Popularity of computer games means secondary school pupils lack basic skills

My son played computer games from age 2 onwards without restriction.  So how come he got a degree with first class honours in mathematics and now works as a computer programmer? Computers have become just a whipping boy
Children are arriving at secondary school unable to write their names properly amid the growing popularity of computer games.

They are still struggling with basic handwriting by the age of 11 or 12 because couch potato lifestyles mean they are not developing the correct motor skills, say experts.

The warning comes as fears grow about an increasingly sedentary generation, which is addicted to playing on computers, iPads and mobile phones at an ever earlier age.

The issue was debated by teachers and handwriting experts at a discussion in central London last week, the Times Educational Supplement reported.

Melanie Harwood, who provides handwriting coaching in schools, said: ‘I’m seeing children as old as 11, 12, who can’t write their own names and they’re being passed through the system.

‘Some children are being bullied because of their handwriting. Their friends are taking pictures of their writing and tweeting it.  ‘Kids comment on the writing, saying: “They’re not very bright, because their handwriting isn’t very good”.’

She added: ‘Good God. It’s horrific. You can’t have that.’

Charlotte Clowes, deputy head at St Alban’s Catholic Primary School in Macclesfield, Cheshire, pointed out that children need to build up their ‘gross motor development’ – shoulder, elbow and wrist movement – before moving on to the fine motor skills required for handwriting.

But, with the advent of computer games, sedentary children’s development is being held back. She said: ‘One might link that to not doing things we all did – playing in the playground.

‘As schools, we need to make sure that we’re providing opportunities for motor skills to be developed, gross and fine. It’s not just about getting straight to handwriting.’

Dr Angela Webb, chairman of the National Handwriting Association, stressed that once handwriting has been taught, it needs to be practised.

‘It is largely a motor skill,’ she said. ‘You wouldn’t expect to be good at the violin without practising.’

She said it was wrong to assume handwriting was irrelevant to children’s lives. Students are still expected to sit exams with pen and paper, for example.

Handwriting still forms part of the primary school curriculum. Ofsted, the school inspection body, has added handwriting to its assessment list, which means that the legibility of pupils’ written work can now affect the rating a school receives.

But secondary pupils are increasingly typing their essays on computers, and there is concern that children may eventually lose the skill of handwriting.

Experts have previously warned that vital developmental stages are being skipped as young children learn to type on a keyboard before putting pen to paper.

In 2011, Nardia Foster, former chairman of the Voice teaching union, said: ‘I’ve come across children who have gone through primary, secondary and got to A-levels and they’re still not forming their letters properly. ‘They say, “I don’t like to do joined-up writing. It’s too hard. I’m not going to do it”.’

She added: ‘Children are being encouraged to be on a computer before they can write.’


This College Dropped a Conservative Speaker for the Most Pathetic of Reasons

Colleges were once a place where young minds went after high school to grtow intellectually by debating controversial ideas. In the era of political collectness, they have morphed into a honeycomb like structure of safe zones where students coalesce into tiny little groups, striking a defensive pose, their fingers pressed firmly in their ear canals and their tongues and lungs clacking out NANANANANAs like a bunch of mewling infants.  Ah milennials. This week, a conservative speaker critical of modern feminism was the latest victim of the new campus culture:

    "A student group at Williams College that hosts speakers who challenge the campus's biases has rescinded a speaking invitation to Suzanne Venker, a conservative author and vocal critic of feminism, in response to furious condemnation from other students.

    The decision to disinvite Venker is steeped in irony, given that the group's lecture series is called “Uncomfortable Learning,” and the sole reason for ditching Venker seems to be that she was a good fit."

In an embarrassing turn of events, the left wing radicals who demanded more ideological diversity on campus have all but shut it down now that they're running the show. Their complete domination of the academy has lead to what was once controversial becoming the conventional wisdom. It's amazing that now that these former radicals are the empowered unversity establishment, they've conveniently abandoned their commitment to ideological diversity in favor of die hard left wing indoctrination. What good is truth when you have ideology?


Boehner’s Voucher Legacy

The House Speaker saved scholarships for poor kids in Washington

Paul Ryan seems set to succeed John Boehner as House Speaker as early as next week, but Mr. Boehner deserves credit for using his final days to renew and expand a successful school voucher program in Washington, D.C., that President Obama and Democrats in Congress have repeatedly tried to kill.

These Opportunity Scholarships provide poor kids—almost all black and Latino—with a lifeline out of failing schools. Originally passed in 2003 when Mr. Boehner chaired the House Education Committee, it has survived several Democratic assassination attempts. These included a 2009 poison pill amendment that Illinois Senator Dick Durbin attached to an omnibus spending bill designed to phase the program out

It appeared Mr. Durbin’s nasty work would prevail, but Mr. Boehner kept the issue alive and persuaded Mr. Obama to agree to restore funding as part of the 2011 budget deal. On the House floor this week, Mr. Boehner pointed out that, of the 12th graders who used a scholarship last year, 90% graduated—and 88% enrolled in college. The House bill that passed keeps the program going for five years and removes limits on the number of eligible students.

“This issue is personal to me,” Mr. Boehner says, “and it has been for a long time. But frankly, it ought to be personal to everyone in this chamber. Those of us who work here, who make a good living here, owe something to the kids in this city. We owe the kids in this city a chance—a fighting chance.”

Democrats will filibuster the scholarships in the Senate, which means someone other than Mr. Boehner will have to fight to have them added to another must-pass bill. Let’s hope someone else cares as much as the Ohio Republican.