Friday, March 11, 2016

UK: Primary school bans children from playing 'tag' claiming some have become upset during traditional break time game

Australian kids call the game "tiggy" but regardless of what you call it, it has been played for generations without causing concern.  It is a good outlet for kids' energies and promotes psychomotor skills.  And it's FUN!  That has to be stopped, of course

A primary school has banned children from playing 'tag' as it claimed the traditional playtime game had left some children upset and with torn clothing.

Christ the King school in Bramley, Leeds, introduced the rule to allow pupils time to 'settle down a bit' and because the playground was 'too small'.

Children are allowed to play 'air tag' instead and those caught flouting the ban are disciplined and kept inside.

The popular playground pastime, also known as 'tag', 'tig' or 'you're it', is a chasing game that involves minimal physical contact.

The temporary measures brought in by the school has enraged parents.

Billy Salkeld, who has a child at the school, said: 'The world's gone crazy, kids can't do 'owt these days.' 

Dawn O'Toole, a parent who used to work at the school as a playground supervisor, said she was told to stop children playing tag about a year ago as it was 'causing arguments'.

She said: 'If we saw them playing tag, we had to go over to them and ask them to stop and find something else to play.  'I was very shocked, it is a natural game for children and the children themselves weren't very happy about it.'  Her son said he had been disciplined for playing the game and kept inside at break time. 

Head teacher Neil Ryan said while the school was eager to see pupils enjoying games at break times, the playground was too small for some activities.

He said: 'We've had a few instances recently of children being upset and having clothes torn during games of tag.

'As a temporary measure, we have decided to ask pupils not to play tag in our small playground for now. 'Once the weather improves and the larger school field is available to use, the children will be able to play tag again.'

This is not the first time a school has banned the popular pastime.

In 2013, Egerton Community Primary near Bolton prohibited children playing 'tag' as it was causing 'accidents' in the playground.  Alternative play zones were created for children to play games such as basketball. 

Following that, furious parents launched an online petition calling for the decision to be reversed.


Jewish students are feeling isolated by a growing tide of anti-Semitism at Britain's elite universities

Jewish students are being made to feel isolated by a growing tide of anti-Semitism sweeping across Britain's elite universities, according to a new report.

A dossier compiled by Student Rights reveals dozens of incidents involving students from a large number of universities including Oxford, Nottingham and the London School of Economics.

Some students were shouted down in meetings with anti-Semitic abuse while in other cases rants were posted on student society social media pages.

Events featuring extremist anti-Jewish speakers have also been advertised on some campuses.

At one event at the Oxford Union, a debating society affiliated with the university, a student allegedly shouted 'slaughter the Jews' at Israel's deputy foreign minister, Danny Ayalon.

In another incident, an anti-Israel activist is reported to have said that the best thing Jews have done is to 'go into the gas chamber' at an event at the School of Oriental and African Studies.

Student Rights, a project run by the Henry Jackson Society think tank, said it had logged more than 30 acts of intimidation towards Jewish students in person and online over the past five years.

Rupert Sutton, Director of Student Rights, said: 'Too many campuses have seen a form of identity politics, which perceives Jews as privileged and powerful, combined with a virulent anti-Zionism fuelled by one-sided speaker events and inflammatory social media posts.

'This has led to a blurring of the boundaries between pro-Palestine activism and anti-Semitism, exacerbated by the failure of students and university authorities to challenge bigoted views, and by a culture in which Jewish students who raise concerns are mocked or accused of 'crying wolf'.

'Until this changes, and universities take disciplinary action against those students and societies involved, we will continue to see anti-Semitism on our campuses.'

It comes after a co-chairman of the Oxford University Labour club claimed a large proportion of members 'have some kind of problem with Jews' and resigned.

Members are alleged to have called Jewish students 'Zios' and sang a song about rockets over Tel Aviv.

Labour Students, the national youth body of the political party, is investigating the claims.

Earlier this year, a talk at the King's College Israel Society had to be abandoned because of violent protests by pro-Palestine protesters.

Student Rights said it had seen the boundary between pro-Palestine activism and anti-Semitism become increasingly blurred, with the promotion of conspiracy theories about Jews.

In 2012, a University of Westminster student's attempt to challenge the views of the radical Islamist group Hizb ut-Tahrir was met with groans and shouting when he made the admission that he was Jewish, resulting in the student leaving the room in distress.

The same year a Jewish student was allegedly assaulted during a Nazi-themed drinking game on a London School of Economics ski trip.

Anti-Israel activists are also reported to have vandalised the Union of Jewish Students (UJS) at the National Union of Students (NUS) Conference.

The Oxford Union incident, which Mr Ayalon described as 'tantamount to a call for genocide', was investigated by the police in 2010 but the case was dropped.

The student involved said their Arabic words had been misinterpreted, but Mr Ayalon stood by what he said he heard.

Since 2014, Student Rights has also been documenting the on-campus activity of National Action, a neo-Nazi group with a history of targeting universities whose members promote anti-Semitic conspiracy theories and share Nazi imagery and Holocaust denial online.

One member is accused of shouting 'Gas the kikes, race war now!' at a conference in May 2015 and activists from the group distributed posters at the University of Nottingham and Nottingham Trent University during February 2016.

On social media, the researchers found a number of posts on student society pages relating to conspiracy theories to do with Jews.

One member of Westminster Palestine Solidarity Society page stated: 'I believe that Zionist Israel is actually worse than the Nazis'.

The report recommended students be encouraged to report and challenge anti-Semitic material posted on student social media.

It also called for a consistent sector-wide policy to be formulated for institutions regarding the use of social media by affiliated student societies.


If you majored in the humanities, you really should apply to Harvard Business School

If you studied the humanities in college, Harvard Business School doesn’t just want you, it needs you.

As director of admissions Dee Leopold told Quartz, Harvard’s case method—where students examine real-world business examples from all angles—benefits from a multitude of perspectives. If everyone in the class has a background in finance or engineering, the group suffers.

Scholars of the humanities are comfortable with problems that don’t have just one correct answer, Leopold said.

“They’re used to managing ambiguity,” she said. “They have an ability to think broadly, an ability to take a stand, and yet know there are other approaches.”

Leopold, who earned an MBA from Harvard in 1980, is stepping down this year after 10 years as director and more than 30 years in the admissions office. Over the decades the admissions process has become much more transparent than when she applied, Leopold said, with a wealth of statistics about the admitted class available online.

That transparency comes with a price: Potential students who could benefit from an HBS education—and from whom HBS could benefit—see the average test scores and careers of admitted students, and choose not to apply. The result is a more homogeneous applicant pool. Last year, 81% of admitted students had a background in business, economics, or the STEM subjects.

Humanities education has been under attack in recent years, with politicians from Barack Obama to Marco Rubio scoffing at the contribution of art history or philosophy majors, and state universities systems prioritizing STEM subjects (those related to science, technology, engineering, and math) at their expense. Tech billionaire Vinod Khosla recently published a jeremiad on Medium attacking the liberal arts and calling for science-based learning instead.

While Leopold wants French majors in her MBA program, they still need to do the work.

“You can’t come and be quant-phobic, or think someone else will do the math for you,” she said. But you don’t need business experience. Neophytes who need a primer in the language of finance can get up to speed on Harvard’s online platform, HBX, before their first class. This year, 140 took the online course.

The odds are still daunting. Harvard’s MBA program gets about 10,000 applicants each year for a class of 935, and it costs almost $100,000 per year to attend, including tuition, housing, books, meals, and health insurance. The payoff? The median annual salary for a 2015 graduate was $130,000, with many graduates receiving signing bonuses of $25,000 or more.

What Leopold wants are students with leadership potential, who are curious about the world, and can navigate complex, nuanced issues.

”These are essentially human problems,” she said. “You can learn how to do accounting. But it takes judgment to do what we do here.”


Thursday, March 10, 2016

UK: Working-class kids should be challenged, not tested

Tests for four-year-olds will only entrench low expectations

Of all the controversial policy directives forced upon schools in recent years – and there have been many – plans to introduce ‘baseline assessments’ must win the prize for being the least popular of all. The image of little four-year-olds being yanked away from play, squeezed into school uniforms and corralled into taking formal tests just days after starting school is surely only something the most child-hating of Gradgrinds could support.

Yet from this September, every child starting school in England will be assessed according to the reception baseline. Their skills in reading, numeracy and writing, as well as their social and emotional development, will be measured, scored and recorded. In fact, the development of each child in all of these areas will be combined into just one score. Complex children with emerging personalities and preferences that change daily will be reduced to one single number.

This figure, the Department for Education (DfE) tells us, will not be used to grade and rank pupils, nor will it be used to monitor individual progress. Instead it is designed to hold schools to account. When children leave primary school seven years later, the reception baseline score will be used to ‘calculate how much progress they have made compared to others with the same starting point’.  Baseline assessments provide the DfE with a means of measuring school progress that takes account of ‘schools with challenging intakes’.

Unsurprisingly, critics of baseline testing are numerous. Commentators have been vocal in condemning government ministers who, seemingly lacking any sense of what education is for, substitute measuring what children can and can’t do for actually teaching them anything. Unfortunately, many of the critics of baseline assessments similarly lack a sense of purpose when it comes to teaching; worse, they fail to recognise that this initiative is built on the very assumptions about education they themselves have been pushing for decades.

Much of the reaction against baseline assessments has focused on the disruptive nature of implementing the tests in the first few weeks of the school year and the additional stress this will put on children. A report commissioned by the two biggest teachers’ unions, emotively titled They are children… not robots, not machines, argues:

‘The start of school is a precious and important time for our children. Get it right and the seeds are sown for a love of learning that can carry on through school and into adulthood. Get it wrong and the scourge of low self-confidence and disaffection for school can set in, blighting a child’s life chances.’

The idea that there is a small but all important window of opportunity to set children on the correct learning trajectory taps into current beliefs about infant determinism. It assumes that what happens in the early years of a child’s life is all important in deciding his or her future. Of course, no one wants children to be miserable when they start school. But in reality many children do have problems settling in for all kinds of reasons; plenty of four-year-olds are simply not ready for school and would far rather be at home. To suggest that such children are doomed and their life chances blighted is plain ridiculous. There is no evidence to show that children who have a disrupted and unhappy start to school are not still learning, nor that an inspiring teacher and an exciting curriculum years later can’t instill a love of knowledge.

Baseline assessments won’t put an end to childhood as we know it. No child will be expected to sit pen-and-paper tests. Instead they will be observed taking part in various tasks and teachers will be expected to complete checklists recording what they can do. Reception-class teachers already have a very good handle on what their pupils are capable of doing – they would not be able to do their jobs otherwise. Children in nursery and reception classes are extensively observed and assessed as part of the Early Years Foundation Stage. Moving away from all forms of assessment in the first few years of school would free teachers to think about what it is they want young children to know and give them back the time to teach.

Yet the critics of baseline tests cannot make the case against all forms of assessment. At best, they argue that the pressure to complete a new set of observations in a much shorter timeframe will make the results unreliable and will fail to provide an accurate reflection of children’s abilities. The most vocal critics of baseline assessments cannot argue against testing four-year-olds because they are often the very same people who provided the rationale that underpins baseline assessments. The DfE claims baseline assessments are shaped by the principle that ‘measures of progress should be given at least as much weight as attainment’. And this principle – that progress is just as important (or indeed more important) than what a child actually knows when he or she leaves school – is exactly what critics of recent government education policies have been arguing for years.

The leaders of the teaching unions, people like Mary Bousted, have long claimed that family background is the biggest factor in determining a child’s educational progress, and that ‘a narrow academic curriculum’ is alien to the lives of children living in poverty. In other words, they claim that children from poor families cannot be expected to learn the same material, at the same rate and to the same standard, as kids from middle-class homes. So entrenched is this belief that they argue school performance is only a measure of the prosperity of the intake. They counter that a better indicator of a school’s success is the ‘value added’, or the progress pupils make. In practice, this means children can leave school knowing very little, but as long as they started knowing even less, then the school they attended can be judged to be successful.

The belief that success at school is determined more by family income than by anything teachers do holds back working-class kids who are patronisingly rewarded for making progress rather than challenged to push themselves to achieve as much as their wealthier peers. Teachers need to have high academic expectations of all their pupils and judge them all according to the same standard.

Baseline assessments are a terrible idea for many reasons. There are rumours that the DfE may respond to pressure and change the format of such tests before their introduction in September. But if we are truly interested in the education of all children then opposing baseline assessments is not enough. We need to go further and reject the whole notion that the aim of a school is the ‘value added’. We need to argue that rather than ‘progress’ being sufficient, all children should have an equal entitlement to a challenging and inspiring knowledge-rich curriculum, whatever their family circumstances. Nothing should justify teachers having lower expectations of children from poorer backgrounds.


SC school nixes slavery journal assignment as insensitive

A South Carolina school district has scrapped an assignment asking third-grade students to pretend to be slaves.

Local media outlets report officials pulled the five-page handout entitled "My Life as a Slave" after a parent complained it wasn't appropriate for 8-year-old students at Killian Elementary in Columbia.

The students were to discuss being kidnapped from West Africa, riding on a slave ship and being sold at auction. The journal also asks students to draw pictures and discuss life with their slave owners.

School officials say three teachers found the lesson online and ordered it. District spokeswoman Libby Roof says one class had done the assignment, which won't be distributed to the other two.

District diversity officer Helen Grant says teachers will brainstorm about more culturally sensitive plans in the future.


Now Cecil Rhodes protesters take aim at Queen Victoria statue that describes her as the 'Empress of India'

Students campaigning for the removal of a statue of Cecil Rhodes are now taking aim at a monument to Queen Victoria  - claiming it has racist colonial connotations.

Campaigners from Royal Holloway, University of London, object to a statue of the long-reigning monarch at the university campus because she 'sanctioned colonial exploits'.

They are expected to join hundreds of students from campaigns across Britain at the 'Mass March for Decolonisation', to be held in Oxford on Wednesday, calling for the removal of a statue of Cecil Rhodes.

Oriel College has become the target of student campaigners who say the 19th century colonialist and founder of Rhodesia was racist.

The Times reports the 'Mass March for Decolonisation' will be part protest, part 'imperial tour of racist Oxford'.

Among those present will be supporters of the campaign at Royal Holloway which focuses on a statue of Queen Victoria at the Founder's Building in Egham, Surrey.

It comes after the BME network at Royal Holloway decided to start a poster campaign documenting the daily racist encounters and 'micro-aggressions' they faced.

The pictures showed them holding up signs with some examples of racist remarks they face written in pen alongside the hashtag #itooamroyalholloway.

In one such photograph, students are seen gathered around the statue of Queen Victoria, criticising her title of 'Empress of India'. The campaign uploaded it as a show of solidarity to the Rhodes Must Fall Oxford campaign.

Grace Almond, of the college's women of colour feminism society, wrote of the campaign: 'That some white students are so defensive over a statue of Queen Victoria, someone who sanctioned so many colonial exploits, shows you just how far white supremacy and racism is ingrained in our university.'

She added: 'Queen Victoria was implicitly involved in colonial exploits. She gave Cecil Rhodes a Royal Charter to lead an imperial conquest in Southern Africa. If she hadn't have given him this charter, he would not have been able to further colonisation of that region of the continent on behalf of the monarchy.'

The march has been officially backed by the National Union of Students' black students campaign.

The organisation claims the protest against the Rhodes statue is 'part of a wider struggle for decolonial learning, and anti-imperialist struggle' and that 'white supremacy is built into the very structures of Oxford University's buildings'.

In a statement, it said: 'It is no coincidence, that Oxford's elite classism, long history of excluding women from many of its colleges, in addition to its colonial contributions, make it one of the most male, pale and stale places of learning in Britain.

'White supremacy is built into the very structures of Oxford University's buildings, with the statues, names of buildings and physical structures all uncritically celebrating an Empire which dehumanises every student we are elected to represent. There can be no doubt, that part of Decolonising the student population, staff composition and curriculum, must involve a critical engagement with the physical relics of Empire.

'When we say Rhodes Must Fall, we are not simply talking about a statue: we speak to the philosophy of racial violence and apartheid, the myth of white superiority and the reality of white domination which were are dedicated to dismantling. Rhodes Must Fall Oxford is part of a wider struggle for decolonial learning, and anti-imperialist struggle, and we are proud to call them an ally.'

The plaque to Rhodes was erected in 1906 in recognition of the vast sum he left to the university.

The campaign to remove it, and his statue, follows the Rhodes Must Fall student protest in South Africa.

A statue of Rhodes was removed at the University of Cape Town after it was attacked as a symbol of oppression.

Oxford campaigners claim that forcing ethnic minority students to walk past the Rhodes memorials amounts to 'violence' as he helped pave the way for apartheid.

According to organisers of the march on Wednesday, it will be an 'imperial tour of racist Oxford'.

'A statement on its event page said: 'Oriel College sold out to big money. Oxford's Chancellor said students who don't like Rhodes should 'think about studying elsewhere.' A dictatorship of donors and administrators have shown no regard for the student voice, or for black life. Oxford has revealed its hand, which has only made us stronger and more determined.

'Now, we demand that Rhodes falls in all his manifestations in Oxford and beyond. We will march peacefully to various sites, and issue new demands for the fall of racist symbols, decolonisation of the white curriculum, reparatory justice, and greater black representation at all levels of the university.

'We will announce the sites to be visited leading up to the march which will be part protest and part 'imperial tour' of racist Oxford. '

Campaigners from Christ's College, Cambridge, are also calling on the university to sever a memorial fund left by Jan Smuts, the former prime minister of the Union of South Africa.


Wednesday, March 09, 2016

School Lunch Food Nannies: Starved of Common Sense?

The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010, championed early on by Michelle Obama and signed into law in 2012, was supposed to get America’s school children to eat better by improving the food choices in school lunch programs. Like many well-intentioned government programs, however, this one has had negative consequences that its advocates didn’t anticipate.

The healthy options don’t sit well with many kids, leading to a significant portion of lunches getting thrown out—an increase of 56 percent, according to one study. The bland fare has also created a new market in spices, with child entrepreneurs selling their classmates not-so-healthy additives such as sugar and salt. The new cafeteria menu has also prompted millions of students to opt out of their school’s lunch programs, resulting in financial losses for 41 percent of schools surveyed, according to the School Nutrition Association.

This episode, Hall Blanco says, should serve as a cautionary tale. “When government attempts to modify individuals’ behavior, a cache of unintended consequences is waiting around the corner. Ultimately, people find ways around the new rules.”


Connecticut College Anti-Semitism Continues; Some Faculty Speak Out

A Connecticut College professor has told colleagues that his school has grown so hostile toward Jews that he can no longer recommend Jewish students or professors study or teach at the college.

"In my opinion, this harassment of Jews on campus in the name of fighting for social justice should end; immediately," wrote Spencer J. Pack, an economics professor, in a faculty-wide email.
His comments were triggered by the smear campaign that pro-Palestinian students successfully waged against a pro-Israel professor, resulting in his indefinite leave from campus, and a more recent push to malign Birthright (a program enabling student travel to Israel) by plastering the campus with posters. The posters reportedly intimidated Jewish or pro-Israel students and faculty, while attempting to poison the minds of uninformed students and faculty with vicious falsehoods about Israel. The posters were put up by Conn Students in Solidarity with Palestine (CSSP), whose faculty adviser, Eileen Kane, runs the school's Global Islamic Studies program.

Kane's Global Islamic Studies program also invited Palestinian-American poet Remi Kanazi to speak at Connecticut College on April 12. Kanazi, who is scheduled to give a "poetry performance," is on the organizing committee of the US Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel and listed among its endorsers. His strategy has been to connect anti-Israel politics with popular urban struggles.

Making matters worse, Jasbir K. Puar also was invited to speak at Connecticut College. At a Feb. 3 talk at Vassar College, Puar unleashed a torrent of vicious anti-Israel lies and blood libels, including outrageous accusations about Israel harvesting Palestinian organs and conducting scientific experiments in "stunting" the growth of Palestinian bodies. Her Connecticut College appearance was scrapped, but Kane has ignored repeated questions about the invitation.

Hatred of Israel and overall hostility towards Jews at Vassarhas been amply detailed. More generally, campus hate against Israel and Jews has become an increasingly frequent and widespread problem thanks to the "Boycott, Divest, Sanction" (BDS) movement. Even Palestinians who aren't sufficiently critical of Israel are targeted by BDS. Bassem Eid, founder of the Palestinian Human Rights Monitoring Group, wasdirectly threatened by anti-Israel protesters while lecturing at the University of Chicago on Feb. 18. More recently, the New York Post reported on the hateful harassment of Jews at four City University of New York campuses.

Connecticut College seems to be moving in the same direction. Last spring, Connecticut College Professor Andrew Pessin was libeled and silenced in a campaign led by Students for Justice in Palestine activist Lamiya Khandaker. That campaign included condemnation of Pessin by scores of Connecticut College departments and affiliates, including the Global Islamic Studies program. The administration nevertheless gave Khandaker the "Scholar Activist Award." Then came the Birthright smear last December, the Puar invitation, and the scheduled talk by anti-Israel activist Kanazi, sponsored by the Islamic studies program.

These developments reinforce the perception that Connecticut College is hostile to pro-Israel voices. Meanwhile, discussion of the Pessin affair continues as questions mount over the role and nature of the school's Islamic studies program. In a Jan. 26 email to fellow faculty members, Manuel Lizarralde, a professor of anthropology and botany, called the Pessin affair a "train wreck" and expressed regret at previously staying silent. "Why did we not have the Andrew defending his views?...We acted like vigilantes and found the perfect scapegoat," he wrote.

In a Feb. 4, faculty-wide response to Lizarralde, Pack accused the Islamic studies program of organizing students to join the anti-Pessin campaign and then sponsoring "a new group on campus that [posted the anti-Birthright and anti-Israel] posters." That's when he called on the harassment to stop and indicated that he couldn't recommend Jews join the Connecticut College community. In response, Pack received some private support but wrote that "many, (perhaps most?), of the faculty...are quite upset with me."

Kane responded to Pack's email on Feb. 9, denying that CSSP is anti-Israel. But CSSP's posters smear the Birthright program with the label "settler colonialism," effectively demonizing any student participant in that program, and spread the blatant lie that that there are "seven million Palestinian refugees today." Even the pro-Palestinian United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) claims that there are only five million Palestinian refugees, and that total is grossly inflated because UNRWA defines the term "refugee" to include all subsequent generations of the original refugee - a definition unique to Palestinians among all other global refugee groups.

Posters vilifying students who want to visit Israel as "settler-colonists" and spreading blatant lies to undermine support for Israel would seem to be "anti-Israel." Kane did not respond to an email asking for her definition of "anti-Israel" after her claim that the group behind those posters is not "anti-Israel."

Kane's faculty-wide response to Pack's email describes the Pessin controversy as "a heated disagreement over ... Pessin's Facebook post on the 2014 Gaza war." That's misleading, because it minimizes what happened. The "disagreement" was more of a mob-like character assassination that ignored Pessin's insistence that his words had been purposely distorted, the Washington Post article presenting evidence corroborating Pessin's position, and Pessin's immediate, polite apology to the student who first voiced concern.

As if trying to resolve campus tensions, Kane asks "what are we going to do to advance informed, responsible discussion of the history and politics of Israel/Palestine on this campus?" But she may not be the best arbiter of what constitutes a responsible discussion; she can't even recognize that her student group's posters are blatantly anti-Israel.

Kane's email notes that we are in a time "when Islam is widely misunderstood." One powerful way to reduce such misunderstanding would be to highlight Muslim efforts to reform the way Islam is practiced. But Kane also refused to say whether the Global Islamic Studies program has invited any speakers who advocate such reforms.

When Pessin's wife, Gabriella Rothman, was asked about the few apologies that Pessin had received nearly a year after the events in question, she said, "It's hard to get too excited about it," given how duplicitous and dishonest so many of his colleagues and friends had been. Read Rothman's full comments here.

Remarkably, the Connecticut College administration hasn't taken any initiative to protect students and faculty brave enough to espouse unpopular views. Nor has it issued any apology to Pessin, who has been forced out of the classroom for nearly a year in the wake of the controversy. To regain some of its credibility, Connecticut College should publish the results of an independent investigation into the Pessin affair and a detailed plan of how to avoid similar incidents in the future.


U Pitt Conservative Harassed After Criticizing ‘Safe Space’ Activists

A student at the University of Pittsburgh (Pitt) got his parents targeted for harassment after he had the temerity to tweet about the antics of liberal protesters on campus.

The mess for Pitt senior Doug Steeber started earlier this week when Pitt’s College Republicans invited writer Milo Yiannopoulos to give a lecture on the subject of free speech. The event aroused a storm of controversy, with students complaining it triggered them and made them feel physically unsafe (though there was no violence and the event was observed by local police).

The furor resulted in over 100 students attending a student government meeting Tuesday night, where many denounced the Yiannopoulos speech and demanded new censorship rules that would prevent a similar event from being held in the future.

Steeber was one of the attendees of the meeting, though not as a protester. He told The Daily Caller News Foundation he livetweeted various quotes and observations from the meeting (which was open to the public). Photos of his tweets indicate that his comments were mostly descriptive in nature, with a mild dose of snark. Nobody at the meeting is specifically identified by name.

Steeber’s actions may have been pretty straightforward, as far as tweeting goes, but he says it infuriated others at the meeting after one of them saw what he was up to. Some even began to attack him publicly.

“They were screaming at me,” he said. “[One woman’s] friends had to physically restrain her, it looked like.”

But that was only the beginning of Steeber’s problems. Early Thursday morning, he said, he received a notification from Facebook warning somebody appeared to be trying to impersonate him on Facebook. The spoof account had the same name and photo as him. Steeber had the account deleted, but the spoofers proceeded to create another account, avoiding automatic detection by changing his name to “Douglas Steeb” and inverting his profile picture.

This spoof account, notably, also listed the home address of his parents, which is not listed on Steeber’s regular account.

The most disturbing development came Thursday evening, when Steeber says a friend discovered a flier posted at Pitt. The flier shows a photo of Steeber, denounces him for “making fun of sexual assault survivors,” and gives the name and phone number of his parents with the suggestion that people call them. The flier also warns that its maker (or makers) are hard at work to identify others at the student government meeting so they can be harassed in the same way. So far, Steeber said, his parents have received a few calls from people who immediately hang up, but nothing more menacing thus far.

“I have no issue with being challenged on my opinions, but threatening of my family is unacceptable,” Steeber said. He said he had no idea who is responsible for producing the spoof Facebook account or the flier.

At the time of publication, Steeber was attending the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), and was uncertain whether there were any other copies of the flier being distributed around Pitt’s campus.

Steeber’s plight has attracted the interest of the Intercollegiate Studies Institute (ISI), a non-profit that co-sponsored the Yiannopoulos event. ISI President Christopher Long sent a letter to Pitt’s administration on Friday, suggesting that sympathetic statements by school administrators regarding anti-Yiannopoulos activists was encouraging the effort to target Steeber.

“[Vice provost] Kenyon Bonner’s public statements … [are] potentially encouraging the threatening of students associated with the College Republicans and the Intercollegiate Studies Institute,” the letter says. “I hope that you will make a public statement today so that the entire University of Pittsburgh community … is clear about the school’s embrace of free speech, that political harassment will not be tolerated, and in fact that it will be punished according to the University’s stated procedures and policies.”


Tuesday, March 08, 2016

Women are left off Britain's High School philosophy syllabus by the Education Secretary even though she's also Minister for Women

I spent 3 years studying analytical philosophy during my student days and the only notable female philosopher I know of is Elizabeth Anscombe.  Omitting her was rather regrettable but she is a difficult read so it is also perhaps understandable.  The token women eventually included are nowhere near the stature of Anscombe, who was a close associate of Wittgenstein -- JR

It's news that will embarrass Britain's multi-tasking Education Secretary Nicky Morgan.

Because despite the fact she's also Minister for Women and Equalities, her Department for Education failed to include a single woman in its new AS and A-level philosophy courses.

While the works of Plato, Aristotle, Descartes and David Hume were recommended in drafts of the syllabus, no female philosophers were mentioned.

The omission was highlighted during an 'equality analysis' of the new exams and officials hastily added female thinkers to the final papers which will be introduced into schools in 2017.

They include Oxford academic Anita Avramides and US professor Lisa Shapiro.

The row follows last year's controversy over music GCSEs excluding female composers.

But perhaps Ms Morgan just can't win – as her education department is now being attacked for 'tokenism'.

Former Tory Minister Ann Widdecombe, who read philosophy, politics and economics at Oxford, said: 'It's daft. You need to study the great philosophers, first and foremost.

'If they all happened to be male because that is historically how it fell out, then so be it.'


Students Had BDSM Sex. Male Says He Obeyed Safe Word. GMU Agreed, Expelled Him Anyway

George Mason University expelled a male student engaged in a BDSM relationship with a young woman—even though the panel agreed their disputed sexual encounter was consensual because he stopped when he heard the safe word.

That outcome didn't satisfy an assistant dean of students, so the administrator improperly granted an appeal and then reversed the panel's decision himself. That administrator, Brent Ericson, conceded that he "had already prejudged the appeal and decided to find plaintiff responsible for sexual assault." He did so, and the student was expelled.

Also notable: the expelled student, identified as "John Doe," was found guilty of misconduct relating to other encounters with his then-girlfriend "Jane Roe," who was not a student at GMU. But he was never informed that these encounters were in dispute, and thus never had an opportunity to prove his innocence.

Doe filed suit against GMU. Last week, a Virginia district court sided with Doe, and is giving his lawyers an opportunity to make the case for an appropriate remedy to his situation.

The case is a complicated one, given the nature of Doe and Roe's relationship. They were engaged in BDSM, which means the usual consent standards don't apply in quite the same way. They had a preexisting agreement that saying the word "stop," for instance, did not mean that either party was withdrawing consent. Instead, their safe word was "red." If Roe used the word "red," Doe was supposed to cease the activity.

On October 27, 2013, the two were engaged in such activity when Roe pushed Doe away. He asked whether she wanted to continue. She replied, "I don't know," and he continued anyway, since she didn't use the safe word.

Doe, it should be noted, perpetrated several disciplinary infractions at GMU, which included disrupting class and possessing lighter fluid in his dorm room. After the couple broke up, Doe continued to contact Roe, which led her to inform her university that he was harassing her. She eventually contacted GMU's police department, which put her in touch with Ericson, the assistant dean of students.

Doe was tried before a three-person GMU panel for violating the university's sexual misconduct policy during the encounter on October 27. Both parties were interviewed at the hearing, which lasted 10 hours. The panel eventually cleared Doe of wrongdoing.

This decision infuriated Roe, who filed an appeal on the grounds that the verdict represented a "substantial procedural irregularity." In context, the "irregularity" was that the panel didn't agree with Roe.

But Ericson did, and so he granted the appeal and assigned it to himself.

What happened from that point on was a farce. Ericson had no intention of giving Doe a fair hearing, since he had already predetermined the student's guilt. Doe was expelled.

All these details come from the judge's decision, which is favorable to Doe. Even just based on this perspective, it seems like Doe is at the very least a troubled student with some behavioral issues.

But even troubled students are entitled to due process. Doe wasn't even aware his conduct on dates other than October 27, 2013 was an issue. The university didn't give him proper notice of the charges against him, and permitted a biased administrator to retry his case.

The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education's Samantha Harris writes, "Generally speaking, students in public university disciplinary proceedings are constitutionally entitled, at a minimum, to notice and an opportunity to be heard. In this case, the federal district court ruled that the notice given to the plaintiff was constitutionally inadequate."

The judge's decision is a win for civil libertarians: it asserts that people don't lose their due process rights when they become public university students.

I would add that the dispute itself presents a compelling argument that university administrators should be divorced from the process of adjudicating sexual assault. Who thinks campus bureaucrats can competently navigate the consent issues at stake in a BDSM relationship?

Updated at 1:30 p.m. on March 2: Doe's attorney Justin Dillon tells me he's thrilled with the verdict. "As far as I know, our client is the first plaintiff in the country to win summary judgment in a campus sexual assault case. We are extremely pleased with the result and look forward to seeing the judge craft a just remedy."


Duke Prof: Feminist 'Soft' Jihad a Force for Peace

Ellen McLarney, who teaches Asian and Middle Eastern studies at Duke, would have you believe that a "pacifist struggle for civil jihad" led by Islamic feminists offers a benign "alternative kind of jihad" to that practiced by Islamist terrorists worldwide.

She peddled her thesis to about twenty listeners (mostly graduate students) in a February 8 George Washington University lecture, reprising discussion of her recent book, Soft Force: Women in Egypt's Islamic Awakening.  McLarney's lecture omitted the totalitarian jihadist ideology underlying what she described as a "protracted struggle with non-democratic regimes over matters of human rights."

McLarney lauded the 1995 book (in Arabic) Women & Political Work:  An Islamic Perspective, by Cairo University political science professor Heba Raouf Ezzat.  Yet McLarney neglected to mention the book's publisher, none other than the International Institute of Islamic Thought (IIIT) in Herndon, Virginia, an entity founded by Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood (MB).  She noted that Ezzat explicated her concept of feminine "soft force" Islamist subversion, itself derived from the American political scientist Joseph Nye's concept of "soft power."

Beginning in the 1970s, McLarney explained nonchalantly, an Egyptian Islamic revival developed via a "passive revolution" to spark an "Islamic civil society that runs parallel to the more secular civil society in Egypt." As foreshadowed by the 1960s Egyptian writer Nimat Sidqi-who according to McLarney's slides wrote that "Raising Children is Jihad"-women "have a pivotal role to play in this struggle." Borrowing from the American feminist slogan "the personal is political," Ezzat and others developed the "Islamic family as a place for the cultivation of Islamic sensibilities"-the "very seat of politics." 

American University in Cairo sociology professor and feminist Mona Abaza has previously pushed back against this rosy thesis. Her daily contact with this "parallel society" led her in 2012 to decry Egypt's "increasing ‘Islamization' of the public sphere for at least four decades."  Whereas McLarney discussed Islamist "resistance through forms of cultural production," Abaza argues persuasively that "intolerance and censorship was mutual among both the ancient regime of [Hosni] Mubarak and the Muslim Brotherhood."

But McLarney was having none of it.  Her optimism towards "civil jihad" skewed her discussion of Egypt under the MB rule of President Mohammed Morsi following the overthrow of Mubarak's dictatorship in the "Arab Spring":

Under the Morsi government, I am going to get in trouble for saying this, there was a flourishing of certain freedoms, because it was post-revolution. There was a lot of political tumult.

McLarney even claimed, against all evidence, that the 2012 Egyptian constitution drafted under the MB "came out pretty progressive" and included a meaningful gender equality provision. Even Alaa Alwad, the graffiti artist and secularist whose Cairo mural graces McLarney's book cover, as she discussed, stated in 2013 that the "Muslim Brotherhood has captured the government."

Interviewed after the lecture, McLarney conceded that many of her secular Egyptian friends had feared the Morsi government, but downplayed the 2012 constitution's sharia elements.  "In that constitution there wasn't really any sharia," she claimed, but there "was the question: would the Morsi government start interpreting everything through the lens of sharia?" Her answer remained predictably optimistic:  amidst that revolutionary situation, "I don't think they could get away with it." Had she forgotten her 2013 observation that Egyptian "[g]ender inequalities remain encoded in the personal status laws with regards to witnessing, polygamy, and divorce"? 

Ultimately, McLarney could not overcome the reality undermining her evocation of Ezzat and the others as feminist sisters-in-arms struggling for liberation, rather than as Islamic totalitarianism's propagandist enablers.  During the interview, even she acknowledged that "soft force" could merely serve as an ideological flank to all-too-hard jihadists like the MB, whom she admitted had resorted to violent tactics when circumstances allowed.

Evoking the American "mommy wars" over the right career/motherhood balance for women, McLarney, an Ivy League-educated mother, gushed over her study subjects.  These Muslim women "really spoke to my own critiques of Western feminism and of the fetishization of the male realm of paid work as the path to emancipation."  Yet McLarney, whose stylish outfit and V-neck blouse contrasted with the veiling emphasized by her subjects, failed to acknowledge that Islamist "mommy wars" have far more nefarious implications.


Monday, March 07, 2016

US to investigate racial allegations at "Boston Latin" High School

Boston Latin School is an academically selective school so there are few blacks there and they no doubt feel out of place there. So a few of them are squalling about "racism", generally on very slim grounds. An extensive enquiry failed to find anything much to the accusations but that was the "wrong" finding.  Work must go on until the allegations are upheld

US Attorney Carmen M. Ortiz said Wednesday that she has agreed to investigate allegations of racism at Boston Latin School at the request of several community groups, promising a thorough outside inquiry into accusations of harassment and discrimination at the elite school.

There is no timeline for the review, which will look for both criminal and civil violations of the Civil Rights Act, according to Ortiz’s office.

“We will conduct a thorough investigation into the recent complaints about racism at BLS and will go where the facts lead us,” Ortiz said in a statement.

The request for a federal inquiry came from eight civil rights and community organizations that, in a five-page complaint filed Friday, raised concerns about racial harassment and argued that a recent school department review into the racial climate at the school did not go far enough.

“We really need an independent third party like the US attorney to make sure that what happened did violate or didn’t violate [the students’ rights],” Ivan Espinoza-Madrigal, executive director of the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights and Economic Justice, said Wednesday.

Ortiz’s decision to investigate “speaks to how disturbing the incidents have been,” he said.

Among the matters raised in the five-page complaint: Parents of current and former Boston Latin students raised concerns about the “disparate discipline and suspension of black students compared with their similarly situated non-black counterparts.” The complaint also cited an alleged incident in which a teacher “greeted a black student by using the ‘n-word.’ ” The complaint said the incident was not investigated by school officials.

Allegations of widespread racism at the school were first brought to light in a YouTube video posted by two Boston Latin studentson Martin Luther King Jr. day in January. The students, Meggie Noel and Kylie Webster-Cazeau, who launched the #BlackAtBls social media campaign, did not respond to requests for comment on the investigation Wednesday.

Members of an informal group of hundreds of current and former Latin School parents who have come together to support BLS headmaster Lynne Mooney Teta said in a statement that they support the federal inquiry.

“We are confident in Attorney Ortiz’s ability to go ‘where the facts lead’,” the statement says. “We are anxious for the process to be brought to a conclusion in a timely manner so we in the community can move forward.”

Ortiz said that the investigation into Boston Latin will be carried out by a recently formed Civil Rights Unit in her office that has the authority to investigate charges of racism under the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

The Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, and religion in public schools and colleges and universities.

If the US attorney’s investigation turns up criminal wrongdoing, charges could be filed. But if civil violations are uncovered, the office could require remedies to force Boston Latin to reform its standards and procedures. The school, for instance, could be forced to retrain staff and comply with regular Justice Department reviews. If the school disagrees with the proposed remedies, prosecutors could seek a court order.

For example, the US Department of Justice has recently sued the city of Ferguson, Mo., where civil unrest after the shooting of a black man by police in 2014 led to protests, to compel the city to make changes in its police department and courts.

Christina Diorio-Sterling, a spokeswoman for Ortiz, said that the US attorney’s office has not set a deadline for the BLS investigation and will work until a “thorough review” is completed.

Jack W. Pirozzolo, the former first assistant US attorney in Massachusetts, and now a partner at the Sidley Austin law firm, said becausethe local Civil Rights Unit in Boston is new, he expects Ortiz’s office will consult with officials in Washington, D.C., before making final decisions.

As in any federal investigation, Ortiz would have to find sufficient evidence to substantiate any civil or criminal violations.

Pirozzolo said that there is no threshold to launch an investigation, and Ortiz’s decision to look into the matter is completely discretionary.

“If there are sufficient facts for her to believe it’s appropriate to investigate, she has the discretion to start that investigation,” Pirozzolo said.

Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh and Superintendent Tommy Chang have “pledged their full cooperation in this investigation,” according to Ortiz.

Walsh and Chang released a joint statement Wednesday saying they are “happy to be fully cooperative” and that they will continue to pursue their own investigation.

“It is always our top priority that all schools provide respectful and accepting learning environments and we welcome working in collaboration to reach a positive outcome for the kids,” the statement said.

But Darnell L. Williams, president of the Urban League of Eastern Massachusetts, said the investigation is much needed, saying reports of discrimination have been widespread.

He said officials should acknowledge there’s a problem.

“We’ve got to fix this thing,” he said. “We have to own up to it and [acknowledge] that it does exist.”


The Leftist Fascists Take Over College Campuses

Ben Shapiro

Last Thursday, all hell broke loose at California State University Los Angeles. Hundreds of students gathered to chant slogans, block entrances and exits to the student union auditorium, rough up those who wished to enter, pull the fire alarm, and trap other students inside that auditorium under threat of violence. Police officers stood aside and allowed that mob to violate basic safety protocols, reportedly at the behest of the school administration.

Why? Because I was coming to speak.

I had been scheduled to speak at Cal State Los Angeles for weeks. Young America's Foundation had organized the Fred R. Allen Lecture Series; CSULA represented the kickoff event. Student activists worked hard to publicize the event. Two separate radical professors at the university objected publicly to it, with one challenging "white supremacist" students to wrestle him, and another asking on Facebook, "I say this event is a problem...What we go'n do y'all?!?!"

Then, the Monday before the big conflagration, the president of the university, William Covino, summarily canceled my speech. "After careful consideration, I have decided that it will be best for our campus community if we reschedule Ben Shapiro's appearance for a later date, so that we can arrange for him to appear as part of a group of speakers with differing viewpoints on diversity. Such an event will better represent our university's dedication to the free exchange of ideas and the value of considering multiple viewpoints," Covino stated in Orwellian fashion.

I told Covino to stick it — this was viewpoint discrimination, and I would show up anyway.

After days of silence, Covino must have determined that he didn't want to risk the legal consequences of barring me, so just two hours before the event, he backed down, adding, "I strongly disagree with Mr. Shapiro's views."

By the time we reached campus, the near-riot had begun. I had to be ushered through a back door by armed security as well as uniformed police. Helicopters circled the area; news trucks parked along the street. The room in which I was slated to speak was nearly empty, because the student protesters had blocked all the doors and were pushing around anyone who wanted to enter. One reporter was assaulted three times; one of the people who wanted to attend my speech was pushed to the ground and kicked. Police smuggled the students in four at a time through the back door until students blocked that door, too. Halfway through my speech, the fire alarm went off. I spoke through it.

When the speech ended, I asked security if I, along with the other students, could go out to confront the protesters. The campus police told me they couldn't guarantee my safety or that of any of those listening to me if we chose to walk outside. Instead, they'd have to spirit me away through a separate building with a large coterie of armed and uniformed police, stuff me into the back of a van, and then escort me from campus with motorcycles flashing their lights.

This is America in 2016, on a state-funded university campus.

And it shouldn't be surprising.

We have spent two generations turning college campuses from places to learn job skills to places to indoctrinate leftism and inculcate an intolerant view of the world that insists on silencing opposition. We have made campuses a fascist "safe space" on behalf of the left. Anyone who disagrees must be shut down, or threatened or hurt.

It's not just college campuses, either. We've entered an era of politics in which baseless feelings count more than facts, in which political correctness means firing those with different viewpoints, in which government actors insist that they can police negative thoughts. We're on the edge of freedom's end, and many Americans don't even see it.

They would have had they been at CSULA that day. And they will soon enough if they don't stand up for their rights today.


31% of U.S. Govt Assets Are Student Loans

Late last week, the U.S. Treasury Department released its annual financial report for the U.S. Government. The document calculates the government’s total number of assets and liabilities. Unsurprisingly, the report offered another grim picture of the nation’s fiscal health.

Tucked away in the report, however, was a surprising fact. Student loans now make up 37 percent of the total assets of the U.S. government. In some ways, a major business of the U.S. government now is getting students to take out loans to pay for college.

The total value of assets held by the federal government is $3.2 trillion. The government’s assets include its cash, gold reserves, property, and the value of land, equipment, and inventories. The lion’s share of the government’s assets, though, is the value of loans it has issued. The total value of government-issued loans is over $1.2 trillion, almost 40 percent of its total assets.

By far the largest loan program run by the feds is the student loan program. Last year, the federal government held as assets almost $1.1 trillion in student loans. This is up almost 10 percent from 2014. The federal government earned almost $1 billion on these loans last year.

Without the student loan portfolio, the government’s financial statements would be even more grim. As it stands now, the government’s “net worth,” i.e. assets minus liabilities, is -$18 trillion. The government’s overall net position has dropped by 12 percent in just the last two years. Without the student loan portfolio, though, the government’s net position would be closer to -$20 trillion.

This is important because the federal take-over of student loans only happened in 2010. Until that year, student loans were issued by commercial banks to students, with the federal government providing a number of loan-guarantees and direct aid through a variety of programs.

As part of the ObamaCare legislation, however, Congress voted to eliminate the private student loan market and have the government completely take over student loans.

The sweeping move received little attention at the time, as the political debate was consumed by the healthcare overhaul. The student loan takeover was simply tucked into the 2,000+ page legislation that enacted ObamaCare.

It is important to remember, however, that there is no cabal of private lenders or banks taking advantage of college students. It is the federal government itself that is in the business of providing student loans. The only involvement of private banks is under contract with the federal government to service or manage the loans.

Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders employ rhetoric on the issue of college loans as if there is some mysterious and pernicious third party taking advantage of students struggling to pay for college. This is balderdash.

The federal government is the sole provider of student loans for college.


Sunday, March 06, 2016

Boston schools are subservient to dietary myths

There is no firm evidence that sugary drinks have anything to do with obesity, though a high total calorie intake can cause obesity

Sugary soft drinks and juices linked to bulging waistlines have all but disappeared from Boston’s public schools after a major push began years ago to banish the drinks, according to a study published Thursday that calls the city’s strict rules a model for the nation.

Only 4 percent of Boston students have access to sugar-sweetened beverages, said researchers, who examined compliance with a 2004 policy banning the sale of soft drinks, fruit drinks, sweetened teas, and sports drinks in schools. Consumption of such beverages has been strongly linked with obesity.

“The Boston public schools have always been ahead of the curve, particularly on health and nutrition,” said Rebecca S. Mozaffarian, lead author of the study and a nutrition researcher at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

Boston’s success, she said, can guide school districts across the nation as they roll out federal rules on sugary beverages that took effect during the 2014-2015 school year.

Published in Preventing Chronic Disease, a publication of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the research took place in 2013, nine years after the Boston School Committee adopted the standards.

Mozaffarian said she was surprised at the magnitude of the difference between Boston and the rest of nation regarding access to sugary drinks in school. Nationwide, only about 40 percent of school districts ban soda, and fewer than 20 percent of elementary and 10 percent of middle or high schools ban other types of sugar-sweetened beverages, such as fruit drinks, according to the study.

As a result, 89 percent of high schoolers nationwide have access to sugar-sweetened beverages at school — compared with only 10.5 percent in Boston’s high schools, Mozaffarian said.

The researchers did not examine whether the policies affected obesity rates. But they cited other research suggesting the ban did affect the amount of sugary beverages Boston students drink.

In 2006, two years after the ban went into effect, a study found that Boston high schoolers had reduced their consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages, while no such decline was happening nationally. In 2013, a national survey showed that 17 percent of Boston high school students had one serving or more of sugar-sweetened beverages, compared with 27 percent of high schoolers in 42 states.

Boston’s policies apply to beverages sold outside of the school meals programs, in vending machines, a la carte lines, school stores, and snack bars. The rules allow only water to be sold in elementary schools. Middle schoolers and high schoolers can also buy milk and 100 percent fruit juice, but only in certain sizes and with limitations on fat content and flavoring for milk.

The study found 90 percent of the district’s 115 schools comply — most simply by not selling beverages at all, even bottled water, the rest by selling only those that meet the rules. Only three schools were found to be selling sugar-sweetened beverages; they were not identified. Nine were out of compliance by selling 100 percent fruit juice, milk that didn’t meet the standards, or artificially sweetened waters.

Boston’s policies are stricter than the new rules from the US Department of Agriculture, which allow milk and juice in elementary schools and low-calorie and caffeinated beverages in high school.

The city kept its policy working, the researchers said, through a sustained education and training effort that included a “tool kit” containing letters, fliers, posters, and other materials helping each school implement the program. Schools that violate the rules are given refresher training.

“It’s amazing that after 10 years, Harvard [researchers] went in and were able to document such outstanding compliance,” said Jill Carter, the Boston School Department’s executive director of health and wellness. “That only happened because everybody was on board” — teachers, principals, and parents.

Carter said no state or federal guidelines existed in 2004 when Boston adopted its first set of nutrition policies in an effort to combat obesity. Updating the policies over the years, the school department worked closely with the Boston Public Health Commission, which shared federal grant money.

“We had support from the top. We had collaboration from the health community,” Carter said. “We’ve tried to take a public-health approach to this, not just telling people about the policy but helping them understand why this is important.”

Dr. Caroline M. Apovian, director of the Center for Nutrition and Weight Management at Boston Medical Center, read the study with delight. “Sugar-sweetened beverages should be considered poisonous substances just like tobacco,” she said. “There is absolutely no place for sugar-sweetened beverages in a healthy diet.”

Evidence suggests sugary drinks affect perceptions of fullness and make people want to consume more, while usually providing no nutrition, Apovian said.

Michael Leidig, clinical director of the Center for Youth Wellness at the Floating Hospital for Children at Tufts Medical Center, said the Boston district’s ability to sustain the strict policy over nearly a decade can show the way for schools across the country.

“Everyone can agree we don’t need any more sugar in our diets,” Leidig said.

Leidig, who heads a weight-management program for 11- to 18-year-olds, said participants are urged to reduce consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages to just one a day. If such beverages are not available in school, that task is made much easier, he said.

The study did not address whether schools were hurt by losing income from beverage sales, a concern that has deterred other districts. Carter had no information about any such losses, except they were clearly not a problem in Boston.


Colleges Use Tax-Exempt Status to Excuse Restricting Free Speech

Universities point to the tax code as an excuse to suppress free speech on campuses across the United States, an education rights group told a House panel.

Students, professors, and others, testifying Wednesday before the House Ways and Means Subcommittee on Oversight, said college officials often are reluctant to eliminate “microaggression” policies and allow free speech for fear they will lose tax breaks.

Campus activists define microaggressions as actions or comments that unintentionally offend or discriminate against minority groups.

Alex Atkins, a second-year student at Georgetown University Law Center, told the House panel that the university stopped him and other students from campaigning on campus for Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt.

Atkins said administrators prevented the activity, saying the school’s status as a tax-exempt nonprofit limited the ability of Atkins and his group to use campus resources for partisan political activity.

Georgetown University denied Atkins’ request in September 2015 to reserve a table to campaign for Sanders. The next month, it forced his group to stop canvassing on school grounds to attract students to a debate watch party.

Atkins said administrators told him his group was violating campus policy, pointing to Georgetown Law’s 501(c)(3) exemptions under the tax code. They said the IRS required the university to restrict students from using campus resources, including space, to express political views, Atkins testified.

Lawyers for the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, a nonprofit civil liberties watchdog, last month wrote a letter to Georgetown Law’s dean on behalf of Atkins’ group, charging that the school misinformed students about the law’s restrictions.

“Despite the seeming severity of the restrictions on political activity at private colleges and universities imposed by the requirements of section 501(c)(3) … it is extremely important to note that these prohibitions apply to the institution itself … not to individual students, faculty, or staff engaged in clearly individual, unaffiliated activity,” the lawyers wrote.

While Georgetown is moving to revise its policies in response to the letter, Atkins said, the university’s actions hindered his group’s ability to campaign earlier in the election season. The student testified:

    "These changes cannot undo the nearly six months that we lost—six months where all we wanted to do was engage in the type of basic civic expression long considered emblematic of America’s educational campuses.     Colleges and universities across the country need to be reminded of their obligation not just to permit, but to protect, the vital free exchange of ideas".

Catherine Sevcenko, associate director of litigation at the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, testified that the practice of private and public schools pointing to their tax-exempt status as justification for policies that silence speech is a growing bipartisan issue.

“[Colleges] were granted tax-exempt status because they have an educational mission,” Sevcenko told the subcommittee. “I think it’s deeply ironic that the universities, in an attempt to preserve their 501(c)(3) status, are in fact censoring people, censoring students, which is undermining the very purpose that they’re there for.”

Of the 450 colleges and university policies studied by her organization, Sevcenko said, 50 percent have unconstitutional speech codes.

Modesto Junior College in California, for example, blocked Army veteran Robert Van Tuinen from handing out copies of the Constitution to classmates on Constitution Day two years ago.

A campus security guard told Van Tuinen that if he wanted to express himself in public, he had to sign up for the school’s free speech zone, which wasn’t available until the next month.

The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education represented Van Tuinen in February 2014, ultimately winning a court ruling compelling Modesto Junior College to pay the student $50,000 and change its free speech policies.

But Sevcenko said legal action is time-consuming and expensive, often meaning that students remain censored for extended periods of time.

The Internal Revenue Service, she said, needs to clarify its guidance on political activity restrictions for 501(c)(3) organizations so that free speech on school grounds is properly protected.

“Confusion over the IRS guidelines is a likely cause of this censorship,” Sevcenko said. “General counsels are not going to allow political activity that they fear would endanger the school’s tax-exempt status. As long as the IRS guidance is ambiguous, censorship will win out every time.”


Indoctrination, Population Control and Climate Change

What a Masters in Environmental Science Learned at the University

Most people think of education as a teaching of facts, one plus one equals two. Many in the West also identify education with the teaching of logic and critical thinking skills. Unfortunately, in many instances, facts and logic have been replaced by indoctrination — indoctrination into specific thought processes or belief systems.

Whether in the primary schools in the remote parts of the world, or a graduate study program at the finest university in the West, there is always an inherent bias due to the evolving nature of human understanding. Nevertheless, it is expected that those who devise the curriculum and syllabus do it in an unbiased manner using the highest standards. Yet this is often not the case. In the specialization of undergraduate and postgraduate studies, this can lead to a dangerous lack of counter perspectives and, where debate and discussion are not present, the indoctrination of students.

I completed my undergraduate studies in India and took environmental sciences during my freshmen year at the university. The emphasis of the syllabus was largely on the reduction of pollution levels, the “sustainable” use of natural resources, the conservation of forest resources and the effects of human population on ecosystems. The impact of human activity on the environment (pollution, depletion of resources, etc.) and prescription of methodologies for the conservation of natural resources (wildlife protection, switching to bio-degradable products, etc.) were the dominating themes.

Climate change and its associated impacts were not given much importance in the curriculum during my undergraduate studies (2004 to 2008). My instructor for the subject was a chemistry graduate who knew little about environmental sciences. But critical thinking about course materials was not a part of the class either. Grades were awarded based on the ability to replicate the material presented in the prescribed textbook. There was no room for an open academic discussion or analysis about the subject, nor was there any time allocated for discussions among students and instructors.

The syllabus itself was highly polarized. It demonized the human population as the source of resource constraint and the reason for degradation of the environment. This accusation goes well beyond the call for reduction of pollution levels and sanitation. It has undertones of the ideology implemented by the country’s family planning commission and prescribes a small family to control population growth. The curriculum failed to mention the after effects of population control programs and what they mean for the economy. The solutions lacked clarity and the science behind them were not holistic. The positive relationship between the environment and human development was rarely addressed. In general, the curriculum neglected the positive impacts of the Industrial Revolution and the contribution of fossil fuels to the development of human life.

My Master’s in Environmental Science was from the University of East Anglia in the United Kingdom. I specialized in ecological responses to climate change — basically how organisms and the ecosystem in general respond to fluctuations in global temperature levels. While my undergraduate study did not leave any room for critical understanding of the science behind environmental sciences and climate change, my postgraduate study was at the other extreme. Climate change science was introduced to me as a settled fact, i.e. there is an extreme increase in the temperature levels due to carbon dioxide (CO) levels, and this is predominantly due to anthropogenic (human) causes. (The instruction included the famous and fallacious “Hockey stick” representation).

Professors did not present the pros and cons of climate change science or any opposing viewpoints. They solely assumed the veracity of climate change and began our courses with instruction on mitigating the impact of climate change on ecological systems.

Yes, it’s true, one cannot expect a university, or its instructors, to spoon feed the foundational aspects of science to its grad students. But to present anthropogenic extreme warming or, for that matter, “climate change” as a scientifically established and settled fact is a gross misrepresentation of the actual science of climate change. It does injustice to the scientific method and deprives inquisitive minds of the opportunity to delve deeper into the science. Such an attitude inhibits scientific advancement in a subject area (climate change science) that is critical for determining economic and energy policies central to global human development.

None of the curriculum in my undergrad and post-grad addressed the following subjects:

*    Poverty level and alleviation,

*    The impact of climate change mitigation policies on the economic development of developing countries and their population,

*    The science behind actual contribution of CO to the warming of climate in the post-industrial era and the models that were used for it, or

*    The cost-benefit analysis of different environmental issues and policies and the disadvantages of limiting resource utilization.

Remarkably, it portrayed an ethical perspective where the suppression of human life for the good of the environment was deemed the most desirable way forward.

Can this be attributed to the influence of worldview on the sciences? I would answer in the affirmative.

The conflict of interest due to the worldview arises at a number of points, but most notably on the subject of the sacredness of human life and how resources should be utilized. Even on purely naturalistic terms, it strips humans of their rights from being equal shareholders with the rest of the living organisms (including their entitlement to flourish).

I would assert further that there is no ethical basis in a naturalistic framework to limit the growth of human population. The naturalist and the atheist invoke theistic moral values (specifically from the Judeo-Christian worldview) to hold humans responsible for the supposed depletion of the environment.

The Christian perspective, on the other hand, calls for a responsible stewardship of earth by humans, based on the Biblical mandate. The Christian worldview promotes human life — to develop and promote activities that will address the livelihood of humans, the flourishment of human life and the utilization of the resources to aid in the same. It also lays the ethical principles for stewarding the creation — thus discouraging abuse of the environment and the creatures therein.

Indoctrination in education is a cancer that kills the inquisitive and renders the intellect paralyzed. It’s unfortunate that the scientific methodology is being dominated by political entities. There will never be a conflict between science and my faith. But the perpetrators who have twisted the scientific system to their gains will always be a challenge to my moral values regarding truth, integrity, justice, equality and desire to have an educational environment that is free from indoctrination.