Friday, March 18, 2016

So You Think Public Education Is Failing? It Helps to Understand Its Goals

Donald Trump’s base is widely characterized as “low-information voters.” As he continues to rack up primary wins, does this indicate that the majority of voters is now low-information?

Meanwhile, a recent poll by the Harvard Institute of Politics of 18- to 29-year olds finds two-thirds of them neutral to Sanders’ self-identification as a socialist, while a McClatchy-Marist poll shows 25% of millennials saying they would “definitely vote for” any socialist presidential candidate:

    “As a millennial, I believe that we identify with what Bernie Sanders has to offer because we’ve had so much taken away from us.”

In 1979, the nation’s public schools were put under the control of the newly created Department of Education. In our forthcoming book, Failure: The Federal Misedukation of America’s Children, Vicki Alger traces the genesis of the department’s creation, and its numerous attempts to remake itself since, concluding it has—by its own stated goals—failed.

But one could conclude from the current election campaign that the Department has in fact succeeded beyond all expectations: one just needs to understand its actual goals.

As Charlotte Twight showed in this recent article in The Independent Review, “Through the Mist: American Liberty and Political Economy, 2065,” for 30 years, American students have “unlearned” the concept of liberty during their passage through the government education system—with the result that they have been formed into increasingly compliant subjects of an increasingly powerful state.

Much attention is currently being given to the sad state of higher education: with campuses now free speech-free zones, more attention paid to issues of race, gender, or other label du jour swamping interest in producing students who can actually participate in a free and prosperous society, and indenturing young people with massive amounts of debt to feather the nests of tenured faculty with low course loads.

But addressing the problem at the university level is way too late. As Dr. Twight summarized:

    "The future of America’s political economy largely will be determined by the extent of personal autonomy the federal government will tolerate, the additional powers it covets, and the current powers it will not willingly relinquish. Over the next fifty years, government’s technological capability to surreptitiously monitor the populace and crush domestic dissent or resistance will grow. ...

    Our one hope is the severance of education from government control."

And the only hope for doing so is for Americans to wake up to understanding that “public education” is about strengthening the “public” sector—our would-be rulers—not “education.”

If we want children who can succeed in a global economy that runs on tech, children who embrace and defend individual and civil liberty, who value and help their fellow-man, we’re going to have to educate them ourselves. And that can only be done privately, wholly divorced from government involvement.

A pipe dream?  Consider this:

    "Prior to state involvement, literacy and school attendance rates in England, Wales, and the United States were 90 percent and rising"

More recently, James Tooley has spent 15 years finding the world’s poorest of the poor doing just that for their children—scores of private schools, paid for by desperately poor parents, in countries from India and China through sub-Saharan Africa.

As he says, “If Liberia can, why can’t we?”


DOJ Announces New Effort to 'Promote Religious Freedom' (for Muslims) in the Nation's Schools

Under the banner of civil rights enforcement, the U.S. Justice Department plans to "promote religious freedom" in the nation's public schools by cracking down on discrimination and bullying, especially as it may affect Muslims.

The new enforcement effort announced on Tuesday will "expand" DOJ's ability to investigate and prosecute complaints; lead community outreach; and develop guidance for federal prosecutors.

Vanita Gupta, head of the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division, said one goal of the new initiative is to promote religious pluralism and create safe, supportive and inclusive schools for all children.

Following acts of terrorism, including 9-11 and San Bernardino, "too many Muslim Americans and those perceived as Muslim suffer a backlash of violence and discrimination," Gupta said. "We see criminal threats against mosques; harassment in schools; and even reports of violence targeting Muslim Americans, people of Arab or South Asian descent, and people perceived to be members of these groups."

Gupta said the new initiative, dubbed "Combating Religious Discrimination," will help DOJ fight the backlash against Muslim students and students perceived as Muslim. The initiative also will "benefit children of every background and every religion," she added.

"Our schools must remain the places where our children feel safe and supported. The places where they confront differences by building bridges of understanding. And the places where they learn that America guarantees freedom, justice and opportunity for all people -- regardless of what you look like, where you come from or which religion you observe." 

Gupta noted that DOJ's Civil Rights Division, which she heads, already has sued schools around the country on the grounds of religious discrimination.

"In part because of our efforts, today, Christian students in Bakersfield City, California, can observe Ash Wednesday without fearing an unexcused absence. Muslim students in Lewisville, Texas, can pray together during lunch. Jewish students in Pine Bush, New York, can walk the halls, ride the bus and sit in class without enduring anti-Semitic bullying and intimidation. Arabic-speaking EL students in Dearborn Heights, Michigan, can learn from qualified teachers. And Sikh students in DeKalb County, Georgia, can wear a turban to school without facing harassment."

Despite those accomplishments (some dating to the George W. Bush administration), there is more "urgent work" to be done, she said.

Guupta was speaking in Newark, N.J., at the first of several community roundtables addressing religious discrimination in education.

She said future roundtables, to be held at various locations around the country, will address related topics.

For example, a discussion in Dallas will focus on "religion-based hate crimes" targeting individuals and houses of worship; a meeting in Birmingham, Alabama, will examine religious discrimination in employment; and a roundtable in Detroit will address discrimination by local zoning officials against congregants seeking to build places of worship. The final roundtable, in Palo Alto, California, will once again concentrate on bullying and religious discrimination in schools.

“Robust community engagement and meaningful dialogue can help our country fulfill its promise of religious freedom, and we look forward to tackling this challenging work with creative solutions in the months ahead,” Gupta said.

Agencies participating in the new initiative include the Departments of Education, Homeland Security, and Labor; the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC); and within the Justice Department, the Civil Rights Division, FBI, Office of Justice Programs, Executive Office for U.S. Attorneys and Community Relations Service. 

"Agency officials will facilitate the roundtable discussions to help identify key priorities and lead robust dialogue with community members and civil rights advocates," the news release said.


Mass. should revive US history requirement

A basic purpose of American public education is to teach students how to exercise the rights and responsibilities associated with active citizenship in a democracy, but national testing shows that it just isn’t happening. To change that, Massachusetts should revive the requirement that public school students pass a US history MCAS test to graduate from high school.

According to 2014 results from the National Assessment of Educational Progress, a mere 27 percent of American eighth-graders scored proficient or better in geography. The numbers were worse for civics (23 percent) and US history (18 percent).

Massachusetts’ 1993 Education Reform Act was not overly prescriptive when it came to what subjects should be taught, but it did require students to learn about the principles of American democracy, including the fundamentals of the Declaration of Independence, the US Constitution, and the Federalist Papers. To ensure that, it required that they pass a US history test as a condition of high school graduation.

Massachusetts’ highly rated history standards and test had been developed and were ready to be implemented when the Patrick administration jettisoned the requirement in 2009, citing the $2.4 million cost of administering the test. Thankfully, the Commonwealth has a lot more fiscal flexibility now than it did then, and there is no reason why we can’t deploy the test at a reasonable cost.

It’s often said that what isn’t tested isn’t taught. Unfortunately, that appears to be the case when it comes to US history education in Massachusetts’ public schools. Entire middle-school social studies departments have been eliminated, leaving history courses to be taught by English, math, and science teachers.

Massachusetts public schools have much to be proud of over the last two decades. Between 2005 and 2013, the state led the nation at every grade level and every subject tested on the NAEP, which is also known as the “Nation’s Report Card.”

In 2007 and 2013, the Bay State participated as its own “country” on the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study, the gold standard of international math and science testing. Our students proved to be among the best in the world in mathematics, and in 2007 our eighth-graders tied for number one in the world in science.

But that achievement does not extend to US history. The geography, civics, and US history results are not broken down by state in NAEP, but Massachusetts students are routinely outperformed by their counterparts from California, Oregon, Indiana, Virginia, and Alabama in the national “We the People: The Citizen and the Constitution” contest. In the contest’s nearly 30-year history, the Commonwealth has never finished among the top 10 states.

When we both were in public service on Beacon Hill, we were acutely aware that state budgets are more than line items and spreadsheets; they are expressions of our values and priorities as a commonwealth. Similarly, public education is not just a way to prepare students to be part of the workforce; it must also prepare them to be active civic participants in America’s great experiment in democracy.

Our students can’t grow up to be active citizens if they don’t understand the ideals upon which our country was founded and the journey that has brought us to where we are today. To avoid that fate, Massachusetts should restore passage of the US MCAS history test as a condition of high school graduation.


UK: Atheist students are losing their faith in free speech

The University of Sheffield Atheist, Secularist and Humanist Society (SASH) has turned down a suggestion by a student to invite Maryam Namazie to speak at the university. The reason? Her ‘hard anti-Islamist approach’ is not ‘conducive’ to the direction that the society wishes to go in.

This isn’t a wind-up. Not only is the suggestion that you can be ‘too hard’ on Islamism baffling, but the fact that this statement came from an atheist, secularist and humanist society is almost beyond parody. To clarify, this is a society which aims to defend human rights and promote secularism declining to invite a renowned and influential ex-Muslim, secularist and human-rights campaigner. (Namazie has done extensive work supporting refugees, and has tackled both religious fundamentalism and far-right bigotry.)

In its response to the inquiring student, SASH said that it would like to concentrate on ‘interfaith’ activities instead, stating that ‘interfaith between faith societies is vital’. Apparently, inviting Namazie, which may not be welcomed by some members of Sheffield’s Islamic Society (ISoc), would be antithetical to their objectives.

I’ve always found the idea of atheist societies bizarre. After all, these are groups forged from a shared lack of belief in something. But the idea of an atheist society working its agenda and events around an Islamic society, a religious organisation, is absurd. It seems that SASH has shifted its focus to humanism rather than atheism – only here ‘humanism’ means pandering to Islamists.

SASH stated that Namazie’s recent podcast with Sam Harris demonstrated her ‘often divisive approach’. This is the podcast in which Namazie opposes Harris’ views on the profiling of Muslim immigrants and defends open borders for those fleeing persecution. Pretty divisive, huh?

SASH was particularly concerned that there would be a repeat of ‘what happened at Goldsmiths’, when Islamist students disrupted a talk being given by Namazie. But this only projects a pretty dim view of Sheffield ISoc. As a Sheffield student myself, I’d like to think that ISoc members would be up for the debate, and would not act at all like those thugs at Goldsmiths. Not all Muslims resent apostates.

What’s more, the subtext here is that Namazie was in some way to blame for the Goldsmiths incident. Though SASH insists it does not condone Goldsmiths ISoc’s actions, it is nevertheless siding with Islamists at Namazie’s expense. This is cowardly and pathetic.

This incident is yet another example of the conflation of Islamism (the ideology), Islam (the religion) and Muslims (as people). It is the belief that an attack on Islamism is somehow an attack on all Muslims – and all of Islam. This is not the case: most Muslims hate and reject all forms of Islamism. I hope SASH will realise its mistake and restore its faith in free speech.


Thursday, March 17, 2016

Activist Tantrums — The New Campus Speech

America is at a crossroads in choosing who rules: radicals or the rational. Institutions are standing at the same fork in the road, including colleges and universities that are finding the wrong choice is not just painful, it’s existentially devastating.

A letter was issued to “the university community” last week above the signature of the University of Missouri’s interim chancellor, Hank Foley, announcing a loss of almost 25% in Mizzou enrollment — a projected 1,500-person drop in the student body from last year. This hemorrhage of students translates into significant financial loss of $32 million from one calendar year to the next.

Congratulations, University of Missouri! You’ve become another victim of radical bullies, and willingly at that.

Remember last fall when the “Show Me” state’s flagship campus had both the president and chancellor resign after allegations of racism — some completely unsubstantiated — which sent the students, the Leftist tenure-protected faculty and the community of Columbia into a frenetic response fueled by political correctness and fear of being marginalized?

Within a matter of days, a campus located in middle-America, founded in 1839 as the first institution of higher learning west of the Mississippi River, was consumed by radical “protests” led by the “Black Lives Matter” mob. But news accounts speak of “student” protests, not professionally organized disruptions, right?

How far is Columbia, Missouri from Ferguson, Missouri? Just under two hours by car. And, while accounts include mentions of actual campus conflicts, the fuel of Ferguson exploded the sparks after, according to The Washington Post, MU graduate student Jonathan Butler declared a hunger strike and mobilized a campus group, Concerned Student 1950, by blocking traffic for three hours. Members of this empowered assembly linked their identity to the first year black students were admitted to the University of Missouri as they voiced their anger in 2014 with the “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot” mantra tied to the shooting of the black teenager, Michael Brown in their neighboring community.

Speaking to The Washington Post in November 2015, Butler drew Mizzou into the fray: “There was national coverage, so for the school to not cover that or really address that, and we are only two hours away, I think was a huge mistake on their part and contributed to the current cultural environment that we have. It just shows that there are racially motivated things — murders, assaults, other things — that happen and we are just going to sweep them under the rug.”

And, what responsibility, other than to provide a safe, academically challenging environment for its students, exists for universities? Well, in the minds of social justice warriors who plan to live their adult lives clamoring and agitating, activism is now the priority of an institution of higher learning where they engage in their inaugural uprisings.

Yet, at the University of Missouri, only 46% of its student body, according to US News and World Report, graduate in four years — at a cost of $19,000 annually for in-state students and $32,000 for out-of-staters.

So, the radicals won through thuggery the resignations of school officials at the University of Missouri, but the rational have taken their tuition dollars and aim to find academic excellence elsewhere.

At the University of Tennessee, another land-grant college, “leaders” continue to encounter these moments of decision … and choose badly. The Knoxville campus is home to an Office of Diversity and Inclusion that made 2015 headlines for its gender-neutral pronouns — no he nor she. Instead, the taxpayer-funded office issued a request last fall of students and faculty to use “ze, hir, hirs, and xe, xem, xyr” instead of singular versions of pronouns rejected by the “transgender people and people who do not identify within the gender binary … and pronouns of their gender identity, rather than the pronouns of the sex they were assigned at birth.”

The University of Tennessee’s quick reversal of insanity taught the Office of Diversity nothing. They finished 2015 with another directive to “ensure your holiday party is not a Christmas party in disguise” among a list of “best practices” for celebrating the holiday season.

Tennessee’s General Assembly has not just noticed the activism-over-academics encroachment in Knoxville, but is working to defund the Office of Diversity and Inclusion. As of March 3, the TN Senate Education Committee had passed legislation that would strip $8 million from the campus budget and limit the faculty committed to tolerance to only federal funding and zero Tennessee tax dollars. The proposal takes $5 million from the Knoxville campus budget and $3 million from administration and salaries from faculty at the main location as a firm statement to prioritize academics.

Whether it’s a loss of students and/or a loss in dollars, universities are demonstrating their mission by folding to minds and might that live off of self-esteem and radical ideology instead of standing firm as societal bodies devoted to education and professional preparation.

The term “university” originates from the Latin universitas magistrorum et scholarium which is translated to be a “community of teachers and scholars.”

America’s universities are now victims to their own failed government-dependent business models and Leftist teachings and are instead a community of “organizers” and agitators that don’t produce students prepared for professional employment. We have a graduating mass of entitled mouthy youths who feel good about themselves as they fail in life.

Will universities learn the costly lesson of reality to stick to their intended purpose, or will they self-destruct as public confidence is declining in this institution, along with so many other aspects of our society and government?


Philly School District Must Pay Back $7.2M in Misspent Fed Grant

Corruption in Philly?  Who'd a thunk it?

A federal appeals court ruled last week that the Philadelphia School District owes the U.S. Department of Education $7.2 million for misspent federal grant funds.

According to the Philadelphia Inquirer, the case stems from a federal audit in 2010 that found "widespread misuse" of $138.4 million in grant funds from July 1, 2005, through June 30, 2006.

The Inspector General’s Office at the U.S. Department of Education claims money dedicated to educate low-income students was spent on catering, a mini-fridge, a microwave oven, greeting cards, contract costs and salaries and benefits for employees who had nothing to do with the federal grants.

Government reports said that the district's budget records were "replete with actions by [the district] that were intentional, improper, and taken with reckless disregard for the regulations and statutes."

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circut opinion says that some of the funds were used to fund contract costs.

“Petitioner argues that, because it received a program determination letter in March 2011, it should not be liable for misused funds prior to March 2006. But here, the Philadelphia School District initially charged disallowed contract costs to its local account prior to March 2006, and then in September 2006 changed the funding code to link the expenses to its federal account. Thus, the earliest point at which the Secretary could know those funds were being used “in a manner not authorized by law” was when the School District charged the expenditures to the federal account.”

The government originally was seeking $10 million to be returned. The amount was reduced to $7.2 million based on a five-year statute of limitations.


OECD education chief Andreas Schleicher blasts Australia's education system

We see the fallout from the failure to tackle the indiscipline problem in government schools.  Experienced older teachers have been gradually getting out and are being replaced by poorly qualified new graduates.  Smarter graduates have lots of options and trying to teach unruly students is just not attractive to them.  You mostly have to be pretty desperate to take up teaching in a government school.  Brighter graduates with a vocation for teaching rapidly end up teaching in Australia's many private schools, which are much more orderly. A return of corporal punishment is needed to restore order in government schools.  In some such schools teachers spend most of their time getting the students to shut up and sit down -- during which they learn nothing

One of the world's most influential education experts, Andreas Schleicher, has criticised the Australian education system for falling behind global standards.

Mr Schleicher, the education director of the Organisation for Economic Development, said that Australia had a very significant drop in the results of students at the top of the PISA testing rankings in the past year.

"Australia has lost a lot of students with very good results, it's very significant this round and I think that's something to really think about," he said.

The Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) is an international survey held every three years that pits the world's education systems against each other by testing the performance of 15-year-old students.

Australia's results have steadily declined over the past decade. Last year, Australia ranked 14th behind Poland, Germany and Vietnam, with up to 20 per cent of students unable to demonstrate basic skills.

Speaking at the Global Education and Skills Forum in Dubai, Mr Schleicher said Australia's emphasis on having teachers in front of a class over their own professional development was an area that needed addressing.

"[Australia] more or less defines teachers by the number of hours that [they] teach in front of students," he said. "That is part of the problem."  "We treat teachers as interchangeable widgets on the frontline - they are just there to implement prefabricated knowledge."

He said many countries were struggling to keep the best teachers in the profession because of curriculums that restrict creativity.  "There really is a complete lack of intellectual attractiveness to the teaching profession once you have that very industrial work organisation behind you," he said.

The past decade of Mr Schleicher's data-driven research, which has been harnessed by the education secretaries of both the US and Britain, found that several changes have allowed the world's most successful school systems to prosper.

According to Mr Schleicher, high-achieving education systems such as Finland have implemented selective teacher training with high academic standards, prioritised the development of teachers and principals as goals above reducing class sizes and allowed teachers to be creative in their implementation of the curriculum.

These systems also directed more resources to schools that have high numbers of students from lower socio-economic backgrounds.

NSW Education Minister Adrian Piccoli frequently cites Finland, where teachers are required to have a master's degree, as an ideal model for NSW.  In September, Mr Piccoli announced new entry standards for teachers, with higher minimum marks now required to enrol for an undergraduate teaching degree.

Mr Schleicher added that Australia's needs-based Gonski reforms, with increased investment in teacher training, were a positive step but that more commitment was needed.  "That is one of challenges in Australia - to make sure the funding continues to be channelled to schools with more needs," he said.

The federal government has not committed to the final two years of Gonski funding. According to school funding expert Jim McMorrow, NSW schools would be $1.27 billion worse off without the needs-based funding injection.


Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Hillary's Federal Education Jackboot Squad

Brace yourselves, parents: Hillary Clinton's Fed Ed jackboot squad is from the government and is here to "help."

Clinton wants a cadre of new government educrats to undo the decades-old damage of old government educrats in America's worst public schools. She pitched her creepy proposal at the Democratic presidential debate in Michigan on Sunday for an "education SWAT team" to swarm down and rescue students from failing districts in decrepit cities such as Detroit (run by whom? Oh, yeah. Democrats!).

"I want to set-up inside the Department of Education, for want of a better term, kind of an education SWAT team, if you will," Clinton explained in a bizarre, semi-blaccent, "where we've got qualified people, teachers, principals, maybe folks who are retired, maybe folks who are active, but all of whom are willing to come and help."

Clinton's SWAT team solution, you should know, is like all her other authoritarian plans: a moldy, recycled oldie. In fact, the U.S. Department of Education already has a real military-like enforcement division housed in its Office of the Inspector General — and armed with its own arsenal of Remington pump-action shotguns and Glock pistols.

As usual, Big Sis's brilliant idea to fix the schools boils down to throwing yet more money down the sinkhole. According to the latest data, America spent more than $600 billion to fund K-12 education in 2011, mostly from state and local taxes. Last year, the feds allocated an estimated $154 billion on education, with a large chunk going to Elementary and Secondary Education Act Title I Grants to Local Education Agencies, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act State Grants, and the Pell Grant program for college students.

Washington already spends more per student (nearly $13,000 per pupil) in both primary and secondary education than any other of the 34 wealthiest countries in the world except for Austria, Luxembourg, Norway and Switzerland, according to analysis of data from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.

Under the Bush administration, the No Child Left Behind behemoth authorized $23 billion a year on intrusive and ineffective federal testing and accountability mandates.

Under the Obama administration, the feds threw $4 billion into the "Race to the Top" racket, $10 billion into an Education Jobs Fund for teachers unions, and $100 billion in pork-stuffed stimulus funding for school programs and initiatives administered by the U.S. Department of Education.

Detroit Public Schools, plagued by massive deficits, financial mismanagement and graft, collected a whopping $530 million of that stimulus slush fund — nearly $50 million of which went to a technology boondoggle that provided 40,000 Asus laptops to students and teachers despite little evidence nationwide that such programs do anything to raise student achievement.

States are spending upwards of $10 billion to implement the bipartisan Common Core racket of testing, textbooks and technology. That's on top of the pre-existing $700 million spent by schools nationwide on other standardized tests and assessments and the $24 billion in annual spending required by the NCLB successor, the bipartisan Every Student Succeeds Act.

Mo' money has only produced mo' problems. American test scores are still abysmal. One in 10 high schools remains a dropout factory. Highly touted improvements in graduation rates, such as those in Alabama, were achieved by abandoning requirements that students pass a high school exit exam.

Detroit's schools, swimming in $3.5 billion of accumulated debt, face bankruptcy in April. The district is now under FBI investigation for a vendor kickback scheme involving the very kind of "experts" — entrenched teachers, self-serving principals, and profligate school officials — whom Clinton would enlist to rescue the schools they are guilty of plundering.

It's government SWAT team business as usual: Destroying the village to "save" it


Bankrupt Mass. dad battles to get student loan debt forgiven

Robert E. Murphy lost his job nearly 16 years ago and says he hasn’t been able to find a new one. Now 65, he has already depleted his retirement savings, which has left him and his wife largely dependent on her $13,200 yearly salary as a teacher’s aide. And a bank is trying to foreclose on their Duxbury home.

Based on these facts, Murphy might seem a sympathetic petitioner for relief from the more than $246,000 he still owes on student loans he borrowed to send his three children to college. But a federal bankruptcy judge denied Murphy’s request, ruling that he has not proven that paying the debt would present an undue hardship.

His case, now pending before the US First Circuit Court of Appeals, is being closely watched across the country because it challenges the standard many courts use to determine when the burden of repaying student loans is too much and comes as more people are turning to the courts for relief.

“If this doesn’t constitute undue hardship, what would?” one of the appeals court judges asked last December during oral arguments in Murphy’s case.

The appeals court postponed a decision on whether to overturn the bankruptcy court’s denial of Murphy’s request to discharge his debt. The panel urged Murphy and Educational Credit Management Corp., a Minnesota company hired by the government to fight Murphy’s bankruptcy complaint, to try to reach a settlement. A report on their progress is due by the end of the month.

The bankruptcy judge found that Murphy might find a job because he is healthy and well-educated, yet commiserated with his situation.

“You’ve raised a case that I think we’ll see a lot of in this court in the next few years, and, that is, people who got to the peak of their career in a way, lost their jobs, and incurred debt to educate their children, and . . . are going to have a hard time in this market,” US Bankruptcy Judge Frank J. Bailey told Murphy during a 2013 hearing, adding, “I’m darn near in that situation myself.”

John Rao, of the Boston-based National Consumer Law Center, said in an interview, “We are starting to see more of these cases where people are asking to have loans discharged in bankruptcy. . . . People have paid more than the principal borrowed and still owe three or four times that because of the way fees and interests are calculated.”

Murphy took out a dozen Parent Plus loans between 2001 and 2007, with original principal of $220,765, plus interest, to send two of his children to Loyola University Maryland and a third to the University of Connecticut and Bridgewater State University. The children, who took out their own loans for undergraduate and graduate study, are not legally responsible for Murphy’s debts.

Murphy, who earned a master’s degree in business administration at Babson College, was earning $165,000 a year as president of a Canton manufacturing company when it moved overseas in 2002. He testified that he launched an exhaustive job search and blamed his inability to find work on his advanced age, a failing economy, and the loss of manufacturing jobs.

After depleting his retirement savings to pay bills — including more than $61,000 toward the student loan debt — he still owed $246,539 when he filed his bankruptcy complaint in 2012.

Congress made it difficult to erase student loan debt in 1978 by requiring proof that repaying was an undue hardship but left it to the courts to define hardship.

Rao contends that most courts are too strict when assessing hardship and require borrowers to show extraordinary circumstances, such as a serious illness, psychiatric problem, or permanent disability.

In a brief filed in support of Murphy by the law center and the National Association of Consumer Bankruptcy Attorneys, Rao urged the appeals court to take a fresh look at what constitutes hardship, arguing that many of today’s borrowers “have already been burdened by the obligations for decades and, if denied a discharge, face a lifetime of crushing debt.”

The US Department of Education said in court filings that the fiscal integrity of the federal education loan program requires people to repay debts unless they are in “the most dire circumstances” and can show they can’t make payments now or in the future.

The nation’s student loan debt currently exceeds $1.2 trillion and, according to statistics released by the government last fall, the percentage of students defaulting on loans within three years of beginning repayment was 11.8 percent. Those who default may have their wages or Social Security checks garnished.

The department has been steering those who have difficulty paying into income-based repayment plans, which may require minimal or no monthly payments. The remainder of the debt is canceled after 25 years.

Critics say the program might benefit those who temporarily can’t pay but is detrimental to those who cannot pay over the long term. Interest is added to the debt during nonpayment periods, and borrowers may face a tax liability after the debt is canceled.

Murphy, who initially represented himself and was appointed a lawyer pro bono by the appeals court, declined to comment on his case.

Parent Plus loans are not eligible for the income-based repayment plan. But, Murphy testified that after he filed his bankruptcy claim, he was advised he would qualify if he consolidated his loans under the Department of Education’s William D. Ford program. Based on his current situation, his monthly payments would be $0.

Murphy said he declined because he estimated that his debt would grow from $247,000 to more than $500,000 over 15 years, as interest accrued, and he could face a potential tax penalty of $10,000 when his debt was forgiven.

Lawyers for Educational Credit Management Corp. disputed Murphy’s calculations.

Most courts rely on one of two tests when defining hardship. The Brunner test, which is most common, was established in a 1987 case involving a New York woman who tried to erase her college debt two months after graduating.

It requires a borrower to show that he can’t maintain a minimal standard of living for himself and his dependents if forced to repay the loan, additional circumstances make it unlikely he’ll be able to pay in the future, and he has made a good faith effort to pay the debt.

Some courts have gone further, requiring that borrowers have a “certainty of hopelessness” or suffer total incapacity.

The second test used by courts, which is similar, is called the “totality of the circumstances” test. It considers a debtor’s past, present, and future financial resources, living expenses, and any other facts and relevant circumstances surrounding each particular bankruptcy case.

Others burdened by student debt have won in court. In December, a bankruptcy judge discharged nearly $50,000 in student loan debt owed by a Fall River couple — the woman is legally blind and her husband is disabled.

In 2014, a Methuen man who was permanently disabled and a Chelsea woman who was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer had their student loan debts discharged by a bankruptcy judge.

Another case that was brought by a Groton couple and closely resembled Murphy’s was dismissed by a bankruptcy judge last year after a settlement was reached. The couple, who borrowed Parent Plus loans totalling $263,756 in principal to send their three children to college and still owed $337,479 — despite paying $98,000 toward the debt — agreed to enter an income-based repayment plan.


Sanders, Socialism, and Schooling

Owing to his enthusiasm for the Soviet Union during the Cold War (he actually spent his honeymoon there!), Bernie Sanders may indeed be morally unfit to be President of the United States, as Independent Institute Senior Fellow Lawrence J. McQuillan argues in The Beacon. According to a recent poll, however, the senator’s socialist credentials pose no problem for one-fourth of the Millennials it surveyed; they may even favor a socialist on principle. Could this attitude have anything to do with the decline of American education? Independent Institute Senior Vice President Mary L. G. Theroux argues that this may indeed be the case.

Since its creation more than three decades ago, the U.S. Department of Education has been a troubled underachiever—at least by the standard of ensuring academic excellence. But there is, of course, more to the story. Citing Charlotte Twight’s article in the Winter 2016 issue of The Independent Review, Theroux suggests that while the agency is a failure when it comes to the three R’s, it may be judged a success by a different standard: the undermining of support for liberty.

“American students,” Theroux writes, “have ‘unlearned’ the concept of liberty during their passage through the government education system—with the result that they have been formed into increasingly compliant subjects of an increasingly powerful state.” The situation is desperate, but not irreversible. “If we want children who can succeed in a global economy that runs on tech, children who embrace and defend individual and civil liberty, who value and help their fellow-man, we’re going to have to educate them ourselves,” Theroux continues. “And that can only be done privately, wholly divorced from government involvement.”


Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Prospects for young people are worse than their parents even after 50 years of sweeping educational reforms, says expert

Surprise, surprise!  Dumbed-down education does nobody any good

The prospects for the 'Millennial generation' is worse than both their parents and their grandparents - despite being better educated, one of Britain's leading sociologists has said.

Dr John Goldthorpe concludes that despite decades of educational reforms and a push for university degrees, social mobility has not improved, and for young people in Britain today, it has worsened.

A recent survey found that about 54 per cent of the country believed young people's lives would be worse than their own generation's, the highest proportion ever recorded.

This has been seconded by Dr Goldthorpe, an emeritus fellow of Nuffield College, Oxford, who argues that educational reforms have done nothing to increase social mobility.

'Successive governments, committed to increasing mobility, have regarded educational policy as the essential means to this end,' Goldthorpe writes in an upcoming lecture, The Observer reports.

'Yet despite all this expansion and reform, inequalities in relative mobility chances have remained little altered.' 

'A situation is emerging that is quite new in modern British history. Young people entering the labour market today face far less favourable mobility prospects than did their parents – or their grandparents.'

This comes after Britain's social mobility tsar warned that the country could be 'permanently divided' because of inequality between the generations.

Alan Milburn, chairman of the Social Mobility and Child Poverty Commission, told the Guardian that a 'wind of change' needed to sweep through the country and highlighted how difficult it was for young people to buy a home.

Former cabinet minister Mr Milburn said the idea that each successive generation would do better than the previous was part of the glue that bound society together.

But research showed that had failed to be the case and instead, the nation was facing an 'existential crisis' as it considered the nature of society, he said.

He said: 'What both the polling and the data suggest is that we may have reached an inflection point which, if these trends continue, we may become a society that is permanently divided.

'Certainly on home ownership, we're heading for a world where rates of home ownership among young people are below 50 per cent for the first time.

'If this trend line continues we'll be there by the end of the decade. It is a wake up and smell the coffee moment.'

Generation Y, also known as Millennials, who were born between the early 1980s and the early 2000s, have faced rising tuition fees and exploding house prices.

Mr Milburn said that without the help of their baby boomer parents, many would not be able to afford a home and that there was a growing divide between those with and without parental help.

The Social Mobility and Child Poverty Commission monitors the progress of the Government's efforts to improve social mobility.

In its most recent State of the Nation report, the commission warned that British society still included 'deep divides', with a wide gulf between the life chances of the rich and poor.


Now Cambridge University college sparks complaints from Japanese students over 'Tokyo to Kyoto'-themed ball

Yet another Cambridge University ball has attracted controversy, after students complained about its Japanese theme.

A number of students have reportedly been angered by the 'Tokyo to Kyoto'-themed May ball, which is being organised by Cambridge's Trinity Hall college later this year.

The controversy surrounding the £90-a-ticket event is the latest example of students taking a militant approach to political correctness and enforcing it on campuses across Britain.

Students of Japanese origin have complained about the Trinity Hall ball, set to be held in June, and have met with the committee, the Sunday Times reports.

The ball committee themselves, say they chose the Japanese theme to 'celebrate the diversity of world culture'. 

The ball's website states that the organisers have 'diligently researched the cultural context', to ensure that they 'provide a self-conscious and holistic representation of all that is great about Japanese urban culture'.

The ball committee added that they have 'been in dialogue with Japanese artists and suppliers to make this experience as genuine as possible.'

This comes just days after an Orient Express-themed May ball was attacked for its 'toxic' racial connotations this week.

The controversy over the £180-a-ticket event at Clare College, Cambridge, is one of several rows over 'cultural appropriation' in the themes of May balls at the university. The Havana Nights ball at Darwin College has also been attacked as offensive.

The furore comes after the Around The World In Eighty Days party at Cambridge's Pembroke College was cancelled over complaints it was racist.

Clare is promoting its ball as a night of 'romance and adventure' in which 'the sights, sounds and smells of this love letter to luxury travel will blend seamlessly'.

But student Ploy Kingchatchaval said: 'They clearly didn't intend for it to be about travel because Orient is such a loaded term.  'The words 'the Orient' still hold these kind of toxic connotations, of commodification and enjoyment of white people at the expense of others.'

Defending the event, the organisers said they intended 'to celebrate – not denigrate – the cultural richness' of stops on the famed route of the train.

Earlier this week, crowds of Oxford University students marched through the streets campaigning for the statue of 19th century colonialist Cecil Rhodes to be removed.

It is part of an ongoing campaign to remove the statue, which is around 4ft tall, is one of six on the front of the Oriel building and has stood there since 1911.

It commemorates the founder of Rhodesia, a revered figure from the days of the British Empire who left a large sum of his fortune to Oxford to fund scholarships for students worldwide.

Famous Rhodes scholars have included astronomer Edwin Hubble, musician Kris Kristofferson and world leaders such as Wasim Sajjad, Tony Abbott and Bill Clinton.

But a number of students, obsessed with political correctness, believe it is a symbol of colonialism that should be shunned and could offend today's multi-cultural student body.

Calls from Oriel started last year, arguing that the mining magnate and founder of Rhodesia was racist - and benefited from African resources at the expense of many South Africans.


Students to be taught Feminism at Melbourne school

Feminism is severely out of touch with reality so this is just brainwashing

Fitzroy High School, located in Melbourne has addressed gender equality and launched a new subject in the curriculum focusing on ‘feminism’. The subject is called ‘Fightback: Addressing Everyday Sexism in Australian Schools’.

The topics that are covered over 30 lessons include: domestic violence, media representation of woman, statistical breakdowns around work and visibility of woman in sport.

The Fitzroy Feminist Collective is a group of students who gather to put up posters around the school and proclaim their frustrations to the school board. Each member of the group has a different reason why they needed feminism as a subject in the school.

For Nia aged 17, she thought the growing stereotype of woman ‘living’ in the kitchen was a concern and for Zsuzsa, it was a lack of recognition for woman in sport.

Teacher in charge of the Fitzroy Feminist Collective group, Briony O’Keeffe says she is trying to get young men and woman to think more critically and engage in fighting sexist behavior on a daily basis around their area.

"We wanted to make sure we didn’t reinforce that and show that gender inequality is just one side of discrimination, there is race and sexuality – and you can experience it at an intersecting basis." says Ms O’Keeffe.

"It’s not teaching kids to be feminists, or a political ideology, it’s teaching kids about gender inequality and that it does exist" said student and group member, Nia Stanford to ABC News.

What has been confusing some of the public is whether they will focus mostly on women and their gender equality or include both sexes and how they are being stereotyped in the media. The last lesson in the course will be acknowledging men and how they are stereotyped in certain aspects.

When writing sources for the website, Ms O’Keeffe’s group has been compared to the American white supremacist movement the "KKK" as men’s rights movement have thought about FHS Feminist Collective poking fun of other men’s movements.


Monday, March 14, 2016

Petition at Columbia University Calling for Divestment from Firms Doing Business With Israel

Scholars for Peace in the Middle East (SPME) strongly condemns a Faculty Petition calling for divestment from firms engaged in business dealings with Israel, signed by over 50 Columbia University professors, in which they collectively “take issue with our financial involvements in institutions associated with the State of Israel’s military occupation of Palestinian lands, continued violations of Palestinian human rights, systematic destruction of life and property, inhumane segregation and systemic forms of discrimination.”

Expressing support of the toxic BDS campaign to promote boycotts, divestment, and sanctions against Israel, the Columbia academics “demand that the University divest from corporations that supply, perpetuate, and profit from a system that has subjugated the Palestinian people for over 68 years. We note that our position unequivocally stands in support of a non-violent movement privileging human rights as the only means toward finding a political resolution.”

The petition also proudly proclaims that the signatories “stand with Columbia University Apartheid Divest, Columbia Students for Justice in Palestine as well as with Jewish Voice for Peace in calling upon the University to take a moral stance against Israel’s violence in all its forms.”

Despite their moral discourse, each of these groups has a history of virulent anti-Israel activism, both on the Columbia campus and elsewhere, and their activities have caused chronic bias against Israel, a distortion of facts about the Middle East, apologies for Arab terror and intractability, and even the spread of anti-Semitism on campuses where the BDS campaign has been relentless and pervasive.

SPME believes that the BDS movement as a whole is contrary to the search for peace, since it represents a form of misguided economic and cognitive warfare. It is in direct opposition to decades of agreements between Israel and Palestinians, in which both sides pledged to negotiate a peaceful settlement and a commitment to a two state solution. By focusing obsessively on Israel, and not on countries where actual human and civil rights abuses exist and where academics are suppressed, the actions of those supporting the BDS campaign are, as former Harvard University President Lawrence H. Summers put it, “anti-Semitic in their effect if not in their intent.”

The faculty signatories of the petition, typically, never mention or acknowledge the fact that Israel has been under siege by its Arab neighbors since the founding of the State, including to the current day where homicidal Palestinians have stabbed, run over, and attempted to murder Israeli civilians in the  “knife Intifada.” (This is what the signers of the petition refer to as “non-violent” resistance.) Instead, without any context and completely ignoring the Arab contribution to the conflict, the petitions systematically singles Israel out for denunciation.

Rather than contributing to peace, the supporters of this petition enlist in the war effort of the Palestinian leadership against Israel and any just settlement: the one-sided invective against Israel replicates Palestinian war propaganda rather than reflecting a serious search for a just peace.

“SPME finds it alarming that professors, who are generally expected to exercise reason and scholarship before making assessments about matters of fact, history, or current events, have come up with such a belligerently judgmental formulation without any reference to the nature of Israel’s foes in this conflict,” said Dr. Asaf Romirowsky, Executive Director of SPME. “The belief that if Israel is stripped of its ability to defend itself that peace can somehow be realized is not only naïve, but dangerous.”

“The Columbia signatories claim to act out of a concern for human rights,” said Dr. Richard Landes, Chair of SPME’s Council of Scholars. “Were they so committed in the region, there are many more serious violators of those rights, including Palestinian rights, than Israel. The same Palestinian leaders who promote hatred of Israel and violent “resistance” also systematically violate the human rights of their own people, including the right of people to dissent from their irredentist ‘resistance.’ And in order to effect such a reversal of priorities, they adopt a narrative that reveals a stunning lack of scholarly integrity.”

“The call to boycott Israeli universities is part of the larger, and more destructive, boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) campaign, and is based on many of its supporters’ desire, not merely to chastise Israel economically and culturally, but to exclude Israeli voices that might contradict the Manichaean narrative, and work towards dismantling Israel completely,” said Dr. Richard L. Cravatts, president of SPME. “By joining in this world-wide campaign of the demonization and delegitimization of Israel, the Columbia University professors who signed this statement demonstrate a remarkable lack of intellectual integrity combined with a worrisome enthusiasm for some of the most regressive political forces on the planet.”


UK: A £90m zombie school with NO pupils and a financial scandal that will blight all our children's lives

Some of the stars of Liverpool FC were making a television advert this week, promoting the no-doubt invigorating products of their club sponsor, Nivea Men.

The setting was a school in the deprived south Liverpool suburb of Speke, but there were no eager young faces pressed up against the gymnasium windows trying to catch a glimpse of their heroes slapping on deodorant and shaving balm for the cameras. Parklands High School is perfect for discreet filming, as quiet as a school can be, an educational Mary Celeste, in fact.

Laboratories, woodwork rooms, domestic science kitchens all lie empty, awaiting lessons that will never take place. The long, wide, pristine corridors of this imposing complex, completed only 12 years ago, echo only to the sound of the 30 or so full and part-time maintenance staff charged with preventing it from sliding into dereliction.

Parklands shut because it was a thoroughly bad school in academic terms, one of the worst — if not the worst — in the UK. In 2007, one per cent of its pupils managed to achieve five GCSEs, including English and mathematics, at grade C and above. Yes, that’s right — one per cent.

That figure would improve (how could it not?) over the next six years, but only from the truly appalling to the merely dismal.

Yvonne Sharples, the headteacher brought in to rescue Parklands in 2008, was declared the darling of the 2011 Labour Party conference when she used her speech to chastise Michael Gove, then Education Secretary, for denigrating poorly performing schools. But that cut no ice with Ofsted, which placed Parklands in special measures following an inspection in December 2013.

That year, Parklands was still in the lowest one per cent of maintained schools in England. As the school entered its death throes, there were a mere 170 pupils whose parents still saw fit to send them there, inhabiting an institution designed for 900. Good riddance, then, to Parklands High, an institution rightly mourned by few.

Except, of course, that this blue, peach and white elephant of a building, and its equally gigantic energy requirements, isn’t going anywhere.

And when the final bill for its construction and maintenance drops through the letter box in April 2028, it will have cost the council taxpayers of Liverpool, and taxpayers nationally, somewhere not far away from £90 million. And this staggering sum is for a complex — Parklands includes a public library, leisure centre and other council facilities — that cost only £22 million to actually build!

The repayment figures for this ‘zombie’ school — scandalously empty in an era of increasingly scarce classroom space due to huge levels of immigration — are eye-watering.

The building and its attached facilities will cost Liverpool City Council and central government £4.3 million in the year to April, a huge drain on a municipal budget already under severe pressure.

There is much more pain to come. In the next four financial years, beginning next month, the total bill for Parklands will be £17.9 million. Then, in the five years after that, beginning April 2020, the bill will total £24 million. Only then will the pain ease slightly. The bill for the last three years of debt repayment will total a ‘mere’ £12.7 million. Once these bills are finally paid off, the council will own the school.

But why should there be these ‘pay-day loan’ levels of repayment? Parklands, like scores of schools and hospitals across the country, was built with what might be called ‘funny money’, under a scheme called the Private Finance Initiative (PFI). Put at its simplest, PFI involved government and councils using private companies to build and manage new public facilities, such as schools and hospitals, in a ‘buy-now-but-pay-later’ arrangement.

The companies used their own investors’ money to construct buildings in a deal that, conveniently for the politicians, failed to show up on the national balance sheet as capital borrowing and so, at the time, were not included in Britain’s deficit or debt figures which, as we all know, are ruinously high.

These funds were to be paid back over a period of typically 25 to 30 years, together with management fees and interest. A mortgage, if you will, but one with a series of rises built into repayments.

In the short-term — the only term that matters to politicians trying to attain or retain power — PFI was the chicken that laid the golden egg. Educational and health facilities that the Treasury had deemed unaffordable sprouted across the land.

John Major was responsible for introducing PFI into Britain, but it was Tony Blair and his Chancellor, Gordon Brown, who became its most ardent devotees. They had promised the rebuilding or refurbishment of virtually every school in the country, and PFI was a way of honouring this pledge without damaging the debit and credit books. But now, inevitably, the PFI chicken is coming home to roost.

Debt is debt is debt, no matter its fancy title. And while canny private sector businessmen tend to be good at drafting profitable contracts, civil servants and town hall officers tend to be the opposite. Governments can borrow more cheaply than any other body because they almost never default, but the interest agreed on PFI deals rarely reflected this financial muscle and was often ridiculously over-generous.

PFI contracts provided government with certainty regarding repayments over the long term, but in an era of chronically low interest rates they now represent awful value for money. Estimates about the cost to the nation of PFI vary, but the final bill could be near to £300 billion, with repayments peaking in 2017-18 at £10 billion.

As of the end of the financial year 2014/15, the Government had paid about £7.5 billion towards existing PFI contracts for schools — on assets worth approximately £8 billion. By the end of the contracts, those repayments will total £30 billion, almost four times the value of the assets being paid for.

Maintenance charges provided a second bonanza, too, for PFI contractors, who often set up subsidiary firms to manage the schools and hospitals they’d built. And every aspect of that management was governed by often lunatic regulations about costing.

Examples of the shocking amounts charged include an episode at County Durham and Darlington NHS Trust, which had to pay £525 to move three beds.

Hull and East Yorkshire Hospitals Trust paid out £8,450 to install a dishwasher, while North Staffordshire Trust was charged an incredible £13,704 to install three lights in the garden. North Cumbria University Hospital Trust, meanwhile, had to pay its PFI contractor for maintenance work which included £466 to replace a light fitting, and £184 to install a bell in reception.

Plus, of course, there are Parklands school’s exorbitant maintenance charges. Of the £4.3 million owing in the year to next month, £2 million is simply for keeping the complex running, even without any pupils.

Lord Storey believes a way should have been found to keep Parklands open. ‘It is not beyond the wit of man to come up with an education solution, be it an academy or whatever,’ he says. ‘It was the wrong decision to close it.’


Cruz: Expand Charter Schools, Home Schools, Private Schools and Vouchers

"The most important reform we can do in education after getting the federal government out of it is expand school choice," Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) said at Thursday's CNN-hosted debate at the University of Miami. He called for the expansion of charter schools, home schooling, vouchers and scholarships.

"Common Core is a disaster," Cruz said, referring to the education standards the Obama administration has pressed the states to adopt.

"And if I am elected president, in the first days as president, I will direct the Department of Education that Common Core ends that day."

Cruz said the Obama administration abused its executive power by using federal funds "to effectively blackmail and force the states to adopt Common Core. Now, the one silver lining of Obama abusing executive power is that everything done with executive power can be undone with executive power, and I intend to do that," he said.

"Beyond that, though, I intend to work to abolish the federal Department of Education and send education back to the states and back to the local governments.

"And let me say finally, the most important reform we can do in education after getting the federal government out of it, is expand school choice -- expand charter schools and home schools and private schools and vouchers, and scholarships. And give every child -- African American, Hispanic -- every child in need an opportunity to access to a quality education."

Trump turns to Carson

Donald Trump said he also opposes Common Core: "I want local education," Trump said. "I want the parents, and I want all of the teachers, and I want everybody to get together around a school and to make education great."

Trump hinted that if he's elected, he'll make room for his former rival Dr. Ben Carson in his cabinet.

"I was with Dr. Ben Carson today, who is endorsing me, by the way, tomorrow morning, and he is...We were talking. We spoke for over an hour on education. And he has such a great handle on it. He wants competitive schools. He wants a lot of different things that are terrific, including charter schools, by the way, that the unions are fighting like crazy. But charter schools work and they work very well.

"So there are a lot of things. But I'm going to have Ben very involved with education, something that's an expertise of his."


Sunday, March 13, 2016

Can Our Colleges Be Saved?

The public is steadily losing confidence in undergraduate education, given that we hear constantly about how poorly educated are today’s graduates and how few well-paying jobs await them.

The cost of college is a national scandal. Collective student loan debt in America is about $1.2 trillion. Campus political correctness is now daily news.

How could higher education be held accountable and thereby be reformed?

Just as expensive new roofs are not supposed to leak, $100,000 educations should not leave students unprepared for the real world upon graduation. Rain and snow calibrate the effectiveness of a roofer’s work, but how does society know whether students' expensive investments in their professors and courses have led to any quantifiable knowledge?

SAT and ACT examinations originated in the 1920s and 1960s, respectively, as meritocratic ways to allow applicants from less prestigious high schools and from minority groups to be assessed on their aptitude for college — without the old-boy, establishment prejudices of class, gender and race. Would such blind exams also work in reverse as national college exit tests? Could bachelor’s degrees be predicated on certifying that graduates possess a minimum level of common knowledge?

Lawyers with degrees can only practice after passing bar exams. Doctors cannot practice medicine upon the completion of M.D. degrees unless they are board certified. Why can’t undergraduate degrees likewise be certified? One can certainly imagine the ensuring hysteria.

What would happen if some students from less prestigious state schools graduated from college with higher exit-test scores than the majority of Harvard and Yale graduates? What if students still did not test any higher in analytics and vocabulary after thousands of dollars and several years of lectures and classroom hours?

Would schools then cut back on “studies” courses, the number of administrators or lavish recreational facilities to help ensure that students first and foremost mastered a classical body of common knowledge? Would administrators be forced to acknowledge that their campuses had price-gouged students but imparted to them little in return?

Public corporations open their books to shareholders. Shouldn’t publicly supported colleges and tax-exempt private universities do the same for taxpayers and tuition-paying students? Shouldn’t the public know how much of their contributions are allotted for particular academic departments, sports programs and study centers?

Take out a car or home loan, and there are pages of federal regulations protecting the borrower. Why not give students the same truth-in-advertising protections with the liabilities they will incur?

Schools should inform all enrollees in advance of the prorated costs for a four-, five- or six-year education, including warnings about compounded interest on their debt.

Each school should publicize the percentage of its students who found employment in their particular area of studies — and after how long, and at what salary. Majoring in media studies is fine, but teenagers entering college should be warned that such jobs have become far more scarce than jobs in engineering or accounting.

The average pay associated with a particular major should be posted. Surely an 18-year-old student should have as much information about borrowing for an education as she does about going into far less debt for a car loan.

Shouldn’t campus diversity also be defined far more broadly?

Campuses need not just different races, ethnicities and religions to enrich their intellectual landscapes, but exposure to a wide variety of political and social views as well.

The country is divided 50/50 on most hot-button issues, not 95/5 as it is so often on campus. Life after college is about hearing and tolerating views one doesn’t agree with — not about shouting down dissenting viewpoints in adolescent fashion, or demanding to feel always reaffirmed rather than occasionally uncomfortable.

Why make campuses exempt from realities commonly found elsewhere?

Tech graduates will enter the workplace without guarantees of lifetime tenure at Google. There will be no “safe spaces” for supervisors at GM or Ford where others of a different race cannot enter. Employees at the Department of Veterans Affairs or NASA cannot expect their complaints and accusations to proceed by suspending the due process and free-speech rights of the accused.

No boss at Citibank will issue trigger warnings before ordering subordinates to work harder. Do not tell your supervisor at Comcast that his advice to pick up the pace was a microaggression. Try shouting down or otherwise disrupting a presenter of a new smart-phone product line whom you do not like and see what happens.

Saving the campus from itself is not about doing much that is new or different.

Instead, the challenge is simply forcing colleges that have gone rogue to grow up and to return to the rules and regulations that everyone else follows — and which they should have long ago abided by as well.


Federal Student Aid Is Responsible for Ever-Increasing College Tuition Costs

A consensus is growing that federal student aid, however well-intentioned, is directly responsible for increases in college tuition over the past few decades. One study estimates that expansions of federal student aid roughly doubled tuition costs relative to a baseline, while another finds that each dollar of subsidized Stafford student loans boost tuition by 65 cents. The logic is simple: when students have access to a generous line of credit, colleges will raise their prices because their students can easily borrow the money to pay them.

In theory, since there is a cap on how much students may borrow through the Stafford student loan program (the most common form of student loan), there should be an upper limit to how much federal student aid can fuel tuition increases. Currently, the aggregate cap stands at $31,000 for undergraduate dependent students. But as the cost of college approaches this cap, more and more borrowers may take advantage of a back door—the Parent Loans for Undergraduate Students (PLUS) program.

PLUS loans are loans which the federal government makes to the parents of dependent undergraduate students to finance the students' tuition. (Independent graduate students are also eligible.) They carry a higher interest rate (6.8 percent) than Stafford loans, which have a rate of 4.3 percent for undergraduates. Parents are eligible if they or an "endorser" can pass a basic credit check. Most importantly, there is effectively no credit limit—parents may borrow up to their student's cost of attendance.

A cap on federal student aid is a reliable, if crude, way to slow tuition increases at institutions of higher learning. But this cap will be ineffective as long as the PLUS program exists. If dependent students hit the cap on Stafford loans, they can use the parent PLUS backdoor—and colleges will be more than happy to show them the way.

This is already occurring. Since the 1995-96 school year, the number of borrowers on the parent PLUS program has more than doubled to 716,000. The total amount disbursed has more than tripled in real terms, to almost $11 billion. While the average loan disbursement per borrower has remained roughly constant for Stafford loans, it has soared for PLUS loans—60 percent since 1995. When policymakers place no limit on a taxpayer-funded line of credit, they should not be surprised at the result.

As average tuition rises, more students reach the cap on Stafford borrowing, and more must take out PLUS loans. In 1995, 12 percent of total federal loans for undergraduate study were made under the PLUS program, compared to 17 percent today. The rate of PLUS borrowing is highly sensitive to the Stafford loan cap. In 2007, Congress raised the cap on Stafford loans for dependent students by roughly 30 percent. The share of undergraduate disbursements under the PLUS program fell from 21 percent in 2007 to 13 percent in 2010. It is rising again, as inflation erodes the value of the Stafford cap.

Aside from increasing the cost of college, PLUS loans have other distortionary effects. The 6.8 percent interest rate is almost certainly below what might be offered on the private market, meaning PLUS loans function as a subsidy for higher education. While some subsidy might be optimal (higher education may have positive externalities), an unlimited one is not, and it impedes the development of well-functioning private markets.

Why? Middle- and upper-class parents of undergraduate students will easily pass a credit check and be able to obtain a PLUS loan, bypassing private lenders altogether. Poorer parents often will not. Few private lenders will take a chance on low-income students, even highly promising ones, without the ability to lend to wealthier students to balance out the risk.

Private financing arrangements can impose more accountability on colleges to raise graduation rates and help students onto more promising career paths. The existence of PLUS loans crowds out such arrangements. Moreover, many of the most promising frameworks for private finance, such as income-share agreements, still lack a legal and regulatory framework in which to operate.

While it may be politically infeasible to touch widely-used Stafford loans for the time being, Congress should act on PLUS loans while they still comprise a relatively small share of disbursements. Policymakers should put a cap on disbursements, if not eliminate the program entirely. Additionally, private financing options should be expanded—indeed, the rather limited set of current PLUS loan borrowers could be a useful test-drive for more universal private programs in the future.

However, absent student loan reform, expect to see more and more PLUS loans given out in the future. In time, this relatively obscure government program could become a greater government liability. All the while, tuition will go up and up.


Students find more awareness with later starts

But do they learn any more?  No attempt below to answer that

For decades, hundreds of bleary-eyed students across the Outer Cape scrambled to beat the 7:25 a.m. opening bell at Nauset Regional High School. Many set out before sunrise, coffee in hand, and traveled up to 45 minutes. Then they struggled to stay awake in class.

“At one point, we asked teachers not to turn off lights or show movies, because we didn’t want students to fall back to sleep,” said Tom Conrad, the former principal, now superintendent.

So in a state where most high schools start before 8 a.m., Nauset school officials in 2012 did the unthinkable: They pushed their start time back to 8:35 a.m., giving students an extra hour to sleep in.

The results were instantaneous, administrators say. More students showed up to school refreshed. Tardiness fell by 35 percent, and the number of Ds and Fs dropped by half.

Now, several high schools across Massachusetts are exploring whether to follow suit. The push for later start times is emerging in such districts as Belmont, Boston, Masconomet, Mashpee, Newton, and Wayland. The state Legislature is considering a bill to study the issue statewide.

For skeptics, the movement might seem like pandering to the whims of undisciplined teenagers who want extra Zs. But an increasing body of research has documented a shift in the biology of teenagers that delays their sleep and wake-up cycles by about two hours, pushing off their natural bedtime to 11 p.m. or later. That, in turn, means that if they need to get to school at the crack of dawn, they will routinely get only five or six hours of sleep.

The lack of adequate shut-eye can have detrimental effects on the health and academic performance of teenagers, increasing their risks for early morning car crashes, suicidal tendencies, depression, binge drinking, drug overdoses, and bad grades, research has shown. Several studies in recent years have recommended starting high school at 8:30 a.m. or later, saying students should get between 8.5 and 9.5 hours of sleep per night — not the 6 hours that is often the case.

Yet efforts in other districts to delay start times have often been stymied. Critics say the change creates conflicts with sports schedules and afterschool programs, leaves students without enough time for afterschool jobs, and could interfere with bus schedules for elementary-school students who typically get out later in the afternoon.

Many of the nearly 1,000 students who attend Nauset Regional High School, tucked within the Cape Cod National Seashore, agree that starting school later is better, even though it pushes dismissal to 3 p.m.

“I’m not a morning person,” Mason Swift, 17, a senior who plays on the school’s baseball team, said recently. “If I had to be here for 7:30, I would be asleep for the whole first block” of classes.

Massachusetts has one of the earliest start times for secondary school students in the nation, according to a report last year by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. On average, the morning bell for middle and high schools in Massachusetts rings at 7:53 a.m. — 10 minutes earlier than the national average — while less than 12 percent of all middle and high schools statewide start at 8:30 a.m. or later, according to the report.

The CDC has joined a growing number of national organizations calling for later start times for both high school and middle school students. Those organizations include the American Academy of Pediatrics, the National Sleep Foundation, and the nation’s largest teachers union, the National Education Association.

Owens, of Boston Children’s Hospital, said many school systems have their schedules upside down, arguing that elementary school students, who typically have the later start times, should be the ones going to school early because they are the “morning larks.”

A pre-dawn start

Shortly after 6, as the first rays of dawn illuminated the convenience stores, takeout restaurants, and doughnut shops in Maverick Square in East Boston, 17-year-old Koraliz Cruz stepped inside the glass entryway to the Blue Line. Cruz, with a tote bag slung over her shoulder, had been up for more than an hour. This was the beginning of her hourlong daily commute to Boston Latin Academy in Dorchester that has her racing to meet a 7:20 a.m. opening bell.

She must rely on public transit because the school system does not bus high school students, leaving her with a commute rife with potential delays. From the Blue Line, she changes to the Orange Line, then catches an MBTA bus in Roxbury for the final leg of the trip on traffic-clogged streets.

Many of Boston’s approximately three dozen high schools have among the earliest start times in the state.

“I usually get five or six hours of sleep,” said Cruz, explaining that four hours of homework kept her up until 11 the previous night. She said she almost always walks to the T with a friend because the neighborhood is not safe, especially before sunrise.

Cruz, a member of the cheerleading team, wishes school started at least an hour later, adding, “I usually don’t wake up until third or fourth period.”

Part of Cruz’s slowness to wake up comes down to biology.

Mary Carskadon at the Sleep Research Laboratory at Bradley Hospital and at Brown University has been leading research into the sleeping habits of teenagers for decades. Carskadon and her team have found that teenage brains secrete melatonin — a hormone that causes drowsiness — around 11 p.m., about two hours later than younger kids.

The delay in sleep then ripples into the morning hours, often causing students to miss REM episodes, the deepest level of sleep needed to recharge their batteries, because their alarm clocks go off first or a parent bangs on their bedroom door.

Shifting school start times to 8:30 or later can bring about powerful change to students’ academic performance and overall health, according to a study by the Center for Applied Research and Educational Improvement at the University of Minnesota, which examined eight schools with later start times in Minnesota, Colorado, and Wyoming.

The later times allowed about 60 percent of students to get at least eight hours of sleep, and the schools saw increases in standardized test scores and attendance rates and a decrease in tardiness, the study said. It also found that the number of car crashes involving teen drivers dropped 70 percent after a school shifted its start time from 7:35 a.m. to 8:55 a.m.

This kind of research has spurred many local school systems or grass-roots parent organizations to reexamine start times.

The Newton School Committee is expected to select from a number of proposals this spring for later starts at the city’s two high schools as early as 2017 to help reduce student stress, which can be elevated by exhaustion. A parent group is pushing for schools to begin at 9 a.m. instead of 7:50 a.m. at Newton North and 7:40 a.m. at Newton South.

In Mashpee, a panel of educators, parents, and school leaders last month recommended starting the Cape town’s high school an hour later, 8:30 a.m., beginning fall 2017.

And the Masconomet Regional School System, made up of Boxford, Middleton, and Topsfield, is studying later start times for its middle and high schools.

But a group of Boston Latin Academy parents, who have been pushing for a later start time, are facing an uphill battle, even though a survey of students that parents conducted last year found that 40 percent of respondents got less than six hours of sleep a night. Only a handful of Boston public high schools start after 8:30 a.m.

“We believe this is a public health issue,” said Deborah Putnam, one of the Latin Academy parents heading the effort.

Superintendent Tommy Chang declined to comment through a spokesman. In a statement, the School Department said Chang is “listening to parents and students on all sides of the debate” but added “there is no plan in Boston to begin high school classes later in the morning.”

Researchers caution that delaying school start times is not a silver bullet. Some teenagers are exhausted because of other reasons, such as compulsively using their smartphones late into the night, staying up to watch television shows or movies, drinking too much caffeine, or cramming too many extracurricular activities into their days.

Logistics and logic

The Nauset Regional School District — which consists of Eastham, Brewster, Orleans, and Wellfleet — spent years debating whether to shift its longstanding 7:25 a.m. start time. Ultimately the research into the benefits of a later start time proved to be too persuasive to ignore.

The biggest challenge was transportation because Nauset buses students at all grade levels and schools shared a limited number of buses.

To accommodate an 8:35 a.m. start at the high school, officials had to move the start time of the elementary school, which had opened around that same time, to 7:45 a.m. They also moved back the middle school start time by a half hour to 8:30 a.m. so those students could share buses with the high school students.

The broad changes, while benefiting the high school, caused tardiness to rise temporarily in the elementary and middle schools as families adjusted to the earlier start times. The school system also never achieved transportation savings by consolidating the middle and high school bus routes.

But the impact on sports was not as significant as school officials initially anticipated. Neighboring school systems have been accommodating in scheduling games later in the day or on Saturdays, and several student athletes say sleeping later in the morning far outweighs the late afternoon practices and games.

“It’s easier to get a good night of sleep,” said Paul Prue, 18, a senior who plays baseball and says he gets about eight hours of sleep.

Not all Nauset students embrace a later start. Branden Patterson, 17, and a group of his friends show up to school early most mornings, drink coffee in their pickup trucks, and listen to country music while they wait until classes begin.

“Starting at 7:30 would be awesome,” said Patterson, a senior, noting that an earlier dismissal would give him more time to work at a local fish market.

But Mark Mathison, a math and science teacher who specializes in teaching students with disabilities, said the later start time appears to have helped many of his students.

“Trying to motivate those students at 7:30 in the morning was tough,” said Mathison, who also is president of the teachers union. “But now they seem more alert and awake.”