Friday, July 01, 2016

Make College Cheaper by Cutting Administrative Costs


The greatest problem with most universities today is that tuition is much too high, forcing an entire generation of students into long-term debt-servitude. Total student loans now exceed $1.2 trillion, and millions of students will probably never be able to pay them off.

During the mid-1970s, tuition at UCLA, Berkeley, and the other UC campuses was only $630 per year. Now the annual cost averages around $15,000, having increased many times faster than inflation.

An important factor has been the huge rise in educational expenses. Undergraduates now enjoy four years of access to nicer food, fancier dormitories, and Olympic-quality swimming pools, but must then spend 10 or 20 years paying back the crippling student loans that covered those temporary luxuries.

However, the biggest factor in rising expenses has probably been the huge growth in the administrative staff. A couple of decades ago there was one administrator for every two faculty members, and now the numbers are roughly equal. Doubling the number of these non-teaching administrators, some of whom receive outrageous salaries, explains where much of the extra money has been going.
One way of cutting tuition would be to persuade the state legislatures in California and around the country to allocate many billions of additional taxpayer dollars to increase public subsidies to their state colleges and universities. But most government budgets are very tight, so this seems unlikely to happen.

Therefore, the only apparent means of substantially lowering tuition is to drastically cut the expenses, especially those unnecessary administrative costs. Liberals and conservatives should unite behind this important political project, backed by the millions of students who desperately need cuts in their extremely high college tuition.



Brain Training Does Not Improve Academic Outcomes in Kids

Anita Slomski

Training programs designed to enhance working memory are popular methods to boost academic performance in young children with learning disabilities, despite a lack of evidence of long-term benefits. Researchers evaluated the computerized Cogmed Working Memory Training program, the most widely used working memory intervention, and found there was no improvement in academic outcomes after the intervention was given to children with low working memory

JAMA. 2016;315(24):2656. doi:10.1001/jama.2016.7816

More snowflakes -- or just flakes -- in British universities

Pro-EU students claim they are so upset with the result of the Brexit vote that they have been left depressed and have a 'constant sick feeling'.

Some fanatical Remain supporters say they are 'grieving for our loss of cultural enrichment' - while others fear the stress could cause them to fail their exams.

And others blame the older generations for 'ruining their future' by opting for Leave even though the long-term effects will only be experienced by young people.

Around 75 per cent of voters under 25 opted for Britain to stay in the European Union, making them far more pro-EU than any other age group.

However, only a third of young people actually bothered to turn out to the polls despite the huge impact the result of the vote will have on their futures.

In the wake of the shock vote, hundreds of students took to the internet to complain about what happened.

A thread on popular forum The Student Room entitled 'Does anyone else feel genuinely depressed about Brexit?' has had around 300 replies.

One student wrote: 'I've felt so down all day because of this, and just have this constant sick feeling in my stomach.  'I genuinely feel like I'm grieving. I feel like I'm grieving for our growing economy (slow but steady). I'm grieving for our loss of cultural enrichment.'

Another added: 'Took about an hour for my hands to stop shaking, and for my knees to return to some semblance of working order after I saw the result.'

Although some took care not to blame Leave voters for their upset, other were more blunt in their assessment.

One complained: 'I have felt sick all day, and ashamed. And angry, with special little peaks of rage dedicated to the claptrap by degrees either ignorant, racist or both, that leavers have peddled as their "reasons".'

Other students suggested that the political turmoil had affected their preparation for exams and insisted they deserved extra marks because they were so upset.

One wrote: 'Can I class Brexit as a traumatic event when fail my exams next week? Because honestly I'm so distracted now because of it.' Another said: 'I wonder if I can get special consideration for my Further Maths and Physics exams today because I was stressed about Brexit?'

A number of students have expressed fears that Brexit will prevent them from taking courses abroad, and expressed fears that British universities could see their funding squeezed.

Most university bosses came out in favour of a Remain vote, because of the EU grants which may now be in doubt after the vote to leave.

Matthew Sadd, who is studying a Master's in chemistry at Southampton University, said today: 'I'm very worried about my future career and study prospects because I want to continue to study, perhaps take a PhD. 'I now feel with Brexit my ability to go to further into the world of research has been severely limited.  'My options are so much more limited and that really infuriates me.'

Kingston University undergraduate Harriet King added: 'The thing that really got to me is why so many people voted leave - a failed misrepresentation against immigration.

'Immigration, both economic migrants and refugees, bring so much positivity to this country. 'In my opinion the free movement of people is the most important thing in the world, and a Brexit puts a hold on this.'

Simone Nielsen, a Danish student who is about to start a graduate degree at University College London, said she is now planning to leave the country in a year's time.

'I think a lot of Europeans feel very unwelcome now,' she said. 'My boyfriend and I had planned to stay here afterwards, but now we've decided to move to a place that actually wants us there.'


Thursday, June 30, 2016

Hillary Clinton: 'Let's Set the Goal of Making College Debt-Free for Everyone'

Setting a goal does nothing of itself. It's just propaganda

"Let's set the goal of making college debt-free for everyone," Clinton said, without giving details.

In her remarks, she pointed to one of her own campaign volunteers: "Let's make it right for young people, like Erica Roitblat in West Lake (Ohio)," Clinton said.

"She dreamed her whole life of going to Ohio University in Athens. But the housing crash in 2008 wiped out her parents' savings and their small business. So to get her college degree at a public university, Erica wound up $100,000 in debt. We cannot let this student debt crisis continue; we have got to give hard-working students and families relief.

"And you know what Erica is doing now?" Clinton continued. "She is volunteering for our campaign and working to elect Democrats across Ohio."

(So, according to Mrs. Clinton, a young women with $100,000 in student debt is working for no money.)

Clinton told the crowd she got into the presidential race "because I wanted to even the odds for people who have the odds stacked against them. And this is not a time for half measures," she said.

She laid out "five ambitious goals" for the economy, including goal number two:

"Let's set the goal of making college debt-free for everyone, like Erica," Clinton said.

"And let's provide debt relief -- let's provide debt relief as soon as we can, as soon as we start to work, Elizabeth," Clinton said, addressing Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) who was campaigning with her.

"We'll take the day off for the inauguration, and then the Senate, the Congress, the White House, we're going to get to work to give students and their families relief from this debt."

On his Monday talk-radio program, conservative host Rush Limbaugh predicted that Clinton plans to forgive all outstanding student loans.

"I'm going to make a prediction to you," Limbaugh said. "And I've been expecting this for a long time. I think, at some point in this campaign, Hillary is going to propose forgiving all outstanding student loans. 

"She got close to it today (Monday) by saying it was unconscionable or outrageous that students should incur so much debt just trying to get an education. You mark my words.  And Obama and the Democrats run the student loan program now. So, at just the right time, they can announce a plan to forgive all student loans. You wait.  Don't be surprised."

Clinton's rival Bernie Sanders campaigned on a promise of free college tuition for everyone: "I'm going to have a tax on Wall Street speculation to make certain that public colleges and universities in America are tuition free," Sanders said at the Democrat debate on Dec. 20, 2015.

Clinton told the same debate, "I have debt-free tuition plans, free community college plans, getting student debt down." At the time, she directed people to the "New College Compact" found on her campaign website.

That compact says:

-- Students should never have to borrow to pay for tuition, books, and fees to attend a four-year public college in their state under the New College Compact. Pell Grants are not included in the calculation of no-debt-tuition, so Pell recipients will be able to use their grants fully for living expenses. Students at community college will receive free tuition.

-- Students will do their part by contributing their earnings from working 10 hours a week.

-- Families will do their part by making an affordable and realistic family contribution.

-- The federal government will make a major investment in the New College Compact by providing grants to states that commit to these goals, and by cutting interest rates on loans.

-- States will have to step up and meet their obligation to invest in higher education by maintaining current levels of higher education funding and reinvesting over time.

-- Colleges and universities will be accountable for improving outcomes and controlling costs to ensure that tuition is affordable and that students who invest in college leave with a degree.

-- We will encourage innovators who design imaginative new ways of providing a valuable college education to students—while cracking down on abusive practices that burden students with debt without value.

-- A $25 billion fund will support HBCUs (traditionally black schools), HSIs (Hispanic schools), and other MSIs (minority serving institutions) serving a high percentage of Pell Grant recipients to help lower the cost of attendance and improve student outcomes at low-cost, modest-endowment nonprofit private schools.


Dept. of Ed Offers Guidelines on Avoiding 'Underrepresentation' of Sexes in Careet & Tech Programs

The U.S. Department of Education (DOE) has sent a “Dear Colleague” letter to guide educational institutions offering career and technical programs on how to ensure that all students are given equal opportunities to succeed regardless of their gender.

The letter notes that even though “disproportionate enrollment” is not against federal law, institutions that receive federal funding “must conduct their admission, recruitment, and counseling practices in a nondiscriminatory manner” and address “any unlawful sex discrimination and sex stereotypes in their policies and practices.”

As examples, the letter points out that underrepresentation of women in CTE (career and technical) programs is a potential factor in the gender pay gap. Less than two percent of plumbers and less than three percent of electricians are women, DOE claims.

On the other hand, CTE programs that train students for careers in childcare and cosmetology are disproportionately filled by women, with females making up 90 percent of the workforce in these traditionally low-paying fields.

The DOE thinks that “discouraging men and boys” from fields that are “non-traditional for their sex” is a problem as well.

Since fewer men are enrolled in CTE programs for nursing and education, they make up a minority of these workforces. Less than three percent of early childhood education teachers are men, and males comprise just 10 percent of nurses and medical assistants.

DOE says it wants career and technical education (CTE) programs to be more gender-inclusive and increase “overall participation” in “fields where one sex is underrepresented.”

“As the father of two daughters, I want my girls - and all young women in this country - to have access to the careers of their dreams, no matter the path,” U.S. Secretary of Education John B. King, Jr. said in a June 15 statement. “Career and technical education is not just about preparing some students for successful lives and careers, it’s about giving all students the tools to succeed.”

According to the Association for Career and Technical Education, CTE “prepares students to be college and career ready by providing core academic skills, employability skills, and technical, job-specific skills.” CTE uses high schools, career centers, and community and four-year colleges to guide students down a variety of career paths.

In the letter, The DOE offers several ways to end “disproportionate enrollment” in career and technical fields.  

When promoting their programs, institutions must not “create or perpetuate stereotypes.” Instead, they should try to “portray males or females in programs and occupations in which these groups traditionally have not been represented.”

Moreover, when admitting students, institutions cannot use “any test or criterion” that “has a disproportionately adverse effect on individuals of one sex.” Counseling programs must be non-discriminatory as well, as counselors cannot give students career advice based on their gender.

In accordance with Title IX, institutions have to explicitly state that they will not discriminate based on gender. They also have to designate a “Title IX Coordinator” to monitor and prevent potential discrimination.

Finally, the letter urges educational institutions to prevent sex-based harassment, and to treat students and applicants equally regardless of whether they are married, pregnant or have children.

The letter notes a potential situation in which an advanced manufacturing program will not allow pregnant women to take a machine lab course because of the danger involved.

However, DOE states that this would be a violation of Title IX which “prohibits schools from excluding students from classes based on pregnancy.”

On June 17, the Department of Education announced that ten schools were the prizewinners in the CTE Makeover Program, which called “on high schools to design makerspaces that strengthen next-generation career and technical skills.” As a prize, each school received $20,000 cash to improve their its CTE program.

Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights Catherine E. Llahamon and Acting Assistant Secretary for Career, Technical, and Adult Education Johan E. Ulvin both think that the guidelines will help reduce gender discrimination in CTE programs.

“Ensuring equitable access to CTE programs by eliminating sex discrimination supports a pathway to high-skill, high-wage, and high-demand jobs for all learners, free from stereotype and consistent with our nation’s civil rights laws,” Llahamon said in the press release.

Ulvin added that “this guidance will improve equitable access, participation, completion and post-program outcomes in CTE by discouraging discriminatory practices and encouraging school communities to take proactive steps to expand participation of students in nontraditional fields.”


The Fraud Goes On

Thomas Sowell

Last week the Supreme Court of the United States voted that President Obama exceeded his authority when he granted exemptions from the immigration laws passed by Congress.

But the Supreme Court also exceeded its own authority by granting the University of Texas an exemption from the Constitution’s requirement of “equal protection of the laws,” by voting that racial preferences for student admissions were legal.

Supreme Court decisions in affirmative action cases are the longest running fraud since the 1896 decision upholding racial segregation laws in the Jim Crow South, on grounds that “separate but equal” facilities were consistent with the Constitution. Everybody knew that those facilities were separate but by no means equal. Nevertheless, this charade lasted until 1954.

The Supreme Court’s affirmative action cases have now lasted since 1974 when, in the case of “DeFunis v. Odegaard,” the Court voted 5 to 4 that this particular case was moot, which spared the justices from having to vote on its merits.

While the 1896 “separate but equal” decision lasted 58 years, the Supreme Court’s affirmative action cases have now had 42 years of evasion, sophistry and fraud, with no end in sight.

One sign of the erosion of principles over the years is that even one of the Court’s most liberal judicial activists, Justice William O. Douglas, could not stomach affirmative action in 1974, and voted to condemn it, rather than declare the issue moot.

But now, in 2016, the supposedly conservative Justice Anthony Kennedy voted to uphold the University of Texas' racial preferences. Perhaps the atmosphere inside the Washington Beltway wears down opposition to affirmative action, much as water can eventually wear down rock and create the Grand Canyon.

We have heard much this year about the Supreme Court vacancy created by the death of the great Justice Antonin Scalia — and rightly so. But there are two vacancies on the Supreme Court. The other vacancy is Anthony Kennedy.

The human tragedy, amid all the legal evasions and frauds is that, while many laws and policies sacrifice some people for the sake of other people, affirmative action manages to harm blacks, whites, Asians and others, even if in different ways.

Students who are kept out of a college because other students are admitted instead, under racial quotas, obviously lose opportunities they would otherwise have had.

But minority students admitted to institutions whose academic standards they do not meet are all too often needlessly turned into failures, even when they have the prerequisites for success in some other institution whose normal standards they do meet.

When black students who scored at the 90th percentile in math were admitted to M.I.T., where the other students scored at the 99th percentile, a significant number of black students failed to graduate there, even though they could have graduated with honors at most other academic institutions.

We do not have so many students with that kind of ability that we can afford to sacrifice them on the altar to political correctness.

Such negative consequences of mismatching minority students with institutions, for the sake of racial body count, have been documented in a number of studies, most notably “Mismatch,” a book by Richard Sander and Stuart Taylor, Jr., whose sub-title is: “How Affirmative Action Hurts Students It’s Intended to Help, and Why Universities Won’t Admit It.”

When racial preferences in student admissions in the University of California system were banned, the number of black and Hispanic students in the system declined slightly, but the number actually graduating rose substantially. So did the number graduating with degrees in tough subjects like math, science and engineering.

But hard facts carry no such weight among politicians as magic words like “diversity” — a word repeated endlessly, without one speck of evidence to back up its sweeping claims of benefits. It too is part of the Supreme Court fraud, going back to a 1978 decision that seemingly banned racial quotas — unless the word “diversity” was used instead of “quotas.”

Seeming to ban racial preferences, while letting them continue under another name, was clever politically. But the last thing we need in Washington are nine more politicians, wearing judicial robes.


Wednesday, June 29, 2016

After 25 Years, What's Next For Charter Schools?

The major advocacy group for charter schools is meeting this week in Nashville, and there's lots to celebrate.

What began with a single state law in Minnesota has spread to a national movement of nearly 6,800 schools, serving just under 3 million students.

But at it's annual meeting, the National National Alliance for Public Charter Schools is also using the moment to call for a fresh look at how these innovative public schools are managed and how they're held accountable.

Among the concerns is whether the failure rate of online charter schools is hurting the credibility of the movement in general.

Others inside the movement say charters "have hit a wall" — that too many are operating like traditional public schools, with unimpressive results because they've done little or nothing to innovate and adopt the most promising classroom practices.

Which makes it a good time to talk with Ted Kolderie, one of the architects of the nation's first charter school law in 1991. In his new book, The Split Screen Strategy: Innovation and Improvement, Kolderie argues that public education is cursed by the notion of the "one best way to do education better." The problem, he says, is that it's impossible to generate a political consensus for radical change.

The Split Screen Strategy: How to Turn Education Into a Self-Improving System, published September 2015, by Ted Kolderie.
Ted Kolderie/Education Evolving

So are you saying school reform and the charter school movement in particular are at an impasse?

I'm trying to say that you have lots of people [in conventional schools] who aren't ready for the "radically different." The way to get innovation is to ask people to do things they've never done before, but nobody is forced to move from the traditional to the new and different. So you have a dual system, with innovations gradually spreading and at the same time a traditional model improving. This is the way successful systems work. Why not education?

So you're saying you can innovate and make dramatic changes without ramming it down people's throats. Eventually, they too will adopt these changes but at their own pace. That's what you call a "split screen strategy." Can you give an example of how or where this has worked?

In New Hampshire, you'll see the state pushing competency-based education. Students get credit for as much as they can learn, as rapidly as they can learn. It's not a complete break with the old traditional "age grading," but it's a start in that direction. There's also personalized learning, greatly assisted by digital electronics that make it possible for students to work individually. Project-based learning asks the student, 'What are you most interested in?' Then, working with the student and parents, teachers design a program of learning for the year, built around the student's interests. It's a curriculum built around kids' interests.

Your book also poses this question: Does the country go on working to improve performance in existing schools? Or are the problems of performance the result of a fundamentally flawed school design?

If students don't want to learn, you can't make them. So any effort to improve learning must begin with improving student motivation. I challenge people to explain how a conventional school is designed to maximize student motivation. They can't. Organizing, grouping students by age with a different teacher every year, these [policies] are set in concrete and they're very difficult to change. People need to try different things. Which is why the charter sector is so important.

The fascinating thing about chartering was that it didn't tell anybody what kind of a school they had to create, how to organize it or how to teach. It was created to be an open system so people could make those decisions by themselves for themselves.

Some worry though that more and more charter schools are operating like conventional public schools and not doing anything different or better. Many charters are run by large organizations with their own centralized bureaucracies, top-down management and little or no innovation.

Along with that centralization comes standardization, which suppresses innovation. We tell [schools] what to do, check to see if they've done it and then whack them if they haven't done it. We've been doing this for 20 to 40 years and it hasn't dramatically improved performance. It hasn't solved the achievement-gap problem. And it hasn't produced any real change in the design of schools or teaching and learning.

So if standardization is the enemy of innovation, hasn't the federal government contributed to that in its efforts to hold schools accountable, including charters?

The job of the top leadership is to build and develop a climate that encourages innovation. So I would go to the federal government and say: You don't own the schools, you don't run the schools, you don't even enact education laws. Your job is to create, in states and districts, a climate for innovation. Just that simple.


The Federal Student Loan Disaster

According to the U.S. Treasury Department, the federal government has borrowed over $1.036 trillion to loan money to U.S. college students through the Federal Direct student loan program through April 2016, with over 86% of that amount having been added since January 2009.

David Jesse of the Detroit Free Press reports that for the over $605 billion of federal student loans that have come due for payment, all is not going well with respect to former students paying back the money they borrowed from Uncle Sam:

Twenty percent of all federal loan borrowers have defaulted on their loans, according to new data released by the federal government last week,” the Free Press reports. “That translates into $121 billion of loans in default. That same data show 40 percent of all borrowers are not making any payments, and are in some sort of forbearance, delinquency or default.

For students who have fallen behind on their student loan payments, or who are in default, the decision to borrow money from the U.S. government to go to college is looking more and more like an extremely poor choice.

For U.S. policy makers, the exceptionally high rates of payment delinquencies and defaults mean their best intentions have backfired, with the result of harming the people they intended to help the most. The Wall Street Journal‘s Josh Mitchell writes about how what was supposed to be an investment in “human capital” has instead turned toxic:

The U.S. government over the last 15 years made a trillion-dollar investment to improve the nation’s workforce, productivity and economy. A big portion of that investment has now turned toxic, with echoes of the housing crisis.

The investment was in “human capital,” or, more specifically, higher education. The government helped finance tens of millions of tuitions as enrollment in U.S. colleges and graduate schools soared 24% from 2002 to 2012, rivaling the higher-education boom of the 1970s. Millions of others attended trade schools that award career certificates....

New research shows a significant chunk of that investment backfired, with millions of students worse off for having gone to school. Many never learned new skills because they dropped out—and now carry debt they are unwilling or unable to repay. Policy makers worry that without a bigger intervention, those borrowers will become trapped for years and will ultimately hurt, rather than help, the nation’s economy.

The article indicates that some 7 million Americans have defaulted on their federal student loans, which for $121 billion worth of student loans in default, puts the average value of a student loan in default at $17,285.

A monthly payment for a federal student loan with the current interest rate of 4.29% for undergraduates over a typical 10 year term is $177.39 according to the Student Loan Calculator at, or $2,128.68 per year.

Because the money is owed to the federal government, Americans who are chronically unable to make the monthly payments on their on their student loans are not able to have the debt discharged through bankruptcy.

Instead, many of these former students will find themselves placed on the federal government’s Income Based Repayment plan that will instead take up to 10% of their discretionary income out of their pay each month for the next 20 years. The amount of discretionary income that can be subjected to an Income Based Repayment plan depends upon things like how many people are in the household of the student loan borrower.

In practice, except for expiring after a 20 year period, the federal government’s Income Based Repayment plan for student loans is no different from the income tax. Until that period expires, it should be considered to be an additional income tax – one that is specifically imposed on poor and lower middle class Americans.

Just like many of the 7 million Americans who could not afford to continue making an average $177.39 per month payment on their student loans and are now in default upon them. Just like an additional 7 million Americans who have fallen behind on their student loan payments.


Vanderbilt, Stanford Rape Cases Show Need for New Approach to Campus Sexual Assault

On June 20, 2016, a jury convicted Vanderbilt University football player Brandon Vandenburg of rape after just 4 1/2 hours. He was found guilty on eight counts, meaning he could get 15-20 years in prison. Many are comparing the Vanderbilt case to the Stanford University rape case, where former collegiate swimmer Brock Turner was convicted of sexual assault with attempt to rape. But this is a mistake. The two cases are very different, and the implications for campus sexual assault policy are significant.

I’ve spent the last three years researching and writing a book on campus sexual assault, Unsafe on Any Campus? College Sexual Assault and What We Can Do About It, and it’s slated for official release on July 28th. This problem is enormously complex, and two important observations (among many others) became very apparent : 1) not all rapists are the same, and 2) the criminal justice system is poorly suited to address campus sexual assault.

The Vanderbilt and Stanford cases have several similarities: They occurred at what many would call elite universities,* they involved athletes, alcohol played a crucial role, and the victims were unconscious (or near unconscious) when they were attacked. One other factor puts these cases in a league of their own: the defendants were convicted of the underlying crime of sexual assault and rape. This happens in fewer than 10% of cases brought to prosecutors, a startling statistic I unpack in my book.

Here is where the similarities stop, and the implications for campus assault policy begin. The Vanderbilt case is a slam dunk for significant prison time. The jury agreed that Brandon Vandenburg raped his victim and orchestrated a gang rape that involved multiple levels of humiliation, degradation, and sexual assault. On an emotional level, the fact he did this to his girlfriend is hard for most people (including me) to comprehend. This case, from what I’ve read, has the marks of a predator. While I am not a therapist, the fact Vandenburg appeared so disinterested and removed from the welfare of the woman with whom he appeared to be emotionally and physically intimate at her most vulnerable state makes him appear sociopathic.

The case of Brock Turner, which I discussed in a previous article, is different. The trauma to the victim was severe—just read her victim impact statement. She describes the emotional and psychological anguish that many victims of rape and sexual assault experience (and is central to Chapters 2 and 3 in my book). While convicted of sexual assault with intent to rape, Turner was legally drunk, and his act was solo. His behavior and actions appear to be more characteristics of a naive, possibly entitled, freshman unable to differentiate between what was socially acceptable and what was not in the confusing world of today’s college campuses. While its still unclear whether he understands the gravity of the trauma he inflicted on his victim (based on his statement to the court), he has shown remorse to the court and taken responsibility for his actions. Turner’s assault, equally worthy of criminal conviction and its consequences, appears less intentional and more opportunistic. The difference is important.

In Unsafe on Any Campus?, I present an alternative way of looking at rapists and their impact on community welfare (Figure 12, page 125). I argue that campus sexual assault policy should recognize that rapists vary significantly in type and impact on the community. Predator rapists such as Vandenburg pose the most threat to individuals, their actions are the most destructive to community, are their cases are the most suitable for prosecution in the criminal justice system. They may well require isolation through incarceration to contain their impact.

On the other end of the spectrum are what I call “negligent” rapists. These are the teenagers who drink too much, don’t understand the practical meaning of consent, and make poor decisions that harm others (many seriously). The harm they inflict is unintentional, and a byproduct of other activities such as heavy partying. In between these ends of the spectrum are rapists impulsively motivated by anger and opportunity rapists who troll environments like bars and fraternity parties for naive targets. Each rapist need to be dealt with in different ways, although all need to be held accountable for the social and personal consequences of their actions.

Unfortunately, the legal system is incapable of differentiating between these types and what is necessary to prevent sexual assault and rape from recurring. The same adversarial criminal justice system is applied in all cases, regardless of whether the offender poses a threat to society. The potential consequences are also the same, irrespective of the circumstances and personalities involved. Turner could have been sentenced to up to 14 years in prison for one count of sexual assault with intent to rape. Vandenburg is facing 15-25 years for orchestrating a gang rape for eight counts including rape. Most observers want both defendants to receive the maximum sentence.

Few people, however, are asking the bigger question: what punishment is necessary to prevent sexual assault and rape from happening again? Incarceration presumes that the convicted offender is a continuing menace to society, a predator, a sociopath, unable to control physical urges. The only way to stop them is to isolate them from society.

It’s unclear that Turner fits this profile. Although recent evidence suggests he lied to the court about his background, lying is perjury and doesn’t qualify as sociopathic or lacks remorse for his actions. Based on the probation officer’s report and his own statements, he appears unlikely to commit sexual assault or rape again and realizes gravity of his actions (at least in terms of the law). While Turner should be held accountable for his actions, the benefit of jail time is unclear to him or the community. (If he becomes active in raising awareness about the trauma and human consequences of sexual assault, his work outside prison might be beneficial.)

Vandenburg’s case is more complex and alarming. The magnitude of his crimes and actions suggest he may well be a continuing threat to society. Almost certainly a “not guilty” verdict—the result of most sexual assault and rape trials—would have contributed to a sense of entitlement and trivialized the trauma he (and his peers) imposed.

Clamors for incarceration and lengthy jail sentences are often a reflection of frustration with a poorly functioning criminal justice system, anger at the human costs of sexual assault and rape, and a belief that harsh and severe punishment is the most effective solution to the problem. But this isn’t always the case.

For alternatives, perhaps we should look to the victim’s themselves. In the Brock Turner case, the victim said she didn’t want Turner to “rot in jail.” She wanted him to “get it.” Indeed, all indicators are that if Brock Turner “got it,” he would no longer be a threat. That’s the real goal, and it’s time to start looking for alternatives to the Incarceration State to achieve it and focusing the criminal justice system on the ongoing menaces to society.


Tuesday, June 28, 2016

School Authorities Eliminate Pork from Lunch Menus

Pork sausages are an integral piece of Swiss cuisine-but that might be changing soon, at least in four primary schools in Basel Canton, Switzerland who will eliminating pork from their lunch menus.

Susanna Keller, a Swiss People's Party representative, expressed her indignation: "We are outraged. When we first hear [about the decision] we thought we weren't reading it right[.]" She claims sausage (ex. Klöpfer) plays a role in the country's cultural heritage. Keller also added, "Could it be that we are adapting to certain cultures, rather than the other way around[?]"

This is a question many Europeans are asking themselves with the growing influence of Islamic culture, largely due to Muslim immigration. The local council explained that the measure to eliminate pork from the lunch menu occurred because of a school survey which indicated about five percent of parents were against the meat being on the menu.

It's puzzling that such a marginal opinion would carry so much leverage. Of course the local council is downplaying the measure saying there are no discussions to "ban" pork, and that cervalat salad could still be served if the caterer desires to offer it, as long as "an alternative" is provided.

It's interesting that about five percent of parents didn't want pork served, while Switzerland's Muslim population is also estimated to be around five percent. Pork is considered forbidden (haram) in Islam, embedded in these Quranic verses:  

    He has only forbidden to you dead animals, blood, the flesh of swine... -Quran 2:173

    Say, "I do not find within that which was revealed to me [anything] forbidden to one who would eat it unless it be a dead animal or blood spilled out or the flesh of swine - for indeed, it is impure..." -Quran 6:145

Other schools throughout Europe are having to grapple with Muslim dietary laws and other customs. For instance, in the Fall of 2015 in France, Enter Yves Jego, Union of Democrats and Independents Party MP, began a petition to try and force schools into serving vegetarian meals to circumvent any potential issues. So much for standing up for French culture.

We have already seen how big restaurant chains such as Burger King are going halal even in Western locations, mollifying Muslim demands. When are Europeans going to wake up and realize that they are not merely making accommodations for Muslims but transforming European culture into a Sharia compliant nightmare.

This is what happens when liberal-progressives desire diversity more than the value of the content. Sharia law deals with all aspects of human life; therefore, no amount of ‘religious accommodations' will satisfy its adherents. The sooner the West accepts this reality; the sooner it can save itself from this cultural hijacking.


K-12 Gender Identity Standards Surprise Some Washington Parents

Kaeley Triller Haver is no stranger to the transgender bathroom debate. After being sexually assaulted as a child and going public with her story, the single mom from Washington state now opposes shower, locker room, and bathroom policies that she believes leave her and her daughter vulnerable and unsafe.

So earlier this month, when she found out that Washington public schools quietly adopted a new set of health education standards that include teaching kindergartners about gender expression and identity, Triller Haver was shocked she wasn’t involved.

“The only way I found out was through a Facebook post,” Triller Haver told The Daily Signal. “Not really the way any parent should discover information this critically important to their child’s life.”

“The curriculum,” she said, “starts in kindergarten. And my daughter will be in kindergarten this year. So that’s great.”

The changes prompted an “outcry from thousands of parents across the state,” a spokesman for a conservative think tank says.

 Washington adopted new gender identity guidelines in March as part of the state’s updated health and physical education standards. The state agency responsible for the guidelines said they were made available to the public for review, and provided The Daily Signal with examples where it solicited comment.

None, however, pointed to the addition of gender identity guidelines—instead referring to the proposal broadly as the state’s new “Physical Education Standards.”

Perhaps that’s why the guidelines went unnoticed by both parents and the media, until Peter Hasson, a reporter for The Daily Caller, stumbled upon them while doing research for a different story.

After his article was published, parents and citizens of Washington voiced outrage, with some even writing on Facebook that they removed their children from the state’s public school system altogether.

“Pulled my child out of school for next year because of this nonsense and made sure I let our local school district and the OSPI know why,” Renae Purdy wrote on Facebook, referring to the Office of the Superintendent for Public Instruction. “If we ban together, homeschool our kids, and put in enough complaint calls they will have to change these policies. They need to stick to teaching academics and leave personal issues to be taught at home!”

In recent months, transgender bathroom policies have been trumpeted by President Barack Obama’s administration, which in March sent a letter to public schools nationwide mandating they allow transgender students into sex-segregated facilities based on their gender identity.

Because of her past experience with sexual abuse, Triller Haver now argues against this policy and in favor of keeping bathrooms, locker rooms, and showers separated by biological sex.

Washington state’s new gender identity guidelines map out specific “standards” for each grade level to achieve. These include teaching kindergartners that “there are many ways to express gender,” defining sexual orientation to fourth-graders, and describing to fifth-graders “how media, society, and culture can influence ideas regarding gender roles, identity, and expression.”

The purpose, a press release states, is to “provide the guidance to teach, reinforce, and apply all of the state’s learning goals.”

“I don’t know if you remember being in fourth grade or not but, my gosh, can my kids be kids for a little while first?” Triller Haver asked.

The guidelines also include a glossary defining gender as “A social construct based on emotional, behavioral, and cultural characteristics attached to a person’s assigned biological sex.” 

To some, this is a welcome change. Responding to the new policies online, one Facebook user who identifies herself as Brenna Searle, wrote:

I didn’t transition until my 30s because I literally had ZERO context for what I was going through. It’s all well and good to say ‘leave it to the parents’ but my parents were well-meaning people who had no way to inform me it was even an option. We need education to keep young trans children from mental health issues and suicide[,] from not knowing who they are or who they were meant to be.

Others, like Triller Haver, say that teaching the subject of gender identity to kindergartners encroaches on parents’ rights.

“It’s not age appropriate,” she said. “It’s not science or math, it’s ideology. And that’s not appropriate for the government or anyone to take taxpayer money and force parents into conversations they’re not ready to have with their kids.”


The Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction, which is the authority on public education in the state, adopted the health and physical education standards in March. According to a memo issued by Superintendent Randy Dorn, his office “collaboratively” developed the standards “with teachers, administrators, subject matter experts, state and national associations, and stakeholders in health and physical education” starting in September 2014.

It is unclear whether schools are required to adopt the gender identity guidelines.  According to the document, the standards are “required elements of instruction.” Page 2 reads:

"The Washington state learning standards are the required elements of instruction and are worded broadly enough to allow for local decision-making. Outcomes provide the specificity to support school districts in meeting each standard in each grade level. Depending on school resources and community norms, instructional activities may vary"

On Page 10, the guidelines specifically address grade-level goals:

"By implementing grade-level outcomes, educators will help students meet the learning standards. All districts, schools, and educators in Washington state are expected to implement the state learning standards for all students. However, educators should use their own understanding of their students to make adjustments to teaching activities as needed"

However, Nate Olson, communications director at the state’s Office of the Superintendent for Public Instruction, said the standards aren’t mandatory. In an interview with The Daily Signal, he called the standards “best practices.”

“If districts want to teach the topic of self-identity, what our teachers did is come up with grade-level suggestions for a bunch of different topics,” Olson said.

Whether gender identity is a required subject is in some ways irrelevant, argued Zachary Freeman, director of communications at the Family Policy Institute of Washington, a conservative think tank. Freeman said:

"State law compels school districts to follow the standards and outcomes of [the Office of the Superintendent for Public Instruction], and [that office] can reject a district’s curriculum if it doesn’t meet their standards"

Moving Forward

Because of “outcry from thousands of parents across the state,” Freeman said, the superintendent’s office “says it will be clarifying the language in the standards to make it clear that schools are not required to teach students about these topics.”

Olson confirmed to The Daily Signal that the superintendent’s office will  correct “an inconsistency” in the standards to make clear the topic of gender identity is not required.

Freeman argued any correction is beside the point.

“The fact that [gender identity] appears on the documents at all shows clearly that there is some sort of agenda being promoted.”

That agenda, Triller Haver said, is the reason she would home-school or send her daughter to private school if she were financially able to afford those costs.

“I feel like I’m basically being held hostage,” she said. “My kids have to go to school, I have to go to work, I don’t have a lot of options.”

Olson, speaking for the state superintendent’s office, apologized to parents who “did not hear about this until it was too late.”

“The process was no different than the adoption for any other standards that we’ve adopted or revised,” he said. If a parent is upset about the learning goals,  he said, “I would encourage them to go to their local school board and say ‘I don’t agree with this.'”

Triller Haver said she believes the better route for schools to follow is adhering to anti-bullying programs that are already in place.

“Standard anti-bullying programs and curriculums that are not specific to gender should be more than enough to cover it,” she said, adding:

You treat all people with compassion, you treat all people with dignity and respect, and you teach children that there are going to be different people who behave and believe different things, and that all of them are entitled to value and dignity, regardless of how they present. But that doesn’t mean you need a whole curriculum based on gender.


Australia: Improve education, but don't fund more waste
Jennifer Buckingham

Recent arguments in favour of a large increase in school funding have cited the 'Gonski' report and OECD research showing a long-term economic return on investment in education. However, close scrutiny reveals that they do not provide strong justification in the current Australian context.

The Gonski report found that funding for schools was complex and inefficient. It recommended a complete overhaul of school funding that required a new agreement between the federal, state and territory governments. The increase in federal funding that is attributed to the 'Gonski model' was not inherent in the Gonski committee's recommendations -- a point confirmed by David Gonski himself.

The implications of international research on education spending and economic growth are also far from straightforward. The largest pay-offs from increased education spending are in developing countries where increased spending is from a low base and often means providing decent primary school education where none existed previously. This is a very different prospect to increasing spending where funding and provision are already high.

A big assumption in imputing economic returns to education spending is that higher spending will lead to better quality of education and hence better outcomes. This is by no means guaranteed. Economists surveyed in the latest Economic Society of Australia poll made this case repeatedly. While a majority of the economists surveyed agreed that education spending is on balance more likely to have a long term dividend than a company tax cut, neither policy was given an unequivocal endorsement in terms of future benefits.

While there are undoubtedly some schools around Australia that are under-resourced, it would be a mistake to conclude that this is purely a function of the size of the government's education budget rather than the way it is managed. Large amounts of education funding sometimes never reach schools and even more is spent on policies and programs that don't work. There may be a case for increased school funding as a rock solid investment in the future, but it can't be made while there is so much waste in the system at present.


Monday, June 27, 2016

The Leftist Education-Media Complex

What was the Obama administration’s rationale behind the ludicrous effort to scrub the partial transcript of Orlando terrorist Omar Mateen’s 911 phone calls to police? Obviously, it was primarily to further Barack Obama’s preferred narrative of his awesomeness in dealing with terrorism, but there’s more. In a column for National Review, Ian Tuttle explains, “If they act like they think we’re idiots, it’s because they do.”

If there is a more fundamental element to progressive ideology than the belief that the overwhelming majority of Americans are not only stupid, but wholly incapable of running their lives without progressive intervention, one is hard-pressed to imagine what it is. Yet despite all their self-professed brilliance, most progressives have blurred the critical distinction between two concepts that make all the difference in the world:

Stupidity — and ignorance.

Webster defines stupidity as “the state of being foolish or unintelligent.” Ignorance, on the other hand, is a “lack of knowledge, understanding, or education.” There is little doubt substantial numbers of Americans lack knowledge, understanding or education. There is even less doubt that progressives like it that way. The left has controlled the public school system for decades, and their handiwork is searingly described by American Thinker columnist Glenn Fairman, who made a startling discovery during a stint as a substitute teacher more than 20 years ago:

“In a dusty corner shelf of the room was a set of thirty-year-old textbooks from the mid-1960s. … I was astonished to find what I would now consider an upper-level college textbook under color of what in the high schools used to be termed ‘civics.’ … I spent the rest of the day in slack-jawed amazement, perusing what a student in a working-class town was expected to know before the mavens of education began tinkering with the curricula of our schools.”

Tinkering? More like the wholesale destruction of standards in favor of leftist indoctrination. Hence, multiple generations of Americans lack basic skills once taken for granted. On the 2014 National Assessment of Educational Progress test, only 25% of students were considered proficient, or above, in history, civics and geography. A 2012 study revealed Americans ages 16-65 rank in the bottom five in math skills compared to their counterparts in 20 other nations. A study released last year revealed 32 million American adults are virtually illiterate, 21% of adults read below a fifth-grade level, and 19% of high school graduates can’t read at all.

How does a functional illiterate earn a diploma? International journalist and educator Alex Newman insists legions of experts and the U.S. Department of Education “want the system to be doing what it’s doing, and that is destroying real education.”

That effort dovetails with a mainstream media more than willing to promote “The Narrative.” The foundation of The Narrative is the idea that any American who disagrees with any part of the leftist agenda can be dismissed with a barrage of derogatory epithets whose common denominator is a lack of intellectual acumen.

Thus, for example, it is completely unsurprising that author Rick Shenkman — whose book, “Just How Stupid Are We? Facing the Truth About the American Voter,” chronicles much of the nation’s dumbing-down — insists the decline explains voter preferences for Republicans. Shenkman’s viewpoint is echoed by a president who ran on Hope and Change™, but still managed to contemptuously dismiss half the nation as “bitter clingers” to guns, religion and xenophobia.

Such intellectual bigotry is nothing new. Following the Republican takeover of Congress in the 1994 mid-terms, the late ABC TV anchor Peter Jennings declared voters had “a temper tantrum,” and that the nation “can’t be run by an angry two-year-old” in reference to that victory’s architect, Newt Gingrich.

The decline in media integrity has been steady ever since. “There is not a finer example of the media ignoring the facts and shaping a message than what we are witnessing regarding Hillary Clinton’s email server, the classified material on that server, as well as the case of the missing emails,” writes Mark Hewitt. Efforts that include burying indisputable realities such as highly classified information on secured closed-end computer systems “migrating” to an open system and appearing in at least 1,340 of Clinton’s home emails; and Clinton herself admitting she wiped 33,000 emails off her server.

The former effort is a clear violation of 18 United States Code Section 1924 punishable by a fine and/or imprisonment. The latter is called “spoliation of evidence,” and America’s legal system grants investigators the right to presume it was done for nefarious reasons.

The media are doing their utmost to frame these potentially catastrophic breaches of national security as inconsequential — when they bother to report on them at all.

Moreover, the media firewall protecting the Clintons is getting thicker. They are now coordinating with Hillary’s campaign to prevent former Clinton White House Secret Service officer Gary Byrne from appearing “on ANY broadcast network,” as Drudge puts it, to inform the public about his new book, “Crisis of Character.” It allegedly details rancid behavior perpetrated by the former First Couple.

Yet even more remarkable is the calculated disinterest that attends the Clinton Foundation. This despite stories about a uranium deal involving major Clinton donors resulting in the sale of one-fifth of all U.S. uranium production capacity to the Russians, or Bill Clinton’s abrupt resignation as honorary chancellor from Laureate Education. That for-profit college company paid Bill a whopping $16.46 million over five years, while the State Dept. doled at least $55 million to a group run by Laureate founder and chairman Douglas Becker during Hillary’s tenure as Secretary.

Neither Clinton has been asked to explain the uranium deal in over a year. And in 10 Democrat debates, not a single question was asked about Bill’s education scam.

And it’s not just the Clintons being insulated. One could make a reasonable argument the biggest story of the week was the Federation for American Immigration Reform’s (FAIR) revelation that criminal aliens released by the Obama administration in 2014 committed nearly 10 times the number of crimes the administration reported to a House Judiciary Committee last July.

“A recent survey found that not a single member of the White House correspondent pool was a Republican,” Hewitt reveals. “Journalists and those correspondents take their orders from senior editors and producers. When it’s 44 [Democrats] to zero Republicans, the numbers are on their side and so is their ability to control and dictate the White House message and Democrat party narrative.”

In 1961, President Dwight D. Eisenhower warned the nation about the dangers attending the “military industrial complex.” Today, Americans should be far more concerned about a leftist-dominated “education-media complex.” One dedicated to the elimination of critical thinking skills in favor of indoctrination, and the life-long reinforcement of that indoctrination with an ongoing media narrative. “Those who are capable of tyranny are capable of perjury to sustain it,” stated 19th century legal theorist Lysander Spooner. Unlike ignorance and stupidity, the narrative and perjury are interchangeable terms.


Asian-American Students Suspect Discrimination in Ivy League Admissions

It's a reality, as Ron Unz has shown.  Racist Leftists could not accept a sea of Asian faces at Harvard

In May, the Asian American Coalition for Education and 130 other Asian-American groups asked the U.S. Department of Education and the Justice Department to investigate Yale University, Brown University, and Dartmouth College for their use of discriminatory admissions policies, which they claim amount to “race-based quotas” that lock out well-qualified Asian-American applicants.

They point to data from the Department of Education showing that Asian-American enrollment at Brown and Yale has been stagnant since 1995 and at Dartmouth since 2004 despite an increase in highly qualified Asian-American students applying to these schools during that time.

The groups highlight in their complaint that Asian-American applicants with almost perfect SAT scores, GPAs in the top 1 percent, and excellent extracurricular records have been routinely rejected from top schools, while similar candidates of other races are accepted.

In fact, data show that Asian-Americans must score, on average, “approximately 140 point[s] higher than a White student, 270 points higher than a Hispanic student and 450 points higher than a Black student on the SAT, in order to have the same chance of admission.” The groups suspect Yale, Brown, Dartmouth, and other Ivy League schools “impose racial quotas and caps to maintain what they believe are ideal racial balances,” harkening back to the days of the Chinese Exclusion Act and the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II.

Like many other schools, Yale, Brown, and Dartmouth use a “holistic” approach to evaluate applicants, which allows race and ethnicity to become a large factor in the admission equation. In their complaint, the Asian-American groups assert that these colleges rely on stereotypes and biases to deny Asian-Americans admission. These include that Asian-Americans are not creative or well-rounded, lack critical thinking skills and leadership experience, and focus on studying instead of extracurricular activities.

Admission board reviewers’ notes track these stereotypes: “He’s quiet and, of course, wants to be a doctor” or her “scores and application seem so typical of other Asian applications I’ve read: Extraordinarily gifted in math with the opposite extreme in English….” Since the admissions policies at these schools are “shrouded in secrecy,” they freely discriminate against Asian-American applicants. In fact, Yale’s law school recently began destroying its admissions records, presumably to avoid having to disclose the criteria such as race and other standards they use to determine admissions.

The groups outline the harm these discriminatory policies cause, such as a cynical and negative view of the American higher education system and a lack of trust in the purported American meritocracy. The applicants themselves feel immense pressure to overachieve in order to gain one of the limited “Asian-American spots,” leading to more stress, an increased suicide rate, attempts to hide their racial identity, lower self-esteem, race-related conflict, and resentment.

Though the concept of race-preferential admissions undoubtedly came from a place of good intentions, it’s become increasingly clear that these policies are doing more harm than good. Indeed, there’s overwhelming evidence that giving applicants a significant boost based on race or ethnicity often sets them up for failure because they are “mismatched” with their schools and struggle to keep up with their peers.

How do schools that receive federal funding get away with imposing racial quotas and caps without violating the equal protection guarantees in the Constitution? Starting in 1978, the Supreme Court determined in Regents of the University of California v. Bakke that schools may use racial preferences as long as they are intended to promote the “educational benefits that flow from an ethnically diverse student body.”

It was not until 2003 that the Supreme Court revisited the issue of racial preferences in college admissions. The Supreme Court held in Grutter v. Bollinger that a school’s goal of reaching a “critical mass” to advance diversity on campus was permissible, and in Gratz v. Bollinger that schools must pursue “race-neutral alternatives” to achieve diversity though they are not required to exhaust “every conceivable race-neutral alternative.”

The Asian-American groups have asked the Departments of Education and Justice to intervene but they ultimately may need to bring lawsuits against Yale, Brown, and Dartmouth to see any real changes. Suits are currently pending against the University of North Carolina and Harvard challenging their racially discriminatory admissions programs (the latter brought by Asian-Americans who were denied admission).

Justice Clarence Thomas explained in Grutter:

The Constitution abhors classifications based on race, not only because those classifications can harm favored races or are based on illegitimate motives, but also because every time the government places citizens on racial registers and makes race relevant to the provision of burdens or benefits, it demeans us all.

Let’s hope that someday this view will prevail at the Supreme Court and the justices put this principle in place by banning racial preferences in college admissions.


A leading gay rights activist yesterday condemned the student movement for practising ‘the politics of victimhood’

Peter Tatchell attacked the clampdown on free speech by the National Union of Students through its ‘no-platform and safe space’ policies.

The human rights campaigner accused the NUS of ‘dangerous, regressive politics’.

During a speech to an education conference at Wellington College, in Crowthorne, Berkshire, he likened modern day campus politics to the Red Guards, a fanatical student group in 1960s China.

This paramilitary student movement was told to eradicate the ‘Four Olds’ of Chinese society – customs, culture, habits and ideas – during the Cultural Revolution. Old books and art were destroyed, museums ransacked and people perceived to have ‘bourgeois elements’ were attacked, tortured and killed.

Mr Tatchell’s comments follow months of clashes on campuses over attempts to censor speakers or remove historical references that might be offensive to some.

The no-platform policy means people or groups on a banned list for holding racist or fascist views are not given a platform to speak on student union premises.

People believed to be sexist, transphobic or rape apologists have also been banned from speaking on the grounds that they would threaten ‘safe spaces’ – environments that protect students from mental harm.

Mr Tatchell has spent decades fighting homophobia and discrimination, often enduring physical attacks for his campaign for equality.

But earlier this year, an NUS representative at Canterbury Christ Church University refused to share a platform with him because she regarded him as having been racist and ‘transphobic’. Mr Tatchell told the conference yesterday: ‘The NUS no-platform and safe space policies don’t refute offensive ideas. They simply exclude them. That doesn’t solve anything.

‘The most effective way to defeat bad ideas is by exposing and countering them in open debate. Bad ideas are best discredited by good and better ideas.

‘The NUS is increasingly characterised by the politics of victimhood – the idea that being a victim of injustice automatically makes you right.

‘This means that a person’s right to be heard and be taken seriously depends on their experience of discrimination, not on the quality of their arguments, the evidence they can marshal for their case and the longevity of their commitment to a cause.’

He added: ‘This is dangerous, regressive politics. The divisive, sectarian, zealous witch-hunting of students with dissenting views has echoes of the Red Guards during the Cultural Revolution.’


Sunday, June 26, 2016

Supreme Court Upholds Race-Based Discrimination in College Admissions

The Supreme Court issued its disappointing decision in Abigail Fisher’s case on Thursday against the University of Texas at Austin.

In an opinion by Justice Anthony Kennedy, four members of the court ruled that the university’s race-conscious admissions program does not violate the Equal Protection Clause of the Constitution. Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito wrote dissenting opinions (Chief Justice John Roberts joined the latter; Justice Elena Kagan was recused from the case).

This case deals with whether it is constitutional for the university to discriminate on the basis of race in its undergraduate admissions decisions. Fisher, a white Texas resident, sued the school after she was denied admission, arguing that the school discriminated against her. Under the Supreme Court’s existing case law, schools may use race in admissions only if it is narrowly tailored to further compelling governmental interests.

The court explained in Grutter v. Bollinger (2003) that before putting a thumb on the race scales, a school must pursue a “serious, good faith consideration of workable race-neutral alternatives that will achieve the diversity the university seeks.”

Texas adopted a plan in the mid-1990s that automatically admitted Texas students in the top 10 percent of their high school class to all state-funded universities. Following a 2003 Supreme Court decision that authorized schools to consider race or ethnicity as a “plus factor,” the university began subjecting applicants for the remaining spots to a “holistic review” that included preferences for certain racial minorities.

Fisher did not graduate in the top 10 percent, so her application for admission was in competition with candidates who received racial preferences. She challenged the university’s discriminatory admissions process in court after her application was denied because minority students with lower qualifications and grades than her were admitted to the school.

The university argued that it needs to discriminate based on the race of applicants for the seats not filled by top 10 percent admittees to advance its interest in “qualitative diversity.” It claimed that the top 10 percent plan admits “too many” minority students from majority-minority schools—apparently they don’t provide the “right” kind of diversity, according to UT Austin admissions officials.

This racial balancing is nothing more than government-sanctioned discrimination. And in the middle of the litigation, it was revealed that the university had another, secret admissions process that also provided special preferences for the sons and daughters of politically-connected individuals.

This is the second time Fisher’s case has reached the Supreme Court. Last time around, the justices told the university that it must prove that its use of race in admissions is narrowly tailored to further a compelling state interest and chastised the lower courts for simply accepting the university’s claim without holding it to the strict evidentiary standard required by the 14th Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause. The case went back to the lower court, which essentially rubber-stamped the university’s claim once again.

In today’s ruling, a majority of the court decided to take the university at its word that it needed to use race-conscious admissions because the top 10 percent plan alone was not sufficient to meet its “diversity goals.” As Alito pointed out in his thorough and stirring dissent, this decision allows school officials to “justify systematic racial discrimination simply by asserting that such discrimination is necessary to achieve ‘the educational benefits of diversity,’ without explaining—much less proving—why the discrimination is needed or how the discriminatory plan is well crafted to serve its objectives.”

He further noted that the university had never offered a “coherent explanation for its asserted need to discriminate on the basis of race” but instead relied on “unsupported and noxious racial assumptions.” Thomas also dissented, arguing that the Constitution “abhors classifications based on race,” and that “does not change in the face of a ‘faddish theory’ that racial discrimination may produce ‘educational benefits.’”

This is a terrible loss for advocates of a truly colorblind society, a betrayal of our core beliefs as Americans, and fundamentally unfair to students. Rather than require the university to meet the strict standard required by the Constitution, a majority of the justices allowed the school to continue sorting prospective students by race and ethnicity.

Given the university’s defiant attitude throughout the length of this litigation, Kennedy also seemed a bit naïve when he says that the Supreme Court’s affirmance of UT Austin’s admissions policies doesn’t mean that the university doesn’t have an “ongoing obligation to engage in constant deliberation and continued reflection regarding its admissions policies.” The only “reflection” UT Austin is likely to engage in is how to further discriminate.

Luckily, other lawsuits are currently pending in federal district courts that challenge the racially discriminatory admissions policies of Harvard University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

The Harvard suit was brought by Asian-American applicants who claim they were denied admission because the university has put limits on the number of Asian-Americans it will admit, similar to the racist quotas and caps that Ivy League schools put on the number of Jewish students they would admit in the 1920s. The plaintiffs in the case against the University of North Carolina point out that the university did a study that showed that if the school dropped its racial preference policy and switched to a top 10 percent plan like Texas, the number of minorities would actually increase.

Additionally, more than 130 Asian-American organizations filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Education to investigate the admissions policies at Yale University, Brown University, and Dartmouth College. Though it may be the end of the road for Fisher, the next wave of challenges to racially-discriminatory college admissions has only just begun.

As Roberts remarked in the 2007 Parents Involved case: “The way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to stop discriminating on the basis of race.”

Let’s hope this view ultimately prevails at the Supreme Court.


Teachers to strike in England on July 5 after 92% vote for industrial action over pay and conditions

Teachers in England are to stage a one-day strike over pay and conditions. Members of the National Union of Teachers (NUT) will walk out on July 5 after voting by more than 9 to 1 in favour of industrial action.

The union said its demands were to increase funding to schools and education, guarantee terms and conditions in all types of schools, and to resume negotiations on teacher contracts to allow workload to be addressed.

Kevin Courtney, acting general secretary of the NUT, said: 'The NUT is not taking action lightly. 'In light of the huge funding cuts to schools, worsening terms and conditions, and unmanageable and exhausting workloads, teachers cannot be expected to go on without significant change.

'The effects on children's education are also real and damaging.  'As a result of school funding cuts, class sizes in primary and secondary schools are increasing, subject choices are being cut, and children are getting less individual attention as teachers and support staff are made redundant or not replaced when they leave.

'There is worse to come, with the Institute of Fiscal Studies predicting that the biggest real-terms cuts to per-pupil funding in a generation are on the way.'

Mr Courtney said there was already a teacher recruitment and retention crisis in schools, which he warned would get worse without 'significant change' to the pay and working conditions of teachers.

He said many parents shared the union's concerns, adding: 'At the absolute minimum, schools urgently need extra funding to meet the additional costs Government has put on them through increased National Insurance and pension payments. 'This amounts to a 5 per cent charge on the teachers' pay bill for schools.

'George Osborne is freezing the cash per pupil he gives to schools, whilst increasing what he takes from them. 'For every 20 teachers employed, a school has to find an extra teacher salary to give to the Treasury.

'The commitment from Government to ensure all schools become academies will result in decisions on pay and working conditions, including maternity/paternity rights and sick pay, being made at school level.

'There is absolutely no evidence that this sort of deregulation will lead to higher standards. 'There needs to be a guarantee of good standards for teachers' terms and conditions across the board, in all schools.

'School leaders' attention should be on educating children, not squandering huge amounts of time on negotiating individual staff members' contracts.'


Australian university students are being given 'trigger warnings' in class

At the start of lessons, lectures or subjects, academics are issuing warnings about sensitive or graphic content, giving students the opportunity to opt out if they feel confronted or uncomfortable.

University of Melbourne's Dr Lauren Rosewarne, a lecturer on gender and sexuality, told The Age she has been using trigger warnings in classes for the past 13 years of her career.

'It's like television ... you have a warning for everything from drug use to supernatural things, as a way to tell the audience that [they] may be disturbed by one of any number of topics,' she said.

'These students have grown up participating in politics through Tumblr and Instagram, and I feel that expressing ideas through sound bites and policing of other language, which is rampant online, has suddenly been translated into the classroom,' Dr Rosewarne added.

According to the Herald Sun, Melbourne's LaTrobe University Student Union has made it compulsory to provide warnings before talking about 57 separate potentially discomforting issues.

Those warning issues include 'gore', 'chewing', 'slimy things' and 'food' - on the basis they may 'negatively alter (the) wellbeing' of students.

Opponents of trigger warnings in universities complain the warnings limit educational growth and stop students from being challenged by new ideas.

Matthew Lesh, a research fellow at The Institute of Public Affairs, said he was worried Australian academics were feeling pressured to juggle the job of psychologist and educator.

'Universities should be about exposing people to as many ideas as possible, even if they are challenging,' he told The Age.