Monday, August 08, 2016

Censorial DePaul Bans Conservative Ben Shapiro

The discerning have long recognized that the true enemies of free speech are certain leftist progressives who believe their ideas are so superior and their opponents so toxic that protection for the latter isn’t warranted.

The left is practiced at painting conservatives as oppressive and intolerant, but their behavior repeatedly undermines their claims and exposes them as the intolerant speech fascists and thought controllers.

You won’t see conservatives advocating the muzzling of political opponents or promoting the Fairness Doctrine and campus speech codes. You won’t see Republican administrations excluding reporters or news organizations from press briefings because they don’t parrot the White House’s narrative. You won’t often encounter liberals concealing their opinions on campuses or Hollywood or their places of employment for fear of backlash. You won’t see conservatives ever trying to send kooky leftists to sensitivity training to compel them — "1984"-style — to conform to their worldview. You won’t see conservative professors (excuse the contradiction) overtly indoctrinating students and creating a climate of ridicule toward liberal students. You’ll rarely see a college administration reprimanding a liberal professor (excuse the tautology) for exposing his class to an opposing viewpoint — one certain students find unbearably “offensive.” You won’t see conservatives creating “safe spaces” to protect their delicate adherents from feeling uncomfortable through exposure to “troubling” or “triggering” ideas. You won’t see the right using defamatory catchwords like racist, sexist, homophobe or xenophobe to demonize, ostracize and muzzle leftist expression.

And you won’t find conservative groups pressuring universities to ban liberal speakers from their campuses. Which brings me to the primary subject at hand.

My good friend, Ben Shapiro, a one-time child prodigy who has now become a polemical force of nature as an adult, has recently experienced the ubiquitous leftist fascism inhabiting college campuses. Ben, at age 32, has not only written six best-selling books, but has a nationally syndicated column and a very successful radio show.

Despite all that, what initially propelled Ben into national prominence was his delicious television takedown of liberal snob Piers Morgan on Morgan’s former CNN show on the subject of gun control.

More recently, Shapiro has distinguished himself with powerful podcasts on current events and a campus speaking tour wherein he systematically demolishes the left’s tyrannical political correctness and assault on free speech.

Indeed, Shapiro has been so effective that campus liberals obviously regard him as a threat — a clear and present danger to their Stalinist mindset.  They have protested his appearances, disrupted his speeches, threatened him and lied about his message.

But the latest predictable outrage is that DePaul University has banned Shapiro from appearing on campus, under the ludicrous and specious pretense of “security concerns.”

If there are security concerns, neither Shapiro nor his admirers are causing them. As Shapiro’s sponsor, Young America’s Foundation said, “Make no mistake, any security concerns we face on campuses are 100 percent incited by the censorious, intolerant left.”

This is what so many of our campuses have come to. They don’t promote, much less champion, freedom of inquiry. They are incubators of monolithic liberal ideas and actively discourage the airing of contrary opinions.

The left is incoherent on free speech. It purports to be a staunch advocate of speech while discriminatorily suppressing it. These leftists are not even embarrassed by their lame efforts to justify their imperiousness, as when one college administrator said, “We cannot tolerate the intolerable.”

What is intolerable is their totalitarianism.

But give them credit; their indoctrination is yielding fruit. The William F. Buckley, Jr. Program at Yale conducted a survey on the attitudes of university students toward the First Amendment, speech codes, academic freedom, political correctness and intellectual diversity. The results are deeply disturbing, though unsurprising:

— 49 percent of U.S. college students are “intimidated” by professors when sharing different beliefs.

— Half said they have often felt intimidated to share beliefs that differ from their classmates.

— 53 percent say their professors have often used class time to express their own views about matters outside of coursework.

— 63 percent say political correctness on college campuses is either a “big problem” or somewhat of a problem.

— 30 percent of liberal students say the First Amendment is outdated, compared with 10 percent of conservative students with that opinion.

— Two-thirds agree that their school is more tolerant of liberal ideas than conservative ones.

— 51 percent of students favor their school having speech codes to regulate speech for students and faculty.

— 72 percent say their university should be doing more to promote policies that increase diversity of opinions in the classroom or on campus.

— 52 percent say their university should forbid people from speaking on campus who have a history of engaging in “hate speech.”

— 72 percent say they support disciplinary action for “any student or faculty member on campus who uses language that is considered racist, sexist, homophobic or otherwise offensive.”

— 32 percent misidentified the First Amendment.

What this inconsistent mishmash tells me is that academia is succeeding in its efforts to program students to blindly accept liberal ideas and to be amenable to suppressing opposing ideas, while manipulating students into believing that they are champions of free expression. It is a dangerous and toxic combination. But that is the way the liberal mind works.

Shame on DePaul for betraying academic freedom. This is further proof not just that the left doesn’t practice the tolerance it preaches, but is mortified that its ideas could be exposed to the disinfecting light of truth.


Yale Seeks to Rewrite History

Yale University’s Committee to Establish Principles on Renaming has a tough task ahead of it. What task might that be? The group was recently established “to promote greater inclusion and diversity on campus,” a Yale press release declares, by “develop[ing] clearly delineated principles to guide the university’s decisions on proposals to remove a historical name from a building or similarly prominent structure or space on campus.” But not just any name and for any reason. As you’ve probably already conjectured, the student body and some members of the administration are in a frenzy over the honoring — nay, the mere mention — of former slaveholders.

Most of the angst revolves around John C. Calhoun, whose name and legacy are represented at Calhoun College, “one of Yale’s twelve residential colleges,” the university states. Now, assuming the newfound emotional upheaval over centuries-old slave practice spurs action, the days of the building being named after Calhoun are numbered.

As explained by Yale President Peter Salovey, “I have spoken frequently of, and remain deeply committed to, our obligation to confront this country’s — and our university’s — past, including historical currents of exclusion and racism. This commitment informed the announcement I made in April that the name of Calhoun College would remain — a decision that followed a year-long process of extensive conversation with and engagement of the Yale community, both on and off campus.” He continued, “However, in recent months, many faculty, students, alumni, and staff have raised significant and moving concerns about that decision, and it is now clear to me that the community-wide conversation about these issues could have drawn more effectively on campus expertise.”

“After these principles have been articulated and disseminated,” Salovey went on to explain, “we will be able to hold any requests for the removal of a historical name — including that of John C. Calhoun — up to them.”

The obvious question is: What are they trying to accomplish? Jazz Shaw at Hot Air observes, “What’s lost in the conversation is the fact that these institutions represent history, even if portions of America’s story are highly regrettable. You’re not improving the world by attempting to whitewash pages from the country’s origins.” Salovey initially got it right — as did Princeton when it decided Woodrow Wilson can stay — by refusing to purge the university of its past, and it’s unfortunate that he, like so many others holding administrative positions around the country, caved to the demands of the pompous grievance industry. Will they next demand demolishing and reconstructing the White House, which was in part built by slaves?


Poor teachers produce poor students

Jennifer Buckingham comments from Australia

The NAPLAN results released this week tell an all-too-familiar story: in most states there has been little or no improvement in literacy and numeracy. Too many children are failing to achieve even a basic level in the fundamentals of educational achievement.

Changing this will require a relentless focus on effective instruction — especially in the early years — and adoption of teaching methods backed by the best evidence.

The statistics suggest that around 5-6% of Australian primary school students were below the National Minimum Standard on average in 2016, and this figure has barely shifted since NAPLAN began in 2008. Another 8-10% are just on the minimum standard. But it would be a mistake to assume that this figure represents the situation in individual schools. The My School website shows there are suburban schools where 50% of students have reading skills at the bare minimum or less.

If that is not bad enough, the NAPLAN minimum standard is well below what would be considered an adequate standard in international tests, meaning that it underestimates the true number of children struggling with basic skills. The Grattan Institute’s Peter Goss has suggested that a new benchmark be added to the NAPLAN reports to account for this discrepancy.

The reason so many students cannot read at a proficient level depends who you ask. Some say that insufficient resourcing of those schools with large numbers of disadvantaged students is to blame. Some say that teaching quality is the main contributing factor, including the trend toward low entry scores in initial teacher education (ITE) courses. Certainly, 256 school leavers entered ITE courses in 2005 with ATARs of less than 60. In 2013, it was 979. This may be a small proportion of the overall ITE cohort, but is still a lot of new teachers whose academic aptitude is relatively low according to their Year 12 performance.

Just as questionable is the quality of the ITE courses they complete. A number of studies have found that Australian ITE students and graduates have poor knowledge of the structure and rules of the English language. According to Professor Pamela Snow from LaTrobe University, there is an ‘intergenerational effect’ whereby new teachers are themselves the product of teaching methods that have failed to provide them with the linguistic knowledge necessary for explicit instruction in reading, spelling, grammar and writing — and their ITE courses have neglected to fill this gap.

Typically, there has been no measure of how well prepared ITE graduates are to teach, but school principals seem to have a low opinion. In the Staff in Australia’s Schools survey, only about one third of principals said they thought recent teacher graduates were well prepared to develop strategy for teaching literacy and numeracy. New ITE accreditation standards have been developed by the Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership to try to rectify this problem.

On the same day Australian newspapers and talkback radio waves were full of NAPLAN stories, it was reported in the New York Post that the city’s schools made large gains in the state literacy and numeracy tests, and that charter schools — which enrol mainly low income and black and Hispanic students — were largely responsible. Across New York, 76% of charter schools outperformed their public school districts in maths and 71% in English.

Charter school quality varies, but some achieve remarkable results. High-performing charter schools tend to have some common characteristics, including selectively recruiting the best teachers and investing their instructional efforts heavily in literacy and numeracy. Many, if not most, use traditional teaching methods, including direct instruction. And their strong results can’t be attributed to higher funding — New York state charter schools, for example, are funded at a per-pupil rate 30% lower than district public schools.

Charter schools in the US and high-performing, low SES public schools around Australia show that social background need not be a barrier to literacy, but more funding will not automatically lead to better outcomes.

Only with effective, evidence-based instruction, including systematic, synthetic phonics, will all children learn to read.


Sunday, August 07, 2016

British children taught by trainee teachers who don't even have an A-level in their subject

Children face being taught maths, physics and biology by teachers who do not have A-levels in their specialist subjects, shock research reveals.

Nearly two out of five trainee maths teachers did not study it beyond GCSE, according to figures analysed by Labour.

More than half of biology teacher trainees do not have a qualification in the subject.

And a quarter of students studying to teach physics do not have physics A-level.

Labour said the revelations made a mockery of Tory promises to make Britain a world leader in maths, science and engineering.

The stats come two weeks before tens of thousands of students collect their A-level results.

Shadow Education Secretary Angela Rayner said: “These figures show just how desperate the Tory teacher crisis has become.

“Far from their promises to ‘lead the world in maths and science’, the Tories have been forced to recruit trainees to teach subjects that they themselves do not have qualifications in. “How can we ever hope to inspire children to study maths and science in further education when not even their teachers have?

The stats were quietly uploaded onto a Government website last week, after MPs had left Westminster for the summer recess.

They show that a growing number of teachers hoping to school kids in maths and chemistry have not got either A-levels or AS-levels in their chosen topic.

In 2013-14, 27% of maths teacher trainees did not have higher qualifications than GCSEs in the subject. But that climbed to 38% in 2014-15. Similarly 23% of would-be chemistry teachers did not have either A-level or AS-level chemistry in 2014-15 - a figure that jumped to 33% a year later.

The Tories had promised to put the quality of maths teaching and education at the top of their agenda.

Last year’s general election manifesto said: “We aim to make Britain the best place in the world to study maths, science and engineering ... To help achieve this, we will train an extra 17,500 maths and physics teachers over the next five years.”

In February, Whitehall watchdog the National Audit Office found ministers had missed their trainee teacher recruitment targets for the last four years in a row.

Between 2011 and 2014 the number of teachers leaving the profession rocketed by 11%.

And the proportion of those who chose to leave the classroom before retiring leapt from 64% to 75%.

A Department of Education spokesman said: “These figures are misleading. “Undergraduate teacher trainees represents a very small proportion of the overall cohort, with the vast majority of entrants holding a degree.

“The quality of those trainees continues to be high. A record proportion – 18% – of those in postgraduate teacher training in 2015/16 held a first-class degree.

“Recent statistics show that more than 70% of lessons in maths, English, most science subjects, geography, French and German are taught by teachers with relevant post A level qualifications.”


Homeschoolers Aren’t Waiting on Politicians’ Promises of School Choice

Teaching your own kids is a do-it-yourself option for an individualistic age

J.D. Tuccille

Donald Trump managed to sound at least one encouraging note at a Republican convention focused more on fueling fears then empowering individuals. "We will rescue kids from failing schools by helping their parents send them to a safe school of their choice," he boasted in his acceptance speech.

Well, OK. The reference to "safe school" does put the emphasis on danger rather than education, but at least Trump called for parental choice. And Donald Trump Jr. compared public schools to "Soviet Era department stores that are run for the benefit of the clerks and not the customers, for the teachers and the administrators and not the students." He went on to call for choice and competition.

That sounds great for those of us who like options, especially with a new school year looming. And Americans have been embracing education choices—we've seen high-profile growth in the number of children attending privately-managed, publicly-funded charter schools, from 800,000 kids in 2003-2004 to 2.5 million, or 5.1 percent of total public school enrollment, in 2013-2014. That's sparked a lot of debate about the effectiveness of charter schools and the desirability (yes, really) of letting motivated families flee faltering public institutions.

More quietly, though, many American families have opted out of institutional education of any sort, taking on the responsibility of teaching their own children. From 1.1 million kids in 2003, the ranks of the homeschooled increased to 1.8 million in 2012—and an estimated 2.3 million this year, catching up quickly with the charter population. Homeschooled children outnumbered those enrolled in North Carolina's private schools as of 2014 after a whopping 27 percent increase in just two years.

My son is part of the surge in the number of children learning at home. The reason for our choice is ably captured in a point made by John Taylor Gatto, a former New York State Teacher of the Year who became a critic of government-controlled education. In his 2008 book, Weapons of Mass Instruction, Gatto wrote about the difference between schooling and education. "Education is a matter of self-mastery, first; then self-enlargement, even self-transcendance—as all possibilities of the human spirit open themselves into zones for exploration and understanding. There are points where the two conditions inform one another, but in schooling, somebody else's agenda is always uppermost."

You could say the same of any institution—that its interests overwhelm the individual concerns of the people within it. But that's why it's always a good idea to have alternatives and an exit strategy for when "somebody else's agenda" is incompatible with your own.

Such incompatibility has become a serious concern even with popular charter schools. Aside from the fact that there's always a potential mismatch between a family's priorities and a school's, even in an independently operated institution, charter schools face growing regulatory burdens that push them to consolidate and homogenize. Controversial national education standards have added to that burden, since they fall on charter schools as well as traditional public schools. "Some 2 million families have decided that charter schools are the best place for their children," the Goldwater Institute's Jonathan Butcher warned. "But under Common Core, these schools' options for differentiating themselves could be limited."

As of yet, homeschoolers face no comparable regulatory threats. Opposition to Common Core was part of the inspiration for the surge in homeschooling in North Carolina, according to the Charlotte Observer, and the same phenomenon is at work across the country. Rather than expend their time and energy battling to change a stubborn institution (North Carolina officials spent a year investigating a replacement for Common Core before deciding to keep the standards in place), parents walked out the doors and took on the task of education themselves.

Not that homeschooling parents all have the same motivation. As befits a DIY movement encompassing millions of Americans, people have different reasons for taking on the responsibility and different ways of getting it done. Once known as a domain for the religious (and a few hippies), the number of homeschoolers reporting "a desire to provide religious instruction" as a motivating reason dropped from 83 percent in 2006-2007 to 64 percent in 2011-2012. "[T]he face of home schooling is changing, not because of faith, but because of what parents see as shortcomings in public and private schools," USA Today reported in 2012. "[T]he movement is deepening its mainstream roots," Reuters agreed, and that mainstreaming is likely to continue since most homeschooled adults appear to be happy with their experience. "About three-quarters of a sample of home-educated students who are now adults raising their own children are opting to home school."

That satisfaction may be derived in part from the academic success achieved by many homechooled students who "score, on average, at the 84th to 89th percentile" on tests. That's pretty impressive when you consider that a good many homeschoolers deemphasize grades and standardized testing, which are most useful for assessing masses of students within institutions, not individual learners.

Old concerns that homeschooled kids are locked away from interaction with the rest of the world—probably derived from the days when the practice was illegal and had to be done in secret—have faded as kids taught by their families have become more common and recognized as obviously normal (as "normal" as anybody else that is). "Research shows that in terms of self-concept, self-esteem and the ability to get along in groups, homeschoolers do just as well as their public school peers," according to Brian Ray of the National Home Education Research Institute.

And maybe homeschooling—DIY education—is the right movement for an increasingly diverse country suspicious of large institutions. In an America of proliferating news sources, gigs replacing jobs, fragmenting political parties, and myriad religious beliefs, why wouldn't people see teaching their own kids as one more thing they can do better than the powers-that-be?

So let's hope that Donald Trump means what he says about educational choice if he takes up residence in the White House next year. It would be nice to think that there's one area where he'll actually expand our liberty. But millions of Americans aren't waiting on politicians to offer them a few more options for teaching their children—they're doing it themselves.


Australia:  Police threatening to charge parents for letting kids walk to school

This is ridiculous.  When I was a kid I always walked to school by myself. Most of us did. It would not be wise in a large city these days but is still reasonable in a small country town where everybody knows everybody

DO your kids walk or ride to school by themselves? If so, you’re breaking the law, as one Queensland parent recently found out the hard way.

A parent in the small rural Queensland town of Miles, which is near Chinchilla, has recently been charged by police for breaching the criminal code in relation to child supervision.

Other parents have reacted strongly after a police notice about the crime, and the charge, was included in a newsletter at a rural Queensland school.

The notice from Miles police said that in the first few weeks of the school term, they had noticed a number of children under 12 walking or riding to school without ‘proper’ supervision.

It then goes on to quote section 364A of the Queensland Criminal Code, which says: “A person who, having the lawful care or charge of a child under 12 years, leaves the child for an unreasonable time without making reasonable provision for the supervision and care of the child during that time commits a misdemeanour. Maximum Penalty — 3 years imprisonment.”

The notice said police had laid criminal charges against a local parent and warned that others could face prosecution. “We are determined to provide the safest possible environment for our kids and our community and we ask everyone to play their part,” the notice said.

A Facebook post on the issue from a shocked Miles mum has been shared almost 1000 times.

Among the comments on the post is speculation about a possible specific reason for the police action.

Responding to a tweet from The Today Show, which aired a segment on the issue this morning, Queensland Police Commissioner Ian Stewart said there was “more to this story”.

He defended the officer who placed the notice, saying they were trying to “be proactive & keep kids safe”.