Sunday, December 31, 2017

'Controversial' professor who was sent death threats after blaming the Las Vegas massacre on 'white patriarchy' resigns from Philadelphia University

A Pennsylvania college professor who received death threats after linking the Las Vegas and Texas massacres to 'white supremacist patriarchy' and 'whiteness' has resigned.

Associate professor George Ciccariello-Maher said in a statement that he was leaving Drexel University as his situation had become 'unsustainable' due to harassment and death threats.

Ciccariello-Maher, 38, said the threats had come from 'right-wing, white supremacist media outlets and internet mobs' in the wake of his tweets about the terror attacks.

Writing in a statement on his Facebook, The political science and global studies professor writes: 'This is not a decision I take lightly.

'After nearly a year of harassment by right-wing, white supremacist media outlets and internet mobs, after death threats and threats of violence directed against me and my family, my situation has become unsustainable.

'Staying at Drexel in the eye of this storm has become detrimental to my own writing, speaking, and organizing.'

He also highlights the legitimization of white supremacy in the U.S. during the Trump presidency, saying 'the forces of resurgent white supremacy have tasted blood and are howling for more.

He added: 'In the face of aggression from the racist Right and impending global catastrophe, we must defend our universities, our students, and ourselves by defending the most vulnerable among us and by making our campuses unsafe spaces for white supremacists.'

Ciccariello-Maher, was put on leave by Drexel in October, after a series of tweets about the Las Vegas massacre, which saw 58 people killed and 546 injured.

He posted a tweet reading, "It's the white supremacist patriarchy, stupid." That tweet was followed by a series of similar statements.

Writing in an op-ed for the Washington Post, he that threats had started coming in after conservative media outlets highlighted his tweets.

A few weeks later, when 26 people were shot and killed at the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, he claimed in an interview that 'white' entitlement' was a factor in the killings.

Speaking to at the time, he further explained: 'Many white males are raised with a double sense of entitlement, since being both white and male are structures of power and dominance over (non-white and female) others.

'When that power is perceived to be threatened, as Donald Trump and other racist misogynists encourage people to believe, the results can be incredibly dangerous,' he added. 

The 38-year-old has found himself mired in controversy several times in recent years.

In 2016, he tweeted that all he wanted for Christmas was 'White genocide.'  He was also heavily criticized after posting that he was 'trying not to vomit or yell about Mosul' when he witnessed someone relinquish their first-class seat on an airplane for a soldier earlier this year.

The incident occurred two days after American forces accidentally killed 200 civilians after bombing the Iraqi city.


Keep the Federal Government Out of School Choice

School choice has many benefits. It frees people to select the type of education that will best serve their families. It makes educators accountable to the people they are supposed to work for. And study after study proves it typically leads to improved academic outcomes. But despite these advantages, that does not mean the federal government should push choice in a nationwide program. The dangers may be too great.

The Trump administration has made clear that it wants to support school choice. In his February address to Congress, the president called education “the civil rights issue of our time,” and he has pledged to direct $20 billion to advance choice. He also picked school choice stalwart Betsy DeVos as his education secretary.

Trump deserves credit for seeing the need to weaken a government monopoly, let parents choose the best education for their unique children and leave educators free to teach as they see fit. But there is great risk in federalizing choice: He who pays the piper calls the tune, and federal control could ultimately impose the same regulations on once-independent schools that have stifled public institutions.

We can glimpse what that might look like in higher education, where federal student aid makes schools and students dependent on Washington and drives the federal government’s regulatory tentacles deep into the education system.

In the 1970-1971 academic year, total federal aid for higher education was just $16 billion. Today it is around $158 billion. In 1992-1993, 45 percent of full-time, full-year undergraduates used some form of federal aid. By 2011-2012, that share had jumped to nearly 73 percent.

Attached to all that aid are volumes of regulations that have increased in scope and intrusiveness for years. There are rules eroding core legal protections for students accused of sexual misconduct and blunt measures of school quality that fail to account for even basic variables such as the composition of a school’s student body or big state subsidies. And colleges deal with a student body of adults—imagine the rules that could be instituted for children, who are not assumed to be capable of caring for themselves.

Of course, lots of college aid comes in the form of grants and loans, while the K-12 proposal getting the most attention is a tax credit for donating to organizations that provide scholarships. It’s appealing because it could fulfill Trump’s $20 billion promise without technically increasing the debt-ridden federal budget.

But that setup would not be protected from regulation. College tax credits can be claimed only for expenditures on accredited institutions, and the federal government regulates the accreditors. It is likely that a federal K-12 tax credit would start with a similar thicket of requirements for accreditation or eventually end up there. If something were to go wrong at even one or two schools accepting scholarship students, choice opponents and “accountability” hawks would likely head right to the regulatory presses.

Of course, such regulation can happen at the state level. But that is where federalism—states and Washington controlling different matters—can help. States are “laboratories of democracy.” They can try different policies, and do so without exposing everyone to possible failure. States also compete for residents and businesses, creating a much greater incentive to care about efficient and effective policy than Washington has.

If the federal government delivered choice through a new nationwide model, it would likely swamp these democratic labs and snuff out competition among differing choice policies, including vouchers, education savings accounts and other ideas of which no one has yet dreamt.

That does not mean the Trump administration can do nothing helpful. It can put the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program on a permanent and expanding footing. During nearly every budget cycle over the past eight years, the Obama administration attempted to zero out funding for choice in the District, a place where the feds actually do have constitutional authority to govern education. Thousands of low-income children could finally feel assured of their places in safe, effective, chosen schools.

The administration could also propose expanding choice to military families and children attending Bureau of Indian Education schools—the latter deemed the worst-performing schools in the United States.

Those offer major opportunities to create choices where few or none exist. Along with use of the bully pulpit to promote state-level choice, they would go far to advance the cause of educational freedom and opportunity.


The Low Academic Quality of Too Many Teachers

Walter E. Williams   

My recent columns have focused on the extremely poor educational outcomes for black students. There’s enough blame for all involved to have their fair share. That includes students who are hostile and alien to the educational process and have derelict, uninterested home environments.

After all, if there is not someone in the home to ensure that a youngster does his homework, has wholesome meals, gets eight to 10 hours of sleep, and behaves in school, educational dollars won’t produce much.

There’s another educational issue that’s neither flattering nor comfortable to confront. That’s the low academic quality of so many teachers. It’s an issue that must be confronted and dealt with if we’re to improve the quality of education. Most states require prospective teachers to pass a certification test. How about a sample of some of the test questions.

Here’s a question from a recent test given to college students in Michigan planning to become teachers: “Which of the following is largest? a. 1/4, b. 3/5, c. 1/2, d. 9/20.” Another question: “A town planning committee must decide how to use a 115-acre piece of land. The committee sets aside 20 acres of the land for watershed protection and an additional 37.4 acres for recreation. How much of the land is set aside for watershed protection and recreation? a. 43.15 acres, b. 54.6 acres, c. 57.4 acres, d. 60.4 acres”.

The Arizona teacher certification test asks: “Janet can type 250 words in 5 minutes, what is her typing rate per minute? a. 50wpm, b. 66wpm, c. 55wpm, d. 45wpm.”

The California Basic Educational Skills Test asks the test taker to find the verb in the following sentence: “The interior temperatures of even the coolest stars are measured in millions of degrees. a. Coolest, b. Of even, c. Are measured, d. In millions.”

A California Basic Educational Skills Test math question is: “You purchase a car making a down payment of $3,000 and 6 monthly payments of $225. How much have you paid so far for the car? a. $3225, b. $4350, c. $5375, d. $6550, e. $6398.”

My guess is that these are questions that an eighth- or ninth-grader with a good education ought to be able to answer. Such test questions demonstrate the low bar that states set in order for one to become a certified teacher. Even with such low expectations, college graduates have failed these and similarly constructed teacher certification tests. Recently, New York, after being tied up in court for years, dropped its teacher literacy test amid claims of racism.

A 2011 investigation by WSB-TV found that more than 700 Georgia teachers had repeatedly failed at least one portion of the certification test they were required to pass before receiving a teaching certificate. Nearly 60 teachers had failed the test more than 10 times, and one teacher had failed the test 18 times. There were 297 teachers on the Atlanta school system’s payroll who had failed the state certification test five times or more.

With but a few exceptions, schools of education represent the academic slums of colleges. They tend to be home to students who have the lowest academic test scores—for example, SAT scores—when they enter college. They also tend to have the lowest scores when they graduate and choose to take postgraduate admissions tests—such as the GRE, the MCAT, and the LSAT. Professors at schools of education tend to have the lowest level of academic respectability. American education could benefit from eliminating schools of education.

You might ask: Without schools of education, how would teachers be trained? I think that we ought to adopt a practice whereby teachers are hired according to their undergraduate major.

I learned this talking to a headmistress of a private school. She said she doesn’t hire education majors. She said that if she hires a teacher to teach chemistry, math, English, or any other subject, the person must have a bachelor’s degree in the discipline. Pedagogical techniques can be learned through short formal training, coaching, and experience.


Friday, December 29, 2017

Wisconsin middle school caught brainwashing young adolescents into guilt with 'privilege test'

They didn't do anything wrong, but they promise they won't do it again.  Not as blatantly, at least.  Another government school has been caught brainwashing its charges at a vulnerable age. 

West Bend, Wisconsin, a city of 31,000 that is 95% white, has a history of parental resistance to efforts by the establishment that dominates our educational and cultural institutions to propagandize their children using taxpayer dollars.  But that didn't deter Badger Middle School from administering a 55-question "privilege test" to 150 young adolescents who read To Kill a Mockingbird.

An optional test given to some eighth graders in West Bend is sparking controversy and prompted the district to cancel the questionnaire altogether. ...

This wasn't the first year for the test. District officials say they would have done things differently, but they stand behind the idea of the exercise.

They don't admit to doing anything wrong, but they promise they won't do it again.  That means they have to be less blatant in their indoctrination efforts. Parents were furious that their children were being compelled to face sexual and behavioral issues beyond their level of maturity:

"Some of the language in the questionnaire I can see why, as a parent of a 13, 14-year-old eighth grader, some people may feel as though those are topics that should be discussed in the home and not the classroom," said Badger Middle School Principal Dave Uelman.

Another question, "I have never been catcalled," bothered Goldman. "My child doesn't know what that means and she's 13," said Goldman. "This is the age they're teaching it? She doesn't know what being catcalled means."

In a prosperous city whose African-American population is less than one percent, a city where many people work in manufacturing and blue-collar trades, something has to be done about attitudes that do not conform to the multiculturalist orthodoxy. 

There were questions like, "I have never tried to hide my sexuality" or "I have never been called a terrorist." ...

Lots of questions suggest topics a 13-year-old might not be ready to deal with and plant suggestions:

"I never doubted my parents' acceptance of my sexuality."
"I have never tried to hide my sexuality."
"I feel comfortable with the gender I was born in."

The educrats believe that it is their duty to enlighten the vulnerable young minds whose care has been entrusted to them by the state.  Adolescence is a time of identity formation for adulthood and is full of insecurity and pain, hard enough without being pushed into thinking of yourself as the guilty victimizer of people you've never met.  But such worries do not trouble the school authorities:

"If we want our students to be successful when they go out into their careers in the future, they have to understand that not everyone is like them," said Assistant Superintendent, Laura Jackson.

The presumption here is that people with degrees from an education school have absolute knowledge of the correct ways to think about sex and race, so they should be in charge of deciding what values our children should hold and how they should regard themselves as they forge adult identities.  That's the theory our taxpayer money is backing, and it is resulting in continued brainwashing.


Top Execs Continue To Flee Clinton-Linked Education provider

No more big donors now Hillary lost

The most prestigious board member of Laureate Education has announced his departure from the firm, continuing a rapid exodus of top-level executives at the Clinton-connected company.

Robert Zoellick, a former World Bank president, will leave the company at the end of December, The Daily Caller News Foundation has learned. His resignation follows on the heels of a number of unexpected departures since the company went public last February, as previously reported by TheDCNF. Those departures include the company’s founder and CEO, Douglas Becker, as well as its chief operating officer, chief legal officer, and its chief human resources officer.

The for-profit education company is best known for paying former President Bill Clinton nearly $18 million to serve as the “Honorary Chairman” at Laureate International Universities (LIU), the company’s main corporate entity. LIU also donated up to $5 million to the Clinton Foundation, according to the Clinton Foundation’s website.

The departure of such high-level executives “is very unusual,” according to Aswath Damodaran, a professor of finance at the Stern School of Business at New York University, where he teaches corporate finance and equity valuation.

“Right after an IPO, the top management departs. It’s not good news,” Damodaran told TheDCNF last October, stressing that executives fleeing for the doors following an IPO is “never a good sign.”

A World Bank entity called the International Finance Corporation awarded a $150 million investment to Laureate in Jan. 2013 during Zoellick’s term. IFC later increased the amount to $200 million. The company announced in Dec. 2016 Zoellick was joining the firm’s board.

When Hillary Clinton was Secretary of State, Laureate’s Becker also received $17 million for another of his organizations called International Youth Foundation. The IYF funds came from the State Department’s Agency for International Development. IYF also collaborated with many Clinton Foundation programs.

Laureate runs for-profit schools, that came under fire during former President Barack Obama’s administration. Unlike American competitors in the for-profit education industry, about 75 percent of the school operations are located overseas in about a dozen countries. Tuition from its international operations constitutes the organization’s largest single source of revenue, according to the company’s SEC 10-Q filing, a quarterly report for the period ending Sept. 30, 2017.

Laureate has been characterized as a classic “pay-to-play” operation by critics that include the company’s hiring of former heads of state and the leaders of international multinational organizations to assist in overseas operations.

The company came under fire for ties to the Clintons and a relationship with their foundation. Sixty-five members of Congress asked the FBI, the Internal Revenue Service and the Federal Trade Center to probe the Clinton Foundation in July 2016 on corruption charges that included a request to specifically examine the foundation’s relationship with Laureate.

After hiring Bill Clinton, Laureate continued its aggressive recruitment of political heavyweights with its decision in 2013 to add Zoellick to the board.

Interested in packing the company with international figures, Laureate also named former Mexican President Ernesto Zedillo its “Presidential Counsellor” in 2015. Zedillo governed Mexico as head of the Mexican political party called the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), that had a monopoly on power for 71 years. The PRI is a full member of the Socialist International.

Laureate’s largest single revenue source comes from Latin America, where the company operates schools in Brazil, Chile, Costa Rica, Honduras, Panama, Peru and Ecuador and Mexico, according to the company’s 10-K quarterly SEC filings.

Laureate did not issue a press release announcing Zoellick’s resignation, but only reported it to the SEC under an 8-K filing that requires companies to announce “material events” affecting a company. Laureate stated Zoellick “did not express any disagreement with the Company,” in the SEC filing dated Dec. 16, but the company did not state the reasons for his resignation.

TheDCNF contacted Laureate, but did not receive any reply.

Zoellick was richly rewarded for his board membership. He received $225,000 in total compensation in 2016, according to a Laureate SEC filing.

Zoellick also was awarded 18,558 Class “A” shares in the company on Jan. 31, the day before the company went public.

Laureate’s stock has performed far below its original estimated initial public offering (IPO) price of $21 per share, later adjusted downward before it went public Feb. 1 at a price of $14 to $17 per share. The company experienced a brief breakout on June 19, hitting a year high of $18.51, but continued its falling streak, hitting a low of $10.53 on Nov. 15, according to NASDAQ.

The company in May informed the SEC of the 40 million shares originally issued as an IPO and 5.4 million shares were never issued. They informed the SEC on May 24, 2017, the company “deregistered” 5.4 million shares.

Kohlberg, Kravis Roberts (KKR), a private equity firm, was one of the largest investors in Laureate. KKR received nearly 30 million Laureate shares below the market price, paying $11.90 per share, according to the company’s SEC filings shortly after it went public.

After Zoellick left the World Bank he became the “non-executive chairman” of AllianceBernstein, a global investment management firm that offers research and investment services “to institutional investors, individuals, and private wealth clients in major world markets.”

Zoellick also serves on the boards of Singapore’s sovereign wealth fund, Rolls Royce and AXA, a French insurance firm, among other companies.

Zoellick joined Laureate’s board in 2013 and also rejoined Goldman Sachs in 2013, this time serving as the chairman of its international advisory board. He previously served as vice chairman of Goldman Sachs.

Zoellick is a Republican and most recently served in a number of roles in former President George W. Bush’s administration, including as a U.S. Trade Representative and as deputy Secretary of State.

He was a close confident of Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney. Zoellick was a signatory to a March 12, 2016 open letter opposing the President Donald Trump’s candidacy. The letter accused Trump of being “fundamentally dishonest.”

His highest profile job, however, was when he became World Bank President in 2007. He replaced Paul Wolfowitz, who rocked the bank in a sex scandal involving a foreign national who also worked at the bank.


Australia: Attack on free speech means university is no longer a place to learn life lessons

I did an English degree in the 90s and as far as rites of passage go, it was awesome. It was for the most part, uncomplicated. It was wholly free from a dialogue of victimhood, political correctness and timidity of thought.

Now, as my 17-year-old nephew prepares to go to university in a month or so, I confess to being a little nervous about the environment he and hundreds of thousands of Australian young adults are going into.

For some time at least anecdotally there have been concerns about the erosion of critical thinking at Australia’s universities. The odd opinion piece, like this one, the occasional news report, all hinting at, warning of an odious slide into mental protectionism.

What do I mean by that? Well, campuses have seemingly become overrun by the notion of providing a “safe space” either in word or in deed, where nobody disagrees, nobody is allowed to get offended and truly diverse ideas inevitably die like dogs in the gutter.

Now, let me be clear from the get-go. This is not about curriculum, although that’s one for another day. It is about social engineering and deliberate restriction of free speech.

Research conducted by the Institute of Public Affairs and published at the end of last year in the Weekend Australian paints a clear and frightening picture of just how real this issue is. The IPA conducted an audit and analysis of university policies, procedures and guidelines. It found 81 per cent of Australia’s 42 universities are actively hostile to free speech. Actively hostile. That means the people running these joints are actively trying to restrict intellectual freedom.

At universities. Let that sink in for just a minute.

The IPA also found that 17 per cent go so far as to threaten free speech. It found hundreds of policies, including in one case, a 1600-word “flag policy” (the mind boggles), yet the majority of unis fail to comply with their legislated obligation to have a policy that “upholds free intellectual inquiry”. Only eight universities complied.

It went on to describe an environment in which there have been violent protests against certain speakers, and students instructed not to express their viewpoint. Violent protests.

Apart from violence being, you know, a criminal activity, does that not just scream a lack of intellectual depth? If the best response students have to a differing view is to torch the joint or belt someone with a piece of 4x2, you’re not really talking about our nation’s brightest. What is even more sobering is that the audit found almost all of the regulations and restrictions extend beyond the law itself. Students are more censored, restricted and gagged by their universities than in real life.

It seems the culture behind all of this has been allowed to quietly thrive and spread like lantana on your gran’s back fence because nobody thought they’d ever need to prune it.

I know it’s the habit of every generation to look back and think they did things better. I’m not so foolish nor blinkered to suggest it was perfect, because it wasn’t.

But what it was, was an environment in which we learnt not just in lectures (and let’s be clear, sometimes not even in lectures) but in the day-to-day social navigation around differing views, ideas, cultures and beliefs and the basic life skills that navigation teaches a person.

The reason we should be taking notice of this lies in the black and white numbers of the IPA’s audit. Sure, it backs up a view I’ve held and many of my peers and mates have held for some time, but it’s not about being right, it’s not even about that. It’s about the kind of place a university should be.

It’s about the systematic removal of circumstances in which young people can, through normal, everyday life, develop independent and critical thinking by dealing with people who hold opposing views — even ones most of us might find a tad gauche.

I’m going to go a step further. Learning to deal with offence — rather than the offence itself, is a gift. It’s a life lesson. It teaches you to think for yourself, toss out the garbage, keep what works, listen with an open mind, and respectfully walk away without setting fire to something or calling a lawyer.

And if university isn’t one of the places young people get to learn this, then change is way overdue.


Thursday, December 28, 2017

Senate Democrats Target Homeschool Families in Last-Minute Tax Reform Tantrum

Leftists hate home schooling.  It takes kids out of their power

As the Republican Party edged closer to passing historic tax reform, Democrats in the U.S. Senate used a last-minute procedural protest to attack homeschool families. Their petty complaint struck the short title of the tax reform bill, one provision of the endowment tax, and the extension of college savings plans to homeschool expenses.

The homeschool attack proved particularly revealing. The Republican tax bill would extend the use of 529 tax-advantaged saving plans — originally intended to foster saving for college tuition — to K-12 public and private schools, as well as homeschooling. Rather than complaining that 529s should only be for college, the Democrats struck the homeschool provision, leaving the K-12 school extension in place.

Make no mistake: this was a disgusting attack on the families of approximately 1.5 million American children who are educated at home, perhaps in an attempt to privilege teacher's unions.

On Tuesday night, Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) issued a joint statement in a last-ditch attempt to halt the passage of the tax reform bill. Ironically, they blamed Republicans for breaking the rules, in the very act of applying the rules as a bludgeon against homeschool families.

"In the mad dash to provide tax breaks for their billionaire campaign contributors, our Republican colleagues forgot to comply with the rules of the Senate," Sanders and Wyden said. "We applaud the parliamentarian for determining that three provisions in this disastrous bill are in violation of the Byrd rule."

The Byrd rule lays out six criteria deemed "extraneous" in any reconciliation bill. Presence of these "extraneous" parts of legislation would increase the threshold for a bill to pass the Senate — 60 senators, rather than just 50, would be required to vote for it.

Sanders and Wyden admitted their intent in pushing the Byrd rule: "It is our intention to raise a point of order to remove these provisions from the conference report and require the House to vote on this bill again."

Ironically, the Democrats attacked the Republicans for supporting the wealthy and corporations — in the very act of eviscerating aid to homeschool families, a likely move to reward their teachers' union donors. "Instead of providing tax breaks to the wealthiest people and most profitable corporations, we need to rebuild the disappearing middle class."

The upshot of this particular tantrum, however, will not help the middle class against the wealthiest corporations — it will slam homeschool families and one particular college in Kentucky. This complaint also engaged in the petty revision of the tax bill's short title, as if the "Tax Cuts and Jobs Act" is an attack on the poor.

Senate Democrats "Slander" Hillsdale College in Attacking "Hillsdale Exemption" in Tax Reform
The Republican tax reform bill added a new tax on the endowments of wealthy private colleges. This new tax inspired a similar Democratic tantrum, when Wyden himself pushed a special amendment to make sure colleges that reject federal funding would not get a pass from the tax.

In this version, Wyden's tantrum involved striking the words "tuition-paying" from the tax. This minor complaint would bring Kentucky's Berea College under the tax.

Berea College is a "work college." It enrolls mostly low-income students and charges no tuition. Berea enrolls slightly more than 1,600 students, with an endowment of $1 billion. The endowment's value — around $625,000 per student — passes the cap of $500,000 set by the tax law.

Even so, "that money goes towards helping low-income students attend and finish college," Steven M. Bloom, director of government relations at the American Council on Education, told The Chronicle of Higher Education. "Berea College is the crown jewel for what higher education can do for low-income people."

Lyle D. Roelofs, president of Berea College, emphasized the noble use of the college's endowment. "Berea College uses its entire endowment to educate students who could not otherwise afford to attend college, serving them on a no-tuition basis," he said.

"We agree that there need to be incentives for schools to make higher education accessible to all students, but it seems so unfortunate that the political strife over tax reform in our country will result in greater difficulty for colleges seeking to serve low-income students," Roelofs declared.

The Berea president was spot on. Democrats, in wrangling over tax reform, have only cost the poor students at Berea College — and the thousands of homeschool families across the country.

Politically, Democrats gained little to nothing from this tactic. They prevented tax reform from passing Tuesday night, and pushed it to Wednesday. This is why the homeschool attack proved particularly disgusting.

Again, if Democrats had complained that 529s should only be used for college savings — and therefore should not be employed for K-12 schools, be they private, public, or home schools — that would have been a legitimate complaint. Instead, they targeted homeschooling families, and exempted public schools from their ire.

When Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) achieved the amendment to extend 529 savings to K-12 education of all kinds, he made a powerful statement.

"As part of this historic effort, we've also invested in our children and expanded educational opportunities, with the expansion of 529's to include K-12 elementary and secondary school tuition, including educational expenses for homeschool students," Cruz declared. "By expanding choice for parents and opportunities for children, we have prioritized the education of the next generation of Americans, allowing families to save and prepare for their children's future educational expenses."


New college for conservative Christians planned in Boston

In a city full of colleges and in an economy increasingly perilous for small schools, one wealthy businessman is making an unlikely investment. Next fall he will open a college in Boston geared toward conservative Christian students, using an innovative model that incorporates online learning.

Sattler College, named after a 16th century martyr, will be entirely funded by Finny Kuruvilla, an investment fund manager with a medical degree and a PhD from Harvard. He has guaranteed $30 million of his money to fund the school.

In his view, the traditional college model is broken. The new four-year school is his attempt to start from a blank slate. He said his goals are threefold: to teach a strong core of liberal arts courses, provide students with a Christian community, and keep the cost extremely low. Tuition will be $9,000 per year, about a fifth of the cost of a typical private college.

Kuruvilla, who attends and preaches at a small church in Medford called Followers of the Way, said he lived as a residential assistant in Harvard undergraduate dorms while in medical school and was disturbed by what he saw. College corrupted students’ character instead of developing it, he said.

“The whole notion of education has become generally confined to academic thought, not so much to developing of the whole person, character, and integrity,” he said. “I think that’s a great tragedy.”

At typical colleges, Kuruvilla believes, students are susceptible to pornography, cheating, and even being sexually assaulted or abused. At Harvard, he said, he saw students take certain classes because they were easy or fun, such as Japanese cooking or a course on fairy tales.

He said Sattler will be academically rigorous and spiritually nurturing. The school’s stated mission is to “prepare students to serve Christ, the church, and the world.”

The college is targeting the home-schooled and other Christian students wary of a typical college environment. And indeed, some applicants said they were not interested in college until they heard about this school.

One applicant, Austin Lapp, lives in a community in rural Ohio where, he said, most people he knows work for a family business.

Lapp, 25, worked for his father’s kitchen-construction business for several years and taught at a religious school but said his dream is to teach English overseas.

He was apprehensive about attending college because he has heard that many young people lose their faith in college. That is why Sattler appeals to him.

“I had to ask myself how will four years in a secular school affect my character and my worldview and my faith, my relationship with Jesus,” he said.

The college is not affiliated with a specific denomination, but according to its website and application to state regulators, its beliefs correspond with a movement of Christianity known as Anabaptist. The school’s founding principles include the ideas that Christians should not serve in war or remarry after divorce.

To keep expenses low, the school will operate in an office building at 100 Cambridge St. and not offer housing or other amenities. The college will have three faculty and about 25 students the first year, with the goal of eventually enrolling 300.

The college’s academic model is unique. The faculty will teach some core courses in biblical languages and religious history, but many academic courses will be taken online. Students will watch lectures through free online learning platforms such as EdX, then attend classes to discuss the material with other students and professors. Faculty, who will be named later, will also mentor the students spiritually, Kuruvilla said.

The school will offer five majors: business, computer science, human biology, biblical and religious studies, and history. School officials hope to eventually expand to include engineering, physics, and journalism.

Only four new colleges have been approved in Massachusetts in the past five years, including Sattler, according to the state Department of Higher Education, all of them niche schools. Two are education schools, and one is for the maritime industry.

Yet small colleges especially are suffering lately and have increasing difficulty justifying their high costs to students worried about debt. For that reason, Chris Gabrieli, chairman of the state Board of Higher Education, said Sattler offers value to students.

Gabrieli said the board wanted to encourage the kind of innovative, cost-saving model the school is adopting while making sure its religious tenets do not discriminate.

“It’s fascinating,” he said.

The state board approved the college in 2016 and plans to monitor it for the first five years. The school is also seeking approval from a regional accrediting agency, and until then its students cannot access federally subsidized loans.

For now, Kuruvilla is running the school out of the office of his values-based investment firm, Eventide Asset Management, on the 35th floor of One International Place. Students have submitted their applications and will soon hear if they have been accepted.

Hannah Milioni, an applicant who lives in Medford, said she was not planning to attend college until she heard about Sattler. She said she wanted to attend a Christian college but worried the academics at a religious school might not be rigorous.

“Often in religious schools you have to choose between having a Christian school and a really good education,” she said.

Milioni, 17, was home-schooled and said she heard about the school from Kuruvilla because they attend the same church.

Kenneth Godoy, of Bedford, Pa., also heard about the school through church friends. The 21-year-old is interested in photography, graphic design, and poetry, but since the college does not offer those majors he said he might study history if he is accepted.

He said he is interested in the school for its religious affiliation and emphasis on community.

“It’s a Christian community, it’s a Christian atmosphere, and there is to some extent safety in that,” he said.


Teaching spoon-fed students how to really read

Writing below is Tegan Bennett Daylight, an Australian  Leftist lady with a love of literature, Australian literature particularly.  Her essay is very long-winded in the usual Leftist way so I have just picked out below some paragraphs that may summarize what she is driving at.  To be rather cliche about it, she seems to think that reading creative fiction broadens your horizons.  I think it does too but would choose quite different books to the ones she does.  Some of the books that have interested me are  listed here and here.  She refers to the novel "Monkey Grip" below.  It is about druggies, dropouts, single mothers and "arty" types. Not my scene

I’ve recently finished marking 40-odd exams, mostly written by people between the ages of 18 and 21. In them our students had to answer questions about aspects of literature, such as free indirect speech or genre. They also had to write an essay of 1,000 words, on the work of Helen Garner, Christos Tsiolkas, Judith Wright, Jack Davis or Tim Winton.

My students are, for the most part, education students who live in regional Australia. If they get their degree, they are bound for early childhood centres, preschools, primary schools, high schools. These are our new teachers.

If you have little to do with tertiary education you might not have noticed this: that there is a whole new cohort of young people attending university, people who might not have done so 30 or 40 years ago. Our economy has been transforming itself from blue to white collar for decades; an education that relies on the written word is newly necessary.

The first time I taught "Monkey Grip" in English One I was struck by two things. First, by how many of my students were offended by it. They found it too sexually explicit, too full of “profanity”, and they deplored Norah’s method of parenting: the shared household, the children exposed to drug taking and other radical behaviours.

The second thing that struck me was how difficult my students found the 10-page extract. They didn’t know who Helen Garner was, the 1970s were too far away to mean anything to them, and they couldn’t locate themselves in the story. They didn’t know who was speaking, and who she was speaking to. How old was she, where was she, what was happening?

Well, there is only one way to go on, as I tell students – and that is to go on. This is the first and greatest difficulty they face. There’s no reason for them to continue reading. There is so much else to read that is shorter, and not just aimed at them, but, in the case of their Facebook feed, tuned to their experience. Marketed to them. Why would they bother reading something that was neither for them nor about them?

But then there are moments like this one, early on in my English teaching, when my class were reading and struggling with Les Murray’s The Cows on Killing Day. I’d always loved this poem. In it the poet imagines the death by knife of an old cow, from the point of view of the herd. Murray uses a first person compound pronoun, all me, to speak in the cows’ collective voice:

All me come running. It’s like the Hot Part of the sky

that’s hard to look at, this that now happens behind wood

in the raw yard. A shining leaf, like off the bitter gum tree

is with the human. It works in the neck of me

and the terrible floods out, swamped and frothy.

I had a student who had already responded very positively to Helen Garner’s Against Embarrassment, a simple essay that makes a plea for unselfconscious pleasure in performance. Like many students would after her, she had read Garner’s essay in the light of her university enrolment; it made her determined to enjoy herself, to unselfconsciously engage in learning, to stop being critical of herself. She’d worked several years as a dairymaid after leaving school early, thinking she was “too stupid” for university. As we read The Cows on Killing Day aloud, her voice came ringing from the desks at the back of the class: “But this is exactly what it’s like!”

The Cows on Killing Day elicits a variety of reactions from my students, many of whom have been brought up on farms. I’ve had young people furious with me. They say, “I hate this poem. This shouldn’t be written about,” or, “No one likes it. But it’s a part of life.” I’ve also had city or mountains-bred students – there are a couple of them each year – who’ve never killed an animal in their life, and self-righteously feel that the poem is a paean to vegetarianism.

But this student, the ex-dairymaid, read the poem as it is meant to be read. Murray doesn’t ask for sympathy for the cow: his job is simply to use his art to show what it’s like. After this class, my student went from a pass for her first assignment to a distinction for her second. At the end of the semester she told me she’d decided to switch her teaching specialisation to English.

This is what my students have learned: how to read more than 200 words of a text at a time. How to write something about the way they feel. And, finally, how to notice that a text is doing something. Not to simply slump, bored, in front of a block of writing and hope that it goes away. How to notice that it is up to something. Perhaps, in the future, to read a little differently. To feel those ideas about literature, so angrily learned, change the way they see.


Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Rolling Stone Reaches Final Settlement After Botched UVA Rape Story

Rolling Stone magazine, the legacy music and culture publication spanning 50 years, has reached its final settlement stemming from the infamous 2014 “A Rape on Campus” article that subsequently ended up mostly unsubstantiated.

The article centered on an alleged gang rape of a freshman girl named “Jackie” by fraternity brothers at the University of Virginia. The article was later retracted after multiple aspects of Jackie’s story appeared inconsistent or entirely contrived.

The magazine settled a defamation lawsuit Wednesday, brought by members of the Alpha chapter of the Phi Kappa Psi fraternity, where the alleged rape took took place. The fraternity’s claims were initially dismissed by a federal judge, but the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals agreed to hear the case in September. Instead of going forward, the two parties agreed to a settlement.

Wednesday marked the third settlement in the aftermath of the article, written by Sabrina Rubin Erdely. The first settlement went to the University of Virginia’s former associate dean, Nicole Eramo, because Erdely wrote that Nicole “silenced” and “discouraged” Jackie from reporting her alleged rape. Eramo received $3 million in court, but eventually settled with the magazine after an appeal was granted.

Phi Kappa Psi’s Virginia chapter also received a $1.65 million settlement in June, a significant drop in the $25 million in damages that was initially sought.

The third and final settlement comes at an interesting time for Rolling Stone. On the same day the settlement was announced, the magazine disclosed that cofounder Jann Wenner was selling his stake to Jay Penske, the owner of Variety magazine and Penske Media. The deal reportedly valued Rolling Stone at $100 million.


What is an example of American culture being dumbed down?

Susan Bertolino, Lecturer of Instruction in Intellectual Heritage, former classroom teacher, gives her answer

I have several examples, as I teach college undergraduates, plus I used to teach in public schools. I deal with it daily, and please know I am not some highbrow elitist.

In general, reading has become a lost art. Those of us who still read constantly are seen as geeks or just weird. Reading is not perceived as an enjoyable activity.

Why don’t people like to read? The elementary education experience takes all the fun out of it. You have to memorize quotes, study certain words, go into literature circles with bullies that taunt you. Then you get wrong answers if your view doesn’t correspond with the answer book.

Huh? Reading is about interpretation. Yes, give the students tools on reading to learn. Teach them what is a metaphor, symbolism, round characters, flat characters, plot versus story. Test them on that, and if they get it wrong, they need to learn the terms. Don’t mark an answer wrong because a reader may think Katniss from The Hunger Games is annoying. Don’t mark an answer wrong because a student decides that Voldemort does not epitomize evil as much as privilege and selfishness. Let people see characters and stories as they appear to them. Interpretation isn’t fun when there is only one answer. Grrrr!

Look hard for a bookstore in America. Borders no longer exists. Most independent bookstores got swallowed up by Barnes and Noble, which is as much a trinket store selling Starbucks lattes as it is a bookstore. Once people spent hours in bookstores, getting lost in all the beautiful covers and peaceful atmosphere, looking at books the way some people adore paintings.

Now bookstores are agitating and one cannot find a comfortable seat just to look at the books. It isn’t peaceful, nor is the bookstore an escape from the daily grind. I used to live at bookstores. I graded papers at Borders or local independent bookstores. No one cared. I always bought things, and I brought other people into the store. Now we don’t have many stores and the few that exist with new books are just not enjoyable.

We are swamped with visual media. I watch certain television shows like Walking Dead and Game of Thrones. However, it is now conceivable to watch a television show or a movie on the phone, on the computer, or on a tablet all the time. Watching seems easier than reading, and it gets people out of their head for a while, but they also lose the ability to distinguish what is going on in a written text.

Eventually, they have trouble following basic storylines in television and movies. If a person cannot follow an episode of Game of Thrones, then how will they do when someone assigns them Homer in college? Oh, I know, they will look at the wiki or Spark Notes. That brings me to my next point…

When asked to read, it is about shoveling information into the brain, not interpretation. Students ask: what do I need to know? Which quotes matter? What is the story? Tell me what happened. If I refuse, they go to Spark Notes or another online source. Sure, some do it because they can’t be bothered to read, but others are terrified of flunking an exam, so they want data, not dreams.

Their elementary education taught them to memorize for some test in the spring that is all important to the school. Students have been habituated into knowing, not thinking. Then they get someone like me in their lives who will fire the question back at them: Okay, what did happen? Why do you think the character chose to react this way? They panic. They did the reading, but they don’t know how to answer these questions.


Australia: NSW teachers behind homosexual "education"

We were told during the same sex marriage postal survey that the issue had nothing to do with what our children were being taught in schools and that concerns about the expansion of the Safe Schools Program and promotion of gender theory were red herrings.

However no less than 24 hours after the passing of same sex marriage into law op-ed pieces appeared online claiming that the next cause the movement should champion is LGBT inclusive education in schools.

What many people weren’t aware of during the postal survey was that many teachers and education unions support the yes campaign. The most prominent supporter was the Australian Education Union which represents school teachers at both primary and secondary level and is the largest union in the education sector.

State governments can remove Safe Schools type programs and ban the teaching of gender theory, but they cannot stop activist teachers from inserting their political agenda into the everyday classroom. This something that parents should be aware of as teachers’ political agendas are not exactly hidden.

The latest display of their agenda is that the New South Wales Teachers Federation wants to have a float in the 2018 Sydney Mardi Gras which has been the case in previous years. The organisers of the Mardi Gras appropriately declined with the official reason being that next year being the 40th anniversary of the parade they are already over their float capacity and can’t approve all applications.

Despite the inappropriateness of the teachers marching in what is a blatant political event not to mention contains explicit sexualised content the New South Wales Teachers Federation is not taking no for an answer. They have launched a petition on to pressure the Mardi Gras to accept their application. So far it has gained 1800 signatures.

Parents should be deeply concerned about any teachers marching in such a parade and what it means for the education of their children. If teachers believe that the Mardi Gras is an event they should participate in a public capacity, then what does it mean for how they approach their job in the classroom?

Developments such as this certainly point to the fact that more radical aspects of the LGBT agenda are being pushed after the legislation of same sex marriage especially to our youth by the people we entrust with their education. Teachers should be sticking to the three Rs and if they want to be politically active do it in their own time and not in a capacity as an educator.


Sunday, December 24, 2017

Suspension Reform Is Tormenting Schools

Under an Obama-era directive and the threat of federal civil rights investigation, thousands of American schools changed their discipline policies in an attempt to reduce out-of-school suspensions. Last year, education-policy researchers Matthew Steinberg and Joanna Lacoe reviewed the arguments for and against discipline reform in Education Next, concluding that little was known about the effects of the recent changes. But this year, the picture is becoming clearer: discipline reform has caused a school-climate catastrophe.

Philadelphia is the latest city to fall into crisis, according to a new study conducted by Lacoe and Steinberg. The Philly school district serves 134,000 students, about 70 percent of whom are black or Latino. In the 2012–13 school year, Philadelphia banned suspensions for non-violent classroom misbehavior. Steinberg and Lacoe estimate that, compared with other districts, discipline reform reduced academic achievement by 3 percent in math and nearly 7 percent in reading by 2016. The authors do report that, among students with previous suspensions, achievement increased by 0.2 percent. But this only demonstrates that well-behaved students bore the brunt of the academic damage.

Lacoe and Steinberg report another small improvement among previously suspended students: their attendance rose by 1.43 days a year. But again, this development was more than offset by the negative trend in the broader student body. Truancy in Philadelphia schools had been declining steadily before the reform, but then rose at an astonishing rate afterward, from about 25 percent to over 40 percent.

Perhaps students were staying at home because they were scared to be at school. Suspensions for non-violent classroom misbehavior dropped after the ban, but suspensions for “serious incidents” rose substantially. The effort to reduce the racial suspension gap actually increased it; African-American kids spent an extra .15 days out of school.

What in the world was going on inside these schools? Fortunately, Steinberg and Lacoe’s quantitative studies are complemented by qualitative research from the University of Pennsylvania’s Consortium for Policy Research in Education. The researchers’ conclusions are bleak: the district has taken away a disciplinary tool that teachers believe in, and made meager efforts at training teachers in an approach that they don’t find credible. Despite five years of hearing from their overseers that suspensions don’t work, more than 80 percent of teachers believe that suspensions are essential to send a message to parents about the seriousness of their child’s misbehavior, ensure a safe school environment, and encourage other students to follow the rules. About two-thirds of teachers believe that suspensions deter further student misbehavior.

Early in 2014, Arne Duncan, President Obama’s education secretary, accused teachers who suspended unruly kids of “racial discrimination” and threatened their superintendents with federal investigation if their districts didn’t reduce suspensions. Duncan declared that schools needed to shift to “evidence-based” discipline, such as the Department of Education–backed “Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports” (PBIS.) PBIS is a multi-tier, whole-school approach to instilling socially appropriate behavioral norms. Regarding discipline, “the emphasis is on the use of the most effective and most positive approach to addressing even the most severe problem behaviors. Most students will succeed when a positive school culture is promoted, informative corrective feedback is provided, academic success is maximized, and use of prosocial skills is acknowledged.” PBIS deemphasizes punishment, instead encouraging schools to “remove antecedents and consequences that trigger and maintain problem behavior.”

Some evidence suggests that PBIS can work, if schools have extra funding, training, and deep teacher buy-in. But those conditions don’t hold in major urban school districts. In Philadelphia, three years after banning suspensions for bad behavior, only 30 schools had received extra funding from the district to implement PBIS. According to the consortium’s study, many teachers harbor doubts about policies that they see as too soft; teachers at one school set up a “shadow” disciplinary system to circumvent the principal and do what they think works. Teachers reported feeling unsupported by administrators and were no more likely than teachers at non-PBIS schools to report that their principals handled discipline effectively. Even administrators dedicated to PBIS have their doubts. “I feel it’s kind of like banging your head against the wall,” one said. “So, all the things that I want to do are just not working.”

Remarkably, teachers at schools using suspension-averse policies proved no less likely to suspend kids than teachers at schools practicing traditional discipline—the ostensible point of the whole reform in the first place. Teachers in the reformist schools were, however, less likely to hold student-teacher conferences. That’s a disheartening finding, because the professed intention of the new policies is to encourage teachers to engage students before reporting misbehavior directly to the principal. Teachers report that principals have turned a blind eye to misbehavior and left it up to teachers to handle discipline. But principals are mirroring central office administrators, who have ordered schools to stop suspending students, while offering little in the way of workable alternatives.

Philadelphia’s story is the story of discipline reform nationwide. Philadelphia did this to itself, before Arne Duncan used the threat of a federal civil-rights investigation to make other districts follow suit. Last year, we knew next to nothing about the consequences of discipline reform. But the more we learn, the more reason we have to fear that Duncan’s deeply misguided federal guidance has put at-risk children at far greater risk. Current education secretary Betsy DeVos should rescind Duncan’s guidance on discipline, and parents should press their teachers and principals about what’s happening in their children’s schools.


Parents Triggered over Ivanka Trump School Visit, One Pulls Kid from School

Some Connecticut parents were angry over a surprise visit that first daughter and White House advisor Ivanka Trump paid to their children’s school on Monday. Parents were not informed about the visit due to security concerns.

“Only one parent withdrew their student for the school day Monday after hearing of the visit,” Brenda Williams, Norwalk Public Schools Chief Communications Officer told Fox News on Wednesday. “With the exception of those who were directly participating, the visit was kept confidential for security reasons, and parents understood that.”

"This should have been brought to our attention, although I do understand security reasons," parent Karey Fitzgerald told News 12. "I think we should have had the choice to send our child to school or keep them home."

Ivanka discussed the importance of career education and technical skills at the Norwalk Early College Academy along with IBM CEO Ginni Rometty.

The Norwalk Early College Academy teaches according to the “P-TECH” model, developed by IBM in 2011, in which students receive a high school diploma, an associate’s degree and technical skills all during their four years in high school.

Trump said it was an honor to meet with the students and that their education model will enable them to thrive in the modern economy.


Australian Parents accuse high school of 'indoctrinating' their children after teachers gave them assignments on changing the Australian flag and criticising President Trump

A Brisbane high school has been accused of 'indoctrinating' students by asking them to complete assignments on changing the Australian flag and criticising US President Donald Trump.

Parents of students at Kenmore State High School in Brisbane, Queensland, have complained of overtly political homework assignments which they say have no place in the classroom.

One particular assignment asked students to argue 'persuasively' in favour of Australia having a new flag, Sky News reports.

'I was really incensed because all these reasons for changing the flag were very political,' said Marion Tomes, grandmother to a male student at Kenmore State High School.

The criteria of the assignment read as followed: 'Write a persuasive speech that explains and justifies the design of your new flag and how it represents contemporary Australia.'

Another 'politicised' assignment Ms Tomes objected to was her grandson's English homework which asked him to write about saving Antarctica from melting.

The woman's granddaughter also previously attended the high-school, but she has since left after Ms Tomes took issue with the curriculum. 

She claims the teacher threatened bad marks to anyone who had positive things to say about the US President. 'The teacher did say that anyone who says a good word about Donald Trump won't get a good mark,' Ms Tomes added.

Author and former teacher Mark Lopez echoes Ms Tomes' concerns and said is it not uncommon for Australian students be taught with a fierce political bias.

'Absolutely typical of what goes on in the Australian education system... one side only. Politically correct left-wing view,' Mr Lopez told Sky News.

However the Queensland Department of Education and Training said in a statement that the examples of study are 'aligned to the intent of the Australian curriculum'.


Thursday, December 21, 2017

State ESAs: The Gold Standard for School Choice

The tax bill heading for a final vote would greatly expand tax-advantaged education savings programs. Under current law, these Section 529 plans (named after the enabling provision in the IRS code) can be used only to pay college expenses, but the new legislation would permit tax-exempt savings for K-12 education spending—up to $10,000 a year for tuition at private or parochial schools. This is great news for those families who can afford to sock away money for their children’s education. However, the expansion of 529 plans is no substitute for creating K-12 education savings account programs with universal eligibility. State ESAs remain the new gold standard for school choice.

ESAs help parents pay for their children’s private education—11,000 kids in Arizona, Florida, Mississippi, and Tennessee already participate in them. ESA legislation was also introduced to 21 other states in this year, according to Independent Institute Research Fellow Vicki E. Alger in an op-ed for the Washington Times. Most ESA programs fund the child’s accounts using public money that other otherwise go to his or her local public school, but Arkansas, Missouri, New Hampshire and Wyoming are considering programs that are privately managed or funded, much like a tax-credit scholarship program.

“California could readily enact this kind of ESA Program,” Alger writes. “It has nearly 190,000 tax-exempt charitable organizations, along with a well-established regulatory and oversight infrastructure.” Not only does it have the groundwork already in place, but as Alger first showed in her 52-page report Customized Learning for California, a tax-credit ESA program could be structured to pay for itself even if as few as one or two percent of California’s K-12 students participated. More importantly, it would vastly improve the educational opportunities for children in the nation’s most populous state.


Perverse Sex Ed in the UK

Secondary schools in the United Kingdom will soon be required by law to teach sex education using a now-undefined, government-mandated curriculum.

The curriculum has yet to be defined but is likely to incorporate homosexuality and transgenderism.

The new sex education curriculum will take effect in September 2019. It will include so-called "relationship education" for primary schools and an updated sexual education curriculum for secondary schools.

The current curriculum standards have gone largely unchanged for almost 20 years. This has caused some on the Left to trash the curriculum, with one report calling it "'too biological' at the expense of a focus on children's rights, equity, emotions and relationships — and too negative and risk-focused, at the expense of the affirmative and positive aspects of relationships and sexuality."

A Sky News report explains, "The update to statutory guidance follows concerns that current advice, last set in 2000, is out-of-date and does not address 'sexting,' online safety and cyber-bullying, as well as mental well-being and LGBT issues."

The report quotes U.K. Secretary of State for Education Justine Greening as saying, "I think we need to speak to parents and teachers in particular. And of course, young people."

She also claimed, "I met with some young people in Parliament about a month ago, and they were staggered that no government has updated the guidance since 2000, so I think there is a general consensus that we need to improve things and that it is what we are making a start on today."

Earlier this year, Greening was responsible for making so-called sex and relationship education mandatory in all U.K. schools.

Sex education has been a hot-button issue in Britain for the past decade or two. For example, in 2008 so-called relationship education was mandatory for schoolchildren as young as five. While some of the intention was to prevent sexual abuse of children and to discourage porn addiction, critics felt that it introduced explicit materials to ridiculously young ages.

Furthermore, a study in Britain earlier this year found that budget cuts which reduced access to free contraception actually resulted in fewer teen pregnancies.

Currently, Greening's Twitter page is full of links to surveys, forums and other ways for parents and students to express their opinion on sex education and hopefully impact the new curriculum still under development.

One of the issues that the new curriculum is likely to address is internet pornography. One of the reasons the Greening gave for updating the curriculum is "the huge amount of inappropriate material that is on the internet."

But there is some concern that they will address this grave sin in a falsely positive light. This is especially troubling, as the new government-mandated standards will apply even to Catholic schools.


Lack of Financial Literacy Remains Historic American Challenge

A new analysis published by Martha Brown Menard, who conducts financial services user experience research for Questis, dissects both successful and unsuccessful financial education programs, with an aim at discovering what approaches work best in what circumstances.

Setting the stage for her recommendations, Menard suggests financial stress among U.S. employees is reaching “epidemic proportions.” She cites survey data to the effect that 75% or more live paycheck to paycheck, personal savings rates are at their lowest since 2007, and non-mortgage debt levels are higher now than during the Great Recession.

“It’s no wonder so many people feel unable to pay off their consumer debt or save adequately for retirement, which only makes the situation worse. Because stressed employees bring these financial distractions to the workplace, it seems like a good idea for employers to provide some type of education, perhaps a seminar or lunch and learn, so that employees can become better informed about how to manage their personal finances,” Menard explains.

But for a variety of reasons, this kind of one-size-fits-all financial education has been demonstrated to have little to no effect on changing real-world financial behaviors. Indeed, as Menard lays out, a meta-analysis of more than 200 relevant studies found that workplace educational interventions explained only a tiny fraction of the downstream financial behavior changes studied.

Menard’s research takes a striking look back at the recent and not-so-recent development of workplace financial education in the United States. Quotes from figures throughout history show how the problem of poor financial literacy have been around since the beginning of the American Republic. She quotes early American president John Adams, who warned that “all the perplexities, confusion, and distress in America arise not from defects in their Constitution or Confederation, nor from want or honor or virtue, so much as the downright ignorance of the nature of coin, credit, and circulation.” In 1849, Menard observes, Victorian bank manager James Gilbart promoted financial education as a way to help potential customers of his London & County Bank feel comfortable by knowing what to expect when opening an account. Again in the U.S., the Smith-Lever Act of 1914 established the funding that land-grant colleges still use to teach cooperative extension courses in personal finance.

More recently, Congress modernized some of these educational efforts and in 2003 established the Financial Literacy and Education Commission, which subsequently released a national strategy for financial education. “Thanks to Congress, since 2004 Americans have celebrated April as National Financial Literacy Awareness Month,” Menard observes. “And President George W. Bush signed an order in January 2008 that created an advisory council on financial literacy.”

And yet with all this awareness of the problem—and literally centuries of discussion among thought leaders—have Americans, broadly speaking, improved their financial literacy? The evidence is at best mixed, Menard warns.

“Is general financial education effective? It certainly doesn’t look that way once we analyze the body of research to date,” Menard says. “Multiple academic studies have shown that claims of a cause and effect relationship between financial education and improved financial behaviors have very little evidence to support them. When examined more recently by a team of researchers conducting a meta-analysis of 90 previous studies, the correlations between financial education and improved financial behaviors were better explained by other individual difference factors that were not measured in the prior studies, such as familiarity with numerical concepts, financial confidence, and willingness to take risks.”

Menard’s observations continue: “Previous research evaluating the effectiveness of financial education often conflates two different kinds of studies: those that measure the degree to which a person is already financially literate, and those that measure whether and to what extent an educational intervention has increased a person’s financial knowledge. But neither pre-existing financial literacy nor educational interventions have been demonstrated to improve actual financial behaviors. Financial education explained only one tenth of one percent (.001) of downstream financial behaviors in the 90 studies that were aggregated, and the authors note that financial literacy is highly correlated with other individual differences or personality traits, such as self-efficacy, that can explain positive financial behaviors and outcomes. As in so many other areas of life, just because we know we should do something doesn’t mean we actually follow through and do it.”

The analysis goes on to suggest that behavioral psychology can be helpful in understanding this failure in education. Menard suggests those who receive financial education often fail to act because they are discounting the potential of future suffering, feeling overconfident about their future ability to take corrective action and worrying about potential losses. These are the same symptoms that cripple people from making better decisions across all facets of life, independent of their level of awareness on a given topic/challenge.

Menard’s analysis concludes that the lessons of behavioral finance are only just being absorbed into the domain of financial education—and she expects that over time the efficacy of educational programming could finally (and dramatically) improve. In the most simplistic terms, she says financial education “must be easy, by removing barriers or reducing friction; attractive, by offering the right incentive; social, by promoting a sense of positive belonging; and timely, by linking it to a current situation and an individual outlook.”


Wednesday, December 20, 2017

When School-Discipline ‘Reform’ Makes Schools Less Safe

Progressive education experts don’t seem to care that the policies they advocate are hurting the students who need the most help. Last week, a new analysis of Philadelphia public schools found that the district’s move to reform school discipline by embracing “restorative justice” had led to a raft of unfortunate results.

The decision to eliminate suspensions for classroom “conduct” led to skyrocketing truancy, serious misbehavior, and declining achievement. Truancy had been steadily declining, but increased sharply after the new policy was adopted. Compared with other Pennsylvania school districts and after controlling for demographics, the district’s math and reading achievement declined substantially after the adoption of the new policy.

And, ironically, students were actually suspended more often, because even as suspensions for minor offenses fell, suspensions for major offenses rose. The progressive education wonks who championed Philadelphia’s school-discipline reforms were remarkably unbothered by these alarming results. They didn’t even really challenge the data. Instead, they asserted that the reforms could work and should work.

Education Week ran a story titled, “In Discipline Debate, Two Groups Draw Different Conclusions About the Same District.” See, a second group of researchers, from the University of Pennsylvania, had taken a qualitative look at Philadelphia’s schools. The takeaway there for EdWeek readers was that it is “possible for the district to see improvements” because the disciplinary changes showed hints of promise in schools that were “wealthier and more white.”

That’s cold comfort, of course, given that the policy made things worse in the city’s poorer, less white schools — the struggling ones it was intended to help.

Such tales are painfully familiar to those who track the world of school reform. There’s a rhythm to it: Progressive reformers have an idea that they think should work; the idea doesn’t work; reformers claim to see hints of promise and explain that the problem is one merely of “implementation” . . . and then the cycle repeats. Meanwhile, teachers and parents are left to pick up the pieces.

Consider the Common Core. Reformers were alarmed that state standards weren’t high enough. So they cheered as the Obama administration bribed and coerced states to adopt new, “higher” standards. Parents complained, but reformers dismissed their assorted complaints as a combination of know-nothingism and fringe kookery.

When a report found that 85 percent of K–8 teachers thought the Common Core harmed parents’ ability to help their kids with math because they could no longer understand the assignments, reformers yawned. When the dust settled, nationwide achievement had broadly declined for the first time in years, but reformers saw hints of promise — and explained that the problems were simply a matter of implementation. After all, they said, high standards are important.

Powered by Consider teacher evaluation.

Reformers were alarmed that old systems rated 99 percent of teachers as effective. So the Obama Department of Education bribed and coerced states to adopt new evaluation frameworks tied to tests teachers had never seen. Teachers complained, but reformers dismissed their concerns as know-nothingism and self-interested carping. When the dust settled, teachers had had to dance through new, time-consuming, bureaucratic paper chases — and 98 percent of them were still rated effective.

Reformers acknowledged the results were disappointing, but explained the problems were nothing that couldn’t be cured by better implementation. After all, they said, teacher evaluation is important.

The same story is playing out now with concern to discipline reform, except that this time the lackluster results are actually dangerous. In New York City, a majority of students at half of schools serving a high share of minority students said they saw more fights and that their peers were less respectful.

In Chicago, peer respect deteriorated and teachers reported more disruptive behavior. In St. Paul, the district attorney declared school violence a “public-health crisis.” In Syracuse, the district attorney ordered a restoration of discipline after violence surged and a teacher was stabbed. In East Baton Rouge, 60 percent of teachers say they’ve experienced an increase in violence or threats, and 41 percent say they don’t feel safe in school.

Don’t expect progressive reformers to heed these warnings. Indeed, they seem more inclined to attack those who raise concerns than to step back from misguided policies. It’s far easier to take to Twitter and insinuate that those who are concerned about the practical consequences of lax discipline policies “sound kinda racist.” After all, they say, reducing suspensions is important.

The thing about schooling is that it is a profoundly human enterprise, which means it is inextricably contextual. Local realities matter, a lot. This means that whether and how reforms work is less a matter of how they look on a whiteboard or in a PowerPoint than of how they are put into practice by teachers, administrators, and parents.

A bold scheme often sounds nice in theory, but bungled reforms can easily prove worse than no reform at all. This lesson should be painfully self-evident after so many humbling experiences, even if it continues to elude so many of the nation’s most self-assured education reformers


Whistling May Qualify as Sexual Harassment At Tennessee State University

The sexual harassment scandals involving prominent Hollywood figures, media personalities and politicians has brought heightened awareness to the issue, but one public college appears to be taking things too far. At Tennessee State University in Nashville, “whistling in a suggestive manner” may qualify as sexual harassment and can get students expelled or employees fired. Those caught making “suggestive or insulting sounds” or making “suggestive or obscene gestures” also face similar consequences as well as students or staff who joke about sex on campus.

The rules are outlined in the university’s discrimination and harassment policy, which was obtained by a conservative journalism nonprofit dedicated to the principles of a free society. The group published an article on its website that reveals Tennessee State University has been blasted by the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) for several policies that allow free speech to be punished as harassment. With an undergraduate enrollment of about 7,000, the school’s policy lists nearly two dozen “offenses” that can constitute sexual harassment among students and employees. Cases are determined individually and the “totality of the circumstances” will be considered before deciding if sexual harassment has been committed.

The attorney who serves as vice president of FIRE’s policy research points out in the article that Tennessee State University’s policy doesn’t pass legal muster because it’s too ambiguous. Her name is Samantha Harris and she has degrees from two Ivy League universities, Princeton and the University of Pennsylvania Law School. “Very broad categories of speech are banned as harassment, simply because someone might find them suggestively offensive and that’s something that courts have repeatedly held violates the first amendment,” Harris says in the story. Prohibitions on jokes and humor are dangerous because they could be abused to suppress unpopular speech involving political and social issues, Harris added. She also said that the school’s policy of banning any kind of demonstration during university events restricts students’ rights to protest and get their message across. Tennessee State also requires gatherings involving dissent to be registered with the vice president of student affairs to ensure the event is held at an acceptable time and appropriate site. That creates prior restraint on speech, according to FIRE’s legal expert.

Taxpayer-funded schools and colleges have taken an extreme leftist turn on several issues over the years and Judicial Watch has reported or taken legal action in several of the cases. This includes exposing a Mexican separatist school that pushes Marxism and Anti-Americanism in Los Angeles, pervasive corruption in Chicago public schools and an after school Satan club in Washington State that received speedy tax-exempt approval from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).

Judicial Watch is currently embroiled in a legal battle with the Berkeley Unified School District in California to obtain the records of a middle school teacher who is a national organizer for a radical leftist group. The teacher, Yvette Felarca, works at Martin Luther King Jr. Middle School and is a prominent figure in By Any Means Necessary (BAMN), an organized militant group founded by the Marxist Revolutionary Workers League that uses raucous militant tactics to protest conservative speaking engagements. Over the summer Felarca was arrested and charged with several crimes, including felony assault, for inciting a riot in Sacramento. Judicial Watch wants records about the controversial teacher’s violent Antifa activism, which reportedly includes illegally recruiting students.

Judicial Watch has also sued to stop illegal immigrants from receiving taxpayer-funded discounted tuition at public universities and colleges and reported extensively on the issue. Last year Judicial Watch wrote about professors at a public university in south Florida that demanded the school protect illegal aliens by creating a “sanctuary campus.” The professors compared immigration enforcement to “fugitive slave laws.” At the time students at colleges around the nation requested their undocumented classmates be protected, but the Florida professors blazed the trail as the first faculty members of an American taxpayer-funded establishment to officially call for campus-wide sanctuary in the aftermath of Donald Trump’s election.   

Via email

Wealthy students tighten grip on British university places

And that will continue while government schools flounder in a morass of indiscipline

The most advantaged teens have tightened their grip on university places, pulling further ahead of the least advantaged, Ucas data shows. Although more poorer students won places at university this year, wealthy students increased at a higher rate.

Universities Minister Jo Johnson said he was reforming the sector to encourage equality of opportunity.

The data also shows the number of unconditional offers made to students jumped 40% last year to 51,615. These are offers made to students on the basis of their predicted grades rather than their actual results.

Although at least one unconditional offer was made to 17.5% of students it is important to remember that students generally make five choices.

This year, unconditional offers accounted for less than 1% of offers made by the largest 140 higher education providers.

Assessing the year-on-year data, the University and College Admissions Service said there had been no progress in equal representation since 2014.

Successive ministers have required universities to do more to increase access for disadvantaged groups. And Prime Minister Theresa May pledged to put social mobility at the heart of her policies

Ucas is using a new measure of equality that combines social background, ethnicity and gender to examine how well universities are opening their doors to all sections of society.

Statisticians feel it sheds more light on the issue of equality of access because it looks at the interplay of a number of factors.

Details of this backwards step on social mobility come at a time when the chances of getting a place at university have never been higher. In 2017, a third of 18-year-olds were accepted on to higher education courses in England.

But a detailed look at who these teenagers are shows the most advantaged group increased their entry rate by 1.8% to 53.1% in 2017.

This means over half of 18-year-olds in this top social group got places at university. Meanwhile, 13.8% of the most disadvantaged group netted places on courses, an increase of 1.2%.

The statistics also show teenagers from the most advantaged group are still nearly 10 times more likely to attend the most competitive universities.

However, the least advantaged students have made some headway, increasing their entry rates to these top institutions by 7.4%.

Clare Marchant, chief executive of Ucas, said: "Although our analysis shows that a record number of disadvantaged young people have entered higher education this year - with the greatest increase at higher-tariff providers - gaps in participation remain wide."

The Ucas data also again shows that white pupils are less likely to go to university than any other ethnic group.

Universities Minister Jo Johnson said he was encouraged by the record entry rates for young people going to university, including those from disadvantaged backgrounds.  "Today's figures show that 18-year-olds from disadvantaged areas are now 50% more likely to go university in 2017 than in 2009.  "However, we recognise that there is more to do.

"That's why we have introduced sweeping reforms, including the new Office for Students, to ensure equality of opportunity."

Geoff Barton, head of the Association of School and College Leaders, said: "Schools and colleges across the country are straining every sinew to improve the opportunities for disadvantaged pupils, and indeed all their young people. Significant challenges remain, however.

"In many communities, the impact of unemployment, insecure and low-paid work, and poor quality housing has had a devastating impact on the hopes and aspirations of families.

"In areas where traditional industries have collapsed, many white British families have been badly affected, and it is therefore not surprising that white pupils are proportionally less likely to go to university than other ethnic groups."

Prof Les Ebdon, director of Fair Access to Higher Education, was encouraged by the increase in disadvantaged students at top universities, but said they were still 5.5 times less likely to attend these institutions than their advantaged peers.

"As a result, people with the potential to excel are missing out on opportunities. This is an unforgivable waste of talent, and universities must continue to press for transformational progress."


Tuesday, December 19, 2017

The Only Place Where The Feds Should Spend More On Higher Education

The federal government has no constitutional authority to spend money on higher education, to give or lend students money for it, to direct how colleges will function, or anything else. By far the best course of action would be for Congress to dismantle the Department of Education and repeal all U.S. statutes pertaining to education.

But since that is not going to happen in the foreseeable future, it is worth considering how the feds might do less harm or even improve higher education. The latter is not quite a null set.

In 2008, Congress passed and President Bush signed Public Law 315. It added a section to the Higher Education Act authorizing American History for Freedom grants. The relevant language in Sec. 805 authorizes the Secretary of Education to approve grants “to establish or strengthen postsecondary academic programs or centers that promote and impart knowledge of (1) traditional American history; (2) the history and nature of, and threats to, free institutions; or (3) the history and achievements of Western civilization.”

In short, the Education Department could spend money to expand intellectual diversity in American higher education—a worthwhile goal.

Here’s the background on the American History for Freedom (AHF) program.

In 2002, the National Association of Scholars developed the idea that federal grants could be used to help offset the heavy progressive/statist tilt found in most of our colleges and universities, by jump-starting a movement to restore intellectual pluralism. A bill to bring this concept to reality was drafted and found support in the House and Senate. When Congress finally got around to reauthorizing the Higher Education Act in 2008, it was included.

The promising idea of using federal money to seed college programs that would educate students on the American Founding, our constitutional history, Western civilization and its institutions, and so forth was, however, sidelined by the election of Barack Obama. AHF’s supporters knew that Obama’s Education Department would not make good use of funds for the purposes they envisioned and therefore never sought any appropriation to cover Section 805. That remains the case to this day.

But now circumstances have changed. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos would no doubt sympathize with the goals of AHF and make beneficial grants if the funds were appropriated for them.

If Congress were to appropriate a fairly small (by the standards of Uncle Sam, anyway) amount such as $100 million, that money would have a huge impact as it was used to catalyze new programs and expand existing ones.

In this piece, NAS president Peter Wood likens AHF to the old Radio Free Europe program, arguing that our campuses need something similar—Radio Free America on campus. The Left, Wood explains, gained control over our colleges beginning with the advent of politically-charged “studies” programs in the 1960s, specifically black studies, women’s studies and environmental studies. “Each had its own agenda but those agendas overlapped in their disdain for America and in their rejection of the university as a place reserved for open-minded inquiry,” he writes.

From those outposts of politicized study, determined “progressives” spread outward to the point where departments free of ideology are the exception. In most humanities and social science departments, students now, as Wood puts it “marinate in the story that they are hapless victims of hateful oppressors.”

To be sure, there are islands of serious academic study where the conclusions don’t have to perfectly align with leftist theory. For example, at Texas Tech, there is the Institute for the Study of Western Civilization. UCLA hosts the Center for the Liberal Arts and Free Institutions. At Wake Forest, Professor James Otteson has managed to launch his Eudaimonia Institute – despite furious opposition from faculty leftists who can’t stand the fact that funds from the Koch Foundation are involved. (You can read more about that in this Martin Center article by Professor Robert Whaples.)

The problem is that the number of courses and programs that view America and the world through classically liberal lenses is tiny in comparison with the number that employ Marxism, critical race theory, intersectionality, and so on. At many schools, non-leftist teaching and scholarship has almost no presence.

That is not just a problem for students, who might never encounter a professor who is skeptical about, say, minimum wage laws, the claims of the “sustainability” crowd, or the idea that America is shot through with institutional racism. It’s also a problem for the faculty. When scholars never encounter intellectual pushback within their departments, a rigidity sets in that prevents them from contemplating ideas outside their comfort zone. That is the case, for instance, in social psychology, as Professor Richard Redding argued in this piece.

Dozens of new programs could be seeded with AHF grants—programs that would at least somewhat restore intellectual balance on our campuses and improve the chances that students will learn something about the values and institutions that made the U.S. successful.


Too many kids go to college

Lubos Motl

Six years ago, an Intelligence Squared Debate took place in Chicago (see 100 minutes above). Peter Thiel, a co-founder of PayPal and an aide to Donald Trump now, teamed up with Charles Murray, a researcher of IQ. They defeated Vivek Wadhwa and Henry Bienen after they argued that too many kids go to college.

It was a decent debate and Thiel and Murray obviously made more sense. It has become almost automatic – and I would say, it's a part of the political correctness – to assume that everyone may go to college, everyone should go to college, and the college experience will be a positive thing for everybody.

It just isn't so and can't be so. Only a fraction of the kids of that age may be considered "material for college". They are sufficiently smart and they are sufficiently disciplined, patient etc. to actually suffer through the activities that the college involves.

The defenders of the "college for everybody" have argued that there is a clear correlation between the degrees and lifetime salaries etc. I don't doubt it. But it's because

the people who are really unable to do a well-paid job or study a college end up in the group outside the college, anyway;

and because some companies or other employers prefer to employ a person with a degree even if he or she is exactly as good as a candidate without a college!

The strategy described in the second point is still rational because of the first point: the employer gets a near-certainty to eliminate the candidates who are really unable to even try a college, those who couldn't be accepted to one etc.

But those things could be obvious, anyway, and neither point indicates that the college actually brings something positive. Wouldn't it be better if everyone got the degree immediately after he's accepted to the college, or after one year that he survived? The reason why it could be "enough" is that the information about the school that gave the degree is more useful for the employer because they may figure out what kind of a person he was. We know what characteristics are common among those who are accepted to Harvard.

As Charles Murray said, if you only know that someone has a bachelor degree, you literally know nothing about the person. Almost everyone can have the bachelor degree – especially the easy degrees that are abundant outside STEM. There are lots of crazy bachelor degrees – often spread by pseudo-departments of pseudo-women's and pseudo-African pseudo-studies that were created purely in order to allow a college degree to those who don't belong to a college.

The average IQ and related characteristics of a recipient of a bachelor degree doesn't significantly differ from the average IQ in the population. And Murray said that the selection of employees that "requires a BA" is a self-fulfilling prophesy. You're labeled dumb or lazy without a BA. And that's why the kids who aren't lazy go to schools even though they normally consider the learning process at the school worthless (and it often is worthless for them) – they're there purely for the certification that they're not dumb or lazy!

This bubble of education has diluted the value of the degree – the basic university degrees don't really mean much today. But the excess of students has also lowered the quality of the education in the legitimate departments. They also receive a higher number of students which means that their average readiness had to go down and the best students – who would be there even if there were no education bubble – often have to wait for the slower, "bonus ones".

And perhaps more importantly, a big segment should be inserted here to discuss the evil of "colleges as the indoctrination centers" with their extreme left-wing atmosphere, speech codes, snowflakes in safe spaces, and so on. A priori, this political distortion of the Academia seems like an independent question from the education bubble. But they're not really independent. Many of these safe spaces and speech codes etc. were introduced partly or largely as tools to defend lots of the students who really shouldn't be students at all.

I think that somewhere in the debate, Peter Thiel was asked whether it's consistent for him to oppose kids' going to college while he has spent lots of time in colleges. Well, fake modesty has become a "must", too. But believe it or not, Peter Thiel is an example of a man (or boy) who would naturally belong to a college in any system. He is of the right type.

It's not just about the intelligence. It's about the curiosity, patience, and intellectual discipline, among other things. But there are lots of people who are (sometimes extremely) skillful at many things and who could create and lead huge new companies who are simply not the Academic types in the same sense as Peter Thiel. And those are the folks for whom Thiel's $100,000 scholarship paid for "avoiding any university" was created for.

Around 1:07:50, Peter Thiel was explaining that people are diverse and he was immediately attacked by one of the "education for everybody" guys – and his applauding soulmates in the audience – who claimed that everyone is the same as Peter Thiel in the pre-college age. Please, give me a break with this stunning politically correct, egalitarian garbage. If you compare the people and teenagers etc. according to many trivial criteria, even e.g. how many books or non-fiction books they have read, you will get vastly different results – by orders of magnitude – because people are just different from each other.

It's been months when I watched the whole 2011 IQ2 debate last time so I don't remember everything. But I suspect that much of the discussion was also about the gap between the things that are being taught, and the things that are useful in the later life (and demanded by the employers or industries), and so on.

The final monologues have made it clear that the "education for everybody" side just wanted to mindlessly push the "college for everyone" and not watch any consequences or whether things are beneficial at least in the zeroth approximation. Peter Thiel pointed out that there was no accountability and the bubble deflates when people start to think independently. Murray said that a system that would be optimized would be very different from the current one. Students would study because of the stuff they learn, not because of the piece of paper, and many types of folks would spend much.

Before the debate, 39% voted "too many kids in college", 40% opposed. This tiny edge reversed after the debate, to 47%-to-46%, so Peter Thiel and Charles Murray apparently did an infinitesimal piece of work to persuade the audience that there is an education bubble.


We have to move away from the worship of university entry as the only path to success in life

In education I worry there is too much competition. Students compete from the days of the National Assessment Program — Literacy and Numeracy right through selective school and scholarship exams, the Higher School Certificate, and their courses at university.

Academics at university compete for tenure-track jobs, for grants and for papers in high-impact journals.

Universities compete with each other globally, and even compete against the vocational education and training sector here.

Competition drives us to be better. Life is competitive, and I enjoy the striving and fulfilment that comes from healthy competition. I, more than most perhaps, have engaged with metrics as a university manager and I never tire of the data and statistics.

But even I worry when the competition becomes too intense. I worry for the mental health of students and the futures of our staff. I worry when everyone dreams of being president — top dog — and when every university wants to be Harvard.

I worry about what I call the witch’s hat type of competition, where everyone is converging on the same goal and competition intensifies as one ascends. There isn’t much room at the top of a witch’s hat.

Globalisation is driving the same dreams and uniformity is taking over from diversity. I worry that people increasingly will be lured into a futile race up the witch’s hat. Most people are bound to fail.

I envisage another type of competition, the ice cream cone view of life. Here individuals spread out as they climb to achieve their goals. There is room at the top in an ice cream cone because everyone is doing something different. One person aims to be the best mathematician, one the best plumber, another the best ballet dancer.

Some universities want to be like Harvard but others want to be small teaching communities with a focus on values.

One doesn’t need to get to the top to reach fulfilment. Ice cream trickles down to the various ridges that cover the cone. Eventually some melts and nourishes those who are still at the bottom. In an inclusive society one climbs up the inside of the cone.

So what magic will invert the witch’s hat to make an ice cream cone? Many of the elements are already in place. In addition to academically selective high schools, we also have high schools that concentrate on sports, or the performing arts, technology, or ostensibly even on agriculture. We might think about establishing more science, technology, engineering and maths senior high schools, and perhaps arts and humanities high schools, too.

We have to move away from the worship of university entry as the only path to success in life. The university sector, the vocational education and training sector, and the government must work together to sort out how to help students find their way into the system that suits them best.

Existing mechanisms that encourage diversification of the university sector could be strength­ened further. Funds should be allocated to reward true excellence in teaching as well as true excellence in research, so institutions make choices rather than everyone aiming for the same thing.

We have systems for measuring research excellence and for rating the student experience, but perhaps because we know these systems will never be perfect we lack the confidence to attach significant funding to them.

What about those young academics who are trapped in the race up the slippery slope of the witch’s hat, completing PhDs and aiming for fellowships and grants, or struggling to survive on casual or sessional teaching?

Some of these might thrive in educational-focused roles where they could concentrate on building a career through teaching without having to compete for the fixed pool of research grants. Others might benefit from focusing intensely on research supported by Australia’s fellowship systems.

Some might move to high schools or into the vocational sector, if these parts of our education system were better supported.

Most of all we must not lose our nerve when other countries post on their Facebook pages that they are having fun.

While globalisation has many benefits the uniformity of thinking is a risk. We should remain confident that we can find many different ways of being happy and prosperous.