Friday, January 20, 2017

Education Secretary Nominee: Let Localities and States Decide About Guns in Schools

“Do you think that guns have any place in and around schools?” Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) asked Betsy DeVos at her confirmation hearing on Tuesday evening.

“I think that’s best left to locales and states to decide,” she said. “If the underlying question is--”

“You can’t say definitively today that guns shouldn’t be in schools?” an incredulous Murphy interrupted.

Murphy made gun control one of his priorities following the Dec. 2012 shooting at Sandy Hook elementary school in Newtown, where 20 children and six adults were killed by a mentally ill man who brought a gun into a gun-free zone.

“Well I will refer back to Sen. Enzi and the school that he was talking bout in Wapiti, Wyoming,” DeVos replied. “I would imagine that there’s probably a gun in the school to protect from potential grizzlies.”

(Sen. Mike Enzi, a Wyoming Republican, had told DeVos in an earlier conversation about the rural Wapiti school having a fence surrounding it to protect children from grizzly bears.)

Sen. Murphy asked DeVos, “If President Trump move forward with his plan to ban gun-free school zones, will you support that proposal?”

“I will support what the president-elect does, but Senator, if-- if the question is around gun violence and the results of that, please know that I – I, my heart bleeds and is broken for those families that have lost any individual due to gun violence,” DeVos said.

“I look forward to working with you,” Murphy said grimly, “but I also look forward to you coming to Connecticut and talking about the role of guns in schools.” He shut off his microphone before the final word was out of his mouth.

During the presidential campaign, Trump told an NRA gathering in May 2016, “We’re getting rid of gun-free zones, OK?”

A few days later, Trump told CNN he doesn’t want students sitting in class with guns. He said teachers and school resource officers should be allowed to carry guns, “in some cases.”

"If trained people had guns, you wouldn't have the carnage that you've had,” Trump told CNN.

"The problem with gun free zones is, it's like offering up candy to bad people. They hear gun free zones and they go in there with their guns blazing."


Trump's education secretary won't take a salary from taxpayers

At her Senate confirmation hearing Tuesday, President-elect Trump's selection to lead the Education Department, Betsy DeVos, said she won't accept a salary, assuming she's confirmed for the job.

"If confirmed, I will only take a salary of $1, to be official, but I don't intend to take a salary either," DeVos said.

DeVos and her family are worth approximately $5.1 billion combined, thanks to their success building the Amway company.

Not only that, but DeVos is committed to divesting from many of her private business ties to avoid any possible conflicts of interest. That divestiture means she would get a large amount of capital gains income. DeVos could save a lot of money if she deferred the taxes she'd have to pay on that income.

Instead, DeVos committed on Tuesday to not defer payment on those taxes on those capital gains.

"I do not intend to take advantage of that loophole," DeVos said.


What Went Wrong in US Higher Ed? Harvard Tells the Story

In 1636, the first college in our nation was founded for Veritas Christo et Ecclesiae (for Truth, for Christ, and for the Church). Since then, Harvard has had a profound—and sometimes profoundly bad—impact on the American system of higher learning.

With the start of a new academic semester and 381 years of history, now is a good time to consider our first college’s impact, and to see how its early focus on Veritas went awry.

Original Design

Among Harvard’s first students were settlers escaping a life of religious hostility and unimaginable hardships to live a life of Christian devoutness apart from government oppression—a life of freedom. In the pamphlet “New England’s First Fruits,” printed in 1643, the school’s founders described its first purpose:

After God had carried us safe to New England, and we had built our houses, provided necessaries for our livelihood, reared convenient places for God’s worship, and settled the civil government: one of the next things we longed for, and looked after was to advance learning and to perpetuate it to posterity; dreading to leave an illiterate ministry to the churches, when our present ministers shall lie in the dust.

Harvard was not originally designed to equip students with specific skills for future employment, as it is today. Much more, it was established to teach character and equip the next generation of leaders.

Charles W. Eliot, Harvard president, said in his 1869 inaugural address, “The worthy fruit of academic culture is an open mind, trained to careful thinking … penetrated with humility. It is thus that the university in our day serves Christ and the church.”

This initial form of teaching and way of learning promoted tolerance for diverse views, freedom of one’s conscience, and personal responsibility among students.

Harvard reinforced this purpose several years later, when it formed its crest—the Harvard Arms. The crest consisted of a shield and three open books, which were bound like 17th-century Bibles.

“Veritas,” the Latin word for truth, was written across the three books. This seal signifies that man’s pursuit of knowledge is founded in the pursuit of original truth, symbolizing the need for God’s revelation and the limits of human reason.

But there was also an important difference between the books on the crest: While two of them faced outward, their pages visible, one was turned over, its contents hidden.

There were a few reasons for this variation. One was to remind students that no matter how intelligent man may be and no matter how much knowledge one may attain, it would never amount to the omniscience of God. Some knowledge would always be closed to us.

The founders of Harvard knew it was necessary for men to learn the nature of God, but they were humble enough to understand that human knowledge will never match the knowledge of a greater Being.

Another reason for leaving the third book turned over was to encourage students to be, in the words of Harvard graduate and New England historian Robert C. Winthrop, “careful to look at both sides” of any question or thought.

This way of learning is foundational for human learning—having the ability to know what it is you believe, why it is you believe it, and being able to hold and defend a worldview. In a word, knowing Veritas.

Our education system today could use more parents, teachers, and professors equipping students with such a worldview.

What Went Wrong

The American education system was established on the basis of objective truth—what was once called “capital T Truth.” But that firm grasp of objective truth has been replaced with moral relativism, and specifically, with secular humanism.

As more colleges and universities were established in the 18th century, schools began to adopt new secular humanist ideas. The purpose and meaning of learning has changed from what it was in 1636 to a system that assumes the truth of secular humanism instead.

Today, American universities, particularly Harvard and its sister Ivy League universities, have relinquished their role as mentors for students.

For example, in 2013, nearly an entire government class at Harvard was caught cheating, and the professor and teaching assistant were partly to blame for the scandal. In 2015, a student at Yale University was called a “bigot” and pressured by peers to leave campus because of her conservative beliefs. In Florida, a humanities professor punished a student by giving her “zero” grades on assignments for refusing to agree with his humanist bias.

This antagonism toward diverse opinions is not just seen in universities, but also in the federal government. Last year, colleges and universities receiving Title IX religious accommodation were publicly “shamed” by the Department of Education for not being willing to accommodate to policies that went against their religious beliefs.

During the 2015 Obergefell v. Hodges oral argument, the United States solicitor general conceded that religious colleges opposing the new law on religious grounds would struggle to keep their tax-exempt status.

It seems that not only religion but also tolerance has evaporated from most colleges and universities, with the exception of some religious colleges, of which few remain.

The Great Monolith

When students are told by professors what they can and cannot believe, there is no room for authentic diversity. The purpose of moral teaching is not to force students to believe in God or to identify with a particular faith or religion. As Eliot said, “The very word ‘education’ is a standing protest against dogmatic teaching.”

Rather, moral instruction teaches students to ask questions addressing the purpose of living. Students are not asking these questions in classrooms today because they are not taught to, and because they are not allowed to.

When tolerance and freedom of thought are removed from the classroom, students stop learning the principles that were once the priorities of universities.

Students become less aware of the world around them, less willing to serve others, and less courageous. Yet these students are supposed to be the next generation of leaders.

The secularization of Harvard has meant turning over the third book of the crest and replacing the God of “Veritas” with the god of secular humanism. That change has echoed throughout much of the academy.

Consequently, as God has been pushed out of human learning, hostility toward religious freedom in academia has increased dramatically.

Contrary to what universities preach about tolerance and diversity, they have become a hostile place for those who are committed to finding truth—something Harvard was originally founded for.

What is needed most in today’s cultural climate is young minds searching for truth, and educators willing to help them find it.


Thursday, January 19, 2017

DeVos vows to be advocate for 'great' public schools
President-elect Donald Trump’s pick for Education secretary Betsy DeVos was in the hot seat Tuesday evening as Senate Democrats grilled the GOP megadonor about her positions on public education and potential conflicts of interest.

DeVos vowed during the three-and-a-half-hour confirmation hearing before the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee that she would be an advocate for public education while defending her support for school choice and charter schools.

"The vast majority of students in this country will continue to attend public schools," DeVos said. "If confirmed, I will be a strong advocate for great public schools."

“But if a school is trouble, or unsafe, or not a good fit for a child — perhaps they have a special need that is going unmet — we should support a parent’s right to enroll their child in a high quality alternative," she said.

When Sen. Patty Murray (Wash.), the ranking Democrat on the committee, asked if she would privatize public education, DeVos declined to rule that out.

"I look forward, if confirmed, to working with you to talk about how we address the needs of all parents and all students," DeVos responded.

"We acknowledge today that not all schools are working for the students that are assigned to them, and I'm hopeful that we can work together to find common ground and ways that we can solve those issues and empower parents to make choices on behalf of their children that are right for them."

Democrats also pressed DeVos about any potential conflicts of interest, which DeVos insisted would not be an issue if confirmed.

“Where conflicts are identified, they will be resolved,” DeVos said. “I will not be conflicted, period.”

The billionaire GOP donor told the committee that she would cease making political donations.

DeVos’s past contributions have come under scrutiny since she donated to several of the GOP members on the committee, but allies of DeVos argue that she faces a double standard since teachers unions contributed to some Democratic lawmakers on the committee.

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), who called on DeVos prior to the hearing to repay a decades-old fine for her now-defunct political action committee, asked how much her family has donated to the Republican Party. While she couldn’t give a hard number, she didn’t dispute Sanders’s estimate of $200 million.

She also tried to clear up that she never believed in conversion therapy and believes all students should receive a good education regardless of sexual orientation.

The question arose due to her past donation to a group that believes in the therapy for those in the LGBT community, but DeVos pushed back that may be "confusing" it with a contribution from one of her family members.

“I fully embrace equality,” DeVos said. “Every student should attend any school and should be free of discrimination.”

DeVos’s shakiest moment of the hearing came when Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) asked her about the debate within the education community about whether students’ success should be measured by proficiency or growth.

She hesitated several times when answering the question: “I think if I’m understanding your question correctly around proficiency, I would also correlate it to competency and mastery so each student is measured according to the advancement they’re making in each subject area.”

Franken cut in to correct her, saying what she was explaining was growth and saying he was specifically asking her about the debate.

“It surprises me you don’t know this issue and Mr. Chairman I think this is a good reason for us to have more questions,” Franken said.

A chorus of Democrats during the hearing called for a second round of questioning, noting DeVos’s paperwork was still incomplete.

HELP Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) denied Democrats’ pleas for more time, only granting it to himself and Murray, the committee's top Democrat.

But he said that DeVos must answer written questions by Thursday at 5 p.m. and that her paperwork will be completed by Friday so committee members can review it by Tuesday when the committee will meet in executive session to consider her nomination.

“I’m not going to change the rules in the middle of the game,” Alexander said in his opening remarks about remarks about Democrats' request for more questioning, adding that there was no precedent of that for President Obama's past Education nominees.

Murray, along with other Democratic senators, expressed disappointment for not receiving additional time and noted concerns about not having DeVos’s completed ethics review by the time of the hearing. She also repeatedly called on DeVos to release her tax returns, which is not required.

“I am extremely disappointed we’re moving forward with this hearing before receiving proper paperwork from Office of Government Ethics,” Murray said. “I don’t know what you’re trying to protect Ms. DeVos from,” she said later in the hearing.

Murray asked for a second hearing and Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) echoed that call Tuesday night. “It’s 8:15 at night they wouldn’t be sitting here if they didn’t have additional questions,” she said.

DeVos needs a simple majority of 50 votes to be confirmed as secretary of Education. While one Democratic senator has said she won’t support DeVos, no Republicans have so far expressed opposition.

DeVos was introduced by former Sen. Joe Lieberman, a Democrat-turned-Independent, and Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.), who is a member on the HELP Committee.

Republican senators enthusiastically greeted DeVos and glided through their five minutes each of questioning. Unlike other hearings for some of Trump’s Cabinet nominees, no protesters interrupted the hearing and the packed room was largely silent as she took questions.

Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) knocked Democrats repeated requests, arguing that they wasted time to ask DeVos more questions.

“I cannot help but think that if my friends on the other side of the aisle had used their time to ask questions rather than complaining about the lack of a second round, they each would have been able to get a second question,” Collins quipped.


Black college raises $600K for Trump inauguration appearance

Donations on a GoFundMe page to pay for a trip to President-elect Donald Trump's inaugural parade for the marching band of the oldest private black college in the country eclipsed $600,000 on Tuesday.

More than $330,000 in donations poured in last Friday alone after Talladega College President Billy Hawkins appeared on' "The O'Reilly Factor" on Fox News last Thursday night.

In a Friday news conference, Hawkins said the response was "probably the single greatest fundraising effort" for the 150-year-old school.

"It's been phenomenal," Hawkins said. "And we've had several other individuals before this who were ready to make out a check." Hawkins said he hopes to engage those people in conversations about other fundraising efforts beyond the band trip.

The 225-member band originally applied to take part in the parade before the election, but experienced a major backlash on social media from those arguing a performance at the parade would be a tacit endorsement of Trump.

Hawkins told O'Reilly during his Thursday Fox appearance that he and his family have received death threats as a result of making the decision to allow the band to go to Washington to perform.

“We owe Bill O’Reilly a great thank you. The GoFundMe account has skyrocketed,” Mr. Hawkins said. “The closer we get to Friday, the more excited I become. I’m so proud of our young people.”

For the first time in five presidential inaugurations, no Washington, D.C., marching band will perform in the presidential inauguration. “I think everybody knows why and no one wants to say and lose their job,” Howard University band director John Newson told NBC-4 Washington.


High university dropout rate in Australia

This may be a good thing.  It may mean that more students are waking up to the uselessness of their dumbed down and politicized education

MORE Australians are making the wrong decisions about their future when it comes to education.

University student completion data, released by the federal government, has revealed the university dropout rate is worsening with around one in three students failing to complete their studies within six years of enrolment.

The worrying figures have prompted the government to encourage thousands of prospective students to think long and hard about enrolling when they receive their course offers this week, and have also raised the question, who’s to blame?

Putting responsibility on universities, the data has also prompted the government to reveal for the first time the worst offending institutions.

The universities with the worst dropout rates have been exposed, with some well below the already concerning average.

The Northern Territory’s Charles Darwin University boasted the most shameful completion rate with only 41.8 per cent of students who enrolled in 2009 wrapping up their studies by 2014.

The bottom five universities, including Western Australia’s Murdoch University, The University of New England in NSW and two regional universities in Queensland — the University of Southern Queensland and Central Queensland University — all saw less than half of the cohort graduate.

The top performers saw up to 88 per cent of students complete their studies within the measured period, but high completion rates were found to be rare. Only seven out of Australia’s 43 universities boasted completion rates above 75 per cent.

Education Minister Simon Birmingham suggested a lack of transparency from universities was to blame, and said it was time our institutions were straight with prospective students.

“We’ve heard too many stories about students who have changed courses, dropped out because they made the wrong choices about what to study, student who didn’t realise there were other entry path ways or who started a course with next to no idea of what they were signing themselves up for,” he said.

“Students should be looking for feedback on the reputation of the university they want to attend, how well-known they are for particular courses, how satisfied current students are with the resources and teachers on offer and the employment outcomes of graduates from those universities and courses.”

Mr Birmingham said the government was committed to lowering dropout rates, and announced he had asked the Higher Education Standards panel to review attrition and completion rates and “consider what further reforms are required to help improve student success”.

“While there will always be a number of students who don’t complete university for a variety of reasons, our ambition to protect both students and taxpayers from a waste of time and money is to keep this number as low as practical,” he said.

The government is pressuring universities to present information that is easily understood to prospective students to help kids the best choices for them, rather than simply boost enrolment numbers.

Better defined ATAR thresholds and clearer data on student experiences, outcomes and employment prospects are also on the way.

But universities may not be solely to blame.

Commentators regularly cite a culture in high schools and among parents pressuring school leavers into enrolling in university courses, as well as a disconnection between what kids are learning at university and other institutions and the “real world”.

Speaking with, Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry’s education and employment director said the key to boosting completion rates was a better informed market, and greater focus on jobs.

“There needs to be more effort by the government to promote that information about where the jobs are likely to be,” she said.

“When people start their university degree they may have an over-inflated expectation that everyone out of university gets a job.”

Employment outcomes for university graduates are falling, and while it’s too early to tell whether that’s a fixed change or if it’s just the labour market adjusting to the numbers of university graduates coming through, Ms Lambert said, it’s something students and prospective students need to be aware of.

“Students should be looking at certain courses, certain universities that might be above and below the average for employment outcomes, and all that data is available through student surveys, it’s just about better informing the market.”

Ms Lambert said it was also important that parents and schools were better informed as well as wannabe university students. She said there was also reasons outside of the institutions’ control that people failed to complete their degrees.

In a previous interview with, Universities Australia Deputy Chief Executive Catriona Jackson said the biggest factors for students who consider leaving university are often related to issues beyond university.

“Research suggests attrition rates are higher for mature age and part-time students — and if you think about it, they’re the ones who may often be juggling university study with jobs, children and caring for elderly parents,” she said.

“Students battling disadvantage — including those who are first in their family to attend university — area also more likely to have thoughts about leaving.”

The Education Department’s report found students older than 25 were three times more likely to drop out in their first year of study than school-leavers under 19.

Completion rates were also affected by students’ admission scores as well as their locations — if they were from remote locations or low socio-economic areas, and whether they were indigenous.

Increasingly popular online courses were also found to be a contributor to the growing dropout rate with one in five students who studied externally dropping out in their first year, compared to fewer than one in 10 who were based on campus.


Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Finland's forested classrooms

There is no mention below of the national character of Finns.  Finns are in fact quite emphatic that they have a national character -- which they call "sisu". It means endurance, resilience, tenacity. Finns have an ability to face adversity and always overcome.  That it might help in their educational achievements would seem obvious. 

The ideas below may be helpful but they don't seem to be too different from  the "progressive" (low discipline) schools of Britain and America -- e.g. A.S. Neill's "Summerhill" and Bertrand Russell's awful experiment.  And such schools have rarely been good at imparting knowledge and skills.  I taught in one such school and half of the pupils learned nothing.  Their skill at card games improved, though.

So the caution below about whether Finnish methods could be succesfully copied in other countries is well warranted.  I suspect "sisu" is needed to make them work

It is lunch time at the University of Eastern Finland's teacher training lab school in North Karelia, a lush forest and lake district on the Russian border.

Fourth-grade children race to the cafeteria in their stockinged feet, laughing, hugging, practicing dance steps and cavorting as they head for the cafeteria. One girl does a full handstand in the hallway. A distinguished-looking professor beams at the procession and doles out high-fives to the children. He is Heikki Happonen, head of the school and a career childhood educator.

As chief of Finland's association of eight national university teacher training schools, he is, in effect, the Master Teacher of Finland, the country that still has, despite many challenges and a recent slide in global test scores, the best primary school system in the world, according to the World Economic Forum's Global Competitiveness Report 2016-2017.

According to Happonen, the hallway scene reveals one of the secrets of Finland's historic success in childhood education.

Children's brains work better when they are moving, the master teacher explains. Not only do they concentrate better in class, but they are more successful at "negotiating, socialising, building teams and friendships together".

Finland leads the world in its discovery that play is the most fundamental engine and efficiency-booster of children's learning. The nation's children learn through play until age seven, and then are given guaranteed 15-minute outdoor free-play breaks every hour of every single school day (regardless of the weather) until high school.

"Children must feel like their school is a home for them, it belongs to them," says Happonen. "They are very clever, they feel and appreciate an atmosphere of trust. We offer them an environment where they understand, 'This is a place where I am highly respected. I feel safe and comfortable here. I am a very important person.' My job is to protect that environment for children. That's why I come to work every day."

Happonen designed much of the Nordic-modern school building himself, a network of traditional classrooms linked by spacious hallways, cinematic soft lighting and warm colours, a palatial teachers lounge for coffee and collaboration (complete with a sauna for teachers), and comfortable scattered nooks, crannies and couches for children to relax and curl up in with a buddy or a book.

Connecting all the pieces, flanked by the high-tech science lab, a fireplace and plush sofas, is a modular, wide-open library of books and magazines for children to enjoy.

It is the focal point of the school. On a recent visit, a teacher from Spain was nearly speechless after a few minutes inside the school. "It's so beautiful," she said. "In Spain, our schools feel like prisons. But this - this is like a dream."

Happonen points to a colourful assortment of hand-carved wooden boats mounted on his office wall, featuring different shapes, sizes and types of vessels.

"I saw those boats in a shop," he recalls. "They were so beautiful. I decided I had to buy them, but I didn't know why. I put them up on my office wall so I could see them all day.

"Then I realised what they are," he continued. "They are children. They represent the fact that all children are different, they start from different destinations and travel on different journeys. Our job as teachers is to help children navigate their journeys through storms and adventures, so they move safely and successfully into society and the world."

Some aspects of Finland's primary schools may be culture-specific and non-transferable to other nations. But many other features may in fact be minimum "global best practices" for childhood education systems in Harlem, Tokyo, Shanghai, Paris, Los Angeles, Dubai, Mexico City, South Africa and elsewhere.

These practices include early learning through play, equitable funding and well-resourced schools, highly professionalised teacher training, a research-based and whole-child approach to school management, warmth and respect for children and teachers, learning environments of strong academic focus with low stress and high challenge, high-quality testing run by teachers and not standardised data collectors, comprehensive special education, and treating all children as gifted and cherished individuals without sacrificing their childhoods to overwork or cram schools.

Why would any of our children, especially those from high-poverty backgrounds, deserve any less?

In the United States, decades of botched attempts at education reform have led to little or no improvement in schools. As one of the founding fathers of the education reform movement, Chester Finn of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, recently declared: "If you look over the past 25 years at all the reforming we've been doing and all the spending we've been doing and still see flat [achievement] and slow slog as the main outcome, it's pretty discouraging."

For any parent, teacher or policymaker looking instead for inspiration on how we can work together to actually improve our children's education, they can start by coming to Finland's dream school in the forest.


UK: MPs quietly vote against compulsory sex education in schools

Conservative MPs have voted to block plans for sex and relationship education (SRE) to be made compulsory in schools.

Under increasing pressure from campaigners over the past year, Education Secretary Justine Greening repeatedly suggested she was open to reforming the current Government guidance on SRE, which currently allows free schools and academies to opt out of teaching the subject in class.

As the law stands, state schools are obligated to cover sex education from a biological aspect.

But no British schools are required to teach pupils about the social or emotional aspects of sex, or make classes LGBT inclusive.

Debating the matter in Parliament this week, an all-female group of MPs tabled an amendment to the Children and Social Work Bill to make lessons on “sex and relationships education, same-sex relationships, sexual consent, sexual violence and domestic violence” mandatory in all UK schools.

The new law would require schools watchdog Ofsted to evaluate schools on their SRE as part of regular inspections, judging “whether the information provided to pupils is accurate and balanced, age-appropriate, inclusive or religiously diverse”.

In a vote of ten Conservative and five Labour MPs, the amendment was rejected – with the vote divided 10-5 between parties lines.  No other party was represented on the bill committee.

Conservative MP for North Dorset, Simon Hoare told Parliament that the amendment did not offer enough protection for faith schools who oppose homosexuality.  He said: “Some form of protection is needed for those who run faith schools, all faiths, to make the position absolutely clear.

“I have little or no doubt that I will receive emails from constituents who happen to read my remarks. They will say that this is all about promotion, and this or that religion thinks that homosexuality—or another element—is not right.

“To provide a legislative comfort blanket, for want of a better phrase, the new clause needs to include a clear statement that we are talking not about promotion, but about education, and where sex education is delivered in a faith school environment, those providing the education should not feel inhibited about answering questions such as “What is the thinking of our faith on this particular aspect of sexuality?”

Recalling his own faith school upbringing, Mr Hoare said he was much in “support” of the intentions behind the clause, but pointed out that it was tabled “solely in the name of Labour Members of Parliament who all happen to be women.”

Addressing Labour MP Stella Creasy, who led the amendment, he said: “A father, a husband and a boyfriend have as much interest in ensuring a high quality of PSHE as women do."

He added that she "might want to think about that point, which is why I hope that she will not press this new clause to a vote today but instead think about some proactive cross-party working on Report.”

Junior Education Minister Edward Timpson said the government would be bringing forward its own plans to reform SRE in schools, but agreed the amendment was incomplete, with “lots of repercussions that need to be thought through”.

He added: “We hear the call for further action on PSHE and we have committed to exploring all the options to improve delivery of SRE and PSHE.

“We are actively looking at how best to address both the quality of delivery and accessibility to ensure that all children can be supported to develop positive, healthy relationships and to thrive in modern Britain today.

“We welcome the support in delivering this in a timely and considered manner.”

Pressing the new clause to a vote, Ms Creasy said: “Millions of children in our schools right now are simply not getting the right sort of information about relationships, consent and sensitive issues such as their relationships with the other sex and with the same sex, domestic violence and abuse, female genital mutilation and forced marriage.

The rejected amendment comes amid fresh criticism from charity campaigners, who claim present teachings are seriously out-dated for the “smartphone generation” of children who are exposed to the internet and influenced by social media.

SRE guidance for schools has not been updated in close to 17 years - making the current legislation older than the majority of pupils learning about the subject.

A recent survey of more than 1,000 children conducted by Barnardo’s children's charity found that seven in 10 pupils aged 11-15 thought the government should ensure that all children have  age-appropriate SRE in school.

Barnardo’s Chief Executive Javed Khan called for the government to “give children the knowledge that will help keep them safe”.

He said: “It's time to listen to children who are clearly telling us that they need help in understanding the digital dangers and the risks of sharing images of themselves with strangers.

“Online grooming is a very real danger facing all children and nearly half of the girls polled said they were worried about strangers contacting them online.

”Compulsory SRE lessons for all children must be introduced as soon as possible- it will help prevent children being groomed and sexually exploited.”

Calling the vote "shameful", HIV charity the Terrence Higgins Trust said the vote was "another missed opportunity by the government to make SRE statutory in schools".

An Ofsted report in 2013 found 40 per cent of schools required improvement or were deemed “inadequate” in their provision of sex and relationship education.

A Department for Education spokesperson said in a statement: “High-quality education on sex and relationships is a vital part of preparing young people for success in adult life – helping them make informed choices, stay safe and learn to respect themselves and others.

“Education on sex and relationships is compulsory in all maintained secondary schools, and many academies and free schools teach it as part of the curriculum. We are actively considering what further steps we could take to improve the quality and availability of sex and relationships education.”


University language policy: Not safe, just absurdly soft

As if Australia Day isn’t dangerous enough for the culturally insensitive, we are now advised not to celebrate the Australian belief in mateship and the fair go. The language police at Macquarie University have declared these are dangerous stereotypes, generalised images of a person or group that “may have potentially harmful real-world consequences”. The university’s latest guide on correct speech also instructs Queenslanders not to stereotype those living south of the Tweed as Mexicans, implying that they are ”hot-blooded, irrational, untrustworthy”.

Extreme linguistic governance of this kind was once restricted to religious sects and the political fruitcake fringe. Today it is chillingly mainstream; universities see it as part of their duty of care to offer written guides, training courses and counselling on “appropriate” and “inappropriate” language.

Since one can never be sure about the latest rules, every utterance is potentially suspect. Irony and sarcasm must be avoided at all costs. “To talk about a ‘huntsperson spider’ is an ostensibly humorous ‘non-discriminatory’ act of renaming,” the Macquarie University guide intones. “The joke here nonetheless mocks serious uses of non-discriminatory language and the struggle for gender equity.”

Incredibly, this is a statement of official policy at a major university, signed off, presumably, by the dean and other serious people. If perchance it is slipped past their guard they must remove it forthwith from the university’s website, for the damage imposed by this passive-aggressive chin-stroking is considerable.

The regulation of speech is one of the maladies of academe investigated by British sociologist Frank Furedi in a new book exploring the infantilisation of students.

The notion that people in their late teens and early 20s could not be trusted to act as adults, and that university authorities should protect their moral welfare in loco parentis, disappeared in the wake of the campus radicals in the 1960s.

Furedi, once a campus radical himself, says today’s academic paternalism is far more insidious. The baby boomer generation was taught that “sticks and stones may break my bones but names will never hurt me”. The millennial generation is warned constantly of the harm language causes “vulnerable” people. Indeed, they themselves are vulnerable and must be protected from the psychological damage presumed to flow from linguistic aggression.

To explain how yesterday’s student militants evolved into today’s moral guardians, Furedi describes the rise of a risk-averse culture where precaution and safety have become fundamental moral values.

“The term ‘safe’ signals more than the absence of danger: it also conveys the connotation of a virtue,” he says. “The representation of safety as an end in itself is integral to a moralising project of monitoring both individual and interpersonal behaviour.”

Censorship became unfashionable in the late 1960s when it was seen as an instrument of repression. Today it has become a form of therapy, underpinned by a cultural script of vulnerability.

The adjective “vulnerable” has mutated into a noun. The downtrodden have been recast as “the vulnerable”; the wretched have become “the most vulnerable”; universities have been transformed from an intellectual adventure into safe spaces for “vulnerable students”.

We are right to worry about the resilience of those who emerge from these cosseted, hypersensitive campuses. The vulnerable are inclined to fatalism, since vulnerability presents as a permanent feature. They are seldom encouraged to draw on inner strengths to make themselves less vulnerable. Indeed, to suggest they should toughen up is condemned as victim-blaming, denying the vulnerable the ritualistic empathy to which they feel entitled.

Vulnerability, together with the ethos of survivalism — the modern belief that danger lurks around every corner — are the narratives that bolster the infantilisation of students. Hence the semantic tsars at Macquarie deem that the expression “Australians believe in the fair go” is not just distasteful but “potentially harmful” to non-Australians or to Australians who don’t think that way. The purpose of their rules is to develop “a university environment characterised by sensitivity to cultural diversity, and in which the number and seriousness of discriminatory experiences are reduced or eliminated”.

Censorship, like compulsory seat belts or fences around swimming pools, is a matter of public health and safety. So, when activist Maryam Namazie was banned from speaking at Warwick University, the student union justified itself with “language that would have done any risk manager proud”, writes Furedi.

“Researching Namazie and her organisation had raised a number of flags,” declared the students. “We have a duty of care to conduct a risk assessment for each speaker who wishes to come to campus,” they wrote. It is not the intended meaning of words but their supposed impact that matters. “Verbal purification is not simply directed at cleansing politically objectionable words but also at providing psychological relief,” Furedi concludes.

It may be too early to predict what lasting effect the censorious, mollycoddled environment of modern academe will have young graduates.


Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Canada: School board allows Muslim sermons in schools

Despite the foundations and long tradition of Christianity in Canada, any accommodation of it — even at Christmas time — is largely rejected in the public school system, which supposedly adheres to secularism. But there is a single exception to the rule, as one religion seems to stand supreme:

Muslim students in the province of Ontario are entitled to hold weekly prayer meetings, held on Friday.  These “Jumm’ah” prayer and sermon sessions have been the focus of intense criticism as the provincial public school system is not supposed to be promoting any religion or hosting any religious instruction.

The Peel school board in Mississauga (near Toronto) is not only allowing Islamic sermons, but it is also refusing to monitor the contents of those sermons. This is despite the very real risk of the jihad doctrine being spread. The Toronto Star reported that “Islamic schools, mosques in Canada are filled with extremist literature, according to a study.” More troubling was that “the authors of the study say what worried them was not the presence of extremist literature, but that they found nothing but such writings in several mosque libraries and Islamic schools.”

Back in November, a large assembly of the Peel District School Board listened to the lamentations from the Muslim community “that Muslim students feel stigmatized and targeted” because their Friday prayers were restricted to pre-approved sermons, whereas previously, Muslim students were free to use any sermon they chose that was approved by an administrator. The identity of the administrator and his or her knowledge about Islamic sermons was not disclosed. The complaints from the Muslim community led to the reversal of the policy: the practice of allowing Muslim students to choose sermons was resumed.

The board also bent over backwards, working for over a year “with 10 local imams to develop the six sermons to be used during Friday prayers”; these were intended to be used “as a starting point,” to be developed to “a collection of hundreds of sermons available to students.”

Muslim Friday prayer is the only group-prayer activity that is allowed by the Peel District School Board.

Peel board members “justified the policy reversal” not to monitor the Islamic sermons “by insisting it represented a commitment to inclusiveness”; but its singling out of Muslims for preferred treatment above all other faiths was not an exercise in inclusivity, but rather a demonstration of the appalling exclusion of all other faiths. Even worse, when protests erupted, Peel police intervened as though they were Sharia police, and bullied a female protester outside:

Protesters were told to remove their signs because they were deemed anti-Muslim and one woman was taken outside by police after she interrupted the meeting with her objections.

It is also worthwhile to note that Omar Alghabra, who ascribes to Sharia, is the Member of Parliament for Mississauga; upon his election, someone on stage at his victory party exclaimed:

“This is a victory for Islam! Islam won! Islam won!… Islamic power is extending into Canadian politics.”

The Peel District School Board’s genuflection to one community is a slap in the face to all Canadians who aren’t Muslim. It represents a new low in Canadian organizations’ descent toward dhimmitude. It’s alarming that such imprudent administrators are awarded with the trust to educate children and to serve as their role models.

“Board To Allow Muslim Sermons In Schools, And Protesters Aren’t Happy”, by David Krayden, Daily Caller, January 11, 2017:

Local residents expressed their anger Tuesday night at a decision by a school board in a suburb of Toronto, Canada to reverse its policy on monitoring Muslim sermons.

Last September, concerned about the potential for radical Islamic propaganda infiltrating religious meetings, the Peel Regional School Board had insisted that students read prayers and sermons from an approved text. The board’s decision to allow students to write their own sermons resulted in angry residents storming a public meeting held to discuss the policy change.

Protestors were told to remove their signs because they were deemed anti-Muslim and one woman was taken outside by police after she interrupted the meeting with her objections.

Anger over the move was evident on social media. Protestor John Goddard wrote: “Anti-sharia activist Sandra Solomon, born a Palestinian Muslim in Ramallah but [who] left Islam, disrupt[ed] a Peel District School Board meeting on Tuesday night. The board tabled a staff report recommending expansion of Muslim religious privileges in public schools.”

Muslim students in the province of Ontario are entitled to hold weekly prayer meetings, held on Friday.  These “Jumm’ah” prayer and sermon sessions have been the focus of intense criticism as the provincial public school system is not supposed to be promoting any religion or hosting any religious instruction. Many schools will not even host Christmas music concerts in deference to non-Christian faiths who may be offended by the observance.

Board members justified the policy reversal by insisting it represented a commitment to inclusiveness:

“The board has always been committed to an inclusive approach in all activities related to religious accommodation for students and staff of all faiths,” director of education Tony Pontes said in a statement released Tuesday night.

Muslim students and their parents argued the ban on personalized sermons negatively impacted the religious freedom of the students while suggesting a stereotyped view of Islam….


A liberal arts college without English majors?

NEW LONDON, N.H. — Colby-Sawyer College has all the hallmarks of a classic New England liberal arts college — the rural setting, the small classes, and quaint traditions like Mountain Day, when students and professors hike side-by-side up Mount Kearsarge.

What you won’t find on this campus, as of next year, are two majors once considered cornerstones of a liberal arts education: English and philosophy.

The small private college announced last month that it was scrapping those programs, laying off 18 people, and cutting the hours of a dozen more to fill a $2.6 million budget gap.

As middle-class families struggle, so do small schools that have traditionally drawn from a regional, middle-class pool of students. They face a set of problems you don’t see on the campus tour: mounting debt, dwindling enrollment, and virtually no endowment.

Many students seek technical skills that will guarantee them a job, rather than a well-rounded liberal arts foundation. Small four-year colleges have to work harder to convince families they are worth the $50,000 tuition most schools charge.

Some, like Marion Court College in Swampscott, have closed. Others have merged. Still others, like Colby-Sawyer, are trying to survive by reinventing themselves, but with that reinvention has come soul-searching about what it means to be a liberal arts institution, and whether such places have a future.

Colby-Sawyer’s new president, Sue Stuebner, is still passionate about producing graduates who can write, read, think, and analyze, but she said the English and philosophy majors just aren’t popular anymore.

“If we try to do it all we’re not going to do it all well,” Stuebner said in an interview in her office in the school’s central brick building.

Instead, she has a two-pronged plan: narrow the school’s focus to its most successful programs, like nursing, business, and sports management, and market them aggressively. She hired a consulting firm to recruit students and determine how much financial aid to award each to increase their likelihood of attending. So far, it’s working.

“I think we have to focus on the things we can control,” she said.

News of the impending cuts has elicited mixed reactions from students at the school, which has about 1,100 students. Some spent time in classes discussing the cuts, which also include majors in accounting, health promotion, and health care management. Others have said they are disheartened. There are 18 English majors and no philosophy majors, the school said.

On Monday, as Stuebner outlined her success strategy, prospective students gathered outside her office for a tour of the 200-acre campus. They crunched over frozen snow as the guide showed off amenities and described programs you won’t find at most larger public schools, many of which cost half the price.

Colby-Sawyer’s five-story library is an architectural wonder, made from two renovated barns where light illuminates exposed beams and potted plants make the space feel alive.

Outside, the tour guide unlocked the door to a sugar shack that becomes the classroom for a two-credit course on sugaring.

High school senior Alexandra Doliber of Wolfeboro, who was on the tour with her mother, Jennifer Guldner, loved the library. She also liked the idea that professors would know her name.

Doliber, who already has been accepted to Colby-Sawyer, would have to pay $40,000 a year after financial aid. Plymouth State, which has also offered her admission, would cost around $10,500 annually. The private school price tag worries her mother.

“It’s a huge expense, and it’s kind of scary,” she said.

But the expense at small private colleges wasn’t always so huge. The cost has risen faster than the income of the middle-class families who have traditionally attended them, and students are increasingly wary of taking on debt.

Many of the problems small schools face are a result of the 2008 economic recession.

Wealthy small privates like Williams and Amherst saw their endowments tank overnight, but the effect was delayed for schools like Colby-Sawyer that rely on tuition revenue rather than investments.

“We really felt the middle-class hit a few years delayed,” said Thomas Galligan, president of Colby-Sawyer from 2006 until last year. “That hit us hard.”

Galligan, now dean of the Louisiana State University Law Center, called his tenure a roller coaster ride. Without a large endowment, the admissions office agonizes every year over whether the school will enroll enough students to balance the budget. A difference of as few as 50 can spell trouble.

The main way Colby-Sawyer attracts students is by offering sizable aid packages — as much as 67 percent off the $54,000 tuition. But that requires a balancing act, because the school so sorely needs revenue.

Adding to the pressure, these schools have found themselves increasingly locked in an amenities arms race. Students want the latest technology, the best professors, the most modern gymnasium, and gourmet food, and as much as schools are stretched thin, they lose students if they don’t keep up.

Some have criticized Colby-Sawyer’s president for supporting a new $7.4 million performing arts center at a time of staff layoffs. But, she says, it’s important to stay modern, and the building was funded almost entirely by donations for that project.

Just as these schools didn’t get into trouble overnight, it will take years for them to recover, experts say.

Ed MacKay, director of the New Hampshire Higher Education Commission, said their fate is very much tied to the struggles of public schools. As state legislatures cut funding to public colleges, those schools have begun to aggressively recruit the students who traditionally attended the privates.

In addition, the number of high school graduates is expected to drop annually between now and 2023, according to a report released last month by the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education.

MacKay also sees the fate of small colleges as an economic issue. Colby-Sawyer, which was founded in 1837, is integral to the economy of New London.

“These institutions are not appreciated enough for what they bring to their respective communities, and the loss of an institution to a small community can be devastating,” he said.

Colby-Sawyer alumna Mechilia Salazar looks back fondly on her time in New London. She graduated in 2000 with a degree in early childhood development and credits the school with teaching her how to pivot, when she switched majors and later when she changed careers.

Over the years she’s realized it was more than just her classes that made college special.

She still remembers “Marriott” Mike, who ran the cafeteria, and his wife, who taught water aerobics. She recalled how the school helped her start an after-school program for local elementary school students.

“The small intimate feel, it felt like one big family,’’ she said. “You can’t really hide on a campus, everybody eventually gets to know each other.”


Kangaroo courts won't solve campus sexual assault problem

Betsy DeVos is President-elect Donald Trump's pick for secretary of education. This past week, groups such as End Rape on Campus launched a #DearBetsy social-media campaign urging DeVos to continue the Obama administration's policies, under which schools across the country have defined sexual assault in expansive terms and scaled back protections for students accused of it.

Meanwhile, the American Association of University Women, among other organizations, has zeroed in on the $10,000 that DeVos gave to the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, an ACLU-like outfit that, among other things, supports due-process rules.

You might not like DeVos's financial conflicts or her family's record on LGBT issues - I don't - but the #DearBetsy campaign and the controversy over her FIRE donations show how ideological and unmoored the campus rape debate has become.

Let's be clear: Cases of horrific sexual violence occur in college communities. Last year, Stanford swimmer Brock Turner received a prison sentence, albeit a lenient one, for sexually assaulting an unconscious woman behind a dumpster.

More recently, 10 University of Minnesota football players were suspended after a confidential investigator's report detailed numerous acts of sexual aggression against a female student and specific evidence of players' culpability. The rest of the team threatened to boycott a looming bowl game - until the report leaked and they saw what was in it.

In 2011, in an effort to protect women's right to learn without fear of harassment or discrimination, President Obama's Department of Education sent out a "Dear Colleague" letter seeking tougher action against sexual violence, while leaving many of the details up to individual schools. In response, well-meaning campus administrators have responded by erasing due-process protections for suspected offenders.

That erosion becomes evident in the public paper trail left by a contentious case at Brandeis. In 2011, the student handbook there gave those accused of serious misconduct the right to be informed of the charges in detail, to confront them at a hearing, and to review "all evidence and reports" presented there. The burden of proof, the handbook said, rested with the accuser.

The next year, the university gutted those protections in sexual misconduct cases. It lowered the standard of evidence that it used to assess guilt, as the government's "Dear Colleague" letter had specifically demanded.

The university went further. In the 2012 handbook, "there was no requirement that copies of any `substantiating materials' submitted by the accuser, or the names of any witnesses, be shown or provided to the accused any time," wrote Judge F. Dennis Saylor, who reviewed Brandeis's procedures in connection with a lawsuit in federal court. Saylor went on, "The accused had no right to confront or cross-examine the accuser, no right to call witnesses, and no right to confront or cross-examine the accuser's witnesses. The accused had no right to review all the evidence."

In the context of American legal culture, this is crazy. When corporate polluters get sued, not even the most passionate environmentalist would deny them details of the accusations against them. While violent crime devastates a community, progressives in particular would be aghast at efforts to repeal the Fourth and Fifth Amendments for suspected armed robbers.

Campus disciplinary proceedings aren't court cases, but the underlying principle is the same: Standard rules of evidence and other protections for the accused keep things like false accusations or mistakes by authorities from hurting innocent people.

Instead, tales of murky, Kafkaesque proceedings have proliferated.

In the Brandeis case, a student identified as "John Doe" had sued Brandeis in federal court after being deemed guilty of sexual misconduct. (Saylor made a significant initial procedural ruling in Doe's favor, though the suit was ultimately withdrawn.) His ex-boyfriend, "J.C.," had filed a complaint against him more than six months after the end of a 21-month relationship.

A special examiner prepared a report, which, according to Saylor's summary, wasn't provided to Doe at any point in the investigation. Brandeis found him responsible for supposed misdeeds such as kissing J.C. while he was asleep, looking at his private areas when they showered together, and, at one point, sought to initiate a sexual act without formally asking permission. In other words, Doe behaved like normal, nonpredatory adults sometimes do when they're dating.

The examiner treated their relationship as irrelevant. Instead of just dismissing a patently flimsy sexual-assault complaint, Brandeis seemed to split the difference: It held John Doe responsible for some minor sexual infractions but stopped short of expelling him.

Then the outrage-amplification machine kicked in. "Brandeis University Punishes Sexual Assault With Sensitivity Training," a Huffington Post headline declared, after J.C. publicly decried John Doe's penalty as overly lax. The case was one of two mentioned on the influential liberal website ThinkProgress in a piece entitled "Universities Keep Failing To Actually Punish Rapists."

In an information vacuum, all sexual assault cases look the same. As Harvard Law School professors Jacob Gersen and Jeannie Suk Gersen declared in the Chronicle of Higher Education earlier this month, "In essence, the federal government has created a sex bureaucracy that has in turn conscripted officials at colleges as bureaucrats of desire, responsible for defining healthy, permissible sex and disciplining deviations from those supposed norms."

Any backtracking by Trump's administration will be greeted by suspicion at liberal colleges.

Yet those of us who generally believe in governmental activism, and think public and private schools alike should look after their students to the best of their abilities, should also recognize the limits of a university's omniscience.

In the Stanford and Minnesota cases, the involvement of local law enforcement was crucial in establishing facts - and the gravity of the situation. Far more often, universities handle accusations of sexual assault on their own, in opaque proceedings that take the place of criminal investigations, rather than complementing them.

On their own, schools have never done this job well. While the Minnesota investigator did thorough work, most schools lack expertise in collecting evidence and evaluating witnesses. To avoid adverse publicity, schools have an incentive to keep all proceedings quiet, which means it's impossible to tell from the outside whether they're adjudicating cases fairly.

When students like John Doe are labeled as sexual assailants, while many victims of serious crimes still feel ignored, the problem is that colleges and universities are being pushed to do a job they're not cut out to do. Sexual violence is a crime. Federal policy should press students and schools to involve law enforcement in every case. It shouldn't just make harried college bureaucracies take on more investigations - only with ever more draconian rules.


Monday, January 16, 2017

UC Davis cancels speeches by far-right commentator Milo Yiannopoulos and 'pharma bro' Martin Shkreli after angry students 'throw dog feces' and clash with police

Speeches by far-right commentator Milo Yiannopoulos and former pharmaceutical executive Martin Shkreli were canceled after heated protests erupted at the University of California, Davis.

The school's student-run Republican group called off the talk on Friday night after large crowds gathered outside the Science Lecture Hall, shouting 'shut it down'.

According to club leaders canceled the event after consulting with the UC Davis Police Department.

'The decision was made initially because the lives of the officers were threatened, the lives of the students were threatened as well as the property of the school,' Executive Director of the Davis College Republicans Andrew Mendoza said.

Interim Chancellor Ralph J. Hexter said he was 'deeply disappointed' by the outcome and emphasized the importance of engaging with opposing views, 'especially ones that many of us find upsetting or even offensive.'

Shkreli posed for selfies with fans, and claimed he was going to serve as a counterpoint to Yiannopoulos' 'anti-feminism' and 'tear him to shreds'

The Davis College Republicans consulted with the campus police and other school officials and cancelled the event at 7pm, half an hour before it was scheduled to start.

Protesters blocked access to the venue, and several students held a banner that read: 'Hey you, your fascism is showing'. 

Hexter issued a statement on Wednesday, announcing a 'safety plan' had been established in preparation for the event on Friday.

He defended the First Amendment, and told students: 'I suggest, for your consideration, that one strategy for disabling [Yiannopoulos'] message is simply not to attend.'

On Friday, he said he was 'deeply disappointed' by the outcome, and wrote: 'As I have stated repeatedly, a university is at its best when it listens to and critically engages opposing views, especially ones that many of us find upsetting or even offensive.'

Yiannopoulos attributed the cancellation to 'violence from left-wing protesters' on Facebook. He said: 'There are reports of hammers, smashed windows and barricades being torn away. The campus police can't guarantee anyone's safety so I'm not being allowed anywhere near the building. Stay safe, everyone.'

But the school issued a statement that said: 'Despite some reports, there were no broken windows or other property damage during the protest.

'Earlier in the evening, one person was arrested inside the venue. No further arrests were made.'

Yiannopoulos is the darling of the alt-right movement, an offshoot of conservatism mixing racism, white nationalism and populism.

He often refers to feminism as 'a cancer' and was permanently banned from Twitter after leading a harassment campaign against 'Ghostbusters' actress Leslie Jones

Martin Shkreli, was the former CEO of Turing Pharmaceuticals,increased the price of price of a life-saving drug from $13.50 to $750 after his company acquired it.

Shkreli was suspended from Twitter last week after harassing a Teen Vogue writer Lauren Duca, after she turned down his invitation to Trump's inauguration.

He was looking for a date to the president elect's ceremony on January 20 and asked the journalist if she would join him over a social media direct message.

In a scathing refusal, she tweeted out her response to her 129k followers which said: 'I would rather eat my own organs'.

He then filled his account with photos of the 25-year-old - including one picture where Shkreli photoshopped his face over her husband's. 


Islamists Find Willing Allies in U.S. Universities

Two graduate students and two undergraduates recalled personally experiencing the July 15, 2016 coup attempt against Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's government at a December 7, 2016, Georgetown University panel, before a youthful audience of about fifty. As crews from Turkey's TRT Haber television network and Anadolu Agency (AA) filmed/recorded, the panelists praised the coup's popular foiling as a democratic victory, irrespective of Erdogan's dangerous Islamist policies.

Such willful blindness mirrors that of other American-educated Middle East studies scholars whose actions and pronouncements lend a veneer of legitimacy to Erdogan's dictatorial policies, including mass purges and arrests of academics and teachers throughout Turkey. Erdogan's personal spokesman is Ibrahim Kalin, a George Washington University Ph.D. who serves as a senior fellow at Georgetown's Saudi-funded Alwaleed bin Talal Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding. He joined Juan Cole of Michigan, Cemil Aydin of UNC Chapel Hill (Harvard Ph.D.) at an October 2016 conference in Istanbul even as innocent educators languished in prison or faced academic ruin.

Islamism certainly colored the experiences of the panel's two graduate students, Harvard University Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations doctoral student Rushain Abbasi and his wife Safia Latif, who were in Istanbul during the attempted coup. Abbasi is a former member of the Muslim Brotherhood (MB)-affiliated Muslim Students Association and a former teacher at the Boston Islamic Seminary, an affiliate of another MB group, the Muslim American Society. His previous writing stereotypically attributed Islamist violence to the "histories of colonialism, imperialism, and economic exploitation that still plague the non-Western world," maintaining, "[i]t is not the texts of Islam . . . that are in need of reform."

Latif, a Boston University doctoral student in religious studies who earned an M.A. in Middle East studies from the University of Texas, was like-minded. She previously participated in a conference chaired by the notorious Islamist and UC-Berkeley lecturer Hatem Bazian at California's Zaytuna College. Having witnessed Egyptians in 2013 overthrowing the Muslim Brotherhood-led government of President Mohamed Morsi, she despaired of the same thing happening in Turkey. "To see another democratically elected government with an ostensible Islamist president fall was almost too much to bear. My first reaction was a religious one; I took to the prayer mat and I began praying for the Turkish people."

Latif blasted the "shameful Western reactions to the coup," such as media reports of its popular support and then-presidential candidate Donald Trump tweeting that Turks are "taking their country back!" She complained that after the coup, a "lot of the media focus was on political grievances against Erdogan, him consolidating [sic] power, [and] his authoritarian, totalitarian, dictatorial nature," all of which are, in fact, critical concerns under Erdogan's Islamist rule. Instead, she blamed the West, claiming that it "doesn't support democracy and freedom overseas, especially when Islamists are in power," as "it seems to threaten the universality of the West and its political hegemony."

Abbasi agreed: "If the coup was successful, we would be very happy" in America. In contrast to reporting on coup casualties, "all the headlines the next day I had seen were about freedom of speech and Erdogan. What are we talking about?" he asked, implying that free speech is trivial.

His comments about the American-based Turkish Muslim leader Fethullah Gülen, who is widely considered (albeit without any evidence) in Turkey and among the panelists as the coup instigator, were intriguing. Many of his friends became religious through the Gülen movement, but left after having "realized the cult nature of the group" and "the hidden motivation, essentially setting up a parallel state, which was displayed on that night" of the coup. The Gülen movement has a "nice veneer to it, but there is very kind of dark underside to a lot of it, in the same way that so many colonial regimes set up schools," he said, referring to the movement's worldwide private school network.

Unanimously expressing relief at the coup's failure, the panelists showed a misplaced optimism in Turkey's future under Erdogan, whose threats to democracy remained unmentioned. Latif gushed about seeing "Turks defeat the coup across the entire political and religious spectrum" without the slightest indication of dissent from or dissatisfaction with Erdogan. Likewise, after the coup Abbasi emailed to his friends worldwide that "we are essentially going out every night and partying with Turks" amid a "huge sense of camaraderie and brotherhood." Social media reports demonstrated to him that "every single person was inspired that night in other Muslim countries," although it's unclear whether a supposed victory for liberty or for Erdogan's Islamism was the inspiration.

The Georgetown panel, sponsored by the university's Turkish student organization, marked another chapter in the hagiographic apologetics for Erdogan's Islamism prevalent in American Middle East studies. Hypercritical of the West's established democracies but indifferent about majority-Muslim countries like Turkey rapidly losing any remaining vestiges of democracy, the panelists exposed their pious confidence in Islamism. They were oblivious to why some informed observers, including Middle East Forum President Daniel Pipes, rooted for the coup.

Abbasi described his visit to a mosque the morning following the rebellion. The "salawat, the prayers of the prophet, were being sent out from all the mosques, and it was a very inspiring feeling." Yet any attempt to combine the panelists' faith with freedom in countries like Turkey, Egypt, and Abbasi's native Pakistan will require critical self-reflection, not disdain for the West and its freedoms.


Academics should teach students – not look after them

The new year has barely got underway and universities are already making headlines for all the wrong reasons. Students have been ridiculed after it emerged that the University of Glasgow has issued theology students with trigger warnings about the crucifixion. It’s hard to know what’s more bizarre – the assumption that theologists have so little knowledge of the Bible that they need plot spoilers about the crucifixion, or the permission they now have to opt out of classes covering it if they are upset. Presumably Herod and the massacre of the innocents is omitted entirely. It’s not just Glasgow: at universities throughout the country students are now routinely warned that they may find the most fundamental elements of their course, such as blood in forensic science or rape in the study of law, distressing.

Despite the outrage directed at the snowflake generation, for the most part it is not students who are clamouring for trigger warnings. Instead it is a band of overly sensitive academics, administrators and diversity officers who pre-empt distress and trauma. In a statement, the University of Glasgow said: ‘We have an absolute duty of care to all of our students and where it is felt course material may cause potential upset or concern, warnings may be given.’ This view of young people as vulnerable has already been projected on to prospective students by schools and mental-health campaigners, who teach students to see themselves as unable to cope with the stresses of everyday life.

Glasgow’s recourse to ‘duty of care’ is revealing. In the UK, universities stopped having formal in loco parentis responsibilities for students when the age of majority was lowered from 21 to 18 in 1970. Since then, institutional duty-of-care policies have been used to guard the safety and wellbeing of students. Over time, duty of care has expanded to encompass not just physical but emotional safety. Increasingly this means protecting students from what would, not that long ago, have been considered integral aspects of student life, such as negotiating sex and relationships, dealing with exams and challenging course content, or living away from home for the first time.

Yesteryear’s draconian curfews and single-sex dormitories were ridiculed and flouted by rebellious students. Today, in contrast, supposedly radical students demand universities better uphold duty-of-care legislation. Having internalised the notion of vulnerability, they campaign for more consent classes, more puppies for de-stressing sessions, more trigger warnings, and the removal of nasty statues. They demand white philosophers be relegated and course content be judged not on intellectual merit, but on biology. They want disciplines to encompass diversity of skin colour rather than the best that has been thought and said.

In what’s become a vicious circle, such demands have traction because universities need, above all else, to have satisfied students. Institutions treat the annual ritual of final-year students completing the National Student Survey with absolute seriousness. Despite having been roundly and frequently criticised, the survey results, interpreted crudely as a measure of satisfaction, are used to rank universities in the league tables – which are crucial to securing the next intake of fee-paying customers.

Universities, competing for students, sell higher education. For anxious parents, duty of care has become a product: universities ease the transition from childhood to adulthood. Students, meanwhile, can expect not just to be cared for but to be ‘satisfied’ with their student experience. This is what students are told to expect in return for their tuition fees.

This week, the latest Higher Education Bill is currently making its way through parliament. This legislation proposes, among other things, plans for a new Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF) to rank universities according to the quality of teaching they offer, and to allow those judged to be performing better to charge higher fees. The bill also proposes lowering the threshold that private providers must meet to become degree-awarding institutions – in other words, it opens up the higher-education marketplace to new entrants.

The opposition the bill is meeting in the House of Lords is being loudly cheered on by many within universities. The chief criticism is that it will force ‘market dogma on universities’ that don’t want further commercialisation. Students have protested against the bill, demanding instead a ‘free, liberated higher education system which values education as a social good’. Academics have argued the bill undermines ‘the autonomy and vigour of Britain’s universities’.

The Higher Education Bill should be opposed. The TEF in particular spells disaster for academic autonomy and university teaching. It returns us once more to a groundless equation of satisfaction with quality. But those who care about higher education must not delude themselves that an unpopular government proposal getting a kicking by a few unelected lords will turn the tide on the marketisation of universities, or transform the student consumer into the scholar of yore. The legislation currently before parliament stems from an instrumental view of education that has become entrenched over decades by successive governments of all colours.

It is not tuition fees or different types of institution that create customers and markets. Rather, it’s the view enculturated in prospective students, long before they end up at a university, that their satisfaction is paramount – that whatever they demand will be acted upon and their emotional safety is all important. The message that students can dictate the content of the curriculum and be protected from all unpleasantness – be it Bible stories or discussions of rape – socialises students into seeing themselves as consumers and higher education as a product. But challenging this requires many academics to go beyond criticising the current government and question their own beliefs about what higher education is for.

At the moment, higher education in England has to meet the demands of both fee-paying student customers and state regulation that determines everything from what counts as research to recruitment in the form of widening-participation initiatives. Institutional autonomy and academic freedom require a broader cultural shift away from seeing universities as therapeutic finishing schools for the vulnerable, and reclaiming the idea of higher education as an intellectual project.


Sunday, January 15, 2017

School uniforms are sexist? Oh, please

By Jane Fynes-Clinton (The fine Clinton is one of Australia's many excellent conservative women journalists.  As in Jennifer Oriel, Grace Collier, Miranda Devine, Rita Panahi, Janet Albrechtsen, Judith Sloan, Caroline Overington, Corrine Barraclough etc.  Eat your heart out, feminists)

An academic from Queensland University of Technology this week hurled the first of the school preparation grenades, contending that school uniform requirement should no longer be split along gender lines.

The focus in the school uniform discussion should be about climate and occasion appropriateness, not sexism. (Pic: iStock)

Cultural learning senior lecturer and psychologist Amanda Mergler pointed out in her piece on The Conversation that some parents felt requiring their daughters to wear dresses and skirts was outdated and amounted to gender disadvantage.

To this, I say piffle.

Dresses are not passe. Skirts are not discriminatory or symbols of sexism. They do not limit female power or confidence.

And having our boys and girls dressed the same — as boys, effectively — does not make them the same.

They are not, never should be, and clothes do not make the man (or woman). Celebrate difference, because difference between genders does not mean better or worse and schoolchildren should not be encouraged to see themselves as a homogenous, genderless blob.

Dresses are not by their nature sexualising creations.

Dresses and skirts are cooler in the heat of summer, have more wriggle room for wearers and are more easily kept looking neat.

But there are naysayers. A Journal of Gender Studies paper published in 2013 said dresses and skirts as school uniforms “ritualised girling” and affected the performance of the wearer.

Proponents of homogeny say dresses require girls to be more demure, and to walk, run and sit differently.

Dresses have a habit of ballooning in a breeze and girls are always at risk of showing their underwear.

The anti-dress brigade also argues dresses make girls more quickly available sexually. Yes, they seriously say that.

It is not sexist to wear a dress, just as it is not sexist to call someone a woman, as if by saying that, it is all she is. It is discriminatory to act as if wearing a skirt delegates that person to a lesser station, which is effectively what is contended by Mergler.

This is political correctness gone loopy, a distraction from the core issues around school uniforms. Surely, they are about practicality, appropriateness and, because this is a world where we seem to require it in every facet, choice that are subjects of discussion, not whether girls should wear dresses.
Girls are not being “disadvantaged” by wearing skirts as their school uniform. (Pic: Getty Images)

School uniforms have a long tradition in Australia.

They level the playing field and stabilise a school’s community branding. They provide certainty at a changeable, important time in a human’s development. They are here to stay.

The focus in the school uniform discussion should be about climate and occasion appropriateness. And given school should be a relatively formal, learning-focused place, surely discussions should hinge on practicality and comfort,

as well as presenting an appropriate public face of the school.

I think school uniforms should not be overly fashionable and not because of a dislike of fashionability or disregard for style, but because a school’s core purpose is the delivery of learning experiences.

And if skirts are done away with in coeducational settings to mitigate the risk of sexualising females, it follows that girls at same-sex schools would be left out on a rather provocative limb.

I attended an all-girls school in Brisbane. We wore unflattering dresses for lessons and unattractive skirts with undershorts (never to be seen in public except on the playing field) for sport. We were told how long they had to be.

The uniform and the rules are the same at that school today.

We were constantly told we were girls, or young ladies, that we must act with integrity and modesty, as all young people should. The uniform regulation was uniformly unforced.

Sure, our box pleats meant we had to take special measures in stiff winds and deal with sweaty, slidey seats in summer. And yes, we were forbidden from sitting cross legged on the ground in public, lest the good name of our school be erased in a thoughtless flash.

Fair enough. We were girls and girls wore modest dresses and skirts to school. No contest. If we didn’t like it, we could leave.

It was a slice of life and we expressed ourselves elsewhere and in other ways.

I am old enough to recall a time when female members of the public who attended Brisbane City Council meetings were forbidden from wearing pants. I also recall a female journalist in the 1980s attending in slacks to push the envelope and make a point. She was excluded.

And a public relations firm in Brisbane forbade its all-female staff from wearing trousers in the early 1990s.

Those who require such things now enforce the wearing of a uniform to get around claims of discrimination.

Surely the point now is that choice is key, not demonising the dress and skirt as old-school, sexist creations that are vehicles for lust and degradation?

Please, let common sense prevail in any discussions about school uniforms.


Three campus rape accusations fail when tested in court

What does that say about untested claims?  Could it mostly be just a beat-up

A third Durham University student in a year has walked free after being charged with rape.

Alastair Cooke, 23, said last night that he was ‘delighted this nightmare is over’ after the case against him was dropped.

Mr Cooke, a third-year geology and geophysics student, was weeks away from an expected first class degree when he was arrested in 2015 on suspicion of raping a 23-year-old student in her home when she drunk.

But jurors could not agree on a verdict, and yesterday Durham Crown Court was told that the prosecution would not seek a retrial on the three rape charges faced by Mr Cooke and that his accuser agreed with that decision.

‘We therefore offer no evidence on these counts,’ said prosecutor Paul Cleasby.

After the decision Mr Cooke’s barrister warned that attitudes towards sex and alcohol needed to change in universities.

The student was the third undergraduate to be cleared of rape in the past 12 months. Last January Louis Richardson, then 21, the former secretary of the Durham Union debating society, was cleared by a jury in less than three hours.

The history student, from St Helier, Jersey, and his family said they had been put through ‘15 months of absolute hell’.

Engineering student George Worrall, 22, from Cromer in Norfolk, faced three counts of rape, but last July after he had been under suspicion for 18 months the Crown Prosecution Service dropped the case before it went to trial, citing ‘inconsistencies of the victim’s account’.

Mr Cooke, who denied the charges, did not attend court yesterday and was at his family home in Truro, Cornwall, when he heard the news.

He said: ‘This has been a really difficult time for all those involved on all sides. I am delighted this nightmare is now over. I am looking forward to trying to piece my life back together.’

Mr Cooke, who now plans to complete his degree, was accused of raping the woman at her student house in June 2015 when she was very drunk and unresponsive.

He had known the woman, who cannot be named for legal reasons, for two years. It was alleged that he stalked her back to her home from a house party, let himself in and raped her three times in her bedroom.

During the original trial, the geography student was accused of following the woman home from a party in June 2015
During the original trial, the geography student was accused of following the woman home from a party in June 2015

But his barrister, Cathy McCulloch, told the court last month that the allegation arose from ‘regret which got out of hand’.

Jurors were also told that the woman had a tendency to exaggerate and that the ‘willowy’ Mr Cooke was too weak to throw her around ‘like a rag doll’ as she claimed.

It was alleged during his trial that the woman’s friends were a ‘mob’ who knew ‘exactly what it took to get a rape conviction’. Mrs McCulloch said: ‘They were all working together to help their friend.’


Time to take a wrecking ball to an utterly corrupt educational status quo

“Beginning in the 1960s, from Boston to Berkeley, the teachers of America’s teachers absorbed and taught a new, CliffsNotes-style sacred history: America was born tainted by Western Civilization’s original sins — racism, sexism, greed, genocide against natives and the environment, all wrapped in religious obscurantism, and on the basis of hypocritical promises of freedom and equality. Secular saints from Herbert Croly and Woodrow Wilson to Franklin Roosevelt and Barack Obama have been redeeming those promises, placing America on the path of greater justice in the face of resistance from the mass of Americans who are racist, sexist, but above all stupid. To consider such persons on the same basis as their betters would be, as President Obama has called it, ‘false equivalence.’” —Angelo Codevilla, “The Rise of Political Correctness”

If there is a better summation of the cultural divide, one is hard-pressed to imagine what it is. And while the election of Donald Trump represents a repudiation of the insufferable elitist mindset cited above, it may only be a brief reprieve. As the daily depredations by the Leftmedia and its allies in Hollywood, academia and the corporate world indicate, our “betters” will not go quietly into the night. Moreover, they will do everything possible to undermine the current “aberration.”

Nonetheless, an opportunity, no matter how brief, exists. One that requires laser-like focus on the one entity whose co-option by the Left has paid them the greatest long-term dividends. In short, a Trump administration must work diligently to eviscerate the Democrats' Education Complex. Unless this de facto monopoly of leftist indoctrination factories is leveled, America will remain oppressed by leftist hegemony.

“Fear of the Trump administration’s nascent education policy has coalesced around the idea that Trump’s pick for education secretary, Betsy DeVos, is the agent of a furtive movement for ‘privatization’ that seeks to destroy the public-school system,” explains National Review columnist Paul Crookston. “Teachers' unions and liberal pundits and academics claim that mass defunding of public schools is the real goal behind ‘school choice.’”

Decent Americans should pray that this is so, and a recent New York Post article reveals exactly why. It talks about the United Federation of Teachers, whose budget increase from last year’s $168.7 million to this year’s $181.2 million pays for such “education-related” expenditures as Yankee and Met tickets, trips to New Orleans, Orlando and Las Vegas — and Cadillac salaries for union bigwigs, 65 of whom earn more than $165,000 each. Union boss Michael Mulgrew, who opposes charter schools and anything resembling genuine accountability, earns $283,804.

Moreover, while these hacks are living quite comfortably, courtesy of required teachers' dues, they’re also busy solidifying their political clout by donating to hard-left political organizations like ACORN, which was defunded by Congress in 2009 after undercover videos revealed counselors advising a “pimp” and “prostitute” on how to commit tax fraud.

What does this toxic mix produce? “A scathing state report flunked 91 city schools Thursday for eye-poppingly low graduation rates and test scores — and cited 40 of them for a decade of teaching futility,” reported the Daily News in 2015. The paper further notes at least 50,000 children, 90 percent of whom are minority and/or indigent, attended schools “where less than half the students graduated and fewer than 1 in 10 were proficient in either English or math” — all despite an average spending boost of 13.8%.

New York is hardly an outlier. Millions of children across the nation are trapped in virtually identical union-run hellholes, all beholden to one contemptible idea that should be tossed on the ash heap of history: where one lives determines what school one attends.

To realize just how contemptible that concept is, one need only imagine a real world equivalent. Imagine needing a new car and only being allowed to purchase one from the car dealer you’ve been “assigned” based on your home address. Imagine the kind of price and service one might get when that dealership knows it has a captive customer. Now imagine certain groups of elitists who aren’t bound by the same restriction.

Those are the very same leftist elitists who wouldn’t dream of allowing their children to attend the public schools they so heartily support for everyone else. They support school choice — for themselves — while the “little people” get no choice at all, lest failing schools face defunding.

Or parent-empowered competition.

Education Secretary nominee Betsy DeVos is a staunch supporter of charters, vouchers for private schools, and tax credits for homeschoolers — or everything anathema to the status quo-ers, exactly because it transfers power from government bureaucrats to education “consumers.”

Hence, the predictable attacks. “Betsy DeVos lacks the qualifications and experience to serve as secretary of education,” insists American Federation of Teachers (AFT) president Randi Weingarten. “Her drive to privatize education is demonstrably destructive to public schools and to the educational success of all of our children.”

More like demonstrably destructive for an AFT/Democrat alliance whereby the union donates 100% of its campaign funding to the Party in every election cycle.

As for the educational “success” of our children, the title of an article by NPR says it all: “America’s High School Graduates Look Like Other Countries' High School Dropouts.” American students are average in literacy, woeful in math — and dead last in technology, according to a Program for International Assessment of Adult Competencies study.

Thus, the leftist-dominated status quo is all about keeping “stupid” Americans stupid. And given the achievement gap between minority and white students that has existed for more than 50 years, keeping minority Americans “stupider” than everyone else appears to be an acceptable part of the equation.

In other words, the same leftists who reflexively accuse everyone else of racism have arguably been engaged in maintaining perhaps the most enduring racist construct in the history of the republic.

Unfortunately, bad education is only half the equation. “A study by the National Association of Scholars, released on Tuesday, reveals how Obama’s ultra-liberal progressives have begun to turn American higher ed into a vehicle for left-wing activism and propaganda,” reveals columnist F. H. Buckley.

As NAS puts it in “Making Citizens: How American Universities Teach Civics,” today’s civics courses are all about teaching students that a good citizen “is a radical activist,” political activism is “at the center of everything that students do in college,” and that it is more important to learn “how to organize protests, occupy buildings, and stage demonstrations” than understand the foundations of American government.

“What is to be done with a political system in which no one any longer believes?” asks Codevilla.

Answer: Take a wrecking ball to an utterly corrupt educational status quo that spawned and nurtured that political skepticism.

The bottom line is that our nation can withstand virtually anything other than a leftist-cultivated loss of faith masquerading itself as public school and college education. Nothing less than a paradigm shift is required to restore that faith, one that wrests control of our educational system away from the Democrats' Education Complex. Otherwise, the attempt to restore American exceptionalism will amount to little more than a brief detour on the road to permanent, leftist-dominated serfdom.