Friday, February 24, 2017

Proponents of ‘Diversity’ Tried to Force My Religious Group Off Campus

Recent news about U.S. colleges has not been flattering. We’ve seen a tidal wave of stories from campus protests and violent riots, to sexual assault and purported millennial “safe spaces.”

But obscured by the attention-grabbing headlines is the reality that many students are actively engaged in campus communities that foster cultural and intellectual diversity, encourage innovative thinking, and create opportunities for enriching and helping others in their campus communities and around the world.

I know, because that’s part of my story.

As a student at Missouri State University, I was first a member, then a leader, of Chi Alpha—a student Christian organization devoted to supporting students of faith and promoting campus diversity and community service.

As one of the most engaged students on campus, the best part of my college experience was seeing the huge variety of student groups—faith-based or otherwise—working, sometimes together and sometimes independently, to promote and act on shared values that were important to each groups’ members.

More than any class assignment, the interaction with students and interest groups allowed me to see that all groups on campus, even those with diametrically opposing viewpoints, can flourish under the same university banner.

Yet politicians and campus administrators in some states are trying to push certain groups off campus for daring to be distinct. Religious groups that require their student leaders (not general members) to actually believe and uphold the groups’ beliefs and mission are being accused of bigotry and kicked off campus.

In a puzzling irony, this aggressive ideology only sacrifices true campus diversity and academic freedom in the name of ambiguous and subjective political correctness.

My participation and leadership in Chi Alpha showed me the true value of campus diversity. While Chi Alpha is religious in nature, I interacted and became friends with students who chose to be a part of Chi Alpha for a safe and uplifting social environment.

Some joined Chi Alpha to participate in our shared ethos of community service and humanitarian efforts, like our partnership with feedONE, feeding starving children worldwide. Other students valued our work promoting campus diversity.

I personally led multiple service trips, like taking Chi Alpha students to work with the homeless in Milwaukee, the widowed and orphaned on a New Mexico Navajo reservation, and neglected elementary school children in Kenya.

For all of us, our shared Christian faith fostered a commitment to each other and to caring for others no matter who they are or where they come from.

Schools Are Squelching, Not Empowering, Student Choice

Whether motivated by faith or not, all students should be free to join their own groups to express shared values. But faith-based groups are especially being targeted. Two recent examples come to mind.

Just last year at Southeast Missouri State University, virtually every religious student group on campus was discriminated against because the groups required their leaders to share their faith (to essentially practice what they preach) while other campus groups like fraternities and sororities were allowed to continue selecting both leaders and members based on the groups’ mission or purpose.

Only after months of lobbying (and months of academic distractions) were religious students at the university able to regain equality with the other campus groups.

And two years ago, my fellow Chi Alpha student leader, Bianca Travis, had her entire Chi Alpha chapter removed from a California State University campus.

Despite 40 years of service within the Cal State community, including assisting the school with international students, helping campus police hand out free water during major student activities, and fundraising to address issues like human trafficking, Travis and her friends were singled out, denied the ability to function equally alongside other student organizations, and literally locked out of their meeting space.

All this because they required their leaders (again, not their students) to uphold the group’s mission and purpose.

These are just two examples. Similar problems are going on in Florida, Indiana, Maine, New York, and Washington. All across the country, religious organizations are being scrutinized and investigated for a leadership philosophy that almost all groups with student leaders share.

The only difference is that the religious nature of these groups make it easier for misinformed, misguided administrators to yell “foul play.”

Let Students Freely Engage

A true commitment to academic freedom, diversity, and intellectual engagement (objectives that all colleges and universities say they desire) requires giving students and groups the ability to operate freely as they add value to their campuses by sharing their unique perspectives—religious or secular.

The world is a complex place. Forcing certain groups off campus and thus shielding students from ideas in college won’t help students adequately prepare for the increasingly diverse world ahead of them.

All student groups—even those who require their leaders to uphold their mission to adequately function—must have an equal place at the table.

True academic freedom and diversity cannot exist otherwise.


Flying Coach: Many Universities Are Using Private Planes

Once seen as a luxury of the corporate world, private planes are becoming increasingly common at U.S. colleges and universities as schools try to attract athletes, raise money and reward coaches with jet-set vacations.

Some schools spend millions of dollars a year flying their coaches and executives on scores of trips around the country, and some pass the cost on to students and taxpayers.

The Associated Press requested documents from dozens of public universities and found that at least 20 own or share ownership of planes for school business, often employing a few full-time pilots to fly them. Many others charter private flights through outside companies.

Flight logs show that, at times, the aircraft are used for purposes unrelated to university business.

At Ohio State University, which leases one plane and partly owns another, football coach Urban Meyer and members of his family took 11 personal trips last school year, including a vacation in Florida, a weekend getaway to Cape Cod and a spring break in South Carolina. The university's cost: $120,000. Add Meyer's 15 recruiting trips in the same planes during that period, and the price tag jumps to more than $350,000.

Meyer declined to comment.

Some private colleges, which aren't subject to open-records laws, also own planes.

Colleges defend the costs, saying coaches and top administrators need to travel more than ever, while commercial airlines are offering fewer flights. Some say it's economical for officials who often fly on short notice or to towns that are far from a major airport.

But some critics condemn such spending as a luxury at a time when tuition continues to rise.

"The students are paying for it or the taxpayers are paying for it, and it's usually the students," said Richard Vedder, an economist and director of the Center for College Affordability and Productivity in Washington, D.C.

Universities often use planes for athletic recruiting, mostly football and basketball, and to shuttle administrators on trips to woo donors or lobby lawmakers.

Some of the nation's largest schools, such as Penn State and the University of Texas, own planes, as do many smaller schools, including the University of Wyoming and the University of Central Missouri.

The price for a private plane usually reaches into the millions, climbing as high as the $8.4 million that the University of Florida's athletic association paid for an eight-passenger jet in 2011. Then there are operating expenses such as fuel and maintenance, which at Ohio State cost $1.6 million last school year.

Each flight often averages more than $1,000 an hour, far exceeding the cost of a commercial flight.

Purdue University, for example, sent a plane to Providence, Rhode Island, last year to bring alumnus and former NFL lineman Matt Light to Indianapolis for an athletics meeting and then flew him back, at a cost of $15,000. A commercial flight between those cities typically costs less than $400 round-trip.

The University of Kansas chancellor and two staff members were flown to the NCAA basketball tournament in Louisville, Kentucky, for $10,000 last year. Officials at the University of Tennessee routinely fly between Knoxville and Nashville, a drive of less than three hours.

"With our executive administration, their time is valuable enough that certainly the plane use is warranted," said Ron Maples, interim treasurer for the University of Tennessee. He added that the school's yearly spending on flights, about $700,000, is "hardly a blip" in the overall budget.

Costs for chartered flights can add up fast, too. The University of Minnesota doesn't own a plane but spent $2.9 million chartering flights last year.


School Revolution in Australia?

John Hattie is a smart guy but he is up against a lot:  principally the low intellectual standards of those applying to be teachers.  Very few people with other options would want to teach in Australia's chaotic public classrooms.  Dedicated teachers get jobs in our large private school system, where they can make a difference.  My son's private High School actually had several MALE teachers!  Wonder of wonders!

AUSTRALIA is on the brink of a revolution in our schools, with a radical overhaul driven by the kids whose lives it will transform. And it all comes back to a reality TV show.

For the first time the progress of students will be linked not just to their teacher but all the way to their teacher’s teacher.

Under tough new standards being developed by the government, teacher training institutions will be accredited based on how students ultimately respond to the teachers they produce.

The pioneering new approach is driven by the guru behind the ABC reality show Revolution School, which famously transformed a struggling public high school in outer Melbourne into one of the leading schools in the state.

Internationally renowned education expert John Hattie says not only does the way we teach have to change but the way we teach our teachers must too.

He told he was sick of teacher training institutions reporting only what they taught their graduates without focusing on how that ended up in the classroom.

“I couldn’t give a s**t how you teach,” he says. “I care about the impact of your teaching.”

Prof Hattie is director of the Melbourne Education Research Institute as well as chair of the Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership (AITSL), which has been set up to advise the Federal Government as it overhauls Australia’s flagging education system.

His book Visible Learning is, according to the University of Melbourne, “believed to be the world’s largest evidence-based study into the factors which improve student learning”. It combined 50,000 other smaller studies and ultimately involved 80 million students.

In a nutshell, it found that teachers should talk less and listen more.

Almost miraculously in the current political environment, this approach has bipartisan support. Labor has even accused the Turnbull Government of pinching its own ideas, which in politics is about as close to a compliment as you can get.

Education Minister Simon Birmingham is understood to be very close to the thinking of Prof Hattie and Labor’s education spokeswoman and deputy leader Tanya Plibersek told “I think the Hattie approach is fantastic.”

According to one senior insider developing the new scheme it is nothing short of a revolution. “It’s absolutely a revolution. It’s going to take a while to flow through — you can’t make these things happen overnight — but it will happen.”

Senator Birmingham has adopted a cool and clinical philosophy since becoming minister 18 months ago but his resolve is clear.

“Every decision that’s made and every dollar that’s spent needs to come back to answering a simple question — what does the evidence show works best?”

And Ms Plibersek agrees: “All the research agrees that the most important thing to the child’s success in the classroom is the teacher.”

Critically, Ms Plibersek says that while she still wants to see more needs-based funding for schools, the Opposition “would never hold reform hostage” and supports maximum transparency in measuring student progress as well as teachers and training institutions being driven by that.

This is an almost unprecedented aligning of the planets when it comes to real reform that will transform our kids and ultimately our country.

And a major breakthrough could come in mere weeks, with the Council of Australian Governments’ Education Council set to meet in Hobart on April 7.

It is expected there will also be significant progress on fixing school funding so that wealthy private schools are not overpaid with taxpayer dollars, which Labor has indicated it is also willing to consider.

The top-to-bottom schools overhaul follows a string of international reports showing Australia falling behind in education.

The latest figures from the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study found Australia had fallen behind Kazakhstan in maths and science — described by the Centre for Independent Studies education research fellow Jennifer Buckingham as “dismal”.

The following week the Programme for International Student Assessment found Australia had slipped behind nine countries — including New Zealand.

The Australian Council for Education Research’s Dr Sue Thompson, who collated our portion of the data, described school performance as being in “absolute decline”.

Prof Hattie is even more brutal, saying the obsession with more cash over better quality of teaching was destroying Australian education. “There’s a lot of ‘Just give me more money and leave me alone’ and it’s killing us,” he says.

“Everybody knows we’re going backwards but it’s very hard to get that on the table. We want more money to do what we were doing yesterday which is not the right answer.”


As demonstrated by Revolution School, as well as data and research across the world, the number one factor in a student’s performance isn’t school resources or class sizes but how the teacher engages kids in the classroom.

The new push means that for the first time student progress will be tracked not just back to the teachers but to the teachers’ teachers, with tough new standards for training providers based on how their methods work not on their graduates, but on the kids their graduates end up teaching.

It’s so simple it’s radical.

The government is significantly toughening up the accreditation process for initial teacher education programs, which Prof Hattie says has been ridiculously soft.  Providers must now apply for accreditation against a new strengthened standard. Some may well fall short.

“In the history of this country we’ve never denied accreditation to a single institution,” he says.

Under the new scheme providers would need to show “evidence of impact”. It is linked to an Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership report that states:

“It is a fundamental expectation that every teacher education graduate will have met the Graduate Teacher Standards, succeeded on the teaching performance assessment and demonstrated a positive impact on student learning.  “Equally, it is expected that graduates will continue to have a positive impact throughout their teaching career.

“It is acknowledged there are measurement challenges in assessing teachers’ impact on student learning, but it is expected that improved mechanisms will develop over time, given the importance of measuring this impact.”

In other words, the accreditation of training providers will depend on the performance of teachers not in their institutions but in the classrooms of the future.

Prof Hattie admits the approach of constantly measuring teacher performance by student progress or “growth” had met resistance by entrenched interests, including teachers unions and the odd state government.  “The union at the moment has a black ban on AITSL,” he says, only half joking.

In response, the Australian Education Union says it was actually represented on the AITSL Board until 2015, when former minister Christopher Pyne restructured it. “We’ve not really been part of their work since then, but we haven’t black-banned them,” a spokesman says.

He says the AEU supports measuring teacher performance and pay against set professional standards — a big improvement on the previous model based on years of service — but not on teachers being measured by student achievement.

“On the general idea of paying teachers according to student achievement, there are massive practical issues with what you measure, how you measure it and how you compensate for the different social backgrounds of schools. As far as I know, there’s no school system, public or private, that makes it the basis of teacher pay, including high-performing Asian ones like Singapore.”

But Prof Hattie says this is because schools do not have the right tools to measure student growth. “When you give the teachers the skills, the resources, they’re hungry for it,” he says.

The key is regular ongoing feedback and measurement rather than just end of year report cards or NAPLAN tests. “How do we help the teachers use that? How many of their kids have grown? There’s no calibration,” Prof Hattie laments.

“Teachers don’t have a common conception of progress. It’s reporting back to teachers, giving the resources to teachers so they can see who’s making progress.”


It is also vital to be able to talk about teacher performance without being seen to “bash teachers”. “How do you get a debate about expertise without getting a debate about bad teachers?”

Even parents, he warns, have fallen prey to misguided ideological thinking, often focusing on issues like class sizes that the research says do not really matter: “The things they want the resources for are the things that impact the least.”

Meanwhile, the great dance of the federation continues, with the states instinctively milking the Commonwealth for all the money they can get. “Every time the government puts a dollar in, the states take a dollar out,” Prof Hattie says.  “I can tell you, Oliver Twist is alive and well.”

Or, as the insider puts it: “Essentially we’ve been handing over this cash to the states and they’ve been doing all this ideological s**t that doesn’t make a difference.”

Meanwhile the crippling taboos and sensitivities that have always haunted political reform remain.

Prof Hattie is at pains to stress that his approach is nothing like the much-maligned NAPLAN “National Assessment Program — Literacy and Numeracy” testing, saying he’s scared to even use the word “assessment”. “You can’t do that!” he jokes. I think.

But there’s one thing even more shocking, more galling and more forbidden about the schools revolution that might just save our nation. A truth that the former Professor of Education at Auckland University dare not speak and one that should send chills down the spine of every red-blooded Australian.

“I should never say we’ve already done it in New Zealand.”


Thursday, February 23, 2017

Now Calhoun's Replacement at Yale is Under Fire from Leftist racists

Calhoun College — which for decades and without incident paid homage to John C. Calhoun — was recently ordered by Yale University to revise its name to placate the demands of campus moral do-gooders. But the purging isn’t quite the victory some envisioned. As it turns out, Grace Hopper, the woman selected as Calhoun’s replacement, has yet another grievance group crying foul. The consternation this time is even more peculiar — Hopper, a female who rose to the impressive rank of Naval Admiral and greatly expanded the field of computer science, is considered a feminist paragon. But for the ever-evolving snowflakes of today, the color of her skin, ironically enough, creates a big problem.

In a Facebook response, The Yale Women’s Center began by voicing support. “However,” the dissenters continue, “we had hoped for a name change that acknowledged the years of activism by students of color and New Haven activists. We feel the decision to change the name from a white supremacist to a white woman, as amazing as she may be, is an act of whitewashing.” The group also complains “the decision to rename the college after another white person seems like an attempt to end this discussion on the history of white supremacy and its active and continued role in this institution and on our campus.”

HeatStreet reports on additional objections: “A PR person for the women’s center, Vicki Beizer, told the student newspaper that the administration let them down by ignoring names that would have ‘carried the dialogue further,’ and that ‘renaming the college after a white woman doesn’t put the cork in the bottle.’ Members of the organization also published an op-ed for the Daily to argue that ‘white femininity has often been used as a tool to enforce racist and colonialist structures,’ and that naming the college after Hopper was a ‘continuous perpetuation of white supremacy.’”

This is the problem with revisionist history and inculcating those who seek to erase or modify America’s heritage, and also with moral relativism, for that matter: Once you go down that path, there’s no knowing when to stop. There’s no question the U.S. had (and has) its problems, and slavery undoubtedly tops the list. But if the purveyors of political correctness are looking for icons who are pure and blameless, well, good luck with that. It’s a futile effort. Then again, their very definition of pure and blameless is grossly distorted. They think the only righteous path is to idolize someone who’s not white.


Why Professors Object to Being Recorded

After the election of Donald Trump as president, a professor at Orange Coast College in California, Olga Perez Stable Cox, went into an extended hate rant against the president-elect. Among other things, she described Trump’s election as an “act of terrorism,” labeled him a white supremacist and called Vice President-elect Mike Pence “one of the most anti-gay humans in this country.”

And this wasn’t even a political science class in which one might expect political talk, no matter how irresponsible. Cox is a professor of human sexuality.

When a student who recorded the diatribe posted the recording on social media, the professor’s union, the Coast Federation of Educators, AFT local chapter 1911, said on Facebook: “This is an illegal recording without the permission of the instructor. The student will be identified and may be facing legal action.”

According to the union, the recording “violated the professor’s course syllabus, the Coast Community College District Code of Student Conduct, and the California Educational Code (sic), section 78907, which (exists) to provide a robust, learning environment for all students irrespective of their opinions.”

The aforementioned California Education Code section states, “The use by any person, including a student, of any electronic listening or recording device in any classroom without the prior consent of the instructor is prohibited.”

The American Association of University Professors has long opposed unauthorized recording and public posting of what professors say in classrooms.

As it happens, I taught for two years at Brooklyn College. I recall students asking me whether they could record my lectures. And I remember thinking, “Why on Earth would I say no?”

I wanted whatever I said in a classroom to be heard by more than 50 people. “Who wouldn’t?” I wondered.

Here, then, is my theory as to why most professors who object to their class lectures being recorded do so: They fear having what they say exposed to the general public.

Our colleges and universities (and an increasing number of high schools and elementary schools) have been transformed from educational institutions into indoctrination institutions. With the left-wing takeover of universities, their primary aim has become graduating as many leftists as possible.

The vast majority of our colleges have become left-wing seminaries. Just as Christian seminaries exist to produce committed Christians, Western universities exist to produce committed leftists. Aside from the Christian-leftism difference, universities differ in only one respect from Christian seminaries: Christian seminaries admit their goal, whereas the universities deceive the public about theirs.

Thus, in the “social sciences” — disciplines outside the natural sciences and math — a large number of college teachers inject their politics into their classrooms. And if they are recorded, the general public will become aware of just how politicized their classroom lectures are.

But there is another reason.

Most professors objecting to being recorded know on some level that they are persuasive only when their audience is composed largely of very young people just out of high school. They know that if their ideas are exposed to adults, they may be revealed as intellectual lightweights.

Students therefore need to understand that when professors object to being recorded, it is a statement of contempt for them. The professors are, in effect, saying to their students: “Listen. I can get away with this intellectually shallow, emotion-based propaganda when you are the only people who actually hear it. You aren’t wise enough to perceive it as such. But if people over 21 years of age hear it, I’m toast.”

All rules governing the recording of conversations without permission should apply to a professor meeting privately with a student.

But when professors stand in front of a class, they are in the public domain. Moreover, the public pays at least part of these professors' salary at virtually every university. We therefore have a right, and even a duty, to know what professors say publicly in classrooms.

In fact, I would encourage every student who cares about truth and intellectual honesty to record what their professors say in class. I would also encourage every parent to find out for what they are paying. And I would encourage professors to record themselves in order to protect themselves against doctored material.

Any professor who is not ashamed of what he or she is saying in class should welcome being recorded.

And any student taking a class with a professor who objects to being recorded should know that this objection is almost always equivalent to the professor saying: “I want you to hear what I say in class because I’m quite confident that you can’t differentiate between instruction and indoctrination. But if what I say goes public, people who do know the difference will expose me as a propagandist.”


Educating Our Student Athletes: Giving Them Too Much Safe Space Leaves Them with Too Little Knowledge

If Cleveland Cavalier basketball player Kyrie Irving's revelation about the planet upon which we live reflects the kind of education our young people are receiving in 21st century America, recently confirmed Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos most definitely has her work cut out for her.

While obviously the beauty of a free society is one is allowed to say what one thinks, Irving's recent observation should give us pause to ask: Are we guilty of failing to teach our young people even the basics of what is necessary to intellectually survival?

In a podcast discussion with his teammates, Irving announced his belief-and this is not a joke-that the Earth is not round. He adheres to the position advocated by the Flat Earth Society (most recently resurrected in 2004) our planet is flat!

In his own words, Irving stated, "This is not a conspiracy. The Earth is flat. The Earth is flat. The Earth is flat."

Interestingly, as Irving typed this, he and his teammates were on a flight-providing them with a vantage point, he suggested, that proved his claim. Alluding to a dubious group he would only identify as "they," Irving wrote, "It's right in front of our faces. I'm telling you. It's right in front of our faces. They lie to us."

Continuing with his otherworldly explanation, Irving said, "What I've been taught is that the earth is round. But if you really think about it from a landscape of the way we travel, the way we move and the fact that, can you really think of us rotating around the sun and all the planets aligned. Rotating in specific dates, being perpendicular with what's going on with these planets."

Irving attended Duke University where he was a freshman basketball phenom. He left in 2011 after only one year to play professional ball. So, in all fairness, "Earth is Not Flat 101" could have been a course Duke University reserves for its upperclassmen. (As a University of North Carolina graduate, the author could not pass up the opportunity to pick on Duke.)

Nonetheless, after six years in the real world, if Irving still believes the Earth is flat, one can only assume, not only did Duke University provide him with too much safe space while attending, but that the Cleveland Cavaliers have done the same.

Irving acknowledges although he has seen photographs taken by astronauts clearly depicting a round planet, he remains unconvinced. It would be interesting to learn what he then thinks our astronauts observe as they orbit underneath a flat Earth. Or to query him on how a ship can depart a port, like Miami, head off in one direction and return to it from a different direction without ever backtracking.

When Irving left Duke, he made his father a promise he would still pursue a degree from the school and earn it within five years. He failed to do so, blaming the time commitment he had to give to play on the 2012 U.S. Olympic basketball team and his professional team.

Like Master Po sharing knowledge with his young student training to become a Shaolin monk in the 1970s television program "Kung Fu," Master Irving shared his wisdom with his teammates, "Anytime you have a specific question, like, ‘Is the Earth flat?' or ‘Is the Earth round?' I think you need to do research on it."

But one only wonders how much research Master Irving has responsibly done on this issue. He clearly chooses to ignore observations of a respected "been there, done that" expert on the matter. In 1972, the last man to walk on the moon, twenty years before Irving was born, was the late Apollo 17 astronaut Eugene Cernan. As one critic points out, Cernan informed all doubters at that time: "I know we're not the first to discover this, but we'd like to confirm...that the world is round."

Irving is most likely a benefactor of an education system in our country that places more merit on athleticism than knowledge. His outlandish flat earth claim is a good example of why we need to take a serious look at the system and the special privileges given athletes that prevent them from obtaining a solid education.

Studies already show the U.S. lags behind other countries in scores students are obtaining in math and the sciences. Thus, student athletes already suffering knowledge deficiencies from an ailing education system are even being denied the most basic knowledge about the world around them. In Irving's case, his whole world revolves around a basketball court. It has failed to teach him, just because his world is flat, does not mean ours is.

Sadly, the fact Irving's claim is even generating a national discussion is worrisome. It suggests he may not be the only one our education system has shortchanged.


Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Exclusive: Oxford University may break with 700 years of tradition and open a foreign campus - after France offers Brexit sweetener

Oxford University might break with 700 years of tradition by establishing its first foreign campus in response to Brexit, The Telegraph can disclose.

French officials met senior staff at Oxford last week and revealed new proposals that they hope would guarantee future European Union funding for a "satellite" base in Paris.

Other universities, including Warwick, were approached with the idea to build a new campus in Paris in 2018.

It comes after France launched a charm offensive earlier this month to lure Britain's bankers across the Channel after Britain voted to leave the EU.

Oxford has been told that any campus opened in France could have French legal status and would continue to receive EU funding.

As part of the plans, British universities would “relocate” degree courses and study programmes and create joint degrees and research laboratories.

Should Oxford and other leading institutions sign-off on the proposals, construction of the new Parisian campus would begin in 2018.

A spokesman for Oxford said no decision had yet been taken, but added: "Oxford has been an international university throughout its history and it is determined to remain open to the world whatever the future political landscape looks like.”

Jean-Michel Blanquer, the former director-general of the French ministry for education, confirmed that efforts were under way to lure Britain’s best universities across the Channel.

Mr Blanquer, who is Dean of  Ecole Sup√©rieure des Sciences Economiques et Commerciales (ESSEC), said that plans for a new international campus were already underway at Universite Paris Seine - an association of ten universities in the French capital.

Mr Blanquer added that he and other leading French academics are currently discussing the plans with the French government.

Mr Blanquer said that he was in the early stages of consultation with the European Commission, and had already met with officials from  Oxford and the University of Warwick to discuss the proposals.

The Commission, which oversees European higher education funding projects such as the Horizon 2020 programme - worth more than £2bn in funding to UK universities - could guarantee the Oxbridge and others continued access to funding and research collaboration.

While the future status of British universities in Europe remains unclear, leading academics have warned MPs that Brexit has the potential to cause the “biggest disaster” for the higher education if European research funding is withdrawn.

Speaking at an Education Select Committee hearing last month, Professor Alastair Buchan, Oxford University’s recently appointed head of Brexit strategy, said that continued access to Europe was crucial to maintaining the university’s place in the “top league”.

"This a Manchester United problem isn't it?” he told MPs. “The idea that Manchester Utd would not recruit players and wouldn’t have fans and wouldn’t play abroad really means that we have got to do three things.

“We have got to be absolutely sure we are open; every student and every staff member that comes to Oxford is a benefit for this country because we recruit quality, people that play in the top league.”

Speaking to The Telegraph, Mr Blanquer said that he hoped to attract the “highest calibre universities” in order to “preserve the relations built with their partners in Europe”.

“It is for this reason that we have chosen to act very concretely in order to offer them the possibility to pursue their development alongside us,” he added.

“The idea is symbolic, to say after Brexit: ‘we want to build bridges and that academic life is not totally dependent on political problems’.

“We want to say to British universities: ‘it can be a win-win game for you’. To have high quality institutions from the UK working in our territory, interacting together in terms of research and collaboration.

“We are at the beginning of the process, so that by 2018, we are in a position to guarantee these things. The main idea is to get European funding through co-operation with the UK and other European institutions.

“Of course this comes down to political considerations, but we are confident that European institutions will be working towards this, to allow this kind of project.”

Francois Germinet, President of the University of Cergy-Pontoise, added that the project would represent an “extraordinary ground for experimentation” which would foster a new “relationship” between the UK and Europe.

A spokesman for the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy said:“The UK is home to some of the world’s best universities and research institutions, and we intend to secure the best possible outcome for the UK’s research base as we exit the EU.

“We have already taken steps to provide assurances by committing to underwrite Horizon 2020 grants bid for prior to the UK’s departure from the EU and put science and research at the heart of our Industrial Strategy with an extra £2bn investment per year - and will seek agreement to continue to collaborate with our European partners on major science, research and technology initiatives.”


Outrage at Harvard: ‘Genderqueer’ Students ‘Excluded’ from Valentine’s Day Matchmaking Service

Controversy erupted at Harvard University this week after Datamatch, the university’s annual Valentine’s Day matchmaking service, featured “restrictive gender choices,” according to The Harvard Crimson. Students were “forced” to choose “male or female without offering options for genderqueer or gender non-conforming students.”

Created by the Harvard Computer Society, Datamatch allows students to complete an online survey and it will then “match” them with students who received compatible results. Despite being a campus tradition since 1994, the program sparked outrage this year among students who felt “Datamatch did not do enough to include people of non-binary genders,” Raynor J. Kuang ‘17 of the Datamatch development team said.

While students did have the option to provide “extra” gender information at the end of the survey, this apparently proved insufficient. “You can’t put a part of someone’s identity in parentheses and say that’s ‘extra’ information about them,” said Darius A. Johnson ’18.

Student groups took issue with the matchmaking service as well. Twenty-six members of Harvard’s Undergraduate Council, including its president and vice president, signed a letter voicing their discontent with Datamatch. Adam’s House representative and Undergraduate Council BGLTQ+ Caucus Chair Nicholas P. Whittaker ’19 presented a letter of his own.

The letter is a “statement of support with the gender non-conforming and gender queer community after Datamatch implicitly excluded them from the experience,” Whittaker said. “The idea of it being romantic does not necessitate the idea that it be stuck upon strict gender bearings.”

Harvard Computer Society co-President Javier Cuan-Martinez ’18 apologized, saying the he takes “full responsibility for the exclusion that we have created on campus.”


Australia: Academic rigour is a welcome change in new NSW curriculum

The new NSW senior school courses prove why it is best to give the states and territories control over Years 11 and 12 and not force them to adopt a national curriculum model, as we have for Foundation to Year 10.

While the devil is in the detail, the new NSW senior school courses in English, history, maths and science look to be an improvement on drafts released for public comment last year.

Compared with the other states and territories, it also appears these courses represent a more academically rigorous approach to the curriculum.

In history, the inclusion of topics such as the Enlightenment, the French Revolution, the Age of Imperialism and the Industrial Age are vital if students are to understand past events and movements that shaped Western civilisation.

Saying that English must include a mandatory course with “explicit reference to structure and grammar, spelling, vocabulary and punctuation”, while stating the obvious, is essential if students are to successfully communicate and this should also be welcomed.

One criticism of the draft science course released last year was that there was not enough emphasis on maths; the fact that the final syllabus design includes increased maths content is also welcome.

Emphasising critical thinking and not just “a recall of facts” — even though both are important — is also beneficial because by Years 11 and 12 students should be expected to master higher order, more abstract skills.

Where there is a slight misgiving is when the new maths syllabus says there will be an “increased focus on problem-solving, applied to real-world problems”.

Often what is most important in maths is mastering complex algorithms and procedures that might not have “real-world” application but are vital to the discipline.

As always, when designing curriculum, the real test will be what happens when it is delivered by teachers in schools and how well students are prepared for further study and a world of work.

Some of the best syllabuses, no matter how well designed, fail the classroom test and prove that what is intended does not always eventuate in practice.


Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Race-obsessed students at SOAS

Leftists seem incapable of treating people as individuals in their own right.  Why should the race of a thinker matter?  That he has interesting thoughts should be the sole criterion.  I like the thinking of the Buddha; I like the thinking of Jesus Christ and I like the thinking of Ludwig Wittgenstein and I see no reason why I should bother about the race of any of them.  Wittgenstein, for instance, was a skinny Austrian Jew but that has nothing to do with my interest in his ideas

“They Kant be serious!”, spluttered the Daily Mail headline in its most McEnroe-ish tone. “PC students demand white philosophers including Plato and Descartes be dropped from university syllabus”. “Great thinkers too male and pale, students declare”, trumpeted the Times. The Telegraph, too, was outraged: “They are said to be the founding fathers of western philosophy, whose ideas underpin civilised society. But students at a prestigious London university are demanding that figures such as Plato, Descartes and Immanuel Kant should be largely dropped from the curriculum because they are white.”

Whiteness is not a useful category when talking of philosophy. When people speak, they speak ideas, not identity.
The prestigious London University was the School of Oriental and African Studies (Soas). It hit the headlines last month when journalists discovered that students, backed by many of their lecturers, have set up a campaign to “Decolonise Our Minds” by transforming the curriculum. So shocking did the idea seem of a British university refusing to teach Plato, Locke or Kant that the story was picked up by newspapers across the globe. BBC2’s Newsnight debated whether “universities should eschew western philosophers”. This predictably generated more outraged headlines when one of the guests, sociologist Kehinde Andrews, denounced Soas as a “white institution” and the Enlightenment as “racist”.

For academics and students at Soas, the press coverage itself is the cause of outrage. “When the report came out that we were trying to take white men off the table, it was just bewildering because we had no intention of doing that,” says Sian Hawthorne, a convenor of the undergraduate course World Philosophies, the only philosophy degree that Soas provides. “Our courses are intimately engaged with European thought.”

“We’re not trying to exclude European thinkers,” says a second-year doctoral student, and a member of the Decolonising Our Minds group. “We’re trying to desacralise European thinkers, stopping them from being treated as unquestionable. What we are doing is quite reasonable.”

So what is the truth behind the headlines? Will philosophy students at Soas really not be taught Aristotle and Kant? Do the students and academics have a point that the curriculum is “too white”? And what should be the place of European philosophy, and European philosophers, in an age of globalisation and of a shifting power balance from west to east?

The School of Oriental and African Studies was founded in 1916 “to secure the running of the British Empire”, as historian Ian Brown puts it in his history of the institution. Its aim was to provide “instruction to colonial administrators, commercial managers, and military officers, but also to missionaries, doctors and teachers”. Soas taught them the local languages as well as providing “an authoritative introduction to the customs, religions, laws of the people whom they were to govern”.

Today, of the more than 6,000 students at Soas, almost half come from abroad, from 130 countries, and more than half are black or minority ethnic. Far from teaching students how to administer the empire, the school now helps develop independent, postcolonial societies. It sees its mission also as providing a critique of empire, and of its continuing legacies, a view that extends to the very top of Soas management. “Our minds are colonised, absolutely,” says Deborah Johnston. Johnston is no student, nor even a mere academic, but the pro-director of learning and teaching, one of the most senior management figures at Soas. She continues: ‘‘In most UK universities there has been a dominance of European thought. That’s why we need to do work to decolonise the curriculum, and our minds.”

For some, such views emanating from the very top of the institution entrench the belief that, in the words of an academic at another London college, “Soas is the most politicised of British universities”. Others, however, see the problem not as one of an institution that is too politicised but as one that has not yet rid itself of the ghosts of empire. The curriculum, such critics claim, is still too rooted in a colonial view of the world, too stuffed with European thinkers, and too blind to African, Asian and Latin American thinkers.

Neelam Chhara is a third-year politics student at Soas, and the Student Union officer for “equality and liberation”. “On my course in political theory,” she says, “we discussed 26 thinkers. Just two were non-European – Frantz Fanon and Gandhi.”

Such “frustrations with our curriculum” led students to set up the Decolonising Our Minds group. “We thought: why not show what an alternative curriculum could look like by hosting thinkers and academics that didn’t centre on Europe like our curriculum was doing.”

Meera Sabaratnam laughs when I tell her about Chhara’s reading list. “That’s two more non-Europeans than when I was taught political theory in my undergraduate PPE at Oxford.” Sabaratnam is a lecturer in international relations at Soas. As an institution, it is, she says, much better than most universities. For instance, 39% of academic staff are of black or minority ethnic background – more than three times the figure for British universities overall. Nevertheless, she supports the Decolonising Our Minds campaign. “It is necessary to talk about colonial legacies and to look at how colonialism and racism impact the institution.”

The argument for a more diverse curriculum seems reasonable, indeed unquestionable. After all, philosophers and thinkers come not just from Europe. There are great non-European intellectual traditions, myriad philosophical schools from China, India, Africa and the Muslim world, many of which have shaped European philosophy. Three years ago I wrote a book on the global history of ethics, called The Quest for a Moral Compass, which drew not just on European philosophers, but also on the works of Mo Tzu and Zhu Xi, Ibn Rushd and Ibn Sina, Anton Wilhelm Amo and Frantz Fanon, Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan and Fung Yu Lan. All these different thinkers, I wanted to show, can be woven into a single but complex narrative through which we can rethink global history.

And yet, the debate about a “diverse curriculum” is not as straightforward as one might imagine. Few would contest the idea that European thinkers should not be on the curriculum simply because they are European. But of the major European philosophers that often dominate reading lists – such as Plato, Aristotle, Descartes, Locke, Hobbes, Kant, Rousseau, Nietzsche, Arendt or Sartre – how many are there simply because they are European rather than because their ideas merit study?

Sabaratnam acknowledges the problem. “Framing a course is primarily about content: what are the issues that need to be taught, and who can speak interestingly about those issues? How many European thinkers you include and the balance between European and non-European thinkers is an academic decision. If you want to understand political theory, you can’t avoid engagement with Kant, Hegel and so on.”

“But,” she adds, “that can’t be the be-all-and- end-all.” There has, she insists, “to be a parallel debate about diversity and representation. There is value in having non-European thinkers and women on those reading lists.”

If European thinkers should not be on reading lists simply because they are European, should non-Europeans be included just because they are non-European, solely for the value of increased diversity? Kwame Anthony Appiah, professor of philosophy and law at New York University, and last year’s Reith lecturer on Radio 4, is sceptical. He teaches a course on global ethics, which includes European, Chinese, Arab and Indian thinkers. The key question for him, however, is not “Is the curriculum sufficiently diverse?” but “Is any particular thinker worth studying?”

“If they were uninteresting or unimportant,” he observes, “it would not be much of a defence to say, ‘They are Arab or Chinese and make the course more diverse.’”

The difficulties in thinking about a diverse curriculum can be seen in the founding statement of the Decolonising Our Minds campaign. It does not say: “We need to expand our curriculum to include philosophers from across the globe”. Rather, it insists (under the heading “Decolonising Soas: Confronting the White Institution”) that, “If white philosophers are required, then to teach their work from a critical viewpoint.” This suggests that not having white philosophers should be the default position. This might not quite be “students demanding white philosophers be dropped from university syllabus”, as the newspapers claimed, but it’s not that far off.

“When you put it to me like that,” says Sian Hawthorne, “yes, I think that is problematic. However, I take a more generous reading of that statement as saying whomever is taught, whoever’s work is drawn on, it must always be dealt with critically. That is one of the first principles of a university education.”

The students themselves told me that they had not realised what the statement actually said, and would change it.

Do we need to be particularly critical of white philosophers, I asked Hawthorne. Yes, she replied, because “whiteness has been engaged in perpetuating forms of oppression and marginalisation and exclusion”. Does she think that all European philosophy is tainted by racism and colonialism? “Yes. There’s plenty of evidence to demonstrate this.”

But by insisting that the work of all white philosophers, from Aristotle to Arendt, from Socrates to Sartre, should be seen as tainted by racism, is she not confusing ideas and identity? Is she not falling into the same trap as racists, suggesting that because one possesses a particular identity, so one’s ideas are necessarily distinct, and linked to that identity? A philosopher is white so his or her ideas are contaminated.

Hawthorne rejects the criticism, and uses as an analogy the way that academics look upon the work of the German philosopher Martin Heidegger. Heidegger was one of the most influential 20th-century philosophers, having shaped the ideas of a host of thinkers such as Hannah Arendt, Jean-Paul Sartre and Jacques Derrida. He was also a Nazi with repulsively antisemitic views. The discovery of Heidegger’s nazism and antisemitism has led to much debate about how to treat his philosophical ideas.

“Do we deal with Heidegger?” asks Hawthorne. “I think we must. But we must do so in the understanding that he was a Nazi. We don’t not read his texts. But we read them carefully. That should also be the case with white philosophers. Just because they’re white doesn’t mean that they’re written off. But we need to be careful.”

This, though, is a false analogy. What concerns many about Heidegger is not his skin colour or his identity but his political views. Asking whether Heidegger’s Nazi views should affect the way that we understand his philosophical ideas is different from insisting that, because Aristotle or Kant or Arendt were white, we should be careful in the way we read their writings.


Those Imperialistic Christian Missionaries

Some Williams College professors want ‘context’ for a monument to spreading the Gospel.

On Sept. 11, 2001, after the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, the Rev. Richard Spalding passed the Haystack Monument on his way to the chapel at Williams College. The modest marble pillar is nestled on the spot where in 1806 five students took shelter from a storm and pledged to spread the Gospel world-wide.

In the twilight, the college chaplain noticed a group of students quietly praying at the monument, seeking solace from the day’s horrific events. He realized that, for some members of the Williams community, the unobtrusive monument is more than just a historic site that honors the founding of the Christian foreign-missionary movement. It is holy ground. He has a deep respect for the monument and the students who had prayed there. Yet today Mr. Spalding is a member of a committee to consider whether campus memorials and other spaces, including Haystack, contribute to an “unwelcoming” campus atmosphere.

Williams College President Adam Falk established the panel in December 2015 to review a 1942 mural of the school’s founder Col. Ephraim Williams and his military ally, Mohawk leader Hendrick Theyanoguin. Some students had objected to the painting, which depicts the two men reviewing battle plans. One said that it “white-washes the broader history of the era.”

Mr. Falk ordered the painting covered while the committee conducted its work. The panel ultimately recommended the mural be uncovered and remain in place. Committee members suggested that a caption be installed to “contextualize” the work, that a website with background material be developed, and that the college consider bringing in “indigenous artists” to respond to the mural.

Mr. Falk’s charge also included a directive to consider other campus spaces that could be “problematic in a modern context,” that is, potentially triggering for those who regard themselves as perpetually oppressed.

The College Fix reported last month that the panel is now taking a look at the Haystack Monument, and a headline in the Christian Examiner suggested it could be removed. But the committee’s chairwoman Karen Merrill is adamant that removing the monument is not on the table. She insisted that the committee is only trying to find ways to bridge “the gap between the Williams of the past and the Williams of today.”

Williams seems to be adopting what is known in the academy as “contextualization”—a way to preserve history while providing alternate perspectives. In theory, it seeks to honor the principles of free speech, open debate and rigorous inquiry that are the hallmarks of a liberal education. In practice, however, contextualization often turns into an exercise in self-flagellation that provides the professional victim class the soapbox on which to air its latest grievances.

How might Williams go about “contextualizing” the Haystack Monument?

The monument’s bicentennial celebration in 2006 provides clues. The weekend events included twilight vespers, panel discussions on the meaning of mission work today, and Sunday worship services. But the event also featured a critical reflection in which Prof. Denise Buell argued that Christian missionary work is “a justification” for violent forms of cultural imperialism.

All of this reflects what Glenn Shuck, a scholar who taught courses on the history of Christianity at Williams for over a decade, calls the college’s “ironic relationship” with the monument: It is a memorial to something important that happened on campus—but not something of which the college’s faculty is necessarily proud. According to Mr. Shuck, many Williams faculty members regard efforts to translate the Bible into other languages to spread Christianity as inherently racist and imperialist, a view he does not share.

Despite the recent media tempest about the Haystack Monument, the statue seems relatively uncontroversial among students. I spoke with about 15 students walking by the monument this week, and none knew what it represented. Once told, not one took offense.

Why would a college undertake a review of spaces and structures about which there is no current controversy? Perhaps, as class of ’62 graduate Herbert A. Allen Jr. wrote in a letter to The Williams Record, the college is simply trying “to stay ahead of intellectual lynch mobs.” But in suggesting, even inadvertently, that an unobtrusive monument to Christian missionary work is offensive, Williams has lent legitimacy to the perpetually aggrieved and has risked encouraging the piqued mob.


Male Muslim students at Sydney public school given permission to refuse to shake hands with women - because it is against their religion

Muslim students at a Sydney public school can refuse to shake hands with women even at an awards ceremony.

The Hurstville Boys Campus of Georges River College introduced the policy to allow Muslim boys to instead put their hand on the heart as a greeting.

The Year 7 to 10 school's two principals told guests at its 2016 presentation day, including notable community members, that students may decline the gesture.

The practice comes from the Muslim teaching of hadith that states: 'It is better to be stabbed in the head with an iron needle than to touch the hand of a woman who is not permissible to you.'

The NSW Education told The Australian it approved of the 'agreed protocol' that was developed through consultation between staff, parents and students.

'The department require­s its schools to recognise and respect the cultural, linguistic and religious backgrounds of all students, with the intent to promote an open and tolerant attitude towards a diverse Australian community­,' it said.

The department said principals were best placed to know the needs of their communities when following that requirement.

Such a literal interpretation of hadith, which describes the practices of the prophet Mohammed is controversial even among Australian Muslim leaders.

Australia's Grand Mufti Ibrahim Abu Mohammed shakes hands with women as did his predecessor, Fehmi Naji El-Imam, and Islamic schools do not even have the policy.

Former Islamic Council of Victoria secretary Kuranda Seyit said many young students were taught to take it 'too seriously' and it should apply in a school context. 'For some young adults, when they meet people of the opposite sex, to shake someone's hand suggests a friendship,' he said.

Mr Seyit said it was an issue because Australians do not understand the custom and could be embarrassed if they were 'left hanging'.

'Students should be able to shake hands with the teacher or the principal, or receive a greeting from a visitor to the school,' he said.


Monday, February 20, 2017

Higher business rates (property taxes) will leave British universities paying millions more

Universities face paying millions more in tax as a result of a big rise in their business rates, analysis has revealed.

Manchester University, Nottingham and Warwick are expected to be the worst hit when new business rates kick in. Experts have warned that a significant rise in the value of university buildings will make the sector one of the biggest losers from the changes.

The government faced an outcry from high street retailers, pubs and restaurants over the introduction of the new rates. More than half a million businesses are expecting higher bills.

Figures show that the government is expecting to raise an additional £1 billion from business rates this year.


The student Left’s culture of intolerance is creating a new generation of conservatives

Student demands for censorship get a lot of coverage. Spiked Online’s Free Speech University Rankings, now in its third annual edition, argues that there is a “crisis of free speech on campus”.

By analysing the censorious policies and actions that have taken place on British campuses, Spiked concluded that 63.5 per cent of universities actively censor speech and 30.5 per cent stifle speech through excessive regulation. You can barely go a few days without encountering a new op-ed covering censorship on campus.

Maajid Nawaz describes the students demanding censorship as members of the “regressive left”. Milo Yiannopoulos calls them “snowflakes”.

With all of this book-burning and platform-denying madness sweeping up much of the media’s interest in campus culture, the gradual rise of another group of students has gone under-reported. British and American millennials and post-millennials – also known as ‘Gen Z’ – are warming to conservatism.

To understand why this is happening, it is important to consider the vast changes that have taken place in Western student politics over the last fifty years.

Students were once in favour of free speech. In the mid-1960s, students of the University of California, Berkeley undertook a mass-movement for free speech. Under the leadership of Leftist heroes like Jack Weinberg, Bettina Aptheker and Jackie Goldberg, students demanded that the university administration retracted their on-campus ban of political activities. They demanded their freedom of speech. Mario Savio delivered what is generally recognised as the iconic speech of the University of California, Berkeley's (UCB) free speech movement. Here is the speech’s most powerful section:

“There is a time when the operation of the machine becomes so odious, makes you so sick at heart, that you can't take part. You can't even passively take part! And you've got to put your bodies upon the gears and upon the wheels, upon the levers, upon all the apparatus, and you've got to make it stop! And you've got to indicate to the people who run it, to the people who own it — that unless you're free, the machine will be prevented from working at all!”

Savio’s speech helped push the movement towards success. Berkeley students won their full rights. Students, now liberated from the “machine” of university censorship, were able to create the anti-Vietnam student movement, another famous campus protest.

Nowadays, the student Left are unwilling to honour Savio’s legacy. On the 2nd of February, violent protests at Berkeley shut down a talk by popular conservative speaker Milo Yiannopoulos. Instead of maintaining a liberal and free atmosphere for speech and argument, Berkeley students have become the gears, wheels and levers of the machine that Savio wanted to stop.

In the space of fifty years, Berkeley students have gone from rioting against a university administration that limited their freedom of speech to violently opposing the presence of a speaker they disagree with.

In the modern era, students have often been attracted to the politics of the Left. 1968 saw pivotal student protests around the world. In the United States, students were central to the civil rights movement. In France, students joined forces with millions of striking workers to protest against capitalism.

The conservative philosopher Roger Scruton was in Paris during the 1968 riots and has said that it was whilst witnessing the uprising that he became a conservative.

The violence at Berkeley mirrors the street protests in Paris from 1968. Privileged and excitable students living in one of the most blessed parts of the world went out and created havoc in order to overthrow an opponent that they refused to tolerate. The Parisians, at least, had a deeper political cause – but the Berkeley students carried out the ugliest form of protest. It is the form of protest that says “I don’t like that view, therefore you must not be allowed to express it” and it is causing a lot of students to have their own ‘Scruton moment’.

There have been several responses to campus censorship in the United Kingdom and the United States. One of the most interesting developments has been the rise in demand for conservative thought. In the United States, college tours by speakers popular with conservatives such as Milo Yiannopoulos, Steven Crowder, Ben Shapiro and Christina Hoff Sommers have become huge events. There has been a spike in membership in conservative college clubs including Young Americans for Liberty, which boasts 804 chapters filled with 308,927 members.

In the United Kingdom, free speech societies have been started across the country.

‘Speakeasy’ groups have been founded at the LSE, Leeds, Queen Mary, Cardiff, Oxford, Manchester and at Edinburgh, where I study. In these groups, ‘unacceptable’ conservative thoughts are debated amongst liberally-minded (as all good conservatives are) students.

Moreover, some student unions have voted to disaffiliate from the National Union of Students (NUS).

Analysis from market research firm, The Gild, shows that ‘Gen Z’ is the most conservative generation since 1945. The research reveals that ‘Gen Z’ Britons are more likely to favour conservative spending, dislike tattoos and body-piercings, and oppose marijuana legislation.

The youth and student members of the British Left have given up trying to win arguments on principle, preferring to shut down the views of those they opponents. But ‘Gen Z’ live in the time of mass media where anyone’s political views can be shared worldwide at ease. By pushing a “you can’t say that” attitude, the young Left in the UK and the US are reducing their opportunity to respond to conservative ideas, and, as a result of this, conservatism is on the rise.

Nowadays, the only thing that is stopping a student from accessing a new idea is a censorious gag from a student union or NUS apparatchik. Whilst the student Left have historically campaigned in support of causes that the West’s youth have been favourable towards, such as the anti-war and anti-austerity movements, they are now picking on something that is dear to us: freedom of information.

Students of my generation have grown up in an era of mass-communication. Each year has brought new tools for the flow of ideas, conversation and media. The rapid expansion of affordable technology has been matched by the growth of the social media market. When it is common for students to be able to easily interact with anyone in the world via a portable computer that fits in their pocket, nothing seems more silly to us than cliquey calls for censorship.

That is why young people and students are becoming conservatives – they’re the only people making the case for a freedom that they love.


Eighth-grade teacher is suspended after giving students instructions on how to cook and inject meth for drama class

An eighth grade teacher who gave students instructions for making and injecting crystal meth for an acting assignment has been suspended without pay.

An Ontario mother was outraged when her 13-year-old son, who is a student at Erin Mills Middle School, brought home the assignment with a long list of ingredients.

'I popped a blood vessel,' Delight Greenridge told CBC. 'I was in a state of shock...I'm thinking this cannot be real.' 

Greenridge's son said the original assignment had involved creating a skit about a television show using emotions, but the teacher suggest cooking crystal meth instead after they struggled to come up with an idea.

The instructor told students to 'act scared' while making the drug and to 'act happy' when injecting it.

The eight-graders were even provided with directions such as wiping their arms 'to prevent any bacteria infection' before injection, Gizmodo reported.

 Greenridge said the situation was 'mind-boggling.'  She added: 'It could undo a lot of what I taught him because sometimes he would think the things the teacher says are sometimes more important than the things mum says.'

Peel District School Board suspended the teacher without pay as they conduct the investigation. They said the teacher obtained the instructions from the internet after a student needed help coming up with an idea for the assignment.

The board did not disclose the person's name or what was discussed with the teacher after Greenridge's complaint.

Carla Pereira, manager of communications for the Peel school district said: 'The curriculum is the curriculum...but how teachers instruct the class is up to them.' 

While she said it was 'inappropriate' she added that there is no specific policy for this incident. 'We share the parents' concerns around that particular assignment', Pereira said.


Sunday, February 19, 2017

Crooked Kerry Returning to Yale to 'Empower the Next Generation of Idealists and Diplomats'

Has he still got the hat?

Former Secretary of State and U.S. Senator John Kerry is joining his alma mater, Yale University, as the school's first-ever Distinguished Fellow for Global Affairs.

Yale announced on Thursday that Kerry will "oversee the Kerry Initiative, "an interdisciplinary program that will tackle pressing global challenges through teaching, research, and international dialogue."

Yale said the Kerry Initiative advances its "long tradition of preparing the next generation of world leaders."

Kerry said he wants to "empower the next generation of idealists and diplomats."

Kerry will partner with other Yale scholars in examining "questions of global importance," such as failed states, violent extremism, climate change, and "the challenge of authoritarian populism" (a term academics used to describe the politics of conservatives Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher).

From his new perch, Kerry will lead a seminar in the 2017-1018 year, and he'll also "convene "conversations among global stakeholders, both in New Haven and overseas, to develop new approaches to solving" the world's "crucial challenges."

“Yale’s been a part of my life since I first walked on campus as a teenager and heard Allard Lowenstein challenge my generation to get involved and make a difference," Yale quoted him as saying.

"This is where I first raised my hand as a junior and pledged to defend the Constitution, and it’s where I first debated and struggled with issues of war and peace. Teaching, researching, convening, engaging and collaborating with young people and together wrestling with the world’s most complex issues is an exciting chapter in the journey that began for me in New Haven.

"I’m grateful to President Salovey for his enthusiasm about what we can do together as a Yale community and how we can empower the next generation of idealists and diplomats and activists to be a part of public service and a cause bigger than themselves.”

Yale President Peter Salovey said he's honored to welcome Kerry, "with his vast insights and experience on global affairs" to "inspire the next generation of national and world leaders."


Revealed: how censorship on British campuses is getting worse

It’s that time of year again. The only university rankings to be branded ‘vile’ by the National Union of Students is back. Today we launch the 2017 findings of the Free Speech University Rankings, spiked’s groundbreaking analysis of campus censorship in the UK, now in its third year. We’ve assessed 115 universities, looking at the bans and policies universities and students’ unions use to stifle free speech on campus, and ranked them using our traffic-light system. This year’s survey is once again full of fascinating insights into the parlous state of free speech in the academy, not to mention shocking and (sometimes unintentionally) hilarious examples of campus authoritarianism. The overall picture is bleak.

According to our research, 63.5 per cent of institutions are ranked Red, meaning they place significant restrictions on speech by banning particular speakers, materials or ideas. Meanwhile, 30.5 per cent of institutions are ranked Amber, meaning they place more slippery restrictions on offensive speech, or chill free speech through regulation of speakers’ and students’ conduct and activities. This means that only six per cent of UK universities we surveyed place no significant restrictions on speech, other than where the law requires it. And the rate of censorship has steadily increased over the past three years. In 2015, just 40 per cent of institutions were ranked Red.

For anyone who’s been anywhere near a campus recently, this will come as no surprise. Students’ unions no longer just No Platform the odd edgy speaker - they ban ‘tarts and vicars’ parties and ‘offensive hand gestures’. But what’s perhaps most striking in this year’s findings is how fast universities are catching up. Though SUs are still far more censorious than universities, 23.5 per cent of university administrations are now ranked Red, compared with 15 per cent just last year. As spiked has always argued, to assume that campus censorship is purely the work of blue-haired students is to give them too much credit. They clearly operate within institutions – and ultimately, a society – that affirms their outlook.

Though some university leaders have recently taken a stand against the Safe Space excesses of some of their students, they’re simply not practising what they preach. We isolated two concerning trends in this year’s rankings: clampdowns on discussion of religion and clampdowns on debate about transgenderism. At some of Britain’s most prestigious universities – once interested in probing perceived wisdom and in pursuing truth – the oldest and newest orthodoxies in the book are being ringfenced from criticism. ‘Transphobic propaganda’ is banned at eight universities, and 43 per cent hold religion and belief policies that guard against offending faith groups. And more often than not, these stem from university administrations rather than SUs.

As Joanna Williams discusses elsewhere on spiked today, universities and students’ unions have become illiberal bedfellows. And not only do they share a bureaucratic, illiberal outlook - you often get the sense that universities outsource their censorship to students’ unions, who, as Williams puts it, ‘are all too happy to put a radical gloss on moralising’. Though their motivations may be different – universities often seem most interested in batting away bad publicity – the effect of this collusion is stark. Collectively, students’ unions and universities are presiding over byzantine, speech-policing bureaucracies that undermine the university’s very moral mission. And the excesses of SU censorship are at the very least enabled by university managers.

If there is an upside to all this, it is the response from students themselves, who have begun to realise just how much these institutions hold them in contempt. Campus campaigns to overturn bans, stunts to draw attention to SU censorship, and a new movement to disaffiliate students’ unions from the National Union of Students – the source of some of the most illiberal policies and initiatives on campus today – have been heartwarming. Students go to university to expand their mind, to challenge themselves, to be free - and that’s impossible under the dead hand of censorship and regulation. Here’s hoping the FSUR will continue to play a key role in fuelling the fightback.


Let’s abandon sex education

We should teach kids the biological facts, not how to feel about sex

The demand for sex education to be made compulsory, to move beyond biology and into the emotional realm, and to cover a broader, more inclusive range of topics, unites purple-haired feminists with blue-rinsed members of the House of Lords, and LGBT campaigners with Daily Telegraph readers. These diverse groups come together in the feigned astonishment that accompanies their rhetorical question: ‘Why wouldn’t we teach children not to rape?’ They share a belief that savagery is released when sexuality is allowed free reign, that an innate predatory impulse is held in check only by teachers and the correct learning outcomes.

There’s surely no better time to raise awareness of this cynical, twisted and fearful view of relationships than Valentine’s Day. Members of the National Student Pride, the Terrence Higgins Trust and the National Union of Students LGBT+ campaign chose 14 February to send postcards to MPs demanding that sex education be made mandatory, that it cover the topic of consent and that it include lesbian, gay and bisexual issues. The current state of sex-and-relationships education (SRE) is presented as the cause of all problems. ‘My poor SRE contributed to body-shaming and poor mental health’, says one postcard. ‘A lack of knowledge made it more difficult for me to come out’, claims another. Yet campaigners are pushing at an open door: last week it was revealed that with 23 Conservative MPs now backing a change in the law, ‘compulsory relationship education’ will almost certainly be introduced.

The relentless campaigning around sex education is bizarre. The overwhelming majority of children already receive SRE – it stopped being simply about biological facts as far back as the 1960s (1). The Handbook of Health Education, government advice for schools published in 1968, recommended that children should learn about contraception and that sex should be presented as an emotional experience. Despite subsequent changes in the political weather, in practice, sex education has become ever more entrenched as a feature in the school curriculum, and continues to expand into new areas. In 1990, sex education became part of personal and social education (PSE) classes which, in 1996, became part of the ‘basic curriculum’. In 2010, the Department for Education reiterated that ‘children need high-quality SRE so they can make wise and informed choices’. In 2013, the Department of Health’s Sexual Health Improvement Framework also argued the need for all children to receive high-quality SRE.

Unfortunately, the ever-present clamour for more and better SRE isn’t simply a waste of time. SRE is being championed as a means of teaching children not just biology, and not just how to behave when in a relationship, but how to think and feel about sex. Sex is presented to young people as risky – not simply because of unwanted pregnancy or sexually-transmitted infections, but as emotionally risky. Sex, children are taught, can seriously damage your emotional wellbeing – it needs to be practised in a way that is not just physically safe, but emotionally safe. In order to protect themselves from this risk, children are encouraged to master, often through roleplay, a range of pre-approved emotional responses. Sex education has moved from biology, to PSE, to safeguarding and child protection.

Any attempt at teaching more than the biology of sex necessarily involves imparting values and moral judgements. This is precisely why campaigns around sex education are such a big deal at the moment. Timetabled lessons teach children what to think about the most private areas of their lives and how to conduct relationships with each other in the most direct and unmediated way possible. The values currently being pushed (the questioning of gender and the assumption of heterosexuality as well as the importance of asking for, and receiving, consent before every interaction) chime with an agenda being promoted by feminist campaigners.

Consent has become such an important part of sex education because it expresses ideas around emotional risk in a concrete form. As such it provides a practical opportunity for children to demonstrate having mastered correct emotional responses. A 2012 national OFSTED report spells out that SRE should ‘promote equality in relationships and emphasise the importance of seeking and gaining mutual consent through positive and active communication’. This must, the report stresses, go beyond teaching children how to say ‘no’. For the youngest pupils, consent is covered as part of safeguarding legislation. Children are taught that their body belongs to them and that they can say who has access to it. This promotes unnecessary fear and teaches children suspicion and mistrust of adults. It reaches into the heart of intimate relationships and presents the family as a site of potential abuse rather than a source of love and nurturing.

Older children are taught that sexual consent is an important feature of a ‘healthy’ relationship, because it means that people have freely chosen to engage with each other in pre-determined sexual acts. They are taught that consent must not be inferred, assumed, coerced or gained by exploitation. Sex without formal consent is, by implication, unhealthy, risky and dangerous to an individual’s emotional wellbeing.

Teaching children a state-sanctioned method not just for having sex but for thinking about sex, often long before they are ready to put theory into practice, throws up a number of problems. The focus on consent teaches that sex without the incantation of pre-rehearsed scripts learnt in the safety of the classroom is rape. They are taught that they will be emotionally damaged from such an experience. The subtext here, although rarely acknowledged, is that boys will grow up to be potential rapists and girls to be victims. In order to protect themselves, both boys and girls need to be constantly vigilant and must monitor each other’s behaviour – even when in private.

Campaigners are quick to present SRE as entirely positive. We are told that SRE classes are simply a commonsense means of protecting children and young adults from physical and emotional harm. But this is to wish problems away with a cloak of simplicity. There is no correct way to behave in the context of a relationship. A disjuncture between the reality of the bedroom and the rhetoric of the classroom doesn’t equate to rape. Not only is there no correct way to behave, there is also no correct way to feel about sex. Telling children some emotional responses are better than others is worse than disingenuous, it promotes a fear and anxiety of intimate relationships that jeopardises their future private lives.

We don’t need more or better sex education – we need to abandon it altogether. Yes, let’s teach children basic biology. But let’s leave them to work out how they think, feel and behave in relationships for themselves.