Friday, June 30, 2017

A letter to my son, as he prepares to start college in a time of campus craziness

by Robert Ehrlich

Congratulations, son! Your high school graduation is now in the books. Lifelong friends, favorite teachers and big wins (and losses) will define these formative years.

But now a new cycle begins. College life awaits. Plenty of new challenges will be presented – academically, socially, athletically and… politically. With respect to the first three of these, you have demonstrated an ability to handle your business. Here, your brains, brawn and common sense have served you well. Such attributes will continue to serve you in your new environment.

The fourth challenge will be somewhat unique, however. Some of your new peers (and professors) will seek to define (and degrade) you by the fact that your parents earn a good living; you are the product of a two-parent home; you attended excellent private schools; you are a Christian; you are a white male; you are a Republican; you are a conservative.

Your spiritual upbringing has taught you that all of this does not for a second make you better, or worse, than any other person on this earth. You have often heard Mom and me talk about judging others according to their values, actions, character – rather than the color of their skin (or any other characteristic for that matter). This is what Dr. Martin Luther King was referring to in his famous "I Have A Dream" speech. It remains advice for the ages.

But today's college environment seeks to question even this most basic of values. You see, there is a new, virulent ideology bumping around "higher" education and, therefore, our culture. It is called "identity politics" – a brand of progressive thought that has gained an unfortunate foothold with your generation – and is especially popular on campus.

This platform turns King's advice on its head. It seeks to impose judgment as a function of everything but personal character. And people that look like you and have your kind of background will often find themselves in its crosshairs.

This means that you must be prepared to deal with those who will label you in order to denigrate you. The more aggressive types will tag you with the "product of privilege" moniker. This means you will be identified as a "hater" – an unfeeling type incapable of empathizing with the plight of those less fortunate – defined as just about everyone who does not fit your description.

This, of course, is the essence of identity politics. It is also a first class, in-your-face guilt trip that may also be administered by professors and administrators who just live for this stuff.

Recent years have brought us the most radical iteration of this "movement." It unfolds almost daily on our television screens during commencement season – or whenever a conservative speaker appears on a left-wing campus.

The scenes capture aggressively violent young people acting out in order to shut down or intimidate the audience and speaker. Sometimes, the protestors are heard screaming expletives such as "Fascist!" or "Nazi!" They also tend to carry signs, lots of signs, with every "victim" cause known to mankind. The riots at Berkley and Middlebury have been the most grotesque, but many campuses have experienced this sickening intolerance.

The election of President Trump has given these snowflake-protestors a convenient boogeyman to hate; but truth be told, they did not need a disruptor such as Trump to come along in order to strut their stuff. This group believes they own the moral high ground because of their self-identified victimhood. And those like you, my dear son, are the designated victimizers, aka "oppressors." Yes, you and your ilk are "The Man" – just grinding various victim groups down for your own nativist, racist, homophobic, capitalist purposes – or so the popular narrative goes.

And please do not let the fact that so many of these "oppressed" young people come from wealthy, private school backgrounds confuse you. The guilt that accompanies their economic advantage only makes them angrier.

Today, this mindset has infiltrated the Democratic Party to its core. Conservative Democrats have been vaporized. Moderates have been shuttered. The party's once consequential block of right-of-center "blue dogs" is on life support.

And all in the name of political correctness.

The left-wing intelligentsia (yes, the same group that gave us modern victimology) has now morphed into the go-to advisory group for the "The Resistance." In this capacity, progressive pundits are providing advice on how best to talk to the great unwashed, i.e., "deplorables" who somehow ended up voting for Trump. People like…us.

Your job is not to go looking for conflict with campus progressives. But if conflict does find you, you know not to back down. In this context, engage where you can and debate with substance when opposing remarks dignify a response. If possible, remind the opposition millennials that college is (still) supposed to be about the respectful exchange of ideas.

But never allow them to shut you down. Bad things happen when good people are silenced. Never allow yourself to be silenced.


I don't think I said a word to my son before he went to university.  I knew he was temperamentally conservative.  He still is -- after 9 years in that environment -- JR

UK threatens to close Jewish school for not teaching LGBT agenda

Note that the girls are aged only 3 to 8

'All equalities are equal, but some are more equal than others': LGBT agenda tops parents' and schools' right to choose 1st grade studies.

A private haredi school with 212 students in northern London is in danger of being ordered to close after it failed its third inspection since February 2016 last month.

The school, which teaches haredi girls ages three to eight, was reported as not giving students "a full understanding of fundamental British values" because they do not teach the LGBT agenda.

Jewish law prohibits the homosexual act and only recognizes a marriage between a man and woman as a legitimate way to build a family.

According to the Office for Standards in Education, Children's Services, and Schools (Ofsted), the girls "are not taught explicitly about issues such as sexual orientation. This restricts the pupils' spiritual, moral, social, and cultural development and does not promote the equality of opportunity in ways that take account of differing lifestyles."

School leaders "recognize the requirement to teach about the protected characteristics as set out in the Equality Act 2010," the report continued. "However, they acknowledge that they do not teach pupils about all the protected characteristics, particularly those relating to gender re-assignment and sexual orientation. This means that pupils have a limited understanding of the different lifestyles and partnerships that individuals may choose in present-day society."

This approach, they said, means the children are "shielded from learning about certain differences between people, such as sexual orientation. The school's culture, however, clearly focused on teaching pupils to respect everybody, regardless of beliefs and lifestyles."

Though the school is not expected to "promote" ideas about sexual orientation or gender reassignment, they must still "encourage pupils' respect for other people, paying particular regard to the protected characteristics set out in the 2010 Equalities Act."

Elsewhere in the report, the school, which belongs to the Vizhnitz hasidic sect, was praised for its high quality of education.

"It’s now been made crystal clear by Ofsted that the Equality Act is actually hierarchical," Christians in Education member Gill Robins said. "Sexual orientation and gender reassignment are at the apex of the Act."

Freedom of religion is not. "All equalities are equal, but some equalities are more equal than others. Ofsted has revealed its true agenda. It doesn't matter how good your school is in all other respects - simply refusing to teach very young children about gender reassignment will lead to your closure."

The school has been visited three times since February 2016, and told each of those times that it must incorporate the LGBT agenda into the 3- to 8-year-olds' curriculum.

After the third time that the school refused to cooperate, the government decided to close it down. This, despite the fact that the school was praised elsewhere in the report, especially for the teachers' "good subject knowledge and high-quality classroom resources that inspire pupils with enthusiasm for learning and to achieve well."

Though private schools in the UK are not required to teach the same curriculum as public schools, they must still meet two separate sets of Ofsted standards for sex and relationship education.

Though the school did revise its curriculum, Ofsted said it couldn't show that "pupils are taught explicitly about issues such as sexual orientation."

An Ofsted spokesperson said the current standards "actively promote fundamental British values such as democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty and respect, and tolerance of those with different faiths and beliefs."

"Parents have the right, on behalf of their children, to expect an education that conforms to their religious beliefs and is in compliance with the law.

"Children living in England deserve the best. The law expects schools to demonstrate that they are encouraging pupils to take a respectful and tolerant stance towards those who hold values different from their own. Ofsted acts robustly and impartially to ensure children in England receive a good education."

However, teaching sexual orientation does not conform to the religious beliefs of Orthodox Jews.


Australia: Stupid Leftist prank on innocent schoolkids

Anything to keep alive the"stolen generatuion" myth.  Some Aboriginal kids were indeed taken away from their parents -- because they were grossly neglected, not because of the colour of their skin

Year 4 children tricked into believing they would be taken away from their parents - but then were told it was just a lesson on the Stolen Generation

Nine-year-old children spent most of a school day believing they would be taken away from their parents in a bizarre Stolen Generation role play.

The Year Four students at St Justin's Catholic primary school on the outskirts of Sydney burst into tears when a nun broke the news at 9.30am on Tuesday.

She held up what she said was a letter from the Prime Minister saying their parents weren't looking after them well enough so they would be taken away.

Distraught children asked their teacher if it was true, and she said yes. They were not told it was an exercise until 2.50pm when they were asked to write down how they felt.

Natalie Wykes said she was looking at moving her son Kynan to a public school over the incident, which she called 'emotional abuse'.

'He came home and he said "Mum, I was really scared at school today",' she told Daily Mail Australia.

'They said you won't be seeing your family again, that they had to change their last names, and even where they would be sleeping in the school.

'During the day they had to do activities that Aboriginal children did whey they were taken, like picking up rubbish and raking leaves, running around the oval and doing star jumps.

'If they didn't do it right they'd get yelled at, it was pretty full on.'

Ms Wykes said Kynan even tried to escape from the school by faking bumping heads with a friend during lunch so the school would call his mother to get him.

'I get these calls all the time so I didn't think anything of it until he came home and told me he did it because it he was afraid he wouldn't be allowed to come home,' she said.

She complained to the principal on Wednesday and said Kynan told him 'the army can come and take us away at any time', and remained convinced even after being told that wasn't true.

Another mother, Mary Jane Turner, said her son Tyrone was in the same class and the lesson distressed him even more because he suffered from anxiety.

She said Tyrone came home in tears and was too upset to eat his lunch at school.

Tim Gilmour, assistant to the director of schools in the Catholic diocese of Wollongong, said the activity was intended to give students an experience of the infamous chapter in Australia's history.

'We wanted to ask them how they would feel if we did that now. It was done without incident last year and quite a lot of parents said the activity was a good one,' he told the Sydney Morning Herald.

Mr Gilmour said students in two of the three classes that participated were told early on it was a role play but it 'wasn't done as well as it should have been' in the other.

'Seven students became a bit distressed but they were reassured by their teacher and made to understand the context of the activity,' he said.

He said the diocese would look at how it could be 'refined' and whether it needed significant changes for next time.

Stolen Generation members were also outraged by the lesson, saying it was an inappropriate way to teach children about it.

'I’m aboriginal and my grandfather was a part of the stolen generation, this is absolutely disgusting to be teaching the kids such lies to the point also where they’ll fear they’ll be taken if they play up,' Sascha Smith wrote on social media.  'Furious is an understatement right now.'

'We weren’t taken away because of neglect, we were taken because of the colour of our skin,' NT Stolen Generation Aboriginal Corporation spokeswoman Eileen Cummings told News Corp.

'We were taken away because they believed that our people couldn’t teach us anything, they wanted to educate us because we were half-caste children.'


Thursday, June 29, 2017

Cafeteria Directors Applaud School Lunch Menu Rollback

The Trump administration has relaxed U.S. Department of Agriculture nutritional standards for school lunches that were implemented during the Obama administration. Several cafeteria directors have heralded the decision, asserting that it will result in more students eating what's put on their plate. Meanwhile, nutrition advocates are concerned that the relaxed standards will hinder efforts to curb childhood obesity.

On May 1, Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue announced that the USDA would loosen several standards on school lunches while moving a sodium mandate that was set to go into effect in July 2017 to 2020. The Trump administration official asserted that the current standards were resulting in school lunches that students did not want to eat.

"We know meals cannot be nutritious if they're not consumed, if they're thrown out," Perdue said, according to the Washington Post. "We have to balance sodium and whole grain content with palatability."

The Agriculture Secretary pledged that the rollback wouldn't weaken nutrition standards but instead give "school food professionals the flexibility they need."

In 2012, the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act, born from a campaign by First Lady Michelle Obama, began instituting new standards of school lunch nutrition nationwide. The most prominent regulations mandated that all cafeterias had to serve fruit and vegetables during every meal, all meals be whole grain, and that all flavored-milk be fat-free.

The changes instituted by Perdue will allow schools to obtain waivers to serve foods that are at least 50 percent whole grain and to serve flavored milk with 1 percent fat.

"[Perdue] is not changing the standards per se, but he is allowing schools to not follow them," nutrition policy researcher David Pelletier of Cornell University told PolitiFact. "It's a bit like saying the posted speed limits on the roads remain the same, but you can go as fast as you want."

Several school cafeteria teachers in New York state welcomed the changes, asserting that they would afford them more flexibility to serve meals that students would be eager to eat.

"It doesn't put such a chokehold on the items that we can serve," director Sandy Cocca of the Sweet Home Central School District told The Buffalo News. "We don't want to put something on a plate that they're going to throw out. We want them to consume what's on the plate."

Director Kim Roll of the Tonawanda School District agreed: "Letting up a bit is a good thing for schools."

Cafeteria directors were especially appreciative of Perdue's decision to delay the scheduled sodium mandate to 2020. The regulation would have required cafeterias to cut the maximum amount of sodium allowed in lunches by half. Critics said that the regulation would have been too onerous, with only 935 milligrams of sodium allowed in elementary school lunches.

Director Bridget O'Brien Wood of Buffalo Public Schools noted that none of her colleagues wanted to fully reverse the changes made by Obama, but rather tinker to with them to find a balance between nutrition and taste.

"No one's abandoning the idea," O'Brien Wood said of Obama's efforts to reduce childhood obesity. "I think we've had to look at what's not working, and change things from there."

Not everyone is happy with the USDA rollback. Environmental Working Group president Ken Cook blasted Perdue's decision as a blow to the campaign against childhood obesity.

"Just because children would rather eat heavily salted, processed foods at school doesn't mean they should," Cook said in a statement, according to USA Today. "The president's fondness for Big Macs and KFC is well known, but we shouldn't let Colonel Sanders and McDonald's run the school cafeteria."


And some idiotic comments via JAMA

Has it occurred to Mrs Obama that SHE is the one playing with the lives of the children?  Given the lack of agreement in the medical literature over what food is "healthy", that accusation sticks to her.

And bureaucrat Brown says the existing system is not broken.  What does she call the fact that the kids throw out half the food they are currently given? JR

Proposed Education Department Cuts Are Long Overdue

Hans Bader

Even modest and long-overdue budget cuts draw condemnation. The White House proposed cutting the budget of the Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) from $108.5 million to $106.7 million—a “minuscule amount,” notes education researcher George Leef.  Yet the liberal columnist Colbert King claimed this tiny 1.7 percent cut would have somehow “gutted” civil rights enforcement. In reality, as Professor Shep Melnick notes, even if Congress enacted this budget cut, OCR’s budget in 2018 would be no smaller than it was in 2016, and larger than it was in 2014, when “OCR’s budget was just a little over $98 million.”

While advocates claim OCR needs more money due to an increased caseload, Melnick says the rising caseload is partly attributable to three filers who together filed more than 7,000 largely duplicative complaints. In 2014, that included “1,700 sex discrimination complaints filed by two individuals.” In 2016, “a whopping 6,157 Title IX complaints” were filed by one individual.” As Melnick asks, “Should the number of complaints filed by two or three enterprising private citizens be the standard for judging how much public money a regulatory agency receives?”

Moreover, Melnick points out that the agency’s backlog of cases is not due to an inadequate budget.  Rather, it came into being due to the Obama administration’s unnecessary decision to dramatically expand the scope of investigations beyond what’s needed for provide redress for individual victims of discrimination. Rather than resolve individual complaints about sexual assault or harassment on campus, or racial disparities in K-12 school discipline, the Obama-era OCR would begin “a full-blown investigation of the entire institution” every time it received an individual complaint. And it would keep searching for a violation until it found one, even if it didn’t involve any discrimination or harassment, but just “deficient record-keeping.”

Civil libertarians like Robert Shibley of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education argue that these “systemic” investigations improperly required colleges to revisit other complaints resolved long ago, potentially leading to colleges overturning not guilty verdicts against students accused of harassment or assault. “That was quite alarming from a double jeopardy and civil liberties perspective,” Shibley said. The Obama-era OCR also prodded colleges like University of Virginia to investigate even when students suspected of being victims didn’t even want any investigation. Other system-wide investigations under Title VI prodded school districts to adopt racial quotas in school discipline when minority parents argued that an individual teacher or principal had improperly disciplined their child.

The Trump administration has now withdrawn the Obama administration’s 2014 enforcement guidance. That guidance had demanded that there be “systemic” investigations of colleges in response to every individual complaint of sexual harassment or assault and “systemic” investigations of school districts in response to every individual complaint of racial discrimination in school discipline by a teacher or principal.  (Its June 2017 memo to OCR regional directors about the proper scope of investigations can be found at this link.)

That withdrawal should make it easy for OCR to eliminate its case backlog, even if its budget shrinks in the future. Moreover, if OCR stopped making up violations of laws such as Title VI and Title IX out of thin air, it would have much less to do and could get by with a much smaller budget. As two members of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights noted in a February 26, 2015 letter to Congress, OCR “has all too often been willing to define perfectly legal conduct as unlawful,” spending taxpayer money “to address violations it has made up out of thin air. Increasing OCR’s budget would in effect reward the agency for frequently overstepping the law.”

There are much larger education budget cuts in Trump’s budget blueprint, but they are justified and long overdue. As education scholars Bill Evers and Vicki Alger note at Intellectual Takeout, “Trump wants to reduce the U.S. Department of Education’s discretionary budget by $9.2 billion, from $68.3 billion to $59.1 billion.” Nearly two-thirds of the cuts are “from eliminating programs that are duplicative or just don’t work.”

One failed program slated for elimination is the School Improvement Grant (SIG) program. As Evers and Alger note, it “gave poorly performing schools fistfuls of cash” in the hope that they would “turn themselves around and raise student achievement.” That program has consumed more “than $7 billion to date—including a one-time infusion of $3 billion” in Obama’s stimulus package. “The Obama administration publicly revealed the SIG program’s colossal failure on January 18, 2017, just hours before President Obama’s appointees departed. According to the final evaluation … SIG had ‘no significant impacts’” on student achievement or graduation. “Commenting on the evaluation, Andrew R. Smarick, a former U.S. deputy assistant secretary of education, called SIG ‘the greatest failure in the history of the U.S. Department of Education.’”

Evers and Alger note that the “K-12 programs proposed for elimination in the Trump budget are similarly ineffective. In 1994, the Clinton administration started the 21st Century Community Learning Centers program. … Nearly $18 billion spent over two decades later, there’s scant evidence of success. ‘It’s a $1.2 billion after-school program that doesn’t work,’” according to Mark Dynarski of the Brookings Institution, a former Clinton administration official and an expert on the program.


Australia: Woolly thinking won’t help with education

Some weeks more than others, the woolly thinking that leads to poor policy is blindingly obvious. Education policy development is beleaguered by smart and influential people with misguided ideas.

Example 1: The Mitchell Institute released a report finding one in four young people leave school without a qualification, and one in eight is not engaged in further education or work at age 24. They estimate the latter group has $18.8 billion less income over their lifetimes and accumulate $50.5 billion in social costs for each cohort of 24-year-olds.

The report does not offer any suggestions about what might be done to reduce this problem, and that’s absolutely fine. There’s no shame in pointing out a problem without positing the solution. Unfortunately, in launching the report, Victoria University Vice- Chancellor Peter Dawkins ignored this precept, making a colossal leap with the suggestion that schools should spend more time helping students develop life skills rather than placing an ‘excessive’ focus on literacy and numeracy.

NAPLAN test results in 2016 revealed one in four students in Year 9 barely meet the very low national minimum literacy and numeracy standards. Results from the 2015 international PISA tests of 15-year-olds are also damning ― 39 per cent of students were below the national proficient standard in reading and 45 per cent below the national proficient standard in mathematical literacy.

Assuming these figures are accurate, it is no mystery why so many young people ditch school as soon as they can, and then struggle to find stable work.

I am all for giving young people ‘life skills’, but it is difficult to think of any skills more useful for education, employment, and good health than reading, writing, and a good grasp of arithmetic. This is true irrespective of the type of work – even ‘unskilled’ jobs require a functional level of literacy. Just getting a driving license is very difficult if you can’t read; try getting a blue-collar job without one.

Example 2: The latest UNICEF report card put Australia at the bottom of the class for the quality of school education. To my knowledge, I have never been accused of being a Pollyanna about Australian education, and the above statistics bear out my stance. But the UNICEF assessment is dubious at best. The UNICEF index of ‘quality’ is based on a combination of student achievement in the PISA tests and preschool participation rates. On this index, Mexico places equal third in the world with South Korea even though its PISA results are below the OECD average!

Nonetheless, in this case ― yet again ― the prescription to treat Australia’s educational malaise is pure quackery. UNICEF Australia director of policy and advocacy Amy Lamoin says we should look to Scandinavian countries where “There’s a lot of experimentation and discovery in their learning, and shorter school days with more focus on extra-curricular activities.”

While it’s difficult to be certain from one quote, Ms Lamoin seems to be endorsing the discovery or inquiry-based approach to classroom pedagogy. This is the precise opposite of what the evidence from PISA and other research tells us lead to better outcomes for students – that is, rigorous, rich curricula and purposeful, explicit teaching.

Fortunately, this week we also have an example of responsive policy making from the South Australian government. After a number of reading researchers expressed detailed concerns to the Department of Education and Child Development about the design of their trial of the UK Phonics Screening Check – namely, arguing that it should involve students in Year 1 rather than just Reception ― Education Minister Susan Close announced a review of the trial design and implementation. That’s the good news this week. One out of three isn’t bad.


Wednesday, June 28, 2017

This School Board Leader Tried to Rig a Public Forum in Favor of Transgender Advocates. That’s Unconstitutional

Stacking the deck at the casino makes for bad feelings among friends.

Things get more serious when you’re a government official stacking the deck at public forums with speakers in favor of your personal political views. That not only makes for bad public policy—it violates the First Amendment.

The Prince William County Virginia School Board convened last Wednesday to vote on a proposed rule that would undermine the principle of student privacy between the sexes. It would have laid the groundwork for opening up sex-specific locker rooms, showers, and other private facilities to members of the opposite sex.

Many parents have legitimate convictions that maleness and femaleness are essential biological, anatomical attributes, and they would like to openly defend the policy of maintaining privacy between the sexes, despite the claims of gender identity advocates.

Nonetheless, before the meeting, Ryan Sawyers, school board chairman, sent a text to the clerk telling her to frontload a list of favored speakers to comment before those who had already signed up.

This violated local school board rules, which say the public is to speak in the order that each citizen contacts the clerk.

This is particularly significant because at Prince William County Public School board meetings, only 10 to 15 people get to speak before the vote, since initial public comment is limited to 30 minutes. Everybody else has to wait until after the vote to make their views known.

But dishing out political leftovers to one’s opponents and frontloading the initial discussion with allies goes beyond violating local school board policy. It’s flatly unconstitutional.

School board meetings must protect viewpoint neutrality to satisfy First Amendment principles of free speech. If a school board chooses to open a forum for public comment, the process of determining who speaks cannot be determined by the viewpoint of the speaker.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit agrees.

In Child Evangelism Fellowship of MD, Inc. v. Montgomery County Public Schools, the majority opinion notes that “‘the state may be justified in reserving [its forum] for certain groups or for the discussion of certain topics,’ subject only to the limitation that its actions must be viewpoint-neutral and reasonable.”

And just last week, the Supreme Court reiterated in Matal v. Tam that government officials cannot “regulate speech in ways that favor some viewpoints or ideas at the expense of others.”

The traditional method of letting people speak in the order they sign up with the clerk is an orderly way to achieve these objectives. But giving the chairman the power to decide who speaks before the vote does not satisfy these criteria.

If the chairman is not bound by a limiting principle, then he has unbridled discretion to determine who can use the coveted 30 minutes of speech. It will be difficult, over time, for him not to hand-pick allies, particularly since he is a Democratic candidate for Congress.

Indeed, the first speaker on the chairman’s list, Danica Roem, is also a political player, a local Democrat recently nominated to run against incumbent Republican Bob Marshall in a Virginia House of Delegates race.

To be clear, after the chairman’s text messages were made public and Alliance Defending Freedom sent a letter to Prince William County Public Schools, the chairman did not stick to his original plan on Wednesday night.

But it remains unclear whether the final speaking order came from a new alternative list he created, or whether he reverted back to school board policy and used the original list of speakers, based on the order that local citizens signed up to speak.

That is precisely the problem. In the American system of ordered liberty, government officials don’t have the power to make that choice. They cannot dish out fast passes for the view they like while relegating opposing views to second-class status.

Rather, if officials choose to set up times for public comment, they must set up an orderly process that respects the free speech of all participants.

All voices should equally receive free speech protection, because our Constitution recognizes that when the government plays favorites, everyone’s freedom flounders.


UK: Exeter school’s uniform resolve melts after boys’ skirt protest

The US constitution has long guaranteed the right to bear arms – but now the schoolboys of Exeter have gone one better and won the right to bare legs.

Britain’s heatwave this week sparked open rebellion at Isca academy in Devon, with boys wearing skirts in protest at rules that insisted male pupils wear long trousers even as temperatures soared into the mid-30s.

By the end of the week the school’s icy resolve finally melted in the glare of international exposure.

The Exeter secondary school has announced that boys will soon be able to choose to wear shorts instead of its tartan trousers, after the “box-pleat rebellion” caught the attention of media around the world.

Aimee Mitchell, the school’s headteacher, sent a message to parents saying that shorts would be allowed – but only from next school year – after consulting with pupils and parents.

The school also confirmed that the boys involved in the protest would not be punished for wearing skirts.

“Parents and pupils will be aware that the hot weather these last few days has prompted interest in our school uniform policy, and notably the trousers, rather than shorts, worn by our male students,” the school noted wryly in a “hot weather and school uniform update” on its website.

“Contrary to news reports, we have not banned shorts; shorts are simply not part of our school uniform.

“However, as summers are becoming hotter, shorts will be introduced as part of our school uniform next year having first consulted with students and parents. We feel that introducing a change in uniform partway through this year would put undue pressure on some of our families.”

The uniform policy became a burning issue as summer warmed up, with the first rebels coming to school in shorts. When male pupils protested that the girls were allowed bare legs, the school said the boys were free to wear skirts if they chose – and so they did, after borrowing skirts from their sisters and female friends.

Ryan Lambeth, a year 10 pupil who was among the ringleaders, told the Exeter Express and Echo: “They kept telling us off for wearing shorts and I kept getting excluded. It happened three times.

“We kept talking about wearing skirts and on Tuesday I thought – right, I’m just going to do it. Then on Wednesday there were five of us. Today there were 50-plus people.”

As the revolution picked up momentum, the world’s media began to take interest. Devon county council staff were called in to help the school handle the flood of inquiries.

But a spokesperson for the school said it did make concessions to the blistering heat of the past week.

“Our summer uniform allows students not to wear their jumper or blazer. Also, recognising the recent temperatures, students have also been allowed not to wear ties, to have the top button on their shirts undone, and to wear their shirts untucked if they are feeling very hot,” the school said.

There is no evidence that the skirted rebellion has caught on outside Devon – many schools already allow shorts as a summer uniform option, while others have even more options.


Australia: South Yarra Primary School parents call for new classrooms, tougher school zone restrictions

There are so many problematic government schools that parents are desperate to get their kids into a good one

South Yarra Primary School parents say the school is bursting at the seams, with some families faking where they live and renting properties in the zone.

The parents say the number of new enrolments almost exceeds the school’s capacity to cope, and are worried that class sizes will blow out.

Mr Merlino urged parents stop lying their way into popular areas.  “This isn’t great for the parents, it’s not great for the children,” the Deputy Premier told 3AW. “Parents should work by the rules and if you are designated in a school zone you are entitled to go to that school.

“Local kids deserve to go to their local school and they should have the first opportunity to do so.”

South Yarra Primary School council president Jason Le Busque said South Yarra Primary’s high National Assessment Program Literacy and Numeracy (NAPLAN) test results made it a popular choice for parents.

This meant some families who lived outside the school zone would rent properties in the zone just so that their child was eligible to enrol.

“We do have some evidence that there has been some families who have rented one bedroom flats and they’re a family of three kids and two adults. They’re certainly not living there,” he said.

School council parents are pushing for the zone to be made smaller as a result, and they want the Department of Education to commit to capital works that would see new classrooms built.

They also want families to sign a statutory declaration stating that they intend to live in the zone for the duration of their child’s enrolment, and will notify the school if they move out.

Parent Emily Keon-Cohen said new modular classrooms opened at the school earlier this year were already at capacity, and there were plans to use the library and multipurpose room as classrooms next year. “We may be the only school in the state without a library and a multipurpose room,” she said.

The Leader understands that South Yarra Primary School Principal Neven Paleka is working with the Department of Education to address rising enrolments, but the paper was unable to speak with him.

Education Department spokesman Alex Munro said the department installed a three-storey relocatable classroom at the school earlier this year.

The Government was also building two new primary schools in Melbourne’s inner-south to meet the community’s needs, and information provided by the department said South Yarra Primary’s zone was currently under review.

“South Yarra Primary School’s enrolment pressure is regularly discussed with the school,” Mr Munro said.

Real Estate Institute of Victoria data released mid-last year revealed the median house price for homes within the South Yarra Primary School zone was $244,500 higher than those outside it.


Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Creativity and the Root-Bernsteins again

I put up yesterday some comments  on a 2011 article by the Root-Bernsteins in which they were very skeptical about the notion of creativity as a general trait and in which they challenged the claim that training in the arts was a good way of fostering scientific creativity.

A reader has however drawn my attention to an earlier, 2009,  article (See below) by the same authors in which they argue that the most creative scientists are also great dabblers in the arts. They argue from that that scientists with artistic interests are most likely to be the most creative in their fields.  That seems to run counter to their later article.

But there are large logical flaws in their 2009 approach.  They certainly show that SOME distinguished scientists dabble in the arts but that is a long way from showing that highly creative scientists IN GENERAL have artistic interests. And they certainly do not show that people with artistic interests tend to make good scientists.  I would have thought that arty people would be the LEAST likely to make good scientists. Art is about impressions.  Science requires precision.

And, most of all, they have not shown that artistic proclivities CAUSE scientific creativity.  It might be the other way around: artistic interests might be an epiphenomenon of scientific creativity.

But, while the Root-Bernsteins have not made their case below,  their theory is an interesting one and I find it personally relevant.  For various reasons I see myself as a primarily literary person yet I have also  been scientifically creative.  In my best years I was getting academic journal articles published nearly at the rate of one per fortnight.  And I know I did exactly what the Root-Bernsteins say: I brought to bear on my primary research field thinking from many sources outside my main field of enquiry.  But I could be an oddball.  Many would say that I am.

So I am rather inclined to the theory that artistic interests have no causative role in scientific creativity but artistic interests are an occasional byproduct of scientific creativity, perhaps mainly as light relief

How do you search for scientific talent? What criteria should you use? IQ scores? High scores on math and science tests? Precocity in a scientific field? Some of the best scientists recommend looking for breadth of skills and talents in a variety of endeavors beyond the sciences.

In two previous posts, we argue that training in the arts benefits scientists in a variety of different ways. The best scientists are much more likely to be artists, musicians, actors, craftsmen, and writers than are typical scientists, or even the general public. Scientists draw skills, knowledge, processes, concepts, and even inspiration from their non-scientific avocations. Many are well aware of these advantages.

Perhaps the first scientist to recognize a correlation between scientific talent and non-scientific pursuits was Jacobus Henricus van't Hoff, a Dutch scientist who won the first Nobel Prize in Chemistry. Van't Hoff invented the field of stereochemistry (the study of atomic shapes); co-invented the field of physical chemistry; founded geochemistry; and helped to create the new field of history of science. In addition, he was a talented flautist, wrote poetry in four languages, and was a reasonable amateur artist. In 1878, twenty-one years before he received his Nobel Prize, he gave a lecture on "Imagination in Science" in which he argued (after having read some 200 scientific biographies) that the greatest scientists almost invariably display their imagination in non-scientific fields as well. Examples he cited included Galileo, also an artist, craftsman, musician, and writer; the astronomer Kepler, also a musician who described planetary motion as the "music of the spheres;"and Sir Humphrey Davy, one of the founders of modern chemistry, and also a poet praised by the likes of Coleridge.(1)

Santiago Ramón y Cajal, another early Nobel laureate (1906), also believed thatSci fi by Ramon y Cajal the most creative scientists are broadly trained. One of the founders of neuroanatomy, Ramón y Cajal took time to practice gymnastics, to paint, to produce the first color photographs taken in Spain and start up a photographic supply company, and to write science fiction. (That's his drawing of nerves of the eye, above, and his Vacation Stories, right.) When it came to recruiting students, he rejected those focused solely on their science. "The far-sighted teacher," he argued, "will prefer those students who are somewhat headstrong, contemptuous of first place, insensible to the inducements of vanity, and who being endowed with an abundance of restless imagination, spend their energy in the pursuit of literature, art, philosophy, and all the recreations of mind and body. To him who observes them from afar, it appears as though they are scattering and dissipating their energies, while in reality, they are channeling and strengthening them..."(2)

We must admit, since Cajal made this assessment of scientific talent knowledge has grown exponentially. Specialization, is it argued, is required for mastery of ever more deeply plowed fields. Nevertheless, recent Nobel laureates continue to repeat the mantra that scientific creativity within those fields draws sustenance from breadth beyond those fields. Donald Cram, a Nobel prizewinning chemist, craftsman, artist, poet and musician, said that "I have a tendency to use my hands and I also have a tendency to use my intellect. Well the sciences are a great way of combining these operations.... My concept of the ideal [scientist] is that you do one thing real well... and then you do a lot of other things, but not too many, maybe 4 or 6 or 10 different other things, which you do well enough to give yourself and possibly others pleasure. This should be distributed quite widely among sports and artistic things and carpentry and things that involve using your hands and a little music perhaps and things of that sort."(3) Peter Mitchell, another recent laureate in Chemistry (1978), agreed. "Most [scientists] who try to be creative..." he wrote, "have found that they've got to become craftspeople as well as art people."(4) Mitchell attributed his most important discovery to a third profound interest: the study of philosophy caused him to rethink the fundamental assumptions of modern biology, leading directly to his revolutionary experiments on the way energy is utilized by cells.

What's going on here? Why do so many leading scientists insist on paradoxically "scattering" and "channeling" their energies? The fact is that novel ideas, in science as well as in every other discipline, come from combining diverse and often disparate sources of problems, skills, knowledge, and methods. The most creative scientists recognize this fact and exploit it by integrating a wide range of interests. But some other purpose is also in play. The best scientists are also the best communicators, for novel and original ideas must be articulated and "sold" to a skeptical scientific community.

Poetry by Roald HoffmanIn this venture, skills learned beyond the sciences become invaluable. Nobel Prizewinning chemist Roald Hoffmann, for example, is also a professional poet: "I write poetry to penetrate the world around me, and to comprehend my reactions to it...." Likewise in his chemistry. "By being a natural language under tension," he says, "the language of science is inherently poetic."(5) Similarly, William D. Phillips, who won the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1997, writes that, "In high school, I enjoyed and profited from well-taught science and math classes, but in retrospect, I can see that the classes that emphasized language and writing skills were just as important for the development of my scientific career as were science and math. I certainly feel that my high school involvement in debating competitions helped me later to give better scientific talks, that the classes in writing style helped me to write better papers, and the study of French greatly enhanced the tremendously fruitful collaboration I was to have with [a French] research group."(6)

In return to our original question, how should we go about identifying and fostering scientific talent, especially creative scientific talent, in our students? If van't Hoff, Ramón y Cajal, Cram, Mitchell, Hoffmann and Phillips are right, the standard approaches aren't going to work. Nobel prizewinners are rarely the best academic students. They do not have IQs that are any higher than those of scientists overall. They don't test higher on other standardized tests. They DO bring a much wider range of skills, knowledge, talents, and methods to their work.

So instead of looking for scientific and mathematical prodigies (however we choose to define these) and funneling them into early scientific specialization, we should be doing the opposite. As Cajal put it, we should be looking for and nurturing a "happy combination of attributes: an artistic temperament which impels [the student] to search for and [admire...] the number, beauty, and harmony of things."(2) We should give our science students the broadest possible education in arts, crafts, writing, philosophy, and everything else that makes us fully human.

This is not a new conclusion. In a report commissioned by the U. K. Royal Society in 1942, Nobel Prizewinning physicist William Lawrence Bragg concluded that "[t]he training of our physicists is literally too academic."(7) Bragg recommended a good dose of crafts in school and a wide range of hobbies at home. So do so many of our most successful scientists. Why, then, does our education system persist in earlier and earlier specialization when it is clear that increasing breadth fosters scientific creativity?


Scotland: Colleges battle with pay deal and falling student numbers

Scotland’s colleges are under growing financial pressure as student numbers have fallen to their lowest levels in a decade, the country’s public spending watchdog has said.

Audit Scotland warned that despite promises of extra funding, a new pay deal struck with lecturers presented one of several financial challenges to the further education sector, which has been struggling after years of Scottish government cuts.

The Scotland’s Colleges 2017 report found that an underlying deficit in the sector increased to £8 million, while the institutions held £11 million less in 2015-16 than they had a year previously.

In a conclusion that was rejected by the Scottish government, it was found that there were 220,680 students at the country’s colleges, the lowest figure since 2007, the year the SNP came to power. The total represented a drop of more than 30,000 in five years, mostly as a result of a fall in those taking part-time courses.

Caroline Gardner, auditor-general for Scotland, said: “There is a growing risk to colleges’ ability to keep delivering what the Scottish government requires from the sector, as a result of major financial challenges and a declining student population. Colleges need to plan ahead so their budgets can withstand the impact of cost pressures. Demand for college courses and the effects of demographic shifts also need to be assessed so educational provision can be designed around these.”

A recent pay deal with lecturers, designed to harmonise pay levels across the country, is set to cost £80 million over three years, according to Colleges Scotland. Although the Scottish government has agreed to cover extra costs in the first year as the new wage structure is phased in, there is no commitment of central funding beyond that.

Audit Scotland said it was not possible to say whether a fall in student numbers was caused by a fall in demand, and while colleges met targets to deliver a specific volume of learning, levels of provision fell compared with the previous year. Full-time female students fell by almost 3 per cent, while full-time male students remained static.

Overall, it was found that college finances remained “relatively stable” and attainment improved, with the proportion of students successfully completing courses up from 64 per cent to 65 per cent.

Liz Smith, education spokeswoman for the Scottish Conservatives, said: “In a decade in charge the SNP has utterly neglected the vital colleges sector. These figures show fewer people are entering college than at any time since the Nationalists came to power.”

The Scottish government claimed the Audit Scotland figures were not based on headcount for all colleges, and said that numbers had actually increased by 0.1 per cent. It claimed the watchdog should not have compared figures with years prior to 2014-15 because of changes in methodology.

A Scottish government spokesman said: “With one of the lowest youth unemployment rates in Europe, increased modern apprenticeship places, more young Scots going to university and over 116,000 FTE [full-time equivalent] college places still being provided, it is clear that our approach to giving young people equal chances and choices to succeed in life is working.

“This report highlights that Scotland’s college sector is financially stable overall and that colleges continue to exceed their targets for student learning opportunities. It also identifies areas where improvements can be made. We will work closely with the Scottish Funding Council and colleges to consider its findings, as we continue to deliver job-focused learning that enables everyone to get the qualifications they need to get on in life.”


67% Hispanic immigrants in U.S. 15 years or more are functionally illiterate

Learning English is a much bigger hurdle for immigrants than earlier believed, with most Hispanics being functional illiterates, even those who have been in the United States for over a decade.

A new analysis of immigrants found that 63 percent of Hispanics have a "below basic" understanding of English, making them illiterate.

And it doesn't get better if they stay in the U.S. for 15 years. In a shocking finding showing that they haven't tried to learn -- or even had to -- more, 67 percent, of Hispanics don't have English proficiency even after 15 years in America.

The Center for Immigration Studies found that overall immigrants of all nationalities have difficulty with English. Some 41 percent score at or below the lowest level of English literacy.

The children of Hispanics don't score much better, said CIS. "The children of Hispanic immigrants score at the 34th percentile, and 22 percent are below basic. In addition, just 5 percent of second-generation Hispanics have 'elite' literacy skills, compared to 14 percent of natives overall," said the report.

The study, done by Jason Richwine, a PhD and independent public policy analyst and author, said, "The importance of English literacy cannot be overstated. Without language proficiency, immigrant families will find it difficult to succeed in the mainstream of American society, and high rates of English illiteracy may be a sign of poor immigrant assimilation. Policymakers should take note."

Typically, researchers use Census data where immigrants grade themselves. For his report, Richwine used a direct test of English literacy administered by the Program for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies (PIAAC).

The highlights:

41 percent of immigrants score at or below the lowest level of English literacy — a level variously described as "below basic" or "functional illiteracy."

The average immigrant scores at the 21st percentile of the native score distribution.

Hispanic immigrants struggle the most with English literacy. Their average score falls at the 8th percentile, and 63 percent are below basic.

67 percent of Hispanic immigrants in the U.S. more than 15 years score "below basic."

For Hispanic immigrants, self-reported English-speaking ability overstates actual literacy. The average literacy score of

Hispanic immigrants who self-report that they speak English "very well" or "well" falls at the 18th percentile, and 44 percent are below basic.

Even long-time residents struggle with English literacy. Immigrants who first arrived in the United States more than 15 years ago score at the 20th percentile, and 43 percent are below basic.

Literacy difficulties brought by low-skill immigrants persist beyond the immigrant generation. The children of Hispanic immigrants score at the 34th percentile, and 22 percent are below basic. In addition, just 5 percent of second generation Hispanics have "elite" literacy skills, compared to 14 percent of natives overall.


Monday, June 26, 2017

Do Arts Teach Creativity? Learning creative process takes more than a regular art class

The article below is from a few years back but the nonsense about creativity still goes on. Robert Root-Bernstein below is one of the few who pour cold water on the whole thing.  For a start, he rightly points to science and engineering as important areas of creativity rather than thinking it glorious to mess around with watercolors.

The whole idea that there is a general trait or ability at being creative has always been arrant nonsense.  Show me one great painter who is also a great composer.  Creativity as a general trait does not exist.  There is only creativity in particular fields.

Creativity is usually highly specific rather than general.  In my case, for instance, I am very creative at writing academic journal articles (200+ published between 1970 and 1990) but I couldn't write a novel for nuts.  So even within the field of writing, there is no clear generality.

Curiously, I have seen some slight evidence that language ability does generalize from natural to computer languages:  The poetry maven may make a good computer programmer! I do no more than suggest the hypothesis but it should not be all that difficult to test.  The point remains, however, that assumptions about generalizability of creativity from one field to another have to be tested.  It cannot reasonably be assumed.

Root-Bernstein is a major student of creativity so writes from extensive experience and has some claim to authority on the subject.  He also could himself be seen as creative if iconoclasm can be seen as a major form of creativity.  He not only challenges the conventional wisdom about creativity but is also one of the small band who reject as too simplistic the HIV = AIDS equation. 

The latter stance may damn him to some, but the majority is not always right.  Again, one has to look at the evidence to form a reasonable opinion.  Just going along with the majority can lead eventually to egg on face.  Conventional health advice on how to avoid peanut allergy and advice on the desirability of animal fat in the diet have both undergone 180 degree turns in the last few  years.

Massachusetts and California want to mandate teaching creativity and testing for its outcomes. Maybe your state does, too. In our last post we challenged whether creativity can be taught. In this one, we challenge the measures these states intend to use to test for it.

            In August 2010, Governor Deval Patrick of Massachusetts signed into law an economic development bill that mandated the measurement of creative capacity among public school students. Governor Brown of California appears to be following suit. While the details of these measurements are still being worked out, there are two likely possibilities. One is to mandate 'creativity tests' and the other is to count up 'creative' activities available for student participation.

            Though our position is not necessarily a popular one, we believe that tests for creativity are generally a sham. The dean of creativity testing was the late E. Paul Torrance and recent use of his tests has supposedly demonstrated that American students are becoming less and less creative with each year.  With all due respect to Torrance and his students, we aren't sure that's what Torrance tests show at all. Torrance tests are based on the assumption that creativity is "out of the box" thinking that can be measured by how divergent a student's solutions to a problem or puzzle are compared with other students. Creativity is equated with originality.

            Unfortunately, in science, technology, engineering, economics and many other professions divergence from the norm is usually associated with being wrong.  In fact, studies attempting to validate divergence-based tests, including the Torrance tests, have found that they almost universally fail to predict creativity in the fields just listed. Divergence-based tests do not predict which scientists, engineers, etc., will produce the most patents, write the most cited papers, win a Nobel Prize or achieve other recognized measures of professional merit.

            What gives apparent validity to Torrance and other divergence tests is that many studies have reported correlations between these tests and whether students later go into disciplines such as writing, arts, music and acting. The assumption here is that everyone in these disciplines is creative.

            This lead us that second measure of creativity states might elect to employ -- access to, or participation in, arts and other presumably 'creative' activities such as debate or science fairs. The assumption here is, if you make or construct something you must be creative. But what makes artists, what makes a debate performance or a science fair project, intrinsically 'creative'?


            The truth is, there are more run-of-the-mill actors and commonplace painters than innovative ones, just as there are more regular historians and average engineers than peers at the forefront of either field.  The truth is, too, that the student who downloads a bunch of arguments off the internet for a debate is not thinking for him- or herself. The student who buys a science fair kit from any number of suppliers isn't being creative, either. And there's nothing creative (other than the sense of 'making' something) about copying a drawing or playing "America the Beautiful" over and over again out of tune. Just making something doesn't teach creativity in the sense of finding and meeting new challenges with effective thinking.

            Disappointed? Don't be. The fact is that ANY subject can be taught so as to emphasize its creative aspects and any subject, no matter how apparently 'creative', can be taught so as to eliminate all of its creative aspects. It's not the subject, but the approach to it, that teaches creativity.

           For this reason we find it meaningless to give schools a 'creativity quotient' based on how many 'creative activities' or 'creative courses' they make available to students. It is equally meaningless to use divergence-based tests to assess how many students are likely to go into 'creative disciplines'.  All these measures really show is that people who don't like to conform are often more comfortable in arts careers than in science, technology, business and social science careers. If non-conformity were all that it took to be creative, that would be fine, but there's more to learning creative practices than that!

        In this regard, we urge everyone who is interested in improving the teaching of creativity in any and all subjects to refer to the credit guidelines in the arts recently established by the Michigan Department of Education. Unlike the majority of arts education requirements adopted around the country, which mandate simply a set number of arts or crafts courses, Michigan (with Bob as one of the co-chairs of the committee) adopted a creative process-based requirement. In Michigan, on paper anyway, it is insufficient simply to take band or orchestra or a class in drawing or jewelry making or graphic design. Any course that wishes to satisfy the arts requirement must incorporate into itself, in an explicit manner, the teaching of and experience with the entire creative process.

            Unlike creativity itself, the creative process CAN be taught. Attention can be paid to the challenges that have motivated creative individuals; the problems (technical and social) they have faced in meeting those challenges; the new skills and knowledge they have needed to acquire in order to address those problems; the options they have played with in exploring possible solutions; the realizations they have had that what they really wanted to do wasn't what they had set off to do; the role serendipity and chance have had in the final production of their work; the role that performing or publicizing their work has had in pushing them to modify and rethink their goals; and the struggles they have had in achieving recognition. This is the process that will prepare students for doing creative things in the world, not a high score on a divergence-based test or a ho-hum exposure to debate team, science fair or art making.

            So what's the take-home message? If we want a more creative society, we need to shift how we teach every subject. Creativity tests are irrelevant. Just adding arts to the curriculum, or debate or science fairs, won't do the trick, either. What arts can do, when they are done right, is teach creative process better than any other subject. What other core disciplines can do, too, is incorporate and emulate the best teaching practices of the arts concerning creative process. An understanding of that process, in whatever subject it occurs, should be what we strive for and measure.


Hate-filled Connecticut professor

Professor Johnny Eric Williams is black

The campus of Trinity College in Hartford was closed for much of Wednesday after receiving threats from people outraged by a professor who shared an inflammatory online posting about the Congressional baseball practice shootings.

But the private college is due to reopen on Thursday morning with increased security after determining that there was “no immediate threat,” following the posting by Johnny Eric Williams, Trinity announced.

Williams, who teaches about race and racism, shared on his personal Twitter and Facebook accounts an article published on that cited “another writer’s perspective on the shooting,” the college said in a statement.

The article -- which was not written by Williams -- also explored the “relationship between ‘victims of bigotry’ and ‘bigots,’ and culminated with a “call to show indifference to the lives of bigots,” the statement said.

“That call was reprehensible,” Trinity President Joanne Berger-Sweeney said in the statement. “and any such suggestion is abhorrent and wholly contrary to Trinity’s values.”

Williams, a sociology professor at Trinity since 1996, could not immediately be reached for comment by the Globe.

He also posted at least one message to his Facebook page using the hashtag “#LetThem[Expletive]Die,” which was the headline of the article. Campus Reform, a conservative website, published a screen grab of the hashtag on Williams’ Facebook page.

Berger-Sweeney made an oblique reference to the vulgar hashtag that he used online, saying it “connected directly to the inflammatory conclusion of that article.”

The president said she denounces “hate speech in all its forms” and “will explore all options to resolve this matter.” She did not quote excerpts from the article.

The dean of faculty will review the matter and advise Berger-Sweeney if any college procedures or policies were broken, the statement said.

Williams told the Hartford Courant that his words were twisted by some people to sound as though he was saying the victims of the Alexandria, Virginia, shooting should’ve been left to die, the Associated Press reported.

The postings were not publicly available on his Facebook and Twitter accounts Wednesday. Campus Reform had published screen-grabs of the messages.

The article remained publicly accessible Wednesday night and quoted another posting from the outlet Fusion.

The Fusion article noted that Capital Police Officer Crystal Griner, an African American lesbian, helped stop the baseball practice shooter, who wounded Republican congressman Steve Scalise and GOP operatives.

The Fusion story described Scalise as an anti-gay lawmaker who has “kept company with racists.” The author wrote in response, “What does it mean, in general, when victims of bigotry save the lives of bigots? For centuries, black people have been regarded as sub-human workhorses whose entire purpose is to serve white people’s whimsies.”

The author concluded the posting with a poem that said, “Let. Them. [Expletive]. Die./And smile a bit when you do./For you have done the universe a great service./Ashes to ashes. Dust to bigots.” The posting was also headlined “Let Them [Expletive] Die.”

Williams’ sharing of the article had consequences for Trinity.

At 12:38 p.m. Wednesday, the school announced that “due to threats received and out of an abundance of caution, all campus buildings are card ID access only.”

At 1:10 p.m., Trinity officials said, “Given the threats to campus and upon consultation with the President’s Cabinet, the decision has been made to close the College until further notice. “

Finally, at 5:38 p.m., the college announced there was no immediate threat and that the College will reopen Thursday morning.


Australia: School funding package passes Senate, as Conservatives take big win

He's very low-key but PM Turnbull does get a lot through a very difficult Senate. The legislation was to make school funding  "needs-based", something Leftists would normally support.  So it was just anti-government bloody-mindedness behind the opposition from the Green/Left

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has said attention must now turn to improving student outcomes after his Government's landmark $23.5 billion funding package passed the Senate.

After a marathon debate extending into the early hours of this morning, the Gonski 2.0 plan passed with the support of Pauline Hanson's One Nation Party, the Nick Xenophon Team and crossbench Senators Derryn Hinch, Jacqui Lambie and Lucy Gichuhi 34 votes to 31.

While the Coalition was quietly confident it had the numbers, it had been on tenterhooks waiting for the final vote.

Mr Turnbull said this morning that the vote was "an outstanding result for Australian schools, students and parents".

Education Minister Simon Birmingham said the deal would deliver about $2,300 per student to schools in the next few years.

"That's really critical because it flows fastest into the schools who need it most, delivering fairer funding for all Australians according to the Gonski needs-based principles," he said.

Labor, the unions and the Catholic education sector spent much of yesterday trying furiously to sway Senator Lambie's vote but she made it clear to the chamber that she "strongly supported the legislation and would not be persuaded otherwise".

Lower House MPs were recalled to approve the amended bill and those on the Coalition side clapped, cheered and whistled as Cabinet Minister Christopher Pyne hailed the passage of "the most significant reform to school education in Australia's history".

How 'Gonski 2.0' will affect schools

The Government's proposed needs-based system will benefit some schools more than others.

The changes will replace the 27 separate school funding deals with different states and sectors, with a nationally consistent, needs-based funding model.

In a bid to win over the crossbench, Senator Birmingham agreed to spend an extra $5 billion, on top of the additional $18.6 already announced, rolling out the funding over six years instead of 10.

This morning, Mr Turnbull acknowledged his Government would need to find an extra $1.5 billion to pay for that concession over the forward estimates.

The Government also agreed to set up an independent body to monitor the way the money was spent.

While Labor remained firmly opposed to the plan, the Greens had been on the verge of supporting it and heavily influenced the compromises Senator Birmingham eventually made.

But once the Coalition secured the 10 crossbench votes it needed, the Greens announced they would oppose the package, citing "special" transitional arrangements put in place for Catholic schools.

With their votes no longer critical to determining the fate of the bill, intense internal pressures were instantly relieved.

The party was in fact on the verge of splitting, with the NSW Greens heaping pressure on Senator Lee Rhiannon to vote against the Bill even though the party's leader Richard Di Natale and Sarah Hanson-Young wanted to back it.

School funding wars continue

In settling on the needs-based funding model, the biggest loser was the Catholic school system, which says it will be billions of dollars worse off.

Public schools catering to special needs will also be winners in the new education deal. For Giant Steps and 26 other independent special schools like it, raw numbers tell the story.

The National Catholic Education Commission believes there has been a breach of faith by the Government because it claims it was not properly consulted about the changes.

It has vowed to campaign against the Coalition all the way to the next election and, in a foretaste of that, it launched a robo-call campaign in four marginal Liberal seats in Victoria.

But the win is important for the Coalition on a number of fronts, not least because it shows it can govern with the fractious Senate that it had a hand in delivering with the 2016 double dissolution election.

The Government will argue its education plan is both good policy and good politics; delivering funding to the schools that need it most, while helping to settle education as an issue.

Labor has promised to continue campaigning on education and will have strong allies in the Catholic Education Commission and Australian Education Union.

But the Coalition is hoping their arguments may lose some of their bite once the money begins to flow to state schools.


Sunday, June 25, 2017

Evergreen College President: Disruptive students will be given a stern warning

You knew this was going to happen. Last week Evergreen State College President George Bridges wrote a piece for the Seattle Times. In the piece, he said disruptive students at the school were still being investigated and added that anyone found to have violated the student code of conduct would face sanctions. I wrote at the time, “anyone who saw Bridges pathetic performance when confronted by progressive students on his campus has to wonder just how seriously these violations are going to be taken.” The answer is not very seriously at all.

Tuesday, Bridges told state lawmakers disruptive students would be disciplined but then made clear that amounted to a warning not to do it again. “We are sending each individual student who we can identify from video footage of the protest at Bret Weinstein’s classroom a letter of notification and warning and the warning will be quite clear. If they repeat this type of disruption in the future they will be adjudicated under our conduct code,” Bridges said.

Later, during questioning by one of the state lawmakers, Bridges clarified that adjudication under the code of conduct was “a fairly lengthy process that involves protecting the rights of those alleged to have committed conduct code violations.” In other words, the school will walk through a process where students will once again be given the chance to disrupt and claim they are being treated unfairly.

Meanwhile, Thurston County Chief Deputy Dave Pearsall told lawmakers Evergreen students have been doing this sort of thing for some time already without any disciplinary response from the school. He pointed to the swearing in of new police chief Stacy Brown back in January. “Several students, I think there was probably 20 or 30 students there, decided that they were going to get up in front and take over the entire event, with noisemakers, and drums, and horns and the PA,” he said. Pearsall continued, “They actually went and took one of the microphones out of, I believe it was the vice president’s hand, just jerked it out of her hand. They were cursing, saying all kinds of things. It just went on and on. It was complete chaos.

“It got to the point where, after about 15 minutes President Bridges decided that the ceremony wasn’t going to happen. I personally watched some of these students go up to Chief Brown, right up to her face, and call her all kinds of names, cursing at her. As well as, she had her young children with her who were fearful of what was gong on.”

Asked if he was aware of any disciplinary actions taken against the students, Pearsall replied, “I am not.” Afterward, President Bridges claimed the students were disciplined following that incident but he couldn’t recall what disciplinary measures were taken. Pressed on the point, Bridges said he believed three students were put on probation, meaning they could face further discipline if they acted out again. You get the impression that there are a lot of warning at Evergreen but no actual discipline.

Bridges did apologize for one error. He asked Chief Brown to come to campus without her weapon, concerned it might agitate the students he is now promising to discipline. “I asked Chief Brown to come without her firearm and that was wrong. And I’ve apologized to her for it,” Bridges said. Here is video of the testimony.


Lacking Common Sense about discipline

The young woman looked nervous as she knocked on the window of my classroom door. "Excuse me, class," I said as I stepped out to speak. She was a former student and substituting in the next classroom.

"A boy is throwing things at other students. He won't stop, and he refuses to go to the principal's office. Can you help me?"

"Sure," I said. The boy wouldn't make eye contact when I entered the room. Every other student did though, waiting to see what would happen.

"Bobby," I said (not his real name). "Miss Fellows told you to go to the principal's office and now I'm telling you." He just sat there, still not making eye contact. "Bobby," I repeated, "Maine law say that if a student is a danger to others and refuses to leave the classroom, the teacher can use the necessary force to remove him. Now I'm telling you again to go down to the principal's office."

That got no response either.

"I'm going to count to three. If you're not moving at three, I'll move you. One, two, th..."

He got up, went out the door, and headed for the stairs. I picked up the wall phone and called down to say Bobby was on his way. "Thank you," said Miss Fellows.

"You're welcome," I said, then returned to my classroom and forgot about it.

The following Monday, Jim Underwood, the principal, came into my room during my free period. I liked Jim. He was a very effective administrator. "Tell me what happened with Bobby," he said, because he'd been out of town when I dealt with the incident and had appointed another teacher as acting principal. I filled him in.

"If you had removed him," Jim said, "I would not have backed you up."

That surprised me. Like I said, Jim was a good principal, one of the best I ever worked with. "Jim," I said. "That is state law. I have a copy in my briefcase."

"I know it is," he said, "but the courts are interpreting it differently now."

"So, if I wasn't to remove him, what was I supposed to do?"

"Call the police."

"You're kidding," I said.


"That's crazy. I'm supposed to leave two classrooms full of students sitting on their hands and wait for the cops because of one disruptive student?"

"Yup. That's what they're telling us now."

Bobby went to the office on his own because he knew I wasn't bluffing. Calling the police would ruin half a day for about fifty students and at least two teachers. Clearly, things were getting much too complicated and I wondered how long I could continue in the teaching profession.

In July of last year a similar case came before our newest Supreme Court Justice, Neil Gorsuch, when he was on the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals. A middle school boy in New Mexico had disrupted class by generating fake burps. He wouldn't stop and was sent into the hall, but he kept opening the door to "let out a giggling belch" as the Daily Signal described it. Then:

    "a school resource police officer placed the student under arrest ‘for interfering with the educational process.' The 13-year-old then spent approximately one hour locked in a juvenile detention facility before he was released to the custody of his mother. He was never charged for his misbehavior."

The boy's mother filed suit claiming her son's civil rights had been violated. This was an even less serious case than the one I dealt with because there was no danger from flying objects, yet the student had been arrested and incarcerated, however briefly. Ten years had passed and the teaching profession had continued its decline. A minor incident became a federal case and made it to a high court, which, in a 94-page ruling decided in the school's favor.

Gorsuch wrote only four pages in dissent. According to the Daily Signal again: "Gorsuch . . . explain[ed] that a reasonable police officer should have understood that arresting a ‘class clown for burping was going a step too far.'"


Gorsuch concluded that: "the statutory language on which the officer relied for the arrest in this case does not criminalize ‘noise[s] or diversion[s]' that merely ‘disturb the peace or good order' of individual classes."

Referring to his colleagues on the 10th Circuit, he said: "Often enough the law can be ‘a ass-a idiot,'" quoting Charles Dickens, "and there is little we judges can do about it, for it is (or should be) emphatically our job to apply, not rewrite, the law enacted by the people's representatives. In this particular case, I don't believe the law happens to be quite as much of a ass as they do."


Common sense is often a misnomer when applied to educational and judicial practice these days, and it's refreshing to have a Supreme Court justice willing to point that out.


Australia: Teachers agree that children with disabilities disrupt normal schools

Sunrise host David Koch has questioned the education minister about how children with disabilities will receive the attention needed in mainstream schools following Pauline Hanson's controversial comments.

Pauline Hanson refused to back down on Thursday following her comments in parliament that children with autism are putting a strain on classrooms in schools and Koch put the dividing question to Education Minister Simon Birmingham.

The host claimed even though Pauline Hanson's comments seemed confronting, teachers have emailed the network claiming they do struggle to seamlessly include children with disabilities into the classrooms due to a lack of funding.

'Whenever Pauline says anything it's like using a sledgehammer and we all react against her because we all want inclusion in our schools,' Sunrise host Koch said on Friday morning.

'But a lot of teachers emailed us and said Pauline is right, because we don't have the funding and we don't have the teachers aids to be able to integrate kids with disabilities into the classroom. We want more funding.'

While disagreeing with the way the One Nation leader expressed her opinion, Mr Birmingham does accept there needs to be more support in mainstream classrooms.

'Well I don't agree with the way Pauline put her comments at all, but I do accept there is a need for additional support for schools, teachers and classrooms to be able to support all students with disabilities, including the number of students with autism,' the education minister said.

'What Pauline did last night to her credit and a number of minor parties, with the Turnbull Government's leadership, was back fairer funding arrangements for students with disability.'

The education minister said thanks to One Nation and other parties backing Gonski 2.0, it will provide funding to schools to help students with disabilities - especially children with higher needs - while still remaining in the school environment.

Walled Aly, The Project Host on channel 10, said the One Nation leader missed the mark and that funding for teacher's aids would go a long way to helping autistic children thrive in the classroom.

On Thursday, Federal Labor MP and proud mother Emma Husar fervently demanded One Nation leader Pauline Hanson apologise to children with autism.

The mother-of-three, with a son with autism, claimed Hanson's comments were 'ill-informed' and she owed parents of Australia an apology.