Friday, September 22, 2017

New Middlebury College Speaker Policy Basically Encourages Their Students to Make Threats Against Speakers

Last school year, Middlebury College, an elite private school in Vermont, attempted to host controversial author and scholar Charles Murray before a mob stepped in and violently ended the event before it could begin. No charges were filed against the student protestors, despite the fact that a professor was left with a serious neck injury and a concussion in the melee. Now, hoping to prevent a repeat of these events, Middlebury has announced a new interim speakers policy: the school will simply cancel all speakers if there's a "credible threat" made against them.

While the first two points of the new policy are fairly standard (three weeks notice for reserving rooms, please make any note of any security concerns), the final four give significant pause. I've highlighted the questionable policies below:

Requests to schedule an event will be reviewed weekly by staff from Student Activities, Event Management, and Communications to identify any events that are a likely target of disruption, threats, violence, or other acts of intimidation, or are likely to draw unusually large crowds.

In the event of a credible likelihood, based on prior incidents or current evidence, that an event is likely to be the target of threats or violence, the Threat Assessment and Management Team will conduct a risk assessment of the event, consulting with local law enforcement as needed, in order to advise the administration.

Representatives from Public Safety/Campus Security and Risk Management will review the risk assessment and determine resources or measures that might be necessary to ensure that the event can proceed without undue risk to the speaker and/or members of the community. This review will include a consideration of Middlebury Emergency Preparedness Plan and Emergency Operations protocols.

In those exceptional cases where this review indicates significant risk to the community, the president and senior administration will work with event sponsors to determine measures to maximize safety and mitigate risk. Only in cases of imminent and credible threat to the community that cannot be mitigated by revisions to the event plan would the president and senior administration consider canceling the event.

Gee, I can't imagine a scenario where this could backfire, can you? This new policy effectively encourages student groups to make plans to protest and to threaten speakers that they don't want on campus. This is not something that Middlebury should want more of on their campus. While I'm sure Middlebury had the best intentions in creating these policies, this is not behavior that should be egged on.

Former White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer, who graduated from Middlebury in 1982, described the interim policy as one that will "legitimize heckler's veto."

Instead, the school should crack down on those making the "credible threats" against the speakers, rather than canceling the event altogether. Nobody wins in this scenario. College is a time to be exposed to uncomfortable ideas and to learn new things. (Or, if a person doesn't like the speaker at the event, they could always do something else with their time.) It's absurd for Middlebury--or any college--to seriously propose this kind of policy. It's a disservice to its students.


How to Give the Public Confidence in Charter Schools 

A couple of policy tweaks could restore voters’ sinking support for charters

Last month, 17 young men and women began their final year at Success Academy Charter Schools, the largest of the many stunningly successful charter networks operating in New York City. The first ever seniors at Success, these students have gained a lot of peers during their eleven years of study — both within their own school network and at charter schools around the country. Since 2006 the number of American students in charter schools has more than tripled, rising to an estimated 3 million for the 2016–17 school year.

    It’s no shock that the rise of charter schools has spurred nationwide opposition from teachers’ unions, which are losing their vise grip on salary and benefits negotiations as independently managed schools spread. It is alarming, however, that the campaign against charters may be starting to gain ground. A poll released last Friday by the nonpartisan journal Education Next shows that public support for charter schools has declined by more than 10 percentage points just in the past year, with the rising doubts spread evenly across party lines.

    There are many possible explanations for the increasingly negative perception of charters among the American public. But school-reform advocates should take the news as an urgent call to rebut the slander being heaped on charters and to address the deficient policies that actually have held back their success in some regions.

    In the realm of slander, left-wing advocacy groups appear to be racing to outdo each other. The NAACP called for a freeze on all new charters last fall, alleging that independently operated schools siphon resources from needy public-school students. Then, when the group reiterated its stance in July, American Federation of Teachers president Randi Weingarten piled on by condemning charters as the “cousins of segregation.”

    These two intermingled charges don’t stand up to the evidence. If there is one area in which charter schools have excelled, it has been in delivering results for poor black and Hispanic students. Just like its previous nationwide study in 2013, the latest report from the Center for Research on Educational Outcomes showed that charters improved performance in reading and math at a higher rate than traditional public schools among low-income minority students. Accusations of discrimination have likely stoked public fears about charters, but frankly, the positive results in classrooms across the country will continue to speak for themselves over time.

    In the long run, expanding the practices that boost charter schools’ performance will be more important for sustaining such schools’ popularity than merely squashing thin left-wing criticisms. There are several states and regions in which charters have indeed lagged — rarely to the point of significantly underperforming neighboring public schools, but enough to make parents skeptical about the promises of the model. Fortunately, some of the differences between regions where charters flourish and ones where they flounder are clear, and could be corrected by shifts in state policy.

    The first big difference-maker in charter-school outcomes by region is the presence of authorizers that actively shut down underperforming schools. States such as Florida and Arizona, where charters are finally managing to reduce the achievement gap between their white and black students, are also among the leaders in closing low-performing schools: both closed more than 5 percent of their charters in 2015–16 alone. To ensure that poor-performing schools are held to account, regional authorizers must have both the power to close schools and the incentive to do so. Confoundingly, many charter-school authorizers are compensated based on the number of schools in their portfolios. In Michigan, where charters still outperform traditional public schools by a slight margin, a recent New York Times Magazine feature was nonetheless right to point out that the cash-strapped colleges and school boards that accredit charters have often hesitated to close schools and hurt their own bottom lines.

    A second, even clearer difference between regions where charters succeed and regions where they struggle is the balance of independent versus network-affiliated schools. Headlines often tout the fact that urban charters fare better than suburban ones, but much of this trend can be chalked up to the fact that charter schools in cities are likelier to belong to networks. These networks reduce the administrative costs for each of their schools and provide invaluable know-how for teachers and administrators at newly opened locations. Although the network model is already spreading to some sparsely populated areas, states could attract more power players like the Knowledge Is Power Program and Great Hearts Academies to their suburbs with tailored tax incentives.

    Since the first charter opened in 1991, school reformers have argued that the charter model would allow states and individual schools to test innovative methods of education. A quarter century of trials has proved these reformers right, with charter schools producing unmatched benefits for their students in most but not all cases. Now, the charter movement — like many of the graduates it has produced — is coming of age, ready to apply the best practices of its early years on a more consistent basis. Of course, maturity for charters shouldn’t mean an end to “experimenting.” But to restore public confidence, and spread the success of the charter model to every region in the nation, those states who haven’t yet done so should move quickly to create the conditions under which it has been proven most effective.


Anti-political correctness professor to speak at University of Regina

Gad Saad says political correctness is killing freedom of speech on school campuses

A visiting professor who believes that political correctness is killing the free exchange of ideas on campuses will be speaking at the University of Regina on Monday.

Dr. Gad Saad is a Concordia University marketing professor and creator of the popular YouTube channel, 'The Saad Truth,' where he explains his stances on evolutionary biology and concerns that freedom of speech is becoming increasingly restricted by so-called lunacy on campuses.

His arguments have been met with controversy. For example, he believes that while trans people should not face discrimination, people should not be forced to refer to them by preferred genderless pronouns like ze and zir.

Saad was part of the recently cancelled panel discussion titled, The Stifling of Free Speech on University Campuses, at Ryerson University, which also featured former Rebel Media personality Faith Goldy and University of Toronto professor Jordan Peterson, who made headlines for refusing to use gender neutral pronouns.

"I guess the irony is lost on those folks," Saad told CBC Radio's The Morning Edition, calling those who rallied to shut down the event "domestic terrorists."

"If we think of terrorism as people flying planes into buildings and we restrict it to something as grand as that, then yes it is hyperbole. But if we recognize that the intrusion on our rights, our most fundamental right as citizens of Canada is to have the right to speak freely and once someone actually shuts that down, I mean it almost can't be a greater societal crime than that."

He's appearing at the school as part of the president's deliberation and debate speaker series.

School president Vianne Timmons said she knows some of Saad's views are controversial, but said a committee of six faculty members recommended him for the speaker series because his thoughts will stir debate, which is the point of the event.

"He may have views that are not shared by everyone on campus, but the whole idea of a university is to present views that are unique and different and have people think and contemplate and critique and learn."

Timmons said two people — one faculty member and one student — have voiced concerns that some of Saad's views may be offensive, but she doesn't know of any planned demonstrations.

Regardless, she said security has been put on alert for the event.


Thursday, September 21, 2017

Evergreen professor at center of protests resigns; college will pay $500,000

Professor Bret Weinstein was a vocal critic of an Evergreen State College event that asked white students to leave campus for a day as part of Day of Presence/Day of Absence. A group of students, in turn, confronted Weinstein and called him a racist, and the video went viral.

Bret Weinstein and his wife, Heather Heying, resigned from their faculty positions effective Friday. The couple filed a $3.85 million tort claim in July alleging the college failed to “protect its employees from repeated provocative and corrosive verbal and written hostility based on race, as well as threats of physical violence,” according to the claim.

Weinstein had criticized changes to the school’s annual Day of Absence after white students who chose to participate were asked to go off campus to talk about race issues. He called the event “an act of oppression,” according to emails obtained by The Olympian. Weinstein later appeared on Fox News and wrote an Op-Ed in The Wall Street Journal.

The incident led to protests and threats over allegations of racism and intolerance, pulling Evergreen into a national debate over free speech on college campuses. The campus was closed for three days in June and graduation was moved to Cheney Stadium in Tacoma.

In an email to faculty and staff sent Friday about 6:40 p.m., Evergreen officials wrote that the college will pay $450,000 to the couple and $50,000 toward the couple’s attorney fees.

“In making this agreement, the college admits no liability, and rejects the allegations made in the tort claim. The educational activities of Day of Absence/Day of Presence were not discriminatory. The college took reasonable and appropriate steps to engage with protesters during spring quarter, de-escalate conflict, and keep the campus safe,” according to the email.

In a statement, Evergreen spokesman Zach Powers said the settlement was in the college’s best interest.

“Years of expensive litigation would drain resources and distract from our mission to provide an outstanding education at reasonable cost to the veterans, first-generation college students, creative thinkers and future leaders who study at Evergreen,” he said.

Messages to Weinstein and the couple’s lawyer were not immediately returned Saturday.

Weinstein taught biology and Heying taught anthropology at Evergreen. College officials said they will work with students whose coursework is affected by the resignations.


Appeals Court: Rolling Stone Must Face Defamation Lawsuit Over Rape Story

In unfortunate timing for Jann Wenner, who just put Rolling Stone up for sale, the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals has revived a defamation lawsuit over the magazine's infamous story about the gang rape of a freshman identified as "Jackie" at a University of Virginia campus fraternity.

For that since-retracted article from author Sabrina Erdely, Rolling Stone has faced several lawsuits including one by University of Virginia associate dean Nicole Eramo, which went to trial and was later settled for $1.65 million.

Another lawsuit came from members of Phi Kappa Psi, but in June 2016, U.S. District Judge Kevin Castel granted a motion to dismiss, finding "the article's details about the attackers are too vague and remote from the plaintiffs' circumstances to be 'of and concerning' them."

In an opinion (read here), Judge Katherine Forrest, sitting on the 2nd Circuit panel by designation, decides the lower court prematurely rejected claims from George Elias and Ross Fowler while correctly rejecting those from Stephen Hadford.

"[W]hile it is a close call, we conclude on balance that the complaint plausibly alleged that the purportedly defamatory statements in the Article were 'of and concerning' Elias and Fowler individually," she writes. "At this stage of the litigation, Plaintiffs need only plead sufficient facts to make it plausible—not probable or even reasonably likely—that a reader familiar with each Plaintiff would identify him as the subject of the statements at issue. With regard to the Article, Elias and Fowler have met this burden."

As far as Elias, he alleged to have been identified in the story because he was a fraternity member on the night in question and was known to live on the second floor where the rape was reported to have occurred. His claims were initially dismissed upon the observation that the article contained no details about the bedroom, but his suggestion of having the only bedroom at the fraternity house large enough to fit the description of the rape is deemed by the appeals court as being enough at this stage.

Fowler gets the benefit of the doubt on his claims because of two main allegations. One, that he was the rush chair for the fraternity. And two, that he regularly swam at the university's aquatic center. The article describes how Jackie met one of the fraternity brothers at a pool and suggested that the rape was related to the fraternity's initiation process.

Unlike those of the other two, Hadford's own individual claims don't survive scrutiny. He may have been a member of the fraternity, but the fact that he rode a bike on campus isn't enough of a connection to the article's statement that Jackie had seen "one of the boys riding his bike on the grounds."

According to the opinion, "there is no allegation that it is unusual for UVA alumni to bike through campus such that a reasonable reader familiar with Hadford’s biking habits would conclude that the Article plausibly referred to him."

However, quite notably, the 2nd Circuit accepts a group defamation theory.

Forrest writes that the size of the fraternity does not present an obstacle because 53 members of Phi Kappa Psi is "sufficiently small." Under New York law, a plaintiff is more likely to succeed in a group defamation when the community is small enough that individual members are readily associated with the group.

The lower court agreed in that regard, but also came to the conclusion that the article didn't expressly or impliedly state that the fraternity required all initiates to participate in a rape.

"The District Court erred by evaluating the Article’s various allegations against Phi Kappa Psi in isolation, rather than considering them in the context of the Article as a whole," states the opinion. "Taking the allegations in the Article together, a reader could plausibly conclude that many or all fraternity members participated in alleged gang rape as an initiation ritual and all members knowingly turned a blind eye to the brutal crimes. Indeed, Erdely suggested such an interpretation in her Podcast interview."

Forrest articulates.

"Consider first the description of Jackie’s purported rape," she writes. "Not only did nine men associated with the fraternity participate in the alleged offense, but several made comments—'Don’t you want to be a brother?' and 'We all had to do it, so you do, too'—implying the event was part of an initiation ritual."


More dumbing down coming for California colleges

California State University officials want more undergraduates to earn their degrees and do so more quickly. Yet their “solution” could compound the more fundamental problem that too many students are graduating without being prepared.

CSU Chancellor Timothy P. White issued an executive order last month that changes policies affecting entering freshmen’s knowledge assessments and course placements. One change is allowing remedial English and math classes to count as credit-bearing courses toward a degree. To help avoid remedial courses altogether CSU plans to use multiple measures to determine course placements not just scores on tests taken during students’ junior or senior years of high school. These measures will include high school course grades and GPAs.

Yet these changes are risky, as Thomas D. Elias explains in The Orange County Register.

The 23-campus California State University system knows it must somehow speed up graduation beyond today’s pace, which sees just 19 percent of entering freshmen graduate within four years. The low rate is at least partly because more than a third of frosh need some remedial work. ...

The problem with giving academic credit for remedial classes that essentially provide students with knowledge or skills they should have picked up in high school is that it threatens to dumb down degrees from Cal State campuses from the North Coast to San Diego.

He concludes that in spite of CSU officials’ quality assurances, “Still, it may not be possible to turn a cow into a racehorse just by calling it something different or painting it a different color.”

Elias is right, and there’s reason to believe that a similar sort of paint job’s been happening for years in the form of inflated high school performance.

Last fall, the mean high school GPA for students in CSU remedial classes was a 3.2.

How on earth do students with GPAs that would qualify them for the high school honor roll wind up in remedial classes?

Along with remedial students’ high school GPAs, California’s reported annual graduation rates are also high. This spring State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson announced that California’s high school graduation rate increased for the seventh consecutive year to a new record-high, 83.2 percent in 2016 up from 74.7 percent in 2010. In fact, rates were up across almost every student socio-economic group. Torlakson attributed the graduation rate increases to better academic standards, additional funding for schools, and more engaging classes, as he did last year when he made a similar announcement.

But the U.S. Department of Education (ED) isn’t convinced. It’s initiated an audit to determine whether California schools are accurately calculating and reporting high school graduation rates. (See pp. 9 and 17; and also here and here. As of this writing, the results of that audit aren’t available.) According to ED rules that were updated in 2008, the states were supposed to have adopted a uniform method for calculating high school graduation rates that was “more honest” no later than the 2010-11 school year.

The biggest problem with reported graduation rates like these is that no matter how states calculate them, they amount to false advertising about students’ actual preparation for college-level work or a career (see here and here).

According to the latest results from California’s Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) test, the percentage of 11th graders deemed college-ready by the state is alarmingly low (defined as Level 4 or exceeding the state standards).

In English language arts, just 39 percent of non-economically disadvantaged 11th graders are ready for college, dropping to 16 percent for economically disadvantaged students. In math, only 22 percent of non-economically disadvantaged 11th graders are ready for college, plummeting to 6 percent for economically disadvantaged students.

Yet California is hardly the only culprit when it comes to inflating graduation rates. (For state-by-state rates, see here).

For all ED’s emphasis on “more honest” figures, there’s lingering suspicion that its new reporting method isn’t all that honest, either.

Starting with the 2009-10 school year ED announced that the American high school graduation rate had reached a 30-year historic high of 78.2 percent. Each school year thereafter the rates kept climbing to new record-breaking highs:

79 percent in 2010-11
80 percent in 2011-12
81 percent in 2012-13
82 percent in 2013-14
83.2 percent in 2014-15 (the latest year available)

“This increase,” according to President Obama’s press office last October, “reflects important progress schools across the country are making to better prepare students for college and careers after graduation.”

Not everyone’s so sure.

Once the country’s high school graduation rate surpassed 80 percent, alarm bells started going off. NPR advised taking it with “a big grain of salt.” Even Education Week was doubtful about the newest record-high rate. But my favorite response of all came from Robert Pondiscio, senior fellow and vice president for external affairs at the Thomas B. Fordham Institute. In his blistering article titled “The Phoniest Statistic in Education,” Pondiscio gets right to the point: “Let’s just stop pussyfooting around and say it out loud: The ‘historic’ peak in the country’s high school graduation rate is bullsh*t.” [edited]

Such skepticism seems warranted. Since 2009, proficiency rates of American 12th graders on the Nation’s Report Card in reading and math have barely budged and remained shockingly low. For students not considered low-income, less than half score proficient or better in reading (45 percent), dropping to less than one-third in math (32 percent). Results for low-income 12th graders are even worse. Less than one-quarter of low-income students are proficient or better in reading (23 percent), and barley more than one in 10 are proficient or better in math (11 percent).

As it is, remedial education costs Californians up to $14 billion annually. There is no good reason high school graduates should be unprepared for entry level college English and math classes—much less expect taxpayers to pay twice to educate them by counting remedial classes as credit-bearing courses.


Wednesday, September 20, 2017

CNN Debuts Documentary Teaching High Schoolers About Anal Sex, Transitioning

CNN ran a story Monday about a new video documentary created by the network that contains scenes of teaching high schoolers about anal sex, performing oral sex, and transitioning to a new gender.

The documentary, titled, “This Is Sex with Lisa Ling,” features a segment titled, “Sex 101.”

In the video, CNN’s Lisa Ling sits in a classroom with high schoolers, listening to a lesson where a teacher quizzes students on the proper term for a woman receiving oral sex, among other graphic questions.

Other topics taught in this classroom include how to use condoms for anal sex between same-sex couples, after which the CNN host characterizes teaching this as “inclusive.”

The teacher also states that she has students transitioning genders, and that she asks them their preferred pronouns. She also discusses how California passed a new law on sex ed that is creating these discussions in the classroom.

This comes after CNN host Brooke Baldwin was so offended by an offhand reference to “boobs” that she shut down an entire segment.


26 Boston schools at risk of being declared ‘underperforming’

More than two dozen schools in Boston with low standardized test scores are at risk of being declared “underperforming” by the state, an action that can lead to the removal of principals and teachers, according to a School Department analysis.

The 26 schools are spread across nearly every neighborhood, from East Boston to West Roxbury. Officials are expected to learn the fate of each school when the state releases the latest round of MCAS data at the end of October.

If the state orders any of the schools to overhaul their programs, they would have three years to boost student performance or they could face a state takeover. Nine of Boston’s 125 schools are already designated as underperforming, while two others are in receivership, a more dire classification.

“There is no silver bullet to this,” Superintendent Tommy Chang said Friday, noting that urban districts nationwide are struggling to turn around their lowest performing schools.

He added that the school system needs to push ahead with urgency because many of the most marginalized students are in these schools. The schools that have been singled out represent 20 percent of those in the system, educating about 12,000 students.

The analysis, which officials presented to the School Committee last week, offers greater insight into the state of the city’s school system as Mayor Martin J. Walsh runs for reelection this fall.

Walsh, while praising the system for pushing more schools into the two highest-ranking categories in the state accountability system and boosting graduation rates to historic highs, said he and the district are committed to improving schools at the bottom.

“This year’s budget includes an additional $16 million for our lower-performing schools and it’s important that we continue to provide focus and supports to the schools and students that need them most,” Walsh said in a statement.

The analysis underscores the reality that many schools need more attention and resources in order to thrive.

Chang’s team produced the analysis at the request of the School Committee, which wanted a better understanding of how many schools are at risk of being declared underperforming and what steps the system is taking to help prevent that.

Since then, the analysis has slowly circulated among the affected schools, raising questions about their future and fueling debate about whether the data accurately reflect the quality of education being delivered.

The analysis flagged 11 schools for being at the greatest risk of being declared underperforming because their MCAS scores rank very low in comparison to other schools statewide. One of those schools is Roxbury’s Mendell Elementary School, which has been increasingly popular with parents and students.

Some parents said the data do not jibe with their experience, noting the school has expanded its arts programs and introduced robotics and it educates students with disabilities alongside other classmates in traditional classrooms.

Many former Mendell students are now landing spots at the city’s prestigious exam schools.

“I’m baffled by that news,” said Flavia Graf Reardon, whose son is in the fourth grade and whose daughter moved on to Boston Latin Academy. “In my mind, the Mendell is a gem. There are fantastic things happening there. I think this school has been a haven for a lot of different families.”

Also appearing at the very bottom is Blackstone Innovation School in the South End, which highlights the extraordinary difficulty of sustaining school turnaround efforts. The Blackstone had been tagged as underperforming in 2010 but climbed its way out of that designation three years later after getting a new principal, replacing almost all of its teachers, and extending its school day.

But since then, the Blackstone has lost hundreds of thousands of dollars in federal school-improvement grants, forcing it to cut back on academic interventions. More than 90 percent of the students have been classified by the state as “high needs” because they lack English fluency, have disabilities, or live in households receiving welfare benefits.

Bill Wolff, president of the Friends of Blackstone School, said it wouldn’t be helpful for the school to be reclassified as underperforming, noting it just got a new administrative team and has many talented and dedicated teachers.

“It would put more hardship on the school,” Wolff said.

The nine other schools flagged for having the very lowest MCAS performance are Chittick Elementary in Hyde Park; Perkins Elementary in South Boston; the McKinley Schools, a special-education program with multiple locations; Holmes Elementary and King K-8 in Dorchester; West Roxbury Academy and Urban Science Academy in West Roxbury; and Ellis Elementary and Timilty Middle School in Roxbury.

It’s far from certain that all of the schools identified in the analysis would be designated as underperforming. The state identifies only a handful of schools each year as underperforming and would probably consider schools outside of Boston as well.

There is a limit on the total that can be declared underperforming statewide — 4 percent. The state is well below that limit.

As of last fall, 33 schools were designated underperforming statewide, or 2 percent of all schools. And since that time, at least one of them — Mattahunt Elementary in Boston — has shut down.

Chang said that he is hoping the Mendell will avert any sanctions and that he expects to see dramatic increases in its test scores, noting it recently adopted a rigorous curriculum for its upper grades.

In an effort to provide the schools at the bottom with the best supports possible, Chang brought in an outside evaluator last year to diagnose areas of weakness and strength for each school in the bottom fifth percentile.

“We need to make sure . . . that every single school in the Boston Public Schools is a school that parents want to send their children to,” Chang said.

Jessica Tang, president of the Boston Teachers Union, said she was pleased the school system was taking a proactive approach with the schools at risk of state mandated-actions. But she faulted the state’s accountability system for the predicament of many schools, arguing it over-emphasizes standardized test scores and takes funding away from schools too quickly after showing some improvement.

“The accountability system itself is not an accurate measure of student performance and growth,” Tang said. “If you visit some of the schools, you’ll see there are amazing things happening.”

The other 15 at-risk schools identified by the School Department, which have only slightly better performance than the other 11, are Condon Elementary in South Boston; Edwards Middle School in Charlestown; Frederick Pilot Middle School and Community Academy for Science and Health in Dorchester; Hennigan Elementary and Mission Hill K-8 in Jamaica Plain; Irving Middle School and Sumner Elementary in Roslindale; Higginson-Lewis K-8 and Mason Pilot School in Roxbury; Tobin K-8 in Mission Hill; East Boston High School; Charlestown High School; and Lyon Upper School and Winship in Brighton


Australia: Students to undergo literacy and numeracy tests from YEAR ONE as part of new national assessment plan

There have always been assessments of one sort or another done in all years so I see no problem with them being nationally co-ordinated

A new national assessment will see students in the first grade undergo literacy and numeracy tests so they don't 'fall between the cracks.'

At present the NAPLAN system tests children from years three, seven and nine on their reading, writing and mathematics skills but there isn't a national standard for students younger than those year groups.

Minister for Education Simon Birmingham explained that Australia's results in primary and secondary academics had declined and was hoping a new system could prevent errors learned in the earlier years from carrying forward, the Herald Sun reports.

At the moment the idea of a nationwide check hasn't been developed but there are reports it could be integrated into the syllabus by 2019.

A panel of researchers and experts advised the Minister that a 'light check' on school students that age could help bolster results in the long term.

'By identifying exactly where students are at in their development early at school, educators can intervene to give extra support to those who need it to stop them slipping behind the pack.'

Instead of being a test conducted in anxiety-inducing school halls the year one 'check' would be far more relaxed and be administered by teachers known to the students.

An online system would then tally up the child's score and release the information to the principal and parents alike.

Mr Birmingham said he would hold discussions with state and territory leaders and education authorities over a trial and implementation roll out.


Tuesday, September 19, 2017

We've turned Australian universities into aimless, money-grubbing exploiters of students (?)

As an economist, Ross Gittins often has substantial things to say.  But as a Leftist he is also a compulsive moaner.  So the points he makes below are cogent but most of them are disputable.

The one area wherein I agree wholeheartedly with him is his condemnation of relaxed assessment standards for overseas fee-paying students.  This practice is, I think, still a minority one but will surely be a big negative eventually when our universities send home to Asia students whose knowledge and skills don't match what is on the pieces of paper we give them.  It devalues our degrees.

Gittins may also have half a point in saying that Lecturers are poorly paid.  In my day we were paid well above average and there does seem to be some slippage from that.  But with salaries closing in on $100,000 pa it's still a long way from  poverty.  Many junior software engineers get about that and they are undoubtedly bright sparks.

And Gittins again has half a point in saying that tenure is now harder to get.  I was appointed with tenure, a rare thing nowadays. But there has to be a balance.  Tenure protects divergent thinking but it also promotes laziness. Once you can't be fired, why work?  I suspect that the delayed granting of tenure that we now see is not a bad balance.  It ensures that for at least a large part of one's academic life we do some work.

But his other points are contentious.  Recorded Lectures are bad?  I would think they are wholly good.  They relieve students of the pressure to take notes, though they can still take notes if they want or need to.  There was only one course I did in my undergraduate days in which I took notes.  Otherwise I concentrated on listening instead. And I am sure I learnt far more that way.  My grades certainly did not suffer from it.

"Overcrowded" lecture halls?  I don't know what he is talking about.  A lecture hall is not a high school classroom.  In my academic career I often fronted up to a lecture in an auditorium with 1,000 or more students in front of me.  And I was able to allow students to interrupt with questions.  So I would think it was a poor lecturer who couldn't handle that.

He says that universities put too much pressure on academics to do research.  I would say that they do too little.  There are now whole tertiary institutions which devalue research.  And many lecturers in all institutions do little of it. But it is only by doing research that you get a real hold on knowledge in your selected field.  You cannot be at the cutting edge without doing your own research.  Otherwise you are just reading the conclusions of others.

But in the end, Gittins's big beef is that the present system of running our universities amounts to a sort of "privatization", which is of course anathema to Leftists.  I think he should throw off those ideological blinkers and look at what is actually happening.  He looks at that so far only "through a glass darkly"

Of the many stuff-ups during the now-finished era of economic reform, one of the worst is the unending backdoor privatisation of Australia's universities, which began under the Hawke-Keating government and continues in the Senate as we speak.

This is not so much "neoliberalism" as a folly of the smaller-government brigade, since the ultimate goal for the past 30 years has been no more profound than to push university funding off the federal budget.

The first of the budget-relieving measures was the least objectionable: introducing the Higher Education Contribution Scheme, requiring students – who gain significant private benefits from their degrees – to bear just some of the cost of those degrees, under a deferred loan-repayment scheme carefully designed to ensure it did nothing to deter students from poor families.

Likewise, allowing unis to admit suitably qualified overseas students provided they paid full freight was unobjectionable in principle.

The Howard government's scheme allowing less qualified local students to be admitted provided they paid a premium was "problematic", as the academics say, and soon abandoned.

The problem is that continuing cuts in government grants to unis have kept a protracted squeeze on uni finances, prompting vice-chancellors to become obsessed with money-raising.

They pressure teaching staff to go easy on fee-paying overseas students who don't reach accepted standards of learning, form unhealthy relationships with business interests, and accept "soft power" grants from foreign governments and their nationals without asking awkward questions.

They pressure academics not so much to do more research as to win more research funding from the government. Interesting to compare the hours spent preparing grant applications with the hours actually doing research.

To motivate the researchers, those who bring in the big bucks are rewarded by being allowed to pay casuals to do their teaching for them. (This after the vice-chancellors have argued straight-faced what a crime it would be for students to be taught by someone who wasn't at the forefront of their sub-sub research speciality.)

The unis' second greatest crime is the appalling way they treat those of their brightest students foolish enough to aspire to an academic career. Those who aren't part-timers are kept on serial short-term contracts, leaving them open to exploitation by ambitious professors.

However much the unis save by making themselves case studies in precarious employment, it's surely not worth it. If they're not driving away the most able of their future star performers it's a tribute to the "treat 'em mean to keep 'em keen" school of management.

But the greatest crime of our funding-obsessed unis is the way they've descended to short-changing their students, so as to cross-subsidise their research. At first they did this mainly by herding students into overcrowded lecture theatres and tutorials.

An oddball minority of academics takes a pride in lecturing well.

Lately they're exploiting new technology to achieve the introverted academic's greatest dream: minimal "face time" with those annoying pimply students who keep asking questions.

PowerPoint is just about compulsory. Lectures are recorded and put on the website – or, failing that, those barely comprehensible "presentation" slides – together with other material sufficient to discourage many students – most of whom have part-time jobs – from bothering to attend lectures. Good thinking.

To be fair, an oddball minority of academics takes a pride in lecturing well. They get a lot of love back from their students, but little respect or gratitude from their peers. Vice-chancellors make a great show of awarding them tin medals, but it counts zilch towards their next promotion.

The one great exception to the 30-year quest to drive uni funding off the budget was Julia Gillard's ill-considered introduction of "demand-driven" funding of undergraduate places, part of a crazy plan to get almost all school-leavers going on to uni, when many would be better served going to TAFE.

The uni money-grubbers slashed their entrance standards, thinking of every excuse to let older people in, admitting as many students as possible so as to exploit the feds' fiscal loophole.

The result's been a marked lowering of the quality of uni degrees, and unis being quite unconscionable in their willingness to offer occupational degrees to far more people than could conceivably be employed in those occupations.

I suspect those vice-chancellors who've suggested that winding back the demand-determined system would be preferable to the proposed across-the-board cuts (and all those to follow) are right.

The consequent saving should be used to reduce the funding pressure on the unis, but only in return for measures to force them back to doing what the nation's taxpayers rightly believe is their first and immutable responsibility: providing the brighter of the rising generation with a decent education.


British schools break law on religious education, research suggests

More than a quarter of England's secondary schools do not offer religious education, despite the law saying they must, suggests research given to BBC local radio.

The National Association for RE teachers obtained unpublished official data under Freedom of Information law.

It says that missing the subject leaves pupils unprepared for modern life.

But the main union for secondary head teachers said many schools covered religious issues in other lessons.

"They might be teaching through conferences, they might be using citizenship lessons, they might be using assemblies," said Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders.

By law, RE must be taught by all state-funded schools in England, with detailed syllabuses agreed locally.

NATRE says the FOI data, gathered by the Department for Education in 2015 but not published until now, showed that, overall, 26% of secondaries were not offering RE lessons.

Among academies, which make up the majority of secondary schools, more than a third (34%) were not offering RE to 11 to 13-year-olds and almost half (44%) were not offering it to 14 to 16-year-olds.

The Coopers Company and Coborn School in Upminster, Essex, is an academy which bucks the trend. As part of a GCSE in RE, students have been studying religious festivals and teacher Joe Kinnaird believes the subject is vital. "RE in schools provides the best and the perfect opportunity to explore those issues which students see in in the wider world," he said.

"RE and philosophy provide students the chance to explore fundamental questions such as what happens after we die, does God exist, how do we cope with the problem of evil? "These questions are both philosophical and ethical and the RE classroom is where we can explore these issues."

His pupils agree, with one, Lisa, saying: "Not being religious myself, I think it's really interesting to learn about other religions, other cultures, I feel like it can be vital in life to understand other religions."

Her classmate, Benjamin, said that not being taught about religion could result in people being "heavily influenced by what they find on social media".

Fellow pupil Luke added: "Once you're educated about a certain religion you actually know the true meanings of it.

While for Nicole, better religious education could help cut the number of racially and culturally motivated crimes.

"Religion affects politics, so you have to think of it that way. It's really important to know the diverse cultural traditions of other people because it's really relevant today," she said.
Not religious

Fiona Moss of NATRE said too many schools were "breaking the law", resulting in pupils "missing out on religious education".  "It means they are not religiously literate," she said.

"They don't have the opportunity to learn about religions and beliefs, to learn what's important to people or to have the chance to develop their own ideas, beliefs and values.

"It's going to be important for them to understand what people believe they think and what encourages them to behave in the particular ways that they do.

"We're not teaching people to be religious. We're teaching children about religions and beliefs that exist in this country.

Ms Moss said the data showed a shortage of specialist RE teachers throughout the state system.

"If you are an academy, there's a freedom about how you can teach RE and I think some schools struggle with that freedom and think they don't have to be as committed to RE. "They're under financial pressures and maybe this is an easy loss."

Different faiths

But Mr Barton called the idea that schools were deliberately breaking the law "a real oversimplification".

"It might result from the report trying to find a very traditional delivery model of RE. Or it could that they find it hard to recruit an RE teacher, for example, and most head teachers would agree they'd prefer to have provision which is better quality, taught by other people in different ways, if they can't get specialist staff."

A Department for Education spokesman said the government firmly believed in the subject's importance.

"Good quality RE can develop children's knowledge of the values and traditions of Britain and other countries, and foster understanding among different faiths and cultures.

"Religious education remains compulsory for all state-funded schools, including academies and free schools, at all key stages and we expect all schools to fulfil their statutory duties," said the spokesman.


Increasingly, foreign students are choosing Canada over US

Melanie Backal grew up in the bustling capital city of Bogota, Colombia, but for college she wanted to try something new. Her parents told her she would have a chance at a better future if she went to school abroad, and she agreed. She wanted to apply to Harvard.

Then Donald Trump got elected president. Suddenly the United States didn’t seem so appealing.

“All the things he said about Latinos, and everything that’s going on there, I decided to not take a risk,” said Backal, a first-year student at the University of Toronto.

The United States has long been the top destination for foreign students who go abroad for college, but a record number are now choosing Canada instead.

Some reasons are longstanding — fear of gun crime in the United States and cheaper tuition up north. But the 2016 election, and with it Trump’s travel ban and what many see as the demonization of foreigners and immigrants and a new wave of racism, has created a post-Trump surge at Canadian colleges.

At the University of Toronto, the number of foreign students who accepted admissions offers rose 21 percent over last year, especially from the United States, India, the Middle East, and Turkey. Other universities across the country also saw record increases in the last year.

“If you look at the trajectory, clearly Brexit, Trump, things that have been happening in the last year or two — that sense of instability — it’s contributed,” said Richard Levin, the registrar at the University of Toronto, Canada’s most elite university.

The increase is not all because of Trump. Canada has made international student recruitment a national goal to spur economic growth. It now has 353,000 international students and wants 450,000 by 2022. But the political uncertainty in the United States — as well as in the United Kingdom — has given Canada’s effort an unexpected boost.

Overall, the number of international students in Canada has grown 92 percent since 2008. They now make up 1 percent of the country’s population.

By comparison, the United States has about 1 million foreign students and a population ten times that of Canada.

The number of foreign students in the United States has been growing for years, but last year it grew at the slowest rate since 2009.

It is not necessarily the idea of Trump as president that dissuades foreign students from studying in the United States, but the tumultuous climate his election ushered in. High school students in Bangladesh, Ecuador, Iran, and beyond are reading articles about the country and it concerns them.

“I didn’t feel like it was a welcoming atmosphere anymore for an international student,” said Christian Philips, a first-year Toronto student from Egypt. “I wasn’t thinking about Trump or other politicians — I was thinking about people’s perception of me.”

Even before foreign students arrive in Canada, many find it more welcoming than the United States. The paperwork to obtain a study permit is simpler, they said, and unlike in the United States, they can stay and work in Canada for three years after graduation. They also have access to the country’s national health care system.

Once the students arrive, they tend to feel at home in diverse Toronto, a city of 2.8 million where half the population was born outside Canada.

It’s normal to see people in head coverings or hear people speak with an accent. Real estate prices in Toronto are skyrocketing, but neighborhoods of all socioeconomic levels are ethnically diverse.

Located in the geographic heart of the lakeside city, the University of Toronto campus mirrors that diversity.

“My English isn’t the best,” said Backal, the Colombian student, standing in a group of Canadian first-years at a hamburger truck on a recent Friday. “People don’t laugh at me; they help me, they correct me in a friendly way.”

Philips, from Egypt, said he hasn’t felt the subtle hostility in Canada that he has experienced in the United States or the United Kingdom, the kind he says is hard to describe but present nonetheless.

Students from abroad now make up about 20 percent of the University of Toronto’s 71,000 undergraduates. The school wants to keep that percentage steady but diversify the countries they come from. Right now, two-thirds are from China.

Cost is another reason students choose Canada over the United States. International student tuition is much higher than the bargain rates Canadians pay, but it’s often still cheaper than in the United States or the same price for a more prestigious program. Canada also allows some students with Canadian family members to pay local rates.

An engineering undergraduate program, for instance, costs about $11,707 (in US dollars) per year at the University of Toronto for Canadian students. A nursing degree is around $7,033. Political science is about $5,240. Those same degrees cost about $41,574, $38,446, and $36,842, respectively, for foreign students.

The costs do not include housing. A dorm plus a meal plan in Toronto costs $8,000 to $15,000. By comparison, a year of tuition plus room and board at Boston University costs about $67,000. BU is also ranked 11 spots below Toronto on the US News world rankings.

Admissions criteria can also make Canadian universities a more appealing option than US schools. Students are not required to submit essays or references or do interviews. The school admits them based only on high school grades and test scores. Most international students from outside the United States do not have to take the SAT.

Many international students also have parents with Canadian citizenship or an aunt or uncle in the country, making the international transition easier.

That was the case for Maryam Hosseini and Dorsa Fardaei, two first-year Toronto students from Shiraz, Iran. They know the stellar reputation of US colleges, but they have negative perceptions of the country.

“I feel like it’s really unsafe,” Hosseini said, sitting on the steps outside the campus’s main lecture hall with her friend, on a break before their linear algebra class. “This is pretty exaggerated, but I feel like if I go in the [US] streets, I feel like someone is going to take out a gun and shoot someone.”

Hosseini completed her last two years of high school in Canada, and in 11th grade she competed in an international math competition in Pennsylvania. She planned to compete again in 12th grade, but by then Trump had been elected and she heard on Canadian radio about hostility toward Muslims in the United States. She stayed home instead.

As Hosseini told that story, Fardaei piped up. She has her own US anecdote. Once she was in a New York City airport with her family and some friends. The friends told them to stop speaking Persian so no one would suspect them of being terrorists.

“That was really bad,” she said. In Toronto, meanwhile, she said her friends ask her to teach them Persian words.

The university has specific strategies to help students adjust. During the first week of school this month, the Centre for International Experience led campus tours for international students, to show them where to sign up for health insurance, where to get study help, and where to find a place of worship or a cheap restaurant. The center’s lobby was lined with students who came to sort out glitches that inevitably arise with visas, health insurance, or class registrations.

The day before fall classes started, students paraded through the city streets decked in school colors, then swarmed the campus’s central green for an activities fair with an ice cream truck, bouncy room, and dunk tank.

Students from afar were crowded in with those from Canada, all the subject of enthusiastic recruitment for the Mahjong Society, the Immunology Students’ Association, the Korean Outreach Volunteering Association, and other clubs.

The scene resembled something from a state school in Florida or Michigan, but at the same time blissfully removed from the tense atmosphere felt on some US campuses.

While the Canadian government has seized on recruitment of foreign students — and encouraged them to work in Canada after graduation — as a way to strengthen its economy, US universities have felt compelled to issue public statements assuring such students that they still have a place on their campuses.

“We respect people from all nations, cultures, background, and experience and welcome them to join our community,” the president of Bunker Hill Community College wrote in a letter signed by the leaders of all the state’s community colleges last month.

Higher education experts in the United States have noticed students avoiding the country, and they are worried.

“This has been one of our concerns,” said Esther Brimmer, CEO of NAFSA: Association of International Educators, an organization of educators and recruiters who work to bring international students to the United States.

Brimmer sees a direct connection between Trump’s rise and the loss of foreign students. When students go elsewhere, she said, the country loses not just financially but also culturally and intellectually.

“We cannot be complacent,” she said. “We have to push back against measures from the executive branch that would make the US less welcoming.”


Monday, September 18, 2017

A new paradigm of public education

If we were creating school systems from scratch, would we teach the same way we did 50 years ago, before the advent of personal computers? Would we send children to school for only eight-and-a-half months a year? Would we let schools survive if, year after year, a third of their students dropped out? Would we give teachers lifetime jobs after their third year?

Few of us would answer yes to such questions. And thankfully, public schools are changing, particularly in cities, where the needs are greatest. In Boston, for instance, 86 percent of students are minorities, 45 percent speak English as a second language, 20 percent have disabilities, and 70 percent are “economically disadvantaged.”

Cookie-cutter public schools can’t meet the needs of all these children, so we are innovating. Boston has 27 independent public charter schools, which use their freedom from most district and state rules to create new models that work for inner-city children.

Boston Public Schools has six in-district charters, six “innovation schools,” 20 “pilot schools,” 10 “turnaround schools,” and three selective “exam schools,” in addition to 77 traditional schools. The nontraditional schools have increased autonomy over their curriculums, budgets, schedules, and staffing. In general, the more autonomy schools receive, the better they perform.

In Lawrence, the state took over the failing district. Superintendent Jeff Riley, a former BPS principal, brought charter operators in to run three of 33 schools, gave all the schools increased autonomy, raised teacher pay, and replaced half of the principals and about 10 percent of the teachers in his first two years.

In Springfield, state and local leaders created an “Empowerment Zone” to turn around six failing middle schools. Its seven-member board, which includes the mayor, superintendent, and school committee chair, negotiated a new contract with the teachers union, with longer hours, more pay, and the right to elect leadership teams that help principals run each school.

The board turned the worst-performing school over to a charter operator, split two others into smaller schools, and brought in charter veterans to restart two schools. New operators and restart principals can hire entirely new staffs, if they choose to do so. This year the Empowerment Zone added a failing high school, giving it 10 schools.

Born of desperation in our inner cities, a new paradigm of public education is emerging, to fit the realities of the 21st century. It’s just common sense: Schools work better when their leaders have the autonomy to run their schools; when they are held accountable for performance, with consequences for success and failure; when parents can choose among diverse public school models; and when those in charge of steering the district don’t also row (operate schools).

Let’s take these one by one. Autonomy means that school leaders make the key decisions: whom to hire and fire, how to reward staff, and most important, how to structure the learning process. There are dozens of options, from personalized learning with educational software to project-based learning, from intensive tutoring to peer learning.

Principals in traditional public schools get to make almost none of these decisions. Somehow, we expect them to produce higher performance with few of the tools available to managers in other industries.

Accountability means that schools are required to produce positive results for students, from academic growth to parental satisfaction to healthy graduation rates. If schools fail, they are replaced by stronger operators; if they succeed, they may expand or replicate.

Parental choice means that parents can choose between different kinds of schools, since their children come from different backgrounds, have different learning styles, and thrive in different environments. This works best if parents get sufficient information about school models and quality and can choose through a simple process, rather than applying to multiple schools, one by one.

Finally, separation of steering and rowing means that school boards and superintendents don’t employ everyone who works at their schools; instead, they contract with independent, nonprofit organizations to operate schools. In the traditional model, they are politically captive of their employees: If they upset too many adults who vote in school board elections, they may lose their jobs. In a contract model, even if they close a school, they upset only those who work at one school; for other schools, they’ve created an opportunity to expand. That makes it much easier to do what’s best for the kids.

This last principle mainly exists with independent charter schools in Massachusetts, which helps explain why they perform so much better than other public schools. (Even the unions’ favorite research institution, at Stanford University, says charter students in Boston learn twice as much as demographically similar students in BPS.) Two legislators, however, have introduced a bill to let other districts adopt Springfield-style zones, which could contract with independent operators.

The teachers union in Springfield supported the Empowerment Zone, but the statewide union opposes this new legislation. Let us hope, for the children’s sake, that common sense prevails.


Ivy League Profs to Students: 'Think for Yourself'

An open letter from 15 professors encourages students to refrain from "the vice of conformism."

Several Ivy League professors from the universities of Harvard, Princeton and Yale sent out a letter of advice to all incoming college students this week. Their message: “Think for yourself.” In the letter they challenge students to avoid “the vice of conformism” and to avoid the trap of “what John Stuart Mill called ‘the tyranny of public opinion.’”

Over the years, the once-high ideal of America’s institutions of higher learning being bastions of tolerance for the expression of freedom in thought and speech has eroded into them being little more than “safe space” echo chambers of leftist ideology and propaganda. In the past couple of years in particular Americans have witnessed various university and college campuses produce some of the most intolerant policies, voices and behaviors. The list includes the banning of various religious and social groups based on their supposed “bigoted” (non-leftist) ideology, the dis-invitation of various conservative speakers and the creation of “safe spaces” designed to prohibit and limit the freedom of speech in public places on campus. And finally, the growth of leftist social justice warriors who have advocated and engaged in violence in places like UC Berkeley and Middlebury, and most recently the takeover of Evergreen State College by a mob of these leftist SJW students.

The sad thing is that only 15 professors signed the letter. This letter should have garnered near universal support from Ivy League faculty. When concerns over offending another individual’s feelings prohibit someone, specifically one whose career is based on educating and challenging others to learn about and engage new ideas or concepts, from honestly expressing their knowledge and thoughtful opinions without fear of reprisal, we have a problem. The concept that equates unpopular speech to literal violence against individuals with opposing views is a fallacy that has unfortunately gone unchallenged by many on the Left.

Leftists’ argument for engaging in physical violence against others (like “punching a Nazi”) because they find their views repugnant or bigoted is the antithesis of tolerance and objective reasoning. Just yesterday a visiting assistant professor at the University of Tampa was fired for tweeting that he believed residents of Texas suffering from Hurricane Harvey were getting what they deserved because they voted for Donald Trump. His tweet read, “I don’t believe in instant karma but this kinda feels like it for Texas. Hopefully this will help them realize the GOP doesn’t care about them.” It is this type of what might be best described as anti-logic that elevates emotion over and against rational thought. It seeks to limit the freedom of speech because it simply cannot objectively justify the irrational over the rational. It cannot logically support the anti-scientific over the scientific and still refer to it as “science.”

Popular opinion does not create or establish truth; it simply sets cultural precedent that should never be immune from challenge. Thankfully, at least 15 professors are brave enough to point out this reality to incoming college students. We hope many more embrace this truth.


Texas prof resigns from law firm after tweeting he'd be 'ok' with DeVos sexual assault

Leftist hate never stops

A Texas professor and lawyer reportedly has resigned from his firm after tweeting that he’d be “ok” with Education Secretary Betsy DeVos being sexually assaulted.

Robert Ranco had posted a tweet late last week saying, “I’m not wishing for it… but I’d be ok if #BetsyDevos was sexually assaulted.”

The tweet was one of several criticizing DeVos for moving to overhaul how Title IX rules are applied to campus sex assault cases. DeVos claims those rules have led to improper investigations, though Ranco alleged she was making the world more dangerous for girls.

Texas professor and lawyer Robert Ranco resigned from his firm after he sent a controversial tweet. Ranco’s account and the tweet itself have since been taken down.

As reported by Campus Reform, Ranco is an adjunct professor of paralegal studies at Austin Community College and part of the Carlson Law Firm.

But according to Fox 7 in Austin, the firm’s founder Craig Carlson has announced Ranco’s resignation – after a Twitter backlash.

“I wasn’t going to make a rash decision about a member of this family just to appease people on social media. That said, I considered the health of everyone in our organization, promised my partners and my employees that we would act according to the values of our firm, and sat down to speak with Mr. Ranco,” he said in a statement, according to Fox 7.

Carlson said they concluded that “even expressing apathy towards sexual assault is [an] affront to all victims and a line that simply cannot be uncrossed.”

He said Ranco “is taking full responsibility and choosing to resign.”

In a statement to KVUE, Ranco called the tweet a “mistake.” He apologized and said he takes “full responsibility.”


Sunday, September 17, 2017

'Anti-Fascist' Fascists Fail to Stop Jewish Speech at Berkeley

Ben Shapiro spoke to students, while beefed up security around campus kept the peace.

As we noted earlier this week, the University of California-Berkeley was ramping up security in anticipation of “antifa” (read: fascist) violence at a speech by conservative writer Ben Shapiro. In a statement last week, the school declared, “No one should be made to feel threatened or harassed simply because of who they are or for what they believe.” Of course, the university was not referring to conservative speakers but to snowflake students. The statement prefaced that declaration with this: “We are deeply concerned about the impact some speakers may have on individuals’ sense of safety and belonging.” In fact, “support services are being offered and encouraged.” That means counseling for students “offended” by the mere presence of a differing viewpoint. Or maybe the school wants to help fascists who hate Jews like Shapiro.

Well, thanks to riot police on hand, six buildings shut down, a perimeter of blockades, checks of all ticketholders and an estimated $600,000 spent on security, Shapiro was actually allowed to speak without much incident Thursday night. How astounding that such is the cost of free speech at a public university in America.

In other Berkeley news, the university was just awarded a $100,000 grant from the National Park Service to compile historical information intended to “honor the legacy” of the Black Panther Party. Yes, that would be the racist and Marxist revolutionary group that the FBI describes as having “advocated the use of violence and guerilla tactics to overthrow the U.S. government.” According to the funding announcement, the “cooperative research project … is anchored in historical methods, visual culture, and the preservation of sites and voices.” Who’s in charge at the Park Service? Michael Reynolds, one of Barack Obama’s many holdovers.

With this kind of garbage passing for “higher education” at these bastions of leftist indoctrination and intolerance, is it any wonder that enrollments and budgets are falling short?


Civics Ignorance Is Enormous Threat to Constitution

Far too few Americans can name our branches of government, much less our enumerated rights

During a year in which national politics has dominated the 24-hour news cycle, one might think Americans are more in touch with the Constitution than ever before. But the reality is just the opposite. As we approach the 230th anniversary of the ratification of our Constitution on Sept. 17, we should consider mourning the document’s demise as much as celebrating its relevance after so many years.

Brace yourselves: The numbers aren’t pretty.

According to the Annenberg Public Policy Center, “Only 26 percent of respondents can name the three branches of government, the same result as last year. People who identified themselves as conservatives were significantly more likely to name all three branches correctly than liberals and moderates. The 26 percent total was down significantly from APPC’s first survey on this question, in 2011, when 38 percent could name all three. In the current survey, 33 percent could not name any of the three branches, the same as in 2011.”

You might say it’s not a big problem if citizens aren’t able to identify the three branches of government as long as they’re aware of their basic rights. After all, we’ve witnessed plenty of protests across the country in recent years made up of disgruntled and badly parented youth demanding their rights, so they must know what’s in the Constitution, right?

Unfortunately, when it comes to the rights enshrined in the Constitution, the numbers are even worse. As the APPC poll reveals, “Nearly half of those surveyed (48 percent) say that freedom of speech is a right guaranteed by the First Amendment. But, unprompted, 37 percent could not name any First Amendment rights. And far fewer people could name the other First Amendment rights: 15 percent of respondents say freedom of religion; 14 percent say freedom of the press; 10 percent say the right of assembly; and only 3 percent say the right to petition the government.” Your eyes aren’t deceiving you. Nearly 40% of all Americans surveyed couldn’t name a single right in the First Amendment.

We don’t need a citizenry made up of constitutional experts, but how can we expect voters to make informed decisions if they know next to nothing about our system of government or their rights under the Constitution? How can we as Americans ever hope to protect our cherished rights if we don’t even know what they are?

Rather than keeping an eye on those in power and making sure that they’re protecting our Constitution, we’re blind to what’s happening in the halls of whatever that branch is that makes laws. One of the consequences of our hyper-political mindset is that those who do know what’s in our Constitution often take advantage of the masses by proposing ideas that are clearly in violation of that same document.

We’d like to think that our middle schools, high schools, and even colleges and universities are providing students with at least a basic understanding of our government and Constitution. Educating young citizens is perhaps the most critical part of ensuring that future generations will be ready to protect and defend our nation’s ideals and principles.

The problem is that many schools either don’t teach civics, or teach it the wrong way, or teach it in a politicized manner. Compounding this, universities today are more interested in turning students into political activists than knowledgeable citizens who value the ideals upon which our country was founded. As a result, Americans have a lot to say about “rights” that their teachers and professors have conjured up, but they know nothing about the rights in the Constitution.

But let’s not put all of this on our education system. During turbulent times in our nation’s past, we took solace in knowing that those in power were there to defend our sacred documents. Not today. In 2012, Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said, “I would not look to the U.S. Constitution if I were drafting a constitution in the year 2012.”

And in 2014, Barack Obama told the United Nations General Assembly that “on issue after issue, we cannot rely on a rulebook written for a different century,” a clear allusion to the Constitution that leftists believe is outdated and places too many restrictions on government power.

It seems that year after year we predict the demise of the Constitution, but as its anniversary approaches, perhaps we should look for a glimmer of hope. There are new initiatives springing up around the country that encourage the teaching of civics and require students to pass a civics examination.

Over the years, we in our humble shop have distributed more than one million pocket Constitutions toward the end of educating our fellow citizens.

And just this year, President Donald Trump appointed a constitutionalist to the Supreme Court in Neil Gorsuch, and there may be more to follow in the coming years. But a more constructionist Supreme Court is just a start; we have to prepare a new generation to stand up for the Constitution not only in government but also throughout society.

While the recent downward trend in knowledge about our Constitution is troubling, we cannot surrender our solemn obligation to support and defend a document whose ideas have blessed us for 230 years. As our Founders overcame great obstacles in ratifying the Constitution, we too must remain steadfast in educating our citizenry. Only then can we support and defend the framework of our republican system of government and our precious natural rights.


Surprisingly, some feminist lawyers side with Trump and DeVos on campus assault policy

When Education Secretary Betsy DeVos last week announced plans to revise the nation’s guidelines on campus sexual assault, the predictable din of outrage drowned out the applause from some unlikely corners of college campuses: Many liberals actually approve.

Groups of Harvard Law scholars, feminist lawyers, and other university professors had long argued that the Obama-era policy for policing student sexual charges was unfair, creating a Kafkaesque system that presumed guilt rather than innocence. Now, those academics find themselves atypically aligned with the Trump administration on an issue as contentious as sexual violence.

“Betsy DeVos and I don’t have many overlapping normative and political views,” said Janet Halley, a Harvard Law School professor and expert on sexual harassment who supports the change. “But I’m a human being, and I’m entitled to say what I think.”

The liberal-leaning American Association of University Professors has expressed concerns about the Trump administration, but agrees the assault policy needs revision.

“Funny what strange bedfellows politics makes sometimes,” said association senior program officer Anita Levy.

At the center of the debate is the guidance former president Barack Obama’s administration gave to college officials in 2011 under Title IX, the education law prohibiting sex discrimination at schools. Pointing to the continued prevalence of sexual assault on campuses, the rule pushed colleges to take the issue more seriously or lose federal funding.

Covering faculty and students, the new guidelines demanded that schools address every accusation and adopt a weaker standard of evidence than some had already been using. Rather than proving a case beyond a reasonable doubt, as in a criminal trial, or offering “clear and convincing evidence” that an offense was committed, it called for claims to be adjudicated based on a “preponderance of evidence” — guilt was “more likely than not.”

That made the bar lower to prove a sexual assault than any other kind of infraction that warrants discipline on campus, Levy said.

When DeVos raised such issues last week, legions of feminists, distrustful of a president who had bragged about his sexual conquests, bristled at the sound of it. But critics in academia and law had been voicing those same complaints for years. In 2014, 28 Harvard Law professors published an open letter in The Boston Globe criticizing Harvard’s then-new policy as “overwhelmingly stacked against the accused.”

“As teachers responsible for educating our students about due process of law, we find the new sexual harassment policy inconsistent with many of the most basic principles we teach,” wrote the professors, who included Charles Ogletree, an Obama friend and mentor, and emeritus professor Alan Dershowitz.

Also among them were four feminist professors who wrote a letter to the Department of Education last month beseeching DeVos’s department for a revision of the rule. Definitions of sexual wrongdoing are now far too broad, they wrote.

“They go way beyond accepted legal definitions of rape, sexual assault, and sexual harassment,” they wrote. “The definitions often include mere speech about sexual matters. They therefore allow students who find class discussion of sexuality offensive to accuse instructors of sexual harassment.”

The authors — Halley, Elizabeth Bartholet, Nancy Gertner, and Jeannie Suk Gersen — have all researched, taught, and written about sexual assault and feminist legal reform for years. Halley, who has represented both accusers and the accused in campus cases, said her colleagues maintain universities should have robust programs against sexual assault.

“We’re feminists. We get that,” Halley said in an interview. “But we don’t think it’s beneficial to address it in a way that includes overbroad definitions, structurally biased decision-makers, and due process violations.”

The professors argue in their letter that the way the policy has played out on campus led to adjudication that was “so unfair as to be truly shocking.” Some students don’t get to see the complaints against them, the factual basis of the charges, the evidence gathered, or the identities of witnesses, they wrote. Some schools don’t even provide hearings or let a lawyer speak up for the accused.

Still, many women reacted with alarm to see the Trump administration stepping up to defend accused rapists. Rape survivors said they feared their claims would be ignored or doubted once again. On Twitter, where the outrage machine churned, activist Amy Siskind blasted someone for repeating the “hackneyed due process talking point.”

“It’s very hard to get anybody to hear a nuanced position on this issue,” said Halley. “There’s passionate advocates on either side who will pretty much say anything.”

The optics could hardly look worse for Trump, whose treatment of women during his campaign spawned worldwide women’s protests the day after his inauguration. Many women could see the announcement only in the context of Trump’s preelection boasts about his penchant for kissing women and grabbing their genitals.

Dana Bolger, cofounder of Know Your IX, an advocacy group for survivors of sexual assault, called the policy change “a heartless move, but one that is not unexpected coming from an administration by a man who has bragged openly about sexually assaulting women.”

Activists have been eyeing DeVos with suspicion since revelations that she and her husband had contributed $10,000 to the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, a group that advocates for free speech on campuses and that has fought the Obama policy. When DeVos recently held discussions about changing the policy, she included representatives of men’s rights groups.

“They don’t believe survivors. They don’t think they are as credible as the accused,” Neena Chaudhry, director of education for the National Women’s Law Center, charged last week.

Women’s rights groups also recoiled upon hearing that Candice Jackson, the acting head of the Office of Civil Rights, dismissed the bulk of sexual assault accusations as drunken sexual encounters that women had later reconsidered and found problematic.

(Jackson is the person who appeared at a presidential debate with the women who had accused former president Bill Clinton of sexual misconduct.)

Lee Burdette Williams, who left her post as dean of students at Wheaton College after her work was consumed by policing sexual assault, said the complicated issue can be oversimplified by the sharp political and cultural divisions of the moment.

“There’s not a lot of sense that if we collaborate and we bring all these people together and really work on this, good things will happen. There’s just these sides,” she said. “But I’ve interacted with the people [defending accused students] and they’re not awful people. They’re really good people. They’re moms who are just trying to figure this out. But we can’t even have these conversations anymore.”

Some professors who agree with the change in policy still remain skeptical about the way it will play out in the Trump administration. They say they intend to watch closely and weigh in with their own recommendations and they note, with frustration, that the Obama administration never sought public input on the rule it handed down. “The possibility of good policy coming out of this administration is very low,” Halley said. “The surprise is that such bad policy came out of the prior administration on this issue. It’s very confusing.”