Friday, September 29, 2017

Antisemitism at the University of Maryland

Scholars for Peace in the Middle East (SPME) is deeply concerned about the non-renewal of longtime University of Maryland (UM) professor and SPME member Melissa Landa. Currently, her contract is being investigated by the school's Office of Civil Rights and Sexual Misconduct as an incident of retaliation and "religious, political, or national origin discrimination."

The contract non-renewal came after Landa filed a complaint in February with the grievance board challenging Francine Hultgren and John O'Flahavan's decision to remove her from the language arts instruction team in May 2016, according to a recent report by UM's the Diamondback.

Landa has been on the faculty for a decade, most recently as an assistant clinical professor in the Department of Teaching and Learning, Policy and Leadership (TLPL) and received her PhD from the University of Maryland as an advisee of John O’Flahavan.

The tables started to turn on Landa when she began to actively fight BDS and anti-Semitism in early 2016. She increased her pro-Israel activism in the U.S., heading the Oberlin Chapter of Alums for Campus Fairness , which protested anti-Semitic and anti-Israel remarks by a professor, Joy Karega.

It was during that same time that Landa began feeling an increase of antagonism from her superiors. Landa said O’Flahavan pulled out of their joint conference presentation they had been working together for months. Also, days after she informed O’Flahavan of her partnership with Levinsky College of Education in Tel Aviv, he removed Landa from the TLPL Language Arts team.

Landa has been praised for her academic work as recently as May 2017, one month before her firing when she won the College of Education Exceptional Scholarship Award. Moreover, she has created a respectable teaching environment causing her former students to protest her firing.  

SPME calls on the administration of the University of Maryland to stand by the pledge it made after the murder of second Lt. Richard Collins III on campus last May to, "come together as a campus community to reaffirm our core values of diversity, inclusion, respect and civil discourse."

We demand that the university honor this pledge and that a full and complete investigation, personally overseen by UMD President Wallace Loh, be undertaken by the university, in order to determine the extent to which anti-Semitism and/or anti-Israel bias played a role in Professor Landa's termination.


Kiwi businesses commit to 'no qualifications required' hiring

A shortage of skilled workers and a rapidly changing employment environment has prompted New Zealand businesses to declare that they are willing to recruit people with no formal qualifications.

More than 100 companies have so far signed an open letter saying that tertiary qualifications are not required for a range of skilled roles in their workplaces.

Instead, they say they are willing to focus on assessing the skills, attitudes, motivation and adaptability of candidates.

The businesses include Xero, ASB, Fonterra, Microsoft and Vector.

The idea for the letter came from the Strategic Insights Panel, sponsored by ASB and KPMG, which brings together 30 business leaders who have a goal to help double GDP per capita growth from 1.5 per cent to 3 per cent by 2021.

Frances Valintine, who co-led the panel's talent initiative, said the aim was to grow the number of business signatories to 1000.

"Businesses across New Zealand are struggling to find talented employees that can bring enthusiasm, natural talent, passion and potential to their companies as qualifications do not always reflect the true capability of applicants," Valintine said.

"Solving the talent crisis requires bold new ways to match people, capability and jobs and I believe removing the fixed requirement for a formal qualification is a great first step."

Sometimes the demand for "contemporary knowledge" was such that businesses could not afford to wait while a candidate completed a degree, she said.

In many cases, the only formal qualification options were not yet available in New Zealand. "We've got one [role advertised] at the moment for a block chain adviser. But there is no formal programme in blockchain in New Zealand."

She said many businesses were already giving priority to other attributes, such as the ability to collaborate with others or communicate well, but were still advertising the need for a formal qualification when they recruited.

More people were changing careers later life, sometimes due to increasing digitisation or automation of their industries, she said.

The idea that they would all go back to university was not realistic. "Most don't have three years."  Instead, they could bring transferable skills and combine that with on-the-job training.

Rod Snodgrass, director of the Exponential Agency, said a three-year tertiary degree was still good for many things but not the answer for everything. He said it was likely to become more of an issue.

When he was working at Spark, there were secondary students coming in to do software development after school, he said. "They had the right skills."

Trade Me is supporting the initiative with a new category of jobs that require no qualifications. To be listed, they must be skilled positions.

So far, roles listed include developers, business development managers and marketing positions. Spokeswoman Anna Miles said the jobs were "mid-to-high tier" in salary terms. "There are a lot of unfilled positions around NEw Zealand, [employers'] shouldn't narrow their focus unnecessarily."


Union Leaders Tried to Bully This California Teacher Into Silence. She Didn’t Give In

Rebecca Friedrichs, a California school teacher, took her battle with unions to the Supreme Court last year. Though the issue was unresolved due to a vacancy and split on the court, she has continued to carry on her fight against union leadership.

Friedrichs sat down with The Daily Signal to discuss how she ended up at the center of a major Supreme Court case and her ongoing battle to defend the First Amendment and schoolchildren.

She spoke about how she’s learned about union mentality and the tactics union leaders will use to intimidate teachers and shut down voices of opposition.

‘Children Should Come First’

The issue at stake in the Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association case was the First Amendment—specifically, whether public employees who didn’t want to join unions could be forced to pay what the union determines is a “fair share” toward collective bargaining, but in practice amounts to political activity.

Collective bargaining is the negotiation between an employer and a labor union’s members to determine wages and the conditions of employment.

Forced dues were allowed under an earlier decision, but in the 2015 case it appeared the court was heading in the direction of overturning that precedent.

But then, Justice Antonin Scalia died just before the case was to be decided, leaving the court split 4-4 in its final decision and leaving the case unresolved.

Now, two more cases dealing with public unions are on the horizon that could dramatically alter their ability to force nonmembers to pay. This would have a massive impact on the nature of public sector unions.

Regardless of how those legal decisions play out, the role of public unions will continue to be a hotly contested issue.

Though Friedrichs said it took a while to arrive at the conclusion that teacher union leadership was a problem, she learned early on that things weren’t quite right.

In an August Heritage Foundation panel, she said that another teacher in her school, whom she called “the witch,” was abusing children by “yanking” their arms and screaming at them.

Realizing this was a shock for Friedrichs, who had a hard time believing this behavior would be allowed to continue.

“I was naive enough to believe that I would walk into a school situation where all children were protected and where all teachers were like me—loved the children, did their best for the children,” she said.

“The No. 1 thing parents want is for their children to be safe and to get a good education,” Friedrichs said. “I don’t think that’s asking too much.”

But because of collective bargaining agreements, Friedrichs said, bad apples like the witch couldn’t lose their jobs.

This led to her questioning the motives of the teacher unions, and eventually the lawsuit she decided to file against her union—the California Teachers Association—25 years after she began teaching.

“It went from watching that abusive teacher. Then I became a teacher, found out I had to pay for representation fees, found out that my money was being used toward political causes with which I disagreed.”

She explained how, even though she wasn’t a member of the union, she still had to pay “agency shop” fees and contribute to what amounted to the union’s political advocacy.

Friedrichs witnessed this firsthand shortly after getting her teaching job. She said:

A few years into my career there was a voucher initiative in my state. I’m for vouchers, I believe in school choice. I was called a radical right-winger by my union rep because I dared to say, ‘No, thank you, I don’t want to be a phone banker and a boots-on-the-ground campaign worker to defeat vouchers.’

‘These Teachers Were All Terrified’

Friedrichs said she finally decided to join the California Teachers Association and become a representative since she was paying it anyway.

However, she quickly found that the union leadership didn’t like her or anyone else questioning its policies, and said the union engages in fact-free campaigns of intimidation to shut down opposing voices.

At an annual leadership conference, she said one teacher stood up and expressed concern over how the union was spending their money on overt political activity. That didn’t sit well with the union leadership.

“Those leaders on the stage and leaders in the room immediately … shut her down,” she said.

The union leaders suggested that their politics were the “correct” politics and insinuated that the teacher’s opposition was due to bigotry. They shut her down in such an extreme way that “the entire room went dead silent.”

“These teachers were all terrified,” Friedrichs said.

The union leaders use a variety of means to ensure that teachers tow the company line, Friedrichs said. They are told they will lose their jobs and will lose their pensions if they don’t support the unions.

“Teachers work in a culture of fear and [the teacher unions] use manipulation tactics, they isolate teachers like myself who dare to speak out,” she said.

While she encountered a lot of public hostility from the unions when she launched what would become a major Supreme Court case, she said she really didn’t blame her fellow teachers.

Many teachers privately supported her, but were afraid they would be attacked for publicly supporting a cause that conflicted with the desires of union leadership.

“It’s too dangerous to have a different thought if that thought doesn’t agree with union think,” Friedrichs said.

“If you agree with union think, you’re safe. If you say the opposite of union think, now you’re going to be bullied, shunned, isolated, labeled, whatever it takes to shut you up.”

‘It’s the Right Thing to Do’

When The Daily Signal asked Friedrichs why she decided to fight the teacher unions, she responded by saying that “it’s the right thing to do.”

Now that she is no longer involved in a Supreme Court case, she decided that she needed to take up her fight by other means.

“I can positively impact 32 children in a classroom, or I can positively impact every child across the country,” she said. “So I’ve decided to take a little bit of time out of the classroom and this year I served as a fellow to the State Policy Network.”

The State Policy Network, or SPN, is an organization that aids limited government, nonprofit groups at the state level.

She said SPN has given her a platform to take her message to diverse people around the country:

In that capacity I’ve had the opportunity to travel around the country, I’ve spoken to legislators, I’ve let them know that when the teacher union comes and is lobbying you, they are speaking on behalf of the teacher union leadership, they’re not speaking on behalf of me, and they’re not speaking on behalf of millions of teachers across this country who don’t agree with them.

If Americans want to battle back against the power of teacher unions, Friedrichs said, they can start by educating teachers and fellow citizens about the problem those unions cause.

Most of the time teachers only get one side of the story, she said.

“The key for average citizens and parents to start understanding is that it’s the union that’s creating a lot of these problems, and helping teachers understand that,” she said.

Though future Supreme Court cases may eventually curtail the power of public unions over their employees, union leaders are already planning a response.

In July, California passed a bill that requires newly-hired public employees to be given an exclusive orientation by the union that represents them, while taxpayers must foot the bill for their replacements—such as substitute teachers—during their time off work.

Some legislation might go ever further, Friedrichs said.

In the Friedrichs’ case, liberal Justice Sonia Sotomayor suggested that the unions are perhaps an entity of the government, which could mean that some states could create laws to tax citizens to make up for lost dues.

More blue states may follow with similar legislation if unions can no longer force people to pay up. This means that while the confirmation of Justice Neil Gorsuch may lead to Supreme Court rulings that will preserve Americans’ liberties, the debate over the power of public sector unions will continue.

Of the prospect that states will use tax dollars to compensate for lost union dues, Friedrichs simply said: “If they can get away with it, they will.”


Thursday, September 28, 2017

In defence of the ‘no dreadlocks’ school

Not so long ago, if a child’s hairstyle fell foul of his or her school’s uniform policy, the parents would swiftly take the child to the hairdressers to have it rectified. Sadly, those days have gone. Fulham Boys School in west London has threatened to suspend a 12-year-old pupil unless he removes his dreadlocks – which clearly contravene the Church of England school’s uniform policy. Simple, you might think. But in these PC times, when the personal and the political have become so entwined, this reasonable request appears to have fallen on culturally sensitive ears.

Tuesday Flanders, a Rastafarian and the mother of Chikayzea, the child at the centre of the row, is prepared to put up a fight. ‘They can’t expect me to cut my son’s hair’, she declared. According to the Daily Mail, Flanders vowed to fight the school, claiming dreadlocks are ‘our faith, it’s our religion, our culture’, adding that the school had no right to dictate what hairstyle her son should have. ‘It can never be right. It’s a human right’, she said. Flanders appeared on ITV’s This Morning. Visibly upset and close to tears, she recounted her conversation with the school’s headmaster: ‘I went to this gentleman and I pleaded with him to accept it.’ An outraged Eamonn Holmes, co-presenter of the show, addressed the camera and said: ‘Headmaster, sort this. This can be sorted.’

To his credit, the headmaster, Alun Ebenezer, called the show to respond to Flanders’ concerns, saying: ‘We do have a strict uniform policy which we make clear on our website and prospectus, at open days and evenings.’ In fact, the school’s uniform and appearance policy clearly states: ‘No extreme or “cult” haircuts including sculpting, shaving, dreadlocks or braiding are allowed.’

To accuse the school of ‘racism’, or ‘religious discrimination’, is unfair. Moreover, claiming that the school is discriminating against Rastafarian culture is highly debatable. The Rastafarian author Barbara Blake Hannah argues that Rastafarians are essentially Christian – they read and quote from the Bible. And what does the custom of wearing dreadlocks have to do with Biblical tradition? Absolutely nothing, according to the Grenadian humanist Seon M Lewis, author of From Mythology to Reality: Moving Beyond Rastafari.

Flanders’ campaign against the school demands that her personal preferences be prioritised over school regulations. But schools need rules. Yes, they may sometimes feel like an unnecessary burden. But following school rules is a sign of respect, and uniform rules help to minimise classroom distractions. Chikayzea has been humiliated enough. He needs to cut off his dreadlocks and return to school for the sake of his education. He can always grow them again. And the school should stick to its guns, for the sake of the authority of schools everywhere.


Trigger warnings won’t resolve trauma

PTSD shouldn't be dealt with in the classroom

Over the course of the last decade, trigger warnings have transcended the blogosphere and have been imported into the classroom. A considerable number of educators have embraced the routine of placing content warnings on texts and potentially sensitive areas of their academic syllabuses. These are intended to indicate to survivors of trauma that they may be about to encounter material they find triggering, and that they may want to remove themselves from the situation.

Within certain academic departments it has been decided that content indicators are the most appropriate method of accommodating the recovery of survivors of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and furthermore, that the classroom is the most appropriate environment for such a recovery to be managed.

Trigger warnings were originally conceived within the feminist blogosphere and within likeminded activist circles. They were a tool used in a wider strategy of resistance to evils such as misogyny, transphobia, rape and sexual assault. Their use within these settings does acknowledge a very important truth: that trauma incurred from harassment, as well as physical and sexual abuse, is often harboured by survivors – who receive little support. The acknowledgment of trauma and the effects it has on survivors is, of course, the first step one must take to heal from it. But it is the first step within a much longer journey to recovery.

If survivors of trauma democratically decide within their own groups that they should prioritise trigger avoidance as their own form of resistance, they are obviously free to do so. But to import this strategy into the classroom, a space that is already unfit to treat conditions like PTSD, creates a censorious environment where many difficult but incredibly important topics simply cannot be broached in the depth they deserve. Moreover, this strategy promotes the pernicious lie that PTSD sufferers can heal themselves by just sweeping their troubles under the rug. That’s a cruel falsity that must be shattered.

The use of trigger warnings in this educational context can reinforce a behavioural trait known as maladaptation. This is the antithesis of adaptive behaviour, which constitutes an action one takes to alter a non-constructive behaviour into a more positive, constructive form of behaviour. In the case of maladaptive forms of behaviour, one may believe they are taking an action to combat their anxiety, such as avoiding potential triggers within texts, but it is counterproductive in alleviating the stress of the trauma over a long-term period.

By mandating the use of trigger warnings, educators who may have no specialist experience as mental-health professionals appropriate the role of therapist-by-proxy within the classroom. This is incredibly dangerous, and it is astonishing that those who claim to have the best interests of PTSD sufferers at heart do not seem to consider the harmful implications of this.

Avoidance of triggers is inimical to recovery. When any PTSD patient meets the symptomatic criteria for the disorder, the aim of the therapist is not to maintain the occurrence of symptoms within the patient - the entire point of a therapist’s intervention is to help a patient recover. Educators who give into student demands for trigger warnings, and therefore endorse avoidance, then become an obstacle to a survivor’s recovery. They create an echo chamber within their classrooms where, in the short-term, a survivor will feel safe from their trauma. But this will make them less prepared for navigating the outside world, which doesn’t come with such warnings.

The Institute of Medicine concluded in 2008 that a form of cognitive behavioural treatment known as prolonged-exposure therapy is the most effective treatment for PTSD. Prolonged-exposure therapy involves direct, first-person reimagining of the trauma that a patient experienced, and multiple times. This technique was proved to reduce a traumatic memory’s capacity to cause distress in numerous cases. Furthermore, Robinaugh and McNally found in 2011 that the more central a case of abuse was to a female survivor’s identity, the more severe their PTSD symptoms were.

Consequently, according to Robinaugh and McNally, there are two obvious courses of action for survivor recovery. Firstly, survivors must build up long-term resilience to traumatic memories. Secondly, they must find a way to ensure they do not define themselves by their abuse. These two fundamental aspects of recovery are undermined by slapping arbitrary trigger warnings on any potentially upsetting content.

We must not allow flaky political ideology masquerading as bona fide clinical psychology to become accepted practice in the classroom. We must elevate the voices of the psychological community who advocate the development of resilience to traumatic memories, rather than those who endorse the indulgence of personality pathology. Having been taught at university by many of these educators, I’m sure most of them have nothing but good intentions when they deploy trigger warnings before classes. But as St Bernard’s old proverb goes, the road to hell is paved with good intentions.


San Diego State University Students Get Extra Credit For Calculating Their 'White Privilege'

Students at San Diego State University can earn extra credit in Professor Dae Elliott's classes if they take a quiz to determine if they have "white privilege."

The quiz is a 20-question checklist that is supposed to help SDSU students dig deep into their past and discover that the color of their skin has afforded them untold benefits in life

Written with all the subtlety, intelligence, and research metholody of a Buzzfeed quiz where you click on foods you hate to determine your most problematic personality trait (I took it, it was "honesty"), the quiz seeks to determine a person's rank of privilege by way of answering questions like whether they can find Band-aids in their flesh tone, whether "I can turn on the television and see people of my race widely represented," and whether "I am never asked to speak for all the people of my racial group."

That last one is particularly ironic, since it's part of a quiz to determine whether an entire ethnic group, as a whole, can claim to be privileged above any other entire ethnic group by virtue of their skin color.

The higher your score, the higher your overall privilege. But , of course, the quiz isn't necessarily comprehensive. According to the paragraph at the bottom, even if you score low on the test, you can still be privileged if you're not of a minority "gender, sexual orientation, class, [or] religion." To earn the full measure of extra credit, students were also required to reflect on their score in an essay:

"Were you surprised by your score, or did it confirm what you already knew? Why is privilege normally invisible and what does it feel like to make it visible? Do you think this exercise is different for white students than for students of color? For black students than for Asian, Indian, Latino/a students, or other students of color?”

Professor Elliot told the College Fix that the exercise is meant to encourage a form of self-acutalization among students who haven't been exposed to other cultures (or, for that matter, to many social justice warriors).

“Only through processes that allow us to share intersubjectively, weigh all of our perspectives according to amount of shareable empirical evidence can we approximate an objective understanding of our society,” she said. “It may never be perfect, in fact, I am sure we will always be improving but it is a better response if we are truly seekers of what is truth, what is reality. In a society that values fairness, our injustices that are institutionalized are often made invisible.”

San Diego State University College Republicans disagree, calling the exercise "divisive," and noting that while people may experience various privileges and benefits, the excercise was meant to drive home the idea that minorities are victims of a deliberately unjust society that can only be equalized with extensive government involvement.


Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Harvard alumni protest against Spicer, Lewandowski

Harvard University alumni really don't want Sean Spicer or Corey Lewandowski to be given fellowships at the institution.

The Ivy League institution announced a controversial list of visiting fellows at the Institute of Politics at Harvard earlier in September. Besides former White House press secretary Spicer and Donald Trump’s former campaign manager Lewandowski, the list also included breakfast television host Joe Scarborough and Chelsea Manning, the former U.S. military intelligence analyst who spent seven years in prison for leaking classified documents.

But Spicer and Lewandowski have attracted the most pushback from members of the university community. An online open letter asking Harvard President Drew Faust to rescind the offers of fellowships to the pair has been signed by more than 1,900 people claiming to be Harvard alumni.

The letter, addressed to Faust and the Institute of Politics at Harvard University, said that the invitations had given an “imprimatur of intellectual and moral legitimacy” to two men who had “done much to degrade public discourse in this country, re-ignite white nationalism, and further reactionary policies that harm millions.”

The letter criticized Spicer for serving as the “mouthpiece for an administration that runs counter to the values Harvard purports to embody” and questioned what undergraduate students could learn from him.

“What can undergraduates learn from a man whose brief tenure in national communications began with an unabashed lie about crowd sizes, continued with an ignorant minimization of the Holocaust, dabbled in unvarnished hostility to the free press, and ended in public ignominy?” the letter said.

Spicer served as Trump’s chief spokesman for six months. During his tenure, he was roundly criticized for defending misleading claims about the size of the crowd at Trump’s presidential inauguration and made an inaccurate comparison between Adolf Hitler and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Since leaving office, Spicer has appeared on Jimmy Kimmel Live and made a self-deprecating cameo at the Emmy Awards.

The open letter also referenced Lewandowski’s controversial time as Trump’s presidential campaign manager, during which he allegedly assaulted a female news reporter and was seen on video manhandling an anti-Trump protester at a campaign rally.

The letter said that Lewandowski had run “a campaign that began with racist provocation and continued with rampant misogyny” and suggested he posed a threat to would-be journalists at Harvard. “What could this man offer that would be worth exchanging for the safety of student journalists and the greater Harvard community?” it said.

The letter was launched by Harvard graduates Talia Lavin, Paul B. VanKoughnett and Pete D. Davis, the Daily Beast reported. Lavin told the publication last week that they were aiming for 500 signatures.


FL: Teacher asks students to use gender-neutral pronouns, angering parents

A Florida elementary school teacher's letter asking fifth-grade students to use gender-neutral pronouns in the classroom reportedly concerned some parents in the district, with one asking "what would your reaction be?"

Chloe Bressack, a math and science teacher recently hired at Canopy Oaks Elementary in Tallahassee, wrote the letter to parents as a way of introducing herself and her classroom methods, the Tallahassee Democrat reported.

“One thing that you should know about me is that I use gender-neutral terms. My prefix is Mx. [pronounced Mix],” Bressack wrote in the letter. “My pronouns are ‘they, them, their’ instead of ‘he, his, she, hers.' I know it takes some practice for it to feel natural, but students catch on pretty quickly.”

The letter Chloe Bressack wrote to parents and students.
She added: "We're not going for perfection, just making an effort! Please feel free to reach out to me or administration if you have any questions. My priority is for all of my students to be comfortable in my classroom and have a space where they can be themselves while learning."

The note caused a divide among some parents.

A parent shared the letter in the Facebook group “Tally Moms Stay Connected” on Tuesday, concluding with the question: “What would your reaction be as a parent of 9 & 10-year-olds?”

The Tallahassee Democrat reported parents from opposing political views clashed in the comments section.

Paul Lambert, the school’s principal, said he and the school back Bressack.

"We support her preference in how she's addressed, we certainly do," Lambert said. "I think a lot of times it might be decided that there is an agenda there, because of her preference — I can tell you her only agenda is teaching math and science at the greatest level she can."

Bressack told the Tallahassee Democrat: “I feel very lucky to be teaching at Canopy Oaks, and I look forward to working with my students this year." 

Lambert said the school has received several calls in connection with the letter.

"There has been some [calls from parents], the thing that has brought good understanding is, it's not a preference that's being applied to anyone other than the teacher," Lambert said.

Lambert noted the teacher addresses each student by their “name or a gender-specific pronoun just like every other classroom in our building.”

Rocky Hanna, the district’s superintendent, said he was aware of the incident and met with the school’s administrators regarding the letter.

"According to Principal Lambert, the teacher addresses students daily by using the pronouns he, she, him and her," Hanna wrote in a statement. " The teacher also uses ma’am and sir when responding to students. As a personal preference, however, the teacher simply prefers to be referred to in gender-neutral terms as that of a coach."

Hanna added: "I can assure you that teachers in our district will not be allowed to use their influence in the classroom to advance any personal belief or political agenda. At this time, I do not believe that is the case in this instance."


The historical reality behind UVA ignorance

In recent months, there has been an aggressive campaign by a consortium of groups comprising the so-called “antifa movement” — self-proclaimed “anti-fascist” fascists in collusion with the Democrat Party — to eradicate important chapters of our nation’s history.

The most recent and violent episode of that eradication effort was a confrontation in historic Charlottesville, Virginia, where antifa v. alt-right factions clashed. That confrontation was the direct result of Democrats’ favorite political playbook strategy: fomenting disunity to rally dependent constituencies.

The roots of the Charlottesville conflict began a year earlier when some of the University of Virginia’s privileged students registered their objection to the school’s founder, Thomas Jefferson. According to the snowflakes, “We would like for our administration to understand that although some members of this community may have come to this university because of Thomas Jefferson’s legacy, others of us came here in spite of it.” (Here I would note that nobody was or is holding any students captive at UVA.)

Although other campus cultural eradication protests around the nation were festering, the UVA exercise had yet to gain much traction.

So Charlottesville’s mayor, Mike Signer (driven by BIG political aspirations), and his uber-leftist city council voted to remove a historic statue of Robert E. Lee, just as local Democrats had done in a purge a month earlier in Louisiana.

Signer calculated that his council’s measure would stir up the race-bait pot at UVA, and with the help of the Demo/MSM propaganda machine and its hate hustlers. Indeed it did. The war on statues thus masqueraded as a fight against evil and boiled over in that quaint town.

Since the Charlottesville riots, junior Bolshevik brigades elsewhere have targeted other historical icons for erasure, including Christopher Columbus and even Francis Scott Key, suggesting that our National Anthem has ties to racists — which it most assuredly does not.

UVA appears unwilling to cede its status as ground zero for the social and cultural fascists.

Last week, student protesters desecrated and shrouded Jefferson’s statue at the University Rotunda.

But in the latest chapter of this grotesque absurdity, returning again to whitewash the university’s historical connection to our nation’s Civil War, the student malcontents succeeded in forcing a vote by its cowardly Board of Visitors to remove bronze tablets on the Rotunda that bear the names of UVA alumni who fought and died during the War Between the States.

Perhaps they should just raze the entire campus and go home.

(For the record, what these angry adolescents of all ages across the nation have most in common is not a hatred of our nation’s core principles and values. What they hate most, what they most loathe, is themselves. But that is a subject for a future “Pathology of the Left” column, one that will focus on their captivity in a suspended state of arrested emotional development.)

A genuine statesman of the civil rights movement, former UN Ambassador and Atlanta Mayor Andrew Young, one of Martin Luther King’s closest confidants, opposes tearing down Confederate memorials and monuments. “I think it’s too costly to refight the Civil War,” he said. “We have paid too great a price in trying to bring people together.” Obscene protesters notwithstanding, Young is joined in this sentiment by most Americans.

Among the reputable polls taken since the Charlottesville riots, an NPR/PBS Newshour/Marist University poll found that a substantial majority of Americans believe statues honoring Confederate leaders should stay. More notably, pluralities of black Americans also believe the monuments should remain.

Clearly, the number of Americans who understand the importance of our history is far greater than those who don’t.

Given that the monumental ignorance in Charlottesville began over a lack of appreciation for the historical standing of Robert E. Lee by a gaggle of loudmouth Demo-gogues and their cadres of useful idiots — those who embrace the notion that ignorance is virtuous — what follows are a few brief chapters of Lee’s history that none of them have ever read, and that none of them would want you to read now.

After his surrender at Appomattox, Gen. Lee wrote to Gen. P.G.T. Beauregard: “I need not tell you that true patriotism sometimes requires of men to act exactly contrary, at one period, to that which it does at another, and the motive which impels them — the desire to do right — is precisely the same. The circumstances that govern their actions change, and their conduct must conform to the new order of things. History is full of illustrations of this: Washington himself is an example. At one time, he fought in the service of the King of Great Britain; at another, he fought with the French at Yorktown, under the orders of the Continental Congress of America, against him. He has not been branded by the world with reproach for this, but his course has been applauded.”

After the war, when Lee became president of Washington College (renamed Washington and Lee after his death), most of the funding to restore operations of the institution came from Lee’s Union admirers in New York and other northern states.

In fact, according to biographer Douglas Southall Freeman, a New York-based insurance company offered Lee $10,000 just to use his name — an offer few others would have refused at the time but which Lee did refuse:

“The repeated business offers that came to him seem to have awakened no yearnings. Nothing appears in his correspondence to show any desire on the part of any member of the family that he accept the post of supervisor of agencies of the Knickerbocker Life Insurance Company, a position pressed on him in the winter of 1868-69 at the then dazzling salary of $10,000. Not a flutter was aroused in the president’s house, so far as one may now judge, by rumors that he might be named president of the Chesapeake and Ohio Railroad.”

Upon Lee’s death on October 12, 1870, at the age of 63, the New York Herald offered this eulogy:

“For not to the Southern people alone shall be limited the tribute of a tear over the dead Virginian. Here in the North, forgetting that the time was when the sword of Robert Edward Lee was drawn against us, forgetting and forgiving all the years of bloodshed and agony, we have long since ceased to look upon him as the Confederate leader, but have claimed him as one of ourselves; have cherished and felt proud of his military genius as belonging to us; have recounted and recorded his triumphs as our own; have extolled his virtue as reflecting upon us for Robert Edward Lee was an American, and the great nation which gave him birth would be to-day unworthy of such a son if she regarded him lightly. … He conquered us in misfortune by the grand manner in which he sustained himself, even as he dazzled us by his genius when the tramp of his soldiers resounded through the valleys of Virginia. And for such a man we are all tears and sorrow to-day. … As a slaveholder, he was beloved by his slaves for his kindness and consideration toward them. … In his death our country has lost a son of whom she might well be proud, and for whose services she might have stood in need had he lived a few years longer, for we are certain that, had occasion required it, General Lee would have given to the United States the benefit of all his great talents.”

He was similarly eulogized in Europe.  According to the London Standard:

“Few are the generals who have earned, since history began, a greater military reputation; still fewer are the men of similar eminence, civil or military, whose personal qualities would bear comparison with his. The bitterest enemies of his country hardly dared to whisper a word against the character of her most distinguished general, while neutrals regarded him with an admiration for his deeds and respect for his lofty and unselfish nature, which almost grew into veneration, and his own countrymen learned to look up to him with as much confidence and esteem as they ever felt for Washington.

No one pretending to understand in the least, either the general principles of military science or the particular conditions of the American war, doubts that General Lee gave higher proofs of military genius and soldiership than any of his opponents. He was outnumbered from first to last; and all his victories were gained against greatly superior forces, and, with troops deficient in every necessary of war except courage and discipline. Never, perhaps, was so much achieved against odds so terrible. Always outnumbered, always opposed to a foe abundantly supplied with food, transports, ammunition, clothing and all that was wanting to his own men, he was always able to make courage and skill supply the deficiency of strength and supplies.

Truer greatness, a loftier nature, a spirit more merciful, a character purer, more chivalrous, the world has rarely, if ever, known. Of stainless hue and deep religious feeling, yet free from all taint of cant and fanaticism, and as dear and congenial to the cavalier Stuart as to the puritan Stonewall Jackson; unambitious, but ready to sacrifice all to the call of duty; devoted to his cause, yet never moved by his feelings beyond the line prescribed by his judgment; never provoked by just resentment to punish wanton cruelty by reprisals which would have given a character of needless savagery to the war; both North and South owe a deep debt of gratitude to him, and the time will come when both will be equally proud of him. … A country which has given birth to men like him may look the chivalry of Europe in the face without shame, for the fatherlands of Sidney and of Bayard never produced a nobler soldier, gentleman and Christian than Robert Edward Lee.”

And finally, reflecting on the character of the man in battle, there is this extraordinary account about a Union soldier’s contact with Gen. Lee, as related by Confederate Brig. Gen. A.L. Long and Union Brig. Gen. M.J. Wright in their “Memoirs of Robert E. Lee”:

“We cannot better end this somewhat extended chapter than by presenting the following incident, which is so consonant with … the character of General Lee that no better voucher for its complete truth could be offered. … It is a story told by an old ‘Grand Army’ man…”

“I was at the battle of Gettysburg myself. … I had been a most bitter anti-South man and fought and cursed the Confederates desperately. I could see nothing good in any of them. The last day of the fight I was badly wounded. A ball shattered my left leg. I lay on the ground not far from Cemetery Ridge, and as General Lee ordered his retreat he and his officers rode near me. As they came along I recognized him, and, though faint from exposure and loss of blood, I raised up my hands, looked Lee in the face, and shouted as loud as I could, ‘Hurrah for the Union!’

The general heard me, looked, stopped his horse, dismounted, and came toward me. I confess that I at first thought he meant to kill me. But as he came up he looked down at me with such a sad expression on his face that all fear left me, and I wondered what he was about. He extended his hand to me, and grasping mine firmly and looking right into my eyes, said, ‘My son, I hope you will soon be well.’ If I live to be a thousand years I shall never forget the expression of General Lee’s face. There he was, defeated, retiring from a field that had cost him and his cause almost their last hope, yet he stopped to say words like those to a wounded soldier of the opposition who had taunted him as he passed by. As soon as the general left me I cried myself to sleep there upon the bloody ground.”

These observations reflect the true character and historical significance of the man represented by those statues and monuments. Indeed, this explains the reluctance of many Americans to allow the removal or the shrouding — the “burqanization,” if you will — of our history.

On the importance of our history, and on the abject absurdity of attempting to erase it, I have often cited 20th century philosopher George Santayana, who concluded in his treatise, “The Life of Reason”: “Progress, far from consisting in change, depends on retentiveness. When experience is not retained, as among savages, infancy is perpetual. Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”

Aldous Huxley, author of the dystopian novel “Brave New World,” noted, “That men do not learn very much from the lessons of history is the most important of all the lessons of history.”

And so it goes at UVA and other once-great academic institutions across our nation, where moronic identity politics takes precedent over knowledge and truth.


Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Why British students are heading to America for an elite education

At this time of year my Instagram feed fills up with pictures of tearful parents dropping their kids off at university. This would seem normal – if the location didn’t say USA. When my youngest headed to Yale four years ago, he was considered an adventurer. Since then, there has been a 31 per cent increase in British students applying to US colleges: 11,600 British students are now there, according to the Fulbright Commission, which fosters educational exchange between the UK and US.

Up to half of students at Westminster and St Paul’s apply – 41 students from the latter received offers this year. That number is growing thanks to the 600 American universities that offer generous financial scholarships to international students, covering not only the fees, room and board in full but also flights home, laptops and even phone bills. This would be worth in excess of £220,000 per student, says Rowena Boddington, director of advising and marketing at the Fulbright Commission. Its USA College Day – where 150 American universities, including Ivy League institutions, are represented – is held in London on Sept 29 and 30.

Last year queues formed around the corner.  My son’s interest in America was the result of spending summers there – not to mention reading The Great Gatsby. He didn’t want to limit himself to one subject, as the English system stipulates; he wanted to try something new. He is due to graduate next summer with a creative writing major.  “I see our children as the new colonials,” says journalist Deirdre Fernand, whose son Ben won a Hesburgh-Yusko scholarship worth several hundreds of thousands of pounds to Notre Dame, a second-tier college in Indiana with a top ranked football team and hefty endowment. “We used to put them on boats. Now we put them on planes and wave goodbye.”

Having spent a few years in the US herself as the daughter of an academic, Fernand knew that American universities were generous. “Notre Dame has $10 billion to spend. That’s more than some of the Ivys,” she says. Ben is due to graduate next summer with a degree in finance and Spanish.  American universities are gaining ground rapidly among British students for two reasons. The first is financial: though Ivy League fees are eye-watering – Harvard costs $63,000 (£46,000) per year including room and board – they travel the world looking for talented students (whom they lure with lucrative offers).

The Sutton Trust US programme founded by Sir Peter Lampl has, over the past five years, sent more than 270 bright, British state school students on full financial scholarships to institutions including Yale, Harvard, MIT and Princeton. The other reason is level playing fields. Sir Lampl’s decision to promote US university education is based partly on what he believes is an unfair system at Oxbridge (40-45 per cent of the student intake still comes from private schools despite the fact that 93 per cent of British students attend state schools).

However, ironically the most privileged pupils in the country are drawn to the American system for exactly the reverse reason. With growing talk of positive discrimination against privately educated pupils hoping to secure a place at the top UK institutions many from the most elite establishments are thinking about applying to a top university across the Atlantic, assuming, rightly or wrongly that it will be give them better odds than a place at Oxbridge. So, for both disadvantaged students and privately educated ones, then, an American degree is becoming an increasingly attractive prospect. The less rigid structure of US undergraduate courses also appeals. “I like the flexibility of the four-year American programme,” Lampl says.

“In Britain, [students] often end up getting degrees they don’t want because they can’t change”. The American degree system is a bit like a supermarket: after sampling some of the goods, you go to the till with your final selection. It’s this ability to try things (at no great risk) that allows students to either discover their true calling or change their minds.  Allie Hexley, 22, a British student from Birmingham, studied at MIT with a double major in brain and cognitive sciences and physics, and is now beginning graduate studies in neuroscience at Harvard as part of the Sutton Trust US programme.

“It may seem like you know what you want to study, and ultimately do with your life when you are 18 and have been forced to pick subjects to pursue at A-level, but in reality no 18-year-old knows. Having the opportunity to change your major as you go and try things you never would have otherwise tried is incredible,” she says.

American college education is also full-on. “My daughter has been astonished not just at the quality but also at the quantity of teaching at USC [University of Southern California],” says Neil Mendoza, chairman of the Landmark Trust, whose half-American children both study in the US. “She has 14-15 hours of class a week as well as after-hours help.”

Recent research suggests that in the UK, economics students can receive as little as 26 hours’ one-to-one tuition over a three-year course – not a problem across the pond. “If they don’t show up for class, they get an email. In the UK students are left to their own devices,” Fernand says.

Phil Mooney, a 25-year-old banker from Belfast, turned down a place to study German at Oxford to go to Princeton. He wanted to “replicate the adventure” of his gap year, and Princeton also offered diversity: while majoring in German and politics, he also took classes in statistics, Middle Eastern history, and still-life painting. “American college gives you a much broader view of the world,” he says.

Another draw is the tight-knit college community. “Princeton has an extremely strong network,” says Mooney. “My life would have been much easier if I stayed at home: you can keep close to family and close to friends, and you are less likely to lose love over long distance.

But you never explore, never push your own limits, and you’re emptier if you stay.” There is a risk all parents take when their children choose to study abroad, however – they may not return. “It’s the first thing mothers ask,” says Fernand. “‘Are you worried he’ll settle in America?’ Not at all. Why would I be that selfish?”  I worry too, but having seen so many of my husband’s Oxbridge friends transferred to New York, Singapore and Hong Kong for jobs, I think this new “cognitive elite” of globally educated students will ultimately have the upper hand.


Comey convocation address derailed by angry protesters at Howard University

A singularly dumb protest

Noisy protesters shouted and chanted over James Comey on Friday as he attempted to deliver a convocation address at Howard University, forcing him to delay his remarks and then practically drowning out the rest of his speech.

The protest started as soon as the former FBI director took the podium at the historically black college in Washington, D.C.

Protesters raised their right fists in the air and chanted, “We shall not be moved.” They also said, “F--- James Comey” and “No justice, no peace.”

Comey was unable to speak at first due to the disruption. After several minutes, Comey tried to begin. “I hope you’ll stay and listen to what I have to say. ... I listened to you for five minutes,” he said, before pausing again.

After several more minutes of protests, Comey launched into his prepared speech – which, ironically, was about how the rest of the world is often “too noisy” to take time to reflect, whereas Howard University represents an “island.”

Comey had to raise his voice throughout the address as the chanting persisted. The protesters later said they were with the group HU Resist and were protesting “state-sanctioned violence.”

In his remarks, Comey said he appreciated the demonstrators’ “enthusiasm” but wishes they could understand “what a conversation is.”

“At the end of a conversation, we’re both smarter. I am here at Howard to try to get smarter, to try to be useful,” Comey said.

The rowdy scene marked a rough start for Comey at Howard, where he’s joined the faculty as a lecturer.

Comey, who was fired by President Trump earlier this year amid tensions over the Russia probe, has also been in the headlines lately – as Hillary Clinton criticizes him in her newly released campaign memoir, and Republicans on Capitol Hill look to drag him back to Capitol Hill amid concerns over possible discrepancies in his testimony concerning the Clinton email case.

The speech Friday, though, touched on none of the 2016 campaign controversies or the Russia probe he used to oversee.

Instead, he was trying to deliver a message about listening to one another – as he was drowned out by protesters. The irony was not lost on him.

“The rest of the real world is a place where it’s hard sometimes to find people who will listen with an attitude that they might actually be convinced of something. Instead what happens in most of the real world, and… in this auditorium, is that people don’t listen at all,” he said.

He closed his speech by saying: “I look forward to adult conversation about what is right and what is true.”


Anti-School Choice Activist (and Hypocrite) Matt Damon Sends His Kids to Private School

I won't lie, I'm a Matt Damon fan. For the most part, I have really enjoyed his body of work as an actor, particularly the Jason Bourne movies. However, throughout his career, I've also known that he was a rabid leftist, so I kept that in mind while watching his work.

It wasn't until recently that I learned he was also a grade "A" hypocrite.

You see, Damon is the son of a public school teacher and a major proponent of public schools. However, as RedState notes, he's not sending his kids to public school.

According to the  Boston Globe, Damon attended a screening of his film “Backpacks Full of Cash” at Wheelock College in Boston to “a capacity crowd of teachers, activists, and students.” The film was created by documentarian Sarah Mondale, who wanted to bring attention to the funding cuts to public schools, and that a public school system should be created that caters to all students.

According to the Daily Caller, the documentary is a perfect film for anti-school choice confirmation bias, as it bashes charter schools, denounces voucher programs, and basically makes any new ideas just look bad. Meanwhile, the film insists that even more taxpayer dollars need to be thrown at public schools.

Here’s the kicker.

Damon’s preaching for public education from a golden pulpit that allows him to send his own children to a private school.

Damon's argument is that he can't find the kind of progressive education he had growing up for his own children, and thus has no choice but to send his own kids to private school

Isn't that just fascinating?

Throughout this country, there are people who are less than thrilled with the school they find their children assigned to due to where they live. Maybe they live in a great neighborhood for their modest income level but the school they're zoned for is notorious for drugs and violence. Maybe it's just a bad school. Whatever.

Damon would have that hardworking family that only wants what's best for their kids to be forced to attend the bad school with no say in the matter, all while sending his kids to private school because he can't find quite the same "progressive" education he had as a kid. In other words, because he's rich, it's cool for him to be picky about his children's education, but not for the rest of us. No, we have to make due with the hand we're dealt -- right, Matt?

Yeah, I mean, I get it. Who cares if my son or my daughter becomes strung out on drugs or can't get into a decent college because of the poor education they receive at their schools. What really matters to Matt Damon is that he be permitted to send his kids to a "progressive" school.

To be fair, I don't fault Matt for putting his own children before mine. What I do fault him for is his efforts to keep me from putting my kids first.


Monday, September 25, 2017

The campus rape panic is destroying due process and ruining lives

US education secretary Betsy DeVos has hit the headlines again for speaking out on Title IX, the controversial federal law that ensures gender equity in education. Last week, she promised to ‘replace the current approach with a workable, effective, and fair system’. She is getting a lot of flak, especially from feminists, but her comments should be welcomed: it is common knowledge now that Title IX has become, at best, unworkable, and at worst subject to serious abuse.

When it was first passed, Title IX of the Education Amendments Act of 1972 stated that every educational programme which receives federal funding must give men and women equal opportunities. It was most effective in making sure women were not discriminated against when it came to sports scholarships. In its infancy, it was a mere 37 words.

But since 1972, it has been continually interpreted and stretched so that it now covers far more than making a legal defence against discrimination. It now serves to police students’ private lives on campus, covering everything from misplaced jokes or comments to allegations of rape and physical assault.

The most stark example of this shift came with the Office for Civil Rights’ ‘Dear Colleague’ letter in 2011. The OCR stated that sexual harassment ‘includes unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favours, and other verbal, non-verbal, or physical conduct of a sexual nature’. Translated, this meant Title IX could be used to prohibit ‘unwelcome verbal conduct’, which, as many have pointed out, could mean anything. In 2016, at the University of Texas at Arlington, a student faced a Title IX investigation after allegedly criticising another students’ sexuality – the accused denied the incident even happened, and later committed suicide after he was found responsible.

An even bigger problem with the ‘Dear Colleague’ letter’s additional stipulations for Title IX investigations is that universities are now required to work with a ‘preponderance of evidence’ standard, also known as ‘50 per cent and a feather’.

This means that, rather than following due process, Title IX officers can begin their investigations on the assumption that an allegation is true. Even in complaints about rape and serious physical abuse.

One of the most jaw-dropping Title IX cases involved Matt Boermeester, a student at the University of Southern California, who was suspended after an onlooker accused him of abusing his girlfriend, Zoe Katz. Both Boermeester and Katz told investigators they were just ‘playfully roughhousing’ and they tried to get the investigation quashed.

Katz described the mistreatment she suffered when she was summoned to give her testimony to Title IX investigators: ‘I was stereotyped and was told I must be a “battered” woman.’

Boermeester was later suspended and barred from entering campus.   Because of the preponderance of evidence standard, Title IX investigators willingly ignored common sense, punished an innocent man, and put a young couple through a nightmare.

It should never be the job of a university to carry out investigations into serious allegations like rape and sexual assault – especially when cases are seldom clear-cut. The problem with asking college administrators to deal with quasi-criminal investigations is most clear when it comes to drunk sex. Many feminists and PC warriors now believe that even consensual drunk sex should be classed as rape. Former vice president Joe Biden, an open advocate of the expansion of Title IX’s expansion, famously said: ‘If a young woman is drunk, SHE CANNOT CONSENT… She cannot consent, and it’s rape. It’s rape. It’s rape. It’s rape.’

Anyone who’s ever had a glass of dutch courage before a date will know how ludicrous, and insulting, this statement is. But the anti-drunk-sex theory is central to many Title IX cases. Take the case of two students at Occidental College in 2013. They had consensual sex while drunk one night. Both agreed at the time that it was consensual sex. Months later, the woman filed a Title IX complaint against the man, and he was expelled. Why? Because ‘Occidental’s sexual misconduct policy forbids students from having sexual contact with anyone who is “incapacitated” by drugs or alcohol’.

DeVos is right – we need to talk about Title IX. It has become the weapon of choice for those who want to peddle the idea that women are in need of protection. Using Title IX to cover ‘verbal conduct’, outlawing drunk sex and doing away with any notion of due process flies in the face of equality.

Title IX was originally intended to be a short legal stipulation prohibiting discrimination. Now it is used to support the idea that women are more vulnerable, more endangered and less capable than men. The use and abuse of Title IX is becoming increasingly hysterical, notably in the case of professor and author Laura Kipnis, who was subject to a Title IX case simply for writing about another Title IX case.

At the same time, though, we need to recognise that while it’s important to roll back the ‘Dear Colleague’ letter and review Title IX, that alone won’t be the antidote for the panic around sexual harassment in education. The problem lies in a much deeper cultural trend on campus and in society, one which sees women as vulnerable and men as dangerous.

The censorious use of Title IX by feminists is not new: in the 1980s, anti-porn feminists like Catharine MacKinnon encouraged the use of Title IX to police nasty words said to women. Title IX is a tool to pursue cultural prejudices and fears; it isn’t the source of those prejudices and fears.

We need to get serious about busting the myth that university is a dangerous place, and instead champion the idea that women should be trusted to deal with private matters – even unpleasant ones – without the intervention of campus authorities.

So yes, let’s review Title IX. But unless we also tackle the broader, sadly feminism-fuelled view of women as damsels in distress, tinkering with Title IX won’t change much at all.


DeVos rescinds Obama-era guidance on investigating campus sexual assault

Citing a key federal court ruling in a Brandeis University case, the Trump administration on Friday advised college officials across the country to evaluate sexual misconduct claims by the same standard of evidence they use for any other student infractions.

The move by Education Secretary Betsy DeVos could make it tougher to prove allegations of sexual assault at some universities.

DeVos formally rescinded the Obama administration’s 2011 directive requiring colleges to aggressively investigate all sexual assault claims using a relatively low burden of proof. She also offered guidance for universities to handle sexual assault cases while her department develops a replacement policy.

“Schools must continue to confront these horrific crimes and behaviors head-on. There will be no more sweeping them under the rug,” DeVos said in a statement. “But the process also must be fair and impartial, giving everyone more confidence in its outcomes.”

Aimed at ending a “rape culture” on campuses, the Obama-era sexual assault policy required colleges to aggressively investigate all sexual assault claims, or risk losing federal funding. Allegations of schools mishandling such cases triggered hundreds of federal investigations, including at least 26 in Massachusetts.

But the policy also faced criticism from civil libertarians, in particular for lowering the burden of proof from the “clear and convincing” standard used to weigh other types of disciplinary action on campus. Instead, the Obama administration rule called for campuses to consider sexual assault cases on a “preponderance of evidence” — whether the evidence suggests the offense “more likely than not” occurred.

The interim guideline released by DeVos allows colleges to adopt whichever standard they already use in other student discipline cases. In a footnote, she pointed to a 2016 decision that faulted Brandeis University for lowering the standard only in sexual assault cases, calling it “a deliberate choice by the university to make cases of sexual misconduct easier to prove.”

“The lower standard may thus be seen, in context, as part of an effort to tilt the playing field against accused students,” US District Judge F. Dennis Saylor wrote in his decision.

A Brandeis spokeswoman on Friday defended the university’s commitment to taking accusations of sexual assault seriously and treating students fairly.

“When instances of sexual misconduct are reported, we are committed to responding promptly and equitably,” Julie Jette said in a statement. “The Department of Education’s interim guidance will not diminish our efforts in this area.”

In the Brandeis case, a gay male student was found guilty of sexual misconduct, with a note on his permanent record, after his ex-boyfriend of nearly two years claimed he had engaged in sexual misconduct during the relationship. Among the infractions: kissing him in his sleep.

Though the student ultimately withdrew his case without a settlement, the case has been viewed as one of the harshest judicial assessments of a campus sexual assault policy that arose from the Obama administration’s guidance. Under Brandeis’s policy in 2014, students weren’t entitled to know the details of the charges against them, see the evidence, be represented by a lawyer, or cross-examine the accuser or witnesses, according to the ruling.

“There has been a veritable witch hunt in the country, primarily under the Obama administration,” said Harvey A. Silverglate, a civil liberties lawyer from Cambridge and coauthor of “The Shadow University: The Betrayal of Liberty on America’s Campuses.”

“We’re starting afresh and the Department of Education is showing that it’s got its mind open rather than closed.”

DeVos had announced plans earlier this month to roll back the 2011 policy, though the changes do not affect the underlying law on which the policy was based. Campuses are expected to guard against sexual harassment and gender-based intimidation and violence under Title IX, the 1972 gender discrimination law aimed at protecting students’ rights to an education.

The Obama administration ratcheted up expectations for colleges in 2011 without a regulatory review process, but instead in the form of a so-called Dear Colleague Letter. The Trump administration pledged on Friday it would seek public input in the process of replacing the policy.

“We’ve long held that that’s what they should have done in the first place, that women’s rights advocates have important points that need to be heard, due process advocates have important rights that need to be heard,” said Joe Cohn, legislative and policy director for the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, a campus free speech organization that Silverglate cofounded.

Interestingly, the policy was changed on Friday via another “Dear Colleague Letter” — this one signed by Candice Jackson, the education department’s acting assistant secretary for civil rights, who is herself a controversial figure in the field of sexual assault.

Politico reported recently that in applying for the education department job, Jackson touted on her resume her work targeting Bill and Hillary Clinton — even accompanying the women who had accused Bill Clinton of sexually predatory behavior prior to a presidential debate last year just after Trump was accused of sexual assault. She also had been quoted dismissing the majority of claims that her office handles as drunken consensual encounters that someone later regretted. That has led many women to question her department’s agenda as it reconsiders sexual assault policy.

“I think that a lot of people are reacting with panic,” said Janet Halley, a Harvard Law School professor and expert on sexual harassment.

Advocates for survivors of sexual assault fear a retreat on years of progress in which they were finally being heard. Fatima Goss Graves, president and CEO of the National Women’s Law Center, said that reversing the policy will have a “devastating impact on students and schools.”

“It will discourage students from reporting assaults, create uncertainty for schools on how to follow the law, and make campuses less safe,” she said in a statement.

Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey, one of 20 Democrat state attorneys general who had urged DeVos to keep the old rule, said Friday that DeVos had “abandoned survivors of sexual assault on college campuses and all students looking to learn in a safe environment free from violence and discrimination.”

But Halley who is among the lawyers who have been arguing for years that the system was unfair and needed revision, said DeVos did not signal a reversal of campus rape protections.

Instead, Halley said, DeVos “reaffirmed that colleges and universities have a responsibility to respond robustly to claims of sexual misconduct on behalf of the educational opportunities of all students.”


Campus sexual assault policies are unfair to the accused. This case shows how

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos ignited a firestorm in recent months after signaling that she might pull back Obama administration policies intended to protect victims of sexual assault at college campuses. But amid the intense criticism directed toward DeVos, one lawsuit out of Amherst College demonstrates just how unfairly the Obama policies can operate for students wrongly accused of sexual misconduct.

On a factual basis, the Amherst case — settled out of court this month between the university and an expelled student accused of sexual assault — is one of the most egregious since the Obama administration implemented its policy in 2011. The lawsuit revealed documents that the public almost never gets to see, such as the full investigative file, the transcript of the disciplinary hearing and other material from the campus process.

As a result, this case is perhaps the most comprehensive documentation of any single campus sexual assault adjudication in recent years.

The lawsuit arose out of a sexual assault complaint filed by an Amherst student 18 months after the assault was alleged to have occurred. The complainant claimed that she was forced to perform sexual acts, so the college conducted an investigation and held a disciplinary hearing before three administrators, expelling the accused student. But the hearing failed to include key evidence suggesting that the complaint was false, so the accused student sued the university in federal court.

As laid out in the legal complaint and subsequent filings, the controversy over the investigation has focused mostly on a string of texts that the accuser sent the night of the incident. The texts suggest that she had initiated the sexual encounter and that she was in search of a “good lie” to avoid fallout for having hooked up with the accused student, her roommate’s boyfriend.

Initially, the accuser denied sending any texts relevant to the case. During the college’s disciplinary hearing, however, the accuser appeared to contradict that claim, twice admitting that she had sent relevant texts. Inexplicably, none of the panel members asked her to address the contradiction.

When the accused student eventually learned of the texts, Amherst said he had found them too late, according to the school’s response to the legal complaint. The college later clarified that the timing didn’t matter, since investigators only sought texts indicating “that the incident had been ‘non-consensual.’ ” Exculpatory evidence, it seems, was irrelevant.

The accused student claimed in a suit that the college had violated his Title IX rights, and a federal district judge allowed the case to proceed. After the judge expressed strong skepticism toward Amherst’s investigation, the two sides came to a settlement.

Defenders of the Obama administration’s policies — which re-interpreted Title IX to require all colleges receiving federal funds to use the lowest possible standard of proof when adjudicating sexual assault cases — argue that the change was needed to bring justice to college rape cases. Such crimes often go unpunished because prosecutors rarely try ambiguous campus claims of sexual assault.

But Amherst’s procedures, which typify Title IX tribunals nationwide, show the danger of schools moving too far in the other direction. The college found the student guilty by a preponderance of the evidence — in other words, that more than 50 percent of evidence points to guilt. Amherst denied him and his lawyer the opportunity to directly cross-examine the accuser. It conducted the investigation and the hearing so quickly that college officials never discovered the text messages, the key piece of evidence in the case.

The desire to protect students from sexual assault has produced a system that struggles to determine the truth. Bypassing the criminal-justice system sacrifices the legal power to uncover relevant electronic, photographic or video evidence. Coupled with one-sided campus procedures, students such as the one from Amherst are forced to prove their innocence under conditions that make it virtually impossible to do so.

And there’s no indication that Amherst plans to implement fairer procedures in the future. The college issued a five-word response to the settlement: “The matter has been resolved.”

In recent weeks, accusers’ rights organizations have leveled the most intense criticism of DeVos’s efforts to reform Title IXand have praised the expulsion of the wrongfully accused Amherst student. Certainly such advocates should be commended for standing up for sexual assault survivors. But in their willingness to defend manifestly unfair results, activist groups have been too quick to dismiss concerns that innocent students can be found guilty.

Extremists, of course, exist on both sides of this issue: DeVos has correctly received criticism for meeting with a “men’s rights” group. And for important social and historical reasons, we should sympathize with student survivors of sexual assault.

But due process is all the more important when addressing highly charged issues, especially when schools make life-altering decisions on the basis of wildly incomplete evidence. DeVos can, and should, demand that higher education do better. Undergraduates shouldn’t need to spend years in court to achieve justice from their colleges.


Sunday, September 24, 2017

Despite Affirmative Action, the gaps remain

Steve Sailer details below something that will be zero surprise to anybody familiar with the IQ research.  The failure, despite all efforts, to close the gap in educational achievement between high and low IQ groups is in fact resounding validation that the tests are right.  The tests enabled accurate prophecies and nothing has been able to falsify those prophecies.  Good science enables accurate predictions so it is ironical that the IQ tests have been shown by their enemies to be good science

Affirmative action privileges for blacks and (to a lesser extent) Hispanics have been a near-universal feature of college admissions for what is now approaching a half century.

What have we learned since the late 1960s?

Perhaps the strangest result is that the biggest winners from racial quotas have turned out to be blacks who aren’t descended from victimized American slaves but are instead descended from the slave peddlers, or from whites, or, as in the case of Barack Obama, from both.

On the other hand, some of the early fears have proved to be overblown.

Neoconservative intellectuals in the 1970s, such as social scientist Nathan Glazer in his 1975 book Affirmative Discrimination, often suspected that racial quotas for blacks were in effect an anti-Semitic plot to roll back the huge gains Jewish students had made at elite colleges since the postwar lifting of the 1920s caps on the number of Jews admitted.

But it turned out that there were definite limits on how much affirmative action even the richest college could afford. In the 21st century, the bigger challenge to Jews in winning admissions has come not from affirmative-action-aided blacks, as the neocons feared, but from hardworking, high-scoring Asians.

By 1998, Glazer had recanted his opposition to affirmative action.

Why? The number of blacks capable of fitting in at a highbrow college had proved far more limited than had been expected during the civil rights era. As Glazer said in 1998:

Thirty years ago, with the passage of the great civil rights laws, one could have reasonably expected—as I did—that all would be set right by now.

It was widely assumed in the 1960s that the poor performance of blacks and Latinos must have been due to flaws biasing the admissions process. That blacks did worse on admissions tests was the fault of, say, culturally inappropriate vocabulary questions about the word “regatta.”

“The irony is that today a remarkable fraction of the black beneficiaries of affirmative action are not descended from American slaves.”

Sensitivity committees were hired to scour test questions for bias. Scoring was made easier on the SAT verbal test. Analogies were dumped. A writing test was added and then dropped.

And…nothing much happened. The gap between white and black test scores was slightly blunted, but persisted.

Similarly, it was hoped that race quotas would uncover numerous diamonds in the rough. But it turned out that students let in on racial quotas did about as badly as could be expected.

Harvard, the alpha dog of academia, performed numerous quantitative studies during the 1970s about how far it could push affirmative action, and discovered definite limits (summarized in Robert Klitgaard’s 1985 book Choosing Elites). In particular, black males from underclass backgrounds who had been admitted to Harvard had an alarming tendency to violently victimize their fellow students.

More hardheaded observers in the 1960s assumed that the race gaps were real but transient. Give blacks a generation under post–Jim Crow conditions and they would catch up.

A late example of that outdated optimism came in Sandra Day O’Connor’s controlling opinion in the Supreme Court’s 2003 Grutter v. Bollinger affirmative action case. O’Connor upheld racial privileges, but declared that they wouldn’t be needed in a quarter of a century:

The Court takes the Law School at its word that it would like nothing better than to find a race-neutral admissions formula and will terminate its use of racial preferences as soon as practicable. The Court expects that 25 years from now, the use of racial preferences will no longer be necessary to further the interest approved today.

In 2017, we are now over halfway to O’Connor’s 2028 end point, but nobody any longer believes that the world will be much different by then.

In fact, O’Connor’s decision concocted the perpetual-motion “diversity rationale” for racial privilege: You see, white students benefit from what quota kids bring to the classroom (such as racial resentment). Since nobody can actually measure the benefits of diversity except through faith, there is no end in sight for racial preferences.

But by 1998, it was clear to Glazer that if blacks had to win admission on their own merits, the top colleges would be only 1 or 2 percent black, instead of the 6 or 7 percent black seen with affirmative action.

Today, little has changed after Glazer’s second thoughts.

Consider an SAT score of 700, which is common for students at strong private universities such as USC or NYU. On the SAT exam in 2016, for instance, I estimate that only about 645 blacks in the country scored 700 or higher on the math portion, compared with 40,000 whites and an incredible 43,000 Asians.

On the reading section of the SAT, about 809 blacks reached the 700s versus 36,000 whites and 17,000 Asians.

At the Harvard-Stanford level of a 750 SAT score, whites outnumber blacks about 72 to 1 on reading and 107 to 1 on math.

Blacks have remained at about 6 percent of elite college freshmen since 1980. Considering the huge increase in Asians and Hispanics due to immigration, that steady state is much better than whites have done over the same time period.

The irony, however, is that today a remarkable fraction of the black beneficiaries of affirmative action are not descended from American slaves. Although quotas are often conceived of as reparations for slavery in America, a huge proportion of the beneficiaries of being black track ancestry either to a white parent or to non-American blacks (often to the triumphant tribes who sold fellow blacks into slavery).

In a 1999 survey by Douglas Massey of Princeton, 41 percent of black Ivy League freshmen had at least one foreign-born parent. At all private colleges, 27 percent of black freshmen were of immigrant background.

In 2011 at the Yale Law School, according to professors Amy Chua and Jed Rubenfeld, only two of the eighteen students who joined the black students’ association were African-American on both parents’ sides.

In 2004, black Harvard professors Henry Louis Gates and Lani Guinier pointed out that only about one-third of Harvard’s 530 black undergraduates were the descendants of four African-Americans. With the rise of Barack Obama later that year, however, Gates and Guinier prudently dummied up on this interesting question of why American institutions are granting racial privileges to individuals with no claim to be hereditary victims of slavery or Jim Crow.

It just doesn’t seem like the kind of question that occurs to white people in these increasingly racialized days. For example, Dana Goldstein’s “When Affirmative Action Isn’t Enough” in The New York Times on 9/17/17 focused on Elvis Kahoro, an illegal immigrant who was admitted to posh Pomona College in Claremont, Calif.:

To lure Mr. Kahoro, who was born in Kenya, Pomona went to extraordinary lengths. It flew him to campus during the fall of his senior year, paying for all his travel expenses. After he was accepted, financial aid covered close to the full cost of attendance, and he has never had to take out a loan; the college even gives him extra money for textbooks and cross-country trips to visit his family.

As with President Obama, Mr. Kahoro’s ancestors presumably sold many blacks into the slave trade. But that doesn’t matter in America in 2017: Elvis is racially entitled, even if recruiting him away from other colleges desperate for minimally qualified blacks is an expensive zero-sum game.

Here’s one important question that the superior performance of Africans and West Indians raises: Is something radically wrong with African-American culture? Why aren’t black Americans doing better than blacks from much poorer countries? Is our American culture of inculcating racial resentment causing African-Americans to lag behind their distant cousins from abroad? Should we stop allowing so many foreign blacks to immigrate?

Another relevant question: Do immigrants who get drafted into ameliorating American academia’s black lack eventually come down with the same bad habits as African-Americans?

Although the NYT article celebrates Pomona College for its costly success in attracting underrepresented minorities, Pomona and the other Claremont colleges, such as Claremont McKenna and Harvey Mudd, have suffered major nervous breakdowns in 2017 by black and Hispanic students who are thrown in over their heads. In August, the NYT profiled the spate of childish meltdowns in Claremont this year under the apt headline: “More Diversity Means More Demands.”

After a half century of America obsessing over theoretically overlooked blacks, where is the actual ignored talent?

Caroline M. Hoxby of Stanford and Christopher Avery of Harvard have been studying who are the high-potential high school students who don’t think about applying to, say, Stanford or Harvard.

These ignored students tend to be not the more fashionable ethnicities, because our society has been fixated upon recruiting blacks and Latinos for a half century now, but, typically, white boys in flyover states. The most disregarded students today are the same kind of people who got us to the moon in 1969.


Scotland's education minister pledges to measure progress on school attainment gap

Why are Leftists always tilting at windmills?  The poor will ALWAYS show lower educational achievement.  The poor are DUMBER!  Charles Murray set out the IQ findings on that decades ago

John Swinney has pledged to devise a string of new measures to assess his success in closing the school attainment gap between rich and poor within a decade.

Scotland’s education secretary and deputy first minister said a consultation would be published within weeks, after he faced criticism for admitting he did not know how the government would be judged against what it has earmarked as its number one priority.

Speaking at the Scottish Learning Festival in Glasgow, he said the stubborn gap in academic achievement between those born into rich and poor families had blighted Scotland for his entire life and revealed that a series of criteria would be introduced to assess progress.


Why Australia needs the Phonics Check

Jennifer Buckingham

The 'Simple View of Reading' conceptualises reading as having two key components -- word identification and language comprehension. Children need to know how to decipher the words on the page, and have a store of vocabulary, factual and conceptual knowledge to give the words meaning. A deficit in either one of these areas means that reading is difficult or impossible.

Pretty much all educators acknowledge that phonics is an essential element in learning to read and write. Phonics is both a body of knowledge and a skill: children need know which letters represent which sounds and vice versa -- and they need to be able to use that knowledge to read and spell.

All children can and should know how to use phonics to decode words. Unfortunately there is good reason to believe many children are not acquiring this fundamental knowledge and skill, thus hampering their ability to become proficient readers.

It was for this reason that the advisory panel I chaired recommended a Phonics Check for Year 1 students -- a simple, five minute, teacher-delivered assessment based on the Phonics Screening Check used in all primary schools in England since 2012. The Phonics Check would identify children who are struggling with decoding at this critical stage in learning to read, and provide schools and systems with immediate detailed data about strengths and weaknesses in phonics instruction that would allow them to respond accordingly.

Objections to the Phonics Check came in thick and fast when the advisory panel's report was released earlier this week, but many were misinformed about the nature of the assessment and the rationale underpinning it.

The loudest protestations against it have been that teachers are already assessing phonics and that 'another test' is unnecessary. However the panel found that -- while all state and territory government schools and all non-government schools are conducting literacy assessments to varying extents -- none of the systemic assessments had a strong phonics component. The phonics assessment items were either too few or were poorly designed. In some cases items listed as 'phonics' were measuring a different skill: phonemic awareness. The best assessment was in the Northern Territory, which is making significant in-roads in phonics.

It is now up to the state and territory education ministers to carefully consider the recommendations of the panel, without being unduly influenced by the teachers unions and a few professional associations that seem to be very worried about what a Phonics Check might reveal. If we can put politics aside and get phonics right in the early years, we may finally see a reduction in the number of children struggling with reading.