Friday, October 06, 2017

Black Lives Matter Students Shut Down the ACLU's Campus Free Speech Event Because 'Liberalism Is White Supremacy'

Students affiliated with the Black Lives Matter movement crashed an event at the College of William & Mary, rushed the stage, and prevented the invited guest—the American Civil Liberties Union's Claire Gastañaga, a W & M alum—from speaking.

Ironically, Gastañaga had intended to speak on the subject, "Students and the First Amendment."

The disruption was livestreamed on BLM at W&M's Facebook page. Students took to the stage just a few moments after Gastañaga began her remarks. At first, she attempted to spin the demonstration as a welcome example of the kind of thing she had come to campus to discuss, commenting "Good, I like this," as they lined up and raised their signs. "I'm going to talk to you about knowing your rights, and protests and demonstrations, which this illustrates very well. Then I'm going to respond to questions from the moderators, and then questions from the audience."

It was the last remark she was able to make before protesters drowned her out with cries of, "ACLU, you protect Hitler, too." They also chanted, "the oppressed are not impressed," "shame, shame, shame, shame," (an ode to the Faith Militant's treatment of Cersei Lannister in Game of Thrones, though why anyone would want to be associated with the religious fanatics in that particular conflict is beyond me), "blood on your hands," "the revolution will not uphold the Constitution," and, uh, "liberalism is white supremacy."

This went on for nearly 20 minutes. Eventually, according to the campus's Flat Hat News, one of the college's co-organizers of the event handed a microphone to the protest's leader, who delivered a prepared statement. The disruption was apparently payback for the ACLU's principled First Amendment defense of the Charlottesville alt-right's civil liberties.

Organizers then canceled the event; some members of the audience approached the podium in an attempt to speak with Gastañaga, but the protesters would not permit it. They surrounded Gastañaga, raised their voices even louder, and drove everybody else away.

The college released what can only be described as an incredibly tepid statement:

William & Mary has a powerful commitment to the free play of ideas. We have a campus where respectful dialogue, especially in disagreement, is encouraged so that we can listen and learn from views that differ from our own, so that we can freely express our own views, and so that debate can occur. Unfortunately, that type of exchange was unable to take place Wednesday night when an event to discuss a very important matter – the meaning of the First Amendment — could not be held as planned. …

Silencing certain voices in order to advance the cause of others is not acceptable in our community. This stifles debate and prevents those who've come to hear a speaker, our students in particular, from asking questions, often hard questions, and from engaging in debate where the strength of ideas, not the power of shouting, is the currency. William & Mary must be a campus that welcomes difficult conversations, honest debate and civil dialogue.

Absent a promise to identify the perpetrators and make sure this never happens again, the college's statement is meaningless. If officials are just going to stand by while students make it impossible to even have a conversation about free speech on campus, the matter is already settled: there is no free speech at William & Mary.

These students have clearly made up their minds about free speech: they don't want to share it with anyone else—especially Nazis, but also civil liberties lawyers who happen to be experts on the thing they are willfully misunderstanding: the First Amendment. Their ideological position is obviously incoherent—Liberalism is white supremacy? What?—and would not stand up to scrutiny, which is probably why they have decided to make open debate an impossibility on campus. They really shouldn't get away with this.


SAT Casts a Shadow on American Education

Proficency levels in basic subjects are at dismaying lows, and test-makers are fixing ... the tests

One metric colleges use (to a formerly greater extent) to determine a student’s academic ability is the SAT test. These scores not only help determine acceptance letters, they also provide a snapshot of trends in academic testing. In this regard, the trend is not good. Scores have been stagnant at best and lower overall.

This isn’t entirely surprising when considering other statistics. As economist Walter Williams has reported, “According to The Nation’s Report Card, only 37 percent of 12th-graders were proficient in reading in 2015, and just 25 percent were proficient in math. For black students, achievement levels were a disgrace. Nationally, 17 percent of black students scored proficient in reading, and 7 percent scored proficient in math. In some cities, such as Detroit, black academic proficiency is worse; among eighth-graders, only 4 percent were proficient in math, and only 7 percent were proficient in reading.”

It’s almost hard — if not impossible — to imagine SAT scores getting any better with such paltry literacy rates, like the ones above, absent significant overhauls. These would not include the overhauls made recently to the SAT, which appear to be creating unfounded optimism. According to The Washington Post’s Nick Anderson, “Last year, the College Board eliminated the notorious guessing penalty on the SAT, jettisoned some tricky vocabulary and took other steps, hoping to make the test a more straightforward measure of achievement. The board also returned the top score to the iconic number parents and grandparents remember: 1600. What resulted were apparently higher marks. But that doesn’t necessarily mean students are smarter.”

Unfortunately, this new method — which shows seemingly “improving” scores, though probably erroneously — is only part of a broader problem. Even if test scores rose dramatically in 2017, a comparison of past and present exam questions suggests that today’s students aren’t nearly as literate as previous generations. Researcher Annie Holmquist shows that while today’s SAT may provide a range of basic multiple choice questions, students in years past were compelled to be far more articulate.

“Consider the 1912 history exam from the College Board, the precursor to the modern SAT,” writes Holmquist. “It not only seeks written, essay-like answers, it also expects students to come prepared to draw on knowledge that they have learned beyond a textbook.” Holmquist opines, “It’s not hard to guess the type of outcry which would be raised if today’s students were expected to pass a test such as the above, which not only features difficult questions, but appears to give extra consideration to students who demonstrate ability to connect the dots of learning without being spoon-fed pre-formed answers.”

It’s not just scores that have changed, but the nature of testing as well. Both are demonstrable proof that our education system needs a significant revamping. And it’s as easy as getting back to our roots.


The dam holding back school choice will soon collapse

The teachers' unions blockade, which deprives poor children of good education, is starting to crack.

The latest fissures are created by a study of the country's largest private school choice program. According to researchers, the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship program, which provides vouchers, increased college enrollment rates by about 6 percentage points for students who participated at all. For those who were in the program for four or more years, the college enrollment rate was as much as 17 points higher.

Before anyone leaps to suggest that this really just means those schools cream off the best students, opponents of school choice should know that children in the program disproportionately come from families with low incomes and, before joining the program, were mostly at bad public schools and did poorly on tests.

The source of this new information is not what opponents might think of as one of the usual suspects. It was not some conservative think-tank, but the left-leaning Urban Institute, a think-tank founded by President Lyndon B. Johnson.

It won't change minds at the National Education Association or the American Federation of Teachers, of course, for nothing does that. But it is pleasing to be able to report that the teachers' unions may soon have less clout. This probability comes not from any new open-mindedness on education among their Democratic allies, but from the judicial system.

On Thursday, the Supreme Court agreed to hear a suit challenging a 1977 ruling that said public-sector unions may force non-union employees to pay for bargaining costs. Unions probably got lucky when Justice Antonin Scalia's death led to a 4-4 split in a 2016 case that made the same challenge. Now that Justice Neil Gorsuch is on the court, they seem unlikely to have the same luck.

Without a flood of plundered money, unions will be a diminished force, and their power over Democratic politicians will likewise decline. As polling increasingly shows bipartisan support for school choice, especially for the type of program in Florida, politicians are likely to swing that way too. They go where they can get votes.

Empirical data is convincing, but the strongest argument for school choice is one of principle. Parents, not the state, should decide what school is best for their child. Bureaucrat neither know nor, on the evidence of their failure over decades, care anything like so much.

There are 52 private school choice programs in 26 states and Washington serving 430,000 students. Nearly 3 million more students exercise a form of public school choice by attending charter schools. For the tens of millions of students who don't yet have any choice, especially those trapped in awful public schools, the end of the status quo can't come soon enough.


Thursday, October 05, 2017

These High School Players Counter NFL Protests With Flag-Waving, Not Kneeling

Some Georgia high school football players had an inspiring little protest of their own this weekend. And it involved running, not kneeling.

While pro National Football League players were locking arms and taking a knee across the country to protest someone or something or other, these high school players decided to exercise their freedom of speech a little differently in their country by celebrating America instead of criticizing it.

The entire Fannin County Rebel team ran onto the field together, each player carrying a large U.S. flag. The patriotic display happened before their game with the Greater Atlanta Christian School Friday night.

The crowd of parents, relatives and local and away fans was moved to loudly cheer the celebration, which was organized by players and parents with coaches’ approval.

“It was an awesome and unifying moment for the audiences on both sides of our stadium,” said Superintendent Michael Gwatney. “And it reminded us that no matter what team we support, we are all Americans.”

The joyous, America-celebrating flag-waving did not help the Fannin Rebels in the night’s football game. They lost to Atlanta Christian 55-7.  But they proved victorious anyway. “Our players certainly won the hearts of our community with their display of patriotism,” said Gwatney.

The superintendent also said the players ran out with all those flags as a special sign of support for America’s military veterans who have served and those men and women currently serving in the armed forces.

Gwatney said the team is especially proud of one of its members who has already joined the military.

Possibly come today, as word of this grassroots display of patriotism spreads across the country, that once unknown team of teenage boys is also likely to win the hearts of a good many other Americans who were not at that game. Leave your comments below.


Lynchpin of teachers union power returns to the Supreme Court

Last week, the US Supreme Court announced that it would hear Janus v. American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME). While it is among the biggest cases on the court’s docket next year, it certainly holds the biggest stakes when it comes to public education. The case deals with mandatory union agency fees, which plaintiff Mark Janus, a child support specialist at the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services, argues violate his First Amendment rights to free speech and free association.

Illinois state law “compels state employees to pay agency fees to an exclusive representative for speaking and contracting with the state over governmental policies.” In short, non-union employees must pay unions, as the exclusive employee representatives in collective bargaining, to negotiate contracts on their behalf. Janus has long been critical of both the union and forced association through agency fees. He wrote last year in the Chicago Tribune, “The First Amendment guarantees freedom of speech and freedom of association. I don’t want to be associated with a union that claims to represent my interests and me when it really doesn’t.”

Janus targets a 40-year-old precedent set by Abood v. Detroit Board of Education, which permits allowing agency fees as a means to avoid a “free rider” problem: non-union members benefiting from union representation in contract negotiations, but not paying for that service. Abood allows agency fees, so long as the fees are limited to the portion of membership dues used solely for collect bargaining, and are separated from funds used for political purposes. Critics argue that agency fees make financially supporting a union, and its politics by extension, a precondition of public employment.

Janus follows Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association, a 2016 US Supreme Court case that almost brought an end to agency fees. Friedrichs, a public school teacher forced to pay agency fees to the California Teachers Association (CTA), brought suit using a First Amendment argument similar to Janus’s, also targeting Abood. Friedrich’s case made it to the Supreme Court, where a majority of justices seemed ready to rule in her favor and against the constitutionality of agency fees. But things changed when Justice Antonin Scalia died unexpectedly a month after oral arguments. That March, an equally divided eight-member court deadlocked on Friedrich’s case, leaving Abood intact.

A year-and-a-half later, following the appointment of Neil Gorsuch, the prospects look good for Janus, and, as they did leading up to Friedrichs, pretty bleak for agency fees and the union strength that depends on them. The immediate consequence of a Janus victory would be that public sector unions could no longer force nonmembers to pay agency fees. This would cause unions’ revenues to drop in the 20 states that allow agency fees. But that’s only the beginning. Taking away these fees would dramatically increase the real cost of union members’ dues. As I explained in in the context of Friedrichs:

In California, the real cost now is about $350, the difference between $1,000 in dues and the $650 fees. Without fees, the choice would be between $0 and $1,000, so the cost would rise to $1,000. This increase would encourage uncommitted members to leave and discourage new teachers from joining. Without agency fees, union membership would decline in states that now allow agency fees, and they would have far less political power.
The dramatic changes in costs would have outsized impacts on union membership and power. We have seen this play out before. In 2011, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker signed Act 10, which did away with agency fees. The state’s largest teachers union, the Wisconsin Education Association Council (WEAC), saw a dramatic decrease in membership over a short period of time: falling from about 98,000 members in 2011 to about 40,000 in 2015. But, as the graph below shows, membership declines are only part of this story. WEAC’s annual expenditures on lobbying ranged from half to one-and-a-half million dollars from 2005 to 2010, peaking at $2.25 million during its fight to stop Act 10 in 2011. After 2011, WEAC’s lobbying outlays have remained under $150,000, and hours spent lobbying dropped dramatically as well.

It’s unclear how much of this drop should be attributed solely to the elimination of agency fees, as Act 10 included other measures to curb union power, but the overlap between the states that allow agency fees and union power is evident across the country.

The Thomas B. Fordham Institute released a study in 2012 that makes a state-by-state comparison of the strength of teachers unions. Measuring Union strength through numerous variables, they sorted the states into five categories, from strongest to weakest, each containing about 10 states. All ten of the strongest and 8 out of 10 of the strong states allow unions to collect agency fees from nonmembers. The number of states allowing agency fees continues to decline with weaker union strength. Fewer than half of states with average union strength, 4 out of 10 weak union states, and only 1 out of 10 of the weakest union states allow unions to collect agency fees.

If the judicial scales tip in favor of Janus — and it looks like they will — unions will enter a new era, and for them it looks pretty dreary. Losing agency fees would shrink teachers unions’ membership and clip unions’ political and economic wings not only in the 20 remaining states with agency fees, but also in the national headquarters that depend on these states for a disproportionate share of their membership and funds.

Could this be the end of unions? Probably not, but to maintain their power and influence, teachers unions will need to refocus on working on behalf of their members, in order to make a clear value proposition to teachers. Their chief challenge will be making the case to teachers that union membership — and dues — are worth the full cost of membership. Eliminating agency fees will almost certainly shrink unions, but it could also make them more energized, since remaining members would be the truly committed. What will happen to public schools after the most powerful force in the politics of education has its wings clipped? It looks like we are about to find out.


Students for Justice in Palestine defends violence against pro-Israel groups, calls them ‘fascists’

A pro-Palestine campus activist group recently called for violent action against “fascists,” a term it linked with “Zionism,” or the political support of Israel.

The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine recently held an event called “Smash Fascism.” Their Facebook advertisement for the event described it as a “radical anti-fascist demonstration,” and declared there to be “no room for fascists, white supremacists, or Zionists at UIUC.”

In video of the event obtained by The College Fix, one student can be seen holding an Israeli flag with bloody handprints on it, with the word “genocide” written on the flag. Protesters are heard chanting “no justice! No peace! No war in the Middle East! No Zionists, no KKK, resisting fascists all the way” and “no Trump, no KKK, no fascist U.S.A.!”

The group sent out a Facebook post leading up to the event, which took place on Tuesday, September 5, claiming that the “confluence of fascism and Zionism is becoming more obvious by the day” and that as the “two forms of racial supremacy merge seamlessly together, the Palestinian struggle for human rights and dignity can set the model for discursive changes.”

In another Facebook post, the group endorsed the tactic of “violent resistance,” claiming that while “nonviolence and peaceful civil disobedience have their places,” violent action “also has its place.”

In a statement given to The College Fix, StandWithUs, a non-profit Israel education organization, denounced this rhetoric, saying the group “strongly condemns Students for Justice in Palestine at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign for equating Zionism with white supremacy and fascism, trying to create a hostile environment for students who believe in Israel’s right to exist, and advocating violence. We call on the university administration to publicly condemn them as well.”

StandWithUs issued a call to action to the University of Illinois, saying they hope that administrators will use their First Amendment rights “to issue a clear condemnation of SJP, and affirm that Zionist students have every right to a safe learning environment at the university.”

On the matter of “advocating violence,” Students for Justice in Palestine wrote on its Facebook page: “We do not believe there is any other option when it comes to dealing with fascists and white supremacists.”

“The struggle for liberation,” the group wrote, “must exist on multiple levels and scales–it cannot, and will not, be confined.”

The Facebook event for the Students for Justice in Palestine event claims that 147 people attended it, although the videos and photos obtained by The Fix appear to show a far smaller crowd.


Wednesday, October 04, 2017

Higher Education has an Admissions Problem

People are waking up to the poor value that they deliver

Scott Jaschik recently interpreted the findings from the 2017 Survey of Admission Directors, sponsored by Inside Higher Education and Gallup and drawn from a sample of 453 admission directors. While the full discussion of these findings is too complex for this space, the general conclusions, especially those specific to enrollment patterns, are telling.

Nearly two-thirds of colleges missed enrollment targets
The most startling finding is that “only 34 percent of colleges met new student enrollment targets this year by May 1, the traditional date by which most institutions hope to have a class set.” This number is down from 37 percent a year ago and 42 percent two years ago.

At the public doctoral institutions, the story was a bit more rosy, but even there only 59 percent of the institutions met their May 1 enrollment target. Only 22 percent of public/bachelor’s/master’s institutions, 27 percent of community colleges, and 36 percent of private colleges and universities met their May enrollment targets.

This is a growing issue since most colleges and universities are heavily dependent on tuition revenue; hence, the size of the incoming and returning classes directly impacts their financial bottom line.

The reaction of admissions leaders is especially interesting. For this year, 55 percent said that they were very concerned while 30 percent said they were somewhat concerned. This number increased slightly from the 54 percent who were very concerned a year ago and more dramatically from the 31 percent who expressed deep concern two years ago.

There sees to be a growing recognition that the numbers will not support older, more favorable patterns of enrollment. In short, admission officers understand that something fundamental has changed.

That’s a good beginning for those worried about how demographics, consumer whim, political expediency, sticker price, tuition discounting, and retention and graduation rates intersect to produce this softness in the market.

The IHE/Gallup Survey also looked at how colleges and universities are reacting to this softness, asking about the tools that admissions officials will use to strengthen their market share. Among the key findings:

"Many colleges, especially private institutions, appear to be focusing recruiting strategies on students with the capacity to pay full tuition and fees.

In the realm of international student recruiting, many say that American higher education has become too dependent on students from a few countries, but most admissions directors don’t think that’s true of their institutions.

While most colleges don’t check applicants’ social media, some do — and some applicants are being rejected or having acceptances revoked because of their posts.

Officials at many colleges, more public than private, say they are stepping up recruitment of rural and low-income white students in the wake of the election, and a small minority of colleges is stepping up recruitment of conservative students.

Admissions directors strongly believe that higher education has an image problem with ramifications for enrollment patterns — and that image problem may be the worst for liberal arts colleges.

Admissions directors — from both public and private institutions — believe they are losing potential applicants because of concerns about debt. But private and public college admissions leaders differ on how much debt is reasonable.

The idea of free tuition in public higher education is seen by most private college admissions directors as a threat to their institutions. While admissions directors in public higher education are more open to the idea, they have areas of skepticism as well.

What’s striking about the tools employed by the admissions officials is that they are tactical and incremental. Those surveyed do not appreciate that the solution must be more comprehensive and linked to a broader view of how higher education must adapt to the complex intersection of the changes that are buffeting it. Their solutions are scattershot and more like a band-aid applied to surface wounds, with no apparent connection among the challenges and opportunities that American higher education faces.

The problem is simple to diagnose. America’s colleges and universities utilize operating and financial models developed in the 1960s and 1970s that no longer work for them.
It was possible to disguise the growing crisis now affecting higher education when improving demographics, state and federal government policy, and a simple “revenue must meet expense” financial accounting successfully disguised what was coming. The assumption was that rising family incomes would overcome recessions and any attempt to cap revenue built into older tuition models. But the global economy has changed and the path ahead is far less certain.

That’s not to say that the sky is falling on America’s colleges and universities.

Each institution must find its own unique solution because their historic circumstances, market positions, and financial resources differ.

It is a call for action. The trustees, administrators and faculty must have the stamina to lead through creative solutions and at a faster pace than the incremental changes suggested by the IHE survey.


Inequality at preschool level

Head Start has long been a program to get poorer kids into pre-school but there is no evidence of benefit so far

Limos and nannies drop off 3- and 4-year-olds every weekday morning at New York City’s most exclusive preschools. Tuition is more than $30,000 a year. The schools boast that young kids learn French, Chinese, violin, yoga and robotics — all before kindergarten.

Just a few subway stops away in the Bronx, home to one of America’s poorest congressional districts, there’s a very different morning drop-off routine going on. Many working parents leave their children with a relative or at the home of a lady down the street. They can’t afford formal preschool or day care, which now averages almost $10,000 a year, according to the Care Index.

Inequality in America is apparent by age 3: Most rich kids are in school, while most poor kids are not, according to a new book, Cradle to Kindergarten: A New Plan to Combat Inequality.

Only 55 percent of America’s 3 and 4-year-olds attend a formal preschool, a rate far below China, Germany and other power players on the global stage.

It’s a problem for the kids left behind — and for the U.S. economy. Companies are already complaining they can’t find enough skilled workers. It’s only expected to get worse if the United States doesn’t do a better job educating its youth.

“Early care and education in the United States is in a crisis,” education scholars Ajay Chaudry, Taryn Morrissey, Christina Weiland and Hirokazu Yoshikawa conclude in the book.

Parents who can’t afford preschool typically leave their kids with a grandparent or someone nearby. Some of these informal child-care providers do offer rigorous educational activities, but others just leave kids in front of the television. The quality is more haphazard, and there’s a higher risk the option won’t work out. The book chronicles the awful experience of one low-income family in New York City that had to make 25 different child-care arrangements for their daughter by her fifth birthday.

The inequality that begins before kindergarten lasts a lifetime. Children who don’t get formal schooling until kindergarten start off a year behind in math and verbal skills and they never catch up, according to the authors, who cite a growing body of research that’s been following children since the 1940s. In fact, the gap between rich and poor kids’ math and reading skills has been growing since the 1970s. The “left behind” kids are also more likely to end up in lower-paying jobs.

“The earliest years are the most promising for brain and skill development, yet it is when the U.S. invests the least,” says Yoshikawa, an education professor at New York University.

The United States spends an average of $12,400 a year on each child in K-12 education. In contrast, the United States only averages $1,350 a year per child in pre-K, including both federal and state dollars.

America, once a global educational leader, has fallen behind its rivals, at least in this area. When it comes to educating kids under 5, the United States spends one of the lowest amounts of any developed nation in the world, according to data from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.

“There’s near-universal attendance by age 3 in formal preschool in most countries,” says Yoshikawa. In China, 75 percent of toddlers are in school, and more than 90 percent of kids in Germany and Britain are learning letters and numbers at a formal child-care center.

The United States currently spends $30 billion a year in government money on early-childhood education and care. The authors make the case for raising that to $100 billion, an amount that would be about 0.6 percent of GDP, on par with what many other developed nations spend.

The additional spending would allow the United States to make preschool available for every child start at age 3. It would also be enough to establish a paid parental leave program, offer more aid for affordable child care and do a “reimagined” Head Start that begins working with poor families as soon as a child is born.

Many of these initiatives have support across the political spectrum. President Donald Trump’s first budget includes a proposal to start America’s first paid parental leave program. On the campaign trail, Trump also pushed the idea of expanding the Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit to help make it more affordable for families to put their kids in quality preschool and childcare programs.

“Childcare is a major expense for American working families. This Admin. is focused on creating policy solutions to enable them to thrive!” Ivanka Trump, the president’s daughter, tweeted on Inauguration Day.

Military and business leaders are some of the most vocal champions of pre-K funding because they want better-educated graduates and a stronger economy. Thirty-six percent of small business owners say lack of access to child care was a major barrier to starting a business, according to a survey of 500 randomly selected small business owners published last week by Small Business Majority, an advocacy group.

Criminal-justice reformers also make the case repeatedly for expanding pre-K to all families.

“If I could fund one single program, it would be early-childhood education,” said John Wetzel, the longtime head of Pennsylvania’s Department of Corrections who has served in both Republican and Democratic administrations, in May.


Controversial U.S. education secretary to visit Ontario on public education trip

U.S. President Donald Trump's education secretary, who holds controversial views on publicly funded education, is set to visit Ontario to learn about its public school system.

Ontario government officials confirmed Betsy DeVos' trip is taking place but wouldn't provide details. U.S. embassy officials provided few specifics, except to say DeVos' visit is on Thursday and Friday and involves a study tour to Toronto "to examine best practices in Ontario's education system."

"Secretary DeVos plans to engage with Ministry of Education officials from Ontario and other provinces, visit local schools, and learn about U.S. Consulate support for U.S.-Canada higher education linkages," spokesperson Joseph Crook said in a statement.

The province often welcomes international delegations who come to look at its publicly funded education system, said Ontario Education Minister Mitzie Hunter.

"We're very proud of our education system in Ontario and we welcome international delegations who come here to learn from us and to really meet our great teachers and educators in our system," she said.

When asked what lessons the American school system can learn from Ontario, Hunter cited full-day kindergarten, graduation rates, specialist skills major programs — such as agriculture, construction and forestry — and inclusive education.

DeVos' department of education rolled back rules allowing transgender students to use school restrooms of their choice this year. She has also attracted protests recently for revoking a guidance that instructed colleges on how to handle sexual assault cases, saying the previous policy was unfairly skewed against those accused of assault.

But much of the criticism directed at DeVos has focused on her positions on public schools, with critics saying she prioritizes the needs of private schools.

She advocates for school choice, which includes vouchers that allow kids to attend charter schools — which are publicly funded but privately operated — or private schools on the public dime.

Ontario teachers' organizations and unions expressed disappointment at news of the visit.

"DeVos represents everything a public education advocate opposes," Ontario Teachers' Federation president Chris Cowley wrote on Twitter. "She should keep her backwards ideas out of Ontario."

The head of the Ontario Secondary School Teachers' Federation said in a statement that he is "extremely concerned" about plans to allow DeVos to visit Ontario schools.


Tuesday, October 03, 2017

College Professor: Believing in Hard Work is White Ideology

Pennsylvania State University-Brandywine professor Angela Putman recently asserted in an academic paper that the notion “if I work hard, I can be successful” is merely a product of white ideology, reports Campus Reform.

Angela Putman conducted a study to critique and examine “ideologies within college students’ discourse that are foundational to whiteness.” Her resulting conclusion published on Thursday was that “meritocracy”, or the belief that people should rise based on the fruits of their own labor, is a "white ideology." In her mind, this "white ideology" is unfortunately widely accepted in academia.

But, Professor Putman argues that professors can change this "ideology" by teaching students “how racism and whiteness function in various contexts, the powerful influence of systems and institutions, and the pervasiveness of whiteness ideologies within the United States.”

Putman believes that it is somehow a bad thing to teach students personal responsibility. Emphasizing a collectivist mindset, Putman puts forth the idea that Americans are falsely "socialized to believe that we got to where we are… because of our own individual efforts.”

This “ideology” she says, perpetuates whiteness and racism throughout society. Once students learn more about "white ideology," they will hopefully “resist perpetuating and reifying whiteness through their own discourse and interactions,” and challenge systemic “manifestations of racism and whiteness.”

Until students learn the hidden dangers of believing in the value of hard-work and a positive attitude, “whiteness ideologies may be reproduced through a general acceptance and unchallenging of norms, as well as through everyday discourse from a wide variety of racial positionalities.”

In the past, Professor Putman has put forth even more radical ideas to confront racism. On her blog,, Putman gave a detailed list how to fight systemic racism. Among her list of ideas were:

#2. Stop looking to people of color for information, guidance, and leadership.

If you are confused, unsure what to say, overwhelmed with emotions, or just don’t know what to do, try to figure it out on your own first. If that doesn’t work, look to other whites involved in the fight for their help and guidance. It is not the responsibility of people of color to explain things to us, to make us feel better..

#8. Attend protests and rallies… but not if you aren’t willing to be arrested.

Those who led the fight for civil rights (and those who continue to fight today) believed so strongly in what they were fighting for that they were willing to be arrested or tear gassed or beaten by police if it came to that. I hope that protests and rallies remain peaceful; but, when confrontation with law officers occurs, white people should be the ones at the front of the lines, holding their ground, and forcing officers to arrest them first. Let the media start writing headlines and talking on television about the countless white people arrested at the recent Black Lives Matter protest, and perhaps we might change the perceptions and shift the conversations people are having about this movement.

Putman did not say how she would be grading students in the future. According to her theory, grading based on their merits and test scores would be a perpetuation of white ideological privilege.


Hundreds protest DeVos during Harvard visit

CAMBRIDGE — US Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos was met Wednesday evening by hundreds of protesters outside Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government and more than two dozen students inside standing silently, fists raised, with signs criticizing her positions on campus sexual assault and school choice.

DeVos came to Harvard as part of a conference on school choice less than a year after Massachusetts voters roundly defeated a ballot measure to expand charter schools. Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey has also been among DeVos’s most vocal critics, challenging her on the Trump administration’s new rules for adjudicating campus sexual assault and accusing her of supporting for-profit colleges at the expense of student loan borrowers.

DeVos did not directly address the protesters inside room or the rowdy crowd outside in her remarks, but she did take questions and defended her position on multiple fronts. She said the federal education agency was committed to ensuring that students are safe and learning.

“We can be bold,” DeVos said. “We can be unafraid.” She added that any student who is unsafe and discriminated against, “that’s the last thing we want.”

At Wednesday evening’s event, students held up sheets that read “Protect Survivors,” “Harvard legitimizes white supremacy” and “Resist.” Massachusetts teachers and politicians, in a rally along the sidewalk, attacked DeVos for her long-standing support of charter schools and voucher programs.

Boston City Councilor and mayoral candidate Tito Jackson said Massachusetts didn’t need DeVos advising leaders on how to operate public schools, praising the state’s high student test scores.

“Betsy DeVos, you can go back to D.C.,” Jackson said. “Because these are our schools, our children, and our public schools work in the state of Massachusetts.”

DeVos said she wanted all parents, no matter their race or income level, to have options about where to send their children to school.

“There are too many kids who are trapped in a school that doesn’t meet their needs. There are too many parents who are denied the fundamental right to decide the best way to educate their child,” DeVos said. “I’ve been called the “school choice Secretary” by some. I think it’s meant as an insult, but I wear it as a badge of honor!”

Last November, 62 percent of Massachusetts voters rejected a ballot question that would have allowed up to 12 new charters a year statewide regardless of any caps.

Latoya Gayle, a mother of three from Boston, said she and her children have benefited from private and charter schools, but believes that the federal government still has a role to play in ensuring that all schools work, especially for minority students.

Several of the audience members who had packed the John F. Kennedy Jr. Forum were also eager to challenge DeVos on issues of school safety, sexual assault, and predatory for-profit schools

Earlier this month, Devos rescinded the Obama administration’s 2011 directive requiring colleges to aggressively investigate all sexual assault claims using a relatively low burden of proof.

The federal education agency is developing a replacement policy and has told schools to evaluate sexual misconduct claims using the same standards of evidence they rely on for any other student infractions.

Opponents argue that it could make it tougher to prove allegations of sexual assault at some universities.

DeVos on Wednesday credited the Obama administration for bringing the problem of campus sexual assault to the forefront, but she said the rules need to be fair to both the victim and the accused.

“It’s not an issue that we’re going to be sweeping under the rug and putting in the back room,” DeVos said. “We need ensure that policy and framework is fair to all students. All students.”


British students invite radical Islamic speakers to over 110 events in a year despite the Government's terror crackdown

In general, Muslims should be as free as anyone else to present their views -- as free as conservatives, for instance (!)

Radical Islamic speakers have been invited to more than 100 events hosted by student societies over the past year despite a government crackdown.

A new report reveals the speakers were invited to speak to undergraduates at elite institutions including Oxford, Warwick and Manchester.

In total, guests with a record of preaching extreme views were given access to students on 112 occasions – and in most cases no effort was made to provide any balance to their statements.

In one case, a preacher who had previously advocated wife-beating and claimed that ‘Islam is not compatible with democracy’ was allowed to speak to students of the School of Oriental and African Studies in London.

In another, Oxford University students heard a speech by the director of Cage, the group which once described IS killer Jihadi John as a ‘beautiful young man’.

The data, gathered by the Henry Jackson Society think tank, follows a string of terror attacks this year in Manchester, London Bridge and Parsons Green.

Universities are required to help prevent extremism and report any concerns they have to counter-terrorism officials under the government’s Prevent Duty.

Yesterday, critics said the report showed not enough is being done by university leaders to stop vulnerable students being brainwashed by radicals.

Robert Halfon, the Conservative chairman of the education select committee, said: ‘It is unacceptable that the universities are not doing enough to crack down on extremism.

‘They should do everything possible not to be unwitting accessories to encouraging terrorism. ‘If the Prevent guidelines are not working, they need to be toughened up.

‘Given what has gone on in our country over the past few months, they have a real responsibility to stop extremism on campus.’

Anthony Glees, director of the Centre for Security and Intelligence Studies at the University of Buckingham, added: ‘Universities should not be soap boxes for extremists. By law, academic freedom applies to professors and lecturers so that they can disseminate knowledge.

‘People pay to go to universities to learn from their professors, not to listen to radical speakers.

‘I hope that this report is taken seriously. ‘Universities have a duty of care to students and they need to exercise their authority.

‘The events in Manchester and London mean universities cannot pretend that terror is not a threat. It is unacceptable that some appear to be failing to crack down on extremism.

Universities whose student societies invited extreme speakers also included King’s College London and Queen Mary London.

In every case, the universities themselves were not involved in the invitations as the events were organised by individual student groups – mostly the unions or the Islamic societies.

Often they were held on venues off campus, with Facebook and Twitter used to publicise them.

The Higher Education and Funding Council for England (HEFCE) has found that the majority of universities are satisfying the statutory requirements of the Prevent duty.

The Henry Jackson Society said its findings suggested more stringent guidelines were needed. It said in all but one of the cases uncovered, the speakers were allowed to disseminate their views without being challenged.


Monday, October 02, 2017

Canadian colleges offer US students lower tuition and Trudeau instead of Trump

CAMBRIDGE — In a sweaty high school gymnasium on a recent Monday evening, 25 college recruiters set up tables with glossy brochures and free pens. Among them were Quest University, Mount Allison University, the University of Waterloo, and Bishop’s University.

Most Americans can’t locate these schools on a map (hint: they’re all in Canada), but nonetheless about 100 US students and their parents attended the fair, curious to learn about them. Why? The lure of reasonably priced tuition and a chance to study outside the United States.

As private college costs in the United States creep ever-closer to $70,000 a year, Canadian schools are seizing on unprecedented interest among Americans increasingly unwilling to accept mountains of debt for an undergraduate degree.

Colleges in Canada, which are almost all public and receive more government support than their US counterparts, are significantly cheaper, as little as $8,000 per year at Brandon University in Manitoba, or $15,000 at McGill, in Montreal.

And these days, Canadian college recruiters say, there’s another dynamic at play: Some US students disenchanted with American politics since Donald Trump’s election last fall are exploring higher education far from home.

“It’s definitely a reason why they’re leaving,” said Mariya Kala, a recruiter from the University of Toronto.

Toronto, the nation’s largest and most elite university, saw 795 more applications from US students this year than last year, a 75 percent increase. Last year, 125 Americans enrolled; this year that number is 222, a 78 percent increase.

Nationwide, 6,349 Americans held Canadian study permits in 2016, up from 5,683 the year before. The government considers international students a tool for economic growth and welcomes them to work and live in Canada permanently after they graduate.

At the college fair in Cambridge last week, students asked Kala about Toronto’s admissions requirements, which like most Canadian schools do not include an essay, teacher recommendations, or an interview. Students simply submit a transcript and an SAT or ACT score.

Raisa Jarostchuk, an 11th-grader at Wellesley High School, told Kala she wants to study business and marketing, and Kala described programs she could choose. Her mother, Karen, was fixated on the price, which at $36,000 per year is among the most expensive international rates in Canada.

“That’s still reasonable,” Karen said. Her other daughter attends Boston University, which this year costs $67,000 including room and board.

None of Jarostchuk’s classmates are talking about Canadian schools. She found them herself by Googling for colleges that match her three criteria: happy students, a place to practice French, and a good price. Price is the biggest factor.

“I don’t want to live my life in debt,” she said.

Canadian colleges have tried to attract American applicants for years and so has the Canadian government. The Consulate General of Canada in Boston organized Monday night’s fair, held at the International School of Boston, a French language International Baccalaureate school.

Kala has recruited for Toronto since 2011 but in the United States only since last year. Her position is a two-year pilot to focus on New York, California, and Massachusetts, the school’s top feeder states. Other Canadian schools have also added to their US recruitment teams this year to handle the interest.

Until now, their success has been modest. But after Trump’s election, colleges across Canada saw an unprecedented rise in website traffic from the United States and a corresponding increase in applications.

“Without actively recruiting, we’ve seen a bump in our applications,” said Cynthia Vokey, a recruiter at the fair who stood beside a poster of the green coastline that surrounds Cape Breton University. The 3,000-student school is located on the northern tip of Nova Scotia. “We’re calling it the Trump bump.”

The pamphlet for Bishop’s University, a 2,500-student school in Quebec that costs $16,000 a year for international students, bore the slogan “Look North.” The school saw a 200 percent increase in American applications and ultimately welcomed 72 US students last year, a record according to recruiter Eddie Pomykala.

“That’s not just because of the political situation here, there’s a lot of factors,” Pomykala said.

There are already about 800 American students at Toronto, about half of them undergraduates. They say they like going to school in the lakeside city, which feels culturally different but not entirely foreign. They like Toronto’s diversity and the freedom of knowing they will not spend their lives in debt.

But choosing a school based on price is not an easy decision. It took Eva Bodin, a second-year from Middlesex, Vt., months to adjust to the idea. She had always dreamed of going to Northeastern University in Boston.

Northeastern accepted her, she said, and she made a deposit, but she never made it to Huntington Avenue.

Northeastern costs about $67,000 a year and offered her $1,000 annually in financial aid, she said. But Bodin’s mother is half-Canadian, so Bodin is eligible to pay Canadian tuition at Toronto, which is about $6,000 per year.

“I feel so happy to be here, not having to spend the rest of my life paying off debt,” Bodin said.

Why are Canadian colleges so much cheaper? Mainly because almost all of them are public. Government aid comes primarily from the provinces and some schools receive as much as 80.5 percent of their operating budget from the province, according to a report by CAUBO, a nonprofit professional organization representing financial administrators of Canadian colleges.

As in the United States, government support for Canadian colleges is declining, but the level of support in the United States is lower.

Tuition at public colleges and universities in the United States accounts for about 47 percent of their total funding, up from 26 percent in 1991, according to a 2016 report on state higher education finance published by SHEEO, a national association of public higher education officials.

Even as US students enjoy the independence of navigating college life in another country, many said being American in Canada carries new weight since Trump’s election.

Canadians love to talk American politics, but in the same way they might discuss hockey, students said. Many laugh when they wonder how the United States could have elected a reality television star.

Bodin, from Vermont, remembers the day after Trump’s election. She was at a political science lecture in one of the school’s largest auditoriums. The professor mentioned Trump’s name and the room burst into laughter.

“I’m sitting in a room of 1,300 people just laughing at Americans,” she said.

Other students feel guilty for having found a way to escape. As she scrolls through her Facebook feed, Konstantina Nikolakis, a second-year from Winchester sees posts from friends in the United States, and part of her wishes she was protesting Trump alongside them.

“It’s a lot of privilege to be able to leave,” Nikolakis said. “I don’t want to get away from it, I don’t want to avoid the issues.”

Back in the Cambridge high school, Marc Jacques from the Canadian consulate’s office packed up his sign-in list and recalled the years when he first started recruiting in the United States. In 2004, he said, not even high school college counselors here had heard of Canadian colleges. He doesn’t chalk up this recent bump to Trump entirely, or to tuition prices, but to the effort he and others have put in for years, and the quality of the schools they represent.

Whatever the reason, he said, Canada is the winner. The country’s population is declining, and it sees students as an ideal way to create new Canadians.

“The government is really actively seeking international students,” he said. “If a student can be accepted to a university, that’s the kind of person you want in your country.”


Harvard panel back-pedals on authoritarian social club ban after backlash

Facing a backlash from faculty, students, and alumni over its far-reaching proposal to ban all exclusive, off-campus clubs at Harvard University, a panel studying the issue on Friday offered more measured options for dealing with the century-old organizations.

“The College must take action to address the detrimental impact of the unrecognized single-gender social organizations,” the committee said in its final report released Friday afternoon. “At the same time, as a committee, we did not reach consensus about the path forward.”

The committee’s admission that there are “significant differences” on how to deal with the clubs reflects their grip on Harvard’s social scene and the difficulty the administration has faced in reining them in.

The committee’s report suggested two distinct options and then a third that included a grab bag of suggestions. Aside from the ban on all elite clubs, the final panel report also suggested that Harvard could stick with the current policy barring membership to single-gender groups. Alternatively, the college could take a softer touch in dealing with clubs, including persuading parents and students of the dangerous behaviors that can take place, creating more social spaces on campus, and bringing in the police more often to address illegal and harmful activities.

“This report represents a good deal of back-pedaling of a committee whose initial thoughts were rebuffed,” said Rick Porteus, graduate president of Harvard’s Fly Club, which has opposed the proposed restrictions on the clubs.

Harvard has been trying for several years to develop a policy that would restrict these social groups, particularly the seven traditionally all-male final clubs, with their elite membership rolls and Cambridge mansions.

Administrators blame the clubs for unruly parties that have led to underage drinking and sexual assault, and for fostering a divisive culture. [How awful!]

This past summer, a panel of administrators, faculty, and students who spent months researching and debating the issue, drafted a recommendation that would phase out all final clubs, as well as sororities and fraternities, beginning in the fall of 2018. Under the proposed policy, students who joined such organizations could be expelled or suspended.

But critics argued that the proposal went too far. Some faculty members worried that Harvard would be overstepping its role and interfering with the right of students to freely associate with whomever they wanted off-campus.

Members of sororities and the women’s final clubs protested that they had been unfairly targeted in the broad policy and said their organizations provided refuge and networking opportunities that were otherwise unavailable.

Some alumni and families threatened to withdraw donations to the university. And the committee spent a significant amount of time discussing whether the sanctions were even legal.

Camille N’Diaye-Muller, a senior and undergraduate president of the Delta Gamma sorority, said the committee’s new report offers some hope for these social organizations.

“At least they are starting to listen to their students,” N’Diaye-Muller said. “I am cautiously optimistic for now.”


Teacher knows best: lessons from Chinese attitudes to education

When my little boy was three, his Chinese teacher forced a bite of fried egg into his mouth. At school. Without permission.

“She put it there,” my firstborn told me, lips forming an “O”, finger pointing past his teeth.

“Then what happened?” I prodded my son, who despises eggs.

“I cried and spit it out,” he said.

“And?” I pressed.

“She did it again,” he said. In all, Teacher Chen pushed egg into my son’s mouth four times, and the last time he swallowed.

We are Americans raising a family in Shanghai — China’s megacity of 26 million people — and the Chinese are known to pump out some of the world’s best students. When we realised that a few blocks from our new home was one of the best state-run schools, as far as elite urbanites are concerned, we decided to enrol our son. He would learn the world’s most spoken language. What was not to like? Plenty, as it turned out. And it was only the first week of kindergarten.

The day after the egg episode, I marched off to school to confront Teacher Chen, brash in my conviction about individual choice.

“We don’t use such methods of force in America,” I blurted in Mandarin, my son clutching my hand. (I was born and raised in America but grew up speaking Chinese at home.)

“Oh? How do you do it?” Teacher Chen challenged.

“We explain that egg eating is good for them, that the nutrients help build strong bones and teeth and helps with eyesight,” I said, trying to sound authoritative. “We motivate them to choose … we trust them with the decision.”

“Does it work?” Teacher Chen challenged.

In truth, no. I’d never been able to get my son to eat eggs. He’s a picky eater. Later, Teacher Chen pulled me aside for a lecture. “In front of the children, you should say, ‘Teacher is right, and Mum will do things the same way,’ OK?”

I nodded, slightly stunned.

Many studies support the Chinese way of education. Researchers have found that six-year-old Chinese children trounce their American peers in early maths skills, including geometry and logic. In the past decade, Shanghai teens twice took No 1 in the world on a test called PISA (the OECD’s Program for International Student Assessment), which assesses problem-solving skills, while American students landed in the middle of the pack.

When young Chinese head abroad, the results are impressive. They are earning more spots at the world’s top universities. The Ivy League enrols eight times more Chinese undergraduates than a decade ago, according to the Institute of International Education, and the Chinese are helping to launch Silicon Valley start-ups in disproportionate numbers.

Yet, from my perch in Shanghai, I suspected I would have some objections to Chinese education. Force-feeding would get a teacher dragged into court in the US, the land of infant choice, free-form play and individualised everything. In China, children are also subjected to high-stakes testing at every turn, which keeps them bent over books from toddlerhood on.

I began to wonder: what price do the Chinese pay to produce their “smart” kids? And do we really have something to learn from the Chinese way of education?

For five years now, I’ve parented a child inside China’s school system and interviewed Chinese teachers, parents and students at all stages of education. I’ve discovered that there are indeed some Chinese “secrets”. Most have to do with attitudes about education.

There are real upsides to a mentality of “teacher knows best”. As I worked through my anxieties about submitting to this kind of system, I began to observe that when parents fall in line with teachers, so do their children. This signalling gives the teacher near-absolute command of her classroom. My son became so afraid of being late for class, missing school or otherwise disappointing his teacher, that he once raised a stink when I broached the possibility of missing a few school days for a family trip. He was five.

Having the teacher as centre-of-classroom also gives students a leg-up in subjects such as geo­metry and computer programming, which are more effectively taught through direct instruction (versus student-led discovery), according to a 2004 study of 112 third and fourth-graders published in the journal Psychological Science. A 2014 study of more than 13,000 students in the journal Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis found that math-challenged first-graders learned more effectively when teachers demonstrated pro­blem-solving procedures and followed up with repeated practice.

By contrast, Western teachers spend lots of time managing classroom behaviour and crushing mini-revolts by students and parents alike. A Chinese teacher who arrived in the US two decades ago recalled to me her surprise the first year she taught American kids. “I started out very controlling, but it didn’t work at all. My students talked back,” says Sheen Zhang, who teaches Mandarin at a Minnesota high school. Parents sometimes complained when she assigned too much homework. A mother once asked her to change the way she talked to her classwork-skipping daughter. “She wanted me to say, ‘You can do better’ instead of ‘You didn’t finish this’,” exclaimed Zhang.

The Chinese parent knows her kid deserves whatever the teacher delivers, no questions asked. In other words, let the teacher do his or her job. As a result, educators in China enjoy an esteem that’s tops in the world: half of the Chinese population would encourage their kids to become teachers while less than a third of Americans and Brits would do the same, according to a 2013 study by the Varkey Foundation. Chinese society grants teachers a social status on par with doctors.

There are also educational advantages to the Chinese insistence on elevating the group over the needs of any individual child. The reason is simple: classroom goals are better served if everyone ­charges forward at the same pace. No exceptions, no diversions.

My son suffered from asthma during the winter, but Teacher Chen denied my request to keep his rescue inhaler near the classroom — its use might be a distraction to his classmates. When I protested, I was told I could transfer my son out of the school. In other words, no kid gets special treatment and if I didn’t like it I could get out. (Ultimately, I found a solution: a preventive steroid inhaler I could administer at home.)

The school’s attitude is absolutely draconian. But I began to wonder whether Americans have gone too far in the other direction, elevating the needs of individual students to the detriment of the group. Some parents think nothing of sending an unvaccinated child to school — which can ignore community health — or petitioning to move school start times to accommodate sports schedules. Meanwhile, teacher friends tell me they are spending more time dealing with “problem” students, often through behavioural intervention programs that whittle away teachers’ time with the rest of the class. Where should we draw the line?

Another bracing Chinese belief is that hard work trumps innate talent when it comes to academics. Equipped with flashcards and ready to practise, my son’s Chinese language teacher knows that he is capable of learning the 3500 characters required for literacy. His primary school math teacher gives no child a free pass on triple-digit arithmetic and stays after school to help laggards. China’s school system breeds a Chinese-style grit, which delivers the daily message that perseverance — not intelligence or ability — is key to success.

Studies show that this attitude gets kids further in the classroom. Ethnic Asian youth are higher academic achievers in part because they believe in the connection between effort and achievement, while “white Americans tend to view cognitive abilities as … inborn”, according to a longitudinal study of more than 5000 students published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences in 2014. Chinese kids are used to struggling through difficult content and they believe that success is within reach of anyone willing to work for it. This attitude gives policymakers in China great latitude when it comes to setting out and enforcing higher standards.

In the US, parents have often revolted as policymakers try to push through similar measures. In part, we are afraid that Johnny will feel bad about himself if he can’t make the grade. What if, instead, Johnny’s parents — and his teacher, too — believed that the boy could learn challenging maths with enough dedicated effort?

We aren’t afraid to push our children when it comes to athletics. Here we believe that hard work and practice pay off, so we accept scores and rankings. Eyes glued to scoreboards at a meet, we embrace numbers as a way to measure progress. A ninth-place finish in the 100m dash suggests to us a plodding Johnny needs to train harder. It doesn’t mean that he’s inferior, nor do we worry much about his self-esteem.

My son has been in the Chinese school system now for five years. During that time he has become a proper pupil who faithfully greets his teacher each morning — “Laoshi Zao! Good morning, teacher!” — and has developed an unbending respect for education. In primary school, I watched, a bit dazed, as he prepared his own backpack for school at six years old, slotting his English, Chinese and maths books into his bag each morning along with six pencils that he sharpened himself.

When his homework books come home — parents in China are required to sign them daily to prove involvement — he brings them to us immediately. He began teaching his younger brother Mandarin, two small heads huddled over a picture book, naming animals. A little older now, he expertly performs timed drills in arithmetic, his pencil travelling down the page, and he gains confidence from his success.

When I tell the story of my son’s Chinese educational experience to American friends, they gasp. When they spend time with him, they are surprised that he doesn’t cower in the corner or obey commands like a labrador retriever. My son is imaginative when he draws, and has a great sense of humour and a mean forehand in tennis. None of these qualities has slipped away because we prioritise academics from an early age. Still, I must confess that I have been paralysed by anxiety at times over the Chinese way. Teacher Chen wasn’t just authoritarian, but she sometimes delivered punishments I’d probably file a lawsuit over if I were living in California. Once, she isolated my young son and several classmates in an empty classroom and threatened to demote them after they failed to follow in “one-two” step during a physical exercise.

Her power was even more worrisome when coupled with the Communist Party’s political agenda. The following year, the teachers began running mock elections for class monitor, part of the grooming process to identify star students for eventual party membership. The government also censors textbooks and bans topics of discussion from the classroom.

At the same time, China’s education landscape is littered with dropouts in a system that perpetuates an underclass: children who fail to score well enough to advance into regular academic high schools would populate a city the size of London each year. Because of the high stakes, families sometimes take extreme measures, including cheating and bribery.

And there is no denying that the traditional Chinese classroom discourages the expression of new and original thought. I observed an art class where 28 toddlers were instructed to sketch exactly the same way, with errant drawings tacked to the wall to shame the deviants. “Rain falls from the sky to the ground and comes in little dots,” bellowed the teacher, as the children dutifully populated their pages. In this classroom, rain did not blow sideways or hurtle to the ground in sheets. There was no figurative rain, such as purple rain, nor did it rain tears or frogs, much less cats and dogs.

Western education cultures get more than a few things right. There are major problems with China’s desire to cultivate a nation of obedient patriots, and I naturally resisted. In the West, we harbour a healthy mistrust of authority, and our freedom to raise a fuss is a right we should celebrate. It’s foundational to our national character.

But the scepticism we freely apply to our political leaders can be detrimental when transferred to the men and women who stand at the front of our classrooms. I worry that educational progress is hobbled by parental entitlement and attitudes that detract from learning, especially when we demand privileges for our children that have little to do with education and ask for report-card mercy when they can’t make the grade. As a society, we’re expecting more from our teachers while shouldering less responsibility at home.

From my years living in a very different country, I’ve learned that wonderful things can happen when we give our educators the respect and autonomy they deserve.


Sunday, October 01, 2017

The Leftist hate never stops

What is admirable in Mrs Obama is contemptible in Mrs Trump

First lady Melania Trump fired back Friday at a Massachusetts elementary school librarian who rejected her donation of Dr. Seuss books, claiming their illustrations are examples of “racist propaganda.”

Stephanie Grisham, director of communications for the first lady's office, said in a statement to Fox News that the response was "unfortunate," and Mrs. Trump wanted to use her platform "to help as many children as she can."

"She has demonstrated this in both actions and words since her husband took office, and sending books to children across the country is but one example," she said. "To turn the gesture of sending young students some books into something divisive is unfortunate, but the First Lady remains committed to her efforts on behalf of children everywhere."

To celebrate “National Read a Book Day,” the first lady had sent out a collection of 10 Dr. Seuss books to one school in each state across the nation. The titles included: "The Cat in the Hat"; "One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish"; "Wacky Wednesday"; "Green Eggs and Ham"; and "Oh, the Places You’ll Go!"

She followed in the footsteps of her predecessor, Michelle Obama, who often read Dr. Seuss books to children. Former first ladies Hillary Clinton and Barbara Bush also read to children at Dr. Seuss-themed educational events.

But despite the gesture, Liz Phipps Soeiro, a librarian at a public school in Cambridge, wrote a letter to the first lady, which was then published on The Horn Book blog, notifying Mrs. Trump that her school would “not be keeping the titles” for their collection, explaining that her school didn’t have a “NEED” for the books, due to her school and library’s “award-winning” status.

But Soeiro seemed to be the most offended by the books themselves.

“Another fact that many people are unaware of is that Dr. Seuss’s illustrations are steeped in racist propaganda, caricatures, and harmful stereotypes,” Soeiro wrote, giving  examples of "If I Ran a Zoo" and "And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street" as clear “racist mockery” in Seuss’ art.

While Soeiro bristled at Melania Trump's donation, former first lady Michelle Obama also read Dr. Seuss books to children a number of times during the previous administration, without controversy.

Soeiro’s profile on The Horn Book says she is “an advocate for inclusive libraries and active in her community to create spaces that are welcoming to all students.” [Christian students too?]



Phipps. Isn't she gorgeous in her plaits?

Judging by the expanded surname, Miss Phipps married a Hispanic with the surname of Soeiro and is pretty proud of herself for having done so: Leftist self-righteousness writ large. Matthew 6:2 would be incomprehensible to her.

The sheer hypocrisy of her words can be seen in this recent photo where she dressed up as the cat in the hat:

Apparently Liz Phipps Soeiro has only found Dr. Seuss books to be racist AFTER Melania Trump's thoughtful donation.  She seems seriously deranged

Clemson students given 'Heterosexual Questionnaire' in class

At least some Criminal Justice majors at Clemson University are reportedly being required to take a “Heterosexual Questionnaire” that paints heterosexuality in a decidedly negative light.
The document was distributed in a "Sociology of Sex and Gender" course, which fulfills part of the 9 credit-hour social justice requirement recently imposed on Criminal Justice students.

At least some Criminal Justice majors at Clemson University are reportedly being required to take a “Heterosexual Questionnaire” as part of the major’s nine-credit Social Justice Requirement.

Photos of the questionnaire, provided to Campus Reform by a Criminal Justice student who wishes to remain anonymous, reveal that it is filled with loaded questions apparently designed to make students feel guilty or uncertain about their preference for members of the opposite sex.

"Is it possible that all you need is a good same-sex partner?"    Tweet This

The questionnaire was distributed in a Sociology of Sex and Gender course taught by PhD candidate Traci Hefner.

Clemson restructured the criminal justice concentration in 2016 to incorporate nine credit-hours of social justice-related coursework, with Professor Marjie Britz asserting at the time that the new program “will more fully immerse students in the world of criminal justice, but it is also designed to address the increasingly complicated ethical and social issues facing law enforcement and criminal justice organizations today.”

“A mandatory nine hours of work in social justice courses” became “a key component in the design of the program,” according to Clemson’s media release, which also noted that “Britz and university leaders seek to produce justice studies graduates who see the importance of issues of ethics and diversity in the field of criminal justice.”

“When and how did you first decide you were a heterosexual?” the document asks. “Is it possible that your heterosexuality is just a phase you will out-grow? Is it possible that your heterosexuality stems from bad experiences with people of the same sex?”

It goes on to ask, “If you’ve never been sexually or romantically involved with a person of the same sex, is it possible that all you need is a good same-sex partner?”

Shifting to a more accusatory tone, it then asks, “Why do you heterosexuals insist on flaunting your heterosexuality? Can’t you just be what you are and keep it quiet? Is it really necessary to see heterosexuals on TV and in the media?”

Continuing to make sweeping generalizations, the back of the questionnaire asserts that “A disproportionate amount of child molesters are heterosexuals,” asking, “Do you consider it safe to expose children to heterosexual teachers?”

“How can you become a whole person if you limit yourself to heterosexuality and fail to develop your natural, healthy homosexual potential?,” the questionnaire continues, asking, “Would you want your children to be heterosexual, knowing the problems they’d face?”

“Statistics show that heterosexuals are most affected by STIs, and that lesbians have the lowest incidence of STIs,” another item adds. “Is it really safe for a woman to have a heterosexual lifestyle and run the risk of disease and pregnancy?”

“Basically she used it as a means to start a discussion on how heteros say that all the time to gays and how heteronormative societies push gays away,” the anonymous student explained to Campus Reform.

“It felt like she was trying to make being hetero a negative thing,” the student added, pointing out that is was “not for a grade” and calling the exercise “honestly completely pointless to criminal justice.”

Following the Heterosexual Questionnaire, the professor “brought the case study out to show us how a heteronormative culture can be harmful to the LGBTQ people,” the student reported.

A photo of the case study in question describes “T.J.,” a white teenage girl with ADHD and PTSD. T.J. suspects she is a lesbian, and is afraid to tell her parents, church pastor, and youth group. After making “sexually suggestive comments to a group of boys,” she is suspended from her youth group indefinitely.

“T.J’s parents were constantly trying to get her to act and dress in a more feminine manner. Her dad complained that she didn’t act like a lady and that really bothered him. T.J’s mom exhibited traditional standards of femininity,” the case study states disapprovingly, adding that T.J’s parents get into a fight over T.J’s “un-lady like behavior.”

After this scenario, the case study asks students, “How does heteronormativity affect T.J.?,” instructing them to “describe the gender expectations and stereotypes in this case” and “discuss T. J.[‘s] behaviors using social learning theory.”

Campus Reform reached out to Hefner, but did not receive a response in time for publication. 


Australia: Mother infuriated by absurd letter home from preschool

LET’S just say this preschool has some unrealistic expectations about three-year-old children. They didn’t go down well.  One suspects that the authors of the letter are not themselves parents

A mum has shared a baffling newsletter sent home from her child’s preschool with US based parenting site Scary Mommy, Kidspot reports.

Why so baffling? Well, it appears that the staff of the preschool have some pretty unrealistic expectations of a group of three and four-year-olds.

“We made it through a really tough first month with tears, attitudes, unwillingness, not listening, not obeying the rules and especially, too much talking and not enough sitting in seats when asked to,” the October 2017 newsletter of this particular establishment reads.

“We work on this every day at school, but we need help from home, too. We realise kids don’t want to sit and would rather talk and play when they want to; but that’s not how school works.

“Preschool is preparation to go on to ‘big’ school and these things are important there, too. We simply can’t say that our kids don’t like colouring and sitting still because Kindergarten and first grade have a lot of colouring. Please, work five or 10 minutes each day with your child on this and you’ll see improvement. We have seen improvement with several kids already.

“We realise it’s a fast-paced world and parents work, but the adults in the house have to be in charge and help the kids to understand this. Please, talk to your child about the importance of sharing, not fighting, keeping their hands to themselves, and learning to get along with each other. Remind them that once we pick up the toys that we don’t get them back out again, because we are done playing and going on to learning fun things.”


We checked what’s expected behaviour of a preschooler over at Raising Children - an expert parenting advice site supported by the Australian Government and the Royal Children’s Hospital in Melbourne — and it’s fair to say, mums have good reason to find this newsletter infuriating.

As children settle into a new environment at a preschool, some tears and separation anxiety is very normal behaviour. Many children at age three are still having tantrums and a good preschool will have effective management strategies to help children communicate their feelings in a more positive way.

Preschoolers have short attention spans — around 30 minutes — so sitting still and listening for long periods of time is simply not a realistic expectation for a group of three and four-year olds.

Children at this age are still learning to follow instructions. They’re easily distractable. It is very normal to have to remind children of rules and expectations several times. After all, that’s how they learn.

Not to mention that unstructured play is shown again and again to be essential to early childhood development.


Angela Hanscom, an paediatric occupational therapist and expert on the important of play for young children, has written repeatedly about the dangers of an ever-increasing push to structured settings in preschool environments in the US. (It’s worth pointing out that in Australia, play-based education is at the heart of most early childhood curricula.)

“It is through active free play outdoors where children start to build many of the foundational life skills they need in order to be successful for years to come,” she writes in the Washington Post.

“In fact, it is before the age of seven years — ages traditionally known as ‘pre-academic’ — when children desperately need to have a multitude of whole-body sensory experiences on a daily basis in order to develop strong bodies and minds.”

She goes on to explain how dangerous it is to kerb children’s free play.

“If children are not given enough natural movement and play experiences, they start their academic careers with a disadvantage. They are more likely to be clumsy, have difficulty paying attention, trouble controlling their emotions, utilise poor problem-solving methods, and demonstrate difficulties with social interactions.”

All of that makes you wonder, just exactly what is this preschool trying to achieve?