Friday, October 13, 2017

Welcome To The New Age Of Academic Fascism & Mob Rule

A controversial essay that offered a defense of colonialism and led to a revolt at Third World Quarterly has been withdrawn due to “serious and credible threats of personal violence” to the journal’s editor, according to a notice posted by the journal’s publisher, Taylor & Francis.

The essay, “The Case for Colonialism,” was withdrawn at the request of the journal’s editor, Shahid Qadir, and in agreement with the essay’s author, Bruce Gilley, an associate professor of political science at Portland State University, the notice said.

The publisher said that it had conducted a thorough investigation after receiving complaints about the essay and found that it had undergone double-blind peer review, in line with the journal’s editorial policy.

However, the publisher’s notice continued, the journal’s editor received “serious and credible threats of personal violence” linked to the publication of the essay. “As the publisher, we must take this seriously,” the withdrawal notice reads. “Taylor & Francis has a strong and supportive duty of care to all our academic editorial teams, and this is why we are withdrawing this essay.”

Backlash against Third World Quarterly  was swift after it published the colonialism essay last month. Fifteen people on the journal’s 34-member board resigned, and a petition seeking a retraction drew more than 10,000 signatures.

In the wake of the controversy, the author, Mr. Gilley, had asked that his essay be withdrawn. “I regret the pain and anger that it has caused for many people,” Mr. Gilley wrote last month on his website.


Georgetown University Stumps for the Muslim Brotherhood

Another campus buries its head in the desert sand

The Muslim "Brotherhood [MB] is traditionally a reformist, gradualist movement [which] is working on social change," stated the Egyptian MB member Amr Darrag at a Georgetown University panel last month. With that, Darrag and his fellow speaker, the British-Iraqi MB operative Anas Altikriti, added to Georgetown's longstanding history of enabling the MB's deceitful use of liberal language to mask totalitarian goals.

Georgetown's Saudi-funded Prince Alwaleed bin Talal Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding (ACMCU) hosted the event, which was titled: "Post-Arab Spring Middle East: Political Islam and Democracy." A pro-Islamist bent was inevitable given that the moderator was ACMCU director Jonathan Brown. This professor has his own professional links to MB groups and is the son-in-law of convicted terrorist Sami Al Arian. In February, Brown was widely criticized after he gave a speech at a MB think tank justifying the practice of slavery within Islam.

Before the event, MB expert Eric Trager warned against Darrag's visit to America: "The Muslim Brotherhood is an international hate group that seeks" to establish a "global Islamic state or neo-caliphate." Speaking at the event, Altikriti, whom the Hudson Institute describes as "one of the shrewdest UK-based Brotherhood activists and the son of the leader of Iraq's Muslim Brotherhood," dismissed Trager's article as "hilarious."

Despite Altikriti's insistence elsewhere that he has no connection to the Muslim Brotherhood, he describes the movement as "the most important democratic voice that espouses multiculturalism, human rights and basic freedoms." He also maintains that, while indeed part of the "spectrum" of "political Islam", groups such as Al-Qaeda and Islamic State are "abnormal phenomena" and not ideologically related to the Brotherhood. By contrast, Lebanese-American Middle East expert Walid Phares has identified the MB as the "mothership for the jihadi ideologies."

Notwithstanding Altikriti's support and apologetics for Hamas, an MB affiliate and the totalitarian ruler of the Gaza Strip, he expressed a desire for "far more political players and actors throughout society than political Islam." He added that if the "only alternative to authoritarian regimes is political Islam, that's a choice that I would loathe."

Altikriti's suspect celebration of pluralism echoes his previous descriptions of his own organization, the UK-based Cordoba Foundation. Altikriti has told Al Jazeera that his foundation "rehashes positive memories" of an ostensible period of multicultural coexistence in medieval Islamic Spain. Prime Minister David Cameron, however, describes the Cordoba Foundation as a "political front for the Muslim Brotherhood," while the United Arab Emirates has designated the foundation a terrorist organization.

Darrag, meanwhile, was a former minister in Egypt's MB-led government under Mohamed Morsi, until its 2013 overthrow. Darrag argued that under Morsi the MB wanted "to go back quickly to stability, to establish institutions, elections, get a parliament, constitution, a president, all the institutions that would be perfectly fit for an established democratic system." He denied Islamist involvement in the "Arab Spring," arguing that protestors "didn't go out to ask for the application of sharia." Trager has noted in fact that Darrag played a central role in creating under Morsi a new, sharia-focused Egyptian constitution.

Darrag also claimed that the MB rejects violence in its pursuit of political reform. He described the work of his Istanbul-based Egyptian Institute for Political and Strategic Studies (EIPSS) as the promotion of liberal, democratic issues, such as "transitional justice" and "civil-military relations." Once again, however, Trager has noted that EIPSS "presents itself as a scholarly think tank, but it often promotes violent interpretations of Islamic texts" in Arabic-language articles - yet another example of the MB feigning nonviolence.

The Georgetown panel reflected the Hudson Institute's previous analysis of Altikriti: his longstanding strategy is "to persuade Western governments that they should fund Brotherhood groups as moderate alternatives to al-Qaeda." A 2015 review of the MB by the British government itself judged treating the MB as a moderate alternative to Salafi-jihadism as counterproductive and contrary to security interests.

Altikriti, who has joined with senior Hamas leaders to found the British Muslim Initiative, is certainly not a moderate. His Cordoba Foundation once co-hosted an event featuring the Al Qaeda operative Anwar Awlaki. No wonder a British bank decided, in 2014, to close the accounts of Altikriti, his family members, and the foundation.

The Georgetown hosts made no notice of their panelists' extremist connections. Altikriti and Darrag were presented as no different to technocrats running for city council in a Western country. Yet the facts of the speakers' ideology leave no illusions that smooth-talking, suit-wearing Islamists have any real interest in good governance and liberty under law. Critical observers should not fall for this farce.


The False Ideas Intellectuals Peddle at College Campuses

Walter E. Williams

As George Orwell said, “some ideas are so stupid that only intellectuals believe them.”

Many stupid ideas originate with academics on college campuses. If they remained there and didn’t infect the rest of society, they might be a source of entertainment, much in the way a circus is.

Let’s look at a few stupid ideas peddled by intellectuals.

During the Cold War, academic leftists made a moral equivalency between communist totalitarianism and democracy.

Worse is the fact that they exempted communist leaders from the type of harsh criticism directed toward Adolf Hitler, even though communist crimes against humanity made Hitler’s slaughter of 11 million noncombatants appear almost amateurish.

According to Professor R.J. Rummel’s research in “Death by Government,” from 1917 until its collapse, the Soviet Union murdered or caused the death of 61 million people, mostly its own citizens.

From 1949 to 1976, Communist China’s Mao Zedong regime was responsible for the death of as many as 78 million of its own citizens.

On college campuses, the same sort of equivalency is made between capitalism and communism, but if one looks at the real world, there’s a stark difference.

Just ask yourself: In which societies is the average citizen richer—societies toward the capitalist end of the economic spectrum or those toward the communist end?

In which societies do ordinary citizens have their human rights protected the most—those toward the capitalist end or those toward the communist end?

Finally, which societies do people around the world flee from—capitalist or communist? And where do they flee to—capitalist or communist societies?

More recent nonsense taught on college campuses, under the name of multiculturalism, is that one culture is as good as another. Identity worship, diversity, and multiculturalism are currency and cause for celebration at just about any college.

If one is black, brown, yellow, or white, the prevailing thought is that he should take pride and celebrate that fact even though he had nothing to do with it.

The multiculturalist and diversity crowd seems to suggest that race or sex is an achievement. That’s just plain nonsense.

In my book, race or sex might be an achievement, worthy of considerable celebration, if a person were born a white male and through his effort and diligence became a black female.

Then there’s white privilege. Colleges have courses and seminars on “whiteness.” One college even has a course titled “Abolition of Whiteness.”

According to academic intellectuals, whites enjoy advantages that nonwhites do not. They earn higher income and reside in better housing, and their children go to better schools and achieve more. Based upon those socio-economic statistics, Japanese-Americans have more white privilege than white people.

And, on a personal note, my daughter has experienced more white privilege than probably 95 percent of white Americans. She’s attended private schools, had ballet and music lessons, traveled the world, and lived in upper-income communities.

Leftists should get rid of the concept of white privilege and just call it achievement.

Then there’s the issue of campus rape and sexual assault.

Before addressing that, let me ask you a question. Do I have a right to place my wallet on the roof of my car, go into my house, have lunch, take a nap, and return to my car and find my wallet just where I placed it?

I think I have every right to do so, but the real question is whether it would be a wise decision.

Some college women get stoned, use foul language, and dance suggestively. I think they have a right to behave that way and not be raped or sexually assaulted. But just as in the example of my placing my wallet on the roof of my car, I’d ask whether it is wise behavior.

Many of our problems, both at our institutions of higher learning and in the nation at large, stem from the fact that we’ve lost our moral compasses and there’s not a lot of interest in reclaiming them.

As a matter of fact, most people don’t see our major problems as having anything to do with morality.


Thursday, October 12, 2017

Do more to admit poorer students, universities told by Scottish government

Scotland's universities have a deserved reputation for quality.  The more students they admit on non-academic grounds, the more that reputation will be threatened.  Ironic that a Scottish Nationalist government should be intent on destroying a great Scottish asset

The SNP’s higher education minister has accused some universities of dragging their feet over demands to admit more poor students.

Shirley-Anne Somerville also said that parts of the higher education sector were sending a damaging message to young women by letting men dominate many of the most senior positions.

Speaking at a fringe event at the SNP conference, Ms Somerville said that despite a high-profile drive to increase social diversity at campuses and the imposition of tough new targets, progress was sporadic and not systemic. She openly questioned whether some universities were “living up to the challenge” set by government.

Although she did not mention any university by name, the comments will be interpreted as a thinly-veiled warning to some of Scotland’s elite institutions


Oxford college bans 'harmful' Christian Union from freshers' fair

An Oxford College has banned the Christian Union from its freshers’ fair on the grounds that it would be “alienating” for students of other religions, and constitute a “micro-aggression”.

The organiser of Balliol’s fair argued Christianity’s historic use as “an excuse for homophobia and certain forms of neo-colonialism” meant that students might feel “unwelcome” in their new college if the Christian Union had a stall.

Freddy Potts, vice-president of Balliol’s Junior Common Room (JCR) committee, said that if a representative from the Christian Union (CU) attended the fair, it could cause "potential harm" to freshers.

Mr Potts, writing on behalf of the JCR's welfare committee, told the CU representative at Balliol, that their "sole concern is that the presence of the CU alone may alienate incoming students”.

In email correspondence, seen by The Daily Telegraph, he went on: “This sort of alienation or micro-aggression is regularly dismissed as not important enough to report, especially when there is little to no indication that other students or committee members may empathise, and inevitably leads to further harm of the already most vulnerable and marginalised groups.

“Historically, Christianity’s influence on many marginalised communities has been damaging in its methods of conversion and rules of practice, and is still used in many places as an excuse for homophobia and certain forms of neo-colonialism."

He said that barring the Christian Union from the fair “may be a way of helping to avoid making any students feel initially unwelcome within Balliol”.

Initially he said the JCR committee wanted the fair to be a “secular space”, explaining that since he "couldn't guarantee every major belief system" would have stalls at the the fair, students from other religions may "suffer" if their faith is not represented.

“Many students, especially students of colour and of other faiths, may already feel alienated and vulnerable in Oxford, a university with a reputation for racism and lack of diversity, and a city with barely any appropriate places of worship for non-Christians," he said.

“Hopefully, as people of faith, you may be able to empathise with this, and we ask you to consider from a place of compassion the potential harm to those freshers who are already severely and harmfully disadvantaged.”

However, Mr Potts - who was part of Balliol’s winning University Challenge team -  later conceded that he would allow a “multi-faith” stall at the fair, with information about various university religious societies. Student representatives of the CU were barred from attending in person and distributing leaflets.

The move sparked a backlash among students, with others within the College criticising it as a “violation of free speech”.

The JCR passed a motion on Sunday evening condemning the JCR committees for “barring the participation of specific faith-based organizations”.

The motion said the ban was a "violation of free speech, a violation of religious freedom, and sets dangerous precedents regarding the relationship between specific faiths and religious freedom".

Dr Joanna Williams, a university lecturer and author of Academic Freedom in an Age of Conformity, said the decision to ban the Christian Union was “completely bizarre”.

“It is intolerance being exercised in the name of inclusion,” she said. “They are saying: ‘Your religious society is not welcome here’. Essentially they are saying that the Christian Union is not allowed to recruit new members.”

Dr Williams added: “I would argue that a university would be an ideal place for students to explore their religious beliefs. The idea that some religions are not allowed to be represented really prevents students being able to do that. It seems completely bizarre, I am lost for words.”

Paul Diamond, a barrister who specialises in religious liberty laws, said: "Student Christian Unions have the right not to be discriminated against. 

"Student Unions and Universities are required by the Education Act 1994 to observe fairness and democracy; and students have a right to hear different worldviews.  The ‘snowflake’ generation of students needs safe places and freedom of speech zones."

The Revd Nigel Genders, the Church of England’s Chief Education Officer, said that freedom of religion and belief is a "fundamental principle that underpins our country and its great institutions and universities".

He added: “Christian Unions represent some of the largest student led organisations in many universities across the country and to exclude them in this way is to misunderstand the nature of debate and dialogue and at odds with the kind of society we are all seeking to promote.”

A Balliol College spokesperson said: "We are pleased to see that the students themselves have now resolved this matter. Following last night's JCR motion, the Christian Union will be offered a stall at future freshers' fairs.

"Balliol is a tolerant, friendly college where students of all faiths and none are free to worship and express their beliefs openly."

Balliol College was founded in 1263, and its alumni include three former Prime Ministers: Herbert Asquith, Harold Macmillan and Sir Edward Heath.


Australia: Up to 46 university students are vying for the one graduate job

Raife Watson, the CEO of Adzuna - a job search engine - told Lifestyle Overnight there were 'a lot of jobs out there, but not a lot of jobs for graduates'.

Mr Watson said Sydney was a great place for a graduate to find a job, as a lot of companies started up in the capital city, and a lot of infrastructure projects underway.

But for the best chances of finding a graduate job, Mr Watson said the Northern Territory was the place to go.

South Australia was the worst place to find a graduate position according to the company's research, with 46 graduates competing for each job on average.

NSW has odds of 20 to one, but the Northern Territory has only an average of ten people applying for each job.

Mr Watson said that unsurprisingly, the top end often struggled to attract graduates, meaning the jobs were more plentiful.

'Go somewhere where your skills are really needed for a couple of years and develop those skills,' he advised new graduates.

Nationally, the average was 22 new graduates for each relevant position.

Mr Watson said universities had 'a lot to answer for' in terms of course admission far outweighing job availability.

'Universities are now profit making machines, and a lot of them are offering huge amounts of students these courses that there are no jobs for,' he said.

'You come out of uni with a $40,000 debt and no hope of finding a job in your chosen profession.'

Mr Watson told the Sydney Morning Herald new graduates were now often taking up jobs completely unrelated to their expensive qualifications in order to pay the bills.

'You end up behind a bar, or in some other job that's unrelated to what you studied. You see a lot of law graduates going into sales or call centres,' he said.

And while Adzuna's research showed there were about 90 law graduates for every graduate law position, there were only nine graduates with engineering degrees for each related position.

Mr Watson said there needed to be a bigger push from the government to ensure fields that need skilled workers have enough people, and students aren't left out of pocket and out of a job.

'We need to think about what's really needed in education, the courses that we really need in the country,' he said. 'Why aren't we pushing more people into STEM [science, technology, engineering and maths] degrees?'


Wednesday, October 11, 2017

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Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Marginal Colleges Damage our Immigration System

Thousands of foreign "students" are illegal aliens in disguise

A new report by the Center for Immigration Studies finds that 55 institutions, the very dregs of higher education in this country, offer extremely poor quality education, yet still have the power to admit foreign students.

Approximately 40,000 alien students are enrolled in these "compromised colleges", all of which have lost their accreditation from the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools (ACICS), whose standards were so low that it lost its Department of Education recognition and power to accredit.

The compromised colleges, 42 of which are for-profit schools, are found in 17 states and in one territory, but are mostly concentrated in three states: California (17 institutions), Florida (11 institutions), and Virginia (8 institutions). Unlike governmental or genuine non-profit entities, the presidents of these institutions are often the owners or part-owners and the student body contains a very high percentage of foreign students, some more than 95 percent.

David North, a Center fellow and co-author of the report, wrote that many of the foreign students attending compromised colleges "sought out low-quality schools in the United States quite deliberately, as they were seeking paychecks, not valuable diplomas. They are not to be confused with anyone's idea of the 'best and the brightest.' "

Foreign students searching for a true education have often been misled by the institutions, which rake in money while supplying nominal educational services, and often charging substantial, even outrageous, fees.

Reform is possible. The report informs policymakers that, unlike many immigration issues, "No huge sums of money are needed, no massive political forces need to be challenged, and no mixed families of legal and illegal residents need to be separated, yet tens of thousands of new illegal aliens can be prevented from entering the country." The report points out that foreign students are twice as likely to remain after their visas expire as nonimmigrant visa holders generally.

The report provides multiple recommendations for Congress and the White House, as well as for the two entities that manage the foreign student admissions process: DHS (the Student and Exchange Visitor Program is a part of ICE) and the U.S. State Department. One solution is to stop granting these compromised colleges the privilege of issuing visas to their prospective students and of granting H-1B status to their potential employees.


UK: Watchdog issues guidance to help institutions address ‘pernicious’ cheating through use of sites for written-to-order papers

Universities are being urged to block certain websites and use smarter cheating detection software to crack down on students buying essays online and then passing them off as their own.

The university standards watchdog has issued new government-backed guidance to help address “contract cheating”, where thousands of students are believed to be paying hundreds of pounds at a time for written-to-order papers.

The Quality Assurance Agency (QAA) made a series of recommendations including providing more support for struggling students, introducing a range of assessment methods to limit cheating opportunities, blocking so-called essay-mill websites and adopting smarter software that can tell if there is a difference in style and level of ability between a student’s essays.

The proposal comes after Jo Johnson, the universities minister, called for advice to help address the problem.

Johnson welcomed the new advice, saying: “This form of cheating is unacceptable and pernicious. It not only undermines standards in our world-class universities, but devalues the hard-earned qualifications of those who don’t cheat … That is why I asked the Quality Assurance Agency to look at this issue and introduce new guidance for students and providers.”

The chief executive of the QAA, Douglas Blackstock, said: “Paying someone else to write essays is wrong and could damage their career. Education providers should take appropriate action to tackle and prevent this kind of abuse.”

Research by the QAA found that there are now more than 100 essay-mill websites in operation. The amount they charge is dependent on the complexity of the essay and tightness of deadline, but a PhD dissertation can cost as much as £6,750.

In Britain it is left to individual institutions to develop their own plagiarism policies. But the QAA said it wanted a consistent approach among higher education providers to tackle the problem. It called on universities and colleges to record incidents of this and other kinds of cheating to help build a clearer picture of the scale of the problem.

Thomas Lancaster, an associate dean at Staffordshire University and one of the UK’s leading experts on essay cheating, said the new guidance was a move in the right direction but that to truly tackle the problem a change in the law was needed.

“There are still too many people out there who are setting assessments where a student can just go online, pay a writer who might not even be a subject specialist, hand the result in and come away with a good mark,” he said.

He added: “I fully support universities reviewing their academic integrity processes to make sure they’re up to date and fair to students … But we also need to send a strong message out to the companies who are doing assessed work for students. Earlier this year, Lord Storey put forward a proposal to the House of Lords to make this activity illegal. It’s time for a renewed push to get that legislation through and to also ban the advertising for essay mills that is drawing students to use these services.”

Amatey Doku, vice-president for higher education for the National Union of Students, said that institutions and the government must look at the underlying issues behind the rise in these websites.

He said: “Students are under immense pressure. Their degrees will leave them with debt of around £50,000, which will affect them for most of their adult lives. The pressure to get the highest grades in return for this can be overwhelming. Insufficient maintenance funding also means that around 70% of students must now take on paid work alongside their studies, which can leave little time for academic work and study. It is easy to see how an essay-mill website could feel able to con students. Many websites play on the vulnerabilities and anxieties of students.”

He added: “We would urge those who are struggling to seek support through their unions and universities rather than looking to a quick fix.”

A Universities UK spokesperson said: “Universities take plagiarism and cheating extremely seriously. Submitting work written by someone else is cheating and devalues the efforts of students who work hard to achieve their degrees … Such academic misconduct is a breach of an institution’s disciplinary regulations and can result in students, in serious cases, being expelled from the university.”


America needs another Sputnik as China takes the lead in science

Sixty years ago, a shiny sphere of aluminium, magnesium and titanium, 60cm in diameter and weighing 83kg, flashed across the sky at 30,000km/h from west to east.

On October 4, 1957, the Soviet Union launched the first artificial satellite, a new moonlet, a giant step for mankind. By the time Sputnik burnt up three months later, the world it had orbited 1440 times was an utterly different place.

Sputnik sparked a scientific crisis of confidence in the West, shaking post-war US technological complacency to the core, stoking triumphalist Soviet propaganda and kicking off the Cold War space race.

More than that, it prompted the greatest single investment in science ever undertaken. Following Sputnik, money and energy poured into engineering, science and technological research in an educational great leap forward that unleashed an unprecedented wave of innovation on both sides of the Iron Curtain.

Today the West needs another “Sputnik moment” to shake it out of its technological lethargy. Historically, such leaps tend to follow crises, rivalry or war. The next major scientific overhaul may be prompted by a Russian cyberattack, a North Korean dictator with a nuclear warhead or environmental disaster.

But the greatest technological challenge is likely to come from China, which accounts for 20 per cent of the world’s expenditure on scientific research and development, a rate increasing just as the US is reducing such spending.

Sixty years on, it is easy to forget the astonishment and fear that greeted the news of Sputnik: the Soviet Union had not just won the race to launch a satellite, it had done so in secret.

“Sputnik triggered a period of self-appraisal rarely equalled in modern times,” wrote Wernher von Braun, the German leader of US space efforts. “Overnight, people questioned our education system, our industrial strength, our science and technology, even the moral fibre of our people.” (Braun’s use of the first person plural is notable: he had previously invented the Nazis’ V-2 rocket system.)

The weapons gap was one source of alarm but the education gap was another. In the late 1950s, the USSR was training two or three times as many scientists as the US. Moscow crowed that Sputnik (which translates as “fellow traveller on Earth”) proved how “the freed and conscious labour of the people of the new socialist society turns even the most daring of man’s dreams into reality”.

Then-US president Dwight Eisenhower was quick to appreciate that space rivalry was about more than bragging rights and ideological posturing. Only huge and sustained investment in academic capacity and scientific research would keep the West in the race, and safe.

Within a year, US congress established NASA, putting space research under a civilian umbrella and ensuring that space technology would be part of a public, shared scientific endeavour. The US National Defence Education Act poured billions of dollars into science education, providing low interest loans to maths, engineering and science students. By 1968, the National Science Foundation budget had increased to $US500 million, from $US34m a decade earlier.

In Britain, the Tory government created eight new universities, including East Anglia and Sussex, in part to close the science gap.

Within 12 years of Sputnik, the US had put a man on the moon. But in addition to the achievements of Project Apollo and the Hubble space telescope, the flood of technological innovation created a host of objects we take for granted, from cordless power tools to TV satellite dishes. More than that, the response to Sputnik laid the basis for modern academic scientific research.

Emergency is frequently the spur to science. The US National Academy of Sciences was created in 1863 at the height of the American Civil War to aid the Union’s fight against the secessionist South. In Britain, many of the most important scientific bodies, such as the Medical Research Council, emerged from the scientific demands of World War I.

The Soviet satellite suddenly circling the Earth was seen as a direct political and scientific challenge to the West. In sharp-edged doggerel, G Mennen Williams, then governor of Michigan, wrote:

Oh little Sputnik, flying high

With made-in-Moscow beep

You tell the world it’s Commie sky

And Uncle Sam’s asleep

In October 1957, America woke up overnight to a new scientific reality and immediately threw its vast resources and limitless ingenuity at the problem. Today, many countries are investing heavily in science but the Trump budget for 2018, by contrast, would cut government research spending by 17 per cent.

Donald Trump looks forward to a Mars landing but no US president of modern times has been more hostile to federal support for the sciences.

Sputnik has been compared, in its impact on US thinking, to Pearl Harbor, a moment of cataclysm that galvanised the nation through shock, wounded pride and moral outrage.

No one would welcome another such crisis, but a new Sputnik moment is long overdue and may well be triggered, not by Moscow this time, but Beijing. For decades the US led the world in the creation of scientific knowledge but China is now the second-largest performer in terms of research and development, with an investment growth rate exceeding that of the US and EU.

The steady beep given off by Sputnik sounded a warning that was clearly heard; six decades later, Uncle Sam’s asleep again.


Monday, October 09, 2017

Teacher quality

I agree with the claim below that teacher quality is the key to good learning but I doubt that more teacher training would enhance that.  From what students tell me, teacher training courses are so dumb and boring that many students drop out and do something else -- with mainly the dummies left. 

The enthusiasm of the teacher is the key in my view.  My High School economics students did well in their exams because economics is a great enthusiasm of mine and I taught it with many indications of its relevance and importance. And I taught without one minute of teacher training behind me.

As to the poor pay of American teachers, that too can be attributed to quality. Many American classrooms are so chaotic that teachers are little more than childminders, with some students graduating high school barely able to read and write.  So such teachers are poorly paid and that drags the average remuneration down

And the idea that better teachers can be had by raising the bar for them to qualify is a laugh.  The opposite is going on.  In order to get people into their teacher training schools, they are LOWERING the bar.  Almost anyone can now enter teacher training, even people with poor literacy and numeracy levels.  Teaching in many of today's chaotic schools is so unattractive that it is in the main only the desperates who will take it on.

But bringing back effective discipline would change everything

According to the report, Education at a Glance 2017, US teachers, on average, earn less than 60% of the salaries of similarly-educated workers. They have among the lowest relative earnings across all OECD countries with data. This is what teachers’ salaries, relative to that of other college-educated adults looks like in 24 of the OECD’s 35 countries:

There is ample evidence that the quality of teachers is the key ingredient to raising educational standards—more than money spent, or class size, or what curriculum is best designed. Pay doesn’t dictate quality, but it certainly influences it.

John Hattie of the University of Melbourne has examined more than 65,000 research papers (1200 meta-analyses) on the effects of hundreds of different educational interventions. He discovered that things we think matter a lot—class size and streaming by ability—don’t matter nearly as much as the quality of a teacher. According to the Economist, “All of the 20 most powerful ways to improve school-time learning identified by the study depended on what a teacher did in the classroom.”

Money and prestige matter. The highest performing education systems always prioritize the quality of teachers says Andreas Schliecher, head of the education directorate at the OECD. “Wherever they have to make a choice between a smaller class and a better teacher, they go for the latter. Rather than putting money into small classes, they invest in competitive teacher salaries, ongoing professional development and a balance in working time.”

US teachers spend 38% more time in front of the classroom than their international peers: 981 hours compared to an OECD average of 712 per year. This is time that they are not collaborating with peers, honing their knowledge of their subject or the practice of teaching.

Two top-performing education systems in the world are Finland and Singapore offer insight on the importance of teachers. They are markedly different: in Finland, kids start school later, around 7, they don’t have too much homework, there is little high-stakes testing. In Singapore, expectations are high, kids are tested frequently, and pressure is intense.

Both systems have one thing in common: Teaching institutions are highly selective, teachers are highly-trained, and they are trusted. They are given time to work with other teachers and administrators to solve problems, in the classroom, with the curriculum, and with parents.


Call for Higher Educational Attainment in Britain

This is utter nonsense.  The vague justification behind this bit of pomposity is that the “needs of the economy are likely to mean a need for more high-level skills."  Maybe so but are the universities going to help with that?  They are more likely to produce useless knowledge about literature etc.  High-level or specialized skills certainly don't need university -- or need it minimally.  Take what must be just about the ultimate high level skill these days:  Computer programming.  Some people learn that by themselves without doing any course of study and most courses in it can be completed in a year.  I learned to code in FORTRAN in one week -- and FORTRAN is not the easiest of computer languages. More apprenticeships and internships is what is needed

Britain should set a target for 70 percent of young people to enter higher education, according to an influential higher education policy expert.

Nick Hillman’s proposal in A New Blue Book is likely to prove controversial with a sizable chunk of the Conservative Party, whose policies the publication aims to influence.

Hillman is director of the Higher Education Policy Institute -- although his book chapter is written in a personal capacity -- as well as being a former adviser to David Willetts in his time as a Conservative universities minister, and a former Conservative parliamentary candidate in Cambridge.

“In the context of Brexit, which may mean a reduction in the supply of highly skilled migrants, and rising life expectancy … we should be planning ahead to increase the time spent in education,” Hillman writes.

“A target of around 70 percent participation by 2035 should not be unachievable. That may sound ambitious, but it is a comparable trajectory to in the past and, as South Korea, Russia and Canada have all achieved participation way ahead of ours, it can surely be done.”

Figures released by the Department for Education in September showed the provisional higher education initial participation rate for 2015-16 was 49 percent, an increase of 1.4 percentage points on the previous year. The HEIPR covers 17- to 30-year-old English participants at British higher and further education institutions. However, the statistical release suggested that enrollment at alternative providers may add 1.5 percentage points to the figure -- pushing it over the 50 percent target set by the Labour government in 1999.

Asked by Times Higher Education why further expansion was needed, Hillman said the “needs of the economy are likely to mean a need for more high-level skills."

He noted that many professions where a degree was previously not required -- including teaching, nursing and policing -- have evolved to become graduate professions as the nature of work changed.

In his essay, Hillman notes that when former Prime Minister Tony Blair set the 50 percent participation target, “Conservatives spluttered into their coffee, opposed the target and then promised, at the 2005 general election, to send fewer people to university as a way of funding the abolition of tuition fees.”

Although the mainstream of the Conservative Party has largely swung behind expansion since then, some voices in the party remain opposed.

Hillman told Times Higher Education that while there were critics of expansion across the political spectrum, “it does sometimes seem a particularly difficult issue for people on the right.” He suggested this may be because “at its worst, right-wing politics can sink into a ‘them and us’ attitude” in which higher education was deemed as being the territory of the middle classes, while some Tory MPs represented constituencies with high participation rates and hence saw little merit in expansion.

But Hillman said that “if we’re going to help those other parts of the country,” that would either mean fewer places for richer students “or more places over all.”


Why Education?

Joanna Williams

Nicholas Tate’s conservative case for education is, today, also the most revolutionary.

Education has declared war on the past. At universities, students demand the removal of statues and argue for courses to be ‘decolonised’ and cleansed of the influence of dead white men. Academics look to internationalise the curriculum and promote global citizenship rather than national heritage. Lectures on the canon have been replaced by workshops in employability skills. In schools, classic works of literature are rejected for being too challenging for digital natives. The pressure for education to be relevant, inclusive and diverse results in a tick-box approach to the curriculum that privileges the equal representation of different identity groups over both tradition and intellectual merit.

This is not because members of traditionally underrepresented groups are less talented than white men. As Simone de Beauvoir put it, ‘One is not born a genius: one becomes a genius’. But, she added, the need for time and space to ‘become’ means ‘personal accomplishment is almost impossible in the human categories that are maintained collectively in an inferior situation’.

Since de Beauvoir’s time, society has changed considerably and more opportunities are available for members of historically underrepresented groups to excel in science, the arts and academia. But teaching to represent diversity means privileging the current moment now that women and black people are more readily able to make their mark on the world. As a result, the past is reduced to decontextualised snippets, erased entirely or read selectively to meet the more prosaic goals of today’s schools. Young people come to inhabit a permanent present, a year zero with few historical reference points on which they can anchor their own experiences of the world. The past might be a foreign country, but today’s young people are likely to have little sense of how they do things differently there.

Education has not always been driven by disdain for the past. Knowledge of and from the past was central to an educational project conceived as a conversation between the generations and the means by which children were granted access to their intellectual birthright. This notion first began to be challenged by radical educators in the 1960s who focused on schools’ role in reproducing and legitimising social inequality. Instead of arguing that working-class children deserved better teaching and more access to knowledge, these radical educators attacked the content of the curriculum itself. According to this way of thinking, Matthew Arnold’s definition of culture as ‘the best which has been thought and said in the world’ was no more than a cover for promoting the knowledge and values of a social elite. It was assumed that middle-class children performed well because their knowledge was recognised in the classroom, while working-class children failed because their particular knowledge was not credentialised.

Teaching the established canon, transmitting a body of subject knowledge and inducting children into their national cultural and literary heritage came to be rejected as elitist practices. It led to the decentring of knowledge, particularly knowledge of or from the past, and the installation, in its place, of a cultural relativism that positioned children themselves at the heart of education. Nicholas Tate, former chief curriculum and qualifications adviser to the UK secretary of state for education, draws out the consequences of this move in his new book, The Conservative Case for Education. ‘If one stops giving priority to aspects of a society’s past that have been culturally more determining than others’, Tate writes, ‘one abandons altogether the very idea that education is about induction into, and transmission of, something already existing’.

The challenge to traditional approaches to education was presented as an attack on a politically conservative agenda. Yet there is little radical about replacing knowledge of the world, the best which has been thought and said, with knowledge of the self. The tyranny of relevance assumes working-class children should be taught the skills they need to get a job and black children should be limited to black knowledge, perhaps taught through ‘hip-hop pedagogy’, and activities such as ‘graffiti walls’.  Student-centred teaching, or a pedagogy of the oppressed, starts from where learners are – and risks leaving them there. As Tate explains, this can lead to ‘a self-congratulatory imprisonment within one’s cultural identity’.

Instead, what is radical is to consider the transformative potential of education, its power to begin from where learners are and, through opening up a whole world of knowledge, take them somewhere else entirely. In Willy Russell’s play, Educating Rita, the working-class Rita insists she wants to know ‘everything’. If we don’t allow students the opportunity to stand on the shoulders of giants, they will never be able to see further. If students are denied knowledge of the past, they will never be able to make an impact on the future. The demand that all young people, irrespective of social class, gender or skin colour should have access to the best which has been thought and said in the world challenges convention. Today, then, the people best able to defend the transformative potential of education are conservative in the sense that they see knowledge of or from the past as worth preserving and transmitting to a new generation. In this sense, The Conservative Case for Education is truly radical.

From the outset it is clear that Tate is not propounding Conservative Party education policies. Although he points to former Tory ministers Michael Gove and Kenneth Baker as education secretaries he admires, he is scathing of the Conservative Party’s current direction and is not persuaded by prime minister Theresa May’s call for a return to grammar schools. Tate grounds his work in a conservative tradition that runs far deeper than the current government’s linking of universities to the national economic interest and schools to every passing political whim. He takes us through the work of four key thinkers on education; TS Eliot, Hannah Arendt, Michael Oakeshott and ED Hirsch, not all of whom would eagerly align themselves with the politics of the Conservatives.......

Through exploring the work of Eliot, Oakeshott, Arendt and Hirsch alongside each other, Tate makes a compelling case for the significance of knowledge of and from the past to the project of education. This view is conservative because it looks to preserve culturally elite knowledge through its intergenerational transmission. However, it is also, at best, a radical challenge to today’s educational groupthink that denies children access to the knowledge of the past and leaves them, floundering, with nothing beyond their own narrow horizons.

It is through making the conservative case for education that Tate provides us with a devastating critique of many of the ideas that have become central to schooling today, such as the pervasive therapeutic ethos that privileges a pupils’ emotional wellbeing above intellectual risk taking. Most significantly, Tate is critical of the way education’s rejection of the past means a generation of young people have been left without any concept of national culture to identify with. ‘In many states’, Tate writes, ‘the problem is not now nationalism but a lack of identification with the national community and a disengagement from national and local politics’. The emphasis schools and universities place on global consciousness can undermine ‘the emotional basis on which any real interest in the future has to rest’.

Tate is not arguing for the end of religion or for cultural homogeneity. This is a far more radical argument that makes education central to democracy. ‘The world is still one of nation states; it is in nation states, not supranational groupings, that effective democracy is possible; nation states need borders; frontiers, boundaries, limits and national traditions can be a positive thing and the basis of distinctive identities; and children, as Durkheim insisted, need an education that inducts them into the kind of common culture necessary if these nation states are not to fall apart.’ Tate’s case for education, which I find compelling, is that conservative thinkers ‘value links between the generations and have a strong sense of the importance in people’s lives of deeply embedded and well-established communities such as family, locality, religious groups and the nation’. In this regard, Tate’s views on education mark him out not just as a radical but as a revolutionary.

More HERE 

Sunday, October 08, 2017

The Finnish difference again

For much of the 21st century, Finland has been one of the very top performers in the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA), an ongoing study administered every three years that tests the reading, math and science literacy of 15-year-olds in developed nations. So educators worldwide flocked there to learn their "secrets".  But Finland is now no longer such a high flyer. In the latest available (2015) results, Finland is now ranked 12th in math, fifth in science and fourth in reading. So a lot of the magic has worn off.  I gather that Finnish is spelled phonetically, so that would give them a big advantage in learning to read over users of English  -- JR

By Kalliope Craft 

When I started this whole business about moving to Finland for a semester, it was about figuring out what Finns are up to that makes their schools so darn successful. Why does a system full of free time and decidedly lacking in rigor (by means of exams anyways) work so well? Well, obviously, I don't know all the answers - I've only been around for a month, but I'm starting to get the feeling that Finnish education really isn't that far off from home's.

So before you freak out, I will admit there is a super systemic difference between American and Finnish education. Namely, they use their time differently than we do and they value different parts of education than we do.

In Finland, school days are organized in 45 minute lesson blocks with 15 minute breaks between and a 30 minute break for lunch. So from 8am until 2pm, students have six lessons (as they get older, they might tack a seventh lesson on the end making the school day end at 3pm.) So, even though students spend about the same amount of time in their day at school, the actually spend less time doing school work. This gives students the autonomy to choose how they use some of their school time, and it lets them free their mind to cool off and reset before the next lesson.

Secondly, in Finland, there is more emphasis on student wellbeing. Sure, in America we say we care about our students, and in reality, I believe our teachers do (at least the good ones). But here, not only do the teachers care, but the system cares. The system is built so that all schools are full of an actual diverse group of students - there is no separation of socioeconomic background or ability. (Let me be sure to say though, there is a segregation between languages - there are Swedish language schools and Finnish language schools, but even that is slowly starting to blend.) Schools aren't funded by property tax (which effectively denies the poor districts from getting the access to the same resources for education as the rich).

Also, school seems less stressful since every 15 minutes they get to relax and recenter. And they don't do standardized tests every March that stresses out the teacher thereby freaking out the kids. In fact, although there is homework and constant evaluation, there is a blissful lack of high stakes exams. No wonder kids don't hate school here. They don't feel like they are having to beat their heads against it all the time.

Finnish schools value subjects far beyond the typical reading, math, and science. Before 6th grade, students already are learning not just their own language, but the second of the official languages (if they natively speak Swedish, they learn Finnish) AND a foreign language (usually English). Elementary school students are also learning home economics, physical education, music, art, and an even separate class time for hand crafts. In America, we hear of schools losing their music programs and neglecting their art programs, but in Finland, they are equally valued as the rest of the school subjects. Finnish schools build whole people, not just "book smart" kids. Which, combined with the lack of stressed out test-taking, makes kids (in general) way less dreadful about going to school.

Okay but here's the fun part, how we are similar:

This week, the school near the university that I observe at has an Interdisciplinary project day. I remember my school doing that once. It was an experiment and I don't know if they've continued it.

The schools are all about breaking the "desks in a row and the teacher at the front" mold. America too.

Finland is embracing technology in the classroom. America too.

Teachers teach from their heart. They have a personal relationship with students. They care about the individual. The good ones do. Guess what? The good American teachers do too.

Their school year is roughly the same as ours - 190 days to our 180.

I could go on and on and on about things that America does in education that Finland also does. Open floor plans, field trips, Exchange City and so much more. The point I'm trying to make here is that our education might not be where most of us want it to be, but we have it in us to get it there. Finland has a lot of things that make it special. But the more and more I learn, the more I realize the stuff they do and love, is stuff we try and don't always stick with.

I know change is never easy. But progress requires change, and my friends, the potential for progress in American education is overflowing. We can get it where we want it. Sure Finland is special, but they don't have to be the only place that is.


What Happened When England Offered ‘Free’ College

Australia too once had "free" university education but it was abandoned by a LEFTIST government as too expensive

In England, "free college" policies resulted in the wealthiest students receiving a disproportionate share of government subsidies.

Proponents of “free college” would have you believe that getting rid of tuition fees is all it takes to create a high-quality, equitable, and accessible higher education system.

But a recent study indicates that in England, removing tuition fees from students achieved the exact opposite result. “Free” college in fact created a system where the wealthy benefited, and the poor were left behind.

Starting in the 1960s, England removed tuition fees for its citizens who were full-time students. As one might expect, this caused a massive uptick in the number of students going into higher education.

After years of concerns about financial sustainability, England started to slowly introduce tuition fees in the late 1990s.

Authors Richard Murphy, Judith Scott-Clayton, and Gillen Wyness studied the impact that charging tuition had on student enrollment, equity in college attainment among different income levels, and education quality.

The authors found that after tuition fees were introduced, the number of low-income students enrolling in higher education actually doubled between 1997 and 2015. This seems counterintuitive, considering that low-income families would seem to struggle the most under the new tuition-based system.

As with most government-run programs, the old tuition-free system in England ended up hurting exactly the people it set out to help. With the massive influx of students under the free system, the quality of the system declined and struggled financially to keep up with demand.

In response, in 1994, the government capped the number of students that could enroll in each university under state funding.

The result? The wealthiest students ended up receiving more of the free college tuition subsidies, since they were typically the most qualified and therefore most likely to succeed when competing for limited seats.

Just as we have seen with experiments with universal health care, government control and financing leads to rationing. As England’s experience demonstrates, removing market competition from higher education did not help low-income students—instead, it restricted their access even further.

The authors also found that the amount of funding an institution could devote to each student increased once England introduced tuition fees, as did student enrollment numbers.

The story of England’s experiment with “free college” should be a cautionary tale for Americans. The concept has certainly gained some traction in the United States already.

Politicians such as Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., propose offering four years of “free” college tuition to all students at public universities, and New York recently became the first state to offer a two- or four-year degree to residents making $125,000 per year or less.

High student loan debt is a problem for many Americans. But the solution is not to follow failed policies that transfer costs to other taxpayers (most of whom do not hold bachelor’s degrees themselves) and to disadvantage low-income students.

A better approach is to pursue policies that cut off the drivers of tuition inflation.

Economic evidence suggests that unrestricted access to federal student loans has led to an unprecedented rise in college tuition. Heavy-handed government intervention in higher education does more harm than good.

England has demonstrated that when competition and market forces enter the mix, more students gain access to a high-quality education.

American policymakers should take note of this policy shift across the pond, and avoid the temptation of making the same mistakes inherent in “free” college.


Ivanka Trump pens op-ed on kindergartners learning tech

Ivanka Trump, President Trump’s daughter and one of his senior advisors, penned an op-ed on Wednesday arguing that technology and computer science education should begin for children at an early age.

“Given the high and increasing demand for workers with computing skills, it is imperative that all of our students, including women and minorities, have access to computer-science education,” Trump wrote in The New York Post.

Trump noted that jobs in technology exist in numerous other areas from the medical field to the financial sector, and argued that technology education “must begin well before college or trade school.”

“We will continue to focus on placing our citizens on a pathway to a job — starting with K-12 curricula, but also continuing through vocational, skill-based training and apprenticeship programs, including the re-training of displaced workers,” she wrote.

During her time working in her father’s administration, Trump has also pushed for paid family leave. In June she met with GOP senators on Capitol Hill to discuss the issue in addition to the Child Tax Credit.