Friday, November 03, 2017

California dream sours. Private education soaring;  Public sector struggles

Today, California’s higher education system struggles with budget cuts and an uncertain future. The reasons are many.

The percentage of Californians seeking to go to college gradually increased, and so did the overall number of high school graduates. Consequently, the expansion in college enrollments over a little more than a half-century was incredibly large.

In 1960, for example, the total enrollment for all institutions in the state was 234,000. By 2015 University of California enrolled 253,000 students at 10 campuses, California State University enrolled 395,000 students at 16 campuses and the community colleges enrolled 1,138,000 at 113 campuses. This was a sevenfold enrollment increase since 1960 – the most among all states in the nation.

In contrast to 1960, student fees and tuition increased while state general fund subsidies per student tapered. In 2015, tuition charges at UC were $12,240, a tenfold increase over 1960.

During the past four decades, California’s public colleges and universities have endured lean budgets. The start of this came about in 1978, when passage of Proposition 13 placed a ceiling on property taxes, which, among others, had helped provide revenues to the state for meeting expenditures for public education.

Today there are concerns that the public universities, as a result of budget cuts, are soon going to be “public no more.” As education scholar Brendan Cantwell notes, even the preeminent research university, Berkeley, has been hit by budget cuts. At the same time, the state’s outstanding private colleges and universities have soared in terms of academic standards, selective admissions, tuition revenues, new construction and federal research grants.


Irish college students pay the second-highest fees in Europe

Third level Irish students pay the second-highest fees in Europe according to a European Commission study.

In total, 42 European education systems were reviewed with a focus on charges for "first cycle" or undergraduate higher education courses.

Only students in the UK pay more than Irish undergraduates with our neighbours having the highest fees required for students to gain a third level education.

Students in Ireland have to pay €3,000 per year to study for an undergraduate degree in university.

11 systems charge nothing at all for first-time undergraduates, including Germany, Denmark, Finland, Greece and Croatia. Another 14 systems charge less than €1,000 per year.

France charge students just €184 every year, whereas universities in Austria require their students to pay €725 per year.

Spain, Italy, Poland, Portugal and the Netherlands are included in a large grouping of systems that charge between €1,000 and €2,000 per year.

Irish students pay €3,000 which is the second-highest but pales in comparison to those in the UK. Scotland provides free third level undergraduate education, but the rest of Britain can expect to pay up to €10,000 per year.

The UK uses a student loan system, but no longer offer a maintenance grant to undergraduate students from low-income backgrounds.

The study by the European Commission also found that a lot of European countries provide tax relief for students and families to help with the cost of college.

In Ireland, child benefit stops when a child in full-time education reaches 18-years-old but many European countries provide child benefit for full-time students up to the age of 24 or 25.

In all, a total of 17 European countries offer families tax relief or special allowances or both to help offset the cost of attending college.

The countries that offer tax and child allowances to all include Austria, the Czech Republic, France, Switzerland, and Portugal.

Students in Denmark pay no fees at all, and if they live away from home while studying receive a grant of €800 per month.

Germany also provides free undergraduate education and students are entitled to a combination of grants and interest-free loans of up to €735 per month.

Many countries in Europe offer grants and fee waiving systems for low-income students, just like in Ireland.


UK: Record numbers apply for places at Oxbridge and medical schools

Britain’s universities appear to have avoided a repeat of last year’s post-Brexit slump in applications, with figures showing record numbers of students competing for prestigious Oxbridge and medical school places.

Led by increases in prospective students from inside and outside the European Union, as well as higher numbers applying from England and Wales, Ucas received more than 61,000 applications for places by its early October deadline.

The total – the highest on record – marks a turnaround in the numbers applying since last year when Brexit was blamed for a fall-off in applications especially among EU students, which were down by 9% in October 2016.

In England the enthusiasm comes from this year’s students taking A-levels who are applying for places on the most competitive courses in record numbers.

“At a time of uncertainty it’s encouraging that UK higher education remains so attractive, not only to UK students but also those from EU countries and internationally,” said Clare Marchant, the Ucas chief executive.

“However, we’ll need to wait until after the 15 January 2018 deadline to understand what the overall demand for UK higher education looks like,” she added.

The early deadline is reserved for applications to high-demand courses requiring interviews and entrance exams, such as medicine, dentistry and veterinary sciences, as well as undergraduate courses at Oxford and Cambridge universities.

About a third of the October deadline applicants are applying to study medicine. This year there were nearly 21,000 applicants to medical schools, the largest number since 2014.

The improvement in both EU and non-EU numbers comes after UK universities have ramped up their overseas student recruitment strategies. Many universities that had placed little effort into recruiting EU students – for which they receive the same tuition fees as UK students – have become more active in the past year, to prepare for post-Brexit competition.

International students from outside the EU saw the biggest surge as their numbers rose by 12% – an additional 1,350 applications – well above the increases of about 1% seen in recent years.

EU applicants for 2018 places were up by 6%, partially reversing the fall of 9% last year but still remaining below the levels seen in the years before the Brexit referendum result.

“With 6,610 applicants at the October 15 deadline, there are more applicants domiciled in the EU than in Northern Ireland, Scotland, and Wales combined,” Ucas analysts noted.

The large increases in terms of numbers came from England, with a 7% rise compared with the previous year. That means about 2,500 more students from England are applying to the most competitive courses, adding to the highest total in five years.


Thursday, November 02, 2017

Philosophy Professor Tells Bisexual Student Who Criticized Islam 'We're Not Going to Let You Damage the Program'

"We have not designed our program to tolerate these behaviors."

A bisexual male student at the University of Texas–San Antonio said during an informal conversation outside class that he was uncomfortable with Islam because people still receive the death penalty for being gay in 10 Muslim-majority countries.

For expressing this thought, the student—Alfred MacDonald, who no longer attends the school—was instructed to meet with the chair of the philosophy department, Eve Browning. Prof. Browning told MacDonald in no uncertain terms that he had committed the crime of "offending" someone, and she warned him that his habit of saying what he thinks could bring down the entire program. She threatened to call the Behavior Intervention Team and refer MacDonald to counseling. She did everything but send him to Room 101.

Unfortunately for Browning, MacDonald secretly recorded their conversation. The transcript, first publicized by Gay Star News, is incredible.

"We have not designed our program to tolerate these behaviors," Brown tells MacDonald at one point. Later she adds, "We're not going to let you damage the program."

First Browning accuses MacDonald of skipping class, leaving early, and causing disruptions. MacDonald attributes his tardiness to a medical condition, but notes that he has been doing better on this front ever since his professors approached him about the issue. Browning rejects that this matter is settled—she claims that if skipping class was no longer a problem, it wouldn't be listed as a problem on the sheet of paper she's reading from—and moves on to the more serious charge: MacDonald offended someone.

Apparently, MacDonald had engaged in a conversation with a Christian student who noted she was marrying a Muslim man. It was then that MacDonald expressed his discomfort with the religion:

MACDONALD: I said that I was bothered that I could be killed in 10 Muslim countries. I'm bisexual. So they'd definitely do that in the 10 countries where I would be— you know.

BROWNING: Doesn't that strike you as an inappropriate thing to say about someone's fiance?

MACDONALD: I wasn't talking about the fiance. The fiance could have whatever interpretation of the religion that they want. I said something like...(thinking) that I...yeah it wasn't about the fiance, it was about the religious practices in those countries.

BROWNING: How is it appropriate to bring that up in connection with someone's fiance?

MACDONALD: They brought it up. The Islam part.

BROWNING: And you brought up the threat to your life as posed by this fiance?

MACDONALD: No. We got to the subject of Islam, not the fiance.

BROWNING: Do you understand how someone would find that offensive?

MACDONALD: How someone would find that offensive, yeah; how they could perceive it, yeah; yeah, I mean, if I...

BROWNING: It's a confusing comment to me because Muslims do not all live in countries in which bisexuals are executed. Muslims live in the United States—


BROWNING: —Muslims live in France, Muslims live in every country in the world—it's the fastest growing world religion.

MACDONALD: Yeah, one of my good friends at the university is Muslim.

BROWNING: And do you tell him that you object to his religion because there are places on earth where gay, lesbian, and bisexual people are discriminated against, including your own country?

MACDONALD: Well, "her." And my verbiage was "killed" not "discriminated against." I mean, death penalty's pretty severe.

BROWNING: What does that have to do with her being engaged to a Muslim?

MACDONALD: Nothing. I wasn't talking about the engagement to the Muslim. I was talking about Islam in that particular moment.

BROWNING: Well, let me just say that kind of thing is not going to be tolerated in our department. We're not going to tolerate graduate students trying to make other graduate students feel terrible for our emotional attachments.

MACDONALD: Um...all right.

BROWNING: And, if you don't understand why that is, I can explain fully, or I can refer you to the Behavior Intervention Team on our campus, which consists of a counselor, faculty member, and person from student affairs who are trained on talking to people about what's appropriate or what isn't.

At various points, MacDonald attempted to use philosophical reasoning to defend himself. When Browning noted that multiple people were offended by his comments, MacDonald accused her of succumbing to the logical fallacy of ad populum reasoning.

When MacDonald protests that he is on a public university campus—where the First Amendment is in effect—Browning states that "derogatory comments" could absolutely get him dismissed from the philosophy program. She asserts that his comment about Islam was "very objectionable," could prompt the Behavior Intervention Team to investigate, and could jeopardize his academic and professional future in a variety of ways. What's more, Browning repeatedly makes comment to the effect that this will not be tolerated, despite maintaining that MacDonald is not at risk of being removed from the program.

BROWNING: Those are things that would get you fired if you were working in my office. The Islam comment would get you fired.

MACDONALD: ...Would it really get me fired to say that I could be killed somewhere?

BROWNING: In that situation as you've described it, absolutely yes.


BROWNING: Don't even ask. It's clear you're not taking my word for it. I don't care to convince you. If I can't persuade you that it's in your interest to behave in ways that other people don't find offensive and objectionable, then at least I've done my job.

MACDONALD: Well I know that it's in my interest. I'm just trying to understand the reasoning.

BROWNING: You don't have to.

MACDONALD: Well, this is a truth-seeking discipline!

This incident took place last year. I could not immediately reach MacDonald for contact, but The College Fix's William Nardi recently obtained an interview with him. Browning declined comment to The Fix. A university spokesperson, Joe Izbrand, clarified the Behavior Intervention Team's role:

"It's not about taking punitive action or determining penalties," Izbrand told The College Fix via email. "The behavioral intervention team is comprised of a broad array of professionals whose job is to review concerns that come to them and to appropriately determine if any kind of follow up is necessary—concerns about the wellbeing of a student, if the student has expressed a threat to another student or themselves."

"We do not and will not take disciplinary action for students exercising their freedom of speech rights," Izbrand said, "and we expect faculty to help guide students in how to appropriately express those views when interacting with each other."

It's certainly possible that MacDonald's behavior was more inappropriate and disruptive than this conversation reveals, or that his attendance issues should have precluded him from being a student at UT–San Antonio. But it should not strike the chair of the philosophy department as offensive and unthinkable to make accurate criticisms of Islamic extremism, or of any other religious ideology.

To quote Harvard University's Steven Pinker (alongside whom I will be speaking at a panel discussion next week: details here), "That's the difference between a university and a madrassa."


Nine UK schools produce country's 'most powerful people'

Alumni of the "public" schools are 94 times more likely to reach the UK elite than pupils from elsewhere

Just nine public schools in Britain are producing a large number of the country’s most powerful people, London researchers have found.

Pupils who attend the nine privileged establishments – including Eton and Westminster - are 94 times more likely to reach the top elite positions in society than anyone else from other schools, according to the study.

Despite traditionally educating just 0.15 per cent of the population, the private institutions still produce nearly 10 per cent of entrants on the Who’s Who biographical list, a directory which includes prominent people like MPs, peers, senior civil servants, judges and museum heads.

The figures come from academics at the London School of Economics who analysed the past and present influence of alumni from the nine so-called Clarendon Schools, made up of Charterhouse, Eton, Harrow, Merchant Taylor’s, Rugby, Shrewsbury, St Paul’s and Winchester.

The research studied 120 years of data contained within Who’s Who in a groundbreaking study to see how the make-up of Britain’s elite has changed over the last century.

It found that although the disproportionate influence of these nine private schools has fallen since the start of the 20th century, in the last 16 years the decline has stalled and the schools remain “extraordinarily powerful”.

Out of the UK’s 54 prime ministers, 67 per cent have been educated at one of the nine elite schools.

Even among students who attended Oxbridge, alumni from the Clarendon Schools are around twice as likely to reach the elite as non-Clarendon educated Oxbridge graduates.

It suggests 20th century educational reform has only partially dealt with unequal career opportunities and social mobility still has far to go.

Dr Aaron Reeves of the International Inequalities Institute at LSE and Dr Sam Friedman of the university’s Department of Sociology, said:  “Although the Clarendon schools have not always been the best performing schools in the country they have consistently remained the most successful in propelling their alumni into elite positions.

“Clearly their power lies beyond simple academic excellence and may be rooted in an extensive extra-curricular education that endows old boys with a particular way of being in the world that signals elite male status to others.

“While the democratisation of education clearly dented the influence of these elite schools, their power remains a testament to how far adrift Britain lies from true equality of opportunity.”


Credentialism hurts veterans

When the United States invaded Iraq in 2003, Eric Smith was a 17-year-old sailor. Over the next five and a half years, he was twice deployed to the Middle East as a Navy medic, serving as a corpsman for a platoon of Marines who found themselves in combat on multiple occasions. When he wasn't deployed with the Marines, Smith led a four-man team responsible for a 20-bed intensive care unit.

Those years of hard-earned leadership and medical training under extreme conditions, Smith believed, would leave him well-prepared for a job in a civilian hospital when it came time to leave the Navy. "I was told I would be wanted in the civilian workforce because I had proven myself a reliable leader," Smith recalled in 2011, after two years of struggling to find a full-time job. "That did not prove to be the case."

About 200,000 people leave the United States military every year. Some separate after completing their terms of service, others are wounded or disabled, and still others are retiring. For the majority, a crucial part of the transition to civilian life is finding a job. Like Smith, many struggle not because they lack the needed skills but because they don't have mandatory certifications or state-issued occupational licenses, some of which require years of redundant training in skills already provided by the military at taxpayers' expense.

The Navy had spent more than $1 million on Smith's training over the course of nearly six years in the service, but as a civilian he was able to land only part-time work. Often he ended up hanging out near a convenience store in Baltimore where day laborers were hired for off-the-books construction. When he eventually got a job in a hospital, he worked as a janitor.

"My military education and training did not translate because I didn't have a piece of paperwork saying so," Smith told the U.S. Senate Veterans Affairs Committee in 2011.

That hearing drew attention to the issue, and it built momentum for the Veterans Opportunity to Work to Hire Heroes Act, or VOW Act, which President Barack Obama signed in November of that year. Among other things, the law authorized the departments of Defense and Labor to work with governors to identify occupational licensing rules that could be streamlined for former members of the military.

Progress has been slow. In April, nearly six years after Congress passed a major piece of legislation that supposedly addressed the licensing problem plaguing veterans, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D–Mass.) was sitting in another committee hearing addressing the exact same problem. The military trains thousands of soldiers every year to drive trucks in the most difficult conditions imaginable, she pointed out, but state licensing rules mean "we can't take the world's best truck drivers and just automatically move them into truck driving jobs, civilian truck driving jobs."

"We've got a state and national licensing problem here," Warren concluded. She's right. As the 16th anniversary of America's war on terror approaches, the slow pace and uneven results of that conflict abroad are mirrored by a similar slog back home.

Reform efforts backed by Michelle Obama and Jill Biden, the federal departments of Defense and Labor, the National Governors Association, and various veterans groups have pressured state lawmakers to change dozens of licensing laws. For anyone hoping to enact broader reforms of America's often anti-competitive occupational licensing rules, there are lessons to be learned from the push to loosen requirements for current and former members of the military. Those successes provide a blueprint for how the federal government can play a role in occupational licensing reforms at the state level.

But the slow pace of progress raises concerns. If it is this difficult to make small changes to licensing laws for military families and veterans—groups of workers who have earned a privileged place in American society and have a multitude of programs targeting their welfare—what does that say for the prospects of the marginalized groups that are so often victims of licensing laws? If Eric Smith can't find a job after getting $1 million in Navy training because he lacks a scrap of paper, then the burden for other workers is immeasurably heavier.

From Medic to EMT

"These men and women have spent thousands of hours in combat zones, saving lives amid explosions and gunfire," Michelle Obama told the 2013 meeting of the National Governors Association. "They've driven armored vehicles thousands of miles on dangerous roads lined with [improvised explosive devices]. Yet back here at home, they can't get hired to drive a semi or serve as an EMT."

When Smith and some of his fellow Iraq War veterans testified before the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee in 2011, there were an estimated 200,000 unemployed veterans in the country. That same year, the Pentagon paid out more than $900 million in unemployment benefits to former members of the military.

Polls show that most employers are eager to hire veterans because they are seen as skilled workers and good leaders, yet a 2012 survey of post-9/11 military men and women found more than 60 percent were having difficulty finding civilian jobs after leaving the service. The problem—then and now—is a disconnect between positions in the military and state-level licensing requirements. There are more than 650 occupations with over 2,000 specialties for enlisted positions alone within the military, according to a report from the National Governors Association. But those skills and titles rarely map perfectly onto the 100–200 professions requiring a license in most states.

"I was told I would be wanted in the civilian workforce because I had proven myself a reliable leader," former Navy medic Eric Smith told the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee. "That did not prove to be the case."

At the end of 2016, there were 20.9 million veterans in the United States. Among those who had served in the armed forces since September 2001, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the unemployment rate was 5 percent, slightly higher than the national rate of 4.8 percent at the end of last year.

Military training is never going to align perfectly with civilian occupational requirements. "Ultimately, if you want to be a paramedic, you're going to have to learn additional training for situations that the military doesn't have to worry about," says John Kamin, assistant director in the American Legion's Veterans Employment and Education Division. But veterans shouldn't have to start all over at the beginning of training periods that are often discouragingly long by design.

After the VOW Act passed, state and federal officials worked together to produce a set of five military occupational specialties—aircraft mechanics, automotive mechanics, health care support staff, logistics and supply staff, and truck drivers—that they want to help transition more easily to civilian work.

A significant part of the problem is how extensive licensing has become in America. Fewer than 10 percent of the country's jobs required a state-issued license in 1970, but about 30 percent do now. The burden isn't spread evenly across the states. Fewer than 15 percent of workers in South Carolina need a license, while more than 30 percent are licensed in places like Iowa and Arizona. It takes three years of education and training to become a licensed security guard in Michigan, but only requires filling out some paperwork and paying a small fee in Ohio.

"The patchwork of state-level licensing and credentialing regulations contributes to confusion among transitioning veterans about where to find jobs that fit their skills and experience," a 2016 report from the centrist think tank Third Way found. Researchers there concluded that the uncertainty created by licensing rules was "overwhelmingly" the biggest obstacle to veterans seeking civilian employment.

A year after the VOW Act passed, Congress approved follow-up legislation requiring federal agencies to recognize military training when certifying veterans for occupational licenses. But since most licensing rules are written by state governments, the real action had to happen 50 more times.

That's why, by mid-2013, Michelle Obama and Jill Biden were at the tip of the spear in a national crusade to raise awareness about the problem. "If a servicemember has spent years treating wounded troops in a military hospital, they shouldn't have to then spend thousands of dollars to get back into the classroom and study things that they've already learned just to get the same kind of job in the civilian world," the then–first lady said. "We want to make it easier for those who served as medics or drivers in the military to get new jobs as paramedics and nurses and physician assistants or truck drivers."

Spousal Support

According to the American Legion, more than 35 percent of military spouses work in professions requiring state occupational licenses. While most veterans transition from military to civilian life only once, military spouses have to adapt to a new job market every few years as they move from state to state. Military families are 10 times more likely to relocate across state lines than civilian families in similar professions, according to the Department of Labor.

When her husband Daniel, a colonel in the U.S. Army, was transferred from a base in Georgia to one in Virginia in 2013, Karla Mettling knew the drill. It was the family's fifth move since 2003, and each one came with its own set of professional difficulties for Karla, who holds a master's degree in social work from the University of Central Florida.

When her husband was relocated to Georgia three years earlier, she had qualified for a mid-level social work license. Looking to advance her career, Mettling asked state licensing officials what it would take to get the next level license. "You had to work in the state, full-time, for three years," she recalls. That wasn't going to be possible with her husband in the Army.

"Military spouses are only in a state for two to four years, and during that time they have to find a place to live, get their family embedded in that community, get a license, and then try to advance their career," says Marcus Beauregard, the retired Air Force colonel who heads up the Pentagon's State Liaison Office. The office has been working with state lawmakers on a multi-pronged approach to create shortcuts through the normal licensing processes for military families, including the granting of temporary licenses to allow workers to get jobs while their formal applications are being processed. "We're focused specifically on the timeliness of the license process," he says.

Michelle Obama and Jill Biden's push for state-level changes included a call for easing licensing burdens for military spouses like Karla Mettling. Refreshingly, the effort did not rely on threats or coercion from Washington, as is so often the case in federal-state relations. And it worked. It was "extremely helpful" to have Obama and Biden call governors' attention to the issue, Beauregard says. By 2016, 54 laws enacted across all 50 states reduced licensing and credentialing barriers for military members, veterans, and their families.

There is still work to be done. Mettling was one of several military spouses to visit the White House during the first week of August for a "listening session" hosted by Secretary of Labor Alexander Acosta, White House counselor Kellyanne Conway, and Ivanka Trump, the president's eldest daughter. The Trump administration has tried in many ways to distance itself from the previous occupants of the executive branch, but this event was the first clear sign that it wants to carry on, and potentially expand, these licensing reforms.

"I think this could be the next logical step," says Kelly Hruska, director of government affairs for the National Military Family Association, a Virginia-based nonprofit that works with currently serving members of all branches and their spouses. But it's not a simple progression from one thing to the next, she warns, since there are dozens of licensed professions across the 50 states and requirements are rarely standardized. The next wave of reforms will focus on streamlining requirements for teachers, social workers, and health care workers, including those in mental health—a field where more than 10 percent of military spouses work, and one where there is a shortage of licensed professionals in many states.

For Beauregard, the next logical step is increasing the number of interstate compacts for licensed professions. The model is an interstate compact for licensed nurses that many states have joined over the last decade. It includes a provision that allows nurses to practice across state lines as long as they maintain residency in the state where they were originally licensed. (Military families are allowed to maintain permanent legal residency in a state where they don't currently live—for tax purposes, under the auspices of a 2009 law called the Military Spouse Residency Relief Act—so a license granted in Florida, for example, could be honored almost everywhere else around the country.)

"If a servicemember has spent years treating wounded troops in a military hospital," said Michelle Obama, "they shouldn't have to then spend thousands of dollars to get back into the classroom and study things that they already learned just to get the same kind of job in the civilian world."

After settling in Virginia last year, Mettling set about getting relicensed. Thanks to a new compact between some states, she didn't have to start all over at the beginning. But not everything went smoothly. She learned that she would qualify only for a lower-level license in Virginia, one that could be held by anyone with a bachelor's degree in social work. Her master's degree, at least in the eyes of Virginia's licensing regime, didn't mean much of anything. "After so many moves, sometimes you think, well, how much is this really worth to me," she says.

Like many military families, the Mettlings face a difficult choice each time they get the order to move: Does the spouse stay behind in a different state to pursue a profession, or risk taking a step backward in his or her career in order to keep the household under one roof?

A Winning Issue That Can't Win

Like the tangle of state licensing laws that advocates are trying to trim, the reform proposals themselves are not organized or directed by a single Pentagon office or congressional committee. Enough policy makers at all levels of government have been made aware of the problems that the issue has metastasized into a broad coalition of the willing.

It's a winning issue politically, since you'd be hard pressed to find a state lawmaker anywhere in the country who doesn't want to look like he or she is helping the troops, veterans, and their spouses. Even the most cynical licensing boards backed by the most entrenched special interests have a hard time arguing for rules that unnecessarily keep vets from getting jobs.

But while any reduction in licensing burdens should be welcomed, limiting reform to one class of workers is not preferable to removing needless barriers entirely. The problems faced by a military family moving across state lines or by a veteran trying to find a job in the private sector are also faced by millions of Americans who don't have the Pentagon and a former first lady fighting on their behalf.

The hurdles to getting the government's permission to work can be severe, and they can be even higher for those from low-income or disadvantaged backgrounds, says Dick Carpenter, director of strategic research for the Institute for Justice. Carpenter is coauthor of Bottleneckers, a book about the ways professions use licensing laws to restrict competition and keep prices artificially high. Because economic mobility—the ability to ascend the economic ladder—is tied to geographic mobility, reduced interstate mobility harms low-income and disadvantaged workers who would otherwise move in pursuit of a better quality of life, he says.

"The focus of the effort on behalf of military-affiliated individuals should not strictly or even primarily be on seeking ways to facilitate greater reciprocity between states," says Carpenter. "It should be on eliminating unnecessary licenses or significantly reducing requirements where some form of government intervention is demonstrably necessary."

The ongoing effort to reform occupational licensing laws for military families and veterans, then, could be seen as a model for more robust reform efforts targeting other populations. It's also an indication of how difficult those changes can be. Even with so many big guns engaged in the fight, there's no clear assessment of how effective the changes have been. Dozens of laws have been passed in state capitols from coast to coast, but they mostly order licensing boards to take actions that they may or may not have bothered to actually do. The Pentagon has commissioned a report from the University of Minnesota to assess whether licensing boards have implemented those changes. That study is due to be released later this year.

It's a piecemeal process, says Hruska, because there are so many licensed professions and because the rules differ from one state to the next. "You take a few steps forward and then you have to go back and start over again in another state," she says. "There's a lot of moving parts. You almost have to go profession by profession."

The same is true of licensing reforms for everyone else. Lawsuits and legislative successes have eroded some of the more egregious violations of economic liberty—several states have scrapped their licensing rules for hair braiders in recent years, for example—but each victory seems small when measured against the thousands of licensing laws that exist in cities and states across the country. Still, it may well be possible to build a broader reform effort on these successes, modest as they are. State lawmakers who first learned about occupational licensing problems because they wanted to support the troops might now be willing to reduce barriers for others too.

When Obama signed the VOW Act in November 2011, Smith was at the White House to tell his story again. He described the life of a man with the necessary skills and the desire to work, kept unemployed for years because he didn't have the proper government permission slips.

"It got to the point where I was out signing up for drug trials, just to make it. That shouldn't happen to veterans."

He paused.

"That shouldn't happen to anybody."


Wednesday, November 01, 2017

‘Anti-racist’: ‘I will always call on my black women students first’

The discriminatory technique is more common in classrooms than you think.

Stephanie McKellop, a graduate teaching assistant in history at the University of Pennsylvania, drew notice last week for her promotion of a little-known progressive pedagogy. As McKellop explained in a tweet, “I will always call on my Black women students first. Other [people of color] get second tier priority. [White women] come next. And, if I have to, white men.” While McKellop had apparently been doing this all along, her public boast yielded a firestorm.

McKellop later claimed that UPenn was preparing to condemn her teaching practices, writing that “Penn thinks I’m racist and discriminatory towards my students for using a very well worn pedagogical tactic which includes calling on [people of color].”

UPenn Arts and Sciences Dean Steven Fluharty acknowledged that “we are looking into the current matter,” but no condemnation has so far been issued. In any event, McKellop went on to explain that this “well worn” technique is called “progressive stacking.”

In a later missive, McKellop helpfully linked to the relevant Wikipedia entry, which explains that progressive stacking “is a technique used to give marginalized groups a greater chance to speak. . . . In practice, ‘majority culture’ is interpreted by progressive stack practitioners to mean White people, men and young adults.” Perhaps unsurprisingly, progressive stacking was popular with the Occupy Wall Street movement.

More than a few academics have spoken up to defend the use of progressive stacking. Nolan Cabrera, an associate professor of educational-policy studies and practice at the University of Arizona, explained to The Chronicle of Higher Education that “in college classrooms . . . it’s very common for people of privileged social identities to dominate conversations,” and that progressive stacking is “an acknowledgment that traditional pedagogical techniques have silenced marginal voices.”

Jessie Daniels, a professor of sociology at Hunter College and the City University of New York, told Inside Higher Ed that (as the site paraphrased it) “progressive stacking has been around at least since she was in graduate school in the 1990s.”

It takes little imagination to see the practical problems with all of this. For one, as Reason’s Robby Soave notes, “Even if you think social inequalities make it impossible to be racist against white people, McKellop’s contention that ‘other POC get second tier priority’ is absurdly offensive on its own.”

Just how ought a teacher calibrate for all the relevant disparities? Among Asian-Americans, for example, educational attainment varies enormously between different subgroups, with Korean- and Taiwanese-American students vastly outperforming Vietnamese and Laotian Americans. Should students within the latter ethnicities be given classroom-speaking preference over those of the former?

More to the point, it represents a profound parody of the American creed when “anti-bias” educators start employing race-based distinctions as an instructional tactic. After all, there was a time when schools unabashedly treated students differently based on race and ethnicity: This was called discrimination.

People of goodwill have spent long decades struggling to address and atone for this vicious legacy. We may not be there yet, but undeniable progress has been made — guided by the ardent conviction that race-based discrimination has no place in American education. Today, though, a small but growing slice of college and K–12 educators are suggesting it is okay, even admirable, to treat students differently based on the color of their skin.

The reality is that progressive stacking and its ilk ultimately rest on dubious applications of junk science. While claims of “implicit bias” serve as the justification for “anti-racist” pedagogy, the credibility of the entire body of work has been called into doubt. Indeed, a recent meta-analysis examined nearly 500 studies on the “Implicit Association Test” — arguably the foundational measure in the study of implicit bias — and found fundamental problems with the test itself.

Researchers, including one of the test’s co-creators, found that “the correlation between implicit bias and discriminatory behavior appears weaker than previously thought.” They cautioned that “there’s not necessarily strong evidence for the conclusions people have drawn” about implicit bias.

Similarly, a seminal 2004 study analyzed the impact of membership in an ethnic-identity-based organization on undergraduate student attitudes. It found that, for black, Asian, and Latino students, such membership “actually increased the perception that ethnic groups are locked into zero-sum competition with one another and the feeling of victimization by virtue of one’s ethnicity.”

In truth, what we know about promoting racial comity flies in the face of progressive-stack theory. As social psychologists Jonathan Haidt and Lee Jussim explain, the positive benefits of interracial contact “depend in large measure on certain conditions, like having common goals, a sense of cooperation and equal status. The benefits disappear when there is anxiety about cross-group interactions.

On a campus, this means that increasing the number of black students and professors could, in theory, improve race relations, but such benefits are unlikely when accompanied by microaggression training and other measures that magnify racial consciousness and conflict.”

For whatever reason, some educators seem intent on finding more and more ways to bastardize pedagogy in pursuit of their ideological agendas. It is easy to laugh at this nonsense and allow commentators to downplay incidents like McKellop’s as outliers or curiosities. But we fear they are better understood as warning signs that crusading educators have made it their mission to upend some of America’s most cherished principles.

The great crusade of 20th-century education was the battle to extinguish racial discrimination in schooling. While we may not have yet delivered on that promise, we should call on educators left and right to resoundingly reject those “anti-racist” crusaders who have decided it’s time to abandon it.

State legislators, school boards, and university trustees should make it clear that discrimination — whatever the purported motivation — will not be tolerated in America’s classrooms. Period.


Customized Learning for California

Helping K–12 Students Thrive with Education Savings Accounts

The taxpayer-funded public education system in California is broken. It costs residents nearly $66 billion dollars annually, resulting in an average per student cost of more than $12,000. In fact, K–12 education represents the single largest share of the state’s entire general fund budget, nearly 43 percent.

Yet student achievement places California among the bottom five states in the nation in reading and math. Currently, nearly one out of five high school students does not graduate, and just 43 percent of those who do graduate meet California’s four-year college course requirements.

The proven policy-path for dramatic improvements in student achievement is parental choice: giving parents the ability to choose the methods and means of their children’s education, including the freedom to use education savings accounts, or ESAs.

The concept behind ESAs is simple. In the typical ESA program, parents who do not prefer a public school for their child simply withdraw him or her, and the state deposits most or all of what it would have spent into that child’s ESA. Parents then receive a type of dedicated-use debit card to pay for authorized expenses including private school tuition, online courses, testing fees, tutoring, and special education therapies. Any leftover funds remain in the child’s ESA for future education expenses, including college under some programs.

Today ESAs are helping more than 11,000 students in states with operational programs: Arizona, Florida, Mississippi, and Tennessee. And so far in 2017 at least 17 bills enacting or expanding ESA programs have been introduced in 13 states.

ESAs are popular, easy to use, fiscally responsible, and constitutional. Best of all, they empower parents to choose how, not just where, their children are educated, which customizes learning in ways that no one-size-fits-all system could ever match—no matter how lavishly funded.

This Independent Institute Policy Report discusses K–12 education options in Calfornia, explains the basic mechanics of ESAs, corrects misconceptions about ESAs, and outlines the features of a California ESA program that is privately funded through tax-credit contributions, much like tax-credit scholarship programs operate in other states across the country. The Appendix offers an elaboration of the fiscal impacts of the California ESA proposals and provides a comparison of ESAs programs in five states.

California’s public school system, which largely rations education based on where a child’s parents can afford to live, is a relic of a bygone era. Such a system cannot provide the customized preparation students need to succeed in a rapidly changing, increasingly competitive world. In contrast, ESAs would empower parents and guardians to personalize their child’s education, and would foster a educational landscape that can quickly adapt to meet the diverse needs of students and their families.


Australia: Dream turns into degree-factory nightmare

The Rudd and Gillard governments’ habit of meddling in places it had no right to be was driven not so much by socialism as solutionism; the impulse to solve problems yet to be defined. It accelerated the expansion of what the Productivity Commission delicately refers to as the non-market sector in its landmark review of national economic ­efficiency released last week.

The non-market sector — health, welfare and education for the most part — accounts for more than 20 per cent of economic activity and is powered by government investment.

Are our degree factories delivering value for money? One suspects not, in the light of the commission’s recommendation that higher education providers should be included in consumer law, giving unhappy students the right to seek compensation if the service they received was “not fit for purpose” or was “supplied without due care and skill”.

The commission charts the extra­ordinary growth of universities in which more than a million Australians are enrolled today, twice as many as there were when the century began.

The federal government’s direct contribution increased from $19 billion in 2007 to $31bn last year, not counting the amount it lends to students, a substantial slice of which it will never recoup. Outstanding government loans to students have tripled across the same period from $16bn to $49bn.

Those who received the most benefit, if benefit it is, are the millennials, a generation that may well become known as the education boomers, the most well-credentialed generation in history. Four out of 10 women aged between 25 and 35 have a bachelor degree, or higher qualification, as do three out of 10 men in the same cohort.

Ten years ago the figures were 24 and 22 per cent respectively.

For those who regard human beings as inputs that increase production, this investment in education should be an unqualified good. Yet human beings, it turns out, are not machines, and the demand for the services of graduates has its limits. Full-time employment for graduates has fallen from 85 per cent in 2008 to 71 per cent last year.

More than a quarter of graduates work in jobs unrelated to their studies, to which their degree may add little value. In fields such as the humanities, languages, arts and social sciences, the figure could be as high as half. Graduate wages as a proportion of the average minimum wage have been falling since 2008.

Students’ return on investment is shrinking, and they know it.

A survey last year found high levels of dissatisfaction: almost half thought they had received inadequate services.

The higher education revolution engineered by Julia Gillard as education minister and then prime minister has been a force for destruction, as revolutions usually are. The ideal of excellence has been usurped by the dogma of inclusion. A place at a university is a right, and in some circles is seen as a requirement, a four-year transition from youth to adulthood without which no life is complete.

The average Australian Tertiary Admission Rank of univer­sity entrants, a proxy measure for academic preparedness, fell from 79.9 per cent in 2010 before the glorious Gillard revolution to 76.4 per cent last year.

Meanwhile, the proportion of students abandoning university courses rose, from 12.5 per cent in 2009 to 15.2 per cent in 2014. More than a quarter of students are failing to complete their degrees in nine years. In the commission’s view, this represents a waste of the student’s time and money, and squandered taxpayer funding.

Gillard’s changes to higher education are one more example of the costly but avoidable public policy mistakes about which the commission expresses concern.

In part, the blame falls on the public service for its failure to conduct standard due diligence and its excessive aversion to risk which makes it slow to acknowledge mistakes and quick to centralise decision-making.

The commission is understandably muted, however, in its references to the poor performance of elected governments. The rushed delivery of rash promises, bypassing of normal cabinet process, reliance on verbal rather than written advice, failure to stress-test proposals and reckless disregard for future costs were highlighted two years ago in an important report by Peter Shergold that, disconcertingly, appears to have been little read.

One suspects the author foresaw as much and so cunningly decided to include the guts of it in the title. Learning from Failure: Why Large Government Policy Initiatives Have Gone So Badly Wrong in the Past and How the Chances of Success in the Future Can be Improved, together with a well-thumbed copy of last week’s magnum opus from the Productivity Commission, should be placed in a prominent position on every would-be revolutionary’s bookcase


Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Limits to what schools can achieve

Since setting up one of England’s first free schools in 2011, I’ve become interested in what schools can and cannot achieve. Six years ago, I shared the optimism that characterises most graduates entering the education sector for the first time and talked passionately about the transformative impact that good schools can have. But six years later I’m a little more realistic. I now like to quote the opening verse of the Serenity Prayer when talking about this subject:

God grant me the serenity/to accept the things I cannot change;/courage to change the things I can;/and the wisdom to know the difference.

So what are the things that schools cannot change? Having immersed myself in psychology, particularly psychometrics, I’ve reluctantly come to the conclusion that it is naïve to think schools can do much to ameliorate the effects of inequality. I don’t just mean socio-economic inequality; I also mean differences in intelligence. A child’s general cognitive ability is the strongest single predictor of how well they do in their GCSEs, with differences in IQ accounting for more than half of the variance in exam results. See this 2007 study, for instance, which involved tracking 70,000 English schoolchildren over a five-year period. It’s a finding that has been replicated several times.

Can schools do anything to raise children’s general cognitive ability? The answer is maybe, but we haven’t yet discovered how to do it. Intelligence is a highly heritable characteristic, which is to say that more than half the variance in IQ at a population level is due to genetic differences, with less than half due to environmental differences. It’s true that the heritability of IQ is lower among children than it is among adults, with the environment playing a bigger role during adolescence. But the impact of the environment on children’s attainment, even during these formative years, is still fairly negligible – lower than most educationalists believe. Overall, children’s genes account for between 60 and 70 per cent of the variance in GCSE results, with IQ accounting for about half that genetic influence.

Paradoxically, schools do appear to have an effect on the [itals] mean [itals] IQ scores of large populations. As a general rule, the better a country’s public education system, the higher its average IQ. Not only that, but the political scientist James Flynn has demonstrated that the mean IQ of populations in the more affluent parts of the world has increased since 1930, an effect he partly attributes to better schooling. (For more on the Flynn Effect, see here. Interestingly, Flynn now believes IQ across the developed world has started to fall.)

But what schools cannot do, or haven’t been able to do up to now, is raise the IQs of individual students. In particular, they haven’t been able to reduce the differences in IQ among their pupils by raising the general cognitive ability of those who start out below average. A fairly common misunderstanding among educationalists is thinking that if you make schools more equal, you will equalise attainment. In fact, if every school is equally good, you may succeed in reducing some of the differences in GCSE results due to environmental differences, but by doing that you will automatically accentuate the variation due to differences in natural ability, including genetic differences when it comes to conscientiousness and other personality traits linked with attainment. Looked at this way, school improvement may actually [itals] increase [itals] inequality of school outcomes rather than reduce it.

So what can schools do? The good news is that environmental differences still account for between 30 and 40 per cent of the variance in GCSE results, and some of that is linked to the quality of the school. The bad news is that differences between schools, such as the amount of resources a school receives, the number of children in a class, the quality of the teachers, etc., account for no more than 10 per cent of the variance in exam results after you control for variables like students’ IQ and parental socio-economic status.

Now, the fact that ‘school effects’ are quite small shouldn’t be a reason to despair. Good teachers and good schools can still make a difference for key attributes like motivation, attitudes toward learning and self-confidence – see the impact of No Excuses charter schools on raising the attainment of minority students in America’s inner-cities, for instance. And I believe it’s possible – even likely – that we will eventually discover how to boost children’s IQs. By this, I don’t mean that teachers will become better at instilling a ‘Growth Mindset’ – see here for a wide-ranging discussion of the shortcomings of that approach. Rather, I mean that as our understanding of the neuro-biology of intelligence deepens, we may be able to develop pharmacological interventions that boost children’s intelligence. Smart drugs that actually make you smarter – permanently. As I say, I think that could happen, probably within the next 25-50 years. (For more on this, see The Neuroscience of Intelligence by Richard Haier.) Of course, the risk is that affluent parents will be the first to take advantage of this technology, thereby increasing inequality.

In the meantime, we should acknowledge the limitations of what schools can do. As the Serenity Prayer says, it takes courage to change the things you can – and fortitude to keep on going when you know those changes are bound to be quite modest.


The Rise Of Red-Green Fascism: British Universities May Censor Student Reading

Universities are considering the insertion of warnings into books and even moving some off open library shelves altogether to protect students from “dangerous” and “wrong” arguments.
Image result for banning books

The proposal could hit books by climate-change sceptics, feminists, eugenicists, creationists, theologians and Holocaust deniers. It will generate new controversy over free speech at British universities, where speakers have been “no-platformed” because of their views.

The move on books follows a campaign to restrict access to work by the historian David Irving, which has already resulted in some university libraries, including Churchill College, Cambridge, moving his books into closed storage. Others, such as University College London, have also labelled some of Irving’s books “Holocaust denial literature”, or shelved them with historiography rather than history.

Manchester has refused to remove Irving’s books from open display, arguing that making them available to students is a matter of free speech, which universities have a duty to uphold.

The director of library services at UCL, Paul Ayris, revealed the decision to move the Irving books was based on “contemporary thinking among librarians”. This included a study “of the sometimes complex ethical issues of library neutrality, in relation, for example, to climate-change denial, and questions of equality and diversity, as well as Holocaust denial”.

Ayris also referred to a campaign directed at Vancouver Women’s Library to ban 20 feminist titles including works by Andrea Dworkin and Catharine MacKinnon on the grounds they might offend transgender people and sex workers.

Academics said controversial titles included Nigel Lawson’s book An Appeal to Reason: A Cool Look at Global Warming, and The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail, which hypothesised that the children of Jesus and Mary Magdalene have a claim to the throne of France, inspiring Dan Brown’s novel The Da Vinci Code.

The debate is being led by a group called the Radical Librarians Collective, which argues that pretending that libraries are “neutral” in the way they display books “maintains the status quo of white supremacist capitalist patriarchy”.


Credentialism threatening Preschool education

Efforts to fill centers with better qualified early-childhood workers are threatening the jobs of those who can’t afford to get their college degree, and some states are turning to apprenticeships to solve both problems at once. 

Jameelah Jones is relieved to be working again. Diagnosed with breast cancer in 2015, she had to take leave from her job at the Parent Infant Center in west Philadelphia where she was the head teacher to a class of 3-year olds. With her cancer in remission she was able to return to work last year, but she was barred from going back to the same classroom: The center had raised the qualifications for its head teachers, requiring that they now have an associate’s degree. Jones doesn’t have one, so she had to take a position in the infant room instead, caring for children ages 2 and younger.

Jones, who recently turned 50 and has lived in Philadelphia since immigrating there from Guyana at age 10,  has spent most of her adult life working with children. She has watched the childcare field evolve over the course of her career, from an emphasis on making sure young children mind their manners to one on helping them develop rich vocabularies before they start kindergarten. “I used to teach the children to say, ‘No thank you’ to anything they didn’t want or like. I must have said it a thousand times a day,” she said, chuckling. “Now, if a child doesn’t want something, I encourage them to say exactly what they mean; ‘No, I do not want to share my block with you.’ Or `No, I do not want to eat the carrots.’ The more words the better.”

Jones believes that long-time workers like her do need more training in the theory and practice of early learning. In fact, she has tried many times over the last two decades to complete a college degree, and she is still paying off over $8,000 in student loans from those attempts. But thanks to various obstacles—raising her two daughters, the deaths of her nephew and then her sister, or her recent battle with cancer—she was never able to finish. By now, she has run through her eligibility for Pell grants and can’t afford any more debt.

With so many new requirements popping up, time is running out for many long-time childcare workers, particularly those like Jones for whom going back to school seems all but impossible.

But thankfully for Jones, her employer is keen for her to stay and willing to help. It’s partnering with a program that equips early-education workers who lack college degrees with the training and qualifications they need to remain competitive. This spring, Jones enrolled at Community College of Philadelphia (CCP), as part of the apprenticeship program, organized by a local nonprofit dedicated to building the skills of the city’s health and childcare workers. The organization, the District 1199C Training and Upgrading Fund, is partnering with CCP and more than 20 childcare centers across the city to provide apprenticeships to people like Jones, who along with 32 fellow apprentices is on track to earn an associate’s degree in early-childhood education.

Jones is optimistic about finishing because it’s easier to combine working and learning through the apprenticeship approach than it is through traditional degree programs. In this program, she is a “registered apprentice,” a designation defined in federal law for a particular class of workers that confers a set of specific rights and responsibilities on her and her employer. Jones’s rights include access to structured, paid, on-the-job training and a worksite mentor. She also has six hours a week of release time to attend classes at CCP, and is entitled to a series of pay raises as she meets key benchmarks. Her responsibilities include working closely with her mentor, passing her courses, and abiding by all the workplace rules she was already subject to at PIC. In addition, she has to demonstrate mastery of a set of core, on-the-job skills; she gets college credit once she does.

In other words, Jones is making progress toward her degree just by coming to work every day and learning on the job. And by the time she finishes next year, she’ll not only have an associate’s degree—she will also be making $2 more per hour than she currently is, and be no deeper in debt.

* * *

The early-education field is in a difficult period of transition. Grounded in solid evidence that early learning can help reduce educational achievement gaps among children and generate a host of other lasting positive effects, the field is still struggling to distinguish itself from traditional childcare. Early education is arguably the most effective part of the educational system for mitigating the toxic effects of poverty, but it also receives much less funding than other levels of schooling. While advocates seek to position early education as a natural extension of the K-12 school system, it is still delivered primarily through private childcare centers and paid for by parents who can afford it. The public funding that is available exists primarily through Head Start and block grants and is distributed as vouchers to low-income families; states are increasingly funding early education, too. But waiting lists are often long and demand far outstrips supply.

As governments invest, they also need to ensure that public dollars are flowing to high-quality programs—which means to centers staffed by qualified teachers. Efforts to professionalize the field have focused on increasing the education level of the workers in the centers, with the eventual goal of putting them on par with those of elementary-school teachers, who in public schools are required to have bachelor’s degrees.

Increasing the credential requirements for early educators, however, is raising a host of equity concerns as longtime workers like Jones face the prospect of losing their job if they are unable to complete college. Fewer than half of educators working with children ages 3–5 in center-based settings in 2012 had a bachelor’s degree. That figure drops to 19 percent for those working with infants and toddlers.

Then there’s the fact that increasing the educational levels of early-education workers has had almost no effect on their wages. The average pay for a childcare teacher in the United States is just $9.70 an hour, and many lack access to benefits like health insurance or paid leave. Pay is low even for early-education teachers with bachelor’s degrees, who make around $30,000 per year on average. In fact, according to Georgetown’s Center on Education and the Workforce, a bachelor’s degree in early education generates the lowest lifetime earnings of all college majors. Imposing degree requirements for workers like Jones without a strategy for increasing her wages could mean early-education advocates are just trading off greater equity at one end of the spectrum for more inequity at the other.


Monday, October 30, 2017

Stress, hostility rising in American high schools in Trump era, UCLA report finds

So teacher hostility to Trump has transferred to their students

Student anxiety and hostility on public high school campuses has worsened since Donald Trump became president and is affecting student learning, according to a new UCLA report.

More than half of public high school teachers in a nationally representative school sample reported seeing more students than ever with "high levels of stress and anxiety" between last January, when Trump took office, and May. That’s according to the study, "Teaching and Learning in the Age of Trump: Increasing Stress, and Hostility in America’s High Schools," by John Rogers, director of the Institute for Democracy, Education and Access at the University of California Los Angeles.

"I’ve never been in a school year where I’ve had so many kids kind of on edge," said Utah social studies teacher Nicole Morris.

And nearly 80 percent said some students had expressed concern for their well-being because of the charged public conversation about issues such as immigration, health care, the environment, travel bans, and LGBTQ rights, it said.

The policy issue that concerned students the most was the administration’s statements about immigration.


When Quality Education Becomes a Matter of National Security

Surveys of our men and women in uniform indicate that finding a quality education for their children is a matter of national security.

A 2017 Military Times/Collaborative for Student Success survey of service members found that 35 percent of respondents said that “dissatisfaction with a child’s education was or is ‘a significant factor’ in deciding whether or not to continue military service.”

According to the Heritage Foundation’s 2018 Index of Military Strength, our armed forces already lack the resources they need. When quality of life indicators, such as access to a great education for their children, are a concern, the Military Times survey suggests more than one-third of our military could have second thoughts about extended service.

Washington should give our military families more access to learning opportunities. An EdChoice survey conducted by Braun Research, Inc., finds that 72 percent of active-duty members, veterans, and their spouses are in favor of using education savings accounts when informed of how the accounts work.

Now law in six states, education savings accounts give families the opportunity to customize a child’s education. States deposit a portion of a child’s funding from a state’s education formula into a private account that parents use to buy educational products and services for their children. Parents can buy online classes, hire a personal tutor and pay private school tuition, to name a few possible uses. Families can save money from year to year to prepare for additional high school or even college needs.

The accounts can help make reassignment easier for military families. When asked, “Did moving between states as part of your military service add challenges to your children’s education?” 70 percent of respondents to the Military Times survey said yes. In the EdChoice survey, 39 percent of military parents that used to have school-aged children and 31 percent of current military parents report enrolling their oldest child in at least four schools.

Military families are also more than twice as a likely than civilian families to say that they moved homes to be closer to their child’s school (37 percent vs. 17 percent).

With an education savings account, parents can use the funds to educate a child at home, combine services such as K-12 tutors and online classes or visit private schools with the resources to make a choice that works for their child. If the local district school to which a student is assigned is low-performing, the accounts will allow military parents to find an alternative.

The EdChoice survey demonstrates that military families are already making sacrifices for their children’s educations. Fifty-six percent of respondents said they have “significantly changed their routine” for the sake of their child’s education, compared to the national average of 38 percent.

To offer military families the opportunity to use education savings accounts, lawmakers could redirect some of the federal funds for K-12 children in military families (called “Impact Aid”) to students’ accounts. Today, Impact Aid provides federal funds to districts to help educate 150,000 students living on and off-base, along with tens of thousands of other military-connected students throughout the country.

Even if the accounts are made available to service members’ families, no family would be forced to use an account. The local public and private school options, along with homeschooling, would still be available to them without an account. And no public schools have closed due to savings account usage in states with account laws—generally, one percent or less of a state’s public school enrollment has opted to use an account since 2011 (in Arizona, Florida, Tennessee and Mississippi).

But for military parents that need access to something other than their assigned district school, the accounts can be a life-changing opportunity. “Military parents are going above and beyond the national average when it comes to supporting their children’s K-12 educational experiences,” write the EdChoice survey authors, adding that there is “an opportunity to give real schooling power to military families, who have already sacrificed so much for their country.”


Government ‘developing fundamental British values curriculum’

The Department for Education is developing a “fundamental British values curriculum” aimed at helping teachers train pupils to resist extremism, a minister has said.

In a letter to education professionals, seen by Schools Week, the new academies minister Lord Agnew has set out plans to develop new “resources and guidance” for teachers.

This new “curriculum” will assist school staff in promoting fundamental British values and “building pupils’ resilience to extremist ideologies”, Agnew says.

This will be done via existing subjects. For example, the chronological teaching of British history can help “foster integration” and history lessons can teach pupils about the evolution of parliamentary democracy and religious tolerance, Agnew says.

Other subjects affected include RE, PSHE and citizenship.

The move follows calls from a senior government official, Dame Louise Casey, for the promotion of British laws, history and values within the core school curriculum.

Casey’s review of community cohesion and extremism, published last year, found that segregation and social exclusion were at “worrying levels” in some parts of Britain. She said more weight should be attached to a British values focus and syllabus in teaching skills and assessing school performance.

In his letter, Agnew invites teachers and other education professionals to join an expert advisory group. The unpaid members of this group will be consulted on the “specification of resources”, and will meet for the first time in early November.

Once developed, the resources will be published on the Educate Against Hate website.

According to Agnew, the DfE has received feedback that some teachers lack the confidence and knowledge needed to promote fundamental British values through the mainstream curriculum.

Ofsted inspectors have also found evidence of inconsistent and ineffective approaches to promoting fundamental British values, Agnew says.

The proposals have been cautiously welcomed by the Association of School and College Leaders.

Anna Cole, the union’s parliamentary specialist and an expert on the government’s British values agenda, said the resources would be useful as long as they were adaptable to an individual school’s context and non-statutory.

“We haven’t seen these resources but we welcome any high quality resources that are non-statutory and that can be adapted to context to help schools deliver in this important area.

She said the resources even had the potential to save teachers “time, workload and stress”, and give them confidence to “discuss these very important and difficult issues with children and young people in order to safeguard them and prepare them to thrive in a diverse global society”.


Sunday, October 29, 2017

Students' union is accused of creating 'police state' as it pays 'safe space marshals' to go to speaker meeting to check no one voices 'offensive' views

A students' union pays for £12-per-hour 'safe space marshals' to police external speakers to make sure they do not voice views that are offensive to the audience.

King's College Students' Union requires marshals to attend events with a phone so they can take 'immediate action' if anyone expresses opinions thought to discriminate against ethnic or sexual minorities.

They monitor any speaker thought likely to perpetrate a 'safe space breach', which included Tory MP Jacob Rees-Mogg - who was watched by a total of three marshals at a talk last Wednesday.

The officials are also required to put up posters saying, 'This is a Safe Space' and record any instances of offensive behaviour reported to them by members of the audience.

The students' union is required to provide marshals for events where speakers are judged to have a 'medium or high' risk of breaking its safe space policies under central university rules.

University staff reserve the right to cancel a speaker if the society does not allow one to attend.

Mr Rees-Mogg spoke at King's College Conservative Association, where audience members mocked the marshals by holding up safe space posters before the talk.

The marshals are told to look out for discrimination based on ‘any distinction’, including 'age, race and gender identity'. 

Mr Rees-Mogg, who was not initially aware of the marshals’ presence, told MailOnline: ‘When I arrived I was told that there was a safe space policy.

‘The point of university is to have vigorous debate and the safe spaces approach is the antithesis of what university should be about. ‘If people don’t like what is being said they can go to other meetings.’

The marshals are recruited and funded by the KCL students' union. An online advert for the post offers free weekly yoga and spin classes as part of the contract.

Potential applicants are expected to have a 'good level of education' and knowledge of its safe space policy.

Mr Rees-Mogg described the idea of safe spaces as antagonistic to free speech, saying universities were 'very weak' on the issue.

'Universities should not be encouraging safe spaces, they should be encouraging free speech,' he said. ‘That would be a much better approach than imposing additional bureaucracy on the heads of student societies.'

The students' union also provides safe space marshals with a pension contribution of up to 6%, monthly healthy lunches, birthday treats and unlimited cups of tea and coffee. Successful applicants are also allowed 30 days off a year, or can boost their salaries to £13.32 an hour from the usual £11.89 by accepting holiday pay.

Frank Furedi, emeritus professor of sociology at the University of Kent, said: 'You could not make this up. 'The logic of employing someone to patrol the campus for safe space violations is to turn KCL into a mini, soft police state.

'Next they'll be employing monitors to listen in to lectures. It pays better than a bar-job so they are unlikely to have a shortage of applicants.'

King's Libertarian Society is made up of students opposed to the students' union's 'deeply patronising' safe space policy.

The group, which claims to command 'substantial support' from the student body, describes the marshals as a 'drain on resources' and a threat to free speech.

It adds in a Facebook post: 'It creates an environment in which students are treated as if they need chaperones and supervisors to hold their events.

'That is deeply patronising and takes away student autonomy over their societies.'

The safe space marshals programme dates back to 2015, although James Findon, a member of the Conservative Society, said it was 'still news' to many students.

Jack Emsley, editor of The 1828, the Conservative Association Journal said: 'The students' union is intolerant of opposing ideas and uses Safe Space as an effective smoke screen.

‘It’s telling that a MP needed safe space marshals to watch over him but that the same procedure failed to prevent anti-Israeli activists from calling for violence against Jewish Israeli students last year.'

A King's College London spokesman told MailOnline: 'Universities have a unique challenge to create environments in which open and uncensored debate from all sides on issues of political, scientific, moral, ethical and religious significance can take place without fear of intimidation and within the framework of the law.

'We are proud of our diverse community and are absolutely committed to academic freedom and free, peaceful and respectful dialogue where people have conflicting views.'

President of King’s College London Students’ Union, Momin Saqib said: 'Our Safe Space Policy was agreed by students in 2013 and again in 2015. It is essentially an anti-harassment policy protecting both our students and the speakers they invite.

'KCLSU has never banned a speaker from speaking because of our safe space policy.

'Moreover, we strongly support free speech- and KCLSU student groups are able to host over a thousand external speakers across our 330 Clubs and Activity groups every year.' 


Scotland: Boardroom gender rules ‘won’t work at universities’

A law designed to boost the number of women in boardrooms could backfire by deterring applications from men from minority groups, Scotland’s education sector has warned.

Universities and colleges have expressed concern over the SNP legislation that will compel them to take steps to ensure an equal number of men and women hold non-executive boardroom roles.

The proposed law, outlined in the Gender Representation on Public Boards (Scotland) Bill, will also apply to bodies such as the NHS, government quangos and the Scottish Police Authority.

Education leaders have questioned the need for legislation after claiming the sector has already succeeded in driving up the number of women holding roles on governing bodies. They also fear that a change in law could have unintended consequences.


Australia: Concerns as identity politics creep into the classroom

English students face being drilled in the politics of class, race, gender and sexuality, as an influential teacher advocacy group seeks to push social justice issues into the classroom.

The Victorian Association for the Teaching of English, a professional body backed by the state government, will host its annual conference next month, unveiling a program to highlight “the iconoclasts, the dissidents and the marginalised” and celebrate individ­uals “who will not, or cannot, swim in the mainstream”.

Headlining the two-day event will be former Australian Human Rights Commission president ­Gillian Triggs and GetUp! campaigner Shen Narayanasamy, who will deliver keynote speeches. Left-leaning political commentator Van Badham will also appear as a guest speaker.

The focus of the event, which VATE president Emily Frawley confirmed had been designed with social justice in mind, has alarmed some education experts, who have questioned the role of “political activists” at the event and the push to embed divisive “identity politics” into the curriculum.

Sessions include “Stand Up For The Outsiders’’, which will explore teaching strategies for ­“empowering students to speak to issues of class, gender and race”, and ‘‘We Want Gender Equality’’, on “how the plight of woman over time has not changed”. There will also be a discussion of Jeanette Winterson’s 1987 novel The ­Passion, which is billed as “post modernism, queer theory and a romping tale to boot”, while ­‘‘Reflections On Growing Up ­Different In Australia’’ will look at “migration, racism and identity” in various texts.

Another session will advise teachers how to deliver the Victorian government’s Respectful Relationships program — a family violence initiative criticised for pushing gender theory onto children — through English texts in the middle years.

Details of the conference have emerged in the wake of research by the Institute of Public Affairs that pointed to a rise of identity politics in university history courses.

The IPA’s Western civilisation program director Bella d’Abrera questioned what “political activists” were doing at a conference “about English teaching to schoolchildren”.

“This conferences shows that identity politics has not also permeated the teaching of history in Australian universities, but it is also deeply embedded in English teaching in Victorian secondary schools,” Dr d’Abrera said. “There is no place for identity politics in our classrooms.”

Australian Catholic University senior research fellow Kevin ­Donnelly said it was disappointing to see teachers emphasise ideology over good grammar, spelling, punctuation and literary appreciation.

“Instead of English teaching being about giving a balanced view of literature, it’s now more about offering a critique of society, particularly Western society, misogyny, inequality and capitalism,” Dr Donnelly said.

“A lot of kids leave school without a strong foundation of what is good or bad literature.”

Dr Donnelly, a former English teacher and one-time member of VATE, said the association ­appeared to have been captured by the left.

Ms Frawley defended the conference, which had always “traversed the educational, cultural, political landscape”. This year’s event would feature “diverse line-up of presenters”, she said.

“The brief of all presenters is to speak to the themes of the conference, drawing on their expertise and considering their audience,” Ms Frawley said. “We want English teachers to be engaged and challenged, to consider how they can best stand up for their students, and what the role of English content and pedagogy is here.”

Ms Frawley confirmed that the organisation received funds from the department for a range of programs, but the conference itself was not government-funded.