Friday, November 24, 2017

Justice Department investigating Harvard racism

And the pips are squeaking

The US Justice Department said Tuesday that it is investigating Harvard University’s admissions policies and accused the school of refusing to cooperate, ratcheting up a fight that could have implications for affirmative action policies on campuses across the country.

The Justice Department released letters confirming that it had opened a probe into whether Harvard had violated civil rights laws, following up on allegations that it had limited its admissions of Asian-American students. The federal agency threatened to sue Harvard over what it called “delays and challenges” in producing documents related to the investigation.

The Justice Department’s aggressive pursuit of the case, stemming from complaints over two years old, drew applause from conservative opponents of affirmative action, but critics accused Attorney General Jeff Sessions of playing politics.

“This investigation is a welcome development,” said Edward Blum, president of Students for Fair Admissions, a nonprofit that filed a lawsuit against Harvard in 2014, claiming that the university caps the number of Asian-Americans it admits each year. Blum was previously involved in an affirmative action case against the University of Texas involving a white student.

The Justice Department’s correspondence with Harvard is a warning to universities that the agency plans to spend time and resources scrutinizing the use of race admissions policies, said Vinay Harpalani, a law professor at the Savannah Law School who specializes in affirmative action.

“This is the first step in an attack on affirmative action that is politically motivated,” Harpalani said. “It is designed to appeal [to] white resentment against people of color — a common theme in [President] Trump’s rhetoric and policy.”

Harvard said it will comply with its legal requirements to give the government access to information in the admissions investigation. But the university also has “an obligation to protect the confidentiality of student and applicant files and other highly sensitive records, and we have been seeking to engage the Department of Justice in the best means of doing so,” Harvard said in a statement Tuesday.

While the correspondence is unclear about exactly what documents the Justice Department has requested, it notes that Harvard has already produced much of the information in the 2014 lawsuit. A judge ordered Harvard to submit admissions data by race, grade point average, SAT scores, legacy, and other criteria for the past six years, in that suit, Blum said.

This year, 22.2 percent of all students admitted into Harvard identified as Asian-American, about the same as last year. International students from China, India, and other Asian countries are counted separately, Harvard officials said.

The question about whether Asian-American students are disadvantaged by race-conscious admissions is a longstanding issue, but complex to prove. Most elite universities argue that they use a variety of factors to determine admission .

A 2009 study by a Princeton University sociologist showed that Asian-American students had to score 140 points higher than white students on their SATs, 270 higher than Hispanics, and 450 points higher than African-Americans to gain entrance into elite colleges. But the research did not consider other factors in admissions, such as extracurricular activities, recommendation letters or essays, and counselor letters.

In 2015, after a nine-year investigation into allegations of bias against Asian-American applicants at Princeton University, the US Department of Education cleared the school. Federal officials determined that Asian-Americans had a hard time getting into Princeton, but so did everybody else.

Still, for Asian-American students and families there is a worry that the bar has been set much higher for them to gain admissions into elite schools.

Christina Qiu, a junior at Harvard, said she supports race-conscious admissions policies, but knows the pressures that Asian-Americans feel in the admissions process. She grew up in New Jersey, where Asian students retook the SATs multiple times even after earning a 2,300 out of 2,400 score, in order to beat out other Asian-American students, Qiu said.

Lin Sun, who started an Asian cultural group at Boston Latin High School, said parents often discuss how difficult it is to get their children into Ivy League institutions.

“The question comes up of ‘Why are we held to different standards?’ ” said Sun, whose one son graduated from Harvard and another from the University of Massachusetts Amherst. “On the other hand, colleges want to assemble the students the way they hope to achieve the best balance. It’s a complex situation.”

Still, officials with the New Jersey-based Asian American Coalition for Education, which filed a 2015 complaint against Harvard with the both the Justice Department and the Education Department, said the Trump administration’s decision to investigate Harvard admissions is the right step.

For families without the resources to get tutors and help to ensure top test scores, these admissions policies are particularly harmful, said Swan Lee, a spokeswoman for the group and a Brookline resident.

“This is one area that’s been overlooked for a long time,” Lee said. “Colleges should include more transparency in their admissions. What is there to hide?”

Previous affirmative action cases have focused primarily on the admissions of black and white students.

Last year, the US Supreme Court, in a 4-to-3 vote, ruled that college admissions officers could continue to use race as one of several factors in deciding who gets into a school. The ruling does require universities, if they are challenged, to show they had no choice but to use race to create diversity on campus and that other factors alone, such as family income or an advantage to first-generation college students, couldn’t create a similar mix of students.

The Justice Department has given Harvard until Dec. 1 to comply with the document request or may file a lawsuit to force the university’s compliance, according to its letter to the university.

The department could also participate in the existing federal lawsuit by filing in support of Students for Fair Admissions, legal experts said.

Vanita Gupta, who headed the Obama administration’s civil rights division in the Justice Department, said the agency’s involvement raises red flags.

“The Attorney General seems to be on the hunt for a case to bring a significant challenge to affirmative action, despite the fact that the Supreme Court has continuously upheld the lawfulness of race conscious admissions in higher education,” Gupta said in a statement.


Conservative student group called a 'hate speech group' by student government officials

Students hoping to start a conservative group at the University of Wisconsin - Stevens Point were told by student government officials earlier this month that their club was “dangerous” and promotes racism and hate speech. Only after threatening legal action and garnering support from a state lawmaker did college administrators step in and recognize the Turning Point USA chapter as an official student group.

Al Thompson, vice chancellor for Student Affairs, reviewed the student government’s no vote and superseded the decision by approving the student chapter.

A published statement read:

I asked SGA to reconsider its action on November 16, based on UW - Stevens Point and UW System policies recognizing student organizations, SGA guidelines on viewpoint neutrality and a UW Board of Regents policy on academic expression. In the absence of further SGA action on November 16, I have determined that Turning Point USA meets the requirements to be recognized as a student organization at UW-Stevens Point.

As an institution that values diversity and the freedom to explore all ideas, even unpopular ones, UW - Stevens Point remains committed to a learning environment that respects multiple viewpoints and ensures discourse is civil and our campus is safe for all.

Prior to the student government hearing, where the group was originally denied official status, Emily Strangeld, the TPUSA chapter leader, received threats from fellow students who hoped to intimidate her into shutting down the club.

When Strangeld went before the UWSP Student Government Association to make a case for having the Turning Point USA chapter approved — a process that normally takes five minutes or less — she was questioned for more than 45 minutes. In addition to baseless accusations that the group supports racism and hate speech, student government officials alleged that the group endangers members of the trans and gender fluid community.

Despite having all the required documentation, the TPUSA chapter was originally denied after a closed vote by the SGA following the hearings.

Wisconsin state Sen. Patrick Testin commented on the suppression of conservative views on campus, stating that the “decision stifles the free expression of ideas on campus and is antithetical to the mission of the university.”

That is when campus administrators stepped in.


Colleges Care About Diversity, Except When They Don’t

Walter E. Williams

A common feature of our time is the extent to which many in our nation have become preoccupied with diversity. But true diversity obsession, almost a mania, is found at our institutions of higher learning.

Rather than have a knee-jerk response for or against diversity, I think we should ask just what is diversity and whether it’s a good thing. How do we tell whether a college, a department, or another unit within a college is diverse or not? What exemptions from diversity are permitted?

Seeing as college presidents and provosts are the main diversity pushers, we might start with their vision of diversity. Ask your average college president or provost whether he even bothers promoting political diversity among faculty. I’ll guarantee that if he is honest—and even bothers to answer the question—he will say no.

According to a recent study, professors who are registered Democrats outnumber their Republican counterparts by a 12-1 ratio. In some departments, such as history, Democratic professors outnumber their Republican counterparts by a 33-1 ratio.

The fact is that when college presidents and their diversity coterie talk about diversity, they’re talking mostly about pleasing mixtures of race.

Years ago, they called their agenda affirmative action, racial preferences or racial quotas. Not only did these terms fall out of favor but also voters approved initiatives banning choosing by race.

Courts found some of the choosing by race unconstitutional. That meant that the race people had to repackage their agenda. That repackaging became known as diversity.

Some race people were bold enough to argue that “diversity” produces educational benefits to all students, including white students. Nobody has bothered to scientifically establish what those benefits are. For example, does a racially diverse student body lead to higher scores on graduate admissions tests, such as the GRE, LSAT, and MCAT?

By the way, Israel, Japan, and South Korea are among the world’s least racially diverse nations. In terms of academic achievement, their students run circles around diversity-crazed Americans.

There is one area of college life where administrators demonstrate utter contempt for diversity, and that’s in sports.

It is by no means unusual to watch a Saturday afternoon college basketball game and see that the starting five on both teams are black. White players, not to mention Asian players, are underrepresented.

Similar underrepresentation is practiced in college football. Where you find whites overrepresented in both sports is on the cheerleading squads, which are mostly composed of white women.

If you were to explore this lack of racial diversity in sports with a college president, he might answer, “We look for the best players, and it so happens that blacks dominate.”

I would totally agree but ask him whether the same policy of choosing the best applies to the college’s admissions policy. Of course, the honest answer would be a flat-out no.

The most important issue related to college diversity obsession is what happens to black students. Black parents should not allow their sons and daughters to fall victim to the diversity hustle, even if the diversity hustler is a black official of the college.

Black parents should not allow their sons and daughters to attend a college where they would not be admitted if they were white. A good rule of thumb is not to allow your children to attend a college where their SAT score is 200 or more points below the average of that college.

Keep in mind that students are not qualified or unqualified in any absolute sense. There are more than 4,800 colleges—a college for most anybody.

The bottom-line question for black parents and black people in general is: Which is better, a black student’s being admitted to an elite college and winding up in the bottom of his class or flunking out or being admitted to a less prestigious college and performing just as well as his white peers and graduating? I would opt for the latter.

You might ask, “Williams, but how will the nation’s elite colleges fulfill their racial diversity needs?” My answer is that’s their problem.


Thursday, November 23, 2017

Tax bill reflects rift between many Republicans, higher education

Ending a tax deduction for interest paid on student loans. Raising taxes for more than 100,000 graduate students who receive tuition waivers. Imposing a levy on endowments at certain private colleges and universities.

These actions are anathema to higher education leaders across the country. Yet they all appear in the House-approved Republican tax overhaul, evidence of a growing disconnect between large segments of the GOP and colleges that, for generations, have wielded enormous clout on Capitol Hill.

"I didn't see it coming," said Robert Caret, chancellor of the public University System of Maryland. "Obviously, there's a very different tenor here in Washington."

The bill the House passed Thursday would deliver a $1.5 trillion tax cut, with benefits tilted toward corporations, business owners and wealthy families. Republicans say the cut will spur economic growth, helping families, students and schools with a simpler set of revenue rules.

"Do we want a complicated tax code that gives these small, sometimes invisible benefits to certain Americans — that by the way, a lot of Americans don't take advantage of because they don't know they exist?" Rep. Carlos Curbelo, R-Fla., said this month as the Ways and Means Committee considered a Democratic measure to preserve education initiatives. "Or do we want a tax code that treats everyone more fairly, that provides growth opportunities for more people, that gives every American the opportunity to rise, to thrive, to flourish? That's the debate we're having here."

Government analysis shows House tax bill would increase cost of college by $71 billion over a decade
Outside Washington, there are signs that Republican support for higher education is ebbing.

In July, the Pew Research Center found that 58 percent of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents believe colleges and universities have a negative effect on the way things are going in the country. That was up from 37 percent two years earlier.

By contrast, a large majority of Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents — 72 percent — said this year that colleges have a positive effect.

Gallup pollsters reported a similar partisan split in August, with far fewer Republicans than Democrats expressing confidence in higher education. Many Republican skeptics described colleges as "too liberal" and complained they pushed an agenda that does not allow students to think for themselves.

Those opinions may have been shaped by debates over free speech that have erupted on campuses nationwide. Congress has scrutinized incidents in which conservatives say their views were suppressed. The Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing in June on what it called "the assault on the First Amendment on college campuses."

Big victory for GOP as tax plan passes in House, but Senate fate unclear

Republicans are also ever-mindful of President Donald Trump's political base. He won the 2016 presidential election with strong support from white voters who do not have a college degree — by a margin of more than 2 to 1, according to network exit polls. White college graduates were more split, favoring Trump by a slim 3 percentage points.

Historically, higher education has drawn bipartisan support from Capitol Hill. Democrats say the House bill breaks with that tradition.

The 1.4 percent excise tax on college endowment income would raise $2.5 billion over a decade, according to the congressional Joint Committee on Taxation. Treating tuition reductions for graduate students and others as taxable income would raise $5.4 billion. Repealing the student loan interest deduction would raise $21.4 billion.

Rep. Bill Foster, D-Ill., who holds a Ph.D. in physics from Harvard University, said he has been besieged by calls from academics upset about tax hikes on grad students. He accused Republicans of making "a desperate grab to get any source of revenue they can, for the maximum possible tax cut for the wealthy and corporations. That's the starting and ending point for what they're trying to do."

Congressional Republicans can cite accomplishments this year for higher education, including a recent expansion of Pell Grants that enables students in financial need to access the federal aid year-round. Key Senate Republicans support raising the maximum grant, now $5,920 a year, to $6,020.

"I'm hopeful that we can continue building on that progress to help more students get the postsecondary education they need — whether it's a college degree, advanced degree, trade program or certification training — to get ahead," Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., said in a statement.

Blunt, former president of Southwest Baptist University, and Sen. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, former president of the University of Tennessee, are two of Capitol Hill's most influential Republicans on higher education. The Senate version of the tax bill does not include the tax increase on graduate students and would preserve the student loan interest deduction.

But like the House bill, it would impose a tax on investment income for private colleges with endowments worth at least $250,000 per student. That would affect about 60 to 70 schools, including the Ivy League and small liberal arts colleges.

"Extremely puzzling," said Mary Sue Coleman, president of the Association of American Universities, which represents top research schools. "Endowments allow universities to do a lot of good in the world."

Higher education lobbyists also worry about other provisions of the Senate bill that they fear could squeeze state funding for public higher education and deter charitable contributions.

Ted Mitchell, president of the American Council on Education, a higher education group, acknowledged that colleges and universities face political hurdles. Many low-income and working-class families, he said, feel the cost of a degree is climbing out of reach even though many schools provide significant financial aid. "It certainly does impact legislators on both sides of the aisle as they hear that from constituents," he said. He said colleges must correct that "narrative."

Mitchell, a former Obama administration education official, said colleges also suffer from the popular impression — misguided, he believes — that they favor liberals and suppress free speech. "The culture wars continue," he said. "They bubble, and sometimes they boil, and we're at a bit of a boiling moment."

Jason Delisle, a former congressional Republican aide who is a resident fellow at the conservative American Enterprise Institute, said the optics of higher education have shifted on Capitol Hill.

A decade ago, he said, the bipartisan policy mantra was: "We have the best higher education system in the world and we're proud of it. ... The only problem: For some people, it's a little bit out of reach and we should help them."

Now, he said, there is more populist suspicion among many Republicans about "elite institutions" and those who benefit from them. "It's a class warfare thing," he said.


Sex education reforms in Britain

SECONDARY school pupils will be given compulsory sex education classes including subjects such as sexting and revenge porn in radical changes.

Children will also receive lessons on healthy relationships from the age of four from September 2019 after Education Secretary Justine Greening said the current curriculum had become "outdated".

Reforms will see relationship and sex education made compulsory for all secondary-age pupils, while primary schools will be required to teach children about relationships from the age of four.

At present, sex education is compulsory only for secondary pupils in schools run by local authorities.

The reform will make it mandatory in all schools, including academies, independent schools and religious free schools and extend the subject to include relationships as well as modern phenomena such as internet porn and sexting.

Four-year-olds will also learn the importance of not cuddling strangers, it was revealed.

However, Education Secretary Justine Greening has previously said that any education will be "age appropriate" and it is not expected that children as young as four would be taught about the biological mechanics of sex.

Instead, they are likely to be taught about relationship issues.

A Downing Street spokesman said: "Relationship and sex education is clearly an important part of preparing children and young people for adult life."

What will children be taught about porn and sexting?

Education secretary Justine Greening has said children should be taught about the dangers of sexting and porn to address concerns about the rising number of children sending indecent images.

Sexual consent and domestic violence are other topics that should be taught in sex education lessons, her department was told.

The calls to change sex education lessons reportedly stems from worrying surveys which reveal that girls saw the act boys slapping their bottoms and sharing naked pictures with boyfriends was seen as normal.

A new survey revealed a large majority of Brits think children should be taught about pornography and sexting in schools.

The poll of 2,000 adults found 75 per cent of Britons want children to be taught about the impact of pornography, while just 7 per cent were opposed to the move.

The survey, commissioned by the charity Plan International UK and carried out by Opinium, also found 71 per cent want lessons on sexting.

And 86 per cent of those surveyed think sexual consent should be taught while 82 per cent want lessons to cover violence and abuse in relationships.

A statement from Ms Greening said: "The statutory guidance for sex and relationships education was introduced in 2000 and is becoming increasingly outdated. It fails to address risks to children that have grown in prevalence over the last 17 years, including cyber bullying, 'sexting' and staying safe online.

"Parents will continue to have a right to withdraw their children from sex education.

"Schools will have flexibility over how they deliver these subjects, so they can develop an integrated approach that is sensitive to the needs of the local community; and, as now, faith schools will continue to be able to teach in accordance with the tenets of their faith."

The number of straight 16 to 24-year-olds in Britain who have tried vaginal, oral and anal sex has rocketed.

And the age at which people first had sex is down from 19 for men and 20 for women to 16 for both.

Academics at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine examined data from the National Surveys of Sexual Attitudes and Lifestyles.

Experts say the trends are fuelled by internet porn, dating apps and more relaxed social attitudes.

Easy access to contraception also makes people feel more sexually liberated.


Texas Board of Education Rejects Another Mexican American Textbook Submission

A year after the Texas State Board of Education rejected a proposed Mexican American studies textbook for containing racist stereotypes and historical errors, the board rejected the textbook submitted to replace it.

The book in question this time around, The Mexican American Studies Toolkit by Tony Diaz — a Mexican American studies advocate, professor and writer — was rejected on November 10.

After the board rejected the first textbook, they called for a second wave of submissions for a Mexican American studies textbook. Diaz, who was one of the biggest opponents of the first textbook, stepped up to the challenge, and submitted his textbook titled The Mexican American Studies Toolkit to the board in June. 

After a panel found errors in the June draft, criticizing it as having "grave lack of historical context" and "informal tone and language" according to HuffPost, Diaz made some changes to address the panel's concerns by September. He added more than 100 pages of essays by Mexican American studies experts, according to the Texas Tribune. But his efforts ultimately failed to gain the approval of the board. Democrat members argued the process had been unfair to Diaz, who had little guidance from the board and was given one year instead of the usual two years to submit a textbook.

In a blog published in the Huffington Post after the board rejected his textbook, Diaz argued that his book "met and exceeded all the requirements and standards" set by the board, and he recommended they provide more time and clarity.

Diaz also criticized the board for not adopting a Mexican American studies course this session, and for not issuing a third call for submissions for Ethnic Studies textbooks, since the board has been talking about the issue for years but taken no concrete action.

The rejection is the latest update in the board’s unsuccessful mission to come up with an accurate Mexican American textbook.

Mexican American Heritage, which was the first book considered by the board and the only entry in the first submission call back in 2014, was rejected after expert reviewers found racist undertones and over 900 factual errors. According to the inaccurate textbook, Mexican American laborers are lazy compared to “American Industrialists,” the Civil War was a battle over state’s rights that had nothing to do with slavery, and Chicano activists sought to “destroy this society” during the Chicano rights movement of 1970s.

After the board unanimously voted to keep that controversial textbook from being used in public schools across the state, they announced a second call for submissions. But with Diaz's being the second book rejected by the board, it’s unclear when, or even if, the board will be able to approve an appropriate Mexican American textbook anytime soon.

Until then, public school teachers across the state will continue to be without an approved Mexican American studies textbook.


Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Stanford: Fascist students stage walkout at Robert Spencer event, administration bars others wanting to enter

Stanford administration is responsible for what happened tonight, as they aided and abetted the smear campaign that the Stanford Daily and Stanford Review carried out, and coddled the students who were spuriously claiming that they felt “threatened” by my presence. Above all, they are responsible for refusing to enforce their own policy regarding disruption of the event. Even after the fascist students left, they refused to admit others who wanted to get in. What were Stanford officials afraid of? That someone might hear a truth that the elites have deemed unacceptable?

The Stanford administration also barred the Young America’s Foundation from streaming the event. The reason behind that was clear: they didn’t want the behavior of Stanford students to be exposed before the world. They knew what was coming, and they supported it.

If this were a sane academic environment, Stanford President Marc Tessier-Lavigne and Provost Persis Drell would be forced to resign in disgrace for allowing first the smear campaign that preceded my event, and then for allowing it to be disrupted. But this is not a sane academic environment, and Stanford is not in any genuine sense a university.

In The Coming of the Third Reich, historian Richard J. Evans explains how, in the early days of National Socialist Germany, Stormtroopers (Brownshirts) “organized campaigns against unwanted professors in the local newspapers [and] staged mass disruptions of their lectures.” We have seen just that play out at Stanford: a massive and libelous smear campaign in the Stanford student press, and then the disruption of the event itself. Stanford is just an Antifa recruitment center, not a center of learning.

Meanwhile, I can’t stop laughing at the report below. I did not say “neo-grouchers,” but I do wish I had. I don’t know what I said at that precise moment, but it was probably “neo-fascists.” “Neo-grouchers” is much better. Thanks, Lisa Amin Gulezian.

“Stanford students walk out on talk from author they say is ‘racist, Islamophobic,'” by Lisa Amin Gulezian, KGO, November 15, 2017:

PALO ALTO, Calif. (KGO) — Minutes after author Robert Spencer started to speak, the packed room cleared out.

“You are all little totalitarians and neo-grouchers, a stain on Stanford University and academia in general,” Spencer said, directing his attention to students in the audience.

It was an orchestrated move by students who opposed Spencer’s presence on campus. The university’s Young Republicans sponsored the event.

Many students expressed outrage that Spencer, the director of the website Jihad Watch, was invited. “Racism, bigotry isn’t welcome. Those espousing hatred can’t have a platform on this campus,” said student Jana Kholy.

When asked if he was racist or Islamophobic, Spencer responded with laughter. “I’m neither one. Islam is not a race. Mass murder is not a race.”

Though Bruin Hall was nearly empty after the walkout, Spencer supporters weren’t allowed in. Organizers insisted that Spencer was invited to create a dialogue….

In the meantime, 200 or so students gathered nearby in support of what they say the true Stanford is about. “I will not continue hate speech on this campus,” said one student.


UK: I became a teacher at 57. I am learning the hard way — it is brutal, says Lucy Kellaway

A year ago I announced that after three decades I was leaving the Financial Times to become a maths teacher in a tough secondary school and that I had set up Now Teach, a charity to encourage other fiftysomethings to quit their cushy jobs and join me. Almost everyone said the same thing: you’re mad.

I replied that I was perfectly sane. I’d spent so long writing columns that I was no longer getting any better at it and was possibly getting worse. Many of my contemporaries were restive in their assorted jobs too, and while some were planning to slouch towards retirement, others longed to start all over again doing something new, difficult and worthwhile.

To anyone who dared suggest that at 57 I was too old to be worth the investment of training, I sharply replied that I would probably live into my nineties and so had another 15 years’ working life ahead of me. In any case, the average teacher stays in the profession for only five years, so I was no worse a risk than the next person.

A week before the launch of Now Teach, a journalist from The Times came to interview me at home about my untoward career change. I remember sitting on the sofa and earnestly explaining that I craved one thing above all: the luxury of being useful.

The phrase appeared prominently in the article and on the Now Teach website and seemed to strike a chord. Within a few months a thousand professionals of every variety had applied to Now Teach saying that they were interested in becoming teachers too. After a long process of sorting, we ended up with nearly four dozen guinea pigs, mostly teaching maths and science (where the teacher shortage is worst), all of whom started their new careers on the first day of September, along with me.

It is exactly a year since I gave that interview, but now I look at the phrase “the luxury of being useful” and want to laugh. Or cry.

I am writing this at 5.15am on a school day. This is earlier than I need to be up, but I am in a permanent state of agitation that is oddly reminiscent of being in love. I am wide awake before dawn, thinking obsessively about my lessons and new charges. The most luxurious thing that awaits me today will be a helping of school dinner in a polystyrene box.

And instead of feeling useful, for large chunks of every day I feel useless. I am a dunce with the interactive smartboard that is the centrepiece of every modern classroom. I sometimes get so flustered I make mistakes in my sums in front of class. Routinely I forget to take the electronic register. Or I mark students present when they are absent, then fail to figure out how to overwrite mistakes, leaving bureaucratic chaos in my wake.

There is only one thing I am not useless at, and that is standing at the front of the class and talking. I had thought this would be the bulk of the job, but alas it turns out to be a small part. Another thing I need to get better at: learning how to shut up.

Before I started, every teacher I came across issued the identical warning: this will be the hardest thing you have done. At the time I found this annoying. Yes, I knew teaching was hard. My mother was a teacher and my daughter is too. Its being hard was part of the attraction. Who wants to coast through the last quarter of their working lives?

Yet I couldn’t see why teachers wanted to claim a monopoly on hard jobs. Being a newspaper columnist can be hard; my fellow Now Teach trainees had done even harder things. One used to run an NHS hospital trust, one was a hostage negotiator and another worked for Nasa.

Eleven weeks in and I’m changing my mind. Writing columns turns out to be a relative doddle because there are only two things you have to crack: having a decent idea and writing it snappily. Teaching is hard in so many ways. There are at least a dozen roles you need to master — including performer, marshal, counsellor, clerical worker, mathematician, role model and nag — and you need to know exactly when and how to be which.

It is now 6.20am and I must stop writing and put on smarter clothes than I ever wore as a journalist. The school demands that pupils wear perfect uniform on the grounds that if they have their ties done up properly they are less likely to throw a desk at their teachers — which means staff need to do their bit and dress properly too.


It is nine in the evening and I’m too tired to write much. Today was not one of my better days. My explanation of how to round a number to two significant figures went straight over the heads of some of the pupils. I had such a bad time trying to control the mouse on the whiteboard, I declared despairingly, “It’s like playing The Golden Shot,” a reference that was lost on the class because the TV programme was last broadcast four decades before they were born.

A senior teacher who had observed my lesson handed me a long list of “targets” for improvement, and in an attempt to make me feel better said: “Teaching is like learning to drive. You think you’ll never be able to steer and change gear simultaneously. But you will.” I am not entirely reassured: I still can’t reverse-park after 30 years at the wheel.


The oddest thing about my state of professional uselessness is that it is not making me despondent. Instead I’m finding being a hopeless novice more stimulating than soul-destroying. And for this uncharacteristically sensible attitude I credit my advanced age.

When we started Now Teach we wondered how this new breed of relatively ancient trainees would differ from the younger ones. Various people suggested that energy would be a problem, but there is no sign of this being so. Teaching is tiring — it is tiring if you are 55 and tiring if you are 25. Instead, the beauty of being my age is that I know who I am. When my mistakes are pointed out, I don’t take it as an assault on my very being, as I might have 30 years ago. I take it as a sign that I’ve got to hurry up and improve.

Better still, even in my darkest moments I am not alone. Often I suspect the true reason I co-founded Now Teach was not to help to fill the teacher shortage, but for something more selfish. I wanted to have like-minded people to moan with when times were hard. And so it has proved.

To celebrate surviving our first four weeks in the classroom a few of us went to the pub. One Now Teacher who in a previous life had risen to the top of the police force stared into his beer and said: “I keep having to remind myself I used to be good at something.” The rest of us laughed despairingly.

I find I’m not alone in struggling with technology. Equally, most of us, softened by decades of the faux democracy of corporate life, find it hard to enforce the strict rules on which most of our schools depend. In my school the rules are so strict that calling out an answer in class when not invited or whispering to the person next to you are acts of subversion. I am slow at spotting what is going on under my nose, let alone stamping it out. Again, I must try harder.


This time a year ago, just after the launch of Now Teach, I got an email from a woman accusing me of being a Pied Piper, of leading bankers and lawyers to their certain deaths in the classroom. These softie professionals of a certain age would have nervous breakdowns after prolonged exposure to the classroom, she predicted.

So far, only two out of the 47 who started in September have given up. One told me that he felt lonely in the classroom and missed the teamwork of his old life. The other said that not only did he find teaching intolerably stressful, he despaired of it ever getting any better. He looked around at the young teachers in his school who all looked pale and shattered and thought: “I can’t do this.”

It is too early to declare that the remaining 45 of us will complete the year and go on to be teachers who, as the cliché goes, change lives. A couple more are wobbling and I’m watching them with anxiety. But even so I’m not remotely repentant about what I’ve done. One of the guinea pigs who used to make documentary programmes says that teaching may or may not be the hardest thing she has done, but it’s certainly the best.

My pied pipe is out again because this year Now Teach is recruiting 80 trainees in London and Hastings, in East Sussex, and twice as many the year after. To them I am saying something that I am learning the hard way: teaching is brutal.

Yet even in my most painful moments there are four joys of teaching that I never lose sight of. The first is the students. For the first time in my working life I’m doing something that is not about me. Teaching is about them. When at the end of the first half-term I watched the heads of my pupils bent in silence over their test papers I felt a passionate involvement in their progress. So much so that when I was marking papers later at home, I found myself whooping out loud, “X has got the hard negative number question right!” much to the consternation of one of my grown-up children.

Second is the joy of being a trainee again. The view from the bottom of the ladder is far prettier than it appeared to me 35 years ago. Then I only wanted to climb. Now I am happy to stay put. I am responsible for nothing except my progress. There is also a delight in being junior enough to go to the pub on Friday with my fellow maths teachers, who seem benignly amused at having a woman who is older than their parents tagging along.

Third is the maths. For most of us, the subjects we loved at school were snatched away from us prematurely. After nearly four decades dealing with slippery, ambiguous words, I feel joy in returning to the certainties of maths, which I put aside when I finished my maths A level in 1977.

Fourth is the absence of boredom. Journalism is one of the most exciting jobs on earth, but even that is sometimes boring. Since September 1, I have not been bored for one second. I am so interested in what I am doing that I have become a bore to my old friends. One of them tried to discuss the new chairman of the Federal Reserve with me the other week, but I wouldn’t co-operate. All I wanted to talk about was how best to teach algebra to 11-year-olds.


I am finishing this article on a Sunday afternoon. Today, as on most Sundays, I went to Hampstead Heath to swim in the Ladies’ Pond with a group of friends. One of them said she would go on swimming throughout the winter because the shock of the cold water filled her with a euphoria that made her feel entirely alive.

I realised that this is partly what I love about being a trainee teacher. I feel that same mixture of excitement and dread before going back to school on a Monday as I do about getting into the water. I know that the shock of immersion will crowd out all other thoughts rooting me in the here and now.

Yet there is a difference between swimming and teaching. The legacy of my morning immersion in 9C water was that my extremities remained cold until lunchtime.

Tomorrow I hope to achieve something a bit more lasting. To make a tiny bit of progress in battle with the electronic board, while trying to show 32 students that a factorised quadratic is a thing of beauty.


The real cost of education in America

President Donald Trump and Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., represent very different political perspectives in America and proposed different solutions, but supporters of both candidates recognize the same problem: the decline of the middle class across the nation. The cause of this decline is a combination of factors, but globalization, automation and education all rank at the very top of the equation.

The economics of globalization are simple. Big banks invest in areas overseas that multinational corporations develop, and they reap massive profits in return. Since labor is the largest expense of any business, profits are based on securing the cheapest possible labor. As a result, Americans simply cannot compete, and as factories move overseas, so does our tax base.

Those taxes pay for teachers, police, firemen and all other government services that define our standard of living. That standard of living is slowly slipping away, however. West Virginia is a perfect example of how this hollowing out of our tax base has irrevocably impacted job opportunities, our standard of living and government expenditures in areas such as public education and other state services.

The economics of automation are equally simple. Companies invest in computers, software and robotics because the cost of labor is, once again, a business’ largest expense.

Eliminating a job by automation saves a small fortune, especially when it comes to medical insurance, retirement, vacation and maternity leave. And automated resources are always available. This cuts the cost to run a business, but it means fewer jobs for more people who need high-tech skills to survive. This dictates that more Americans have to invest in long-term education to remain competitive.

Unfortunately, due to the disparate nature of our public educational system, there is a disconnect between real-world demands and what students study. There is also the problem of long-term college debt coupled with long-term underemployment, as many graduates can only find work in retail, fast food or hourly wage jobs without benefits.

While our economy desperately needs engineers, computer and medical professionals, many students go to school with no firm idea of what career is right for them. Too many go to law school after discovering that a lack of internships or apprenticeships makes them cannon fodder for the financial markets.

Sadly, even law degrees are overproduced to the point that some lawyers struggle to survive. In short, we suffer from too many degrees in low-demand jobs and not enough in high demand. This is precisely the sort of production imbalance that destroyed the Soviet Russian economy. An obsolete school system, coupled with the debt of ineffective college degrees, equals bankruptcy.

While Democrats and Republicans propose different solutions to the symptoms caused by globalization and automation, neither party will cure our country unless they treat the root cause: education.

We have too many people for too few jobs in certain fields and not enough people for plenty of jobs in other fields, and the result has been poverty and disenchantment.

That’s why so many Americans were willing to vote for a celebrity businessman from New York or a Democratic Socialist from Vermont. It’s also why so many big donors to both parties were fighting to block either candidate from radically up-ending the status quo. While the emerging global elite often benefit from ignorance, poverty and economic desperation, citizens in western democracies will not permit these elites to operate beyond the bounds of a social contract.

Nor will a growing number of Americans continue to go into debt for educations that do not pay. That is why the financial elites were so worried about the revolutionary rhetoric promulgated by Sanders or the violence in the streets promised by Trump. Where, then, is a realistic solution?

Since it is unlikely anyone can entirely stop globalization, or curtail the cost of a good education, the solution is to streamline our educational system to focus on real-world careers in areas where there is real-world demand.

A good start might be to examine tracking students in an appropriate educational program during their junior and senior year of high school. A fulfilling career starts with identifying individual aptitudes and intrinsic interests, and ultimately runs to your strengths.

Given a free hand, guidance and career, counselors can transform our educational system into one that gets back to the basis of any education, preparing people to contribute to society in a manner that maximizes their potential. But this must begin in high school and continue into college. It is imperative that we incorporate internships and apprenticeships as part of every degree program.

If our high schools and colleges fail to prepare graduates for the real world job market, those jobs will be taken by others elsewhere. This will continue to diminish our nation’s tax base, paving the way for further expenditure cuts in public education, and ultimately the number of faculty in those colleges and universities that are failing to provide their graduates with profitable skillsets. It would be a tragedy for generations of Americans to come in more ways than one.


Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Canada: Laurier university accused of censorship after TA reprimanded for playing gender pronoun debate clip

Lindsay Shepherd, a graduate student at Wilfrid Laurier University, is speaking out after the school accused her of violating their policies of trans-phobia for playing a TVO segment featuring polarizing University of Toronto professor Jordan Peterson.

Are all perspectives valid in a debate? At Wilfrid Laurier University in Ontario, there are some viewpoints which aren’t.

The question came up after a Lindsay Shepherd, a T.A. and a master’s student, played a controversial YouTube clip during a debate about gender-neutral pronouns in her tutorial.

The clip in question featured University of Toronto professor Jordan Peterson, who has famously refused to use gender pronouns other than “he” or “she,” defending his position against a professor who argued it was necessary to use the pronouns that a person prefers to be called.

She was called into a meeting in which Laurier faculty and administration told her that playing the clip without condemnation legitimizes the viewpoint, which they don’t support.

“In a university, all perspectives are valid,” she said in the meeting, which took place at the beginning of November.

“That’s not necessarily true,” a staff member responded.

The meeting, which Shepherd secretly recorded, left her in tears after staff said playing the clip created a toxic environment for transgender students and called her transphobic.

Shepherd defended her position saying she wanted to expose her students to opinions which are in the real world. “I don’t get how exposing people to the idea makes me transphobic,” Shepherd said in the meeting.

Shepherd said the clip of Peterson debating another U of T professor, Nicholas Matte, was meant to demonstrate ways in which the existence of gender-specific pronouns has caused controversy.

Shepherd said she presented the clip of the debate neutrally and without bias, but she was told her approach to the clip was tantamount to remaining neutral on other objectionable views such as those of Adolf Hitler. She was told that she should have provided more background on Peterson’s views, including his connections to the alt-right and Canada’s Rebel Media, and condemned him.

“The thing is, when you start off saying ‘This guy sucks don’t listen to anything he says,’ there’s people right there who are not going to say anything, you’ve silenced them,” Shepherd explained. “I just wanted to open with ‘Any ideas are welcome here.’”

While the university said the meeting took place, they didn’t comment on it or respond to a request for interview from Global News. In a statement released by the president and vice-chancellor, Deborah MacLatchy, she said that the university champions “The civil debate of competing ideas, free speech, and freedom of expression.”

“The real question, however, is how do we encourage and implement these fundamental ideals in a world that’s more aware of the importance of inclusivity and yet, at the same time, is growing more polarized?” she wrote in the statement.

Support for Shepherd is growing, with people saying the issue is close to censorship.

“If we as a university really believed in free speech, and if we’d been underlining that all the way along, this wouldn’t have been an issue, but increasingly here at Laurier and at other universities, we are censoring students,” Sociology professor David Haskell told Global News.

He also took exception to the comparison to Hitler, saying people use the argument to “silence others.”

“I see increasingly many of my colleagues using those kind of dramatic comparisons to Hitler, to other totalitarian regimes, but they do it in order to silence others,” he said.

Katherine Fierlbeck, a political science professor at Dalhousie University in Halifax, told the Canadian Press that she encourages genuine debate in the classroom.

She said failure to do so not only shortchanges students by leaving them without the skills to think critically in real-life debates, but may also drive those who feel their views are not welcome to seek out more receptive audiences, such as communities of online agitators or active proponents of hate.

Shepherd’s approach of neutrally presenting a debate to prompt further discussion was exemplary, she said, adding it was in keeping with the true spirit of academic freedom.

“Some … understand academic freedom to mean that they can say anything about anybody at any time, but that’s certainly not the case,” she said. “It has to be germane to your area, and there has to be a good reason offered for what you are doing.”

Shepherd now has to put forth her lesson plans to her supervisor before her tutorials, and faculty members will be monitoring her lesson plans going forward.


13 Baltimore Public High Schools Have ZERO Students Proficient in Math

Big city public schools are notoriously bad. There's a reason why people move out of the cities and into the suburbs, and it's not just so they can cut the grass. Suburban schools tend to be better schools, as a general rule.

Of course, considering the performance of high schools in Baltimore, the bar isn't all that high.

A recent study by Project Baltimore found that in 13 public high schools in the city there were zero students proficient in math. Zero. None. Nada. Zilch. Goose egg. Nyet.

With a city the size of Baltimore and the number of schools examined, you'd expect a couple of bright kids in these schools to be proficient in math despite the crappy schools, but you don't even get that.

Further, according to Jack Pannel, who is the founder of the Baltimore Collegiate School for Boys, a charter school in the city, reading isn't exactly a strong suit in Baltimore either. "Nine out of ten black boys in Baltimore City are not reading at grade level," he noted.

Panell's school, however, is different. It's also one of the bright points in the city. In 2015, only nine percent of its students were proficient in math. In 2016, that number jumped to 14.4, a 60 percent increase.

To be sure, 14.4 percent isn't anything in and of itself to get excited about. Yes, it was a nice jump, but it's still fewer than 15 percent.

Pannell acknowledges that fact when asked if he's happy with the result. "No," he answered. "I mean, we can do better."

Yet Pannell's approach to education does seem to be working, and it's an approach that makes some sense.

As the school's name implies, it's an all-male school that also has a 60 percent male staff. It has a school day that's one hour longer, and class periods that are shorter.

All of this is structured around the way boys learn, as opposed to more traditional schools. Those systems tend to favor girls, which has resulted in men lagging behind women educationally. Further, the lack of girls in the school allows the boys to focus on their education rather than impressing the opposite sex. As a one-time high school student, I can't help but suspect that reducing clowning around in class as well as other behaviors that can be a huge distraction can only help.

It'll take more time to see if Pannell's school continues to improve, but it's looking promising. If it succeeds, then perhaps it can serve as a model for more schools throughout the nation.


Princeton issues guidelines for ‘Consent on the Dance Floor’

Princeton University recently issued instructions for obtaining “consent on the dance floor" in anticipation of its annual Orange and Black Ball.

Beyond merely asking "Do you wanna dance?" and waiting for an affirmative response, the infographic also instructs students to "frequently" ask whether their partner is "still into this" throughout the dance.

The guidelines came in the form of a Facebook post shared by Princeton’s Sexual Harassment/Assault Advising, Resources, & Education (SHARE) office and created by the school’s UMatter initiative in anticipation of the annual Orange and Black Ball (OBB) that took place last Friday.

“Going to OBB this Friday? Planning to have a great time tearing up the dance floor with your friends?” the post asks. “Great! Check out some tips about what consent on the dance floor looks like!! #OBB #RespectMatters #ConsentIsCool #DoYouWannaDance?”

The post indicates that “Do you wanna dance?” is an appropriate opening, and that responses such as “Absolutely!,” “Yeah! Let’s do it!,” and “I’d love to!” are all ways of consenting to the question.

Beyond simply “asking & waiting for an answer,” the post also asserts that “frequently checking in with your dance partner” is required in order to maintain consent until the music stops, suggesting that the person who extended the invite periodically ask “Hey, are you still into this?” and volunteer that “We can stop if you aren’t.”

Asked for clarification, a university spokesperson told Campus Reform that the infographic, which was “created by a student in the U-Matter program, is one in a series of reminders and opportunities for discussion on respectful behavior, be it on the dance floor or anywhere on campus or off.

“The infographic isn’t in response to any type of problem related to dances or dancing,” the spokesperson added.


Monday, November 20, 2017

Association of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder With Objective Indicators of Educational Attainment: A Nationwide Register-Based Sibling Control Study

Might obsessives be better at study?  It seems not

Ana Perez-Vigil et al.


To our knowledge, the association of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) and academic performance has not been objectively quantified.

To investigate the association of OCD with objectively measured educational outcomes in a nationwide cohort, adjusting for covariates and unmeasured factors shared between siblings.

Design, Setting, And Participants
This population-based birth cohort study included 2?115?554 individuals who were born in Sweden between January 1, 1976, and December 31, 1998, and followed up through December 31, 2013. Using the Swedish National Patient Register and previously validated International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems, Tenth Revision (ICD-10) codes, we identified persons with OCD; within the cohort, we identified 726?198 families with 2 or more full siblings, and identified 11?482 families with full siblings discordant for OCD. Data analyses were conducted from October 1, 2016, to September 25, 2017.

Main Outcomes and Measures
The study evaluates the following educational milestones: eligibility to access upper secondary school after compulsory education, finishing upper secondary school, starting a university degree, finishing a university degree, and finishing postgraduate education.

Of the 2?115?554 individuals in the cohort, 15?120 were diagnosed with OCD (59% females). Compared with unexposed individuals, those with OCD were significantly less likely to pass all core and additional courses at the end of compulsory school (adjusted odds ratio [aOR] range, 0.35-0.60) and to access a vocational or academic program in upper secondary education (aOR, 0.47; 95% CI, 0.45-0.50 and aOR, 0.61; 95% CI, 0.58-0.63, for vocational and academic programs, respectively). People with OCD were also less likely to finish upper secondary education (aOR, 0.43; 95% CI, 0.41-0.44), start a university degree (aOR, 0.72; 95% CI, 0.69-0.75), finish a university degree (aOR, 0.59; 95% CI, 0.56-0.62), and finish postgraduate education (aOR, 0.52; 95% CI, 0.36-0.77). The results were similar in the sibling comparison models. Individuals diagnosed with OCD before age 18 years showed worse educational attainment across all educational levels compared with those diagnosed at or after age 18 years. Exclusion of patients with comorbid neuropsychiatric disorders, psychotic, anxiety, mood, substance use, and other psychiatric disorders resulted in attenuated estimates, but patients with OCD were still impaired across all educational outcomes.

Conclusions and Relevance
Obsessive-compulsive disorder, particularly when it has an early onset, is associated with a pervasive and profound decrease in educational attainment, spanning from compulsory school to postgraduate education.

JAMA Psychiatry. November 15, 2017. doi:10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2017.3523

Prominent Dem RESIGNS After Racist, Profane Tweet

The vice chairperson of the College Democrats of Wisconsin has resigned - after lashing out at "white men" and "pro-life Christians" on Facebook.

Sarah Semrad, a junior at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse allegedly tweeted, "I f***ing hate white men." A month earlier, she also bragged on Twitter about "tearing down all the pro-life Christian pregnancy resource fliers."

Semrad stepped down, as of Tuesday morning.

"She is no longer involved in the organization," a spokesperson for the College Democrats of Wisconsin told news site Campus reform. "She resigned, and as of this morning, is no longer a member of our executive board."


The writing is on the wall for ... writing itself

A comment from Australia

A New Yorker magazine writer lamented the demise of joined-up (cursive) writing in 1966. As Mark Twain might have said, that news was highly exaggerated. Handwriting was not dead but, like a histrionic opera heroine with a fatal illness, it was suffering a long lingering denouement. In recent years, the pace of decline has accelerated.

Australia Post tells us that the volume of personally addressed mail has slumped by half in the past eight years. A handwritten letter in the mail queue stands out like a vintage car in a stream of shiny new Teslas. A recent poll conducted by Docmail, a printing and mailing company, found that one in three people had not handwritten anything longer than a shopping list in the previous six months. In 2015, the Thomas Cook Group published a survey showing that, on any particular day, half the population never picks up a pen or pencil. This is not surprising; the Bic pen company says that one in 10 teenagers does not even own a pen.

Handwriting, increasingly absent from everyday life, is also vanishing from the professions. Doctors, long infamous for sloppy writing, are giving up scribbling prescriptions preferring to generate them by computer. Their patients should be relieved. Over the years, doctors' illegible scrawls have resulted in thousands of medication errors, some fatal. Digital prescriptions are much safer. They are not only easy to read but computers also double-check dosages, side effects and drug interactions against online databases.

Medicine is not the only profession that is moving away from handwriting. Lawyers say that e-signatures are more secure and easier to verify than the obscure squiggles at the bottom of letters. Accountants no longer write in ledgers and newspapers do not accept handwritten articles for publication.

In a particularly ominous sign, Finland, widely considered an educational leader because of its students' strong performance on international tests, has stopped compelling schools to teach cursive writing. Instead, Finnish teachers are advised to devote their time to "keyboarding". According to Minna Harmanen, from the Finnish National Board of Education, "fluent typing skills are an important national competence" - implying that handwriting is not. The Finns are not alone. The Common Core State Standards (a school curriculum adopted by more than 40 American states) has gone down the same road. Students attending schools in Common Core states must learn to print individual letters, but cursive writing is optional.

In contrast to Finland and many American states, the Australian Curriculum (which applies to all states and territories) still requires instruction in cursive writing. Students begin with printing, but by Year 3 they are expected to "write using joined letters that are accurately formed and consistent in size". The curriculum does not describe what these joined letters should look like because, in a throwback to the days of different railroad gauges, each state clings to its preferred style.

After Year 3, the Australian Curriculum does not specify any achievement standard for writing nor is penmanship assessed in national examinations. Given that no expectations have been set and no external assessments conducted, it is not surprising that many (perhaps most) schools expend minimal effort teaching writing. The results are evident to those who mark school examinations. Like President Trump's tweets, the handwriting of many young people consists entirely of capital letters. SAD!

The decline of handwriting has been precipitous, but it has not vanished entirely. Some authors claim that writing by hand stimulates their creativity. That's why JK Rowling drafted her Harry Potter books using a pen, and Quentin Tarantino writes his screenplays using a pencil.

For many professionals, there is no practical alternative to handwriting. Overstretched nurses find it more efficient to jot down their observations on patients' charts than to type them on a keyboard. Convenience is the reason that teachers continue to write corrections in the margins of papers and why signatures, those hastily scribbled declarations of who we are, remain in wide use - on hotel registrations, marriage certificates and even electronic receipts for deliveries..

But, convenience is not the only reason handwriting refuses to perish; it is also kept alive by tradition and nostalgia. As Anne Trubek, author of The History and Uncertain Future of Handwriting (2016) put it:

When a new writing technology develops, we tend to romanticise the older one . for monks, print was capricious and script reliable. Conventional wisdom holds that computers are devoid of emotion . [whereas] handwriting is the province of intimacy, originality and authenticity.

Intimacy, originality and authenticity are all highly valued. The Thomas Cook Group poll that found only half the population writes anything on a given day also found that 28 per cent of people save handwritten love letters (even from their exes). One quarter retains written thank-you notes and postcards. They may only be blue-black smears, but signatures are definitely original. This is why fans collect autographs and readers ask authors to sign their books. As for authenticity, the five-dollar note in your wallet may be graced with a portrait of the Queen, but it still relies on the signature of the Governor of the Reserve Bank to convey its trustworthiness.

Perhaps because it is old-fashioned and requires some effort, handwriting has acquired the aura of bespoke craftsmanship. "Handwritten" is the name of a rock album, a film producer and a fashion company. Catering to artisanal needs, shops such as the Il Papiro chain sell elegant papers, pens, blotters, wax seals, even quills. In addition to selling pens and stationery, the Officeworks chain sponsors Time to Write workshops that promise "a greater sense of life satisfaction" for those who spend "just 15-20 minutes of handwriting a day".

For writers such as Anne Trubek, upmarket stationery shops and New Age writing workshops confirm that handwriting is no longer a quotidian form of communication but a craft. Like other crafts, Trubek believes that handwriting should be relegated to art classes where it could be taught to an ever-diminishing group of interested students. An editorial in The Los Angeles Times put this view quite bluntly: "States and schools shouldn't cling to cursive based on the romantic idea that it's a tradition, an art form or a basic skill whose disappearance would be a cultural tragedy."

Many educators disagree. They say teaching handwriting in primary school produces cognitive benefits, such as fine motor skills and eye-hand co-ordination. These skills are not easy to acquire using a keyboard because the cognitive and motor processes required for typing are different from those used in writing. To handwrite a letter, a child must form a mental image of the letter's shape. The child then uses this image to guide a pen or pencil.

Edouard Gentaz, an education researcher, calls this process "directing movement by thought". With practice, the specific movements needed to draw each letter create a unique "motor memory" that not only facilitates writing but also helps children recognise letters when learning to read. Using a keyboard does not create unique memories because the motor movement required for typing any letter or punctuation mark is identical (a key press).

Handwriting also beats typing for remembering lessons. Psychologists Pam Mueller and Daniel Oppenheimer found that university students who took lecture notes on laptops performed worse on a subsequent examination than students who handwrote their notes. According to Mueller, the "laptop note-takers took . verbatim notes, signalling that they were processing the content less than the longhand note-takers."

Students who took notes by hand could not get every word down, so they were forced to think about what they were hearing and reframe it in their own words thereby improving their memory. In the light of this research, some school systems (Singapore, France) have decided to re-emphasise cursive writing. Six American states have reintroduced it into their schools.

A potent combination of tradition, nostalgia, craftsmanship, practicality and educational research suggests that once again the "writing is on the wall". Unlike King Nebuchadnezzar, handwriting has been weighed in the balance and found necessary.


Sunday, November 19, 2017

Harvard Business School professor: Half of American colleges will be bankrupt in 10 to 15 years

There are over 4,000 colleges and universities in the United States, but Harvard Business School professor Clayton Christensen says that half are bound for bankruptcy in the next few decades.

Christensen is known for coining the theory of disruptive innovation in his 1997 book, "The Innovator's Dilemma." Since then, he has applied his theory of disruption to a wide range of industries, including education.

In his recent book, "The Innovative University," Christensen and co-author Henry Eyring analyze the future of traditional universities, and conclude that online education will become a more cost-effective way for students to receive an education, effectively undermining the business models of traditional institutions and running them out of business.

More recently, he doubled down on his statements, telling 1,500 attendees at's Higher Education Summit, "If you're asking whether the providers get disrupted within a decade — I might bet that it takes nine years rather than 10."

Christensen is not alone in thinking that online educational resources will cause traditional colleges and universities to close. The U.S. Department of Education and Moody's Investors Service project that in the coming years, closure rates of small colleges and universities will triple, and mergers will double.

Fortunately, Christensen says that there is one thing that online education will not be able to replace. In his research, he found that most of the successful alumni who gave generous donations to their alma maters did so because a specific professor or coach inspired them.

Among all of these donors, "Their connection wasn't their discipline, it wasn't even the college," says Christensen. "It was an individual member of the faculty who had changed their lives."

"Maybe the most important thing that we add value to our students is the ability to change their lives," he explained. "It's not clear that that can be disrupted."


Through God, This Mississippi Boys School Is Working to Heal the Racial Divide

Thomas McMillin Howard, known as “T. Mac,” describes Greenwood, Mississippi as a “backwards place.” And sadly, most people who’ve visited would agree. Separated by a bridge where the black population tends to live on one side, and the white population mostly lives on the other, Greenwood has struggled to reconnect with its racially segregated past.

Poverty is rampant and public schools are outright failures. Greenwood High School, for example, routinely receives an “F” grade from the state, as it fails to even keep students enrolled. Parents who can afford it send their children to private schools, which as a result are dominated by white students.

T. Mac, who graduated from Mississippi State University, entered this town with a different approach to turning things around—he wanted to use the Bible to educate and equip young boys to stay in school and prepare for a successful future. In 2012, T. Mac opened Delta Streets Academy, housed inside a historically white Baptist church. Most of his 55 students are black, and many of them come from difficult backgrounds.

The Daily Signal visited Delta Streets Academy to find out how this school relies on God to bridge the gap between black and white, despite a culture that seems to be working against them. Watch the video above, and visit WORLD Magazine to learn more about this story.


Australia: Universities line up for new $3 billion Ramsey Centre for Western Civilisation

Ramsey clearly thought Western civilization was a good thing.  Sadly, it is unlikely that his money will go to teach that. The jobs generated will undoubtedly go to Leftist academics who will be doing their best to denigrate Western civilization

In the biggest philanthropic gift in the history of education in Australia, as many as 10 NSW universities are vying for the chance to offer a new western civilisation degree to be completely funded as part of a $3 billion bequest from health care magnate Paul Ramsay.

Mr Ramsay, who died in 2014, wanted a significant part of his personal fortune to be spent on funding an academic centre to revive the liberal arts and humanities.

The new Ramsay Centre for Western Civilisation, to be formally launched on Monday, will offer a western civilisation arts degree in two or possibly three universities in NSW and the ACT, as well as fund 30 generous scholarships at each selected university.

About $25 million a year will be spent on the centre and its Ramsay scholars, as they will be known, will get at least $25,000 a year to cover tuition and living costs.

The centre's chief executive, Simon Haines, who was previously professor of English at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, said the centre "would not be a think tank". "This will be a teaching enterprise, not a political one," Professor Haines said.

The centre is currently evaluating the expressions of interest from NSW and ACT universities which want to collaborate with the centre, with 10 of the 12 NSW universities having indicated that they would be submitting a formal proposal, Professor Haines said.

It is understood the two or three successful universities will be announced in the new year.

The board of the centre includes notable conservatives, including former prime ministers John Howard and Tony Abbott, but to broaden its political reach, the former Labor leader and US ambassador Kim Beazley and the powerful right-wing unionist Joe De Bruyn were recent appointees.

The male-dominated board will be boosted by some female appointments, Professor Haines said.

"There is no doubt this is the biggest thing for the liberal arts and humanities that has ever happened in this country," Professor Haines said. He said the centre would offer degrees that would "be as prestigious and as high quality" as some of the top universities in the US and UK. "We will be elite but not elitist," Professor Haines said.

The model of teaching would be very similar to the leading liberal arts universities in the US such as St Johns, Amherst and Columbia, with small classes of about six students rather than huge lectures.

The centre will recruit leading academics from around the world and Australia, Professor Haines said.

Professor Haines said although the centre would be fully funded, it would not dictate how the selected universities run the degree programmes. "We will not be telling them what to do, they will retain their independence," Professor Haines said.

There will also be several Ramsay postgraduate scholarships, which will be open to recent Australian graduates from a range of academic disciplines, for study at prestigious international universities, and the centre will run a program of summer schools, with distinguished visiting lecturers.

The centre says "generations of young Australians will eventually benefit from this unique opportunity, and learn to value their own civilisational heritage, at no cost to the taxpayer."