Friday, December 08, 2017

Harvard sticks with restrictions on all-male clubs, eliciting lawsuit threats

The hypocrisy and sheer anti-male hostility in this is mind boggling. Feminists worldwide campaign for safe spaces for women.  Why must there be no safe spaces for men?  What is a "safe space" for women is apparently a "gender-discriminatory organization" for men. (The words of Harvard’s president, Drew Faust). How absurd! I think I will start accusing feminists of sponsoring "gender-discriminatory organizations".

Is it no coincidence that Harvard is currently run by a woman with, no doubt, impeccable feminist credentials. The fact that Faust in not a Harvard graduate may also contribute to her disrespect for its traditions.  She is not of course alone in her Leftist wish for restrictions but she could have stopped the whole push from the beginning if she had wanted to.

The figleaf justifying the policy is that club members sometimes behave badly.  So they do -- like students worldwide. And let the badly behaved culprits be prosecuted and punished appropriately.  But where is the justice in punishing everybody for the misdeeds of a few?  That's not even a semblance of justice.  It makes the Harvard administration look like a kangaroo court

Harvard University announced Tuesday that it will not ban its exclusive all-male final clubs outright but will continue to sanction their members, upholding the college’s current policy.

The fate of the social clubs, which count US presidents and powerbrokers among their alumni, has sparked fierce debate among Harvard’s students, faculty, and graduates over the past two years.

University administrators have sought to phase out the off-campus groups, blaming them for social divisions and alcohol-fueled parties that have led to sexual assaults. This summer, a faculty committee recommended the most severe punishment yet: that students who join final clubs, as well as single-gender fraternities and sororities, be suspended or expelled.

That plan, which would have effectively put an end to the clubs, touched off a firestorm of criticism. Alumni threatened to withhold donations, free speech advocates argued that Harvard had overstepped its legal authority, and students balked at the proposed restrictions on their social lives.

On Tuesday, university officials said they had decided to maintain the current policy, which restricts students who join unrecognized single-gender groups from leading campus organizations and sports teams and bars them from receiving recommendations from the dean for Rhodes or Marshall scholarships.

“Ultimately, students have the freedom to decide which is more important to them: membership in a gender-discriminatory organization or access to those privileges and resources,” Harvard’s president, Drew Faust, said in a statement released with William Lee, a Boston lawyer and the head of the university’s governing board.

The policy was instituted in 2016 and began with this year’s incoming class.

The decision to maintain the status quo was met with anger and threats of lawsuits from the clubs’ representatives.

“Harvard could not be more wrong,” said Heather Kirk, a spokeswoman for the North American Interfraternity Conference, which represents 66 fraternities and is considering legal action against the policy. “It’s ironic that one of the most exclusive institutions in the world is limiting what organizations students can join.”

Rick Porteus, graduate president of the all-male Fly Club, said it has existed for more than 180 years and isn’t going anywhere. He said Harvard should not dictate how students spend their free time and criticized the college for not fostering a better social life on campus.

The clubs are socioeconomically and racially diverse, he said, something Harvard has ignored. “This is really a childish approach to maturing young adults into full adulthood,” he said.

Fly Club members will meet to discuss whether to sue, representatives said.

Harvard has eight unrecognized male final clubs, with secret traditions and mysterious names like the Delphic, the Fox, and the Porcellian. Many were founded in the 1800s, and their alumni include T.S. Eliot, Henry Cabot Lodge, Bill Gates, and John F. Kennedy.

The clubs hold sizable endowments and own stately homes near Harvard Square where students line up to attend their parties.

Harvard also has six female final clubs, as well as five fraternities and four sororities, all unrecognized by the university.

Heather Furnas, a California plastic surgeon whose daughter graduated from Harvard this year, said that sororities and women’s groups are unfairly being swept up by this policy. She has warned the college that she will not make future donations because of this issue.

“How does membership in women’s clubs warrant being barred from leadership positions, being captain of a varsity athletic team, or receiving a college endorsement for a prestigious graduate fellowship?” Furnas asked.

“Harvard’s sanction of single-gender final clubs and Greek organizations in the name of diversity is effectively social engineering. I just don’t feel comfortable with social engineering.”

Typically, the decision on the final clubs would have been made by Faust. But because she is stepping down as president in June, Harvard’s governing board voted on the policy. Faust is a member of the governing board.

Since Harvard began debating the policy, one of the final clubs and a fraternity have become gender-neutral, and a men’s club and a women’s club decided to share resources.

University officials said those are signs the campus culture is changing.

Harvard said it will review the policy in five years to determine whether it is effective.


Best reading in British schools for a generation

England came joint eighth with Norway and Taiwan in the Progress in International Reading Literacy Study

English primary schoolchildren have achieved the highest reading standards for a generation because of improvements by boys, according to a test that placed them joint eighth in the world.

Nick Gibb, the schools minister, used the results of tests taken by nine and ten-year-old children to claim success for the use of phonics in the classroom and to attack teaching unions and ideological opponents of his reforms. He now wants to see primary school pupils reading at a speed of 100 words a minute to improve their comprehension.

Mr Gibb attributed progress in England to the introduction of phonics, which uses individual sounds and blends them together to make words. He said that “dogmatic romanticism” had prevented teaching using such evidence-based methods before his tenure.


Prof offers extra credit to 'rally against the GOP tax bill'

Kutztown University students received an email Tuesday morning inviting them to earn "additional extra credit" for attending a rally against the GOP tax plan hosted by the faculty. The email instructs students to "find me at the event and sign your name" in order to earn the extra credit.

“Please join your faculty as we rally against the GOP Tax Bill that has serious implications to you and on Higher Education. This is an opportunity to gain additional extra credit,” the email states, with a bolded subject line of “Additional Extra Credit Opportunity!”

While the email was initially drafted by Dr. Mauricia John, a professor in the publicly funded school’s Anthropology and Sociology Department, it is unclear whether other professors are offering their students the same opportunity, as the email indicates that the rally is a collaborative effort by the faculty.

An advertisement for the rally, sponsored by the Association of Pennsylvania State College and University Faculties, was attached to the email, with a banner declaring “rally with us against the tax bill!”

“This bill threatens tax increases on our students. Tell congress to make education affordable to all. Defend not defund higher education. Tuition waivers should not be taxed,” the flyer goes on to state.

Faculty spokesperson Daniel Spiegel insisted that the event is "not in any way political or partisan," but is simply an effort to "stand up for higher education by alerting our campus community about the harm that the tax bill currently being considered in Congress could cause to the goals and accessibility of higher education."

"The speakers will be speaking on the effect of this bill," he added. "We will be encouraging people to fulfill their obligation as a citizen  to contact their representatives to express their opinion."


Thursday, December 07, 2017

Taking a second look at the learn-to-code craze

I must say that the craze puzzles me.  From all I have seen serious coding in languages like C and its derivatives is only possible for perhaps the top 2% or 5% in IQ.  And for them it soon becomes a doddle.  As Jesus said in another context, "For to everyone who has will more be given, and he will have an abundance. But from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away" (Matthew 25:29, ESV).

In my decades of experience as a statistical analysis programmer, I have met a lot of other programmers and all have had the bright eyes that only high IQ gives.

I actually have form as a teacher of coding. In my academic career, I once tried to teach a sociology class at a major university the FORTRAN language.  As far as I could tell, by the end of the semester none of them had actually "got" it.  And they would have been fairly bright.

I would like to see evidence that a person of average IQ can code productively -- or at all -- but until I do I think I will rather reluctantly have to believe the Left-type explanation below

Over the past five years, the idea that computer programming – or “coding” – is the key to the future for both children and adults alike has become received wisdom in the United States. The aim of making computer science a “new basic” skill for all Americans has driven the formation of dozens of nonprofit organizations, coding schools and policy programs.

As the third annual Computer Science Education Week begins, it is worth taking a closer look at this recent coding craze. The Obama administration’s “Computer Science For All” initiative and the Trump administration’s new effort are both based on the idea that computer programming is not only a fun and exciting activity, but a necessary skill for the jobs of the future.

However, the American history of these education initiatives shows that their primary beneficiaries aren’t necessarily students or workers, but rather the influential tech companies that promote the programs in the first place. The current campaign to teach American kids to code may be the latest example of tech companies using concerns about education to achieve their own goals. This raises some important questions about who stands to gain the most from the recent computer science push.
Old rhetoric about a ‘new economy’

One of the earliest corporate efforts to get computers into schools was Apple’s “Kids Can’t Wait” program in 1982. Apple co-founder Steve Jobs personally lobbied Congress to pass the Computer Equipment Contribution Act, which would have allowed companies that donated computers to schools, libraries and museums to deduct the equipment’s value from their corporate income tax bills. While his efforts in Washington failed, he succeeded in his home state of California, where companies could claim a tax credit for 25 percent of the value of computer donations.

The bill was clearly a corporate tax break, but it was framed in terms of educational gaps: According to a California legislative analysis, the bill’s supporters felt that “computer literacy for children is becoming a necessity in today’s world” and that the bill would help in “placing needed ‘hardware’ in schools unable to afford computers in any other way.”

Kids Can’t Wait took advantage of Reagan-era concerns that Americans were “falling behind” global competitors in the “new economy.” In 1983, a U.S. Department of Education report titled “A Nation at Risk” warned that the country’s “once unchallenged preeminence in commerce, industry, science, and technological innovation is being overtaken by competitors throughout the world.” The report’s authors blamed the American education system for turning out graduates who were underprepared for a fast-changing, technology-infused workplace.

Over the past 30 years, the same rhetoric has appeared again and again. In 1998, Bill Clinton proclaimed that “access to new technology means … access to the new economy.” In 2016, U.S. Chief Technology Officer Megan Smith described the Obama administration’s coding initiative as an “ambitious, all-hands-on-deck effort to get every student in America an early start with the skills they’ll need to be part of the new economy.”

While technology is often framed as the solution for success in a globalized labor market, the evidence is less clear. In his 2003 book “Oversold and Underused: Computers in the Classroom,” education researcher Larry Cuban warned that technology on its own would not solve “education’s age-old problems,” such as inequitable funding, inadequate facilities and overworked teachers.

Cuban found that some educational technology initiatives from the 1990s did help students get access to computers and learn basic skills. But that didn’t necessarily translate into higher-wage jobs when those students entered the workforce. However, the equipment and software needed to teach them brought large windfalls for tech companies – in 1995 the industry was worth US$4 billion.

Under pressure

If computers in schools didn’t work as promised two decades ago, then what’s behind the current coding push? Cuban points out that few school boards and administrators can resist pressure from business leaders, public officials and parents. Organizations like the CS For All Consortium, for example, have a large membership of education companies who are taking advantage of funding from state legislatures.

A huge boost comes from the tech giants, too. Amazon, Facebook, Google, Microsoft and others are collectively contributing $300 million to the Trump administration’s new federal initiative – no doubt seeing, as The New York Times observed, the potential to “market their own devices and software in schools as coding classes spread.”

This isn’t always the best deal for students. In 2013, the Los Angeles Unified School District planned to give Apple iPads to every student in every school – at a cost of $1.3 billion. The program was a fiasco: The iPads had technical problems and incomplete software that made them essentially useless. The fallout included investigations by the FBI and the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, and a legal settlement in which Apple and its partners repaid the school district $6.4 million.

However, tech companies are framing their efforts in more noble terms. In June 2017, Microsoft president Brad Smith compared the efforts of tech industry nonprofit to previous efforts to improve science and technology training in the United States. Recalling the focus on scientific research that drove the Space Race, Smith said, “We think computer science is to the 21st century what physics was to the 20th century.”

Indeed, tech companies are having a very hard time hiring and retaining software engineers. With new concerns about restrictions on visas for skilled immigrant workers, the industry could definitely benefit from a workforce trained with public dollars.

For some tech companies, this is an explicit goal. In 2016, Oracle and Micron Technology helped write a state education bill in Idaho which read, “It is essential that efforts to increase computer science instruction, kindergarten through career, be driven by the needs of industry and be developed in partnership with industry.” While two lawmakers objected to the corporate influence on the bill, it passed with an overwhelming majority.
History repeating?

Some critics argue that the goal of the coding push is to massively increase the number of programmers on the market, depressing wages and bolstering tech companies’ profit margins. Though there is no concrete evidence to support this claim, the fact remains that only half of college students who majored in science, technology, engineering or math-related subjects get jobs in their field after graduation. That certainly casts doubt on the idea that there is a “skills gap” between workers’ abilities and employers’ needs. Concerns about these disparities has helped justify investment in tech education over the past 20 years.

As millions of dollars flow to technology companies in the name of education, they often bypass other major needs of U.S. schools. Technology in the classroom can’t solve the problems that budget cuts, large class sizes and low teacher salaries create. Worse still, new research is finding that contemporary tech-driven educational reforms may end up intensifying the problems they were trying to fix.

Who will benefit most from this new computer science push? History tells us that it may not be students.


U.S. schoolchildren tumble in international reading exam rankings, worrying educators

And their performance will continue to worsen until the Leftist grip on education is prised away.  The Left WANT dumb citizens  -- easier to manipulate

The United States tumbled in international rankings released Tuesday of reading skills among fourth-graders, raising warning flags about students’ ability to compete with international peers.

The decline was especially precipitous for the lowest-performing students, a finding that suggests widening disparities in the U.S. education system.

The United States has traditionally performed well on the Progress in International Reading Literacy Study, an assessment given to fourth-graders in schools around the world every five years. In 2016, however, the average score in the United States dropped to 549 out of 1,000, compared to 556 in 2011. The country’s ranking fell from fifth in the world in 2011 to 13th, with 12 education systems outscoring the United States by statistically significant margins. Three other countries roughly tied with the United States; they  scored higher, but the differences were not ­notable.

“We seem to be declining as other education systems record larger gains on the assessment,” Peggy G. Carr, acting commissioner for the federal government’s National Center for Education Statistics, said during a news conference Friday. “This is a trend we’ve seen on other international assessments in which the U.S. participates.”

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos weighed in on the scores in a tweet Tuesday: “Our students can’t move ahead – in school or in life – if they’re falling behind in reading. We must do better for students, parents & educators. We must #RethinkSchool,” she wrote. DeVos’s visited several charter and private schools in the fall on a tour she dubbed “Rethink School.”

The international exam was given to 4,400 U.S. fourth-graders who composed a nationally representative sample. The United States was outscored by countries and school systems that typically score well on international assessments, with Russia, Singapore and Hong Kong topping the list. But it was also surpassed by Latvia, one of the poorest countries in the European Union. Meanwhile, Poland and Norway leapfrogged ahead of the United States.

The report adds to a worrisome body of evidence that academic achievement is stagnant or slipping among U.S. schoolchildren. Fourth-graders and eighth-graders continued to lag behind their counterparts in Asian countries in math and science, according to another international exam administered in 2015. That same year, high school seniors showed unchanged results in reading and slipping scores in math on the National Assessment of Educational Progress, an exam given every two years. Reading scores on that test for fourth-graders remained unchanged and dropped for eighth-graders.

“This is kind of an international confirmation that something may be going on in the United States where our academic performance — which, generally speaking, was going upward — may have stopped,” said Tom Loveless, a nonresident senior fellow who studies education at the Brookings Institution, a think tank.

Carr noted that the worst-performing students posted the largest losses on the Progress in International Reading Literacy Study test, suggesting U.S. schools should do more to improve achievement among their most challenged students. The average score for the bottom 25 percent of students fell from 510 to 501 points from 2011 to 2016.

“Other education systems seem to be doing a better job of moving students from lower levels of achievement to higher levels of achievement,” Carr said.

Students in schools with higher free- and reduced-lunch rates, a rough proxy for poverty, also performed worse than the average. Black and Hispanic students lagged behind the national average, while Asian students outperformed all other groups.


What American School Districts Can Learn From How Israel Successfully Rotates Its Superintendents

Superintendent quality trickles down to school-level results such as standardized test scores and school climate, according to a new study on the Israeli education system published by the National Bureau of Economic Research. The paper is part of a growing strand of research examining management quality in public schools, and it contributes to the debate over district leaders’ true importance in the United States.

How Districts Are Joining the Fight to Close a Troubling Training Gap Among America’s School Leaders

Conducted by Israeli researchers, the study takes advantage of the country’s practice of regularly rotating schools in superintendents’ portfolios every 3 to 5 years. While district leadership assignments in many countries are largely non-random — the most experienced and effective administrators may be placed in particularly challenging areas, or else choose a plum role in an affluent community elsewhere — Israel’s superintendents have new schools assigned to them as veterans retire or are promoted.

The authors estimate that the average school experiences a superintendent change every 5–6 years. In most instances, the country’s ministry of education simply transfers a retiring superintendent’s entire group of schools — usually around 15 — to a new leader. This shuffling, the authors argue, means selection bias played no role in their results.

For an indicator of school quality, the study uses Growth and Effectiveness Measurements for Schools (GEMS) data from 2002 to 2005. GEMS includes standardized test data in Hebrew, English, and math for fifth- and eighth-graders, along with surveys of staff morale and student well-being. With the exception of religious Orthodox and Arab schools, each primary and middle school in the country is measured every two years, so the four-year data set gave the authors a window into two rounds of assessments.

The authors also ranked superintendents’ “value added” by measuring academic achievement at schools that remained under the same superintendent for the duration of the experiment and at schools that switched to new superintendents during that time.

The study’s conclusion: Being assigned to a more effective superintendent meaningfully benefited a school’s academic performance. Test scores rose incrementally as superintendent quality improved, with the effects visible in students on either end of the socioeconomic divide.

“Schools with higher quality superintendents are more likely to address school climate, violence and bullying, and implement interventions that lead to lower violence in school and higher social school satisfaction among students,” they write, directly comparing the reduction of violence and bullying in schools with especially engaged superintendents to the “no excuses” philosophy of American charter schools.

The results come at a time when the importance of school and district management is being reconsidered and traditional educational structures have come into competition with new challengers. Some researchers have pointed to collaborative networks of schools in New Zealand and the United Kingdom as a model for American reformers.


Wednesday, December 06, 2017

New Higher Education Reform Bill Will Help Low-Income Americans Go To College

Today, Rep. Virginia Foxx (R., N.C.), chairwoman of the House Education and Workforce Committee, will introduce a landmark proposal to overhaul the way the federal government funds and oversees higher education. Based on a draft summary of the legislation that I’ve had a chance to review, one thing stands out about the bill: its focus on helping low-income Americans gain a college education.

The economic value of reforming the Pell Grant program

One of the most important economic divisions in America is between those who have a college degree, and those who do not. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Current Population Survey, the median income of Americans who haven’t gone to college is $36,000, while that of those with a college degree is approximately $60,000: 67% higher.

While a four-year college degree isn’t for everyone, and isn’t needed for every job, college will always be a de facto requirement for higher-level professional work. And so it’s important to make sure that every American who wants to go to college can afford to do so.

The average cost of attending a public four-year college is $65,000, and $150,000 at a private one, according to the Department of Education. On average, tuition has grown 5% a year for the past ten years. That’s a rate far faster than that of consumer inflation.

There are three basic problems that lower- and middle-income Americans face when confronting the U.S. higher education system.

The first is the one noted above: that the underlying cost of a four-year college degree is too expensive. The second is that federal student aid programs are badly structured, making it harder for aid recipients to complete their college coursework in a reasonable timeframe. The third is that we don’t create enough policy room for alternatives to a four-year brick-and-mortar college degree: low-cost vocational schools and online degrees.

The new Foxx bill—called The Promoting Real Opportunity, Success and Prosperity Through Education Reform (PROSPER) Act—proposes dozens of reforms, many of which would make significant progress toward these policy goals.

PROSPER simplifies the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (the FAFSA). It eliminates the requirement for online colleges to register in any state except those where they have physical locations. It invests in apprenticeship programs at community colleges. It provides prospective students with information on the average debt, average salaries and completion rates of colleges students and alumni. And it consolidates and reforms student loans, grants and tax credits.

Helping needy students complete their degrees on time

In this article, I’ll focus one key area of the PROSPER Act: reforming federal student aid for low-income Americans, which is largely run through the Pell Grant program.

The Pell Grant comprises around 55% of all need-based federal student aid in the U.S. During the 2016-17 academic year, 7.1 million students received a total of $26.6 billion in Pell Grants.

Pell Grants are intended to help lower-income people go to college. But in many ways the Pell Grant system leaves the poor behind.

The Grant's formula takes the Department of Education 38 single-spaced pages to explain. But despite all of that complexity—or, perhaps, because of it—the Pell formula actually makes it harder for low-income students to graduate on time, and harder to graduate in good financial health.

The Pell Grant formula only funds a students' course load up to what the Department of Education defines as full-time enrollment: 12 credits per semester.

But for a college student to graduate on-time, he or she typically needs to take 15 credits per semester. As a result, students in need who wish to graduate on time must forgo need-based aid.

Students who want to graduate on time shouldn’t be hindered by Pell Grant rules. Some students might even wish to accelerate their studies and enter the workforce sooner. But this 12-credit per semester limit applies to all Pell recipients.

There are numerous other major drawbacks to the Pell Grant program, some of which I have written about previously:

Bias against needier students. The Pell Grant formula is not restricted to students below specified income limits, but is instead restricted to students with income below a multiple of the current maximum grant amount per student. The effect of this is that when funding for the grant is increased by lawmakers, an increasing amount of need-based Pell funds are sent to wealthier and wealthier students.

Bias toward costlier colleges. Many Pell Grant recipients are required to attend a sufficiently expensive collage to be eligible for a grant. The Pell Formula reduces many student's grant amount to zero if they spend below a certain amount on college.

Disincentive to complete college on time. The Pell formula creates an incentive for not completing a degree on-time, because it only funds up to 12 credits.

Bias against families with multiple children in college. The Pell formula does not account for when multiple family members are enrolled in college at the same time. The ability of a given family to pay for college is estimated as equal whether they have one or three children in college.

Complexity. The Pell formula is overly complex, taking 38-pages of small type to explain. This makes it hard for students and parents to understand the basis for their grant amounts.

Helping students who are working their way through college

The kid who works his way through college carries on a classic, all-American tradition. But there is a growing amount of evidence that college students who spend significant amounts of time working on jobs unrelated to their schoolwork fail to ever graduate. A 2014 study by Richard Medellin at the University of Maryland using Department of Education data found that students were half as likely to ever complete their degrees if they were working more than 30 hours per week.

The Higher Education Act proposes additional Pell funding for students who take enough credits to "put them on track to graduate on time," thereby reducing the financial pressure on low-income students who are working their way through college. (The legislative summary I reviewed did not provide details of how this would work, but 15 credits per semester is commonly considered "on track.") The extra Pell funds may permit these students to work fewer hours at part-time jobs, or it may afford them extra hours of child-care, or additional gas money so they can complete assignments, or only take the part-time work they want.

Consolidating federal student aid programs

The PROSPER Act proposes to consolidate all federal college grant programs, including the Pell Grants, into one grant program. Because modifications to the Pell were discussed in the legislation summary I reviewed, I expect that other federal college grants will be incorporated in to the Pell.

The PROSPER Act's expansion of the Pell Grant program to support lower-income students who want to finish their degrees on-time is consistent with other major proposals in the Act that focus on creating a faster, less-costly means of obtaining postsecondary education and entering the workforce.

The Act allocates $183 million to community colleges to create apprenticeship programs of two years or less to prepare students for jobs in specific industries.

The Act makes it easier for students to study affordably, on their own time, in their own way, by removing regulatory obstacles to competency-based colleges, where students simply take one comprehensive course examination to earn a course credit. These test-based based colleges, such as Western Governors University, have comparably low prices and generally don't require books, homework, or attendance of classes.

The Act makes it cheaper and easier for online innovators in education to serve students wherever they are, for less money, by eliminating the requirement for online educators to register in states, except those where they have physical locations.

The PROSPER Act represents substantial reform and promise

Rep. Foxx’s will likely encounter criticism from those who support “free college” reforms, such as Bernie Sanders’ proposal to fully subsidize community college for students of all income levels. The PROSPER Act differs from such far-reaching subsidy proposals in two major ways: it focuses resources and programs on helping Americans with the greatest financial need; and it expands the choices for students who need financial aid, rather than steering them overwhelmingly towards community colleges.

Most importantly, the PROSPER Act takes steps to tackle the high underlying cost of higher education: the most important challenge for those who want to level the playing field between those with economic opportunity and those without.


Tax Bills Could Expand Private School Benefits and Hurt Public Education

Which may be no bad thing. All education should be private.  A view from the NYT below

WASHINGTON — As Friday night turned into Saturday morning, Vice President Mike Pence cast a tiebreaking vote in the Senate to extend a tax benefit available for higher education to families paying tuition for private elementary and secondary education — or even homeschooling their children.

The vote on the amendment by Senator Ted Cruz, Republican of Texas, was emblematic of the sweeping tax bills entering final negotiations between House and Senate Republicans. Provisions in both measures could change families’ approach to elementary and secondary education, and every type of school stands to benefit except those attended by 90 percent of the nation’s students — public schools.

Under the House and Senate bills, families who can afford to put money away for private or sectarian schools each month would be able to watch their savings earn interest and capital gains free of taxation. In the Senate bill, even home schoolers could withdraw up to $10,000 a year for school expenses in their own living room — from tax-favored savings accounts.

By contrast, the drastic curtailing of state and local tax deductions in both bills could hamstring local governments’ efforts to finance their public schools. State, county and city governments have always struggled to raise taxes or pass bond measures for schools, but were able to argue that increases in sales or income tax rates could be deducted from federal income taxes. In the House and Senate bills, the state and local tax deduction would be reduced to a deduction of up to $10,000 of property taxes each year and nothing else.

The National Education Association released a state-by-state analysis of how the tax bill would affect public schools, concluding that in the next decade, $370 billion worth of state and local revenue and 370,000 education jobs are at risk.

“We have provisions that are incentivizing parents to keep students in private schools or send them to private schools,” said Sasha Pudelski, assistant director for policy and advocacy at the American Association of School Administrators. “If there’s going to be tax breaks in the bill, giving it to the parents in the private education system over the public education system doesn’t make any sense.”

How generous the new tax preference for private education would be is subject to debate. As with current 529 plans, contributions would not be tax deductible, but interest and capital gains would not be taxed. Withdrawing funds for elementary school would not give families much time to see their investments grow tax-free. That alone has divided advocates of school choice.

“As currently structured, 529 plans are not designed to deliver significant benefits to poor families in college,” wrote Nat Malkus of the conservative American Enterprise Institute. “Giving families flexibility to spend those funds sooner does nothing to address their capacity to save; it only minimizes the potential benefits.”

In urging his colleagues to vote for the amendment, Mr. Cruz said the expansion “ensures that each child receives an education that meets their individual needs, instead of being forced into a one-size-fits-all approach to education, or limited to their ZIP code.” He said the provision would “help working class and middle-income families save and prepare for their children’s educational expenses.”

But that assumes that those working-class families have money to save, and many do not.

“The opinion ranges from being marginally helpful, to a nothingburger, to being harmful because it plays into the narrative that school choice is about helping rich people,” said Michael J. Petrilli, president of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, which favors government-funded vouchers for private school tuition. “Are there people out there who cannot afford school choice and will now be able to? No.”

Some conservatives say the amendment falls well short of the president’s request for Congress to “pass an education bill that funds school choice for disadvantaged youth.” Instead, they say, it benefits wealthy families who already have thousands of dollars at their disposal to pay for their children to attend nonpublic schools.

But other conservative groups, like the Heritage Foundation, which began advocating the expansion of 529 plans in 2012, praised the amendment. Lindsey M. Burke, director of the foundation’s Center for Education Policy, said that when more families learned that anyone could contribute to the savings plans, they would become more popular at all income levels.

Ms. Burke disagreed with public school advocates that the 529 expansions would hurt public schools by incentivizing families to leave them.

“If their district-assigned school is a good fit, they have nothing to worry about,” she said.

For homeschoolers, the Cruz amendment was a cause for celebration. For years, homeschool advocates have denounced what they called a “discriminatory” tax code. Not only were 529s limited to just college costs, but existing K-12 expense accounts, called Coverdell Education Savings Accounts, are recognized for homeschools only in a handful of states where they can win designations as private schools. Coverdell contributions are limited to $2,000 a year, while contributions to 529 accounts can reach $14,000 a year without incurring gift taxes.

Will Estrada, a lawyer for the Home School Legal Defense Association, called the Cruz amendment a “massive win” for homeschooling families.

Mr. Estrada said that since the Trump administration took office, the organization had been working behind the scenes with the education secretary, Betsy DeVos, and Ivanka Trump’s staff to have the nearly two million students in home schools recognized. Homeschooling families spend about $500 to $600 a year on average on instructional materials like books, Mr. Estrada said.

“We want to be treated fairly,” he said.

For public school advocates, the 529 expansion was just the latest in a series of decisions they said illustrated the Trump administration’s disinvestment in public education.

“It’s just icing on the cake,” Ms. Pudelski said. “It seems they’re just asking how many different ways can we not support public schools.”


University of Ottawa Students Reject Israel Boycotts, Marking Ninth Consecutive BDS Defeat in Canada

Student leaders at the University of Ottawa rejected a motion to support boycotts of Israel on Sunday, marking the ninth consecutive defeat for the boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) campaign on Canadian campuses over the past two years.

The measure, brought before the Board of Administration of the Student Federation of the University of Ottawa (SFUO), sought to include an item backing BDS to the body’s policy handbook.

The Board rejected the motion, opting instead to require the SFUO “to do all in its power to peacefully resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.”

Student were only notified of the upcoming vote on Friday — hours before the onset of Shabbat — prompting the Jewish human rights group B’nai Brith Canada to notify SFUO directors that an endorsement of BDS could invite legal action.

“The SFUO’s proposed BDS vote would have violated the notice requirements guaranteed by its own constitution, as well as the student union’s policy on discrimination, which prohibits the SFUO from discriminating on the basis of nationality or religion,” B’nai Brith Canada explained in a statement.

The vote comes weeks after an unsuccessful effort to withdraw the club status of Hillel Ottawa and its Israel Awareness Committee.

“We commend the SFUO for removing the reference to BDS from this resolution,” Dovi Chein, director of Hillel Ottawa, said on Sunday. “We are incredibly proud of the students who made a powerful case today for the SFUO to reject the destructive and divisive path of BDS.”

B’nai Brith pointed out that Sunday’s vote was ninth time in a row that BDS was defeated on a Canadian campus. “Over the past two years, BDS votes have failed at the University of Toronto (twice), the University of Waterloo, McGill University, the University of British Columbia, Simon Fraser University, the University of Winnipeg — and now the University of Ottawa as well,” the group noted.

Robert Walker, national director of Hasbara Fellowships Canada, cautioned that “the pro-Israel community certainly should be pleased when BDS motions fail to pass on campus, but we can never forget the bigger picture.”

He pointed to a recent controversy at McGill University, where a student claimed he was removed from a leadership role on campus “because of my Jewish identity and my affiliations with Jewish organizations.”

“BDS votes,” Walker said, “are merely a sideshow of the far wider anti-Israel movement on campus.”


Tuesday, December 05, 2017

Be Thankful For Higher Ed's 'Perfect Mess'

    Despite its flaws or perhaps because of them, American higher education has become the engine of both public and private good for the U.S. and the world.

There's no shortage of books about how terrible American higher education is: From The Five Year Party: How Colleges Have Given Up on Educating Your Child and What You Can Do About It to Excellent Sheep: The Miseducation of the American Elite and the Way to a Meaningful Life to Scoreboard, Baby: A Story of College Football, Crime, and Complicity, there's not much about higher education that hasn't been raked over the coals. And unfortunately and sometimes tragically, news from colleges and universities these days often bears out the criticisms. It's a wonder that parents continue to send their children off to these supposed cesspools of vacuity and depravity. All that on top of the pressure and anxiety of trying to be admitted in the first place.

Without diminishing the importance of any of the problems affecting higher education such as big-time sports, fraternity hazing, declines in full-time teaching professors and the shrinking of liberal arts departments, it may be helpful to get a little perspective on a system author David Larabee calls "a perfect mess." In A Perfect Mess: The Unlikely Ascendancy of American Higher Education, he calls the chaotic American college and university system one that "never should have happened" in the first place. Yet its very incoherence actually became one of its strengths, enabling it to "become the dominant system in the world--with more money, talent, scholarly esteem, and institutional influence than any of the systems that served as its models."

Media outlets each year breathlessly report the shrinking admit rates of "elite" schools as if they were the only game in town, which is more or less true in every other country in the world. There are the national university and all the other ones. Getting into that one institution dominates the lives of students so much in Japan, for example, cram schools and even cram "cities" exist to help students study for the entrance exam, the only thing that matters for gaining admission. If you don't pass, you don't go.

But here in the U.S., just about every student who wants to attend a post-secondary institution can, and aside from the perceived status of each one, they are more similar than different. Most American colleges accept more than 50% of their applicants and colleges and universities vie for the attention and attendance of students everywhere. Without an official "national university," the academic marketplace in the U.S. is a jumble of institutional types bumping against each other. Deciding which type to attend is just the first step in a long process that's full of possibilities.

Students have an amazing array of options when it comes to higher education, all of which, according to Larabee, provide a "balance" that "helps account for the success of the American university." Those options can be grouped into three general categories: The undergraduate college (what Larabee calls the "populist element" that "brings in large numbers of undergraduates, who support the rest of the operation financially."); the research university (the "elite element [that] focuses on establishing academic credibility for the institution at the highest level."); and the land grant college, which provides "utility" by being practically "relevant" (think agricultural or engineering schools) as well as "providing a practical education in vocationally useful skills that will prepare students to be adept practitioners in professional roles."

Larabee makes a good case that this variety is what has made the American system of higher education so strong and powerful. Each element competes in an educational marketplace that compels it to be as strong as it can be. For better or worse, that means they compete not only educationally but also socially and culturally, which is where the downsides of competition come into play.

With no single college or university having a monopoly on providing education, American institutions of higher education have to compete to stay alive. Since undergraduates are their bread and butter, that means providing what adolescents want and need besides the promise of a good education. Hence the appeal of climbing walls, "lazy rivers," elaborate food courts and residence halls (don't call them "dorms"). And athletics, of course.

Providing these things can backfire, especially in the public mind. Football coaches get paid more than university presidents (sometimes many multiples more), spending on amenities can starve libraries and fraternities can become centers of any number of horrifying behaviors. But their importance is seen in the difficulty schools have trying to reform or eliminate them; for better or worse, they're a part of colleges' DNA. And while some of these things may be ridiculous, they're part of the messy system that is American higher education. That kind of variety ultimately enables students at every level of talent, ability and interest to find a place there.


As Florida Flouts America’s New Education Law on English Language Learners, Will the Feds Take a Stand?

It’s a new week? Must be time for another episode of “States Trying to Circumvent Federal Education Law!” Florida, step right up!

The Sunshine State has over a quarter-million English language learners. The state’s graduation rate for ELLs is just 56 percent, 20 points below the rate for non-ELLs. And yet, in its outline of what the state will do for its students learning English with the approximately $800 million in federal education dollars it will receive this year, Florida has decided to test whether the U.S. Department of Education is paying attention.

Specifically, the state is proposing to leave ELLs’ progress toward proficiency out of the state’s system for measuring school quality. This is a terrible idea. It also happens to be illegal. The Every Student Succeeds Act says states must include these students’ progress learning English in schools’ ratings under these new systems (cf. ESSA Section 1111(c)(4)(B), to be specific).

Civil rights groups are incensed. In an email, Miami Dade College professor — and president of Miami-Dade’s TESOL/Bilingual Education Association — Ryan Pontier writes, “Rather than striving to continuously improve and provide an equitable education for its almost 300,000 ELs, Florida is engulfing itself in ignorance by rejecting decades of research, boundless personal stories of struggle, and the new federal law. ”

But Florida education leaders need not worry. Who cares what ESSA says? The Trump administration has already gladly approved plans from other states that wholly ignored the law’s language. ESSA has turned out to be the limp, tough-as-tapioca document that folks like me said it was.

Which, improbably, recalls a famous insight from American pragmatist philosopher William James. “Grant an idea or belief to be true … what concrete difference will its being true make in anyone’s actual life? How will the truth be realized? What experiences will be different from those which would obtain if the belief were false? What, in short, is the truth’s cash-value in experiential terms?”

Grant a rule to be true. Declare: Every state must hold schools accountable for ELLs’ progress learning English using tests designed to measure English proficiency. Does the declaration make it so? Florida’s proposal dares the federal government to decide.

If the state’s plan is approved, we’ll have further proof that the letter of ESSA’s law won’t be enforced, and that its meaning is nothing more or less than what’s politically and ideologically expedient for Republican leadership in Washington, D.C. In the world of experience, its “cash-value” is appreciably nil.


Britain's new national curriculum? Brainwashing and propaganda

Our education system teaches the young what to think, not how to think. And if you ever wonder why so many things don’t work properly any more, or why you can’t get any sense out of so many organisations, this is one of the main reasons.

But it’s also getting harder and harder to think or say certain things. This week I experienced this mixture of brainwashing and propaganda at two different ends of the system.

I was sent a rather sinister questionnaire given to new arrivals at a secondary school I won’t name. And I was the target of a bizarre and rather sad counter-demonstration at one of Oxford’s most exalted colleges. They are, in a way, connected.

The questionnaire is part of what has now become PSHCE, Personal, Social, Health and Citizenship Education. It is not anonymous, but it seeks, in a slippery sideways manner, to discover what the children involved think about immigration.

The cleverest question asks 11-year-olds to say why they think there is a shortage of jobs for younger people. One answer on the multiple-choice form is ‘competition from international applicants’.

They are asked to agree or disagree with such statements as ‘I like to be around people from other countries’ and ‘meeting students from other countries is interesting’. They are also invited to say how much they agree or disagree with the statement ‘immigration is bad for the country’.

They are asked if they have close friends from different countries, and how they would speak to a person whose first language isn’t English. And they are asked if immigrants should have the same rights as everyone else, whether they should be encouraged to speak the language of this country or encouraged to continue in their own traditions.

Well, I agree very strongly with the parent who sent this to me because she thought it was sinister probing into the minds of children, and also into her own opinions, none of the business of the school or the State.

Might some little symbol be placed against the name of any pupil who answered in the wrong way? Might it affect that pupil’s future and the attitude of the school towards the parents? If not, what is the educational purpose of this?

There’s no doubt a terrible conformism has infected our system. When I went to speak at Balliol College in Oxford about the restoration of grammar schools, I was met by a smallish, silent crowd holding up placards objecting to my presence there.

Judging from the righteous looks on their faces, they knew they were right. When I asked them to explain their point of view, they said nothing (unless you count one small raspberry). But I was handed two sheets of paper in which I was thoroughly denounced and hugely misrepresented as ‘Transphobic’ and ‘homophobic’.

I was, this indictment said, ‘a figure of hostility and hatred’. It ended in a sort of farce. A young woman positioned herself in front of me, walking slowly backwards while holding up a home-made placard proclaiming ‘History will forget you’. It hasn’t even remembered me yet.

Alas, she was walking backwards towards a large and prickly bush. She was so set on scorning me that she paid no heed when I warned her of her peril, and she duly reversed into it. No shrubs were hurt in the making of this protest, but it put her off her stride.

Still, history repeats itself. And if on this occasion the first time was farce, the next time could be tragedy. Such people will very soon be fanning out into politics, the law and the media. How long before they have the power to silence and punish me and you? Not as long as you think.


Monday, December 04, 2017

HIV-Positive School Aide Charged With Sexual Offenses Against 42 Kids -- Liberal Media Silent

Carlos Bell, a 30-year-old former school aide and track coach at two of Maryland's public schools, who is HIV-positive,  has been charged with 206 criminal counts, most of which involved the sexual abuse or exploitation of 42 children from those schools -- and including the federal crimes of producing child pornography -- but the major liberal media have not reported the story, not one word.

Bell was a teacher's assistant at the Benjamin Stoddert Middle School in Waldorf, Md., and a track coach at La Plata High School in La Plata, Md., both of which are in Charles County. He was placed under investigation by the Maryland State Police in 2016 after one parent discovered some disturbing texts on her child's cellphone from Bell and contacted the police.

The schools placed Bell on administrative leave in December 2016 and the police continued their investigation into June 2017. On June 30, Bell was arrested and charged with multiple counts of sexual abuse of a minor, second- and third-degree sex offenses, child pornography, distribution of marijuana, and other offenses. 

All of Bell's victims reportedly were boys.

As the summer progressed and police uncovered more evidence, the criminal counts rose. As of late October, Bell was charged with 206 counts. These include 22 counts of sexual abuse of a minor, 19 counts of second-degree sex offense, 7 counts of third-degree sex offense, and 97 counts of child pornography.

Bell allegedly victimized 42 juveniles, forcing them to engage in sexual acts and filming them during these acts. The victims were between the ages of 11 and 17 and the crimes occurred between May 2015 and June 2017. Twenty-eight of those kids have been identified but 14 have not been identified. Some of the crimes occurred in Bell's home but many of them took place on school premises, according to the local media that have reported on the case, WTOP and WJLA (ABC 7)., (CNN Wire),,, and posted stories online about the case, as did some other local and state media. To date, however, no national news network -- ABC, CBS, NBC -- has covered the story in its evening or morning broadcasts, based on a search of the Nexis news database.

There were at least 42 child victims and at least 10 of them were used to produce child pornography, a federal crime, but the networks are not reporting the story.   (Despite that blackout, the Daily Post in Nigeria reported on the case, as did The Herald.)

Bell is being held without bail and his trial is scheduled for Jan. 8, 2018. Charles County State's Attorney Tony Covington is seeking life in prison for Bell, according to WTOP, "if Bell is convicted on the most serious charges." 

Commenting on the case, Charles County Schools Superintendent Kimberly A. Hilll said, "These allegations are horrifying. To our parents and our community who put their faith and trust in us to safeguard our children, I apologize on behalf of Charles County Public Schools. Student safety is job one, and clearly we have our work to do to ensure that this will never happen again."


British students could soon be swapping to a better university in second and third year with ease

It is a common tale. Students miss their top choice university by one or two grades. It happens for many reasons and often does not reflect the abilities of the student in question.

But now those students are likely to be given a second chance. Plans by the United Kingdom government could see universities accepting second- and third-year undergraduates who are succeeding at rival institutions.

Higher Education Minister Jo Johnson has released the government’s vision for higher education. The system allows students to transfer from one institution to another without the loss of credits for previously completed modules.

The Guardian reported UCAS, the UK‘s higher education admissions service, said the greater “portability of qualifications” is “vital”. Last week, UCAS confirmed plans are underway to change its website to allow students to search for course vacancies in the second and third years.

With high competition already plaguing the university market, the ability to poach students from other institutions could prove to be damaging for some.

Mike Nicholson, director of student admissions at Bath University, told The Guardian the university already hears from second-year students interested in moving there. Many of them are international students and often wish to “trade up” from a lower-ranked institution.

Nicholson fears this could be detrimental for many lowly ranked universities.

He told The Guardian: “If you are an admissions officer and you work really hard to get students to come into your first year, and then you find half of them disappear to the university up the road in the second year, what do you do then? Do you try to recruit students from the university in the next town to make up your numbers?”

However, there are two sides to the argument. “This extra competition,” he added, “could act as a stimulus for universities and courses to up their game and make sure they are giving students the experience they want and have been promised.”

Over at Aston University, vice-chancellor Alec Cameron said there is a “strong ethical argument” for enabling students to switch university or course without loss of credit. He claimed that anyone against the proposal is not thinking of students’ best interests.

In Australia and the US, credit transfer is commonplace and not a special exception. Students in the UK may soon join the revolution of free movement between universities. Those who realise all too late that they embarked on the wrong course or chose the wrong university could finally be able to right their wrongs without losing everything.


Need Another Use for a Liberal Arts Education? How about Learning to Be a Citizen?

The article below makes a good case for a humanities education but under present conditions it already degenerates into Leftist theology

We’ve discussed before that Socrates, one of the greatest things to come out of Athens, hated Athenian democracy. While he had many reasons to do so, one of the primary ones was that the typical Athenian had no idea what they were discussing, and were prone to using emotion over reason when making important political decisions. They lacked both the skills for critical thinking and viewing the world outside their own perspective to be proper democratic citizens.

But, as philosopher Martha Nussbaum argues, we can avoid those problems by placing a high value on an education in the humanities. A high value which today is often difficult to find.

In her book Not for Profit, Why Democracy Needs the Humanities, Nussbaum lays out the case that a job oriented education, one focused on preparing students for work, is far from enough to assure that the students will also be able to function as democratic citizens in a pluralistic, modern, and globalized, society.

While she doesn’t deny the need for technical education; she argues that a purely job oriented education, or even one which is highly focused on a narrow field of study, does not promote the development of critical thinking skills, the ability to consider differing viewpoints, an understanding of people vastly different from themselves, or strong methods for finding truth for themselves that people need as citizens.

These skills, she argues, are best found in the arts and humanities as promoted by a liberal arts education at all levels. While the United States is doing well at the university level of teaching these things, she contests that we are often unwilling or unable to do so at the grade school or high school level. If we do not assure students have access to the arts and humanities, she posits, we are likely to fall victim to demagoguery and lose the benefits of a modern democratic society.

Well, what’s wrong with our current method of teaching the humanities? Why write a whole book on this?

A major issue in modern American education she discusses is the increasing use of standardized fill in the bubble tests, and the tendency of teachers to “teach to the test”. It isn’t impossible to teach the humanities in a way that can be easily tested, the treatment of philosophy as a test subject for the A and O level exams in the United Kingdom has shown that much, but Nussbaum shows us how a multiple-choice test is unlikely to encourage any skills other than the regurgitation of information. They aren’t even that good at what they claim to do anyway.

With the national focus increasingly given to education for employment and competitiveness those parts of education which seem unlikely to lead to employment are the most simple to justify cuts to. Nussbaum laments this, and notes that at her own university advertising geared towards new students focuses nearly exclusively on those programs seen as practical and leading to employment. She dubs the combination of funding cuts and lack of attention a “crisis of massive proportions” which is still underway.

Suppose we just got rid of the humanities. Can’t we be a free people without them?

The myriad examples of tyrants attacking the arts and humanities suggests we might be wise to hold on to them. She cites, among other events, the prohibition of teaching the Korean language in public schools and the crackdown on Confucian education in general during Korea’s occupation by Imperial Japan. All a key part of the plan to reduce the Korean people to servants of Japanese imperialism, a role which had no need for a non-technical education.

Nussbaum later argues that the most cartoonish and often horrifying mistakes made by the Athenian democracy, which caused thinkers like Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle to reject democracy, could have been easily avoided if the population had any of the skills an education in the humanities provides.

The Funeral Oration of Pericles, an example of the Athenians being led by a populist working in their interest. Often, they were only led astray.

Is she alone in these ideas? Does anybody else argue that a democracy requires these skills?

Socrates, as depicted in The Republic, favored an intensive education for the philosopher kings he saw as the ideal rulers of his utopia. While his proposed curriculum is not the liberal arts education Americans know today, it is one that promotes the search for truth with the use of reason and logic and assures that the leaders of the city state will know not only how to lead, but how to approach the problems they may face as leaders. While he didn’t wish for the majority to lead a nation, it is clear he understood that those who do lead must have certain intellectual skills. In a democracy, these leaders are the people.

Aldous Huxley, philosopher, author of Brave New World, and noted psychonaut, made a similar observation in Brave New World, Revisited. Where he noted with terror that the world was moving towards his dystopia much faster than he had predicted and proposed education for democracy as a key tool to prevent this. He later elaborated on his proposed curriculum for a free people in his utopian work Island.

Okay, what does our situation look like now?

We presently have a better education system than the people of Athens; who ended their formal education in adolescence and denied it to women and non-citizens. Often inspired by Socrates and his pedagogy, today’s students can find a humanistic education in the American, Scottish, and (increasingly) Korean education systems dedicated to making them fully rounded individuals and citizens.

While Nussbaum warns us to be on the lookout to attacks on and financial cutbacks to the liberal arts model of education, we have reason to be optimistic as well. She mentions many excellent programs in American schools, such as Future Problem Solvers, as examples of democratic education done correctly and in a way that assures continued support. 

The study of the humanities can have many practical uses. It can even be used to find employment, no matter what the nay-sayers might tell you. More importantly, they have an intrinsic value in allowing us to fully develop as individuals. In today’s climate, they also take on the role of helping us make democracy possible. Without a proper education in the humanities, where we learn how to understand people we may never meet, how to evaluate arguments and charged rhetoric, and imagine differing scenarios from those we see every day, we may be doomed to the fate of many a failed democracy before us. 

But, if we utilize the fantastic tools we have access to, rise to the challenge of giving everyone the education they need, and emphasize all vital subject matter-even if it seems impractical, Nussbaum argues that we have much reason for optimism and the chance for the continued success of democracy all over the world.

If you would like to improve your humanities background, several Ivy League schools offer free classes you can take online. 


Sunday, December 03, 2017

Statistical Bigotry in minority education

The Democratic Party and the liberal left’s obsession with disparate impact race politics crept into K-12 public education. Their latest social engineering experimentation uses black and Hispanic kids in poor urban classrooms as pawns for political power. Education is secondary.

Liberals believe they can artificially wipe away serious behavior problems that are cultural in nature. They do this by labeling reasonable standards of classroom discipline as racist or discriminatory. When urban schools with predominantly black and Hispanic students enacted protocols that create an environment where learning can take place, more suspensions and expulsions resulted, accompanied by a widening of the achievement gap between black students and their white counterparts.

The knee-jerk reaction from liberals was to claim that school disciplinary policies that disproportionally affected black and Hispanic kids were culturally insensitive, discriminatory and evidence of racism. The liberals were confusing correlation and causation. School officials were even discouraged from calling police even in cases of violent assaults - that could also be considered racist.

Social engineers in colleges and universities began drawing up untested experiments using black and Hispanic kids as laboratory rats. They wanted to show that leaving disruptive kids in the classroom, instead of removing them for serious behavior violations including assaults on teachers, would improve scholastic performance.

Instead, disruptions and scholastic performance both got worse. Leaving disruptive kids in a classroom is a danger not only to the teacher but to other students as well. The university professors are nowhere near the classrooms to see the disaster they created with their inane idea, nor are they held accountable.

Not surprisingly, no amount of cultural sensitivity training of school officials will negate the culturally dysfunctional baggage brought to school every day by students.

Too many black kids today do not come to school in a state of readiness to learn. They have not been read to by parents. They are not socially adjusted for a group environment like a classroom, nor have they been reasonably disciplined for unwanted behavior. This emotional baggage is then thrown into the lap of a teacher who does not have the education or skills for handling these serious emotional and behavioral problems.

Kids have an excuse because of their age, immaturity and bad parenting. The parents of those disruptive kids have no excuse. Long ago, parents were absolved of their responsibility to raise their kids effectively. Liberal social dogma told them racism was at the root of their inability to raise kids who were ready for the demands of a school classroom.

Poverty was to blame too. Now liberals had a reason for not just government but economic intervention as well. This gave the left a two-for-one moment to enact expensive government-run tax-supported programs. They could spend more money not just on unproven education experiments but also on new anti-poverty programs.

K-4 programs have become K-3 programs. This further absolves mainly black and Hispanic parents from their rightful responsibility of raising their kids.

We are on our way to kids being taken immediately from the maternity ward to a government school. They are already being fed three meals a day and provided for by taxpayer-funded after-school programs. Why not just start them on the road to government dependency, not to mention indoctrination and exposure to leftist dogma, as early in life as possible?

GOP politicians in Congress have been reluctant to challenge the efficacy of these expensive programs lest they are accused of not caring about black and Hispanic children, or being outright racist. Nothing makes a white Republican politician run like their hair is on fire faster than being accused of not caring about black kids.

Education has always been the traditional vehicle for upward mobility in America. It is even more important in today’s knowledge-based economy.

Blacks who have embraced education are less likely to have kids who drop out of school, commit crimes, join gangs or make other flawed lifestyle choices like drug and alcohol abuse and having children they are ill-equipped to raise.

One of the hallmarks of slavery was criminalizing the education of black children thus keeping them ignorant. I would argue that many of today’s public school policies achieve the same results - they keep kids ignorant.

The goal of social activists is not to fix education problems but to fix the statistics. They are focusing on the wrong thing. Statistics can be exploited not only to make school problems (seem to) disappear, but also to demonstrate the need for the continuation of government programs. The kids who fail in school today are the population that tomorrow will fill jails and prisons and be in need of government assistance.

Former President George W. Bush called these low expectations “soft bigotry.” He was right. Now the left wants to back up the soft bigotry with faulty statistics.


One Ivy League College Just Took Self-Identification to a Whole New Level

Beth Baumann

Brown University decided to change its graduate program's application process. The change would allow potential students to 'self-identify' as a person of color, The College Fix reported.

Apparently, the university decided to make the change after faculty complained that international and Asian American students weren't being "treated as members of historically underrepresented groups." Because of the lack of recognition, some students were missing out on invitations to multicultural events.

This policy is said to help the university reach its goal of doubling historically underrepresented groups by 2022, the Brown Daily Herald reported.

Out of all of the stupid liberal college policies I've heard of, this has got to be one of the stupidest.

I'm so tired of colleges constantly trying to be diverse. They go out of their way to reward students with scholarships because of their heritage and their skin color.

Equality is in the Eye of the Beholder

The Civil Rights Movement was based on the idea of equality. All of us can argue over just what "equality" people like Martin Luther King Jr. fought for. Did he fight for equality of opportunity? Did he fight for equality of outcome? How we define equality differs based on our political views.

As a conservative, I believe in the equality of opportunity. All of us have the opportunity to go to college. Yes, each of us has our own struggles and obstacles. But no one is discriminated against or told they can't go to college because of the color of their skin. No one is told they can't get a higher education because of their family's past. There's a clean slate for everyone.

When colleges and universities implement these dumb affirmative action rules all they're doing is picking winners and losers. Let me give you an example...

In high school, I was a good student. I graduated with a 3.49. I took Advanced Placement (AP) classes, and I was very involved in extra and co-curricular activities. When I applied for colleges, I received no financial aid. I fell into the trap of my parents "making too much money" (on paper) but not enough money to pay outright for my schooling. When I applied for scholarships, I was denied based on one of two principles: my parents' income or my race. I had two strikes against me. I'm middle class and white.

A classmate of mine had a lower GPA than I did, and she wasn't involved in extra and co-curricular activities. She received a full-ride scholarship and dropped out after one or two semesters. I ended up going to a smaller private school and taking out student loans, just like the majority of my peers.

A Disgrace to Opportunities in America

Policies like the one taking place at Brown University are a disgrace to everything America stands for. There are people who spend their whole lives wanting the opportunity to have access to everything America has to offer. Now, an Ivy League college wants to make sure that we're spreading our opportunities out "equally" to everyone. Except equality isn't really equal here. Instead, it means raising up minorities and burying others.

Minorities should also be offended by policies like these. Universities have such little faith in people of color that they think minorities need a leg up. A supposedly merit-based education is now coming down to nothing more than a person's skin color.

I'm sure MLK is rolling in his grave.


Australia: Phonics check is crucial in early years education

A key policy proposal of the CIS’s FIVEfromFIVE literacy project is a Year 1 Phonics Check. The rationale for the Check is that phonics (sounding out words) is an essential skill for proficient reading, and there is good reason to believe that many teachers are not teaching phonics well. A simple assessment administered towards the end of Year One — a crucial point in learning to read — would show which students have not acquired this skill and are therefore likely to struggle with reading throughout their schooling.

The Year One Phonics Check has been implemented in all primary schools in England since 2012 and has been shown to be an effective tool for identifying struggling readers and for guiding teaching and intervention. There has also been an improvement in reading comprehension in later years of school since the Phonics Check was introduced.

Despite this, there has been a concerted campaign against the Phonics Check in Australia from teachers unions and professional associations, who claim it is unnecessary and even ‘harmful’. Some opponents appear to object to the Check on the basis that they don’t like the people who are promoting it. The most likely reason they are opposing the Check is that they are worried about what the results might show.

Those who claim the Phonics Check is unnecessary state that teachers already assess phonics in the early years, and that the Check is an affront to teachers’ professionalism. If teachers are already assessing phonics, they have nothing to fear from the Check. However a review by an expert advisory panel appointed by the Australian government found that there is no consistent systemic assessment of phonics in Year 1 in Australian schools.

Those who claim the Phonics Check is harmful typically point to the inclusion of pseudo or nonsense words in the Check, claiming that teaching pseudo words is pointless. This is correct but misleading — the Phonics Check does not encourage the teaching of nonsense words but using them for assessment is a valid and accurate way of determining phonic knowledge because it reduces the possibility the child will be reading the word using their sight word memory.

There is however, strong support for the Year 1 Phonics Check from many academics, researchers, principals, teachers and parents. An online petition has garnered more than 3000 signatures and social media is alight with debate. The FIVEfromFIVE video explainer has had almost 13,000 views.

The Year 1 Phonics Check proposal will be discussed by education ministers at the Education Council meeting next Friday. The arguments for the Check are clear and compelling. At the very least, it is worth doing a national trial. Any objections to such a proposal can only be on political rather than educational grounds, and that would be a very disappointing result indeed.