Thursday, December 21, 2017

State ESAs: The Gold Standard for School Choice

The tax bill heading for a final vote would greatly expand tax-advantaged education savings programs. Under current law, these Section 529 plans (named after the enabling provision in the IRS code) can be used only to pay college expenses, but the new legislation would permit tax-exempt savings for K-12 education spending—up to $10,000 a year for tuition at private or parochial schools. This is great news for those families who can afford to sock away money for their children’s education. However, the expansion of 529 plans is no substitute for creating K-12 education savings account programs with universal eligibility. State ESAs remain the new gold standard for school choice.

ESAs help parents pay for their children’s private education—11,000 kids in Arizona, Florida, Mississippi, and Tennessee already participate in them. ESA legislation was also introduced to 21 other states in this year, according to Independent Institute Research Fellow Vicki E. Alger in an op-ed for the Washington Times. Most ESA programs fund the child’s accounts using public money that other otherwise go to his or her local public school, but Arkansas, Missouri, New Hampshire and Wyoming are considering programs that are privately managed or funded, much like a tax-credit scholarship program.

“California could readily enact this kind of ESA Program,” Alger writes. “It has nearly 190,000 tax-exempt charitable organizations, along with a well-established regulatory and oversight infrastructure.” Not only does it have the groundwork already in place, but as Alger first showed in her 52-page report Customized Learning for California, a tax-credit ESA program could be structured to pay for itself even if as few as one or two percent of California’s K-12 students participated. More importantly, it would vastly improve the educational opportunities for children in the nation’s most populous state.


Perverse Sex Ed in the UK

Secondary schools in the United Kingdom will soon be required by law to teach sex education using a now-undefined, government-mandated curriculum.

The curriculum has yet to be defined but is likely to incorporate homosexuality and transgenderism.

The new sex education curriculum will take effect in September 2019. It will include so-called "relationship education" for primary schools and an updated sexual education curriculum for secondary schools.

The current curriculum standards have gone largely unchanged for almost 20 years. This has caused some on the Left to trash the curriculum, with one report calling it "'too biological' at the expense of a focus on children's rights, equity, emotions and relationships — and too negative and risk-focused, at the expense of the affirmative and positive aspects of relationships and sexuality."

A Sky News report explains, "The update to statutory guidance follows concerns that current advice, last set in 2000, is out-of-date and does not address 'sexting,' online safety and cyber-bullying, as well as mental well-being and LGBT issues."

The report quotes U.K. Secretary of State for Education Justine Greening as saying, "I think we need to speak to parents and teachers in particular. And of course, young people."

She also claimed, "I met with some young people in Parliament about a month ago, and they were staggered that no government has updated the guidance since 2000, so I think there is a general consensus that we need to improve things and that it is what we are making a start on today."

Earlier this year, Greening was responsible for making so-called sex and relationship education mandatory in all U.K. schools.

Sex education has been a hot-button issue in Britain for the past decade or two. For example, in 2008 so-called relationship education was mandatory for schoolchildren as young as five. While some of the intention was to prevent sexual abuse of children and to discourage porn addiction, critics felt that it introduced explicit materials to ridiculously young ages.

Furthermore, a study in Britain earlier this year found that budget cuts which reduced access to free contraception actually resulted in fewer teen pregnancies.

Currently, Greening's Twitter page is full of links to surveys, forums and other ways for parents and students to express their opinion on sex education and hopefully impact the new curriculum still under development.

One of the issues that the new curriculum is likely to address is internet pornography. One of the reasons the Greening gave for updating the curriculum is "the huge amount of inappropriate material that is on the internet."

But there is some concern that they will address this grave sin in a falsely positive light. This is especially troubling, as the new government-mandated standards will apply even to Catholic schools.


Lack of Financial Literacy Remains Historic American Challenge

A new analysis published by Martha Brown Menard, who conducts financial services user experience research for Questis, dissects both successful and unsuccessful financial education programs, with an aim at discovering what approaches work best in what circumstances.

Setting the stage for her recommendations, Menard suggests financial stress among U.S. employees is reaching “epidemic proportions.” She cites survey data to the effect that 75% or more live paycheck to paycheck, personal savings rates are at their lowest since 2007, and non-mortgage debt levels are higher now than during the Great Recession.

“It’s no wonder so many people feel unable to pay off their consumer debt or save adequately for retirement, which only makes the situation worse. Because stressed employees bring these financial distractions to the workplace, it seems like a good idea for employers to provide some type of education, perhaps a seminar or lunch and learn, so that employees can become better informed about how to manage their personal finances,” Menard explains.

But for a variety of reasons, this kind of one-size-fits-all financial education has been demonstrated to have little to no effect on changing real-world financial behaviors. Indeed, as Menard lays out, a meta-analysis of more than 200 relevant studies found that workplace educational interventions explained only a tiny fraction of the downstream financial behavior changes studied.

Menard’s research takes a striking look back at the recent and not-so-recent development of workplace financial education in the United States. Quotes from figures throughout history show how the problem of poor financial literacy have been around since the beginning of the American Republic. She quotes early American president John Adams, who warned that “all the perplexities, confusion, and distress in America arise not from defects in their Constitution or Confederation, nor from want or honor or virtue, so much as the downright ignorance of the nature of coin, credit, and circulation.” In 1849, Menard observes, Victorian bank manager James Gilbart promoted financial education as a way to help potential customers of his London & County Bank feel comfortable by knowing what to expect when opening an account. Again in the U.S., the Smith-Lever Act of 1914 established the funding that land-grant colleges still use to teach cooperative extension courses in personal finance.

More recently, Congress modernized some of these educational efforts and in 2003 established the Financial Literacy and Education Commission, which subsequently released a national strategy for financial education. “Thanks to Congress, since 2004 Americans have celebrated April as National Financial Literacy Awareness Month,” Menard observes. “And President George W. Bush signed an order in January 2008 that created an advisory council on financial literacy.”

And yet with all this awareness of the problem—and literally centuries of discussion among thought leaders—have Americans, broadly speaking, improved their financial literacy? The evidence is at best mixed, Menard warns.

“Is general financial education effective? It certainly doesn’t look that way once we analyze the body of research to date,” Menard says. “Multiple academic studies have shown that claims of a cause and effect relationship between financial education and improved financial behaviors have very little evidence to support them. When examined more recently by a team of researchers conducting a meta-analysis of 90 previous studies, the correlations between financial education and improved financial behaviors were better explained by other individual difference factors that were not measured in the prior studies, such as familiarity with numerical concepts, financial confidence, and willingness to take risks.”

Menard’s observations continue: “Previous research evaluating the effectiveness of financial education often conflates two different kinds of studies: those that measure the degree to which a person is already financially literate, and those that measure whether and to what extent an educational intervention has increased a person’s financial knowledge. But neither pre-existing financial literacy nor educational interventions have been demonstrated to improve actual financial behaviors. Financial education explained only one tenth of one percent (.001) of downstream financial behaviors in the 90 studies that were aggregated, and the authors note that financial literacy is highly correlated with other individual differences or personality traits, such as self-efficacy, that can explain positive financial behaviors and outcomes. As in so many other areas of life, just because we know we should do something doesn’t mean we actually follow through and do it.”

The analysis goes on to suggest that behavioral psychology can be helpful in understanding this failure in education. Menard suggests those who receive financial education often fail to act because they are discounting the potential of future suffering, feeling overconfident about their future ability to take corrective action and worrying about potential losses. These are the same symptoms that cripple people from making better decisions across all facets of life, independent of their level of awareness on a given topic/challenge.

Menard’s analysis concludes that the lessons of behavioral finance are only just being absorbed into the domain of financial education—and she expects that over time the efficacy of educational programming could finally (and dramatically) improve. In the most simplistic terms, she says financial education “must be easy, by removing barriers or reducing friction; attractive, by offering the right incentive; social, by promoting a sense of positive belonging; and timely, by linking it to a current situation and an individual outlook.”


Wednesday, December 20, 2017

When School-Discipline ‘Reform’ Makes Schools Less Safe

Progressive education experts don’t seem to care that the policies they advocate are hurting the students who need the most help. Last week, a new analysis of Philadelphia public schools found that the district’s move to reform school discipline by embracing “restorative justice” had led to a raft of unfortunate results.

The decision to eliminate suspensions for classroom “conduct” led to skyrocketing truancy, serious misbehavior, and declining achievement. Truancy had been steadily declining, but increased sharply after the new policy was adopted. Compared with other Pennsylvania school districts and after controlling for demographics, the district’s math and reading achievement declined substantially after the adoption of the new policy.

And, ironically, students were actually suspended more often, because even as suspensions for minor offenses fell, suspensions for major offenses rose. The progressive education wonks who championed Philadelphia’s school-discipline reforms were remarkably unbothered by these alarming results. They didn’t even really challenge the data. Instead, they asserted that the reforms could work and should work.

Education Week ran a story titled, “In Discipline Debate, Two Groups Draw Different Conclusions About the Same District.” See, a second group of researchers, from the University of Pennsylvania, had taken a qualitative look at Philadelphia’s schools. The takeaway there for EdWeek readers was that it is “possible for the district to see improvements” because the disciplinary changes showed hints of promise in schools that were “wealthier and more white.”

That’s cold comfort, of course, given that the policy made things worse in the city’s poorer, less white schools — the struggling ones it was intended to help.

Such tales are painfully familiar to those who track the world of school reform. There’s a rhythm to it: Progressive reformers have an idea that they think should work; the idea doesn’t work; reformers claim to see hints of promise and explain that the problem is one merely of “implementation” . . . and then the cycle repeats. Meanwhile, teachers and parents are left to pick up the pieces.

Consider the Common Core. Reformers were alarmed that state standards weren’t high enough. So they cheered as the Obama administration bribed and coerced states to adopt new, “higher” standards. Parents complained, but reformers dismissed their assorted complaints as a combination of know-nothingism and fringe kookery.

When a report found that 85 percent of K–8 teachers thought the Common Core harmed parents’ ability to help their kids with math because they could no longer understand the assignments, reformers yawned. When the dust settled, nationwide achievement had broadly declined for the first time in years, but reformers saw hints of promise — and explained that the problems were simply a matter of implementation. After all, they said, high standards are important.

Powered by Consider teacher evaluation.

Reformers were alarmed that old systems rated 99 percent of teachers as effective. So the Obama Department of Education bribed and coerced states to adopt new evaluation frameworks tied to tests teachers had never seen. Teachers complained, but reformers dismissed their concerns as know-nothingism and self-interested carping. When the dust settled, teachers had had to dance through new, time-consuming, bureaucratic paper chases — and 98 percent of them were still rated effective.

Reformers acknowledged the results were disappointing, but explained the problems were nothing that couldn’t be cured by better implementation. After all, they said, teacher evaluation is important.

The same story is playing out now with concern to discipline reform, except that this time the lackluster results are actually dangerous. In New York City, a majority of students at half of schools serving a high share of minority students said they saw more fights and that their peers were less respectful.

In Chicago, peer respect deteriorated and teachers reported more disruptive behavior. In St. Paul, the district attorney declared school violence a “public-health crisis.” In Syracuse, the district attorney ordered a restoration of discipline after violence surged and a teacher was stabbed. In East Baton Rouge, 60 percent of teachers say they’ve experienced an increase in violence or threats, and 41 percent say they don’t feel safe in school.

Don’t expect progressive reformers to heed these warnings. Indeed, they seem more inclined to attack those who raise concerns than to step back from misguided policies. It’s far easier to take to Twitter and insinuate that those who are concerned about the practical consequences of lax discipline policies “sound kinda racist.” After all, they say, reducing suspensions is important.

The thing about schooling is that it is a profoundly human enterprise, which means it is inextricably contextual. Local realities matter, a lot. This means that whether and how reforms work is less a matter of how they look on a whiteboard or in a PowerPoint than of how they are put into practice by teachers, administrators, and parents.

A bold scheme often sounds nice in theory, but bungled reforms can easily prove worse than no reform at all. This lesson should be painfully self-evident after so many humbling experiences, even if it continues to elude so many of the nation’s most self-assured education reformers


Whistling May Qualify as Sexual Harassment At Tennessee State University

The sexual harassment scandals involving prominent Hollywood figures, media personalities and politicians has brought heightened awareness to the issue, but one public college appears to be taking things too far. At Tennessee State University in Nashville, “whistling in a suggestive manner” may qualify as sexual harassment and can get students expelled or employees fired. Those caught making “suggestive or insulting sounds” or making “suggestive or obscene gestures” also face similar consequences as well as students or staff who joke about sex on campus.

The rules are outlined in the university’s discrimination and harassment policy, which was obtained by a conservative journalism nonprofit dedicated to the principles of a free society. The group published an article on its website that reveals Tennessee State University has been blasted by the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) for several policies that allow free speech to be punished as harassment. With an undergraduate enrollment of about 7,000, the school’s policy lists nearly two dozen “offenses” that can constitute sexual harassment among students and employees. Cases are determined individually and the “totality of the circumstances” will be considered before deciding if sexual harassment has been committed.

The attorney who serves as vice president of FIRE’s policy research points out in the article that Tennessee State University’s policy doesn’t pass legal muster because it’s too ambiguous. Her name is Samantha Harris and she has degrees from two Ivy League universities, Princeton and the University of Pennsylvania Law School. “Very broad categories of speech are banned as harassment, simply because someone might find them suggestively offensive and that’s something that courts have repeatedly held violates the first amendment,” Harris says in the story. Prohibitions on jokes and humor are dangerous because they could be abused to suppress unpopular speech involving political and social issues, Harris added. She also said that the school’s policy of banning any kind of demonstration during university events restricts students’ rights to protest and get their message across. Tennessee State also requires gatherings involving dissent to be registered with the vice president of student affairs to ensure the event is held at an acceptable time and appropriate site. That creates prior restraint on speech, according to FIRE’s legal expert.

Taxpayer-funded schools and colleges have taken an extreme leftist turn on several issues over the years and Judicial Watch has reported or taken legal action in several of the cases. This includes exposing a Mexican separatist school that pushes Marxism and Anti-Americanism in Los Angeles, pervasive corruption in Chicago public schools and an after school Satan club in Washington State that received speedy tax-exempt approval from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).

Judicial Watch is currently embroiled in a legal battle with the Berkeley Unified School District in California to obtain the records of a middle school teacher who is a national organizer for a radical leftist group. The teacher, Yvette Felarca, works at Martin Luther King Jr. Middle School and is a prominent figure in By Any Means Necessary (BAMN), an organized militant group founded by the Marxist Revolutionary Workers League that uses raucous militant tactics to protest conservative speaking engagements. Over the summer Felarca was arrested and charged with several crimes, including felony assault, for inciting a riot in Sacramento. Judicial Watch wants records about the controversial teacher’s violent Antifa activism, which reportedly includes illegally recruiting students.

Judicial Watch has also sued to stop illegal immigrants from receiving taxpayer-funded discounted tuition at public universities and colleges and reported extensively on the issue. Last year Judicial Watch wrote about professors at a public university in south Florida that demanded the school protect illegal aliens by creating a “sanctuary campus.” The professors compared immigration enforcement to “fugitive slave laws.” At the time students at colleges around the nation requested their undocumented classmates be protected, but the Florida professors blazed the trail as the first faculty members of an American taxpayer-funded establishment to officially call for campus-wide sanctuary in the aftermath of Donald Trump’s election.   

Via email

Wealthy students tighten grip on British university places

And that will continue while government schools flounder in a morass of indiscipline

The most advantaged teens have tightened their grip on university places, pulling further ahead of the least advantaged, Ucas data shows. Although more poorer students won places at university this year, wealthy students increased at a higher rate.

Universities Minister Jo Johnson said he was reforming the sector to encourage equality of opportunity.

The data also shows the number of unconditional offers made to students jumped 40% last year to 51,615. These are offers made to students on the basis of their predicted grades rather than their actual results.

Although at least one unconditional offer was made to 17.5% of students it is important to remember that students generally make five choices.

This year, unconditional offers accounted for less than 1% of offers made by the largest 140 higher education providers.

Assessing the year-on-year data, the University and College Admissions Service said there had been no progress in equal representation since 2014.

Successive ministers have required universities to do more to increase access for disadvantaged groups. And Prime Minister Theresa May pledged to put social mobility at the heart of her policies

Ucas is using a new measure of equality that combines social background, ethnicity and gender to examine how well universities are opening their doors to all sections of society.

Statisticians feel it sheds more light on the issue of equality of access because it looks at the interplay of a number of factors.

Details of this backwards step on social mobility come at a time when the chances of getting a place at university have never been higher. In 2017, a third of 18-year-olds were accepted on to higher education courses in England.

But a detailed look at who these teenagers are shows the most advantaged group increased their entry rate by 1.8% to 53.1% in 2017.

This means over half of 18-year-olds in this top social group got places at university. Meanwhile, 13.8% of the most disadvantaged group netted places on courses, an increase of 1.2%.

The statistics also show teenagers from the most advantaged group are still nearly 10 times more likely to attend the most competitive universities.

However, the least advantaged students have made some headway, increasing their entry rates to these top institutions by 7.4%.

Clare Marchant, chief executive of Ucas, said: "Although our analysis shows that a record number of disadvantaged young people have entered higher education this year - with the greatest increase at higher-tariff providers - gaps in participation remain wide."

The Ucas data also again shows that white pupils are less likely to go to university than any other ethnic group.

Universities Minister Jo Johnson said he was encouraged by the record entry rates for young people going to university, including those from disadvantaged backgrounds.  "Today's figures show that 18-year-olds from disadvantaged areas are now 50% more likely to go university in 2017 than in 2009.  "However, we recognise that there is more to do.

"That's why we have introduced sweeping reforms, including the new Office for Students, to ensure equality of opportunity."

Geoff Barton, head of the Association of School and College Leaders, said: "Schools and colleges across the country are straining every sinew to improve the opportunities for disadvantaged pupils, and indeed all their young people. Significant challenges remain, however.

"In many communities, the impact of unemployment, insecure and low-paid work, and poor quality housing has had a devastating impact on the hopes and aspirations of families.

"In areas where traditional industries have collapsed, many white British families have been badly affected, and it is therefore not surprising that white pupils are proportionally less likely to go to university than other ethnic groups."

Prof Les Ebdon, director of Fair Access to Higher Education, was encouraged by the increase in disadvantaged students at top universities, but said they were still 5.5 times less likely to attend these institutions than their advantaged peers.

"As a result, people with the potential to excel are missing out on opportunities. This is an unforgivable waste of talent, and universities must continue to press for transformational progress."


Tuesday, December 19, 2017

The Only Place Where The Feds Should Spend More On Higher Education

The federal government has no constitutional authority to spend money on higher education, to give or lend students money for it, to direct how colleges will function, or anything else. By far the best course of action would be for Congress to dismantle the Department of Education and repeal all U.S. statutes pertaining to education.

But since that is not going to happen in the foreseeable future, it is worth considering how the feds might do less harm or even improve higher education. The latter is not quite a null set.

In 2008, Congress passed and President Bush signed Public Law 315. It added a section to the Higher Education Act authorizing American History for Freedom grants. The relevant language in Sec. 805 authorizes the Secretary of Education to approve grants “to establish or strengthen postsecondary academic programs or centers that promote and impart knowledge of (1) traditional American history; (2) the history and nature of, and threats to, free institutions; or (3) the history and achievements of Western civilization.”

In short, the Education Department could spend money to expand intellectual diversity in American higher education—a worthwhile goal.

Here’s the background on the American History for Freedom (AHF) program.

In 2002, the National Association of Scholars developed the idea that federal grants could be used to help offset the heavy progressive/statist tilt found in most of our colleges and universities, by jump-starting a movement to restore intellectual pluralism. A bill to bring this concept to reality was drafted and found support in the House and Senate. When Congress finally got around to reauthorizing the Higher Education Act in 2008, it was included.

The promising idea of using federal money to seed college programs that would educate students on the American Founding, our constitutional history, Western civilization and its institutions, and so forth was, however, sidelined by the election of Barack Obama. AHF’s supporters knew that Obama’s Education Department would not make good use of funds for the purposes they envisioned and therefore never sought any appropriation to cover Section 805. That remains the case to this day.

But now circumstances have changed. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos would no doubt sympathize with the goals of AHF and make beneficial grants if the funds were appropriated for them.

If Congress were to appropriate a fairly small (by the standards of Uncle Sam, anyway) amount such as $100 million, that money would have a huge impact as it was used to catalyze new programs and expand existing ones.

In this piece, NAS president Peter Wood likens AHF to the old Radio Free Europe program, arguing that our campuses need something similar—Radio Free America on campus. The Left, Wood explains, gained control over our colleges beginning with the advent of politically-charged “studies” programs in the 1960s, specifically black studies, women’s studies and environmental studies. “Each had its own agenda but those agendas overlapped in their disdain for America and in their rejection of the university as a place reserved for open-minded inquiry,” he writes.

From those outposts of politicized study, determined “progressives” spread outward to the point where departments free of ideology are the exception. In most humanities and social science departments, students now, as Wood puts it “marinate in the story that they are hapless victims of hateful oppressors.”

To be sure, there are islands of serious academic study where the conclusions don’t have to perfectly align with leftist theory. For example, at Texas Tech, there is the Institute for the Study of Western Civilization. UCLA hosts the Center for the Liberal Arts and Free Institutions. At Wake Forest, Professor James Otteson has managed to launch his Eudaimonia Institute – despite furious opposition from faculty leftists who can’t stand the fact that funds from the Koch Foundation are involved. (You can read more about that in this Martin Center article by Professor Robert Whaples.)

The problem is that the number of courses and programs that view America and the world through classically liberal lenses is tiny in comparison with the number that employ Marxism, critical race theory, intersectionality, and so on. At many schools, non-leftist teaching and scholarship has almost no presence.

That is not just a problem for students, who might never encounter a professor who is skeptical about, say, minimum wage laws, the claims of the “sustainability” crowd, or the idea that America is shot through with institutional racism. It’s also a problem for the faculty. When scholars never encounter intellectual pushback within their departments, a rigidity sets in that prevents them from contemplating ideas outside their comfort zone. That is the case, for instance, in social psychology, as Professor Richard Redding argued in this piece.

Dozens of new programs could be seeded with AHF grants—programs that would at least somewhat restore intellectual balance on our campuses and improve the chances that students will learn something about the values and institutions that made the U.S. successful.


Too many kids go to college

Lubos Motl

Six years ago, an Intelligence Squared Debate took place in Chicago (see 100 minutes above). Peter Thiel, a co-founder of PayPal and an aide to Donald Trump now, teamed up with Charles Murray, a researcher of IQ. They defeated Vivek Wadhwa and Henry Bienen after they argued that too many kids go to college.

It was a decent debate and Thiel and Murray obviously made more sense. It has become almost automatic – and I would say, it's a part of the political correctness – to assume that everyone may go to college, everyone should go to college, and the college experience will be a positive thing for everybody.

It just isn't so and can't be so. Only a fraction of the kids of that age may be considered "material for college". They are sufficiently smart and they are sufficiently disciplined, patient etc. to actually suffer through the activities that the college involves.

The defenders of the "college for everybody" have argued that there is a clear correlation between the degrees and lifetime salaries etc. I don't doubt it. But it's because

the people who are really unable to do a well-paid job or study a college end up in the group outside the college, anyway;

and because some companies or other employers prefer to employ a person with a degree even if he or she is exactly as good as a candidate without a college!

The strategy described in the second point is still rational because of the first point: the employer gets a near-certainty to eliminate the candidates who are really unable to even try a college, those who couldn't be accepted to one etc.

But those things could be obvious, anyway, and neither point indicates that the college actually brings something positive. Wouldn't it be better if everyone got the degree immediately after he's accepted to the college, or after one year that he survived? The reason why it could be "enough" is that the information about the school that gave the degree is more useful for the employer because they may figure out what kind of a person he was. We know what characteristics are common among those who are accepted to Harvard.

As Charles Murray said, if you only know that someone has a bachelor degree, you literally know nothing about the person. Almost everyone can have the bachelor degree – especially the easy degrees that are abundant outside STEM. There are lots of crazy bachelor degrees – often spread by pseudo-departments of pseudo-women's and pseudo-African pseudo-studies that were created purely in order to allow a college degree to those who don't belong to a college.

The average IQ and related characteristics of a recipient of a bachelor degree doesn't significantly differ from the average IQ in the population. And Murray said that the selection of employees that "requires a BA" is a self-fulfilling prophesy. You're labeled dumb or lazy without a BA. And that's why the kids who aren't lazy go to schools even though they normally consider the learning process at the school worthless (and it often is worthless for them) – they're there purely for the certification that they're not dumb or lazy!

This bubble of education has diluted the value of the degree – the basic university degrees don't really mean much today. But the excess of students has also lowered the quality of the education in the legitimate departments. They also receive a higher number of students which means that their average readiness had to go down and the best students – who would be there even if there were no education bubble – often have to wait for the slower, "bonus ones".

And perhaps more importantly, a big segment should be inserted here to discuss the evil of "colleges as the indoctrination centers" with their extreme left-wing atmosphere, speech codes, snowflakes in safe spaces, and so on. A priori, this political distortion of the Academia seems like an independent question from the education bubble. But they're not really independent. Many of these safe spaces and speech codes etc. were introduced partly or largely as tools to defend lots of the students who really shouldn't be students at all.

I think that somewhere in the debate, Peter Thiel was asked whether it's consistent for him to oppose kids' going to college while he has spent lots of time in colleges. Well, fake modesty has become a "must", too. But believe it or not, Peter Thiel is an example of a man (or boy) who would naturally belong to a college in any system. He is of the right type.

It's not just about the intelligence. It's about the curiosity, patience, and intellectual discipline, among other things. But there are lots of people who are (sometimes extremely) skillful at many things and who could create and lead huge new companies who are simply not the Academic types in the same sense as Peter Thiel. And those are the folks for whom Thiel's $100,000 scholarship paid for "avoiding any university" was created for.

Around 1:07:50, Peter Thiel was explaining that people are diverse and he was immediately attacked by one of the "education for everybody" guys – and his applauding soulmates in the audience – who claimed that everyone is the same as Peter Thiel in the pre-college age. Please, give me a break with this stunning politically correct, egalitarian garbage. If you compare the people and teenagers etc. according to many trivial criteria, even e.g. how many books or non-fiction books they have read, you will get vastly different results – by orders of magnitude – because people are just different from each other.

It's been months when I watched the whole 2011 IQ2 debate last time so I don't remember everything. But I suspect that much of the discussion was also about the gap between the things that are being taught, and the things that are useful in the later life (and demanded by the employers or industries), and so on.

The final monologues have made it clear that the "education for everybody" side just wanted to mindlessly push the "college for everyone" and not watch any consequences or whether things are beneficial at least in the zeroth approximation. Peter Thiel pointed out that there was no accountability and the bubble deflates when people start to think independently. Murray said that a system that would be optimized would be very different from the current one. Students would study because of the stuff they learn, not because of the piece of paper, and many types of folks would spend much.

Before the debate, 39% voted "too many kids in college", 40% opposed. This tiny edge reversed after the debate, to 47%-to-46%, so Peter Thiel and Charles Murray apparently did an infinitesimal piece of work to persuade the audience that there is an education bubble.


We have to move away from the worship of university entry as the only path to success in life

In education I worry there is too much competition. Students compete from the days of the National Assessment Program — Literacy and Numeracy right through selective school and scholarship exams, the Higher School Certificate, and their courses at university.

Academics at university compete for tenure-track jobs, for grants and for papers in high-impact journals.

Universities compete with each other globally, and even compete against the vocational education and training sector here.

Competition drives us to be better. Life is competitive, and I enjoy the striving and fulfilment that comes from healthy competition. I, more than most perhaps, have engaged with metrics as a university manager and I never tire of the data and statistics.

But even I worry when the competition becomes too intense. I worry for the mental health of students and the futures of our staff. I worry when everyone dreams of being president — top dog — and when every university wants to be Harvard.

I worry about what I call the witch’s hat type of competition, where everyone is converging on the same goal and competition intensifies as one ascends. There isn’t much room at the top of a witch’s hat.

Globalisation is driving the same dreams and uniformity is taking over from diversity. I worry that people increasingly will be lured into a futile race up the witch’s hat. Most people are bound to fail.

I envisage another type of competition, the ice cream cone view of life. Here individuals spread out as they climb to achieve their goals. There is room at the top in an ice cream cone because everyone is doing something different. One person aims to be the best mathematician, one the best plumber, another the best ballet dancer.

Some universities want to be like Harvard but others want to be small teaching communities with a focus on values.

One doesn’t need to get to the top to reach fulfilment. Ice cream trickles down to the various ridges that cover the cone. Eventually some melts and nourishes those who are still at the bottom. In an inclusive society one climbs up the inside of the cone.

So what magic will invert the witch’s hat to make an ice cream cone? Many of the elements are already in place. In addition to academically selective high schools, we also have high schools that concentrate on sports, or the performing arts, technology, or ostensibly even on agriculture. We might think about establishing more science, technology, engineering and maths senior high schools, and perhaps arts and humanities high schools, too.

We have to move away from the worship of university entry as the only path to success in life. The university sector, the vocational education and training sector, and the government must work together to sort out how to help students find their way into the system that suits them best.

Existing mechanisms that encourage diversification of the university sector could be strength­ened further. Funds should be allocated to reward true excellence in teaching as well as true excellence in research, so institutions make choices rather than everyone aiming for the same thing.

We have systems for measuring research excellence and for rating the student experience, but perhaps because we know these systems will never be perfect we lack the confidence to attach significant funding to them.

What about those young academics who are trapped in the race up the slippery slope of the witch’s hat, completing PhDs and aiming for fellowships and grants, or struggling to survive on casual or sessional teaching?

Some of these might thrive in educational-focused roles where they could concentrate on building a career through teaching without having to compete for the fixed pool of research grants. Others might benefit from focusing intensely on research supported by Australia’s fellowship systems.

Some might move to high schools or into the vocational sector, if these parts of our education system were better supported.

Most of all we must not lose our nerve when other countries post on their Facebook pages that they are having fun.

While globalisation has many benefits the uniformity of thinking is a risk. We should remain confident that we can find many different ways of being happy and prosperous.


Monday, December 18, 2017

Student campaigners branded Oxford professor 'bigoted' and his article 'racist'

It's the students who were able to see only one side of the question who are the real bigots

Oxford students have branded an eminent professor ‘bigoted’ after he suggested feelings of guilt around British colonialism may have gone too far.

Nigel Biggar, regius professor of moral and pastoral theology at Christ Church college, said society should take a more balanced view of the Empire rather than simply remembering it with shame.

He acknowledged ‘atrocities’ had occurred under colonial rule, but said it had also provided law and order in other countries that many citizens had valued.

The comments were made in an opinion piece for a newspaper, titled ‘Don’t feel guilty about our colonial history’.

Yesterday, student campaigners at Oxford called the article ‘racist’ and claimed it ‘whitewashed’ the British Empire.

Common Ground, a student-run race rights group, wrote an open letter condemning the article and claiming it ‘seeks to justify’ colonialism. It also said Professor Biggar should not be allowed to run his new academic project, called Ethics and Empire, which the students said filled them with ‘horror’.

However, Oxford University last night stood by the professor, saying he was ‘entirely suitable’ and an ‘internationally-recognised authority on the ethics of empire’. It said it supported ‘academic freedom of speech’, which must not be allowed to be curtailed in the face of protesters.

Professor Biggar has been at Oxford for a decade and is also a canon of Christ Church Cathedral. He is the director of Oxford’s McDonald Centre for Theology, Ethics and Public Life.

His article, in The Times newspaper, said ‘apologising for empire is now compulsory but shame can stop us tackling the world’s problems’.

It pointed out that Britons may become too afraid to intervene in human rights abuses abroad if they saw all past foreign policy as inherently bad. He said: ‘If on the other hand we recognise that the history of the British Empire was morally mixed, just like that of any nation state, then pride can temper shame.

‘Pride at the Royal Navy’s century-long suppression of the Atlantic slave trade, for example, will not be entirely obscured by shame at the slaughter of innocents at Amritsar in 1919.

‘And while we might well be moved to think with care about how to intervene abroad successfully, we won’t simply abandon the world to its own devices.’

The students said: ‘The inaccuracy displayed by Biggar, as well as a conspicuous lack of rigour, must not go unchallenged. He implies colonised societies had no political order prior to colonisation, invoking a racist, hackneyed, and fictional trope about the nature of pre-colonial societies … [he] seeks to justify a post-colonial agenda of interference that destabilises developing nations.’

They said of Ethics and Empire: ‘We believe Nigel Biggar has shown himself to be an inauspicious and inappropriate leader for this project… Is this what is needed at the University of Oxford – a project led by someone pushing to “moderate our post-imperial guilt”?’

They called on the university to answer what input ‘students of colour’ had in the project and who was funding it.

‘The proud announcement of this project, following on the heels of Biggar’s bigoted article, reflects a university that has shown itself to be singularly incapable of reckoning with its colonial past – and singularly incapable of taking responsibility for how that past continues to shape its present and its future,’ they said.

‘If the University of Oxford, our university, wanted to reckon properly with that past – and its impact on the present and future – it would not stand idly by in the face of Biggar’s commendation of imperialists and apologies for colonialism.’

An Oxford spokesman said: ‘We absolutely support academic freedom of speech. The history of empire is a complex topic and it is important that universities consider our global history from a variety of perspectives.

‘This is a valid, evidence-led academic project and Professor Biggar, who is an internationally-recognised authority on the ethics of empire, is an entirely suitable person to lead it.’

It comes following the failure of a campaign at Oxford to tear down a statue of Cecil Rhodes because of his life as an imperialist. Students at other universities have tried to ‘no-platform’ academics on their campuses because they disliked their views.


On campus, ‘diversity’ is now a threat to free thought

Equality quangos are pressuring universities to buy into PC ideology

We’re used to hearing stories about some universities making life difficult for those who openly disagree with a predominantly liberal-left outlook. Less well-known is a movement to railroad universities into endorsing as official policy some truly controversial views on race, gender and equality.

Until about 10 years ago, universities by and large concentrated on their primary functions of teaching students, sponsoring research, and hiring and supporting academics. Of course, they rightly had to practise fairness and non-discrimination in doing this. But they still regarded education and research as their primary purpose, and would never have dreamed of making the promotion of equality or diversity a primary aim in its own right.

Unfortunately, this sensible and balanced view has largely gone. Not only do we have a new breed of academic interested in process over purpose and ‘social justice’ over everything - we now also have the Equality Challenge Unit (ECU).

The ECU is a little-known organisation founded in 2005 and based in London. It has a staff of around 40, overseen by a board of 13 drawn mainly from the academic great and good. It is bankrolled by Universities UK, similar Welsh and Scottish higher-education bodies, and organisations such as the Royal Society, and is subscribed to to the tune of a few thousand pounds per year by just about every university in the UK. The ECU functions as a kind of equality pressure group, and sponsors two so-called charter marks – the Race Equality Charter and the gender-equality charter, Athena Swan – which are awarded to universities and university departments that meet certain requirements.

This academic quango may be well-meaning, but it is far from clear whether it is worth funding. For one thing, the cost of premises and a staff of 40-plus on central London salaries could presumably cover a decent number of bench fees, library books, or, for that matter, researchers. For another, universities themselves have their own army of equality and diversity officers, not to mention human-resources departments charged with being up-to-date on anti-discrimination law.

Indeed, the ECU isn’t just concerned with traditional ‘fair treatment’ equality – the sort no one would object to. Instead, it goes a good deal further. Take the Race Equality Charter, which universities are under almost irresistible peer pressure to adopt. If a university wants to participate, its vice-chancellor must formally endorse a document stating, among other things, that ‘racism is an everyday facet of UK society’ and that ‘diverse teams enhance creativity and promote innovation’.

For Athena Swan, the process is similar. Universities signing up to it must commit themselves to ‘addressing unequal gender representation across academic disciplines and professional and support functions’; ‘making and mainstreaming sustainable structural and cultural changes to advance gender equality, recognising that initiatives and actions that support individuals alone will not sufficiently advance equality’; and ‘tackling the discriminatory treatment often experienced by trans people’.

Now, these aims and assertions may or may not be justified. But it is deeply problematic that universities, supposed homes of free thought, are now expected to adopt them as a sort of academic equivalent of the Thirty-Nine Articles. And this is just the basics. The charters also have bronze, silver and gold awards, which require universities to go a good deal further.

Dig deeper into ECU documents and you see far more concerning examples of a postmodern, victim-centred approach to equality. Its explanatory document on gender, for example, claims gender is ‘self-determined by [people’s] internal perception, identification and experience’, and ‘often performed – meaning that gender is a “doing” or active experience’.

Of course, participation with the ECU is voluntary. But this is true only in a very literal sense. UK research councils consider participation in Athena Swan when issuing grants. And the next Research Excellence Framework, which will report in 2021, is likely to include a requirement not only that universities participate in Athena Swan, but that individual departments have at least a bronze award.

This is bad news for those of us who believe the university should be a place for free debate, rather than evangelising an official, or semi-official, ideology.


Australia: Pro-homosexual school program is gone, but its influence remains

Miranda Devine

EDUCATION bureaucrats keep trying to find ways to get around the NSW government’s ban on the “sexual and gender fluidity” sex education program known as Safe Schools.

This time it’s an attack on special religious education (SRE) classes. New education department guidelines issued in September banned volunteer scripture teachers from referring to sexual and gender issues.

In a letter this month responding to complaints from Presbyterian minister Rev Dr Peter Barnes, and Anglican minister Rev David Milne, Rod Megahey, assistant director of primary education, cited a departmental review of the SRE program which had elicited complaints from a “small number” of parents who “objected to secondary school SRE teachers addressing issues of sexuality and expressing homophobic views.”

Rev Barnes, of Revesby, and Rev Milne, of Panania, are insulted by the charge of homophobia. They want to know whether the new policy means that SRE teachers are not allowed to teach the seventh commandment, “Thou shalt not commit adultery”, or the Sermon on the Mount, which includes the line: “everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart”.

Rev Barnes asks if the Ten Commandments has to become the “Nine Suggestions”.

“Such a policy would clearly hand over the teaching of sexual ethics to those of the same mindset as the one who brought in the Safe Schools Program. “So much for freedom of religion, even in voluntary SRE classes.”

That’s the point. Religious education classes are voluntary, and if parents want their children to learn Christian ethics, that is their right. Parents who object to Christian teachings equally have the right not to allow their children to attend the classes.

But they don’t have the right to force their values on to other people’s children.


Sunday, December 17, 2017

Student Debt Is a Symptom of Our Broken Education System. This Bill Would Spark a Change

Rep. Ron DeSantis   

We are facing an education crisis in this country. While the value of continued education after high school is undeniable, our nation’s singular focus remains on the necessity of traditional four-year degrees, which come at a soaring cost to students and their families.

For many students, a classic bachelor’s degree earned at a brick-and-ivy university is a worthwhile investment that provides the necessary knowledge to succeed in their given field post-graduation. But that is certainly not the case for all students.

Estimates suggest that a quarter to nearly half of college graduates are underemployed, and often work in jobs that do not require a college degree. And college tuition does not come cheap—the amount of student loan debt held by the American people is now higher than credit card debt.

There has to be a better way to give our students the opportunities they deserve while helping drive down the astronomical educational costs that are burdening working-class families.

I recently introduced the Higher Education Reform and Opportunity (HERO) Act, a bill that would foster innovative solutions to the process of higher education accreditation and would essentially put choice and affordability back into the hands of students.

Our country’s burgeoning student loan debt has been driven, in part, by the accrediting agencies that accredit higher education bodies and decide who is worthy of government funding by way of student loans.

The regional accreditation bodies, the universities, and the Department of Education essentially act as a cartel that controls who can enter the system. This impedes the innovation that is needed to tackle high costs, lack of school choice, and the decline of value in four-year degrees.

The HERO Act aims to break up that cartel, opening up higher education to more Americans by empowering individual states to develop their own systems of accrediting educational programs. All accredited programs would then be eligible to receive federal student loan money.

The HERO Act would enable our post-secondary education system to become as diverse and nimble as the industries that are looking to hire.

States would be able to accredit nontraditional education options, such as single courses or vocational programs, to meet the particular needs of their local economy. Students would be able to put federal loan money toward single learning courses, online opportunities, and apprenticeships in skilled trades.

Freeing up states to decide how they wish to accredit education options would spark a new era of competition. Trade schools and nontraditional organizations could directly compete for funding, making their appeals to students who have a variety of interests and seek a return on their investment.

Florida could decide to accredit specialized mechanics apprenticeship programs to cater to our robust flight industry, while California might empower Silicon Valley companies to teach coding programs to students who do not necessarily need a four-year degree.

Not only would the HERO Act allow states to fulfill the educational needs they have identified, but it would give students far greater flexibility to tailor their education to their needs. With the fast pace of innovation and an ever-changing economy, workers can often find themselves in need of educational programming mid-career.

Under the reforms proposed by the HERO Act, students could take shorter courses catered to their specific educational needs rather than leave the workforce completely to go back to school.

It is important to note that this bill would not alter current federal accreditation systems. Federal agencies would, however, have to recognize that individual states are on equal footing to know where the current system is failing, and to accredit programs that will fill this void.

Greater competition would force colleges and universities to reassess their federally subsidized pricing practices and help break the cycle of government subsidies that contributes to rising tuition rates. Some students may no longer choose time-consuming and costly four-year degrees if another educational opportunity at a lower cost could impart the necessary knowledge and skills.

Additionally, the HERO Act would require institutions to publish information regarding student success, to prove that they are fiscally accountable, and to ensure schools are held accountable for student loan defaults.

The HERO Act would expand higher education opportunities to millions of Americans who are underserved by our current system. We cannot allow the iron triangle that currently controls accreditation to stifle innovation and shut out potential students from accessing higher education in a manner that works for them.

Simply put, receiving a four-year degree is not the only means of achieving career success, and our federal education policy should reflect that truth.


Sexism, segregation, squalor: Religious schools are undermining British values, says regulator

More and more religious schools are failing to meet the government’s minimum requirements, according to the UK education watchdog. Some students are being taught sexist and solely religious texts in lieu of basic math and English.
The Ofsted Annual Report 2016/17 has shone a light on the dank, squalid conditions experienced at some of Britain’s independent religious schools. “There has been a sharp decline in inspection outcomes for other independent schools and in particular schools with a faith. Almost half of faith schools (49 percent) were judged less than good at their most recent inspection and over a quarter (26 percent) were inadequate,” the report states.

“The most basic checks, such as whether staff were suitable to work with children, were not in place,” it revealed. “Perhaps more significantly, in a handful of schools inspectors found instances of sexist and sectarian literature.”

The report also shows that a rising number of religious schools are actively undermining British values in their teachings. Ofsted Chief Inspector Amanda Spielman told the Daily Mail that in some parts of the country “shared values and tolerance clash with community expectations.”

Of the 977 independent schools inspected, 315 do not meet government standards and nearly half of the below-average schools - 147 of them - are faith-based education facilities.  

Some 33 percent of the UK’s Christian schools, 54 percent of Jewish schools, and 58 percent of Muslim schools make up the 147 facilities that fail to meet minimum targets.

Spielman told the Evening Standard that, in some extreme cases, students are being taught oppressive and sexist values at the expense of a traditional education. “When I see books in schools entitled ‘Women Who Deserve To Go To Hell,’ children being educated in dank, squalid conditions, children being taught solely religious texts at the expense of learning basic English and mathematics, I cannot let it be ignored,” she said.

“We have a proud tradition in this country of respecting religious freedom. But there are occasions when multiculturalism can and does comes into tension with the expectation that students should be prepared for life in modern Britain.”

The annual report reveals that one of the schools deemed “unacceptable” is the Al-Hijrah School in Birmingham. “The recent case of Al-Hijrah School in Birmingham showed that an ethos that completely segregates children in school and that spreads discriminatory views about women is unacceptable. The fact that this reflects a cultural norm in that community does not mean that children can be disadvantaged in their education,” it states.

Not only is Ofsted targeting schools deviating from a traditional basic education or teaching repressive values, the education watchdog is taking on “illegal schools” - but Spielman says that greater legislative powers are needed to take on the issue.

“Current legislation is inadequate to tackle unregistered schools,” Spielman said. “It limits our powers to tackle them and allows institutions to exploit loopholes about definitions of education.”

Since January 2016, Ofsted has identified 291 potential facilities which may be unregistered. Approximately 125 inspections have taken place, 38 warning notices were issued, and 34 illegal schools have been closed or have stopped operating illegally. The report says that the remaining cases remain under investigation.

A spokesperson for the Department for Education said laws have been changed to prevent extremism in schools, promoting mutual respect and tolerance of those with opposing beliefs.

“We changed the law and the requirements on schools so that they have to actively promote the fundamental British values of democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty, and the mutual respect and tolerance of those with different faiths and beliefs,” they said.

“It is absolutely right that Ofsted reports on schools that fail to protect children or fail in any other way to meet the standards we expect, so that we can take action to ensure they adhere to the law.  Any independent school that does not comply with the independent school standards must either improve or we will close it down.

“We always support Ofsted, local authorities and the police in tackling unregistered schools, which are illegal and unsafe.”


British regulator appoints 'conservative teacher' as curriculum lead

Government and politics Inspection Ofsted Primary Secondary
Heather Fearn, a self-described “conservative teacher” has been appointed Ofsted’s new lead for inspector curriculum and professional development.

This follows Ofsted’s decision to include a number of traditional-leaning teachers and educationists in its curriculum-advisory group earlier this year.

Ms Fearn will join the watchdog’s education-policy team from 1 January. Ofsted has said that her role will involve “ensuring that the content of the training, mentoring and coaching available to inspectors across the education remits helps them prepare for the new education inspection framework 2019”.

Previously, Ms Fearn worked as executive vice-principal and curriculum director at Thetford Academy, part of the Inspiration Trust.

She has written blogs for the Conservative Education Society with titles such as “Why I’m a conservative teacher” and “I’m not quite in favour of grammar schools BUT…”

Ofsted’s curriculum advisory group recently included Anna Trethewey, deputy director of thinktank LKMco, Christine Counsell, director of education at Inspiration Trust, and Daisy Christodoulou, known for her traditionalist views on education.