Friday, January 05, 2018

World Language Classes Vanish From Many Oklahoma High Schools

This is good. As few as 98% of American students get any use out of a language learnt at school.  Only Spanish is of some use, for obvious reasons. Learning another language is hard and the effort is more fruitfully deployed elsewhere

A fourth of high schools across the state have eliminated world language classes over a decade, erasing the chances for thousands of students to acquire skills that could better prepare them for college and the job market.

The number of high schools without a single world language class has nearly quadrupled, from 39 in 2006 to 149 in 2016, according to an Oklahoma Watch analysis of data collected by the state Office of Educational Quality and Accountability. That means a third of Oklahoma high schools now don’t offer a single course.

A national study released in June by the American Councils for International Education found that 12 percent of Oklahoma students were enrolled in a world language course in 2014-15. (The term used to be foreign language.) That was below the national average of 20 percent and the seventh lowest rate in the country.

The trend has particularly hit rural areas.

Nearly all Oklahoma schools without world language classes have fewer than 300 students and are located in rural areas, indicating a significant divide in language education between rural and urban and suburban schools, where the most robust language programs are located.

To become proficient in a language, students require advanced-level courses, such as honors level, Advanced Placement or International Baccalaureate. But those classes are increasingly concentrated in the state’s urban areas, with a few exceptions.

In 40 of the state’s 77 counties, no schools offer an advanced-level world language class. That’s up from 27 counties a decade ago.

Oklahoma, like most states, doesn’t require students to take a world language class to graduate.


Opposition to new black charter school in California

FAIRFIELD — The Solano County Central Democratic Party and the teachers association for the Fairfield-Suisun School District oppose the petition for the Elite Charter School.

But the proposal goes before the board for the Solano County Office of Education on Jan. 10 with two board members saying the “opportunity gap” the charter school cites must be addressed.

Ramona Bishop, the former Vallejo City School District superintendent who is the lead petitioner for Elite, advised the board of education at its Dec. 13 meeting to do its homework.

You’ll see somebody who understands managing programs and finances, Bishop said.

Perhaps more significantly for the fate of the controversial charter school proposal, county education board members Dana Dean and Amy Sharp said the opportunity gap for African-American and Latino students that Elite seeks to counter has to be addressed.

If Elite isn’t the application that will address the opportunity gap, asked Dean, what will?

For the Fairfield-Suisun Unified Teachers Association, which opposes Elite, the question seems to be what will happen to public education if the county board approves Elite’s petition?

“For the first time in a long while, we have an active threat of a non-public charter school seeking approval at the Solano County Office of Education,” said the website for the teachers union. “Public education is being invaded in Solano County.”

A non-public charter will drain away funds from public education – less money to use in existing public schools – and must be provided a facility by the school district, according to the teachers association.

“They do not have their own governing board and do not have to respond to the Fairfield-Suisun School District’s governing board,” the website adds. “It is literally a blank check without oversight and at the expense of public education.”

School district officials are already contending the budget will have to be cut, the teachers association said.

“If the district has to fund a charter school, those cuts will not come to Elite charter school but will come from your school budgets and teachers’ pockets,” according to the website.

Solano County Board of Education member Mayrene Bates had a different concern about instructors and the charter school.

She asked Bishop, “Where are you going to find teachers?”

The former Vallejo school superintendent said the charter school said some teachers were not comfortable about speaking to the board of education.

Board member Dean, while asking opponents of Elite what their alternative is, also spoke about her concerns involving the proposed charter school’s petition. Grammatical errors, leaps of logic and syntax problems troubled her, Dean said.

More troubling, she added, was that supporters of Elite are people of color and opponents white.

Dean said she wasn’t suggesting racial undertones but that the “opportunity gap” Elite cites must be deal with.

The Rev. Danny Jefferson, president of the Vallejo Faith Organization, had told the board that people of color always have to struggle when seeking to obtain power and resources.

The 506-page charter school petition states staff at the Elite schools will focus on accelerating the achievement of all students while “eliminating the opportunity gap.”

African-American and Latino students are the two groups in Solano County whose performance is below the average, according to the petition. The graduation rate for the two student groups is below the average while dropout rates exceed the average, the petition adds.

“The Elite staff will focus on ensuring that students attending the school will receive instruction on the history and accomplishments of mainstream America while also receiving cross-cultural instruction on the history and accomplishments of African-Americans and Latinos,” according to the petition.

Schools would open in August 2018 with children in kindergarten through sixth grade, and at full capacity in 2022-23 will serve more than 2,500 children and teens in kindergarten through 12th grade at three campuses, according to the petition.

Solano County Board of Education members will begin their Jan. 10 meeting at 6 p.m. in the Peña Adobe Room, 5100 Business Center Dr. in Fairfield.


UK: Outspoken Conservative educator criticized

On Jan. 1, England’s new Office for Students launched with the mandate to ensure students get value for their money. That same day, the university regulator set off a social media storm by appointing a controversial board member, and then seemingly inflating his credentials.

The Department for Education said board member Toby Young, a Tory who is a journalist and free school founder, previously held teaching posts at two of the world’s most prestigious universities, Harvard and Cambridge.

Unfortunately, Young was only doing his postgraduate duties.

“I taught undergrads at Harvard and Cambridge and was paid to do so but these weren’t academic ‘posts’ and I’ve never made that claim,” Young told the Guardian. The education department responded saying his “diverse experience includes posts” at the institutions, but has since altered the announcement to reflect that he was a teaching fellow at Harvard and a teaching assistant at Cambridge. Young followed up on Facebook to say that this should not disqualify him as boards are strengthened by diverse backgrounds. “If it just consisted of university professors the sector could be accused of marking its own homework.”

Young is the co-founder of four free schools (the UK’s version of charter schools) and runs the New Schools Network, a government-funded charity to promote free schools in England. He would be one of 15 members of the Office for Students’ board.

The controversy over Young’s appointment has exploded beyond his inflated teaching credentials. Unions and Labour members of parliament have criticized past comments he made about inclusivity, as well as tweets they dubbed misogynistic and homophobic. Young has apologized for the tweets, clarifying his meaning on inclusivity, and highlighting the fact that he has started four free schools where a third of kids are eligible for the pupil premium, given to poorer students.

The Office for Students was created to be a market regulator for universities, keeping an eye on critical issues such as vice chancellors’ pay, grade inflation, freedom of speech on campus, and whether universities are delivering the value for money they promise (universities were free in the UK until 2012, when they started charging £9,000 a year; the average student now has £50,000 in debt after graduation).

The office was born from the passage of the Higher Education and Research Act, which passed into law last year after two-and-a-half years of debate, through multiple governments and elections, as well as opposition.

Young’s columns for the right-wing Spectator have been highlighted in the debate over his appointment. In a 2012 column he wrote:

“Schools have got to be ‘inclusive’ these days. That means wheelchair ramps, the complete works of Alice Walker in the school library (though no Mark Twain) and a Special Educational Needs Department that can cope with everything from Dyslexia to Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy.”

He called on the government to “repeal the Equality Act because any exam that isn’t “accessible” to a functionally illiterate troglodyte with a mental age of six will be judged to be ‘elitist’ and therefore forbidden by Harman’s Law.”

According to the BBC, he later clarified his comments by saying that “I’m using ‘inclusive’ in the broad sense to mean a dumbed down, one-size-fits-all curriculum, rather than the narrow sense of providing equal access to mainstream education for people with disabilities.”

He also noted that he had not used the word “troglodyte” as a synonym for children with special educational needs.

The Independent, a left-wing publication, highlighted some misogynistic comments Young allegedly made on Twitter, and since deleted, on the size of women’s breasts and how hot women at the Emmys were.

On Tuesday, Young said he was a defender of women’s rights and regretted the “sophomoric” comments.

Some of those things have been sophomoric and silly – and I regret those – but some have been deliberately misinterpreted to try and paint me as a caricature of a heartless Tory toff. 23/

Boris Johnson, the UK’s bombastic and also-politically incorrect foreign minister supported Young’s appointment.

Boris Johnson’s brother, Jo Johnson, is the minister for higher education, and has been an advocate for the creation of the new organization.


Thursday, January 04, 2018

Studies Shed Light on Merits of Montessori Education

These findings are similar to what we see in programs to boost IQ.  Kids benefit initially but the differences fade out by the late teens.  One interpretastion is that teachers in any sort of "special" program tend to be more motivated -- and that is the only thing having any effect

Montessori schools have many loyal devotees and they're certainly rising in popularity among American parents. But are they any better than traditional schools, or other progressive teaching philosophies?

You'd think we'd know the answer to that question by now. Montessori schools have been around for more than a hundred years, dating back to Maria Montessori's first school for poor children in Rome in 1907. In recent years, there's been a surge in new Montessori schools in the United States, fueled, in part, by new state laws that are expanding the numbers of publicly funded, but privately run charter schools.

Today there are some 500 publicly funded Montessori schools across the United States, up from fewer than 300 in 2000, according to the National Center for Montessori in the Public Sector. The number of private Montessori schools, estimated to be around 4,000, is rising too. (Full disclosure: my daughter attends a Montessori school and I went to a Montessori kindergarten.)

Yet there's been very little rigorous research to prove that children learn more in Montessori schools than they otherwise would have. The main problem is that you can't randomly assign some students to Montessori schools and study how they do compared with students at traditional schools. Parents get to make these choices, and it's quite possible that the parents who choose Montessori schools are more academically inclined than those who don't.

Thanks to the expansion of publicly funded Montessori schools, with lotteries and waitlists to get in, researchers are now able to study the matter more rigorously. That's because lotteries are, in effect, a random assignment machine. Some kids win a seat in a Montessori school. Others don't. And you can compare the achievement of the lottery losers with the lottery winners.

Recently, two peer-reviewed studies were published using this methodology. The results are mixed: promising for preschool, not so promising for older students in high school.

In the October 2017 preschool study, published in Frontiers in Psychology, six researchers looked at two Montessori schools in Hartford, Connecticut. Both were established by the state as public "magnet" schools, designed to be very high-quality Montessori programs that would attract wealthy families from the suburbs to low-income neighborhoods in Hartford. Some of the students who attended the public Montessori schools had family incomes as high as $200,000 a year. The students who "lost" the lottery all ended up at some other sort of preschool. Half of them attended a private school; others went to a federally funded Head Start program.

The researchers tested approximately 140 students at the start of the preschool and found that both the Montessori and non-Montessori kids began at age three with similar achievement scores. The 70 students who went to the Montessori schools advanced more rapidly on math and literacy tests over the next three years. At the end of kindergarten, when this study ended, the Montessori kids had significantly higher achievement. (Softer skills, such as group problem-solving, executive function and creativity were not better for Montessori kids. The two groups did about the same on those measures, or the differences were not statistically significant.)

To be sure, high-income kids outperformed low-income kids regardless of the school. But the researchers found that lower-income kids in Montessori schools had much higher math and literacy scores than the lower-income kids in other schools. Similarly, higher-income kids in Montessori outperformed higher-income kids in other schools, but not by as much.

One question is whether it's the Montessori method that's driving the results, or whether these Hartford children benefited from especially good teachers who would have gotten these results regardless of the teaching method. One theory is that gifted educators are particularly drawn to Montessori philosophy and study for the extra certifications.

Even if it is the Montessori method, it's unknown whether the whole complex system is required, including all the expensive wooden materials and step-by-step teaching techniques, or whether certain elements are driving the results. The two schools in this study strictly adhered to the original Montessori philosophy. Many other Montessori schools have adapted with the times, introducing technology, for example, and supplementing their instruction with non-Montessori curriculum and ideas.

Angeline Lillard, one of this study's six authors and a professor of psychology at the University of Virginia, hopes to build a body of evidence for Montessori by repeating these results in other cities. The Hartford study follows her 2006 Milwaukee study, published in Science magazine, which also found better results for children who won a lottery to attend a public Montessori school.

Meanwhile, a September 2017 study published in Economics of Education Review found that a Montessori education didn't make a difference for teenagers. It tracked hundreds of students, some of whom had won a lottery to attend a Montessori high school in the Netherlands, others of whom had lost the lottery and attended a traditional secondary school. (State-run Montessori schools for all ages are widespread and popular in the Netherlands, where Maria Montessori spent the final years of her life and died in 1952. By contrast, there are few Montessori high schools in the United States.)

In the Netherlands, Montessori high school students did no better or worse than traditional students. They finished their secondary degrees at the same rates with similar grades and final exam results. The author, Nienke Rujis, also found no differences on soft skills. Montessori students showed similar levels of motivation, and scored no better on measures of independence, "even though these are the main characteristics that a Montessori education claims to foster," Rujis wrote.

Lillard, who sent both of her daughters to a Montessori elementary school, suspects that uneven quality of instruction might explain why the Dutch Montessori schools didn't prove their superiority. "I've heard about classrooms full of Montessori materials but the teachers had no training," Lillard said.

Considering the high demand for these schools, the quality probably isn't too shabby. However, there is more variation among high schools, since the Montessori curriculum for older students is less standardized or prescribed.

Another real possibility is that Montessori might work quite well with younger children, but the extra, early boost "fades out" as students from traditional schools catch up.


New education laws passed by California Legislature in 2017

The Leftist grip on California education tightens.  Particularly sad to see the high school exit exam now finally gone.  Serious educationists put up a real fight to retain it but political correctness defeated them.  Blacks frequently failed it.  Now you can graduate high school in California having learned just about nothing -- and many do.  California High School qualifications are now meaningless, which is why many employers now run their own tests.

This past year, dozens of bills related to education passed through the California legislature and received Gov. Jerry Brown’s signatures.

The new laws effect everything from public school instruction and curriculum to community college tuition, free or reduced-price school lunch, school facilities and school districts’ finances.

Here is a look at some of the major education legislation passed in California this year.

Community Colleges

AB 19: California College Promise

First-year, full-time students at all 114 California Community Colleges will be able to attend their first year of college for free, under Assembly Bill 19.

The California College Promise will waive students’ first year tuition fees as long as they are enrolled in 12 or more semester units and qualify for financial aid under a FAFSA or California Dream Act application.

AB 637: Cross-Enrollment in Online Education

Students enrolled at a California Community College will be able to cross-enroll in an online course offered by other campuses without additional tuition or fees.

Those who choose to take classes from colleges that are part of the Online Education Initiative Consortium would then have their enrollment data transferred to the “teaching college,” or the college they are taking the online course from.

AB 1018: Student Equity Plans

Assembly Bill 1018 will change the way community colleges approach their student equity plan as part of the Student Success and Support Program.

The categories of homeless, lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender students are now required to be addressed in the student equity plans.

Colleges, Universities

AB 699 and AB21: Immigration and Citizenship Status

These bills will prohibit public school, community colleges, California State University and University of California campuses from collecting information or documents about the immigration status of students, faculty and staff and their families.

AB 990: Estimates of Off-Campus Housing Costs

Beginning Feb. 1, California State University will be required, and University of California campuses will be requested, to post information online about the market cost of a one-bedroom in the areas surrounding the campuses where students commonly live.

High Schools

AB 830:  High School Exit Exam

California officially abandoned its high school exit exam, following a two-year hiatus of the test beginning in 2015.

Students will no longer be required to pass the exit exam as a condition of receiving their diploma for graduation.

AB 10: Feminine Hygiene

Middle Schools and high schools with at least 40 percent of low-income students will be required to provide free feminine hygiene products in half of the school’s bathrooms.

AB 1360: Charter School Admissions, Suspensions and Expulsions

In their petitions, charter schools must now include a description of the procedures for which a student could be suspended, expelled or removed from a charter school.

Schools will also be able to add additional student preferences for those applying to attend charter schools, after holding a public hearing at their chartering authority.

AB 424: Possession of a Firearm in a School Zone

Superintendents will no longer be able to provide written permission for a person to possess a firearm in a school zone.

School Districts
SB 468 and AB 261: Student Board Members

Student board members will now have preferential voting rights on all educational boards.  They will also receive all open meeting materials, be invited to staff briefings and be provided with separate staff briefings, like all appointed board members.

AB 203: Design and Construction Regulations

School districts will have more flexibility when they are designing instructional facilities which will in turn streamline school design and the process for applying to the state for construction funds.

The law also requires the Department of Education to give technical assistance to small school districts seeking to build or fund school facilities.

SB 751: Reserve Balance

SB 751 raised the limit on school districts’ assigned or unassigned reserve balances—or money districts keep in a reserve for emergencies—to 10 percent.  It also exempts districts with fewer than 2,500 students from these reserve cap restrictions.


AB 37: Content Standards in Media Arts

School districts are required to create visual and performing arts standards in the subject of media arts.

AB 738: Native American Studies

The state Instructional Quality Commission, which recommends curriculum framework to the State Board of Education, is required to develop a model curriculum in Native American Studies for students in grades 9 to 12.

It also would require districts that do not offer a standards-based Native American Studies curriculum to offer a course in the topic based on the model curriculum.

AB 643: Abusive Relationships

Sex and health education classes for students in grades 7 to 12 must now include lessons about relationship abuse and intimate partner violence, and the early warning signs of abusive relationships.

School Meals

SB 250: Child Hunger Prevention and Fair Treatment Act of 2017

The Child Hunger Prevention and Fair Treatment Act of 2017 officially ends the process of “meal shaming,” or punishing students in an effort to get parents to pay for their meals and settle their debts with school districts.

Schools that provide meals through the National School Lunch Program or the School Breakfast Program must ensure that students are not shamed, treated differently or served different meals if they have unpaid school meal fees.

The law also requires schools to notify parents or guardians of the negative balance on their meal account no later than 10 days after the negative balance appears on their accounts.

SB 138: Universal Meal Service

About 800,000 low-income students who receive Medi-Cal benefits will now be automatically enrolled in the state’s free or reduced-price lunch program.

Also known as the “Feed the Kids Act,” the law also requires high-poverty schools to operate a federally-funded universal meal program to all students.

Teacher Employment

AB 170: Teacher Credentialing

Individuals applying for a multi-subject credential or a preliminary multi-subject credential will no longer be required to have a bachelor degree in a subject other than professional education.

AB 949: Criminal Background Checks

Employees of companies school districts contract with will now be required to complete a criminal background check and fingerprinting before working on school campuses.


Israel Introduces Program to Encourage Defence Force Enlistment

The program, with an overall budget of over $23m, is designed to expand activities for preparation for the Israel Defense Forces in and out of schools

Education Minister Naftali Bennett presented a new program on Tuesday to increase motivation for army enlistment among high school students, particularly into combat units. The program, with an overall budget of 80 million shekels, is designed to expand activities for preparation for the Israel Defense Forces in and out of schools.

The target is to double the number of participants in the preparatory programs, from about 5,000 to 10,000. The initiatives include Zahala, which focuses on at-risk teens, Haderekh Hahadasha (The New Way), which integrates those with Ethiopian roots into military service, Ofek, which operates a six-month pre-army institute, and others.

The program, which will begin this year, was created by a professional team headed by the director general of the Education Ministry, in cooperation with the Defense Ministry and the army. It is designed “to strengthen the connection between the schools and the IDF and the students’ identity and their connection to the IDF.”

Bennett added that “along with excellence in achievements in math and English, the Education Ministry is working to teach Zionist values. Therefore I instructed the school system to cooperate with the IDF and the Defense Ministry in a program to increase motivation to serve in combat units. In the 70th year of the state, service in the IDF is not only an ordinary civic obligation but also a great privilege and a top national mission.”

As part of the program, combat bases will work with educational institutions in order to strengthen the students’ desire for “significant” service. The units will host the students and introduce them to the activity on the base, while the schools will host officers and soldiers who will talk to the students about “battle heritage.” Joint ceremonies will be held on Memorial Day. In addition, officers will speak to 11th- and 12th-graders before enlistment and “tell them about their personal combat service [to] be a source of inspiration.” Senior officers will also speak to the teaching staff.

In response to increasing demand from the schools, the Education Ministry will up the number of schools participating in Gadna Week, which prepares the students for military service, with 30,000 11th-graders participating instead of 20,000.

As part of the program, 180 local councils will expand their army preparatory activities. During the school day, at least eight hours will be devoted to discussions prior to enlistment, and in the afternoon there will be activities “to create leadership” for 10th- to 12th-graders. The number of preparation centers for military service in the local councils will be doubled to 73 within a year, and will reach 180 within five years.

In addition, 12th-graders in the south of the country will participate in Day in the Footsteps of Fighters, intended to encourage combat service. Until now, it took place annually in the Golan Heights. The number of teacher-soldiers preparing teenagers for enlistment will increase from 400 to 500 within a year, and to 700 in five years.


Wednesday, January 03, 2018

UK: Toby Young's appointment to board of higher education watchdog sparks criticism

The former right-wing journalist and free schools advocate will sit on the board of the Office for Students (OfS), which will help lead the Government’s drive to apply market forces to higher education.

New laws are set come into force that will regulate universities in the same way as gas or water utilities.

Education Secretary Justine Greening said the OfS will look to ensure the “world class reputation” of the UK’s universities is maintained but the appointment of Mr Young has been met with criticism.

Mr Young has a history of outspoken remarks and in a column for The Spectator complained about “ghastly inclusivity” of wheelchair ramps in schools.

He also described working-class grammar school boys who secured places at Oxford as “universally unattractive” and “small, vaguely deformed undergraduates”.

Writing about class in a book called The Oxford Myth, Mr Young recounted how the arrival of “stains” – as working-class students were known – had changed the university. Mr Young said: “It was as if all the meritocratic fantasies of every 1960s educationalist had come true and all Harold Wilson’s children had been let in at the gate.”


Judge disallows law banning Mexican-American studies in Arizona public schools

An Arizona law banning Mexican-American studies from schools has been quashed.

A federal court says the law, which took aim at classes that state school officials said promoted "revolution against the American government," violates students' constitutional rights.
One program affected by the law was Tucson Unified School District's Mexican-American Studies (MAS) program Arizona, which state lawmakers said were "designed primarily for pupils of a particular ethnic group."

Richard Martinez, the attorney who represents a group of Mexican-American students who attended Tucson schools, said the students sued shortly after the law was passed by Arizona Governor Jan Brewer.

"This was their curriculum that was intended to be responsive to them...culturally, linguistically, educationally," Martinez said. "The program had a very strong effect on students' achievement... in fact, most of the students finished high school and matriculated to college, which was unprecedented at Tucson Unified School District."

Arizona education officials have not commented on the ruling but many have weighed in on the Mexican-American Studies programs in the past. Indeed, Tucson's program drew negative attention from officials at the stae's Department of Education. Tom Horne, the former superintendent of public instruction, said the program was "'extremely anti-American" because it promotes "essentially revolution against the American government."

Closing the gap

According to court documents, the program was established in 1998 and included courses like art, government, literature, and history focusing on "historic and contemporary Mexican-American contributions." It was meant to help Mexican-American students engage and relate to their studies and to "close the historic gap in academic achievement between Mexican-American and white students in Tucson."

The MAS program was a success, U.S. District Court Judge Wallace Tashima noted, writing that "one would expect that officials responsible for public education in Arizona would continue, not terminate, an academically successful program."

According to court documents, Horne never attended a class from the program to see what was being taught there and yet recommended the program be canceled. When the Tucson Unified School District didn't accept his recommendation, Horne "began lobbying for statewide legislation that would ban the program." His third draft of a bill prohibiting ethnic courses passed the House.

'This is America, speak English'

That was when John Huppenthal, a Senator who was chairman of the Senate Education Accountability and Reform Committee, became a proponent of the bill. It passed the Legislature in 2010 and both officials used the bill "to make political gains," Judge Tashima said, using the issue as "a political boon," that the men referenced in their political campaigns.

The court also found that Huppenthal posted discriminatory comments on a blog a few months after the bill passed. Huppenthal, who wrote under two pseudonyms, said things like, "I don't mind them selling Mexican food as long as the menus are mostly in English." He also wrote that embracing Mexico's values is "the rejection of success and embracement of failure," and opposed Spanish-language media saying, "This is America, speak English."

He also wrote a blog comment comparing the Mexican-American Studies classes to the "KKK in a different color," called the teachers skinheads and said they "use the exact same technique that Hitler used in his rise to power."

These blog comments, the judge said, were "the most important and direct evidence that racial animus infected the decision to enact" the bill.

Tashima ultimately concluded that the bill "was enacted and enforced with a discriminatory purpose" since "students have a First Amendment right to receive information and ideas" and said current Superintendent of Public Instruction Diane Douglas and Horne and Huppenthal "acted contrary to the First and Fourteenth Amendments," "violated students' constitutional rights," and said the bill "was not enacted in a legitimate educational purpose."

The defendants have 30 days to appeal and "the clock is ticking," said Martinez.


Australia: New literacy teachers recruited as NSW government axes Reading Recovery

A team of 50 literacy and numeracy experts will be recruited to support NSW teachers as the government axes the controversial $50 million Reading Recovery program, which is used in more than 900 schools but was found to be ineffective.

Principals were told in November that the NSW Department of Education would no longer be supporting Reading Recovery, which targets year 1 students who are struggling with literacy. Students undergo a one-on-one intensive program for up to 20 weeks.

In NSW, Reading Recovery is in 60 per cent of schools and at least 14 per cent of year 1 students take part in it.

It is understood principals will still be able to run Reading Recovery from their own budgets but from 2019 the government will redirect the $50 million it spends annually on Reading Recovery to other "evidence based" literacy and numeracy programs.

The government says the new positions are part of the government's $340 million NSW Literacy and Numeracy Strategy, which includes investment in the early education years through to supporting students to reach minimum literacy and numeracy standards in the HSC.

For the first time, year 9 students this year needed to achieve three NAPLAN band 8s in reading, writing and numeracy to pre-qualify for their HSC. If they did not, they will need to sit an online literacy and numeracy test.

The education minister, Rob Stokes, said the 50 new positions would support teachers with face-to-face professional learning in "new approaches to monitoring and supporting" literacy and numeracy from kindergarten to year 10.

The new positions will focus on understanding and diagnosing students literacy and numeracy tests, effective reading in the early years including systemic phonics, writing across the curriculum and number skills and algebraic thinking.

"This investment means that every teacher will have access to evidence-based professional learning to ensure every student has the best opportunity to develop strong literacy and numeracy skills," Mr Stokes said.

"This focus on literacy and numeracy skills is more important than ever in light of evidence that young people today will face a very different future when they finish school."

Despite its widespread use, Reading Recovery – which is also in the US, Canada and Britain – has had its critics and in 2015, influential US literacy academic Louisa Moats told education bureaucrats in Victoria that it was "indefensible" to spend money on the program.

Dr Moats said if she had a child with a learning disability she would refuse to let them take part in a Reading Recovery lesson.  "The instruction is directing their attention away from what they should be paying attention to. It's just not OK, it's harmful."

The federal government is also focused on literacy and numeracy in the early years of primary school, with the education minister Simon Birmingham backing a proposed reading test that would be based on the phonics screening check used in the UK since 2012.

Education ministers discussed the phonics checker at December's Education Council meeting but it is understood no decision on the test's implementation was made.

Mr Stokes has said that he "sees no reason" why it could not be rolled out in NSW but some education academics in Australia and the UK oppose the screening check, which tests 40 words, including 20 pseudo words such as pib, vus, yup and desh and 20 real words.


Tuesday, January 02, 2018

Australia: Feminist Push to make childcare unaffordable

The Leftist IEU (Independent Education Union) have issued the call below.  Government "quality" mandates, including high staff numbers and sweeping  educational requirements for child-minders, have already pushed up the costs of child-minding to the point where most working mothers spend a large slice of their earnings on child care. The union wants a leap in pay for child minders that could push many working mothers out of the workforce altogether.  So I support the call. Young children need their mothers at home, as the research by Erica Komisar has shown

The claim that a university education is an important qualification for becoming a child minder is absurd and I would like to see the evidence for the claim.  Some education could no doubt help but why university?

The IEU lodged evidence and submissions to support its pay equity claim for early childhood teachers just before Christmas.

This is the latest step in the IEU pay equity case that has been running before the Fair Work Commission since 2013.  The Union is seeking pay rises for university qualified teachers in preschools and child care centres. 

"The claim is based on comparisons with male employees  male teachers in primary schools and male engineers.  At present, teachers in early childhood, who are almost all female, can earn tens of thousands of dollars less than teachers in schools. For example the top award rate for a teacher in a child care centre is less than $70,000 whereas a teacher in a primary school earns close to $100,000" says Carol Matthews, Assistant Secretary of the NSW/ACT Branch of the IEU.

"We are certainly not seeking rates of $156,000 as some media outlets have claimed," she added. "The top rate for a teacher in a child care centre under our claim would be just over $100,00".

The claim only affects a small proportion of the overall number of staff in services and the Union calculates the impact on costs would be relatively small.

"Parents would not necessarily bear the brunt of these increases. The sector is already funded by state and federal governments to the tune of billions of dollars.  Governments should also fund fair pay rates for university qualified teachers as they are so important to children's

The Union states the importance of university qualified teachers to improved learning and social outcomes has been known for decades and is a central plank of the federal government strategy for early childhood education and care.

Via email

Higher Ed’s Low Moment

NYT article below.  The problem is that elite campus humanities and social science programs--with their postcolonial structural identity-obsessed tumblr-grade nonsense--are dragging everything else down with them

When all was said and done, the tax overhaul that President Trump signed into law a little more than a week ago didn’t beat up on higher education to the extent that earlier drafts of the legislation did. Americans who were deducting interest on student loans will still be able to do so. The tuition waivers that many graduate students receive won’t be treated as income.

But that doesn’t change the fact that those facets of the tax code, meant to promote and reward advanced learning, were up for debate. Or that the House of Representatives initially passed a bill that would have eliminated such incentives for the acquisition of bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees. Or that the law ultimately did create new taxes on the endowments of the richest schools.

Or this unsettling, dangerous paradox: At a time when a college degree is one of the surest harbingers of higher earnings and better economic security, college itself is regarded with skepticism by many Americans and outright contempt by no small number of them.

Its tumble from grace came into sharp focus in 2017, so the end of this year is a fitting moment to examine what happened and how to fix it. Repair is imperative, because the continued competitiveness of the American economy depends on the skills of our work force, the intellectual nimbleness of our citizens, the boldness of our scientific research and the genius of our inventions. Our colleges and universities are central to that. When they lose support, we all lose.

Just how far they’ve fallen was suggested by a Pew survey this year that sent shock waves through the world of higher education. Asked if colleges were having a positive or negative effect on America, 58 percent of Republicans and conservative-leaning independents said negative. That was up from just 37 percent two years earlier.

A Gallup poll found that only 44 percent of all Americans had a “great deal” or “quite a lot” of confidence in the country’s colleges and universities, while 56 percent had only “some” or “very little.” College — once a great aspiration — was now a polarizing question mark.

That’s not so surprising, given Americans’ intensifying resentment of anything that smacks of elitism and given Republicans’ attacks on science and intellectuals. As Ron Daniels, the president of Johns Hopkins University, recently told me, “Even if we were completely unblemished in the way in which we pursued our mission, it would be hard to imagine that in Trump’s America, we wouldn’t be targets for scorn.”

Margaret Spellings, who was education secretary in the George W. Bush administration and is now president of the University of North Carolina, said that colleges are plenty blemished and that this reckoning was years in the making. Too many of them had maintained too aloof a posture.

Spellings told me that when she read the headline atop a mid-December article in Politico — “University presidents: We’ve been blindsided” — she thought, “Where have you been, girlfriend?”

My conversations with Spellings, Daniels and Hiram Chodosh, president of Claremont McKenna College, actually filled me with hope, because not one of them was baffled by the bind that colleges are in. All of them conceded some culpability. And all of them identified, and expressed a commitment to, necessary changes.

“The tax proposals, though self-defeating, emerge from an understandable and growing public frustration,” Chodosh said. “Let’s face it. Like the general society, we have an increasing divide in higher education between the haves and the have-nots. Our sticker price is high.” He added that “our policies are opaque, confusing and tend to squeeze out middle-class families who are unaware, or just above the line, of eligibility for aid. Even among the privileged, few can get in.”

Chodosh’s “our” refers to America’s most exclusive colleges, with the lowest acceptance rates, and one problem, fostered by those of us in the media as much as anyone else, is an undue obsession with those schools to the exclusion of others. Higher education encompasses community colleges, technical schools and scores of public universities without storied names. They educate exponentially more students than the Ivy League does, and our lopsided conversation about the Ivy and its ilk have deepened the divisions that Chodosh mentioned.

But then so have exclusive colleges’ recruitment and admissions practices, which overlooked students from middle-class and poor backgrounds to a point where, according to a study released this year, many of the celebrated schools, like Yale and Princeton, had more students from families in the top 1 percent of income than students from families in the bottom 60 percent.

But that study used college data through 2011; since then, many colleges have expanded their efforts at socioeconomic diversity. And college presidents are both publicly and privately voluble about their need to keep improving on that. To wit: More than 85 colleges — including Hopkins, U.N.C., Claremont McKenna and all eight Ivies — have joined the American Talent Initiative, promoted by Michael Bloomberg and unveiled at the end of 2016. These colleges have committed to increasing their percentages of students from low- and moderate-income families.

I also hear more college presidents talking with more concern about their campuses’ images as enclaves of a distinctly illiberal liberalism. Especially ugly episodes this year at Middlebury College and The Evergreen State College fed that impression and, I think, increased many presidents’ resolve to do something about it.

Daniels bluntly acknowledged “the lack of political diversity on our campuses,” saying, “Not only is this bad for our students in terms of preparing them for leadership roles in a very politically polarized country, but it has grave consequences for broader political debate in the country.” He mentioned a new facet of orientation for incoming students at Hopkins that stresses the importance of free speech, drawing on experts from across the political spectrum. Other colleges have taken similar steps.

They’re trying to explain themselves better — a simple, obvious thing that somehow fell by the wayside over recent decades. Not all Americans accept on faith the value of higher education to individual students and to society as a whole. Not all Americans understand how universities function as vital engines of many cities’ and states’ economies or as cradles of the very innovation that keeps America great.

“Higher education has enjoyed this sort of send-us-the-money, leave-us-alone luxury for a long time, and that’s just not the case anymore,” Spellings said. “We’ve got to prove what we do.” If 2017 was the year when our most celebrated colleges belatedly woke up to that, may 2018 be the year when they successfully attend to it.


University Offers ‘Problem of Whiteness’ Class, Again

The University of Wisconsin-Madison will reintroduce a class this spring that teaches students why being white is a bad thing.

The “Problem of Whiteness” course—part of the African Cultural Studies program—makes its mission to help students “understand how whiteness is socially constructed and experienced in order to help dismantle white supremacy.” The class will also investigate how white people “consciously and unconsciously perpetuate institutional racism and how this not only devastates communities of color but also perpetuates the oppression of most white folks along the lines of class and gender.”

The course aims also to teach students about what an ethical white identity entails, as well as what it means to be woke.

“Student feedback was overwhelmingly positive—students said they found it valuable to examine majority cultures and how power imbalances are created, sustained, and challenged in societies around the world,” a University of Wisconsin-Madison spokesperson wrote in an email to The College Fix.

“The problem of racism is the problem of whites being racist towards blacks,” the course’s professor, Damon Sajnani, told The College Fix in a 2016 phone interview. Sajnani is also a rapper who writes songs about the problems of whiteness.

Not everyone is happy about the course, however, including multiple state lawmakers who loudly expressed their displeasure over the university’s course offering. “I am extremely concerned that UW-Madison finds it appropriate to teach a course called, ‘The Problem of Whiteness,’ with the premise that white people are racist,” state Rep. Dave Murphy, R-Greenville, wrote in a statement after the course was first announced in 2016.

“Even more troubling, the course is taught by a self-described ‘international radical’ professor whose views are a slap in the face to the taxpayers who are expected to pay for this garbage,” Murphy continued. Despite Murphy’s and others’ objections, the university continues barreling forwarding and has no plans to retract the course for spring 2018.

The University of Wisconsin-Madison did not reply to The Daily Caller News Foundation’s request for comment in time for publication.


Monday, January 01, 2018

Feminist rubbish about British schools

Kids shouldn’t be exposed to the moral panic about misogyny

According to a newly published report from the National Education Union (NEU) and UK Feminista, sexism in schools is ‘endemic’. From their first days in uniform, girls apparently run a daily gauntlet of unwanted touching, name-calling and up-skirt photos. In the classroom they face a barrage of misogynistic language and sexist attitudes. Sexual harassment, sexist stereotyping and sexist language are all, apparently, ‘highly prevalent’. To quote the report’s title, when it comes to sexism in schools, ‘It’s just everywhere’. But it is worth asking a few questions before teachers are packed off for re-education, playgrounds are policed, and boys and girls segregated for their own protection.

According to the report, over a third (37 per cent) of female students have personally experienced some form of sexual harassment while at school. Of course, any such incident is unacceptable. But do these figures really demonstrate that sexual harassment is ‘highly prevalent’ and ‘endemic’? The label ‘female students’ encompasses young girls in infant schools right up to 18-year-old young adults. Yet there’s a world of difference between playground kiss-chase, the antics of hormonal teenagers, and young adults negotiating first-time relationships. The report fails to differentiate, however; all are lumped together.

NEU and UK Feminista conflate sexual harassment and sexism. Their report sets out to reveal ‘the voices of girls around the country who are being subjected to sexual harassment and sexism’. Sexism and sexual harassment are not the same thing. Sexual harassment can encompass serious incidents of groping and sexual assault. Sexism, on the other hand, is today used to describe a teacher asking for ‘a strong boy’ to help move some furniture, having different uniforms for boys and girls, or separating boys and girls for PE lessons. The report assumes sexism leads to harassment and that presenting girls as different from boys legitimises sexual assault. What a misanthropic view of young people.

Sexism, according to the report, is endemic. But the sexism described is difficult to pin down. It is described as ‘prejudice, stereotyping, or discrimination, typically against women, on the basis of sex’. It seems to be primarily a feature of language: we’re told that ‘30 per cent of female students in mixed-sex schools have personally been described using language they felt was sexist, compared to 18 per cent of boys’. But when even referring to pupils as ‘boys and girls’ is considered by some to be a dangerous form of gender stereotyping, it is only surprising that as few as 30 per cent of girls report being victims.

The report moves rapidly from sexism to misogyny. We’re told ‘the use of misogynistic language is commonplace in schools’. This blurring of misogyny, serious sexual harassment and everyday sexism serves a purpose: it teaches all girls that they are victims of boys’ bad behaviour. We’re told that 66 per cent of female students and 37 per cent of male students in mixed-sex sixth-forms have experienced or witnessed the use of sexist language in school. By a sleight of hand, an already small sample size is narrowed further, and, by focusing on sixth-formers, reported events stretch back over a 14-year period. If an 18-year-old claims that once, when she was seven, she heard a boy shout across the playground that ‘boys are better than girls’, then that is recorded as an experience of sexist language.

The report also contains a great deal of angst from teachers. ‘I work in a private school where the gender roles are still very clearly defined. The boys wear shorts, the girls long skirts, the boys play football, the girls, netball. Often boys are asked questions in maths/science before the girls – and boys often talk for the girls’, claims one teacher.

Routinely allowing boys to talk for girls is clearly bad pedagogy – but it’s worth remembering at this point that teaching is a profession thoroughly dominated by women. What’s more, campaigns to challenge girls’ underachievement and raise their aspirations are longstanding and well-funded.

What we are not told in this latest sexism panic is just how well girls are doing at school. They outperform boys from their first days and across all subject areas. Girls do better overall in public exams aged 16 and 18. This year, 55 per cent of young women went on to university compared with only 43 per cent of young men. And this is not new: girls have been outperforming boys for a quarter of a century now. If school is really such a daily torment of misogyny and sexual harassment for girls, then it is clearly not holding them back.

Unfortunately, the proposals to challenge sexism in schools could well be to the detriment of both girls and boys. The report suggests an astonishing 69 per cent of teachers claim an overly heavy focus on academic subjects prevents them from tackling sexism. In other words, they want to spend less time teaching children subject knowledge and more time warning them of the evils of sexism. This will further redefine the role of schools away from education towards an explicit socialisation agenda.

UK Feminista and the NEU assume that sexism and sexual harassment are normalised and underreported. In reality, their report fuels a very fashionable panic. It takes trivial and everyday interactions between children and teachers – especially between mixed-sex groups of teenagers – and labels them as harassment and misogyny. The report cites a finding from Girlguiding UK, that 75 per cent of girls and young women aged 11 to 21 report that anxiety about potentially experiencing sexual harassment affects their lives in some way.

It’s not any sexual harassment they have experienced that girls worry about – it is the threat of what is to come. UK Feminista is at the forefront of escalating these worries in the minds of young people.

Unsurprisingly, the report concludes by arguing for quasi-professionals, such as UK Feminista, to be better funded and have a bigger role to play in schools, particularly in government plans for revamped relationships and sex education (RSE). Parents and teachers who care about the education and wellbeing of girls and boys should be campaigning to keep UK Feminista, Everyday Sexism and all the other feminist pressure groups out of schools.


Trump's education cuts aren't 'devastating,' they're smart

It’s the end of the world as we know it – at least that’s what some people would have us believe about President Trump’s education budget.

It’s “a devastating blow to the country’s public education system,” according to National School Boards Assn. CEO Thomas Gentzel. More like a “wrecking ball,” says Lily Eskelsen García, president of the National Education Assn. teachers’ union. No, it’s a veritable “assault on the American Dream,” insists John B. King Jr., former Obama administration secretary of education.

Such hyperbole is reminiscent of the early 1980s, when President Reagan's opponents battled his administration's education cuts, and it's about as inaccurate today as it was back then.

Trump wants to reduce the U.S. Department of Education's discretionary budget by $9.2 billion, from $68.3 billion to $59.1 billion. Close to two-thirds of that reduction (63%) comes from eliminating programs that are duplicative or just don't work.

The administration is proposing a 10% cut in TRIO programs and a cut of almost a third in GEAR UP programs. GEAR UP and TRIO (which despite the name consists of nine programs) are supposed to help at-risk students who hope to go to college, but who might not make it.

The K-12 programs proposed for elimination in the Trump budget are similarly ineffective.

At the behest of the Education Department, the Mathematica Policy Research Group studied a TRIO program and found weaknesses, which it first reported in 2004. The final report found "no detectable effects" on college-related outcomes, including enrollment and completion of bachelor's or associate's degrees. In a striking acknowledgement that these programs don't hold up under scrutiny, lobbyists for the programs got Congress to ban the Education Department from setting up control-group evaluations of TRIO and GEAR UP.

Another sign of dysfunction is that — despite a demonstrable lack of success — grants to run TRIO and GEAR UP programs almost always get renewed. For example, in California, 82% of those who had grants in 2006 to manage this "no detectable effects" TRIO program still had those grants a decade later.

The K-12 programs proposed for elimination in the Trump budget are similarly ineffective.

In 1994, the Clinton administration started the 21st Century Community Learning Centers program, which promised to provide disadvantaged children with after-school enrichment to improve their academic performance. Nearly $18 billion spent over two decades later, there's scant evidence of success. "It's a $1.2 billion after-school program that doesn't work," according to Mark Dynarski of the Brookings Institution. He should know.

Dynarski worked at the U.S. Department of Education during the Clinton administration and directed the 21st Century Community Learning Centers' national evaluation while he was a researcher at Mathematica Policy Research. The three evaluations published between 2003 and 2005 concluded that the achievement of participating students was virtually the same, but their behavior was worse, compared with their peers who weren't in the program.

Another program deservedly put on the chopping block is the School Improvement Grant (SIG) program. Enacted in 2001 as part of President George W. Bush's No Child Left Behind Act, this program gave poorly performing schools fistfuls of cash to turn themselves around and raise student achievement. Turned out the SIG program was more buck than bang — lots more.

Total SIG program funding under the Bush administration was less than $126 million. Regular annual appropriations skyrocketed during Obama's presidency, starting at $526 million. They remained near or north of a half billion dollars throughout his administration, totaling more than $7 billion to date — including a one-time infusion of $3 billion in American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funding.

The Obama administration publicly revealed the SIG program's colossal failure on Jan. 18, 2017, just hours before President Obama's appointees departed. According to the final evaluation by the American Institutes for Research and Mathematica Policy Research for the Education Department, SIG had "no significant impacts" on math achievement, reading achievement, high school graduation, or college enrollment across school and student subgroups.

Commenting on the evaluation, Andrew R. Smarick, a former U.S. deputy assistant secretary of education, called SIG "the greatest failure in the history of the U.S. Department of Education." Seven billion dollars in taxpayer money was spent, and the results were the same, as Smarick put it, "as if this program had never existed."

Cutting costly, ineffective government programs isn't the end of the world. It's part of "[our] moral duty… to make our government leaner and more accountable," as Trump stated during a budget meeting in February. His budgetary effort to cut waste includes the Education Department for good reason.


I’m a student. Here’s how free speech died at university

UNIVERSITIES really do have a free speech problem, and it should no longer be considered controversial or ‘right-wing’ to say so

Luke Kinsella writes from Australia:

ONCE upon a time, society designated universities as intellectual battlegrounds where fights weren’t won by intimidation, but with logic and reason. That’s what separated them from the outside world and its ugly improprieties.

Censorship was antithetical to these refuges of intellectual civility. In fact, it was a sign of cowardice. Unlike the outside world, universities were sanctuaries where all ideas were welcomed and everyone had a seat at the table.

Not anymore. Students around the world have a disturbing intolerance to different opinions. When faced with unfamiliar or offensive views, their gut reaction is to ban them, or condemn those who have them.

In 2015, the Boston Globe reported on a petition created by students at Wesleyan University in protest of their student newspaper’s decision to publish an op-ed critiquing Black Lives Matter (BLM). The petition garnered 147 signatures and called for the newspaper to have its funding revoked. It said the paper failed to ensure Wesleyan University was a ‘safe space for the voices of students of colour’.

I’ve experienced this first-hand. In 2017, I was a columnist for my student newspaper. I wrote a column about the threat to free speech at universities, which every member of the board of editors refused to publish — thus proving my point. Their reason? My criticism of the BLM protesters at Wesleyan.

My editors interpreted my criticism of individual BLM protesters as a rejection of BLM’s entire platform. I never actually criticised their core message: that African-Americans are too often the victim of unjust police brutality — a proposition I agree with.

I criticised the censorious behaviour of individual protesters. There is a difference. Regardless, I was accused of expressing a “damaging” opinion that “endangers students” and is “invalidating to people of colour”.

I have no reservations in describing these students, who I come across every day, as bullies. They’ll laugh at you. They’ll ban you. They’ll make unfounded generalisations about what you believe. And when they know they’ve lost, only to rid themselves of any passing cognitive dissonance, they’ll insult you.

Students should obviously be safe from physical violence. But saying my opinion is “damaging” equates speech with violence. As does the Wesleyan petition, which implies conservative beliefs make students ‘unsafe’.

The belief that speech can be equivalent to violence is an extremely common myth at universities. Students think sticks and stones may break their bones, and words WILL (literally) hurt them. This myth has some sinister implications.

If you think an opinion will cause you physical harm, you’ll seek ‘safety’ from it and use violence in ‘self-defence’. As a result, students defend the ideological homogeneity of their university like they would defend their own physical safety.

We need to teach students that words can’t cause physical harm, and they should never be safe from offensive or confronting ideas. After all, that’s kind of the point of university. You’re supposed to seek out people with whom you disagree, not hide from them, or ban them.

Earlier this year, Ben Shapiro’s visit to UC Berkeley attracted 1000 angry protesters, which forced the university to pay $600,000 in security fees. The pioneers of the 1960s Free Speech Movement, which originated at Berkeley, would hardly consider this ‘free’ speech.

And Berkeley is no anomaly. Since 2000, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) has updated a ‘Dis-invitation Database’ that records attempts to disinvite speakers from coming to American universities. The number of dis-invitations has reached 360 (so far).

Instead of actually disproving opinions they dislike, they’ll just insult them. They have an array of go-to jargon and insults, but their favourites include: ‘problematic’, ’violent’, ‘unsafe’, ‘hate speech’, ‘bigoted’ and ‘invalidating of lived experiences’. They blame everything on a white supremacist, heteronormative, capitalist, imperialist, patriarchal society.

They act like the most victimised people in the world, but many of them are literally the most privileged people of all time. They live in Australia in the 21st century and often, come from extremely privileged families and go to the most prestigious schools in the country.

Using any of the above labels is like a rallying cry for professionally outraged student protesters, who make their peers afraid to associate themselves with certain opinions. FIRE found that 54 per cent of students admit “they have stopped themselves from sharing an idea or opinion in class at some point since beginning college”.

Too often, these labels are complete misnomers. Students will throw them around haphazardly with no concern for the ramifications. Take, for example, the protesters at Shapiro’s event, who chanted: “No Trump, No KKK, No fascist USA” — despite Shapiro not being a Trump supporter, a Klansman or a fascist.

Earlier this year, the University of Sydney Union (USU) blocked funding of the Conservative Club’s screening of a documentary that explores social issues relating to men, and critiques feminism.

The screening went ahead, but was protested by 50 to 60 students screaming: “Sexist, racist, anti-queer, bigots are not welcome here.” Conservative Club member Renee Gorman responded, saying: “I’m not a bigot or a racist, I’m not anti-queer, I’m not all the labels they’ve attached to me.”

Actual bigots exist, but students waste their time going after innocent people. Why do they do it? I think there are four potential reasons. Four reasons why this craziness is going on.

Firstly, students (both left and right) have forgotten the art of respectful disagreement. Pivotal to effective disagreement is giving your adversary’s motives the benefit of the doubt. But students don’t do that — they assume peoples’ motives to be impure, unless proven otherwise.

People are no longer ‘right’ or ‘wrong’, they’re ‘good’ or ‘evil’. Your political opinions are a reflection of how good you are as a person and anything considered ‘offensive’ isn’t just incorrect, it’s immoral, and not worthy of discussion. Pew Research found 40 per cent of American students believe the government should prevent people from saying offensive comments.

Students live in impenetrable echo-chambers — particularly on social media. As a result, they can’t substantiate their opinions against challengers. Why? Because they never have to. Students expect agreement; they expect detractors to change their mind immediately. But in their frustration, they resort to baseless insults. Students’ first instinct is to protest for their beliefs, rather than sit down with the people that disagree with them.

The left is particularly guilty in this regard, but mostly because they make up the majority of students. The right have their stupid go-to slurs as well, which include: ‘Marxist’, ‘social justice warrior’, ‘cuck’ and ‘feminazi’.

At university, political disagreements should be so commonplace, they’re forgettable. But disagreements are so rare, tense and combative, that onlookers watch them as a form of entertainment. Instead of participating, most students grab the popcorn.

The second reason is a form of identity politics which says it’s not the merit of one’s argument that matters, but their racial, gender or sexual identity. Students believe some identities are more qualified to speak about certain issues than others. So most political arguments take the form of: As an X, I believe Y.

And if you speak about a Y that falls outside the scope of your X, you’re not taken seriously. You can only speak about issues pertaining to your own personal identity.

For example, in discussions about feminism, only a woman’s opinion matters. When a man states his opinion, no one actually proves him wrong. Instead, he’s dismissed as not having the necessary ‘lived experience’ to have a valid opinion. Logic and evidence has ceased being the standard for truth, and identity has filled it’s place.

The third reason: virtue signalling. At university, your level of outrage toward certain people and opinions directly corresponds with your social status. Student leaders are ideological clones of each other.

Students will find any way to publicise themselves ‘fighting the good fight’. The more outraged you are, the better person you’re perceived to be. The more you hate the other side, the more your side loves you.

Sometimes, activism is less about actual causes, and more about gaining social brownie points. And with social media, students can broadcast their good deeds to everyone they know. It makes them feel good, and within their respective echo-chamber, it makes them look good.

Students want the thrill and excitement of calling out actual bigots. It gives them a sense of certainty, meaning and belonging. So if some innocent people are caught in the crossfire to provide that sensation, then so be it.

The fourth and final reason is that there is a short supply of bigotry, but a high demand for it. Students want to be offended, and for that, they need offensive people. But as racism and sexism have declined, they have to maintain their high level of outrage by lowering the bar for what’s considered offensive.

Or as sociologists Bradley Campbell and David Manning put it: “As progress is made toward a more equal and humane society, it takes a smaller and smaller offence to trigger a high level of outrage. The goalposts shift, allowing participants to maintain a constant level of anger.”

This is why students often go after innocent people, and have dramatic reactions to seemingly minute offences — or, as they call, ‘micro-aggressions’.

This outage culture only suppresses debate between the left and right — which is no accident. Students don’t want a debate because debates ‘give a platform’ to ‘dangerous ideas’. They want their opinions to be treated like facts.

Despite my dark depiction of universities, I can assure you: I’m not alone. This isn’t some fringe alt-right rant. If you don’t trust me, trust the over 1400 American professors who have joined Jonathan Haidt’s Heterodox academy, an organisation dedicated to improving free speech and viewpoint diversity at universities.

Or trust President Barack Obama, who has also spoken out against political correctness, censorship and the “coddling” of students.

It’s about time we face the facts. We are witnessing the death of universities as they once were, and as they were meant to be.


Sunday, December 31, 2017

'Controversial' professor who was sent death threats after blaming the Las Vegas massacre on 'white patriarchy' resigns from Philadelphia University

A Pennsylvania college professor who received death threats after linking the Las Vegas and Texas massacres to 'white supremacist patriarchy' and 'whiteness' has resigned.

Associate professor George Ciccariello-Maher said in a statement that he was leaving Drexel University as his situation had become 'unsustainable' due to harassment and death threats.

Ciccariello-Maher, 38, said the threats had come from 'right-wing, white supremacist media outlets and internet mobs' in the wake of his tweets about the terror attacks.

Writing in a statement on his Facebook, The political science and global studies professor writes: 'This is not a decision I take lightly.

'After nearly a year of harassment by right-wing, white supremacist media outlets and internet mobs, after death threats and threats of violence directed against me and my family, my situation has become unsustainable.

'Staying at Drexel in the eye of this storm has become detrimental to my own writing, speaking, and organizing.'

He also highlights the legitimization of white supremacy in the U.S. during the Trump presidency, saying 'the forces of resurgent white supremacy have tasted blood and are howling for more.

He added: 'In the face of aggression from the racist Right and impending global catastrophe, we must defend our universities, our students, and ourselves by defending the most vulnerable among us and by making our campuses unsafe spaces for white supremacists.'

Ciccariello-Maher, was put on leave by Drexel in October, after a series of tweets about the Las Vegas massacre, which saw 58 people killed and 546 injured.

He posted a tweet reading, "It's the white supremacist patriarchy, stupid." That tweet was followed by a series of similar statements.

Writing in an op-ed for the Washington Post, he that threats had started coming in after conservative media outlets highlighted his tweets.

A few weeks later, when 26 people were shot and killed at the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, he claimed in an interview that 'white' entitlement' was a factor in the killings.

Speaking to at the time, he further explained: 'Many white males are raised with a double sense of entitlement, since being both white and male are structures of power and dominance over (non-white and female) others.

'When that power is perceived to be threatened, as Donald Trump and other racist misogynists encourage people to believe, the results can be incredibly dangerous,' he added. 

The 38-year-old has found himself mired in controversy several times in recent years.

In 2016, he tweeted that all he wanted for Christmas was 'White genocide.'  He was also heavily criticized after posting that he was 'trying not to vomit or yell about Mosul' when he witnessed someone relinquish their first-class seat on an airplane for a soldier earlier this year.

The incident occurred two days after American forces accidentally killed 200 civilians after bombing the Iraqi city.


Keep the Federal Government Out of School Choice

School choice has many benefits. It frees people to select the type of education that will best serve their families. It makes educators accountable to the people they are supposed to work for. And study after study proves it typically leads to improved academic outcomes. But despite these advantages, that does not mean the federal government should push choice in a nationwide program. The dangers may be too great.

The Trump administration has made clear that it wants to support school choice. In his February address to Congress, the president called education “the civil rights issue of our time,” and he has pledged to direct $20 billion to advance choice. He also picked school choice stalwart Betsy DeVos as his education secretary.

Trump deserves credit for seeing the need to weaken a government monopoly, let parents choose the best education for their unique children and leave educators free to teach as they see fit. But there is great risk in federalizing choice: He who pays the piper calls the tune, and federal control could ultimately impose the same regulations on once-independent schools that have stifled public institutions.

We can glimpse what that might look like in higher education, where federal student aid makes schools and students dependent on Washington and drives the federal government’s regulatory tentacles deep into the education system.

In the 1970-1971 academic year, total federal aid for higher education was just $16 billion. Today it is around $158 billion. In 1992-1993, 45 percent of full-time, full-year undergraduates used some form of federal aid. By 2011-2012, that share had jumped to nearly 73 percent.

Attached to all that aid are volumes of regulations that have increased in scope and intrusiveness for years. There are rules eroding core legal protections for students accused of sexual misconduct and blunt measures of school quality that fail to account for even basic variables such as the composition of a school’s student body or big state subsidies. And colleges deal with a student body of adults—imagine the rules that could be instituted for children, who are not assumed to be capable of caring for themselves.

Of course, lots of college aid comes in the form of grants and loans, while the K-12 proposal getting the most attention is a tax credit for donating to organizations that provide scholarships. It’s appealing because it could fulfill Trump’s $20 billion promise without technically increasing the debt-ridden federal budget.

But that setup would not be protected from regulation. College tax credits can be claimed only for expenditures on accredited institutions, and the federal government regulates the accreditors. It is likely that a federal K-12 tax credit would start with a similar thicket of requirements for accreditation or eventually end up there. If something were to go wrong at even one or two schools accepting scholarship students, choice opponents and “accountability” hawks would likely head right to the regulatory presses.

Of course, such regulation can happen at the state level. But that is where federalism—states and Washington controlling different matters—can help. States are “laboratories of democracy.” They can try different policies, and do so without exposing everyone to possible failure. States also compete for residents and businesses, creating a much greater incentive to care about efficient and effective policy than Washington has.

If the federal government delivered choice through a new nationwide model, it would likely swamp these democratic labs and snuff out competition among differing choice policies, including vouchers, education savings accounts and other ideas of which no one has yet dreamt.

That does not mean the Trump administration can do nothing helpful. It can put the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program on a permanent and expanding footing. During nearly every budget cycle over the past eight years, the Obama administration attempted to zero out funding for choice in the District, a place where the feds actually do have constitutional authority to govern education. Thousands of low-income children could finally feel assured of their places in safe, effective, chosen schools.

The administration could also propose expanding choice to military families and children attending Bureau of Indian Education schools—the latter deemed the worst-performing schools in the United States.

Those offer major opportunities to create choices where few or none exist. Along with use of the bully pulpit to promote state-level choice, they would go far to advance the cause of educational freedom and opportunity.


The Low Academic Quality of Too Many Teachers

Walter E. Williams   

My recent columns have focused on the extremely poor educational outcomes for black students. There’s enough blame for all involved to have their fair share. That includes students who are hostile and alien to the educational process and have derelict, uninterested home environments.

After all, if there is not someone in the home to ensure that a youngster does his homework, has wholesome meals, gets eight to 10 hours of sleep, and behaves in school, educational dollars won’t produce much.

There’s another educational issue that’s neither flattering nor comfortable to confront. That’s the low academic quality of so many teachers. It’s an issue that must be confronted and dealt with if we’re to improve the quality of education. Most states require prospective teachers to pass a certification test. How about a sample of some of the test questions.

Here’s a question from a recent test given to college students in Michigan planning to become teachers: “Which of the following is largest? a. 1/4, b. 3/5, c. 1/2, d. 9/20.” Another question: “A town planning committee must decide how to use a 115-acre piece of land. The committee sets aside 20 acres of the land for watershed protection and an additional 37.4 acres for recreation. How much of the land is set aside for watershed protection and recreation? a. 43.15 acres, b. 54.6 acres, c. 57.4 acres, d. 60.4 acres”.

The Arizona teacher certification test asks: “Janet can type 250 words in 5 minutes, what is her typing rate per minute? a. 50wpm, b. 66wpm, c. 55wpm, d. 45wpm.”

The California Basic Educational Skills Test asks the test taker to find the verb in the following sentence: “The interior temperatures of even the coolest stars are measured in millions of degrees. a. Coolest, b. Of even, c. Are measured, d. In millions.”

A California Basic Educational Skills Test math question is: “You purchase a car making a down payment of $3,000 and 6 monthly payments of $225. How much have you paid so far for the car? a. $3225, b. $4350, c. $5375, d. $6550, e. $6398.”

My guess is that these are questions that an eighth- or ninth-grader with a good education ought to be able to answer. Such test questions demonstrate the low bar that states set in order for one to become a certified teacher. Even with such low expectations, college graduates have failed these and similarly constructed teacher certification tests. Recently, New York, after being tied up in court for years, dropped its teacher literacy test amid claims of racism.

A 2011 investigation by WSB-TV found that more than 700 Georgia teachers had repeatedly failed at least one portion of the certification test they were required to pass before receiving a teaching certificate. Nearly 60 teachers had failed the test more than 10 times, and one teacher had failed the test 18 times. There were 297 teachers on the Atlanta school system’s payroll who had failed the state certification test five times or more.

With but a few exceptions, schools of education represent the academic slums of colleges. They tend to be home to students who have the lowest academic test scores—for example, SAT scores—when they enter college. They also tend to have the lowest scores when they graduate and choose to take postgraduate admissions tests—such as the GRE, the MCAT, and the LSAT. Professors at schools of education tend to have the lowest level of academic respectability. American education could benefit from eliminating schools of education.

You might ask: Without schools of education, how would teachers be trained? I think that we ought to adopt a practice whereby teachers are hired according to their undergraduate major.

I learned this talking to a headmistress of a private school. She said she doesn’t hire education majors. She said that if she hires a teacher to teach chemistry, math, English, or any other subject, the person must have a bachelor’s degree in the discipline. Pedagogical techniques can be learned through short formal training, coaching, and experience.